PLEASE READ ENTIRE AUTHOR'S NOTE BEFORE CONTINUING!
Some people may recognize me as the author of Fourth Time's the Charm. This fic is nothing like that one. This is not an angsty little romance with random crack thrown in to lighten the mood. This is not a time-travel fic. It is, however, AU and set post Nibelheim, except, events have been altered and certain characters that should be dead are not. The timeline and such will explain itself over the course of the story.
But that is not why I have asked you to read this before continuing.
Ghost of Wutai is marked M for a reason. Not just, oh, a little gore and some swearing. This going to get really dark, really fast. I'm not entirely set on the exact finality of the events to occur in the story, but if m/m slash bothers you, then I encourage you to look away now. If torture, sexual themes and possibly even rape are something you do not want to read, then stop now. I will not have people mad at me for not being emotionally ready for what this story could turn into.
Why am I writing this fic? Because I want to leave my comfort zone and grow as a writer, and part of growing is taking a wild leap in new directions. The main purpose of this exploration of a theme is to better my understanding of psychology. Okay?
Now that the serious stuff if out of the way…
I enjoy comments and reviews. Please, if you have constructive criticism, do share. Even an "I like" or an "I don't like" are better than nothing. I thrive off feedback.
Rating (chapter): PG-13
Word Count: 3,484
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy 7, blah, blah, blah. All characters and such belong to their creators. To quote another author, "These are not my characters, I'm just abusing them."
Summary: They call him the Ghost of Wutai. In battle, he emerges out of the shadows and strikes down his foes without mercy. His cause, no one is for certain, just that he has a score to settle with ShinRa and its infamous Trinity. When he makes his boldest attack yet, the events that follow could lead to his ruin. AU, post Nibelheim, dark, m/m slash. Rated M for a reason.
Ghost of Wutai
(Chapter beta(s): Forsaken Moon & Saria19)
Part One: Fire and Ice
It was not uncommon for rebel factions to attack SOLDIERs posted in the more remote regions of Wutai. Tensions remained high even after the war that ravaged the continent and the nation as a whole. No one liked ShinRa. They were the invaders—a tyrannical outsider who forced their will upon the natives and incited conflict whose flames would never be fully extinguished.
The worst of them all however, was the silver-haired child General. The Demon of Wutai. Sephiroth.
After years of fighting came to a standstill, the mysterious swordsman appeared out of thin air… or so many Wutains claimed. With vacant, soulless eyes burning with demonic green fire and a blade greater in length than he was tall, Sephiroth forced the tide of battle to change within a matter of days.
He was a killing machine.
Cutting through the ranks of the Wutain army wielding the soon to be legendary sword Masamune, the Demon of Wutai sent a jolt of alarm through the country. How could a child cause so much destruction and death?
Few who saw him actually lived to tell the tale. But all who did said the same thing.
Like an angel upon the battlefield, the silver warrior watched the slaughter of both ally and foe, unmoving and detached. Then, at the peak of destruction, he moved with astounding, inhuman speed and grace, swooping unto the battlefield like an angel of death… Seven-foot katana in hand, he danced a foreign dance, uncaring whose blood the blade tasted. They said his eyes were distant but hungry for battle all the same. And his hair as he felled his last foe, was perfectly in place. His clothing remained untouched by blood and gore.
Only a heavenly creature could be so flawless… or one straight from the pits of Ifrit's hell.
After forcing surrender and the signing of a treaty, the Demon left and never returned… SOLDIERs remained of course, including one of the Commanders; one deemed the Red Sorcerer by the natives.
For a long time, fear of the Demon's return kept most factions quiet and passive. No one dared to directly assault ShinRa—not even the more radical groups tried to cause an uprising. Then again, it was difficult to form any kind of war party with SOLDIERs crawling about with orders to shoot first and ask questions later if they so much as suspected rebellion.
That was why HIS sudden appearance made the Wutains both hopeful and suspicious.
They called him the Ghost.
Like an otherworldly spirit, he appeared out of nowhere and struck a critical blow to ShinRa. He injured SOLDIER First Class Genesis Rhapsodos— a feat many thought impossible. The Red Sorcerer was an alert creature and very prone to violent fits towards anyone who so much as touched the collar of his coat. But the Ghost did more than that… he caught the man unaware and dared to stick a knife into his back.
Dishonorable as the strike was, even the most traditional of the Wutaian battle masters had to admit that they were impressed by the bravery of the mysterious figure. Not only did he slip a blade into the Commander's back, but also he vanished, unscathed, from the tent before reappearing miles away.
No one was exactly sure who he was or where he was from or even why he was fighting against ShinRa. Inspired by his boldness, many of the factions rose up but were ultimately squashed back down into obedience by a very, very angry red-clad SOLDIER. Despite his efforts, violence reached a new peak with every passing day. ShinRa's troops were becoming increasingly anxious and worried that there was going to be another full-scale war on their hands.
Genesis Rhapsados was never known to be a patient or calm individual. Rather, many in SOLDIER feared the auburn Commander because of the sheer volatile force of his nature. He threw fits. Never did he resign himself to frustrated bouts of shouting or cussing nor did he take to throwing harmless things. Rather, like an erupting volcano he obliterated anything, and potentially anyone, in his path.
With Rapier in hand and a mastered Fire materia blazing in his palm, the red clad Commander succumbed to his anger and began to rage a path of destruction through the jungle that surrounded him. Genesis could care less about some rare Wutain tree or flower that might be living in the beautiful and lush scene. All he knew was that HE was last seen here. That brazen Ghost who dared to not only waltz into his war camp, but also pranced into his tent and, right as he knelt to pick up a fallen piece of paper, stabbed him in the back. THE BACK!
What kind of coward snuck up behind his opponent and refused to face him head on? A weak one. His enemy obviously did not believe he had the skill to take on one of ShinRa's famous Trinity in face-to-face combat (which, in Genesis's not-so-humble opinion, was probably true) and wanted to dispose of him by playing dirty… Obviously this Ghost had no idea what it actually took to kill a SOLDIER of his class. A puny stab wound was hardly enough to take care of him for good.
Though it was disturbing when he paused to think about it, how fatal the blow would have been to a less enhanced individual. Genesis spent three days recovering… a Second or Third Class might have died.
Bah! Why was he thinking about lesser individuals anyway? He was the Red Sorcerer! The charming and rebellious Commander. The eldest of the Trinity. His skills with materia were unmatched. His speed in combat was only rivaled by Sephiroth himself (however reluctant he was to admit to that). No puny coward was going to get away with assaulting him.
A manic grin twisted onto his lips.
He would be sure to kill the infamous Ghost with his bare hands, burning him with Fire until all only ash remained. Yes. It would be a most appropriate fate. That way he could not only watch as the bastard writhed in pain, but feel his skin blister... feel his blood gush and boil.
Genesis could not quell the laughter that bubbled into his throat. He was going to enjoy this. Revenge was so very, very sweet. The taste perfect upon his lips. The smell saccharine as he took in a deep breath. All around him the world was ablaze, with smoke billowing high above in a blistering cloud. Animals scattered, fleeing the deadly blaze that threatened to consume everything. Fearless monsters took flight, ignoring potential meals in order to escape with their lives.
Gripping Rapier a little tighter, the red clad warrior let out a sharp bark of laughter. The mastered materia in his hand glittered before swelling again with energy. Only master magic users could wield materia without something to act as a channel, such as a slotted bracer. And Genesis was one of these powerful few.
With a whispered command and a sinister smile, another Fire spell came to life in his palm. The little flame soon swirled and swelled until he held a wicked looking fireball. He reveled for a moment in the raw heat of the spell and the way it pulsed like a beating heart. It was alive. Burning. Consuming. How he loved it. Cocking back his arm, Genesis aimed a blast of explosive Fire into the untouched green that lay before him.
Leaves crumbled into ash. Bark peeled away. All transformed into billowing, black smoke.—the kind that would send an unenhanced fleeing, gasping for air. Despite the heat of the fire being almost unbearable even for a SOLDIER, Genesis continued his march onwards. He would find that pathetic scrap of humanity and snuff it out forever. He would burn him to a crisp and watch the life flee from his eyes.
No one attacked Genesis Rhapsodos and lived to tell the tale…
Suddenly, a gust of bitter cold slammed into the Commander and sent him staggering backwards. What the fuck? The red clad warrior gritted his teeth and braced against the powerful winds that threatened to topple him. Frost soon built up on his jacket as ice and snow joined the gusts. It was a Blizzard spell. A potentially mastered one at that.
Before he could summon the strength for another Fire blast, Genesis found himself knocked back into a scorched tree. The bark crumbled under his weight and it was then that he realized that the jungle no longer burned. Snow and wind still consumed the blackened foliage—all his hard work squelched.
That both impressed and pissed him off.
Who dared to assault him? Who had the guts?
It did not take long for Genesis to realize exactly "who" that was.
Half shrouded in shadow stood a figure clad in black. Small and lean but definitively male, with a visored helmet that hid all but the lower half of his face. Those lips were all Genesis could see and to his dismay they were pressed into a hard line. There was no smugness in the expression. No foolhardy arrogance. To say the least, the boy (because he was much too small for him to consider possibly being a man) appeared collected and calculative.
If he was going to play THAT game…
Pushing himself away from the tree, Genesis let out a snarl and a Fire spell.
The black clad stranger danced to the side, gracefully avoiding the hastily cast flame. Then he reached behind his back and freed an enormous blade—some variety of Buster sword. Fingers fluttering over the pommel, lips moving quickly, the stranger halted the Blizzard and electricity sparked to life along the blade.
Genesis, always one to take advantage of an opening, dashed forwards with his First Class speed and aimed the sharp point of his Rapier at the stranger's chest. Just as the blade connected with his foe's chest… the boy seemed to practically disappear!
The Ghost. This had to be him. The way he moved, it was so quick that to the unenhanced eye it would appear as if he were invisible. Rather he simply moved too fast for them to see.
"You!" the Commander growled, dashing again at the Ghost. Again he danced away, the Buster sword alive with Lightning. "Fight me like a man, coward!"
A pause. Both warriors stood still and watched the other. Genesis with his teeth ground together, looking furious and ready for a fight. The Ghost appeared contemplative, collected, and practically aloof as he stared back impassively.
Then, the tiniest of smirks appeared on the Ghost's lips. "As you wish."
Surprised by the fact that the stranger spoke perfect Continental, Genesis hesitated when the Buster sword came down towards his face. In a blink, he fell to the ground and rolled to the side to avoid the strike. Electricity singed the air as it hissed by his shoulder, nearly grazing the expensive red leather of his combat uniform.
The Ghost did not hesitate in attacking again, even as Genesis was rolling back onto his feet. Obviously the kid had no qualms against striking while his opponent was down and unable to defend himself… smart boy. As the red clad SOLDIER at last leapt to his feet, another swing nearly caught him about the knees, forcing Genesis to leap into the air.
He was fast… SOLDIER fast. This could not be some random Wutain rebel, or even a trained ninja. They did not have enhanced reflexes or in-depth training in materia use. Whoever this boy was, he had mako in him. He had to. There was no better explanation for how he was moving so damn fast or able to wield a Buster sword that was obviously out of his weight class.
Genesis scowled and aimed a Fire spell at the Ghost. Then, the black clad warrior did something unexpected, he muttered a word and suddenly the Commander found himself slamming hard into the ground. A Gravity spell. A fucking Gravity spell! The following daze that proceeded after having one's head smash into a rock from ten feet in the air left Genesis momentarily stunned and vulnerable.
A sword point soon hovered over his throat.
"I am the victor," The Ghost murmured in flawless Wutainese. Apparently, the boy was bilingual to go along with being enhanced. "Your life is forfeit."
"Then kill me already you little fucker!" Genesis snarled as the Lightning charged blade sparked above him.
A pause. It was just enough of a hesitation to allow the Commander to shift the tide. Twisting around, he slammed the edge of Rapier into that of the massive Buster sword. Electricity shot through his arm, numbing it. But he did not care. All he cared about was killing that damn pest who stabbed him in the back.
Genesis jumped to his feet, ignoring the way the world wanted to spin and sway. He would win this fight. No one bested him in battle… except Angeal and Sephiroth, but then again, at least they were SOLDIERs.
The Ghost made to run away, but he caught the stranger's shoulder with the point of his blade. A solid twist and a forceful thrust sent the rapier deep into flesh and imbedded it in bone. Involuntarily, the boy dropped his weapon as the metal threatened to crack open a joint.
Yes. He would win now. Nothing was going to stop Genesis now that his prey was defenseless.
Remembering the Fire materia he stubbornly held onto during the fight, he built up a devastating spell and aimed it at his victim's back. "Now you know what it is like to be attacked from behind," Genesis growled sadistically. Then, the Ghost began to laugh. His concentration broken, the Fire flickered out for an instant.
Before Genesis could make another attempt, an elbow came around and collided with his temple. Genesis staggered once again, his world pixilating into black. No one knocked him around like this except Sephiroth! Blinking in an attempt to clear his head, he realized a moment too late that his quarry had vanished.
Three days, five hours and forty-eight minutes after Genesis's second incident involving the mysterious Ghost, the Trinity became whole.
The red clad warrior strode purposefully towards the helicopter as it landed and waited with unnatural patience for the blades to slow and the side panel to slide open. After what felt like a millennia, his two closest friends emerged from the transport. Angeal was first, his mass of dark hair unmistakable ducking beneath the frame. Calm blue eyes settled on those that burned bright. With a nod, the stoic swordsman put two feet on solid ground.
After a long hesitation, the glint of mako green and steel silver at last crossed the threshold. Dressed in full combat leathers including the metal pauldrons, Sephiroth was certainly a sight to behold. His lithe, elegant beauty an icy contrast to Genesis's own bold fire.
The silver General tilted his head nonchalantly as he drew to a halt facing his two Commanders.
"Not here," Genesis said as his eyes flicked to the pilot. He did not trust Turks, much less those operating the helicopter. The co-pilot, a redhead named Reno, was a pest but the high-ranking Turk that peered from the captain's seat, Tseng… well, the man was the definition of a nuisance. A stiff nod from Sephiroth sent the Turks' eyes elsewhere and soon, the sounds of propellers became but a faint hum in the distance.
During that time the Trinity watched each other… uncertain.
It had been over a year since they last were together. With Genesis keeping a close eye on the troops in Wutai and the chaos that ensued there, little time was available for pleasure. Then again, this visit was not simply a reunion of friends.
The red clad warrior motioned for Sephiroth and Angeal to follow him, and quietly, they did.
Soon, three warriors sat around a map table in Genesis's dimly lit tent. Day was quickly turning into dusk and the bloody hues of sundown cast the landscape in shades of crimson and gold. A less war-hardened man might say that the jungles looked a blaze with fire. In truth, the red light gleaming off faded emerald was more like a shadowy stain made of blood.
Genesis absently toyed with a loose materia as his friends examined the map that lay before them. The chart was a meticulous piece, very contrasting to the auburn man's usual scattered marks. Finely inked lines marked the borders of territories, roads both civilian and SOLDIER and the path of a particular problem. He placed a red-gloved finger on a dot near Sephiroth.
They looked at him expectantly.
"Here," he began, a frown forming on his lips, "is where the Ghost was first seen."
Angeal quirked a brow, "A village in the middle of nowhere?"
"A village that no longer exists," Genesis corrected, "Understand that this Ghost as he is called, started showing up after events involving SOLDIER and radical groups. In this case, a conflict arose and led to the accidental burning of the civilians' homes."
"Accidental?" There was a note of disbelief in the dark-haired Commander's tone.
"Yes, actually. A young child in the village picked up a Fire materia lost by either a rebel or a SOLDIER. Frightened and with a nearly mastered materia in hand, she caused much destruction."
"How do you know this?"
An ironic smile quirked onto the red clad warrior's lips, "I was there. She was casting the spell before I could intervene. Let us just say that the results were devastating."
The three men again fell into silence.
Genesis slid his finger across a few more dots, the expression on his face one of frustration.
"I never saw the man in person until three nights ago, but the stories about him began as the last of the ashes from the fire cooled. They said he wandered through what remained like a lost spirit, weary of the world yet unable to find peace in the Lifestream. Though he is more like a shadow from what I saw of him, the people of Wutai deemed him the Ghost from that point on."
His fingers came to a pause, a point marked just north of where the Trinity stood.
"He can move fast enough to almost disappear in battle. He is strong enough to wield a Buster sword with ease… He possesses mastered materia and is capable and creative in its use." Genesis murmured, his other hand clenching into a fist, "And to top everything off, he does not fight with honor."
Angeal and Sephiroth both gave their third friend a curious look.
"He is not of Wutain descent nor trained by a native master," Genesis clarified. "For all their dirty tricks, their warriors do not strike a foe while he is down nor do they strike from behind. Except ninjas, but the boy is hardly an assassin."
Sephiroth shook his head, "Your emergency that requires the attention of the General and his second-in-command is a child? Some rebel leader deemed the Ghost of Wutai?" He sounded irritated, bored, and tired. Very tired. Then again, it is not every day that one returns to a nation that has a million reasons to hate you and then some.
"Not a child. I informed you in the report I sent that he was small and possibly young, but his skill set was that of a SOLDIER. He is dangerous, Sephiroth. And for every successful move he makes against ShinRa, more and more of the Wutain factions become restless. He needs to be gotten rid of."
Angeal groaned. "This almost sounds like you have a personal vendetta against the kid."
Genesis chuckled darkly, his eyes gleaming with hate, "I did not wish for some particular information to be in the hands of the Turks…" The two others watched curiously. "There is a reason why I know how dangerous he is and why I called you two to help me. The Trinity together can rid Wutai of this damn Ghost… but, alone, he can match us blow for blow." Sephiroth actually snorted with disbelief. "I'm speaking the truth. He… he nearly killed me. Twice."
At that, the whole Trinity stood.
"He what?" Angeal growled. He was immensely protective of all SOLDIERs, but his two friends were at the top of his list.
"How?" the silver General inquired coolly, no emotion on his features or in his tone.
"The first time he snuck up behind me and put a knife in my back. The second time, I went looking for him and I found him. We fought and he won." There was bitter resentment in the admission. "Do you understand now, why I needed your help?"
An unspoken 'yes' echoed within the tent.
A/N: (Review my pretties. I always respond to those who review. Also, suggestions are welcome as are questions. Just know that the AU timeline is my little secret and will be made clear within this fic. So if you are curious to as why, post-Nibelheim, Sephy is not JENOVA crazy, then well, you'll have to wait and see.
02/26/12: Yay! I have a beta. Hopefully these chapters will start to look nice and pretty. =3
12/19/12: Saria19 is helping me rework the earlier chapters of this story. )