Chapter Thirty-Three: True Lies
The Wutaian Turk rubbed a hand over his forehead, trying to quell the migraine that was threatening to overcome him. He was leaning against the wall in the corridor that housed the jail cells. Cloud was sitting in a chair a little off to the side, and Sephiroth was behind the bars, sitting cross-legged on the makeshift bed and regarding them coolly. He shifted to tuck his ankles underneath him, leaning back against the wall.
“Why are you here?” the spiky-haired blond repeated, his face red with anger.
The man who claimed to be Sephiroth – though not in so many words – sighed and put his hand to his forehead in a gesture similar to the Turks. “How many times must I repeat myself? I do not know. Retribution, perhaps? They were not exactly clear.”
“Who?” Tseng questioned, frowning intently. “Who was not clear?”
“I am not sure how to explain it,” the mossy-eyed man murmured softly. “The voice of the planet perhaps. They were just voices.” He exhaled, also rubbing his temple. “I just don’t know.”
Cloud huffed angrily and took several deep breaths. They were getting nowhere in their interrogation, learning nothing that the former General hadn’t already said before. The blond was having trouble reining in his own fury at the sight of the man. He couldn’t understand why the bastard was still alive, why he was even allowed the chance. For his deeds, Sephiroth deserved nothing more than death.
“What about Jenova?” the blond swordsman demanded. “Is she alive somewhere, too?”
Sephiroth shook his head as he fought down his irritation. He felt bad for his actions but that didn’t stop him from being annoyed by the constant repeating of the same damn questions over and over again. He idly wondered where Gilgamesh had gotten to in the same moment that he contemplated how to answer Cloud’s question in a way that the man would finally understand.
He was glad to see his former subordinate so powerful now, glad to see that he hadn’t managed to completely disrupt his life. Cloud had moved on, married, and now had a child on the way. With that information squirreled away, Sephiroth felt that perhaps it was possible for him to give retribution for his mistakes.
“I wouldn’t know,” murmured the former General. “I can no longer hear her if that is what you mean.”
Tseng and Cloud exchanged glances, as if the Turk was confirming with the swordsman that Jenova had indeed fallen silent. The blond returned the gaze steadily, not having anything of importance to add.
“We are accomplishing nothing with these circuitous questions,” Tseng muttered, sighing yet again. He turned his back on the two former enemies and idly rubbed his forehead again, wondering if they would notice if he snuck away and found a bottle of aspirin.
Cloud stood angrily. “What do you suggest then? Just let him roam free?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the Wutaian chided, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. “I was merely stating that we are wasting time and getting nowhere. If we are not going to believe a word he says, then why bother asking to begin with?”
“He destroyed my hometown. Excuse me if I’m having trouble believing he’s a good guy now!” argued the blond in return. He threw himself back in the chair and crossed his arms over his chest, shooting the man he had once looked up to a poisonous glare. In that moment he seemed very much the petulant child.
Sephiroth accepted the look in stride, keeping silent for the moment as the two men argued about his fate. The Turk Commander had a point. For the past hour they had done nothing but repeat the same questions and answers. It was both exhausting and mind-numbing. He wasn’t sure what Cloud was looking for, but whatever it was, the swordsman still wasn’t satisfied.
Tseng exhaled loudly and turned back around, pausing for a moment as a sudden thought hit him. He eyed the man in the cell, noting the change in both eye color – not an easy task to accomplish – and the change in hair color. Not to mention that the man he had observed fighting before seemed to have a lesser degree of skill than the Sephiroth he had once known. He wondered why the thought hadn’t occurred to him.
The Turk spoke slowly, his thoughts becoming words. “Have you considered that he might be a fake?” he questioned Cloud. “We have not even asked him if he really is Sephiroth; we just automatically assumed.”
Cloud opened his mouth to argue before he promptly snapped it shut, eyes turning inward as he pondered the Turks suggestion. He believed that he would automatically know the man that had been his idol on sight, but many years had passed since he had seen the true Sephiroth, and his memory wasn’t that reliable to begin with. There was a good possibility that what he was relying on was somewhat skewed.
Which meant, that the Turk’s question was a valid one, but they wouldn’t know unless they asked.
“I am sorry,” Sephiroth spoke quietly, cutting through the momentary tense silence. Two pairs of eyes turned towards him in unison. “I regret, in my madness, the destruction of your home.” His gaze had lowered at this point, and he brought up his eyes slowly, not surprised to find the blond swordsman nearly shaking with the force of his anger.
Of all the things he had expected the stranger to say, that had not been one of them. He had anticipated bold proclamations of his identity or even outcries of his questionable validity.
But a quiet apology, almost without all pride… that was not what Cloud had imagined, and the very change in his expectations threw his already shaky emotions on a whirl.
The ex-SOLDIER clenched his fists as he struggled to contain himself, irrational anger bubbling up inside. “Your madness?” he hissed, more of a statement than a question. “And what of everything else you have done? Killing Aeris? Do you not feel ashamed of your other deeds?”
The man who claimed to be Sephiroth shook his head, attempting to keep his voice as level as possible. He was quite possibly ruining whatever ground he had gained with the next words he was going to say, but he had to get it out. He had to tell them so that they would look at him without false conceptions, even if they did not believe. At least then, he would have tried.
“Those were not my deeds. The moment I dove into the Lifestream five years ago, I was no longer Sephiroth as you knew him.” (1) His voice dropped in tone, becoming completely lifeless as the memories of what Jenova had done in his form, while he helplessly watched, flashed through his mind. “Nevertheless, since I could not ignore her voice, I am in part to blame for what happened.”
Cloud’s jaw clenched. “I saw you with my own eyes,” he growled. “I was not mistaken, no matter the instability of my memory. Zack and I saw the same damn person.”
Mossy eyes gazed at him levelly, his last chance to make the truth understood. “My body but not my mind. You know, as well as I, what happens when a live person encounters the Lifestream. In my moment of weakness, my mind separated from my body and was replaced by the consciousness of Jenova, already stronger than me due to my anger and pain.” His words shocked them into to silence. Seraph stated slowly, glancing away from them, “She merely drug me along for the ride, using whatever power I held and forcing me to watch as she destroyed everything that mattered to me… or at least attempted to do so.” He purposely did not look at either of them.
The former General paused to catch his breath but continued before either of the others could recover fully and comment. “Even then it was her essence using my form because my body was frozen in a mako crystal.” He finally glanced up at them again. “Unless you think that I suddenly acquired the ability to walk through walls and levitate,” he added with a hint of censure, idly wondering how everyone had overlooked that little tidbit of information. It wasn’t like he had been able to do such things before Nibelheim.
Tseng unconsciously crossed his arms over his stomach, as though trying to protect himself. However, he remained silent, staring at Seraph guardedly.
Cloud, on the other hand, was seething.
His fist slammed into the bars of the cell, sounding painful, though the emotion didn’t appear on the blond swordsman’s face. Only intense rage was there, and the metal poles rattled in their foundation. He glared at Sephiroth, who had barely stopped himself from jumping at the sound.
“You would dare tell me that! That what I know was nothing but a lie,” he hissed angrily. It was a statement, not a question. “I am to believe you are not responsible for the death of thousands?”
Sorrow was etched into every feature of the former General’s face. “I do not expect you to believe anything,” he responded quietly.
Tseng, who was standing quietly by watching the proceedings, decided it was time he stepped in. At first, he had considered it just between Cloud and Sephiroth, but the swordsman’s rationale was quickly disappearing, and they were not getting anything accomplished.
“Cloud,” he said forcefully, a little more sharply than he had intended. “You are losing control. Calm down.”
Tseng wanted to curse himself when that anger-filled mako glare turned onto him. He had never had to face the swordsman in the midst of combat like his subordinates, and seeing that look, he was suddenly glad that he had not. Remembering Reno’s injuries from only one battle, Tseng vowed to himself that he would never again piss off the former SOLDIER.
He raised a fist and pointed a finger at the Wutaian. “You stay out of this. You are not my boss.”
The Turk bristled indignantly as he narrowed his silvery gaze on the blond man, who was nearly the same height. A sharp retort was on the edge of his lips, but he fought to push it down, attempting to speak in a more civil fashion than the increasingly furious Cloud.
“With Reeve gone, I am in charge of ShinRa. I can have you thrown from this building,” the Wutaian responded coldly though he wondered if it would even be possible.
“Is that a threat?”
“I was merely stating your few options. We cannot understand anything if you refuse to consider any options but what your own mind has already decided. Anger will gain us nothing and cause us to lose much.”
Over to the side, Sephiroth watched the proceedings with a somewhat surprised expression. His captors had turned on each other. He had never expected his presence to cause that much disturbance that so-called allies would turn into arguing fiends. He began to wonder again why it was he was in Midgar and what his purpose for living truly was.
(This jail cell is pathetic. You have more than enough power to break out of it.)
The former General wasn’t surprised to find that Gilgamesh had suddenly started speaking to him again. He revealed nothing to Cloud and Tseng, however, lest they think him crazy once again, as he addressed the demi-god in his head.
‘It is a test more than anything,’ Seraph responded mentally, watching the other two closely. ‘They are attempting to see if I am as repentant as I say I am.’
(You should tell them of me. I know that the both of them are animus, but to whom, I am not certain,) Gilgamesh suggested. (Perhaps then the blond would know to listen to his promised. She, after all, hears hers as well.)
Seraph nodded internally before waiting patiently for a chance to speak. He hoped that by doing so, he was not going to cause even more issues. Yet, it was a chance he would have to take.
However, the two men were too busy arguing amongst themselves to pay any mind to him. Actually it was more Cloud was acting like an irrational idiot and Tseng patiently trying to make him see sense than an actual argument. Sephiroth gave the Wutaian an appraising glance; he couldn’t help but admire the Turk for his steadfast tolerance. Then again, those steely silver eyes lighting up with annoyance might have been something worth seeing as well.
“Would a man not worth trust have the faith of a demi-god?” Seraph questioned, leaning forward to get a better look at the pair. His voice cut through their conversation, causing both men to turn immediately and stare at him in bewilderment. As Cloud furrowed his brow, he continued, determined to get through to them. “Don’t you hear the voices as well?”
“I don’t hear anything!” Tseng responded sharply before Cloud could even open his mouth. The Turk’s tone had a hint of finality, as if there was to be no more discussion on the matter.
The former General was taken aback by the man’s vehemence, having not even seen him become annoyed with the brash blond swordsman. He wondered if perhaps that meant that the Wutaian was lying as he narrowed his eyes, daring Sephiroth to ask again and face the consequences.
“You know as well as I do that it’s in my best interest to ignore any voices,” responded Cloud in a cold tone, glaring at Sephiroth even as he shot Tseng a strange look, also confused by his behavior. “Or have you forgotten what you said just minutes ago?”
“I have not. I was merely making an observation,” Sephiroth acquiesced gracefully, leaning back against the wall.
(Perhaps you won’t believe him, because you are still a bit afraid of him,) came a voice that was most familiar to the blond swordsman. He scowled, not realizing he had made the motion in view of everyone until Tseng shot him an odd look. He waved off the Turk before addressing the voice within.
‘Why won’t you just leave me alone?’ he questioned. ‘I don’t need any more problems… especially none associated with more voices in my head.’
There was a whisper across his mind, more like the breathy sigh of someone with an annoyed demeanor. (Your promised, I know, has already told you that I am not Jenova and that you can trust me. Do you not at least believe her?)
‘Don’t play mind games with me!’ Cloud growled in return. ‘You’re trying to manipulate me into believing you. I’ll not fall for it again!’
“Cloud?” Tseng’s questioning tone cut through his thoughts, and he looked up at the Wutaian in surprise.
“What?” he asked, wincing. Cloud was not even sure what was going on as he hadn’t heard anything that had been said. His head was beginning to hurt, the stress of the day weighing heavily on his already fractured mind.
The Turk frowned. “Are you alright?” Silvery eyes watched the ex-SOLDIER cautiously, his hand discreetly inching to his katana.
The blond shook his head forcefully, putting a hand to his forehead and grinding it down as if to forestall the intense migraine. “I need some aspirin or… something.”
The Wutaian eyed him for a moment before waving a hand of dismissal. “By all means, you have no need to stay here. I believe I can handle it.” He continued to watch the blond, hand now hovering by his hip.
Mako eyes flickered between the Turk and the man in the cell for a moment, as if gauging Tseng’s claims before he shrugged. Nodding his head in approval and then wincing because it made his headache worse, Cloud gave a flip of the wrist in a half-hearted goodbye as he strode for the door.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” he called out over his shoulder.
Tseng did not answer, finding nothing important to say as he moved over to the swordsman’s now completely abandoned chair and sat down gracefully and gratefully, resisting the urge to exhale aloud in comfort. He was tempted to rub his temples again, realizing it was merely becoming a sign of irritation rather than an attempt at alleviating the problem.
Damn Reno for pointing out that little fact to him… double damn Elena for agreeing.
They sat in silence; now that Cloud was gone, the urgency for talking had faded. Tseng did not feel he had anything to say to the former General, and he did not expect Sephiroth to have any words in return. He relished the quiet, hoping it would allow the ache in his head to subside to a dull throbbing or less until Cloud returned.
“Forgive me,” Sephiroth said quietly, voice cutting through the almost peaceful silence. Tseng looked up in surprise, startled that the man would just start suddenly speaking. “I know you may not believe me, but I am sorry for what was done in the Temple of the Ancients.”
He shook his head, remembering how he had helplessly watched as the commander had been skewered by his sword, practically screaming a warning to the man just before it occurred. The former General clenched his fist in anger towards the blasted and bedamned creature that had lied to him.
“If I could just go back and change everything… if I had only never listened to the siren’s cry,” Sephiroth murmured, trailing off.
“Don’t,” Tseng responded, shaking his head. “I don’t know why, and gods help me if I’m wrong, but I find myself believing your completely farfetched story.” When Sephiroth gave him an almost hopeful gaze, he brought up a hand. “Before you think anything of it… this does not mean that you are getting out of this cell, just that I am considering the facts of your tale.” He stared directly into Seraph’s eyes, as though he were trying to read the truth written in them.
The General nodded in response, leaning back against the wall, the pair returning to their silence. If this man could forgive him, for a wrong that had been committed to his own life, to his own body, then perhaps someone else could. That was what Sephiroth believed.
“If we should believe your story,” Tseng began slowly after several moments, silvery gaze locking onto his. “What will you do?”
Sephiroth furrowed his brow in concentration. There was only one reason he had come to Midgar, but now he faced another decision. He had been given a chance at a second life. It was rather selfish of him to only seek the truth of his birth when he had been so lucky. What if there was another purpose? This war that he had heard whispered between Tseng and Elena and then earlier in the conversation between Cloud and the Turk… what if he was to fight in it?
“I came to find the truth of my origins,” he responded slowly, still going over his options in my mind. “But now I find that there is war on the winds, and I do not feel I can stand idly by.”
The Wutaian looked at him, slight surprise registering in his features. “You would fight then? In a cause that you have no part of?”
The former General nodded. “I can think of no other reason for this gift.”
(And therein lies the heart of the matter,) commented the demi-god within his mind. (At least, you are no longer wallowing in your own self-guilt and pity. War is most certainly on the winds, a war unlike anything the inhabitants of Gaia have felt in more than a thousand years. Your strength, along with that of others will be needed.)
Tseng sighed. “If it is the truth, then it is a worthy endeavor. However, this decision can not be made lightly. There are many who would kill first and ask questions later upon sight of you. If it had not been for Denzel… that would have been your fate.”
Mossy eyes widened momentarily. “Denzel? I had nearly forgotten about him. Did you find him a home?”
The Turk was somewhat surprised by this genuine concern that he caught in the former General’s expression, but he quickly schooled his features. These little feelings that he was allowing to slip through… perhaps what he spoke of was this truth.
“He is with Aeris right now. A bit upset that Cloud tried to hurt you but he is a child, he will be fine.” A small smile tugged at the Turk’s lips. “He has grown surprisingly attached for such a short amount of time.”
Seraph tucked a loose strand of hair behind his ear. “I have heard once before that sometimes children can see what adults cannot.”
Tseng mused quietly the smile growing ever so slightly. “Yes, there is that.”
They fell into another silence, and it remained unbroken until Cloud returned some time later, both men absorbed by their thoughts and revelations. Many things had been cast into the light… but just as many had remained shadowed mysteries.
The phone struck the far wall with a resounding crash, bouncing against the wood before it fell to the ground, miraculously managing to not actually be harmed in its flight as Tifa had intended. Frowning intently – and pissed that she had not been able to destroy the object of her anger – the brunette stalked over to the rickety chair in the center of the room and plopped herself down upon it.
The chair creaked and groaned under her weight as it rocked back and forth for a moment, finally settling down as she relaxed into it. Exhaling harshly and rubbing her forehead fiercely with her fingers, Tifa tried to calm down.
She wondered where the hell her associate had gone if she was not going to answer her damn phone. She hated having to rely on the twit but had no other choice. She couldn’t very well waltz into ShinRa Incorporated without a plan in mind otherwise nothing would be accomplished.
If only the brothers hadn’t decided to desert her at the last moment.
Ungrateful little snots!
After she had rescued them from Hojo’s lab and gave them a place to live and food to eat, they had turned their backs on her the moment they started hearing voices. She had gotten a vague shiver of ‘Cloud’ when they had said that and was almost glad to see them go, though it meant she was without henchmen.
Blast that girl! Why didn’t she pick up the damn phone!
Not only that, she was stuck hiding out in middle of nowhere, sandwiched in a tiny decrepit room in Bone Village. The people there were pretty much useless, oblivious to anything that hadn’t been dead for over a thousand years. She hadn’t even been able to coax one of the younger ones into her bed.
What was he? Blind?
Sighing irritably yet again, the brunette stood up from the chair and began to pace, stopping for a moment only to glare at her useless phone. She couldn’t move on with her plans unless she could reach her spy. Without her, even those damned bombs she had spent so much money and flirting on would be useless.
Tifa was determined to make Reeve and stupid AVALANCHE pay for what they had done. Her plan to kidnap Reno had backfired, but it wasn’t her main plot to begin with. It was only a distraction to lure the idiots away from her true intentions. Now would be the perfect time to strike, if only she could reach that damn nitwit.
Was she out flirting again? Stupid hussy…
Rufus would be turning over in his grave – if she had been able to find his body and bury it – if he knew what that moron was doing to his company. Running it into the ground, practically giving the money away. He had even disbanded the damn army, leaving everything defenseless.
What was wrong with Reeve?
For the life of her, she couldn’t fathom it. Everything that should have been hers that damn man was letting it waste away.
She had to stop him before it was too late.
Ever since her near death at Sephiroth’s hands years prior, Tifa had been a different woman. She began to crave money and power, especially from Mr. ShinRa himself. Although she hated the corporation, she justified her actions by working to have it in her hands.
She moved to Midgar, clawed and fought her way into ShinRa’s company, soon coming face to face with one Rufus ShinRa. She had always heard of the president’s son, but she never knew he was so achingly handsome. She quickly fell under the spell of those ocean-colored eyes. His self-confidence was something that attracted her immediately.
He of course knew her on sight; he knew that she had past relations to AVALANCHE, probably a result of all the information gathered by the Turks. He gave her one of his trademark smirks, instantly making her desire him, and their torrential relationship began. In the beginning, he was only using her to get closer to the terrorist company. That only suited her purpose just fine because she was using him as well. There was no such thing as love between them, just fire and passion in harsh degrees.
The sex wasn’t too bad either. Rufus’ domineering personality and intensity was far more alluring than Cloud with his boyish immaturity could ever evoke in her. Just thinking of the way he made her feel made her somewhat nostalgic. She would miss that cold bastard.
Tifa blamed Rufus’ death entirely on AVALANCHE. She felt they caused Diamond Weapon to attack Midgar, killing her lover in the process. If only they had been the ones to defeat Sephiroth rather than Cloud and his merry band of idiots, perhaps then she wouldn’t be skulking about in Bone Village with a broken phone and no henchmen.
Tifa scowled as she considered blowing up the rotten excuse for a town once she regained control of ShinRa. Wutai, as well, both places deserved to be destroyed for not having decent places for her to plot and ponder.
There was a timid half-hearted knock on her hotel room door. Tifa didn’t bother to open the door, knowing that it did not lock.
Damn primitive backwater town.
“Enter,” she growled loudly almost in the same moment that the door clicked open. A small mousy-haired female came in carrying a tray of steaming food. She wore the same horrendous bag-like brown that everyone else on this godforsaken site seemed to enjoy, and Tifa scowled at the eyesore.
Despite her irritation, she could feel her mouth watering at the pleasant aroma of the food. She had ordered something from the small restaurant associated with the hotel and paid good money to have it brought to her room. She only hoped that the fare would suit her taste buds.
“Set it down on the table,” she ordered easily, eyes narrowing as the girl shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly and placed the tray down, lacking any sort of grace. The plates and cup knocked together with a sound that grated on Tifa’s nerves. She gritted her teeth and tried not to shake the girl senseless.
The girl grinned at the brunette, brown eyes sparkling before pranced out of the room, slamming the door shut behind her.
Once the annoying twit was gone, and she was alone with her thoughts, Tifa turned her attention to the meal she had been brought. She stalked over to the table and sat down in the rickety chair, wincing as it creaked and groaned. Eyeing the food, she huffed in disdain.
It was not at all up to the standards of her usual fare, not like she had eaten with Rufus’ money, but it would suffice. Tifa began to eat, internally seething over her delay in plans.
It had taken her time to get everything in place, the brothers more of an added bonus than a big part of her ShinRa reclamation plan. They were good for hired muscle, especially the eldest – he was rather dumb. But they were too young for much else.
A pity, really. But even she had her moral standards.
She couldn’t resist the urge to cackle evilly out loud, and so she did, not caring if anyone outside could hear her through the practically paper thin walls. Once she was able to reach her contact in Midgar, she would set the ball rolling so to speak. Within days, ShinRa would be hers and out of the hands of that good-all Reeve Tuesti and his stupid ponce of a lover. And to think that the red-headed bastard had refused her.
Just as she was thoroughly enjoying her meal, the familiar strains of her ring tone wafted through the air, albeit a bit off key, probably a result of its flight through the air and subsequent crash into the wall. Her reddish-brown eyes widened in surprise before she was diving for her phone, nearly crashing headlong into a small nightstand in the process.
Tifa vaulted over the bed and snatched the off-key electronic device from the floor before quickly answering it.
“Boss!” came her associate’s cheerful voice. The one that she had been trying to reach this entire time, which had set off her anger… “You’ve been trying to call me? Is it time?”
“Shut up!” snapped Tifa angrily. “Are you alone? Somewhere you can’t be heard?”
Her associate laughed at the question as if it were a great joke, thereby grating on her nerves even further. Tifa had to remind herself that she was only a brainless nitwit and was therefore disposable.
“Of course I am. I’m not stupid, boss.”
“Good. It’s time to put my plan into motion. Prepare for my arrival. I have all supplies ready.”
There was a light cheering on the other end of the phone. She could practically hear the girl’s ecstatic grin. “Thank the gods! I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep up this façade!”
Tifa smirked. “Once I’m in charge, you will receive a hefty bonus.” Or a swift kick in the ass, whichever suited her mood at the time.
Her associate cackled with glee. “I live to serve,” she intoned. “All will be prepared when you arrive. The fool is still gone. Goodbye, boss.”
The phone call ended on that note with nothing further needing to be said. They had to be careful in that respect, keeping all contact to a minimum and not using any names or such things.
Feeling very pleased with herself, Tifa hung up the phone on her end, a canary-eating grin on her face. She couldn’t resist rubbing her hands together in excitement and so did.
Soon… very, very soon it would all be hers.
It would satisfy her much to see Reeve crushed beneath her boot and all the rest of AVALANCHE pleading for mercy.
Mwa, ha, ha, ha, ha!
Come to think of it, she really needed to come up with a better laugh… something better suited to the future and first lady President of ShinRa.