Valhalla Chapter 4
By Chocobo Goddess
Sephiroth found Ellie sitting in the stands, her basket of healing items stowed safely beneath her seat. She was watching the current opponents in the ring with interest, cheering both of them on. She had donned a wide, floppy straw hat that shielded her face from the sun. When he approached, she didnt seem to notice him.
"Ahem," he began, expecting her to pay attention to him. That was what people did around the Great General Sephiroth, hang upon every word he said.
She ignored him, calling, "Yeah, get him, Herc! Oh, no, Sareeb, dont let him hit you!" She clapped a hand to her forehead when the man from Agrabah went down. "Ugh, you were supposed to dodge that, baka!"
Sephiroth tried again, thinking, She must not have heard me. "Excuse me "
"I will not." She still hadnt looked at him. She sat down and fixed her hat.
"I said, I will not excuse you. You were rude and overbearing to me after I helped you. So I have decided that youre not worth my time." She watched Sareeb stand weakly and clasp Hercules arm. The Agraban had been a good opponent, but was completely outclassed. He looked sheepish as he limped off the field.
Sephiroth was speechless. He had never, never, ever been brushed off like that. When he had been ShinRas Elite General, people had nearly worshipped him, falling all over each other to ingratiate themselves to him. When he had been a monstrous killing machine searching for godhood, people had feared him to the point of uselessness.
But no one had ever spoken to him like that.
He began to feel the familiar burn of Mako searing through his blood. How dare she? Speak like that, to him!? However, just before he could summon up the most powerful fire spell he could think of, she spoke again.
"Things are different here, Sephiroth. No one has a past; no one cares who you were. Only who you are now. Even if those SOLDIERs down there remember you from their days with ShinRa, they dont fear you anymore. Every one of us has a past, some of them are bad, some are good. But they dont matter here."
The burning began to die away in the face of his confusion.
Ellie continued. "All of us here were given a clean slate, a new start. Were not really any different, but its like, the moment we appeared, our respective gods gave us the ability to become what we wanted to be." She finally looked over at him, and he noticed that her eyes were blue. She seemed to be waiting for him to speak.
"Butthey treat me no differently now than they did when I lived before," he protested, feeling like he should defend his actions. "I am still feared."
She shook her head, causing the hat to flop around. "No, Sephiroth, youre not." She swept her hand out to indicate the assorted fighters. "They revere you, because youre the strongest, and the most skilled. Havent you noticed, no one cringes when your name is mentioned? The way they did back home?"
"They do not treat me as a friend."
Ellie laughed darkly. "Thats because you hide in the gallery, and dont come talk to them. Havent you noticed how Herc is always trying to get you to open up?"
"I am Sephiroth," he snorted, "I do not open up to anyone." He crossed his arms and glared down at her. He glared even more fiercely when she laughed again, brightly this time.
"Oh, Seph, thats so funny!" She wiped away tears. "If only you could see your face."
His eyes flared, then, when that failed to impress her, he gave up, putting his fists on his hips and looming over her. She continued to laugh at him. Suddenly, he felt an unfamiliar tugging at the corner of his lips. Not a smirk, which he had perfected to an art, but a true smile, with his own unused laughter bubbling up behind it.
The Great General Sephiroth threw back his head and let it happen. Everyone knows that laughter, once started, is nearly impossible to stop. It is infectious, causing all those within earshot to look and smile, and maybe join in. Some of the SOLDIERs nearby turned in surprise. None of them had ever heard of Sephiroth smiling, much less laughing. They watched in awe and wonder as their former commander held his sides and sat down, gasping for breath.
Ellie waited for him to calm himself. "So I suppose anything is possible, now," she grinned, "I mean, wasnt it commonly said that something was unlikely if it would happen when Sephiroth smiled?"
He nodded. "They used to think I didnt know what they said about me behind my back. I dont think Ive ever been insulted to my face; youve done it twice, now." He tsk-ed. "I have no idea what that means."
"It means that Im not afraid of you. Big, beautiful, black wing or no, I have no plans to run screaming from your presence or fainting in your shadow." She drew her knees up to her chest and cocked her head at him.
He stretched the wing out and looked closely at it. "Beautiful? I hadnt thought of it that way."
She brushed her fingers against one of the pinions. Sephiroth had to suppress an unexpected pleasant shiver when she did. He had never noticed how sensitive the feathers were.
It seemed he hadnt noticed much of anything lately.
Ellie was still admiring his wing. "It really is lovely," she said. "The way the black is iridescent, like the insides of mussel shells."
"Mussel shells?" Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "So now it reminds you of shellfish?"
She giggled, a light and airy sound. "I guess it does sound funny. But have you ever looked at a mussel shell? Its black like this, but when you turn it just so, it reveals rainbows of color inside. And its smooth, hard like glass, but if you touch it, it feels like it should be soft. Like your feathers."
"You grew up near Junon, didnt you?"
She smiled proudly. "I should have known youd recognize the accent."
"That and the rhapsody about mussels, yes."
"Hey, Im proud to come from a long line of fishermen. They dont get enough credit." She poked him in the shoulder. Sephiroth decided that he had been forgiven somewhere along the way.
"I eat fish, Ellie, and I leave catching them to the experts." He settled the wing behind him, smiling faintly. Whe was the last time hed been in such a good mood? Had he ever been?
Ellie feigned shock. "Oh, my, theres something that the Great Sephiroth doesnt do?" She placed a hand over her heart. "And mussels arent fish."
Another two fighters had faced off in the arena, this time a burly red-haired man in a kilt and furs and a thin man dressed in an elaborate, skin-tight black costume. He seemed to draw shadows around him from thin air, even in the unabashedly bright sun. Ellie pointed him out to Sephiroth.
"He calls himself Shadow," she said confidentially, "Hes a ninja. Thats all anyone knows about him. He picks his opponents well. Uses his speed and dexterity to their utmost, knows he looks best fighting large, slow people. He prefers to have the element of surprise, but you cant really do that in this environment." She picked up her basket and stood.
"Leaving?" asked Sephiroth. He prepared to stand, as well.
"No," she replied, "Im going to be needed when this is over. Shadow may have underestimated Angus; it could go either way. One or both of them will need my help. Stay here, watch the fight." She tossed a crooked smile over her shoulder and began to make her way down the stands to the arena floor.
Sure enough, the fight was not as one-sided as the ninja probably had hoped. Angus leapt about and dodged attacks with the grace of a dancer. Sephiroth watched idly for a few moments, then let his gaze wander back to Ellie. She had reached the bottom of the amphitheatre and started getting things out of her basket. The ridiculous hat blew off suddenly, flying upward.
Without thinking, he launched himself down the slope of stone benches, using the wing to not-quite-fly, and caught the wayward object. He angled the wing to slow his descent, landing perfectly at the ground level. Pretending not to hear the oohs and ahhs that followed him, he strode over to Ellie.
She was already using a cure spell on Shadow, who had taken a nasty bump on the head. Angus raised a bushy red brow at Sephiroths approach. He himself was waiting for her to treat a gash from one of Shadows knives.
"Weel, if it aint Sephiroth! Dint think yever came out into the sunlight!" The man grinned, showing bright white teeth under his mustache.
Sephiroth inclined his head slightly. "As you can see, however, that is not the case. I do, in fact, enjoy it." He turned to Ellie. "I found your hat."
She beamed at him. "Thank you! Though you didnt need to go to such lengths." She took it from him, pleased. Looking down at Shadow, she tsk-ed. "Think you can manage now?"
He said nothing, but nodded sheepishly.
"Good. Now hop up, you got Angus but good." She made a shooing motion with her hands. As Angus got himself situated, Ellie looked at Sephiroth. "Umm, Im going to be busy here for a while. You seemed to want to talk about something."
"I did." He tried to ignore Anguss speculative grin behind Ellies back. "It is not important."
"Well, when Im done Ill find you, okay? There are a few more fights, and then Ill probably be ready for dinner."
Angus waggled his eyebrows at Sephiroth, who tried harder to pretend the man wasnt there. "Very well, I will see you then." He stifled a smirk when Ellie turned back to Angus without warning and the man had to compose himself unexpectedly. He flexed his wing and left, but not before he heard Ellie scold Angus for being careless.
Yes, he thought, being in a good mood is definitely an improvement.
Kingdom Hearts Fanfic