[Shattered] Dreams 17

Chapter Seventeen: Mysterious Savior

He stood on the very front end of the boat, staring at the approaching coast of the Midgarian continent. The old fisherman, who had volunteered to ferry him across the narrow stretch of water between the shores of Bone Village and those directly across the way, had been a difficult businessman. More than half of Seraph’s money had gone to the scruffy older man so that he and Masa could make it to the other side safely. There were others that offered, but none of them had a large enough boat to house the chocobo as well, and Seraph knew he would need her for transport.

He still hadn’t shaken the uneasy feeling that followed him wherever he went. He knew that something was about to happen, and Gilgamesh kept stirring restlessly in his head. His anima wouldn’t explain why, but his actions were enough for Seraph. Frowning slightly, the moss greenish-grey eyed man sighed into the salty sea air that whipped around his body and threw his hair back from his face… his black hair that he still had trouble recognizing as his own. Yet, he had to keep up the ruse… he was getting closer to territory where people might recognize him. Especially in Midgar…

(You still have not figured out a story, yet?) Gilgamesh questioned. He had been quiet for awhile, so it came as little surprise to Seraph when he started to speak once more. (I mean, ShinRa Headquarters was destroyed after they defeated you. What makes you believe they are going to allow you to wander on their property, poking around?)

Wary of the fisherman smoking a pipe and idly steering the vessel, Seraph maintained his conversation with his anima in his mind, lest he be though of as insane once more. ‘I had considered a few options, but nothing that would help explain a three-month absence. I need a sound reason to desire to look through the ruins of a mad man’s laboratory.’

Gilgamesh sighed and settled down, as if to ponder that statement. Seraph returned his attentions to the shore. It wouldn’t be long before they landed, and he wanted Masa saddled and ready by then, so he turned away from the view and headed into the other portion of the ship where his black chocobo had been stabled.

He had considered a story of searching for a lost loved one, who should have been stationed in Midgar but didn’t know if it would be viable for three months. He had also entertained notions of coming as near to the truth as he could without revealing his true nature, such as saying he was a former experiment of Hojo’s. However, that idea was not without its risks. They might consider him a threat if he told such a story. His new name was on no ShinRa registry, so he couldn’t claim to be a soldier, a Turk, or anything simple like that. Nor did he have any friends left in the world that would cover for him. Currently, he was still stumped but minutely hopeful that something would come up at just the right time.

“We’ll be making landing in about five minutes, Mr. Noire,” growled out the fishermen in a wizened voice as he tipped his head at the darker-haired man. Seraph merely nodded in response and passed by the grizzled, older man.

Masa was warbling happily on the aft portion of the deck, black feathers ruffling in the wind. It seemed she was enjoying the few hour journey across the sea, or maybe she was just glad to see something beyond the Icy continent. Either way, Seraph was glad that it hadn’t been any trouble to get the chocobo on the vessel.

He strode up to her and ran a gentle hand through her crest of feathers, an action to which she cooed happily and nuzzled the leather covered limb. He smiled softly and made to saddle her up so that they could disembark immediately once the boat arrived. She stood completely still as he did so. Masa was very well-trained.

(I still believe that you should talk to him,) Gilgamesh allowed slowly, already tired of not making comments. He disliked silence between he and his animus very much and was quite restless at times, though at others he show incredible patience and focus.

Seraph frowned and paused in his movements as he considered the very many that his anima could be speaking of. Green eyes wandered over every cresting wave for a moment before deciding that for any one of them, the answer would still be a very emphatic “no”.

‘I do not know of whom you are speaking. However, the answer is still no.’ He clinched his hand into a fist. ‘What if someone were to recognize me? I am not certain I could deal with kind of hatred just yet. What if I am killed before I accomplish my task… whatever the hell it is I am supposed to do?’ He forcefully unfisted his hand.

(And what if you are supposed to fix things, make amends to everyone you have wronged? You cannot do that if they do not know who you are! Besides, you know quite well who I am talking about! I spend most of my days up in your mind, you know. I can see your thoughts!) The demi-god huffed softly, only somewhat annoyed.

Seraph cinched another leather strap around the chocobo and patted her comfortingly on the head. ‘He would recognize me in a moment. I cannot take that chance. If anything… I do not want to see that look on his face.’

Gilgamesh snorted, muttering almost inaudibly, (Coward.)

The former general winced but didn’t reply as he slowly began to untie Masa from the deck. The land and subsequent landing dock loomed close enough that within a minute or so, the good ship “Roaming Rachel” landed.

It was only a small dock set up on the beaches of the Midgarian Continent. Just large enough for transport and trade vessels between the Icy Continent and Kalm and Midgar. The grizzled Captain of the “Roaming Rachel” lowered the plank and tipped his almost comical hat to Seraph as the dark-haired man led his chocobo off of the ship.

The moment he set foot on the familiar continent, another shiver of apprehension ran up and down his spine and his eyes automatically turned to the heavens. The skies were darkening, as if with the coming of an approaching thunderstorm, and he almost felt as if he were being watched. However, there were no other boats at the dock.

“Pleasure doing business with ya,” the old fisherman called out.

Seraph tipped his head at him. “I appreciate the transport, Captain. Thank you,” the dark-haired man responded. He climbed up on Masa’s back and urged her forward, leaving the dock and the boat behind. Ahead of him on the horizon, he could just barely make out the dim lights of the tiny burg of Kalm against the night sky. He glanced over to the right and noticed the darkness that covered the land where Midgar lay. He wasn’t sure why it seemed the sky always was more foreboding over the ShinRa built town, but it had been that way for as long as he remembered.

He made as if to head straight towards the dark city, but something held him back. Frowning, Seraph turned his attentions back towards the small unobtrusive town of Kalm. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, but the feeling of trepidation remained, as it had when he was in Icicle.

He decided to once more go with his instincts and spurred Masa on towards the town. The black chocobo warbled happily and moved her feet. He judged the distance with a careful eye and knew if he pushed Masa hard enough, he would be there within the hour. With his decision made, he prepared for the rather short journey and tried to understand the strange forebodings currently thrumming through his body and the icy chills shooting down his spine.

He had never been a true psychic, had never been one to feel more than a slight tingle when danger was near. It was only his superb reflexes and training that always made it seem as if he felt more. He had only begun to receive the foreboding feelings after he had awoken half-drowned on the shores south of Icicle. Even then it had always felt as if he were being watched or that there was something just beyond the edge of his sight that he needed to be wary of. However, that was also when Gilgamesh had started to converse with him, and he had learned of his anima.

Seraph still didn’t know his purpose for living once more. It wasn’t as if the world needed his deranged self to be alive. Gaia had strong enough warriors as it was. They destroyed him, didn’t they? What was so special about him that he had been given a chance to redeem himself? Why had he been given such a gift that he didn’t deserve?

Even after three months, the meaning to those questions still eluded him. And it wasn’t as if the Planet was speaking to him as it had in the Lifestream. Those memories, of course, were very vague. The five years he spent floating and surrounded by voices along with the time spent trying to destroy Gaia with Meteor were somewhat hazy. Most of the time his conscious was overrun with that vile alien bitch, Jenova.

Not that he didn’t know everything that had occurred, but other things were left in the shadows. He remembered being spoken to in the Lifestream after his defeat, but he couldn’t recall the words. He didn’t remember his return to the surface at all. One moment he was struggling to pull his scattered thoughts and dreams together, the next he was gasping for air and vomiting water from his lungs on the shore of the very chilly Ice Continent.

Suddenly, the air beside Seraph shimmered and started to coalesce, easily keeping up with his pace although Masa was going her full speed of nearly 110 kph. However, he was not concerned as he had come to recognize Gilgamesh’s sudden appearances and disappearances as common place.

The anima was heavily cloaked in fabric that was draped over and around his head and upper body revealing only his eye, a part of his nose, and some of the intricate scarlet tattooing on the face. He fingered his blades, of which he always carried at least four. Only two of those Sephiroth knew and had actually seen: Masamune, much like his own, and Zantetsuken, a curved blade of blue. Gilgamesh was a tall demi-god with grayish-silver skin, a set of wickedly curved horns, and various armor attachments such as leg guards and a rather interesting helm.

“You are still repeating the same questions repetitively to yourself. Do you realize how decidedly annoying that is?” the demi-god queried as he glared from beneath the red fabric.

“No one asked you to listen,” Seraph retorted.

Gilgamesh sighed and shook his head in disgust at his animus. “Are you going to spend the rest of your life, the great gift that you have been given, brooding over every insignificant thing?”

The former general ignored the question. “Why did you materialize?”

The demi-god shrugged off-handedly. “I was bored.”

“There’s nothing out here but grass, what do you expect?” Seraph scoffed.

Gilgamesh opened his mouth to comment when, as if on cue, a group of prairie monsters appeared and surrounded them. Seraph pulled on Masa’s reins, and the black chocobo came to a halt. His eyes darted all around as he quickly counted the monsters. Seven… at the least… seven porcine machine-like creatures with slavering, dripping jaws of steel.

Hmph… piece of cake.

Seraph mentally reviewed his materia as he carefully but swiftly jumped down from Masa’s back, calmly petting the chocobo to reassure her. Gilgamesh smirked at his side and pulled out two of his swords, the Zantetsuken and another that Seraph did not recognize.

“Seven for me, and none for you?” the demi-god questioned, with a tilt of his head.

Seraph frowned and folded his arms over his chest as the porcine monsters growled and began to inch forward. “That is no fun for me. I am bored, too, you know.”

“Fine, fine,” Gilgamesh conceded, a smirk in his voice. “Four-three?”

A Pork Jaw launched itself at Seraph before he had a chance to respond. The ex-SOLDIER spun to face the creature, hand flying hand in a casting motion. Gouts of Fire burst from him and engulfed the monster. The smell of roasting boar filled the air as it squealed and dropped to the ground, writhing in agony. Seraph kicked the beast away from the startled chocobo and shot a look at Gilgamesh.


The demi-god shrugged elegantly and inclined his head. “Fair enough.” With that said, he twirled the swords once in each hand and darted forward so quick that he wasn’t even a blur, swords flashing as the blades found their homes in the bodies of the semi-dangerous creatures.

Seraph waved his hand again and poison gurgled up from the ground, swallowing up the porcine creatures and causing them to writhe in pain. They squealed and hissed, rolling around against the soil, trying to drive off the acidic poison. One Pork Jaw found bravery deep within its innards and launched itself at Seraph, still dripping in the foul purplish-green poison.

The dark-haired man darted forward and kicked out with one heavily booted foot, knowing that the leather will protect him from the acid. He caught the Pork Jaw in the chest, and it yelped as the sound of ribs cracking filled the air. The monster fell to the ground with a squelch as its body slowly melted.

“Seraph!” Gilgamesh called out. He looked up quickly… just in time to catch the rather small sword that had been tossed at him. He was used to something far longer, but it would do. In just as smooth a motion, he had plucked the blade from the air; Seraph whirled around and lopped off the heads of the three creatures, which were squealing in front of him.

He wrinkled his nose in disgust as the smell invaded his heightened senses, and he took several steps back unconsciously, grabbing onto Masa’s reins and moving her from the battle. Gilgamesh was also standing over his victory, silently laughing at the fate of the three Pork Jaws that lay in various bits and pieces over the grass area.

Seraph shook his head and wiped the sword in the grass as he led his chocobo towards Kalm and away from the carnage. It had been in awhile since he had killed like that. Although they were monsters, senseless slaughter still did not sit well with him. It reminded him too much of what he had done. He sighed as his eyes scanned the horizon. Kalm was probably just over the next rise, perhaps a ten minute ride away.

“Well, that was rather short,” snorted Gilgamesh indelicately as he sidled up beside the former general. Seraph didn’t respond, only handed the sword back to the demi-god, properly of course, hilt first. “I am still bored.”

Seraph opened his mouth to reply when a sudden chill of terror raced up and down his spine. He froze, searching all around for the source of foreboding. It felt as if clawed hands had started to scratch around on his back. It was very disconcerting. Gilgamesh also stopped his pointless muttering, as if he had felt it also.

“What is that?” the ex-SOLDIER asked.

Gilgamesh shook his head, as if he didn’t know before he stiffened. “Above you.”

Two heads turned towards the sky. With it being dark, Seraph at first couldn’t discern much until he noticed the blotting out of the stars. Then he heard the sounds: cackling, growling, hissing, as if a battle was taking place above him. He heard the distinct sound of wings flapping and then the overpowering stench of death and blood struck him. He fought down the urge to gag as he watched the large and small shapes move over him towards the north east.

“War…” the dark-haired man murmured. It was his best guess. From all facts, it seemed a horde of monsters were flying over him, away from Midgar and towards the nothing that was the sea.

“He is moving faster than we originally anticipated,” Gilgamesh whispered to himself before turning his attentions onto Seraph. “We left Icicle at the appropriate time it seems.”

Suddenly, mossy, grey eyes widened, and Seraph hurriedly vaulted onto Masa. The chocobo kweh’ed in surprise and shifted restlessly beneath him. He scooped up the reins and urged her forward, maximum speed towards Kalm. Gilgamesh frowned in confusion before he glanced once more towards the heavens, almost gasping in shock as well.

Three of the larger shapes had detached themselves from the main group and were flying straight towards the innocuous and defenseless town of Kalm. Everyone there would be slaughtered… if the blood on the air was any indication of what had occurred in Midgar. Gilgamesh quickly sheathed his blades; it wasn’t exactly intelligent to run with one in each hand, even if he was demi-god and they couldn’t harm him seriously. Without pause, he took off after Seraph, easily catching up to the chocobo.

The wind picked up around them, carrying the scent of burning and death along with the heavy coppery tang of blood. The wind was blowing from Midgar, and Seraph couldn’t help the internal wince. At least his foreboding feeling had been explained. Somehow he knew that this battle was coming… somehow his senses had understood about the tidings of war.

“What are you doing?” Gilgamesh asked, nearly shouting over the wind of their movement.

Seraph frowned and glared at the demi-god. “What do you think? They will be slaughtered.” He urged Masa to move faster, even though he knew they were still a fair enough distance away that he might be too late.

Suddenly, a crimson-cloaked arm shot out and grabbed onto Seraph. He looked at Gilgamesh with wide eyes as the grip tightened. “What are you-?”

The demi-god shook his head. “You will never make it in time! Migro!”

Before the former general had a chance to respond, he felt as if he were pulled in a million different directions at once. Ice and fire licked across his skin, and the world went dark and before it exploded in a blaze of light. Masa squawked beneath him, but he couldn’t even find the strength in him to calm the restless chocobo.

In an instant, man, demi-god, and chocobo disappeared from the empty grassy plains separating Kalm from the ocean.

Johnny sighed as he turned the key in the lock and closed up shop for the night. Another slow day in a small town as usual, but he liked things that way. He was tired of the hustle and bustle of big towns and was more than happy to abide his wife’s wish by moving to the much smaller Kalm. The small, silver key clicked satisfactorily, and the redheaded man put the metallic object into his pocket before reaching out for the handle for a test shake. Not that crime was really a problem in the sleepy town, but one could never be too careful.

Satisfied that his Item Shop was indeed well fortified from the night, Johnny turned from the door and headed home, towards the outskirts of Kalm. It was quiet there, peaceful and serene. Nothing ever happened in the little town. It had lasted through every war, including the one with Wutai and even the current fall of the ShinRa empire. Everyone seemed to get along, and danger was a null and distant shadow.

Johnny smiled and took a deep breath of the fresh night air as he turned his eyes to the sky. He rather enjoyed looking at the stars sometimes. It reminded him of the days when he used to dream of other worlds beyond those tiny pinpoints of light. Heh, he had lots of dreams as a child. He never would have expected his life to turn out the way it had; nonetheless, he was happy.

He took in the familiar forms of the constellations Leviathan and the famous Muramasa. They were some of his earliest friends… Johnny unexpectedly frowned. The sky was clear, but it seemed as if a dark shadow just passed in front of the stars, blocking his view. A wind kicked up around him, throwing dust and old newspapers up into the air. A loud and resounding roar echoed throughout the night, and the redheaded man found himself frozen in place.

He was a well-traveled man and would know the sound of a monster’s cry if he heard one. And that had definitely been the growl of something large and hungry. Wind ruffled his cloak around him, and he struggled to keep his hat on his head as a large shape, barely visible above the town, its underbelly revealed by the street lamps flew directly over him and towards the inner area of Kalm. He followed the progress of the dragon with his eyes, turning his body to watch it. He registered wings, talons, and a tail.

Dragon… his mind hissed at him. Another roar from behind at the same moment that the ground shook, nearly dropping him from his feet. Johnny turned and found to his dismay, a green dragon was blocking the entire street, separating him from his home and his wife. Its huge nostrils sniffed the air hungrily before the serpentine tail whipped out, destroying a lamp post as it did so. That side of the street went completely dark, and the redheaded man felt fear grip his heart. He took an involuntary step backwards, searching for an escape as reptilian yellow eyes locked on him.

The dragon gnashed its teeth, spittle flecking between the canines as its serpentine head snaked forward in a blinding speed, determined to make Johnny his next lunch. The red-haired man could do nothing but accept his fate. Blue eyes closed in resignation, and he winced, expecting at any moment to feel hot, fetid dragon breath enclosing about his head.

Instead, he heard the ringing of steel on scales, and a man’s grunt along with the sound of feet sliding across the cobblestones of Kalm. Johnny cracked open one careful eye, and his jaw dropped.

A man, dressed nearly in all black and wielding a long sword had blocked the enormous jaws of the beast and was pushing it back, with just one hand. He waved the other in a gesture of casting at the creature. Johnny watched as acidic green-purple poison shot out and coated the long neck of the green dragon. It hissed and spit as the dragon roared in pain, trying to chomp at the redheaded man’s defender.

“Get out of here!” the man ordered, turning to glare at Johnny with smoky, green eyes.

The red-haired shop-owner nodded and darted down an alleyway, all paralysis gone from his body.

Seraph cursed and punched at the dragon’s sensitive snout, causing it to reel back in misery. A spiked tail rushed at him from the side, but the dark-haired man easily avoided the appendage, jumping over the sweeping tail and darting in, borrowed sword aiming for the dragon’s soft underbelly.

Gilgamesh had transported Masa and him here using one of his spells. He had also loaned Seraph one of his four swords, the one he called Masamune. It was heavier than the one he was used to do but worked well for his purposes. Gilgamesh had gone after the other two dragons himself. Seraph was more than glad to let him handle it as all he had were measly Fire and Poison materia. Not to mention the fact that these dragons were far larger and stronger than any he had encountered before, including the mutant ones that ran rampant through the Nibel Mountains.

His blade skittered across the dragon’s scales due to his misaim when it swiped at him, causing him to side-step and slightly stumbled over a loose cobble stone. This irritated the green dragon, who reached for him with blood-stained talons and breathed foul death-breath on him. Seraph batted away the offensive appendage at the same moment he threw a gout of fire at the approaching snout. The monster received a big whiff of flamed air and reared back in pain, the inside of its nostrils literally burning.

The dark-haired man took the opportunity to aim for the revealed open and sensitive throat with his sword. He crouched down to the ground before using his legs to propel himself upwards, impossibly long sword aiming for the exposed throat. He clenched his teeth and growled his anger as the blade finally pierced the dragon’s under throat, splashing purplish-crimson blood on him, and sunk deeply in the tough flesh. Thankfully, his sword actually managed to pierce the dragon-hide, which seemed to have been hardened by some form of new magic.

The monster gurgled and thrashed as it crashed to the ground, trying to dislodge the former general from its neck, while blood soaked the cobblestones beneath them. Seraph held onto the blade with all his might, gritting his teeth as he dug the Masamune-clone deeper into the creature’s throat, casting another Poison as he did so to further irritate the wound.

A sign was knocked down by an errant thrashing limb, as well as a few windows shattering from the flailing tail. Seraph only hoped that all bystanders had the sense to stay clear out of danger. The dragon gurgled again, drawing in a pained and blood-filled breath as its struggling slowly ceased, claws and talons unclenching. It could no longer breathe, choking on its own life’s fluid as Seraph held on.

Finally, the dragon stilled completely, limbs crashing to the ground as it released its final breath in an enormous gout of bloody, bubbled air. Seraph breathed a sigh of relief and slowly withdrew the blade, stepping off of the body as he did so. He stumbled a bit, one of his legs not wanting to quite support his weight. It seemed he hadn’t been as quick as he had thought. One of the spines from the dragon’s tail had caught him in the side of his upper right thigh.

Seraph moved a few steps away from the dragon before turning back to look at it, watching as it slowly disintegrated before his eyes as all monsters and creatures without souls did. That was the very definition of a monster, those creations with faulty DNA that no longer held together with death. Scientists had discovered that not long before Hojo started experimenting with mako. Seraph wasn’t entirely sure of the scientific explanation. All he knew was that a monster was nothing but dust after it died … nothing to rejoin the life stream. Not like a human or animal… nothing at all. What a terrible existence.

And yet, although the monster disintegrated… its blood remained, forever staining the cobblestones beneath a crimson color.

Seraph turned from the disconcerting scene and moved his attentions to the wound on his thigh. It burned intensely, as if one of the spikes had tore at the muscle; slowly, the scarlet-fluid was trickling down his leg. Dammit! He had left all his potions and such in the bag attached to Masa’s saddle. He would have to trek back to wherever he left the blasted bird to heal the wound. The dark-haired man sighed and started to limp in the general direction from whence he came, idly wondering if that red-haired man managed to get somewhere safe.

He decided that would be his penance. Protecting those weaker than him, giving his life if necessary for someone other than himself and using his strength for good rather than needless slaughter and destruction. Perhaps then he could move on with some measure of peace and find happiness within his own body. Maybe… he would actually find it within him to try to live…

The roar of one of the other two attacking dragons caught his attention, and he immediately stood up straight. The noise had come from behind him. Without thinking, Seraph turned and sprinted back into the center of Kalm, paying no mind to the burning pain in his thigh or the blood dripping onto the ground from his wound. He knew that Gilgamesh could handle the two green dragons but didn’t know if there were possible civilians in the way.

He raced up the streets, booted feet surprisingly not clomping noisily on the stones. He ignored the startled looks of the people peering from their windows and doors, though occasionally he did yell for them to stay inside and that monsters were on the loose. He was quickly obeyed. After all, he was dripping blood and carrying a huge sword… who would be stupid enough not to listen?

Another roar sounded from very close by, and Seraph ducked into a side street, quickly emerging on the other end of the alley just in time to see Gilgamesh coming down from a roof and lopping the head off of one of the dragons with a loud battle cry. Blood sprayed everywhere as the Zantetsuken sliced easily through the thick, sinewy neck, effectively decapitating the monstrous beast.

The demi-god landed elegantly to the ground, doing some elaborate dance with his sword as he shook his head with glee over the thrill of battle. He rather enjoyed the adrenaline rush associated with fighting, though he did not enjoy the actual killing.

Seraph shook his head at Gilgamesh’s antics and heaved a sigh of relief. There was no sign of the second dragon, but if the pile of drying blood off to the far right was any indication, it had already been disposed of. The demi-god turned from the rapidly dissolving body of the monster and spied his anima standing there, favoring one of his legs.

“Did the dragon give you some trouble?” Gilgamesh questioned with a taunting grin.

“Oh, shut up!” Seraph snapped. He tossed the Masamune-clone to the demi-god without regards to where the blade twisted and turned and watched as the red-cloaked figure easily plucked the sword from mid-air by the hilt and inspected it.

He raised an eyebrow at the dark-haired man. “I half expected to get it back in less than perfect condition; yet, it seems you do know how to handle a sword.”

Seraph waved off the demi-god’s taunt and tossed his head, turning back towards where he thought he had last left Masa. A potion or two was sounding really good to him currently, especially with the burning and shooting pain that was racing up and down his thigh.

Gilgamesh frowned as he idly took out a piece of cloth and wiped down the sword that Seraph had tossed to him. “Where are you going?”

The dark-haired man waved a hand in the general direction of the outskirts of town. “To find Masa, I need a potion or two.”

The demi-god laughed. “You are going the wrong way.”

“Figures,” Seraph muttered, stopping for a moment to inspect the damage to his thigh. The blood had clotted somewhat, and his pants were now sticking to the wound, pulling at his skin with every movement. “This is what I get for helping people.”

Gilgamesh shook his head. “What happened to, ‘Oh, woe is me, I tried to take over the world! I must atone for my sinful deeds, etc, etc, etc’?” the demi-god skillfully imitated, sounding exactly like the former SOLDIER. Seraph shot him a deadly look, glaring intently as his hand carefully plucked the fabric of his pants away from the wound on his leg.

“Fine, I shall be helpful,” conceded the crimson-cloaked demi-god. He put a finger to his mouth and whistled loudly, the shrill sound echoing through the night air. Seraph winced and his eyes flickered around, expecting the residents of Kalm to stick their heads out to investigate the noise. He saw a few curtains move, but that was all. It seemed the dragons had frightened them into remaining in their homes. He didn’t blame them.

The green-eyed man was about to ask the demi-god the purpose of the shrill whistle when Masa bounded into view, joy evident in her black chocobo face. He gaped in astonishment, being as he had never trained her to respond to the call of a whistle before. The chocobo immediately noticed her master and trotted over to his side, nuzzling against the side of his face.

Gilgamesh grinned, quite proud of himself and returned the Zantetsuken to its sheath, eyeing the Masamune-clone in his hands. Seraph ignored him as he spoke softly to the ecstatic chocobo, searching through the bags until he found two of the four potions that he had secreted there earlier in the journey.

He pulled out the small glass vials and popped off the cork. A pleasant smell filled the air, chasing away the odor of death and dragon blood. He carefully poured the liquid over the wound on his leg, enjoying the gentle healing tingle that spread through the appendage as the blood clotted and the muscles and skin began to reknit. Seraph opened the second potion and drank it down, revitalizing the remainder of his body.

The ex-SOLDIER closed his eyes and sighed, relaxing for a moment as he returned the empty bottles to the pouches. A moment later, he heard the sounds of Gilgamesh’s footsteps and glanced up to see the demi-god looking down at him from his superior height, despite the fact that Seraph himself was over six feet tall. The demi-god was holding out the Masamune-clone to him, hilt-first.

“Keep it,” Gilgamesh explained gently. “Until you find one of your own. Fists are not much when you do not even have a pair of fighting gloves.”

Seraph eyed him carefully as he took the sword. “Thank you.”

The demi-god shrugged. “Besides, it is far more enjoyable if I do not have to worry about protecting you.” Seraph’s eyes widened angrily, but Gilgamesh cut him off before he could speak. “Is it not time we headed for Midgar?”

“You… I… protect…” Seraph spluttered, unable to come up with anything more coherent.

The demi-god laughed as he walked away, heading towards the main pathway that would take them out of Kalm. “Humans… so predictable…” he commented.

Seraph glowered angrily and climbed onto Masa’s back. She kweh’ed happily and danced beneath him. He patted her head and snapped the reins. She took off, easily bypassing the demi-god.

On to Midgar it was then…


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