What Lies Within Chapter 2

By Shenara

“They call it a Shadow Eater.” Zack continues along the hallway until it opens into a large chamber with multiple exits. The mass of black spikes that serves as Zack’s hair bobs, as he seemingly thinks about which tunnel to choose. After a short moment , he shrugs, and sets off down one of them.

“They? You mean the Cetra.” ::Look at how he baits you into conversation! He is toying with you!:: Were it anyone other than Zack baiting me like this, I'd probably be annoyed. ::Annoyed? You would kill them outright!:: But Zack always liked to make sure that I was paying attention. ::That's no excuse!:: It's just like old times...

“Yeah, them. Personally, I prefer to call it Rupert.” Zack stops in mid-stride and turns to face me his lips spreading in another charming smirk. “Do you remember?”

::He thinks to test you with stupid games?!:: I snort. “Rupert… Rupert Clandstine. A young noble cursed to walk the Planet, seeking out the dead who refused to rest, until he cleansed the world of their kind.” ::Why do you play his games?:: I continue on the path past Zack, who stares at me, slack-jawed.

“Hey! All those midnight story-telling sessions really did make it into your skull. And here I’d always thought I was just wasting my time.” Zack chuckles to himself and starts to trod down the corridor alongside me.

::He's laughing at you. None have that right!:: I feel dizzy for a moment as the world around me turns slightly red. I close my eyes and shake my head softly. I open them again and my vision has cleared.

“So why is this ‘Rupert’ after us?” I stop in the middle of the corridor, swiveling on my feet to face Zack. “You can’t mean that we’re…” I notice my own voice trailing off as I realize the meaning of Zack's pet-name for the beast.

“Dead?” Zack gives a staccato laugh. “’Fraid so, Sephy.” He looks at me cheerfully for a second but immediately sobers. “You didn’t honestly think that you’d survive Cloud’s wrath after all you’ve put him through, did you?”

I suddenly feel dizzy again and collapse to my knees. My vision clouds crimson as my mind focuses on one word. Dead. After all that I’ve been through… NO! ::You have the blood of Jenova, you can’t be dead!::

“Dead?! Then tell me Zack, why I still feel!” I climb back up to my feet, once more the confident Soldier. Taking the sad expression on Zack’s face for admittance of defeat, I continue. “Tell me why I haven’t returned to the Planet! I’m not dead! How can a god die?!”

My eyes widen as a new thought hits me. ::He isn't real.::

“You… you’re not Zack. Zack is dead, and you… you will follow him for your mockery!” ::Yes! Kill the human!:: I leap to my feet and grab the uniformed Soldier by his throat, lifting him off the ground with ease.

I look into the eyes of shining blue, staring at me beneath locks of ebony. The impostor doesn’t struggle, and I take this as a final signal of victory. ::Yes! He recognizes your superiority! Now kill him!:: I feel the familiar bloodlust rising within me and my fingers tighten around Zack's throat, the razor sharp nails incising small cuts upon the surface of his skin. I start to grin as I feel my old demeanor that was awakend by this impostor recede, making way for my usual demonic cravings.

::Would you… Kill me?::

The voice rings clearly through my head, and a surprised shriek resonates in my skull.

::Right here, like this?::

My grip loosens, my nails no longer drawing blood. I feel dizzy again and a vision of darkness consumes my mind.

::Just like old times, huh?::

A scene plays in my mind unbidden, forcing the demonic darkness to fade. The battle in Nibelheim’s reactor five years earlier begins to replay in vivid detail. I see it as an observer, as I often did during my trips into the Lifestream. Everything is as I remembered it. The glossy shine of Zack’s hair and the glint in his eyes as he faces me, his mentor. The twitching of his cheeks as he raises his gigantic sword above his head. The tears, streaming down his determined face as he charges towards the other me.

There's a bright flash, and then the reactor is covered in darkness. Zack's voice calls out, echoing in the shadow. I stare around in confusion - this has never happened before. The darkness fades, converging at the base of the Jenova capsule. It covers the other version of me, and my doppelganger sprouts demonic wings of energy, his lips turning up in a viscious snarl. The twisted memory then draws his own sword and charges Zack.

“Can you really do it again, Seph?”

The question dances around my skull. I run forward frantically, filled with a feeling of urgency as I try to change what I know is going to happen. I'm not getting there fast enough though, and I watch in horror as the demon before me swings his sword in a graceful, but deadly arc. The blade whistles through the air, and I start to scream as Zack bends into the blow rather than trying to avoid it as he always did before in my dreams. A sharp 'Clang!' echoes through the Reactor, followed by the painful scraping sound of steel on steel. I stare in amazement as sparks fly from Zack's single shoulder-guard, where it meets the blade of the demon.

“Never again, Seph.”

Zack brings his own sword to bear as he closes in on the demon, smacking it visciously across the skull with the flat of his blade. The demon flies across the reactor, flying over machinery and pipes before coming to rest against a wall with a resounding thud. Zack spits at the demon and then he turns to face me, a genuine smile slowly spreading across his face, "Never again."

The darkness starts to fade back into my vision just as I notice that my cheeks are damp. The darkness grows as I ponder the dampness - the Reactor isn't that cold... and I haven't been swimming? I realize that I'm crying as I sink past the darkness.

Crying... crying... cry...

Chapter 3

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic