Summary: If there's one thing to cause the champions of Chaos untold grief, it's their access to cyberspace...
Disclaimer: Yeah, I wish I owned it... Maybe then I wouldn't be up to my neck in tuition-debt!
Queen's Quornor: I realize that it's been awhile, but I finally got an idea for an update! I decided to further a concept I somewhat approached back in chapter 2, when I alluded to Kandi within one of Kuja's drawings. Since I'm gradually slipping more and more similarities between Dissidia-Seph and my FFVII-Seph, I figured I'd go whole-hog. Akalara and Azrael are two of my original characters, and the ones with whom I've had the most success overall. Andria is in here as well, though only in cameo. I suspect that Seph may once have been one of Cosmos' warriors, since he definitely was not evil in the beginning of the FFVII timeline and there are a number of little similarities between him and the Champions of Harmony, so I took that idea and started wondering what could possibly turn him from the light to the dark in this setting, where he (as far as I know) has no memory of, interaction with, or possession by Jenova. What I finally came up with was this. I hope you all enjoy it! Also, there are pictures of Ak and Az on Deviantart, created by the talented (and my good friend) Glaurung! The links are on my profile, if anybody's interested in getting a better idea of how they look.
Memories of a Distant Time
Memory-searching was an exhausting process. Sephiroth felt as though his head had been beaten with a sack of metal bricks, and his body ached in one slow, rolling wave. He had not seen battle this day. The swordsman had spent the past twenty-four hours wrestling with the locks on his memory, trying to coax a few more precious recollections from his forgotten past. All he had gotten this time was a single image, and nothing else.
It had been a flash of a woman, a short female with large breasts and a classically beautiful face, her lips twisted into a mischevious smirk. Her long hair had been the dark green of pine boughs, hanging loosely around her face and shoulders in a sexy tousle. Her almond-shaped eyes were heavy-lidded and veiled by long lashes, the irises a brilliant shade of crimson. Those eyes had been soft and smoky, at odds with the sly curve of her lips. She had been naked, stretched out atop a large bed with black silk sheets. Her legs were partially covered by the top sheet, and her gaze had been fixed on him, as if waiting for something.
That was all he remembered, although his heart squeezed whenever he thought of the mysterious woman and her soft eyes. Who was she? What was she to him? More importantly, had she ever appeared in any of the previous cycles? If so, whose side had she joined?
Was this memory from his original life, or a previous cycle?
Mulling over the questions stirred by this single image, Sephiroth started to walk back to his room. But he cast a cursory glance to the side, toward the computer room, and came to an abrupt halt.
Golbez was seated at the terminal, and on the screen was a file which featured Firion's picture and several text boxes.
Curiosity tugged at his senses, overriding his exhaustion, and the silver-haired man paced to a spot behind the armored mage. "What is this?" he asked.
Golbez didn't flinch. "This is a comprehensive list which Chaos keeps. It details what is known of all current pawns on both sides, as well as those who fell in previous cycles."
Sephiroth crossed his arms and leveled an inquisitive look at his peer. "How did you gain access to this database? I imagine Chaos would not share such information easily."
The thaumaturge snorted beneath his helmet. "I am adept at getting into places I am not supposed to go. I needed information, and I took steps to obtain it. That is all you need know."
The silver-haired man considered the file. In addition to Firion's picture, his physical attributes and abilities were catalogued, as well as his ties to various people on both sides of the war and a small amount of his personal history. He caught the words "rebel" and "Wild Rose" before Golbez minimized the window.
"Was there something you needed, Sephiroth?" he inquired.
The swordsman considered the question. Should he tell him about the memory? Golbez was somewhat akin to himself in that he existed on the fringe of those sworn to Chaos, with no ties or alliances to any of their fellows. They were both solitary warriors seeking something, pursuing separate goals from those of the other dark champions. As such they regarded one another with a certain respect not accorded anyone else. Golbez might wonder why he wanted to know about the nameless woman, but he would not press him.
"I would like to know if there is a woman with green hair in those files. She must be from one of the older cycles, among the fallen."
"Do you recall her name?" A rhetorical question. Nobody could remember the names of dead champions.
"I do not."
The thaumaturge hummed and clicked the search bar. "It is fortunate that our esteemed master made it possible to search for physical features as well as names," he commented, typing the words "green hair" into the field.
Sephiroth fought the urge to drum his fingers on his sleeve as the load bar slowly filled. It was a good way to search. How many green-haired women could there be? Terra was the only one currently within the ranks on either side, but surely the girl had not been the only one. The woman in his memory was unquestionably an adult female, not an inexperienced child.
"Here we are." The results popped up, and a small number of names and pictures became visible on the screen. Golbez's hand hovered over the mouse, and then he slid the chair back and got to his feet. "Would you prefer some privacy? You have little knowledge about this woman, after all."
"Stay or go, I don't care. Whoever she was, she is dead. Anything I uncover will not have much effect upon our plans." Sephiroth seated himself at the computer and brushed his hair behind the chair. Golbez stood a short distance away, but the silver-haired man ignored his prescence.
There were only a few green-haired women in the database. The first was Terra. No surprise there. Next was a pretty young lady with a darker color to her wavy tresses and grey-blue eyes. Her name was Rydia. Sephiroth considered her for a minute, then shook his head. Even if her eyes had been the correct shade, this Rydia looked too innocent to be the woman in his memory. He scrolled down, and froze.
There she was. His memory had been accurate; her hair as pine-dark and her eyes rivaled ripe cranberries in their vibrancy. A beautiful woman, she wore a dark blue suit with a black tie and thick-heeled boots. A pair of black pistols sat ready in her long-fingered hands. Around her neck was a delicate silver chain, and from it hung a tiny katana with an unusually long blade.
Masamune, rendered in miniature.
His heart suddenly pounding against his ribs, Sephiroth clicked on her file. The woman's name was Akalara Forrest, and her speciality was Hardened Sharpshooter. Chaos had listed her as carrying twin .45 magnum revolvers and a pair of kunai, but noted that she stuck with the guns for the most part.
She had been a member of Cosmos' forces.
He stared at that line, stunned. Why was he remembering her as if she was a lover, if she had fought for the goddess of harmony? He decided to read on and accessed her known background.
The more he read, the wider his eyes became.
This Akalara woman had come from the same world as himself and Cloud. The file claimed she was a combination of bodyguard and assassin, but her primary skills lay within gunplay, demolition, disguises, and sabotage. Chaos noted that she had managed to blow up one of the world fragments during the second cycle, a place known as the Sector 4 Slums, while one of his agents had been present. She had been a spy for Cosmos, disguising herself as a member of Chaos' legions to gather information and eliminated individual targets. She had been one of a group of spies and assassins secretly working for harmony, who had caused some massive headaches for Chaos' forces during the early cycles, of whom Zidane was the only member remaining. Like most of her sneaky peers, Akalara had died during the third cycle, when the dark champions had focused on annihilating them. The notes claimed that Cosmos had won the first two cycles because of them, and once the spies had been removed Chaos' forces had succeeded in killing the goddess.
Sephiroth frowned. This stirred some familiarity in the back of his mind, and a touch of anger, as if long forgotten. Why should he be upset by the death of one of Cosmos' pawns? unsettled, he scrolled further down.
Her personal ties were next. Chaos had recorded her friends and closest allies, and what those individuals were to her. The silver-haired man scanned over the first few names on the list, curious and a little suspicious.
Kandi (Cyber Amazon) - best friend, traveling partner
Zidane (Aerial Ace) - friend
Edge (Eldritch Ninja) - friend, traveling partner
Vincent Valentine (Changeling Executioner) - friend
Genesis Rhapsodos (Fallen Hero) - enemy
Azrael Forrest (Sharpened Combatant) - son
Sephiroth (Focused Blade) - lover, traveling partner
He stared at the screen. Lover? This woman had been his lover? She had fought beside him? But she had been one of Cosmos' tools, not Chaos'! How could that be? He had never allowed anyone to get close to him, not even his immediate peers. How could he have been traveling alongside, much less sleeping with, one of the enemy?
Now completely oblivious to Golbez's prescence, the stunned swordsman clicked on his own name and began reading through his profile.
"Originally assigned to Cosmos, Sephiroth became one of mine at the start of the fourth cycle. He grew to loathe Cosmos after the loss of his woman and son."
Backtracking to the previous file, Sephiroth poised the mouse over the name "Azrael Forrest", who was listed as Akalara's son. Did he really want to know?
He sat up straighter, and clicked the link.
The picture displayed a slender, sculpted young man wearing a black leather vest and pants with biker boots and studded leather gauntlets. A matching headband held back his long bangs from his eyes, which were the same striking shade of crimson as Akalara's. In his hands was a katana, a visual twin to Masamune. His face was thin and beautiful, very familiar, and most telling of all was the man's waist-length hair.
An exact match to Sephiroth's own, longer, mane.
Breathless, the swordsman scrolled down to Azrael's known history. He too had stood in harmony's defense, but unlike his mother he had not been an assassin. He had traveled and fought much like the other warriors in Cosmos' ranks, accompanied by his own lover, a woman named Andria Fair. He had also survived as long as the third cycle. But Azrael had perished at the hands of a man known as Bartandalus, and according to Chaos the body had been returned to the Order Sanctuary by Firion. Azrael's death had driven his parents to a vengeful attack on Orphan's Cradle, where he had been slain. Bartandalus had been killed, but Akalara had been mortally wounded. Sephiroth's heart raced as he read how he had carried his dying lover back to the Sanctuary and abandoned Cosmos when the goddess was unable to heal her. At the dawn of the fourth cycle, Sephiroth had been counted amongst Chaos' ranks.
The silver-haired man's head pulsed suddenly, and his hands flew to clutch his temples. Golbez shifted behind him, but Sephiroth was blinded with a sudden flurry of images.
Firion carrying a lifeless, torn body, handing it to him and Akalara. Her wracking sobs as her shaking fingers smoothed the blood-matted silver tresses away from their son's face. The fading heat of Azrael's body against his chest as he clutched him close, swearing vengeance, hearing his words echoed by Akalara.
His lover cradled in his arms, her lovely face painted with blood from a huge gash that stretched from her left temple to the top of her head, parting the dark green hair nearly in half with a hideous stripe of red and white. Her eyes were shut, her mouth slack. Though the blood continued to drip, it no longer bled. Her heart had ceased to beat.
Cosmos, so gold and pure, seated on the marble bench that served as her throne. Her perfect countenance was a picture of sadness and her hands were folded upon her lap. Her head bowed, a feeling of total disbelief and soul-deep agony washed over him as she quietly told him that she could do nothing for Akalara.
The darkness behind his eyelids, the damp of the Sanctuary's aquatic ground soaking into his knees, her body so heavy in his arms. A tortured, enraged scream rippling through the air, his throat raw with the force of his grief.
His elbows slammed down on the computer table as his buried his fingers in his hair, gripping the roots tight. The pain was lost in the swirl of memories and emotions. He saw only the faces of his lover and son, the two people who had mattered the most in his own world and this shattered war, the people he had protected with everything he had.
And it had not saved them.
He felt ashamed for having forgotten them, although rationally he knew it was because he had been on the losing side when they had died. Only his rage at the goddess had resurrected him for the following cycle, on the opposing side. But in his heart, the softer side he had neglected for so long, he berated himself for not remembering them, if only to fuel his anger towards the gods.
Cosmos could not heal them, no matter how he had pleaded with her.
But Chaos had ultimately been responsible for their deaths.
Abruptly he stood up, so fast the chair clattered to the floor behind him. Sephiroth curled his fists until his nails bit into his palms through the leather of his gloves, hatred and long-forgotten grief running hot through his body. The gods had stolen his family from him, and worse, they had made him forget they had ever existed.
Sephiroth closed his the files and turned around to leave. Golbez cleared his throat, causing the swordsman's glittering peridot eyes to slide his way.
"You found what you sought," he stated.
"Yes," was the only reply. He stalked past the other man, letting his feet carry him back to his room while his mind churned.
The gods. They were responsible for everything. This piecemeal world, the endless war, the loss of his memories, the destruction of everything he had ever held dear. All of it was their fault.
It was past time they received their due.
But the charade must continue, for the time being. He must continue his vendetta against Cloud, so no one suspected him. Cosmos would die a true death, and then Chaos would follow.
When he had the god of discord on his knees before him, balanced his very life upon the edge of his blade, Sephiroth would look Chaos in the eye and tell that demon exactly what he had stolen from him.
Then he would kill him, and the war would end, at long last. His family would know vengeance.
Golbez watched the silver-haired man vanish down the hall with sympathetic eyes. He had read the files over his shoulder, although the information was not new to him. Since hacking into Chaos' private files, the thaumaturge had read all of the links connected with his enemies and allies. He knew the story behind those two individuals. He knew what they had meant to Sephiroth.
He could even begin to appreciate the other man's pain.
Silent as a shadow, he went to the computer and retrieved the files. Stared at the woman and her silver-haired son.
"We all have lost so much in this war," he murmured. "Our homes, our lives, our memories. But the two of you lost more than that, I think."
Had Sephiroth continued reading, he would have discovered why Azrael had been targeted by Bartandalus in the first place. Chaos had wanted his powerful father within his ranks, and decided that the best course to obtain that result would be to remove both Akalara and Azrael from the picture, and the distance would be such that while the bodies would survive the journey back to the Order's Sanctuary, it would be far too late for Cosmos to save them. As predicted, that had led Sephiroth down a very dark path emotionally. It was not recorded how the swordsman had died in that cycle, and Chaos had likely not realized there would be another cycle afterwards, but the end result was the same. Sephiroth had become one of the dark champions, and worked towards the perpetuation of discord rather than harmony.
What might have happened, had the scheme not worked?
Golbez sighed, wondering anew at the twists of fate within this shattered world. Grief had turned Sephiroth from the light, and in turn his fury had caused him to forget that which had mattered the most.
Perhaps it might have been better if he had died alongside his lover, all those cycles ago.