Downward Spiral Interlude

By Faye Locke

Author's Note: This section may be a bit confusing, due to my use of flashbacks - there is a flashback *within* a flashback. So remember that when you read. Thanks!

Why do you dwell on the past?

The teasing voice floated into Sephiroth's mind as he waited in the Northern Crater for the final confrontation with his enemies. He mentally scowled it at, wishing it to leave him alone. However, his momentary lapse into past memories had allowed her a little freedom.

Do you feel proud of what you have done?

Not so proud as that as what I did later, he responded poignantly. The presence withdrew from the hit, but did not go away altogether.

I thought you did not enjoy that, she said sulkily.

Not at first. Sephiroth was beginning to enjoy the conversation. Making her uncomfortable was one of his favorite pastimes. But then, it was ecstasy. She did not pull back from that comment, but her distaste was obvious. Making a quick decision to chastise her for rising from her place, he reached for her, trapped her, and pulled her into the memory they both shared.

She was re-supplying the cure potions when she heard a slight noise behind her, noticed the faintest shifting in the light coming through the doorway. She fell to the floor and twisted to the side, narrowly missing being cut in two by a long, thin blade. Coming up with her swords in her hands, she faced her opponent, shocked by his appearance.

"Excellent reflexes, still," Sephiroth observed, "even after all this time. You have made a remarkable recovery."

"Not so nearly well as you," she responded. "How does one recover from death?" Sephiroth smiled, then launched a series of slashed and jabs at her. The attacks were not made with his true skill, and she easily defended against them. They moved out of her shop, high on the cliffs above Corel, to the narrow road just outside her shop. There wasn't much room for maneuvering on the road, with a sheer rock wall rising to one side and a drop-off on the other side, but it was still less cumbersome than the cramped interior of the shop that resided in a natural cave. Sephiroth stopped his attack as suddenly as he had started.

"And your skill has not suffered either," he said, "Jyleth."

"So you remember my name."

"Of course, I forget nothing."

"Why have you come back?" Jyleth asked, tossing a few red curls out of her face. "Change your mind about killing me?"

"You knew," Sephiroth stated flatly, irritation glinting in his eyes.

"That you did not mean to kill me?" Jyleth smiled slightly, "Of course. No SOLDIER would leave a job undone like you did unless the intention was not to kill."

"I was not completely sure of your survival," said Sephiroth. "Your chances of surviving the first night were not very good."

"It wasn't easy." Jyleth's features became clouded as she recalled the memory of pain. After months, she had managed to return to the village, only to find it had been destroyed. Whether Shin-ra or munkies had been to blame, she never knew. It only took her a few days of staring at the waste to realize she didn't want to know. Instead, she put her past life behind her and left the continent, traveling south. Eventually, she had come to the mine towns of Corel. There she had made an arrangement with the miners to start a shop high up on the cliffs near there mines where she supplied them with curing potions and took care of those who were injured. She barely got by, but the life of isolation suited the grief she carried in her.

"Surviving never is." Sephiroth attacked again, this time seemingly in earnest. Yet Jyleth was able to counter his attacks, something that surprised them both. Countering was not winning, however, and she realized she needed to force some attacks of her if she hoped to live. An opening presented itself, as she circled around the road until she was facing the drop-off. It was a desperate move, but she saw no other possibility. Her strength was beginning to wane. She crossed her swords and raised them to counter his next attack high, stopping his sword while he still had his arms above his head. Not stopping her movement with the block, she rushed forward, slamming all of her weight into his body while still holding her swords against his. He was only a few feet from the ledge, and the idea was for him to fall off the ledge as she twisted around, trying to change her momentum to keep herself from going over with him. She expected him to drop his sword and throw his arms out to regain his balance and try to save himself from the deadly fall. But he didn't. Instead, his arms dropped around her, neatly pinning her to him, their swords still touching. Jyleth watched her shop disappear as they went over the edge of the cliff.

Jyleth closed her eyes, waiting for the ground to rush and meet them. However, after some time of flying through the air, she realized something was not what it seemed. She opened her eyes to find they were moving up, not down. When they had gone over the cliff, Sephiroth had fallen backwards, under her, but now they were upright. He was now behind her, his arms still wrapped tightly around here. He relaxed the pressure he held against her swords with the Masamune.

"Drop your swords," he whispered into her ear.

"No," she said automatically, without considering her situation. Sephiroth loosened his grip on her meaningfully, making her fully aware that he was the only reason she wasn't a smudge on the rocks below. Jyleth glanced down, thankful that they were above the clouds so that she did not have to see the ground so far below. The upward movement had stopped, and now they hovered high above the earth. The mountain that Jyleth had called home for so many years peaked over the cloud cover, only its uppermost regions showing. Jyleth slowly started to lower her swords, and Sephiroth moved the Masamune so that she might drop them. An odd feeling of grief passed over her as she let Kusamé fall to the whiteness below. Sephiroth shifted his hold on her slightly, then held her with one arm as he sheathed the Masamune. His arm came back around, holding her tightly to him, then they were rolling through the air, and the wind rushed by them so fast that Jyleth closed her eyes. Exhilaration and fear fought equally to take control of her mind. The wind was cold, cutting at her skin, so cold that it took her breath away. A slow numbness came over her from the combined effects of cold and lack of oxygen. Yet still they soared over the land.

Sephiroth held the young woman in his arms carefully as he flew through the air, not wanting her to fall after the effort he had put to get her alive. His mind was still struggling with the precise instructions Jenova had given him. The whole concept seemed repulsive to him. But he recalled his last conversation with his new "mother," and he realized he must continue.

"My power can only do so much," Jenova had told him. "Pulling you from the lifestream has nearly extended all of my energy. But the lifestream will come back to claim you, unless you have a strong tie to life."

"How am I suppose to do anything when I am in this form?" Sephiroth's current form gave him no more substance than a ghost.

"I can make you whole for perhaps a day," she had said, "during that time, you must find a soul to take into you in order to retain your solid body."

"What do you mean?"

"When a body is very close to death, the soul's grip on the physical body loosens. It is then that one may take that soul for yourself, if one knows how. Once you have that, the lifestream will not claim you - it will honor the life you have in you."

"Why have I never heard of this before?"

"Because the process of taking the soul into your body is very difficult - and - the body you take it from must remain alive. If you allow it to die, the lifestream will come to claim it, and you will taken as well."

"How can you keep you a body alive when it has no soul?" Sephiroth did not like her plan. It didn't seem feasible, and, he suspected she had never witnessed the process herself. It was too much of a gamble.

"Do we any other choice?" She had demanded, sensing his thoughts. "This is the only way. If you are called back the lifestream - it's all over - the Promised Land will not be ours, and the weak humans will have won! Is this what you want?"

Of course, that was exactly what Sephiroth did not want to hear - that the weak creatures would take his place in the Promised Land. That was his destiny, and he wasn't about to let them take it.

"Tell me what I have to do."

Jenova had explained, in long detail, the process she had worked out for him to take a soul so that he could evade the lifestream's hold. Again, Sephiroth had almost discarded the plan, for what it required of him revolted the ex-SOLDIER more than any killing that he had ever done. But she had countered his every qualm, until he realized there was no choice but what she gave him.

"Hold just a moment," she had said after giving him solidity to complete his task, "remember, whomever you choose will be residing in you until the time when we have gained the Promised Land. They will, at times, be able to speak to you. Choose carefully. You don't want to risk being distracted by someone you cannot control." Sephiroth had nodded, agreeing with her, but she was not finished. "I have selected a candidate for you already. You know her from many years ago. She was your guide when you journeyed in the north continent."

"She still lives?" Sephiroth had asked, somewhat amazed.

"That is what you meant, is it not?" Sephiroth had nodded once, sharply.

"How did you know that?"

"I was with you then, my son, I was always with you. How do you think you came up with the knowledge to deal with that little difficulty you had with her?" He had gasped and moved away from her, not realizing she had known. "Of course I knew! You should know that she still does not remember. The memory blocks are still in place. They will never come down - no one will ever know of what you did, so you needn't worry."

"I wasn't worried," he lied.

"I see. Go, then. She resides in Corel, where she operates an healing shop for the miners there."

And now, Sephiroth had her. And his mother's instructions rang clear. The snowy white expanse of the northern continent stretched out before him. He found a likely place and brought them down gently. Jyleth slowly came back to her senses, having fainted during the flight. Before she could become completely aware, Sephiroth drew his dagger from his belt. Still holding her firmly from behind, he moved his dagger to her neck and deftly sliced the artery there. A feeling of revulsion boiled in his stomach as he quickly lowered his mouth to her neck and drank the blood blossoming from the cut before it spilled away.

It was this he had found the most difficult of his mother's instructions. She had said that in order to coerce soul to himself, he must have something that the soul would recognize. Jenova had thought that blood would be the best possible choice, for it did not involve actually killing the victim, only bringing them to the brink of death.

Jyleth's body stiffened and arched against him as he drank, but she did not try to pull away, knowing it would be futile to do so. After the first few horrible swallows, Sephiroth found that the coppery liquid was becoming easier to take. He briefly wondered if his mother had anything to do about that, but dismissed the idea. It didn't matter really who was responsible. If it made his task easier, then it was good.

After several long minutes, he noticed the blood was beginning to thicken. He knew that this wound wasn't going to be enough, her body would seal it off before he accomplished his task. Lifting his head, he finished her body's attempt to close the wound with a small healing spell. Still holding the dagger, he slowly turned her around to face him. She was weak from the blood loss, her body nearly limp in his arms. He turned her head up to his, meeting her eyes. Not liking the loss of hope he saw there, he let her head drop back against his chest.

"This is a beautiful land," he said quietly, not really to her. "Beautiful, cold, and deadly."

"Like you," she breathed against his skin. Sephiroth looked down at her. Her cheek was laying across the conceit of his armor, open across the chest as an invitation for any who had the skill to get close enough to strike him there.

"Perhaps," he replied with a half-smile.

Get on with it.

His mother's voice can unbidden, an unwelcome intrusion. But she was right. He was wasting time with his sentimentality. He was above such foolish notions now. Being far superior to humans, he was not subject to their silly weaknesses, not subject to be ruled by his emotions.

Entwining his hand in her hair, he pulled her head back and brought the dagger to her neck once more. Careful not to meet her eyes, he lowered his head to her neck, timing the sharp movement of the dagger so that he wouldn't lose any of the blood this time. This time, when his mouth closed around the cut, he did not feel any revulsion as the hot blood rushed into his mouth. He drank eagerly at the wound, careful not to lose any of the liquid.

It was not long before her body began to sag against him. He dropped the dagger and wrapped his arm around her waist, keeping her pressed close to him. At the same time, he began the spell that would capture her soul. As his mother had told him, he could feel the soul trying to break free as the body began to fail. Toward the completion of the spell, the soul almost did pull away, but he released the spell, and the soul was caught and pulled into his body. Sephiroth raised his head from Jyleth's neck, knowing the next few moments were crucial. Laying her on the ground, he quickly cast the most powerful ice spell he had, encasing her body in ice, permanently fixing her at the brink of death. The cold of the northern continent would insure that she would not thaw out, and he was fairly certain that the remote location he had chose would prevent an accidental discovery. Of course, after a few months, no one would know that she was there, as the constant snowfall would complete her entombment.

Sephiroth then took a moment to focus on the soul inside his mind. He could feel her there, still weak and very much disoriented. Jenova's last instructions had shown him how to cage her in a corner of his mind, and he did now, while she was unaware. She felt his presence, and momentarily fought against his control, but she did was still very confused at her new situation, so he confined her with ease. Smiling at his victory, Sephiroth began his journey that would end once he had entered the Promised Land with his mother.

My, my, my, aren't we a little conceited?

Sephiroth's rebuke had not worked as he had meant it too, and now Jyleth grew stronger, overriding his concentration.

Go back to your place, he told her, I don't have the time for your games. He often wondered at his mother's choice. Jyleth had been anything but easily controlled since he had taken her. Even now, she still lingered at the edges of his mental horizon, teasing him with her existence outside the prison he had created for her. Often, he had had to resort to calling his mother to take the matter in hand. Her powers of the mind far exceeded his own, and she was always able to put Jyleth away. Perhaps that was what Jenova had intentioned - for him to always have need of her. He didn't like being controlled by his mother anymore than he had liked Shin-ra always trying to regulate his actions. But he could not complain, for her training had boosted his powers a tenfold.

Go back to you place, he told Jyleth again, or I will call-

Call your mother? Jyleth interrupted him. Mother, she mocked, make the bad girl go away! She's scaring me again!

Mother! Sephiroth called out, despite her mocking of him. He wasn't going to let her go any further. The moment he called for Jenova, however, Jyleth went back to her corner obediently, leaving him alone once more. He felt Jenova's presence coming to him, and he welcomed her.

Soon, his mother whispered to him as she embraced him, those silly, weak fools are coming to face you. We will defeat them, and then the Promised land will be ours.

Yes, he said, nodding his agreement. Soon, he would pass beyond this mortal, imperfect world.


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