Desire Unfulfilled: Vincent's Tale
Alone on the cliffside, motionless, he stood, his gaze reaching outward across the ocean, the blue water dappled with rays of the setting sun. The radiant sphere had dipped most of its fiery body below the horizon; dusk had begun to set in. His thoughts floated about, passing, transient, over all that had happened. Sephiroth was dead; indeed, he had been a part of his defeat and a witness to his final moments. Again he had found Lucrecia. Again he let her slip away, past the hands that longed to hold her in his strong embrace. He ran the fingertips of his right hand along the golden metal gauntlet that was now a part of him. The howling wind numbed his real fingers as they moved up and down the artificial metallic hand. So much had been taken away from him. His life, his love, truly his very humanity had been cruelly stripped from him. But there was something, or rather someone, whom he could and would find again.
'Tomorrow I will begin. I will find her,' he mused, a sense of fierce determination coursing through him.
He laid down on the rough rubble, joining his hands behind his head, his eyes scanning the twilit sky. He closed his eyes as the cold blanket of night wrapped itself around his body. The chill kept him awake, his mind still alert and active, his thoughts again freely wandering about.
The sun meekly broke the horizon, letting the first rays radiate outward, slowly covering the landscape with its blessed light. The light of dawn reached Vincent's eyes and they clenched tighter, until the intensity forced them to acquiesce and open. He raised himself up, dusting off his cloak as he moved with deliberation to his feet. He stretched his hands to the sky, grasping to reach the stars that served as small fiery sentinels as he slept. He craned his neck to look out over the land, then down the cliffside on the summit of which he stood. One thought circulated through his mind.
He turned and, moving cautiously down the precipice, began his descent, his first steps on his journey.
The sun was still climbing toward its peak once he reached the nadir. He walked on, his first destination a clear image in his mind.
He reached the gate of Nibelheim in late afternoon, for the sun had been well into its descent toward the horizon. He pulled his cloak higher about his face so as not to attract any unwanted attention. He strode through the gate confidently; it felt good to be "home." So many memorable, though not all pleasant, things had happened to him here; perhaps he could add a reunion with his life-long love to the list. As the citizens bustled in the streets, some followed him with their gazes as he passed by, others briefly glancing at him, then returning to their individual tasks. They gave him looks of fear, puzzlement, and still other emotions. He felt their looks of suspicion penetrate deep into him. Still he pressed on, doing his best to ignore them and drive them from his thoughts. He followed a narrow dirt path leading to the most visible structure in town-the Shinra Mansion. Even when it was first constructed, the building looked eerie, its dark appearance accented by the perpetually dead trees that cast their tangled shadows across its drab exterior. The wooden support beams had been rotted through, nibbled at by assorted insects, the windows long since shattered by mischievous delinquents leaving bits of broken glass along the ground, the paint chipped and peeling like it was trying to detach itself from the mansion. Then, just as now, it looked abandoned and decrepit. A chill wind blew across him; he shivered as the draft ran up his spine. He placed a hand on the rusty brass doorknob, took a deep breath, and entered.
The door creaked loudly as it swung open. He released the knob and let the door return to its arch. He took a few steps forward, his footfalls echoing off the walls. The house's interior was just as unsettling as its exterior. A sullen mood permeated the place. The oak floorboards creaked as they nudged at each other, after all these years still unable to find a comfortable position. Light filtered in through the slits on the shutters, giving the deep blue surface of the floor the strange appearance of glowing. As the breeze had its way with the shutters, the sunlight grew and faded, making the room seem alive and breathing. If these walls could talk, only the words of tragedy would escape their mouths. This place seemed to breed pain and torment. He almost felt foolish to be searching for her in such a place. But he would leave no stone unturned. His eyes wandered around the room; this mansion was always so familiar and yet so alien.
A great staircase, its wooden boards in utter disrepair, beckoned to him. He climbed the stairs, turned right at the top, and ventured into a large bedroom. He moved his clawed hand into a small crevice, almost invisible to the naked eye, running the length of the wall. Giving a strong push, he forced the wall away and moved forward. A large circular staircase, centered around a great gaping hole, spiraled down and down before him. He proceeded down, hoping he'd find her beyond these seldom-trodden stairs of stone. Through a cold, dark hallway and then another room he walked. He recalled what was behind another secret panel there. It was the room where he was sentenced to sleep after Hojo had transformed him from the man he was into this, this shadow of humanity.
Many years he'd spent there in quiet, tranquil solitude. There was nothing for him to do but think inside the coffin he had been placed in. He thought of little-only how he would exact revenge on Hojo and how he'd find Lucrecia. He chuckled under his breath at how it had all seemed to come full circle now. He stood in the antechamber to the small office beyond the densely populated bookshelves. A small candle cast its feeble light in the room; he couldn't see any more than a few feet ahead of him. A table, long enough for someone to lie down on, was pushed off to one side. He moved closer toward it and leaned both his hands on it. Again his mind recalled what had happened to him here. It was so long ago yet the image was as vivid as if it were yesterday. By accident he had come upon the secret passage and it led him down into a strange lab. There he found Hojo observing, calculating, recording. He saw his chance to talk with Hojo about Lucrecia. He argued with Hojo; he didn't remember the conversation, but it was hardly worth remembering. There was one thing Hojo had said that still resounded through Vincent's mind even to this day.
He said, "Lucrecia is MINE, do you understand?" A small chuckle. "Of course you don't. Your feeble mind can't possibly comprehend my plan."
Disgusted and having accomplished nothing, Vincent left in frustration. Hojo murmured something about not letting him leave, can't let him leave, pulled out a small handgun, and fired. Clear through his heart. He didn't know what happened after that. Hojo had done something to him that changed him into what he was now, and, for that, Hojo paid the ultimate price.
The claw-like fingers of his false hand dug deep into the metal as he remembered the rage he'd then felt. The screech it caused snapped him back to the present. Taking the candle in his gold gauntlet he entered into the office room. His heart sank as he saw that it was empty. A desk lamp was switched on, but no one was to be found. He slammed his fist into a bookshelf to vent his ire. A single notebook page fell gently to the ground. He picked it up.
"- - XX. The woman has been very compliant. She has no choice really. If she refuses to obey I can merely increase the Jenova cell effect of the fetus and control her through them. It's remarkable really."
He stopped, refusing to read any further. A new rage consumed him as he crumpled the paper and threw it to the ground. Hojo had violated the woman he loved as if she were a guinea pig, a plaything for his twisted experiments. He wanted to lash out at something, anything. But Hojo was dead; the damage had been done. Brooding about it wouldn't help any. Suddenly a thought flashed across his mind.
'That explains it.'
He picked up the paper, uncrumpled it, and tucked it into his belt. Though he didn't yet find her, it wasn't entirely for naught. He received a revelation in the form of this journal page that soothed an unrest he held within him for far too long. He darted out of the mansion, a renewed vigor pushing him onward.
He disembarked from the ship and surveyed the white landscape that stretched before him. He had been fortunate to catch an excavation team's barge headed for the northern continent. As his eyes wandered, they came to rest upon the North Crater. The spectacle stood towering over the horizon, a grim reminder of his beloved's "son." Suddenly he found his thoughts whisked back to the lakeside cave. Then he had been so near to her that he could see tears streaming down her soft cheeks. It was then that he told her Sephiroth was dead, untruth though it was. It pained him to think how he had lied, but his intent was only to spare her the anguish the truth would cause. His body ached to be by her side then, just as now, but then there was a mission to fulfill-destroy Sephiroth. Now, however, nothing was holding him back.
He made his way into Bone Village, the prime excavation site around the world. There was buried treasure to be found by those with the patience and diligence to dig deep into the earth. Some of the diggers glanced up from their holes in the dirt, others paid him no attention at all. These people had more important things to do than scrutinize some traveler, which suited him just fine. He stood before the Sleeping Forest and could hear, faintly, the soporific melody. From a pouch on his side he retrieved the Lunar Harp, whose sweet song would allow him passage. A gentle strum of the strings and the thicket parted. He sped quickly among the trees, anxiety taking hold of his feet. He rushed through the Coral Valley Cave, his body bounding like a blur up the great conch shell that served as the area's only landmark. After passing through a deep trench he finally arrived at the City of the Ancients.
Again, unpleasant memories were rekindled within Vincent. Still he'd vowed to find her. He had come this far; he could not, would not, turn back now. He felt the desire to call out her name, to hear it out loud and let it carry through the air.
"Lucrecia," he shouted.
No response. The wind swept about, snow whipping against him, then swirling away. A numbness slowly worked its way through him, attempting to force him to turn back. He wrapped his cloak tightly about him and ran into each of the houses. Not a sign. He proceeded toward the altar-like structure that was farther on, by the lake. He arrived at the bottom of the stairwell and stood in front of the domed space. Another painful event had taken place here. Here Sephiroth, his raging insanity near a fever pitch, had mercilessly slain Aeris. She had prayed for Holy, a force that would destroy Sephiroth's precious Meteor. She was so young, so innocent. Though he had known her only a very short while, she was dear to him, as she was to everyone else. She didn't deserve the fate that was given to her. He peered out over the placid water, undisturbed by anything. Somewhere, down in the dark depths, Aeris lay. But he did not come here to bemoan the past. He sat down and leaned his chin on his fist. He was quickly running out of options. Then it hit him. He knew where she was, where she had to be. It would be quite a long trek by foot. With a mental thought, a strange force coursed through his body as it morphed from his humanoid form into something far more fearsome. Large black wings with red folds of skin protruded from his back. His body grew larger and darker. Bulging black arms and legs erupted from beneath his clothing, sharp talons sprouting from the edges of his fingers and toes. His head shifted into a large demon-like face, three spikes crowning the top, a mouth full of razor-sharp fangs crossing the black face. A mighty flap of his massive wings and he was airborne. He flew faster than he'd ever moved, certain he'd finally find her.
As soon as he landed he morphed back into his humanoid shape. He fell to sitting, his breathing labored and ragged. Finally to be with her, to hold her again. Now he'd feel whole. So many words unsaid, feelings unvoiced, desires unfulfilled. She was just inside, beyond the waterfall, in the lakeside cave. He could feel it. How he had not realized it before he wasn't sure. But that was all behind him. Now he only saw his and her present and future. He breathed deeply and stepped into the cave.
The stones shimmered softly within the small cave. It was just as he remembered it and just as he expected it. Sure enough, upon the natural altar, Lucrecia sat, unmoving, concentrating as if in prayer. His footfalls resounded off the walls and reached her ears. She turned, surprised by another's presence. Her expression softened as she saw who it was.
The gentle whisper of his name on her lips had surprised him a little. He had almost forgotten how lovely her voice sounded. He longed to simply rush up to her and embrace her. What should he say to her? Speechlessness held his tongue; no words could be forced from his mouth, save for that of her name.
"I was praying that Sephiroth's soul would be safe," she said in reply to his unspoken question. Vincent didn't believe that madman had a soul; if he ever did, he forfeited it long ago. "I wish I could have seen him one last time, could have said goodbye." He moved closer so that she was only a few feet in front of him.
"Lucrecia, though he is gone he will always be with you as long as you remember him. You know that."
She sniffled loudly; he hadn't noticed she had been crying. "So what makes you think I wanted to be found?"
"You you knew I was looking for you?"
"Just a feeling," she said with a half-smile. "I never felt as if you'd give up on me. I felt safe when I was with you. But then " she trailed off. He knew what she was thinking. She had spurned him once. But that had been a lifetime ago. He pulled out the notebook page.
"You were a different person then. The Lucrecia I loved was buried beneath Hojo's experiment." She moved to her feet and was handed the paper. She read it.
"So you knew?"
"I didn't find it until recently."
"All that time you didn't know. And still you pursued me. Why?"
"Because the words your eyes spoke every time we met, the longing in your voice. I knew that you felt the love I felt for you. And just as you said, I'd never give up on you."
She ran to him and threw her arms around his neck and they kissed. A feeling of utter warmth and joy, a comforting touch, ran through his body. His human hand ran his fingers through her auburn hair then caressing her soft cheeks that were still wet from her tears. He had not felt this in what had seemed like an eternity. Suddenly he felt all his efforts, all the torture, all the cruelty he'd endured were worth it. Every second of it. And now he had everything he'd ever needed.
"So," she said glancing up into his eyes, "does this mean we start over?"
"What other choice is there?"
Their lips touch again and as they part he draws her closer into his arms, tighter, and gently, ever so gently, whispers his promise to never let her go. And she replied that she would never let him, as tears, not of sorrow, but of joy, trickle down her cheek.