Valhalla Chapter 5
By Chocobo Goddess
Moonlight flickered along Masamune as the blade sliced its path through the air. The deceptively gentle curve with its razor edge wove invisible designs throughout ancient katas, then snapped left, right, left, right, left, down.
Sephiroth had needed to think, and so think he did, his silver brows coming together in consternation at the many unexpected things he'd learned that day. Why would someone give up pieces of her life to save another? Wasn't it a precious thing to be cherished, held closely, guarded jealously? And of all the people to give that life to, why him?
'No one cares who you were,' Ellie had said, 'they only care who you are.'
But who was he?
The kata faltered, and a pair of blue eyes gleamed in the darkness of the gallery beyond. Sephiroth drew the blade upward, then into a ready position beside him. "Who is there?" he addressed the figure, seemingly wrapped in its own burdens. He was not afraid, even with his coat lying on the bottom row of the stands, off to the side. He had stood without armor before against unimaginable foes; this would be no problem should the visitor prove to be a threat.
"You know me." Cloud Strife melted into the arena, his bright eyes lighting his face long before the rest of him came into view. His dark, leathery wing was folded neatly behind him; the Ultima weapon also waited patiently, sheathed on his back in its fluttering wrappings. He leaned against one of the tall columns that supported the roof of the gallery.
Since his arrival, he had not spoken with Sephiroth. People seemed to avoid Cloud as much as they did his onetime teacher, even though Cloud had a habit of never really going all out when he sparred. Perhaps that was what made them fear him so; he was so powerful that he didnt need to concentrate on his opponents. Always, the eerie blue eyes with their Mako gloweven here, they did not fadeseemed distracted, as if he was searching for something he did not think he would ever find. Those eyes now swept over the tall General, reading him.
"Strife," Sephiroth said quietly, weighing the word, "Such an appropriate name for what your life became." For what I made of your life, he thought.
Cloud shrugged. "Why do you feel the need to elevate yourself?" He asked in a bored tone. "Haven't you noticed that our world is gone?" And she is gone, too.
Sephiroth did not move, but there was a subtle shift of weight that he knew the other fighter would recognize. "I do not elevate myself, Strife." His eyes narrowed as he laughed harshly, not at Cloud, but at himself. "And I was gone long before our world disappeared. You know that, you sent me on my way." He motioned to the pale scar along his breastbone, one that was sadly similar to the ones he'd left on Cloud, and many of Cloud's friends.
"Whatever you say." The blond pushed himself off from the pillar and walked, unafraid, to stand in front of his former enemy. "But then why the distance? Why not take this as a chance at a new, sane life?" Cloud didn't seem to feel the need to bring up the past; now that the world had disappeared with countless others, what had happened years ago no longer mattered. Saving the Planet had been for naught, if the Planet no longer existed. Nothing was going to give him the chance to see her again. He had even sold his soul to try; as it was, he had barely gotten out of the contract by default.
Sephiroth stared at him. "You've changed," he said quietly. When the other man did not respond, he sighed and sheathed Masamune in the formal manner, guiding it without looking, in the way of one who has done this a thousand times or more. "You are the second person today to ask me that. Strange that I never thought of this as a second chance for...anything."
Cloud looked away. "Funny how your head clears when you don't hear voices, isn't it?" His words were not said in taunting, it was merely like he understood. And then you have regrets that insanity never makes you see.
"Indeed." He walked a few steps closer to the man he had once used as a puppet, the man who had been the one to stop him when no one else would or could. "Why are you here?" He gestured to the arena about them. "Why do you remain? This is not your desire. You had had enough of fighting, I thought." He asked questions of Strife to push away the questions he had for himself.
Cloud smiled as if he knew. "I was looking for someone. And now, I guess I've given up. I would rather play around with would-be heroes than fight with myself." Cloud shook his head and fixed his unreal eyes back on Sephiroth. "And if you want to know why I am talking to you, I have my reasons."
Sephiroth allowed a tiny smile to twitch his lips upward. "Would-be heroes? Like that boy, Sora?" He flexed his wing experimentally. "That one bears watching." His hand fell to the hilt of his sword. "And you, will you fight this would-be...whatever I am?"
"Sora has promise. Much more then I ever had as a hero." A yellow brow raised as his own hand went behind his head to the hilt of the Ultima weapon. "If you want a fight, I'll never disappoint, Sephiroth. But you aren't getting out of this conversation with swordplay.
"Huh. And what conversation am I supposedly getting out of?" Masamune was once more in its owner's hand, drinking in the moonlight as before. He shook out his neck and shoulders, bare muscles rippling.
Cloud smiled as he pulled his blade out. "Who are you, Sephiroth? That would be the conversation." The Ultima weapon and the Masamune were fairly evenly matched blades, the same weight but entirely different balances. Cloud locked eyes with Sephiroth and waited for the attack.
The green eyes flared in surprise. "And what are you doing inside my thoughts? Or are my thoughts now so obvious?" He asked with wry humor. He raised the thin blade in salute, then lunged. "En garde."
Cloud met him, powerfully swinging the blade out of the way. "They are only obvious to someone who has felt the same way, asked the same things." He hopped to the side avoiding the blade again. "Nice," he commented.
"Thank you," Sephiroth smirked, wheeling Masamune around and reversing his swing. "And what should I" he paused to spin on the balls of his feet to meet the Ultima weapon before it could catch his hair, "do to discover who I am?"
"Start by not being an ass to" Cloud rolled into Sephiroth, drilling the blade straight. Over his shoulder he finished his sentence, "certain healers."
Over his own shoulder, Sephiroth grunted, "Not you, too." He pushed at the smaller, but more compact, man, putting some distance back between them. Arching out of the way of the wide blade of Ultima, he brought Masamune around in an arc to keep Cloud from reversing and bringing the blade back at him. "You and Hercules sound like a Greek chorus, repeating each other." He stepped back, waiting for Cloud's charge, panting slightly. At last, a real workout! "Although, I must admit..." he let the words trail off.
"You shouldn't let the chance slip by." Cloud backed away as the two men circled each other, catching their breath. It had been a LONG time since hed had a real fight. He had floored poor Sora last time, however unintentionally. A new strategy was called for He grinned and charged right as he struck left, switching the blade to his clawed hand and wielding it with one arm.
"A chance for what?" The General fell for the feint but recovered in time...barely. His sword locked with Cloud's, in a ridiculous but deadly clash of steel. "I should know better," he huffed, "I taught you that move. Damn."
"You taught me a lot of things." Cloud smirked at the dark irony of the situation. The blade switched hands again. Then, as if they hadnt been interrupted, he continued, "A chance to say something, to feel something." He never broke eye contact with his old teacher. He had been the one student that hadn't wanted to be in ShinRa. Cloud had been just a runaway boy, one who had been turned into what he was at someone elses will. Maybe we are more alike then we want to admit.
They sprang apart, the blades nearly touching across the expanse of the arena. This was, indeed, the most perfect place to fight, out in the open, in a place designed for just this kind of combat. But here, there were no other eyes to see, no cheers from the stands to distract them, just Sephiroth and Cloud, as different as the moon from the sun. Yet they were utterly alike, and the realization hit the silver-haired man with the suddenness of certainty. "I...what am I supposed to feel? I do not deserve the chance you seem to think is owed to me somehow. What do I say to her? What do I do?" It irked him to be on this side of the conversation, the one with all the questions and none of the answers.
"You are human. You have emotions, that you deserve as much as the rest of us." Cloud lunged, this stalemate possibly the most fun hed had since he got here. "You could start" They clashed blades with a spark, "By saying" Again their blades crossed each other, "Youre sorry."
Sephiroth felt the clash up and down his arms, but held firm. It had been so long since he'd enjoyed a fight, and Cloud had learned much since their last battle. But at the mention of apologizing, he nearly dropped his sword. "You actually think she'd listen to me?"
Cloud politely waited for the other man to recover. He stretched out his own wing with a snap. "Why care about that? At least you get a chance to say it."
He paused at that and peered at the younger man. "You sound as if you speak from experience."
"I do," Cloud responded sadly.
"Huh," Sephiroth said again, then, "This is the last pass. If there's no victor, then we declare it a draw. Right?"
Cloud nodded, and lunged. The night sky lit up with the sparks from a fight that neither man really wanted to win. They were fighting for the art of it, for the dance. "Talk to her. What happens if tomorrow the world is different and you never get the chance?"
Sephiroth grinned, meeting each stroke of Ultima with one of his own, a flurry of movement in wicked snow and silver and flesh. "Then I will take your advice, my student, who would be my teacher. And I will apologize."
They stood apart, the fight ended. Cloud rubbed his face and flicked the sweat off with his human hand. He nodded once, then turned to go.
"Yes?" He looked back over his shoulder.
Sephiroth ran a hand through sweat-soaked hair. "My thanks."
Cloud smiled softly. "Youre welcome." I hate to see anyone make the same mistakes I did. Even you. As he sheathed his blade, he looked up at the sky. Sephiroth was already gone in the direction of the dining hall, to deal with his problem, leaving the former hero alone. As the stars, fewer in number than they had once been, shone above him, the man who was now part demon spoke. "Wherever you are, I am so sorry Tifa."
I have been terribly remiss in posting this chapter originally without at least MENTIONING that I have Drakonlily to thank. She was a fantastic Cloud, and really helped me get this part off the ground. THANK YOU my friend. And to you all, PLEASE go read "I Tried" and "Completion" by her, and make sure you leave a review. You can find them in the Final Fantasy VII section.
Kingdom Hearts Fanfic