"No choice left"
Disclaimer: Most of the characters are mine, apart from Sephiroth and Aeris.
Author's Notes: Finally! I've started to write a longer fic this time! The story begins just after the ending of FF7. Be aware that Sephiroth's the main character here, so if you don't like him at all, you're wasting your time reading this… And if you like Aeris… Hey, I'm not suggesting anything! Actually, the fic's going to be quite complicated and different from all those sweet Sephy/Aeris love stories, which are mostly adorable and cute, yet so unrealistic. I wanted to create something deeper, if only just slightly more reliable. I mean… are Sephiroth and Aeris truly meant for each other? What if there was a second woman and a few extra problems for them to deal with?
Enjoy the story!
* * *
With a loud scream he awoke from another nightmare, instantly bolting into a sitting position. Momentarily forgetting what he was dreaming about, in the next second he was on his back again, feeling completely exhausted, unable to move, unable to think. The fever made his lips pale and dry; there was also a glow in his green irises and his entire body shivered.
As Sephiroth fell down on his pillows, his eyelids suddenly became very heavy. For a long moment he was completely still, allowing random thoughts to run through his head in a chaotic manner. (Where am I? What happened? And why…) He forced himself to stay awake and reopen his eyes: he lay in the middle of a white-painted room, on a comfortable bed that vaguely smelled of flowers. Judging from the bright daylight, it had to be about noon. He could hear some birds singing in the distance.
Sephiroth wanted to raise his head to look around more carefully, however – to his extreme irritation – he noticed he couldn't perform even this simplest gesture. For a second an ice-cold feeling of panic overwhelmed him but he momentarily chased the terrifying thought away: no, I'm not paralyzed. He slightly moved his fingers to make himself sure.
The pain, which he ignored at first, was growing more intense with every second, to the point of being almost unbearable. Sephiroth blinked his eyes, feeling tears forming there against his own will. He felt a mixture of bewilderment and anger. Was he going to cry? Why? Wasn't he used to the pain? He tried to breathe slowly and it helped him a little.
He blinked his eyes, trying to raise his head once more. To no effect. It hurt so much that he eventually gave up, falling down on his pillows, exhausted. He didn't close his eyes, however, fighting off sleep, trying to pull his thoughts together. Why was it that difficult? He frowned, trying to remember anything apart from his dreams, anything that happened just before he was thrown into that constant stream of nightmares, which he knew were simply the real images of the past… his past, mostly.
(Cloud… the crater… I should be dead now, shouldn't I? But… is this how hell is supposed to look like?)
Though accurate details seemed to be very vague, Sephiroth recalled fighting against Cloud's party. He also remembered the final duel with his adversary. He winced at that thought.
(The duel… That's good! I couldn't even defend myself… And then… What happened next…?)
He remembered a huge ball of energy speeding in his direction. He remembered the satisfied expression on Cloud's face… Then there was nothing but a terrible pain and a silent prayer for a quick death. The last thing he remembered was whiteness, consuming everything around him… and suddenly he found himself here.
(Laying on a clean, soft bed… But how? Even if I survived by some miracle, who would want my recovery?)
Once more he attempted to lift his head to check whether his wrists were tied to the bed – and they weren't.
(That's absurd…) He instantly became irritated with himself. (And even if they were… It's not like I can stand up or anything...)
He knew he had to look pitiful at that moment. He frowned, suddenly hearing somebody's quiet footsteps outside and a rustle of opening the door. Ignoring the pain, with a lot of effort he managed to turn his head.
A small, delicate woman stepped into the room. She was still looking fairly young but judging from her deep, brown eyes she could be in her late forties as well. Noticing Sephiroth was awake, the woman froze for a second but almost instantly smiled. Sephiroth didn't smile back.
She came up to the bed, leaning over the man.
"How are you?" she asked, frowning in concern when he didn't answer "Are you all right, Sephiroth?" she finally repeated.
He slightly narrowed his eyes at hearing his name from a stranger; he was sure he had never met this woman before.
"Who are you?" he eventually asked, trying to sound as indifferent as possible.
"I'm Amyl van Drahne but you can use my first name only." she spoke, far too observant to miss his obvious distrust "It's alright, Sephiroth. I guess you can call me... a friend."
He didn't comment on that. She knows my name, he thought. (Which most probably means she knows also other things about me… like what I've tried to do with the Planet, for example… Meteor… What happened to the Meteor? …I wish I knew.)
"Where am I?" he asked instead.
"We're in a place known as Muar-Svyen-a-Tor, which in the common language means The-Tower-of-the-Seven-Seas. It's the capital of the Promised Land."
His eyes widened in disbelief.
As self-possessed as he was, he didn't manage to conceal his utmost surprise. (…But I thought…) It has to be just some another nightmare, he resolved quickly. (It can't be happening, right?)
"I can see you're slightly confused about this, aren't you?" Amyl stated solemnly, sitting down on the edge of his bed "Let me explain a few important things, then. Yes, you were… mislead, Sephiroth, thinking that you are a Cetra. However, I'm sure that you know the truth about your parents now, am I right?"
He nodded, turning his head away, as far as his stiff muscles allowed, not wanting the woman to notice that his blue-green eyes were suddenly filled with regret and… sorrow.
"How would you know?" he asked
"And how would you?" she answered him with a question.
"Those dreams…" Sephiroth's voice trailed off.
"Then you see." Amyl nodded "More or less that's the reason how I know your name and I'm familiar with your past. As you might have already guessed, I'm also aware of your attempt to destroy the Planet." Sephiroth watched her close for any traces of hostility, yet he saw none, there was nothing but a strange mixture of interest and curiosity in Amyl's eyes "A failed attempt." she completed.
He shut his eyes briefly. (So it's over now… Jenova didn't have it her way. Neither had I… Maybe it's for the better…) he decided in his thoughts. He had so many unanswered questions and doubts… but he didn't feel like voicing them right now. The whole situation seemed to be more than awkward to him.
"What does it change?" he finally asked, keeping both his face and his voice emotionless, not allowing his bitterness to come through "Am I not supposed to be dead? Or at least dying… instead of lying in a clean bed somewhere in the Promised Land…? Sure you have some sense of… justice. Is that the way you treat…"
"…somebody like me?" with some effort he raised a slender hand to his bandaged forehead, suddenly hesitating "Was that a healing spell?"
I didn't ask for your pity, he thought, lowering his arm.
"Actually…" Amyl said "We don't want you dead."
"The seven members of the Cetra Council. I forgot to mention that I'm one of them." there was no vanity in her voice "Valagar, the head of the Council, needs to speak to you."
"And for what reason?" he wondered if anything could surprise him right now.
"You'll find out soon enough… but not today. I can see you still haven't recovered entirely." Amyl stood up. "Rest now. I'll come for you when you're ready." she moved her hand and whispered something very quietly.
Too tired to resist her spell, Sephiroth suddenly felt his eyes closing and before he could even realize what was happening, he fell asleep. Even more nightmares accompanied him this time.
* * *
"So." Xavier started, leaning his forearms on a marble balustrade "When are they leaving?"
"As soon as possible." Gustaw, who stood just behind him, answered "Probably in a week."
"Such a long journey…" Xavier sighed "We won't see them for at least ten years… And we won't even know whether they succeeded or not…"
"What are ten years compared to eternity…?" Gustav noticed philosophically "Patience is a virtue, my friend."
Xavier turned around to look at his companion "I guess you're right. However, it's not an ordinary task, so I imagine you can understand my anxiety."
"Valagar himself is leaving… there's no need to worry…"
Xavier snorted "Even you don't sound so sure about that. Actually, the fact that Valagar is leaving concerns me the most. What if something bad happens here in the meanwhile…? And most importantly: what if he…"
"Yes. You forgot it's THEM he'll have to face. And the last time we met one of their kind, we were almost entirely destroyed."
"That was two thousand years ago."
"Does it necessarily means we're wiser now? Or stronger?"
"We had our lesson. Now we're certain we cannot trust them, no matter what, which makes us somewhat better prepared. Besides, our fear is premature. Jenova could had been an outcast among them, have you ever considered that?"
"Do you want to say that maybe they're just a peaceful civilization…?" Xavier raised his thin, fair eyebrows.
"Don't let your prejudices make you blind." Gustav said, watching the sun lowering towards the horizon "Things are never entirely black or entirely white. Ha, I'm so wise, right?" he laughed bitterly "Speaking has always been so easy… it's practice that makes everything difficult."
"Which makes me glad I'm not going with them." Xavier murmured "Besides, I've got a bad feeling about this… and I don't trust that strange man, either… it's Sephiroth, right? He's not a Cetra! What makes him so special that Valagar wants him as a part of the team?"
"He used to be a brilliant strategist once, or so I've heard… He never lost a single battle."
"Impressive." Xavier shrugged "So he's exceptionally clever. Where's the point?"
"He's also said to be a warrior, an excellent one, that is. With a very strong magical talent for… a human. Isn't that enough for you, Xavier?"
Xavier raised his hand to his chin, narrowing his eyes. "Sounds perfect. But… Well… isn't he supposed to be insane? Isn't he the one who tried to destroy his home planet only a few weeks ago and somehow failed?"
Gustav shook his head. "Back then, I've heard the planet's terrified voice, too, and I don't know…" he paused "Valagar says he's just fine and that we should treat him as an equal…"
"Damn it!" Xavier exclaimed "Valagar can be so stubborn and irrational sometimes! Of all men in the universe, why this Sephiroth, with some mental problems and a strange past! There are thousands of equally talented people! You know as well as I do that Valagar's reasons had to be different!"
Gustav sighed heavily. "I can only assume it has something to with the fact that Sephiroth's not entirely human. He's partially one of them…"
Xavier was silent for a long while. "You mean…" he stammered "But that's just… How…? What do you mean?"
"Well, he's still human… mostly. I spoke with Amyl about a week ago and she told me he shares some Räelans genes – Jenova's genes, as a matter of fact. There's also quite a lot of mako in his veins… Which leaves him with more than fifty percent of human DNA, actually fifty-six, to be precise."
"And Valagar's convinced that we'll need his help." Xavier whispered. "Even though he's a half-Räelan…" He suddenly paused, since the thought struck him. The men were both quiet for a long moment. "Now I see." Xavier nodded thoughtfully "Judging from our first and only experience with them, the Räelans are quite unpredictable and very hard to get along with, so Valagar wanted to find someone who may be able to understand them at least a little more…"
"Exactly. Now it does make a perfect sense…"
"Yes, but I still have a feeling something's not right here… like we may have missed something."
Now it was Gustav's time to shrug. "As ridiculous as this whole idea may seem, I've always respected Valagar's wisdom and now I believe that his choice is right. And I'm sure Kyro and Movitriss can take care of everything. I still don't know about this Aeris Gainsborough but I was told she's a very dedicated and reliable person. Moreover, she's already agreed…"
* * *
Aeris lifted her head from a book. The letters danced before her eyes. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't concentrate on the novel anyway. Nothing could drag her thoughts from…
…what Valagar had said. It seemed that the Promised Land was a lie, one big deception. She clearly remembered that those fake, naive dreams of the Promised Land were one of the very few things she could always hold on to as a child. Back then she believed her ultimate prize awaited her. She expected to find safety here. Among with some other things… like peace. Love. Happiness.
And this was so much like the Planet she had left. Sure, this place was beautiful. Sure, she had found safety and happiness here… but for how long?
It's happening again
She felt deceived, tricked. You lied to me, all of you, she thought, slamming the book shut. (Why don't you just let me alone now? Look at me, I was not born to be a warrior, let alone the martyr you want me to be. I can't fight and I'll never find a hint of pleasure in fighting. Yet I've played my part to the end. It's just that… right now I'm tired of everything. Is that so difficult for you to understand, Valagar?)
Suddenly she felt very guilty, so guilty that it even drowned out her sorrow. It wasn't Valagar's fault.
Whose fault was it, anyway?
And my murderer's still alive
She shivered, involuntarily biting her upper lip. Sephiroth still frightened her and she sincerely doubted it would ever change. The terrifying memories were still vivid in her mind. She knew what Valagar intended to tell him and what he was going to ask him for. And she suddenly realized she already knew Sephiroth's answer. Nobody can change that fast, she thought. Especially not somebody like him.
He's still a threat
(No, he isn't. He was mistaken. Angry. Confused.)
Just as I am now
(He's not a threat anymore.)
(Is insanity really a good enough excuse? Is the Council wrong? Valagar wasn't the one who died that day. He'll never understand what it feels like… That sword was cold, so damn cold…)
I'm scared. What if…?
Aeris lifted a slender hand to her pale, bleeding lip, which left small red spots on her flawless fingers. (Memories. I won't cry. I'm a warrior now, not a martyr.)
Valagar says I'm responsible for the future of the Promised Land. So is Sephiroth.
Burying her face in her hands, Aeris cried. What else could she do?
* * *
When Sephiroth woke up again, he sincerely hadn't the foggiest idea of how much time had passed. A day probably? He wasn't sure. It was early afternoon now.
He felt much better than before, still a little stiff and his limbs aching, yet he could actually move this time. He raised himself very slowly, sitting on the bed, resting his back against a soft, comfortable pillow. He could finally have a look around his room, noticing it was a bright, spacious chamber full of wooden furniture. There was even a fireplace in the corner but it seemed to be cold and unused, probably because – guessing from the opened window and the temperature inside – it was the middle of the summer.
Sephiroth got up, feeling slightly dizzy, but otherwise fine. The first thing he did was to go up to the window and open it wider. He looked outside… and froze.
No wonder it's called the Promised Land, he thought.
He spent almost half of his life traveling and became quite used to amazing places and spectacular sights. Yet still, experienced as he was, he found the view from the window impressive and literally breathtaking. There was a city spreading below his feet, overflowing with green, teeming with life. He could see narrow, winding streets and bridges made of white stone, hanging high above the ground. This place was just as opposite to Midgar as it could be. Magnificent. And above everything there was a clear, blue sky.
He rested his elbows on the broad sill, hanging his head down. He felt a gentle breeze caressing his cheeks, playing with his hair. So warm, so delicate…
He closed his eyes, suddenly not wanting to look at the city.
What am I doing here?
(Haven't I been seeking for the Promised Land, anyway…? For a different purpose, though… I devoted myself to something so… wrong. And was it truly for myself only? Revenge? Jenova?) He frowned. Anger flashed in his tranquil, blue eyes, instantly changing them into luminescent green. (Damn! I would kill that bitch if only I could!)
So betrayed and so deceived… The fact that Jenova was dead didn't make him feel any better.
(What was I thinking!? How could I ever believe her!?)
He felt like a fool, like an idiot. So cheated… Recently he had became such a proud person that admitting he had been wrong hurt him like hell. (I've made a fool of myself. Acted like a moron, killed for no apparent reason. Instead of killing Hojo in the first place, I did things that didn't need to be done, that shouldn't have been done…)
(What a damn irony… and I've found the Promised Land after all…) He smiled bitterly.
(Most probably to be expelled. What I did was wrong, at least perceived from a moral point of view. What does this Valagar want from me?) He looked down at his pale, slender hands. (Will they see the difference between Jenova and me? Probably not… She's not entirely dead as long as I live. I'm a part of her, right? And she was the worst enemy of the Cetra…)
(So now what? Am I going to be… judged? Punished? For all the things I did, willingly or not? Mostly willingly, though…)
He sighed. What was this oh-so-familiar feeling in his chest?
(…Am I feeling guilty…?)
(…Guilty for the people I didn't even know? They're simply faces without names to me and therefore I cannot feel sorry for them… Guilty for the people I knew? Guilty of murdering that bastard, ShinRa? Why should I feel sorry for killing him?)
It's more than just that and you know it…
(No, I don't regret anything… Anything at all… Only that… it was pointless, it really served no purpose… for I didn't feel happy back than, did I? And… they were ones of my kind, after all, weren't they…?)
Suddenly he heard the door being opened. The sound made him instantly turn around, fast enough to see Amyl entering the room. She looked quite different from what he remembered. Instead of wearing a simple long skirt, she was now dressed in a magnificent long dress and her hair looked much better than before, decorated with a jewel-decorated ribbon.
"Hi, how are you today?" she asked, clasping her hands in front of her waist. Her words reassured him that he slept for more than just a few hours "You can stand up and that's definitely a good sign!" perhaps the sentence was meant as a joke, because she smiled. "What about your chest?"
Sephiroth looked down, frowning. It still hurt but he had learned to ignore the pain.
"You'll be alright in a couple of days." Amyl continued, perhaps not interested in his answer "I took the bandage off your head because the wound has healed completely. Such a horrible gash and I guess it won't even leave a scar…" her voice trailed off for a second "So, how's your chest?"
"I'm fine." Sephiroth finally said.
Amyl nodded. "Just as I expected." her expression turned very serious "I'm glad to see you conscious and on your feet, because the Council awaits you."
"Right now?" he raised his eyebrows. I must look awful at the moment, he realized, looking at her fancy dress and golden necklace.
"There's a bathroom behind that door." she explained patiently "And a wardrobe with lots of different clothes right over there. Get dressed, please." she asked him "I'll wait for you downstairs."
"Downstairs? And how am I supposed to…"
"A guard will show you the way." she interrupted him
He frowned at her words, narrowing his aquamarine eyes. Amyl noticed that expression.
"Don't worry." she reassured him calmly "You acted reasonable during our last conversation so Valagar decided that you're not a prisoner. The guard's here only to help you."
He didn't answer, since he didn't believe her entirely.
"I shall leave you now." Amyl resisted the urge to comment on Sephiroth's obvious lack of trust "You don't have to hurry but remember that the Council is waiting."
He watched her going out of the room and closing the door behind her.
Great, he thought. Just great.
End of Chapter 1.
* * *
Author's Notes: And? Did you like it? Anybody wants more? It wasn't very dramatic but I assure you that the plot will thicken in time. I've almost finished the second chapter by now, so I guess I could post it fairly soon. The problem is, I really need to know whether you enjoyed the story or not, since I don't want to waste my time on a worthless fic that nobody would like to read.
Besides… writing English is sometimes so damn frustrating… for, you see, I'm a FOREIGNER, as you've already probably noticed. That's why the language used in this story sounds so simple. (Do you know how bad it feels? Having so much to say and such a short vocabulary!?) Anyway, sorry about those terrible grammar or spelling mistakes I've made; I can only hope they didn't make my story sound pitiful. Let me know if there are any unacceptable ones, perhaps I'll be able to avoid them in the future.
Please, REVIEW! Any constructive suggestions would be appreciated! C'mon! Just click that pretty REVIEW button down there! It doesn't take that much time to type a few letters!
(I hope I was being persuasive enough!)
Ah, and by the way: don't worry, 'cause the fifty-year-old Amyl is not the "second woman" I was referring to in my prologue. Sephy deserves something better, right? And don't be confused about the Räelans, either. As I've already said, everything will clear up in time.