A SOLDIER's Weapon

By Oniko

Chapter 22

… … …

"I see you're still using that flashy piece of shit excuse for a gun, Valentine," Veld said. Red eyes slowly blinked at Veld. Guns were lowered and Veld's arm was released.

"Veld," the man, Valentine, rasped. His voice was dry and rusty. "Leave me be."

"We have some questions for you, about the SOLDIER program," Sephiroth said, stepping forward. Valentine looked at him, but there was no recognition in his eyes. Sephiroth felt strangely disappointed, though he knew consciously that there was no reason for the man to recognize him. Even if he truly was involved in SOLDIER, as his glowing Mako-laden eyes suggested, it was before Sephiroth was even born.

"I have nothing to say to you about Hojo's monsters," Valentine said. He turned away from them, curling in on himself the massive three barrel gun clutched in his gloved hand.

"I guess you were wrong," Veld said, stepping away from the open coffin. Sephiroth glanced over at the unexpected retreat. Why was he giving up so easily? "Let's go, Sephiroth."

Even as he said the words Veld made no move towards the exit. Confused, neither did Sephiroth. Valentine, however, shot up out of the coffin.

"Sephiroth?" He asked. His red eyes glancing first to Veld then to Sephiroth. He stepped out of the coffin and took a few hesitant steps forward, not apparently fully aware of his actions. "Sephiroth?" he mouthed the word again to himself. Looking down, as he stopped as he noticed how far he had stepped from his prison/haven and turned to Veld. "How long?"

"Sixteen years," Veld said. "Three months and four days since your last report."

"Tch." Vincent turned back to stare at Sephiroth. "I'm surprised they bothered to send anyone at all. Hojo probably reported me dead before the casing cooled."

Veld's eyebrows shot up. "I don't suppose you'd care to expand on that."

"Not particularly," Valentine said.

"That wasn't really a-" Veld trailed off as Valentine stepped forward again

"I'd never thought I'd get the chance to say this," he said softly, as he reached out hesitantly as if he wanted to touch Sephiroth, to make sure he was real, but unable to complete the gesture. "I'm so sorry."

"For what?" Sephiroth asked.

"For everything," Valentine said simply. "I tried to stop him, I couldn't. Believe me if I'd have known that there was even a chance that you had survived I wouldn't have let him-"

"Stop who?" Sephiroth asked, his voice nearly a dry croak in this throat.

Valentine blinked at him, surprise showing briefly before his features returning to the uniform wooden blankness. "Hojo, of course."

Sephiroth felt like things were things were twisting sideways. How could someone try to stop Hojo? Why would they? Even at his most depraved he was fully backed by ShinRa. Only fools and terrorists—a more dangerous brand of fools—stood against ShinRa. And Valentine was a Turk. Sephiroth could only choke out a baffled, "Why?"

"Because he's a dangerous madman who doesn't understand what he's doing," Vincent snarled and started to pace like a restless beast. Veld and Sephiroth instinctively stepped back to give him more space. "He wasn't a geneticist, that was Hollander, he was a biologist brought in by Gast. Couldn't understand that the thing was killing her, I thought it was killing you both."

"Killing who, Val?" Veld asked softly. Sephiroth was glad that he wasn't the only one at a loss here. Valentine stopped and turned back to them. He barely glanced at Veld before turning back to Sephiroth. The look that flashed across his features was of such raw pain that Sephiroth almost didn't want to know.

"Your mother," he said shortly.

"Jenova?" Sephiroth asked. Valentine recoiled as if struck.

"No, Lucrecia—is that what Hojo told you? That thing was your mother?"

"Hojo only ever said that my mother's name was Jenova," Sephiroth said, carefully neutral. Surely, Hojo hadn't meant to imply that the strange hobbled-together monster pulled from the Northern Crater was his mother. It wasn't even alive.

Valentine snorted. "Somehow, I'm not surprised."

"As fascinating as all of this is," Veld said. "It still doesn't answer the question of why you felt the sudden need to abandon your post, for what?" Veld gave Valentine a narrow-eyed look as he trailed off. "A self inflicted punishment for something you couldn't have stopped anyways." Veld pressed his good hand to his forehead with a pained expression. The other, Sephiroth could finally see, was a prosthesis made of metal, wires, and Materia, now crushed and useless. "I feel old. I'd forgotten about your streak of melodrama. We were what, seventeen?"

Sephiroth gave Valentine an appraising look. He looked older then seventeen, but still young. Not old enough to be Veld's contemporary.

"Twenty-five," Valentine corrected, sending Veld a reproachful look. He stepped back, drawing in on himself, even the tattered red cape seemed to act of its own accord to curl protectively around his body. "You wouldn't understand."

"Ifrit's Hell I wouldn't," Veld glowered back. "I read the files. Hojo had a choke hold on her project's funding. She would've done anything to keep it from being axed."

Sephiroth kept glancing between the two of them and wondered what all of this had to do with anything, but he was too fascinated to interrupt them.

Valentine gave Veld a startled look. "She didn't say anything."

"Of course she didn't," Veld said. "I never met the woman, but even I could tell she was too damn naive for her own good. She probably never believed that he'd actually do it, but she let him talk her into infecting an unborn fetus while it was still inside her with Jenova cells anyways, just to see what it would do with unfettered access to growing stem cells."

Sephiroth winced in sympathy at the scenario Veld painted. It was sometimes hard to remember that Hojo could be charming and persuasive when he wanted to be. But he was, and very much so, right up until the moment he didn't need to be anymore. This woman, Lucrecia—his mother, never stood a chance.

"And that doesn't even touch on in issues of paternity," Veld added.

"What?" Sephiroth demanded. Hojo was his father; that had never been an issue in question. He grabbed Veld's shoulder and wrenched the man around to look at him. "What do you mean?"

"According to the files you were born nine months after the marriage contract was signed," Veld said. Sephiroth shrugged, that meant nothing to him. "Pregnancies generally last forty weeks, ten months."

Velentine paled. "No."

"Not that it matters anymore, I suppose," Veld said, coolly watching Valentine. "The marriage gave him de facto paternity at birth regardless of who the biological father was."

"Why are you telling me this?" Valentine's voice was strained with the anguish.

"Because you left a child to that monster," Veld yelled back at him. "So wrapped up in your own gods-damned self-pity-"

"I thought they were dead."

"Well, you were wrong-"

"Excuse me," Sephiroth choked out and staggered back to the exit and the ShinRa mansion. If he had felt like things had been tilted askew earlier, now many of the fundamental things he thought he understood had been turned upside down. "I need some air."

If either Veld or Valentine made any sound of protest, he didn't hear it. Sephiroth didn't stop until he was back outside, away from the musty smells of rotting fabric, rusting steel and growing mold. It was dark outside already, and the sharp night air even in the late summer held a bite of winter snow. He took a deep breath and released the tensions that had built up, clearing his head.

It didn't matter, he decided, what Valentine did or didn't do. Sephiroth was what Hojo had made him. The real question: was that all he had to be? He found himself staring at the Nibelheim reactor in the distance, half hidden by the low ceiling of clouds and haloed by the tarnished gold glow of light pollution from the town below. That was where Jenova was kept. Not just samples of the virus, but the body itself that had been drudged up from the Northern Crater.

He wanted to see it.

Pictures of pictures wasn't the same. He wanted to see the creature that had started everything. Was it really some malevolent being crouched in the core of the Nibelheim reactor like a spider at the center of its web? Or was it just a mindless thing that was as much a tool of Hojo's machinations as everything else he got his hands on? There was only one way to find out.

The trip to the reactor was short, even in the dark. Not even the Nibel wolves were out this late, and everything else had the sense to steer clear of something that had no qualms about wandering in the mountains in the middle of the night. The rickety bridge across a ravine worried him a moment but it held.

The reactor was obviously one of the older models. Thick pipes with rusting bands that leaked the corrosive shimmering Mako ran in and out of the building. Over time it had settled, listing slightly giving it a skewed, nightmarish quality, especially as it was lit with only half of the normal running lights. The doors were locked, but his ShinRa ID card had high enough clearance to give him access. Sephiroth frowned at the standard lock. Hojo clearly hadn't set this up; he would have used the same system as the mansion. So, who did?

He set the thoughts aside and entered the reactor. The main walkway ran upwards towards the control rooms where the computers managed the flow of the Mako. Sephiroth turned away. Jenova would be in the core. Like most, the Nibelheim reactor's core consists of two portions. The larger holding tank, where the freshly drawn Lifestream was held, and a smaller compression chamber, that turned Lifestream into Mako. Facilities that also acted as Materia factories had a third chamber that compressed the Mako further into a solid state. With the exception of the third room most reactors were open space with a metal mesh walkways suspended over pools of glowing liquid green and little else. And that was where the Nibelheim reactor deviated from the norm.

The hanging platforms in the Nibelheim reactor's holding tank were filled with row upon row of egg shaped pods. Sephiroth recognized them from the grainy image that was used in the lecture. He glanced into one of the pods, instead of the makonoids from the lecture there were numerous stripped bones floating in the Mako mixture. The next pod contained large chunks of muscle and tissue from some unidentified monster. The third; Sephiroth couldn't even identify the misshaped yellow organs.

According to the WolfHaven lecture there were supposed to be humanoid monsters in these tanks for the third generations SOLDIER serum, unless Hojo hadn't gotten to that point yet. Instead of creating a single serum, each vat must produce a shot for a particular trait using the active cells or glands that most resembled what they wanted. And it would be easy to switch over once they started mass producing SOLDIERs.

If the Makonoids' tanks were out here—Sephiroth stepped back out onto the main walkway and turned towards the compressor—that meant that Jenova had to be there. If he looked carefully he could see a plate over the door to the compression chamber stamped with JENOVA.

It took a few moments for the Mako to cycle out and for him to open the door. Inside blue emergency lights lined the walkways, and everything was backlit green from the thick Mako sludge below.

In the center of the chamber was a steel angel.

It wasn't what he was expecting. Where was the monster? Where was the corpse from two thousand years ago? Sephiroth stepped up to the metal statue. This was such an odd place to put artwork. He found a small access panel and pressed the single lit button. There was a hiss of hidden machinery and sections of the statue broke apart to slide back out of the way, revealing a single large Mako tank. Inside was Jenova.

The pictures from the WolfHaven video did not do it justice. Dead, grey skin was marbled with blue veins that were a little too large for the humanoid form, and thick ropey blood vessels curled around her lower body to a massive dragon's heart at her feet. She looked like she had died in a fight. The arms and what may have been wings or fins spouting from her back had been roughly torn away. Whatever—whoever she had fought she fought hard; one curling tentacle with hook-like teeth was still wrapped around a dismembered arm. Even the heart had taken some damage; the torn edges of the muscle tissue from deep, bloodless gouges waved gently in the slow current of Mako being pumped in and out of the tank.

"Beautiful, isn't she?"

"Who?" Sephiroth jumped at the oddly familiar voice. He turned to see a man with long silver-hair in a tattered black coat and a SOLDIER First Class Uniform.

The man walked forward. His poison green eyes fixed on the tank. Sephiroth felt his hackles rise when he noticed that the cat-slit eyes were constricted to the thinnest of lines. There was something seriously wrong with this man. Even with the ambient light from the glowing Mako, and running lights Sephiroth knew that his eyes were at partial dilation, because it was still fairly dark in the compression chamber. The reverence in the man's voice when he answered sent chills up Sephiroth's spine. "Mother."

"Who are you?"

The man turned and gave Sephiroth a look of pure derision. "I am what you will be."

"Impossible," Sephiroth said, recoiling back a step instinctively. The other Sephiroth smirked at him.

"You should know better by now," he said, making a soft tsking noise. He must have come from WolfHaven, through the wormhole, but-

"Why?"

The smug expression slid from his face. "They thought that they could stop us. Defy their god and change their fate." He turned back to face the monster in the tank, he placed one long fingered hand against the thick glass. "We shall do as we were meant from the beginning of time; lay waste to this insignificant prison of a planet and take our place amongst the stars."

They told Sephiroth that he had gone insane in their future worlds, told him the terrible things that he had done. He didn't believe them. He couldn't believe that he could have done those things. But this man could and would, he realized. This is the man that he will become.

"No," Sephiroth said, surprising both of them as he spoke out loud. "I won't let you; I won't be you."

"You think you can stop me?" The other Sephiroth snarled at him. "You? Right now you are nothing more than the chrysalis waiting to be awakened to its true form. What makes you thing that you could possibly stand up to me? You insignificant little worm."

Sephiroth glared back. "It can't be that hard," he retorted. "Cloud stopped you in his future, and so did Zack." He drew his simple broadsword. "And something must have made you come back here to try again. The only real inevitability is your defeat."

This wasn't him. Sephiroth decided, and he would never be this. As he lunged the madman stepped forward, opening his arms wide as if to embrace him. Sephiroth sword slid easily through the man's unprotected body, under the ribs then up through the heart and lungs. What startled him was the pain blossoming as something cold and sharp slammed into his abdomen. The man's other arm, the one not holding the sword that had appeared in his hand, curled around Sephiroth in a parody of a hug. He felt the man's blunt nails digging into his scalp. Sephiroth's head was forced to the side until the man's mouth was at Sephiroth's ear. He could feel hot breath against his neck and the other man whispered, like imparting some great secret. "You can't stop me."

Then he pushed Sephiroth back. They both stumbled. The steel of the sword still impaled through Sephiroth's body rang loudly as it struck the metal railing sending shockwaves of pain through his body and driving Sephiroth to his knees. He could only watch in confused horror as the man stumbled against the opposite railing, and actually dragged himself over the waist high barricade, with Sephiroth's sword still lodged in his abdomen, to fall to the burning Mako far below. Insane laughter echoed throughout the reactor chamber long after the body hit the thick liquid far below.

Sephiroth looked down to the sword in his gut. The hilt was distinctly Wusheng in origin. The tsuba at the base of the blade and pressed flush against his stomach was carved hematite. A sinuous Leviathan figure curled around itself in shimmery metallic black. The hilt was wrapped in patterned midnight and black silk, the strips twisting artistically, crisscrossing over each other to provide texture and grip.

He couldn't twist around to see how long the blade was, but if the brief glimpse he had of the sword—and familiarity with his own preferences—meant anything, the sword was an odachi of considerable length. Once he had the sword out he could get a better look at it, and heal the wound.

"Sephiroth!" He started at the sound of Cloud's voice, strident and angry, more than Sephiroth had ever heard from him before.

He looked up to see Cloud at the entrance to the compression chamber, the completed Fusion Swords in his hands. Cloud paused when he saw Sephiroth on the catwalk, but his hard eyes quickly scanned the rest of the chamber and he walked forward cautiously. Sephiroth didn't know how he felt seeing Cloud: hurt, confused…relieved. "Cloud?"

Those hard blue eyes turned to him. They paused over the sword in his gut, but didn't soften. Clouds grip shifted on the hilt, and he turned to face Sephiroth directly. "Why did you do it?"

"I tried to find," Sephiroth paused. Cloud's gaze was disconcerting, and wasn't he the one that was supposed to be angry at Cloud? "Jenova."

Cloud gave a single dismissive shake of his head. "The town."

The town? Sephiroth furrowed his brow in confusion. He had avoided the town. With the mansion on the north side of the small village and the reactor even further north, it made little sense to go into Nibelheim. The confusion must have shown on his face.

"The town," Cloud snarled, stepping forward. "Why did you burn it?"

"Step away from him," Veld ordered. The click of a gun being cocked was surprisingly loud. He hadn't heard him enter, by the way Cloud went completely still Sephiroth figured that he didn't either. Or Valentine, Sephiroth noted the other man a step behind Veld. Valentine didn't have a weapon out, though Sephiroth could see his hand poised unnaturally still, ready for a quick draw in case a second gun was needed.

Cloud didn't step back, merely shifted again so that he could face a threat coming from either the Turks or Sephiroth. Which was laughable, Sephiroth wasn't going to be moving anytime soon. He tried to lift himself up. The edge of the blade scraped on the walkway. If Sephiroth cried out, he couldn't tell. Pain stole the air from his lungs, and starbursts exploded behind his eyes. When Sephiroth could see again both Cloud and Veld had moved closer to him, with Valentine hovering not far beyond.

"He needs help," Cloud spoke softly, but it carried clearly in the still air. The anguish and confusion clear in his eyes even if the emotions were not betrayed in the hard lines of his face.

"Not from you. Step back," Veld ordered in hard tones. Sephiroth could only stare at the other man in surprise as Veld made his way to Sephiroth's side and knelt down. Valentine drew his gun, the elaborately decorated tri-barrel piece that Veld had disparaged earlier, and took up guard. With both hands supporting the gun, he stared down the sight at Cloud unflinchingly. Only after Cloud was covered did Veld holster his gun and look down at Sephiroth. Looking at the length of the blade protruding from Sephiroth's back, he appeared at a loss. Sephiroth gave a soft huff of laughter to see the normally collected Turk faced with something he wasn't trained to deal with; he was probably more familiar with gunshot wounds. Sephiroth winced as his poorly timed amusement pulled on his injury.

"Here, this needs to be disassembled," Sephiroth said as he reached out, careful not to jar or move the weapon, to point at the small peg hidden among the folds of night blue silk. The moment his hand closed on the silk wrapped hilt it shimmered with a red light and faded though Sephiroth wasn't left entirely empty handed. He opened his hand to reveal a small Materia, the color of heart's blood.

"It's a Summons," he whispered in shock. "How?"

Veld swore through gritted teeth with his hands pressed to Sephiroth's stomach. Without the length of steel in place, blood gushed out of the open wound and spilled over Veld's fingers, even as they glowed with green and gold light from the magic he was casting. Sephiroth could see the Restore Materia in the steel wristwatch that doubled as Veld's defensive armband. Flesh knitted together slowly from the inside out leaving Sephiroth dizzy and lightheaded from the blood loss. Once it was finished, Sephiroth stared down at a familiar scar, a purple line roughly the width of his palm. Just like Cloud's. Just like Zack's.

The blade itself seemed surprisingly wide for a Wusheng sword. Probably to support the slashing force of the blade despite the Materia slots punched through the spine. Sephiroth thought, his musings strangely distant and clinical as he stared at the dark line.

Veld's good hand rested heavily on his stomach, the man looked exhausted. "I don't have a Heal Materia on hand. We need to make sure that there aren't any infections from a ruptured intestine."

Sephiroth was pretty sure that he was fine, some smells are unforgettable. He was about to object, when Cloud spoke up. "I do."

They both looked up at Cloud. He still stood with his hands held carefully out, looking worried, but not about the gun that was pointed at him. That concern just made Sephiroth angry. He clenched his fist around the small Materia hard enough that his knuckles turned white. "Since when do you care?" he asked bitterly.

"I've always cared," He said. "Even against my better judgment. Why did you burn the town?"

"What-?"

"From what I saw," Veld said, interrupting Sephiroth's question. "just as much of the damage was caused by you. I thought the two of you were more professional than a lover's spat in the middle of town. Civilian casualties don't look good for the company. Or WolfHaven."

Cloud glared at him.

"It was the other one," Sephiroth said as he finally put the pieces together. They must have seen the madman, his other self from the future, and thought that it was him. Everyone turned to look at him. "Cloud, have you spoken with WolfHaven recently?"

He knew the answer, and by the sharp inhale Cloud figured it out as well. He asked. "Where is he?"

Sephiroth nodded towards the railing where the other man went over. "Dead, in the Mako. He… jumped."

"What? Are you sure?" the tip of the fusion swords wavered, dipping slightly, as a look of confusion flashed across Cloud's face, making him look younger then he was. "Why?"

Sephiroth shrugged. Veld glanced between the two of them suspiciously. "Who? What are you talking about?"

Sephiroth and Cloud looked at each other. Sephiroth could see Cloud carefully weighing his options. "It was-"

"Do not lie." Sephiroth interrupted him, dragging himself to his feet using the nearby railing for support. "Do not lie to me."

"Take it easy," Veld admonished him. "Cure only does so much."

Sephiroth brushed of Veld's concern with a careless shrug. "I spoke with Yuffie."

"She told me," Cloud said with a wince, a slight tightening around the eyes. "But, Sephiroth, Yuffie doesn't know everything-"

"And Zack." That seemed to confuse Cloud, he tilted his head slightly to one side. "For someone who claims that he wants to kill me, he's surprisingly reluctant to do so- and very talkative about the future he came from."

"The what?" Veld asked, glancing between Sephiroth and Cloud. Suddenly Sephiroth felt better about not figuring out the time travel. If the Turks couldn't figure it out, who could blame him?

"Not surprising," Cloud said. "In both timelines he was forced to kill Angeal when the degradation went out of control."

"Is that supposed to explain something?" Sephiroth asked roughly. He was sick and tired of just getting little crumbs of information—just enough to keep him going, but never enough to give him any real answers.

"I'll explain," Cloud said. "But not here. It's not secure, and Sephiroth still needs to be seen to."

"I'm fine," Sephiroth said sharply, he hated how he sounded less like an assertive SOLDIER and more like a petulant child.

Veld shot him a disapproving glance, but didn't argue. He was a Turk; he'd keep silent now and forego the frontal assault to rally his argument and blindside Sephiroth later. "The mansion has been swept and secured, we can return there."

Sephiroth didn't miss the slight shudder from Cloud at the mention of the ShinRa mansion, but he didn't object to the plan. He hesitated too long to ask about it; the moment quickly passed as Veld shuffled them off under Valentine's watchful eyes. Once outside Sephiroth could see why Cloud didn't object to returning to the mansion.

Nibelheim was burning.

He felt his breath catch in his throat, and he remembered Zack's words, he's just going to watch everything burn again. He turned to face Cloud. "What happened? Why aren't-?" He choked off the question, realizing that asking why they weren't helping was less then polite.

Cloud glanced at him. The flat, emotionless front was firmly back in place. "He burned the town on his way through. Early alarms were raised, and the local fire department is taking care of the blaze."

"This place is big enough for a fire department?" Sephiroth asked skeptically.

"It's mostly volunteer," Cloud said. "A couple of guys with Water Materia."

"And they made it abundantly clear that ShinRa assistance would not be appreciated as it was one of our own that caused the damage," Veld added, giving both him and Cloud a hard look. "We followed the trail to the reactor."

It was hard not to feel like an errant child under that glare. Though he didn't set the fires, Sephiroth could see where Veld might have gotten that impression. He doubted that the townspeople would be able to differentiate between him and the madman. Sephiroth paused, ran that thought through his head again and turned to Cloud. "What did you do?"

"I had things under control," Cloud protested, looking uncomfortable and adding under his breath.

Veld snorted sharply. "If that had happened with one of my Turks, you can believe that he'd get reamed up one side and down the other. That is exactly why we have Sleepel and Stop spells."

"Which weren't working," Cloud said shortly. Sephiroth winced. Had it been his earlier speculation about needing something to block the Sleep spells from Fuhito and Hojo's henchmen, lead to this? To Cloud not being able to stop him when he needed to and the town burning? Unfortunately his reaction did not pass unnoticed. Cloud gave him a sympathetic look. "It wasn't your fault."

"How can you be sure?" Sephiroth asked. "How can you know that it wasn't my thoughts—memories—driving that-"

"Because now we know; we can change it," Cloud said simply. The mansion appeared in the distance, without another word, Cloud picked up his pace towards the building.

"Know what?" Sephiroth shouted after him. "He didn't tell me anything that you or Zack didn't already know."

Veld placed a restraining hand heavily on Sephiroth's shoulder. He could have easily knocked the other man away, he wanted to, but instead he took a calming breath. He hadn't even realized that he has been shaking. His hands trembled with emotions he couldn't even begin to define churning inside of him. When Veld spoke the words were soft. "What do they know?"

"I-" Sephiroth hesitated. He wanted to say that they were wrong, and he was going to fight that outcome tooth and nail, somehow. But someone should be prepared for the possibility that Cloud was wrong, and that he really could, would, go mad. If neither Zack nor Cloud were going to kill him, someone was going to have to, and the Turks were already trained for taking out fully trained SOLDIERs. "I'm going to go insane. That man that burned the town was me. Or rather, that is what I am going to be."

Both Veld and Valentine gave him long measured looks. "From the future?"

Sephiroth nodded at Veld's incredulous question. "You couldn't have missed the inconsistencies in the video? Tuesti? The WRO? The professor Dessau who doesn't seem to exist outside of the recording? Valentine, who probably has no memory of attending? What did you think it meant?"

"I was leaning towards massive, underground, anti-ShinRa conspiracy," Veld said, rubbing absently at his ear. "Because, time travel?"

"You hacked WolfHaven's network," Sephiroth pointed out. "Didn't you get any information on their primary project?"

"I was only able to determine that they were receiving massive data dumps from an untraceable source," Veld said with a shake of his head. "I only got a glance before their security system fried my computer; actually killed the fans and caused it to overheat until it burst into flames. The only thing saved was a handful of files that went straight to the printer."

Sephiroth scowled. "That's practically useless."

Veld nodded. He started up the path following after Cloud. "We might as well find out what he knows, or at least what he's willing to tell us."

"Sephiroth?" Vincent's soft voice stopped him as Sephiroth started after Veld. He turned to give the other man a questioning look. Vincent seems troubled, his brow furrowed. After a long pause he asked. "What is that man to you?"

"Veld?" Sephiroth asked, thrown by the question.

Vincent shook his head. "The other one, Cloud?"

"Cloud Strife," Sephiroth paused to consider his answer. "He's my mentor in SOLDIER." The words seemed wrong. While he had learned a lot working with Cloud informally, it didn't begin to properly address the morass of conflicting emotions the man aroused within Sephiroth. Something Vincent clearly picked up on.

"You trust him?" Valentine asked. Sephiroth wanted to say 'yes.' He wanted it to be true. "He tried to kill you."

Sephiroth shook his head. "He thought I was someone else."

"WolfHaven wants you dead." Given what he could become, would become, Sephiroth was beginning to think that they had good reason. He shook his head and remained silent for the rest of the trip to the mansion.