Revamped Chapter 1
By Tadhg Looney
"The map says left, then straight ahead."
"Whyd they build the damn memorial in the middle of the fuckin jungle, anyway?"
Ryan was getting seriously pissed off at this ridiculous trek. Hed suffered greatly from insect bites at the edge of Midgar Jungle and they were starting to itch. Hed come to the jungle expecting to fight off monsters with his partner Amy. He just didnt expect to have to do it with fly spray.
Not that there hadnt been plenty of larger creatures to fend off. Midgar Jungle was notorious for its denizens inhospitality. Amy and Ryan had come armed with the few weapons available to them in these hard times, mainly swords. Amy had a large dagger in her belt and held a longsword with little difficulty in her trained hands. Ryan had opted for two smaller swords, one in each hand. The swords were both three feet long and light, but any animal or monster which came within their reach immediately found itself being shredded by a blade too fast to see. Ryan had earned several prizes for his swordsmanship in Junon.
"I suppose because Midgar was where the whole thing began." replied Amy. "You know Avalanche."
"Load of crap." muttered Ryan with his usual surly tone. "You dont really believe all that happened, do you? Cloud and the others?"
"Ill believe what I want to, Ryan. And the Legend of Sephiroth is true."
"A myth seven hundred years old?"
"Seven hundred and fifty years."
Amy stopped and turned to Ryan. "If youre so damn sure that the legend is a fake, then why are you here? We came here to find the Aeris memorial, remember?"
"All right, prove me wrong."
They walked on in silence, only speaking when necessary. Suddenly Amy squeaked in a high voice.
"There! There! Its here!"
Ryan had been walking slightly behind when Amy made her discovery, and ran to catch up. He entered a clearing abruptly and his eyes widened in awe. A stone structure stood before him, the size of a large tomb, strewn with so much ivy it was almost obscured from view altogether. They might not have even noticed it if not for the clearing surrounding it. No plants grew around the memorial, the fertile earth was blocked by concrete slabs, cracked and worn by centuries of rain and powerful roots growing under them.
Amy was ripping vines off the structure, trying to find an inscription, a carving, anything. Ryan began to feel nervous, a feeling that they were not wanted here. He certainly felt that somebody or something knew they were here. Glad for any companionship, he knelt beside Amy.
Amy had cleared a suitable amount of ivy from the stone, and sat back heavily when she saw what she had uncovered. A small marble slab was set in the stone, and bore the words:
In loving memory of she who gave her life to save ours
She will not be forgotten.
" its really the Aeris Memorial " Amy was weeping with joy.
"Then its true." Ryan felt like he had been dealt a blow. The Legend of Sephiroth had been told to him often when he was a child, but he had never believed it. A mighty and malevolent power had arisen seven hundred and fifty years ago. It Sephiroth- had attempted to gain power through the Lifestream, and be reborn as a god. But nine warriors arrived from various corners of the globe and did battle with the Sephiroth and won. They used powers beyond the capability of any mortal man magic. Their fighting skills were without match, but one of the nine did not live to see the final battle. She gave her life to save the others for the sake of the Planet.
For all our sakes.
She will not be forgotten.
"Amy " Ryan was getting that feeling again. "I dont think we should be here "
Amy didnt hear him. "Help me." she said, pulling at more vines.
Ryans stomach churned, but he knelt to help her. She was paying him well, which had made him suspicious, but he was a mercenary for hire, and had accepted her proposal to traverse the jungle. She said she wanted proof of the Legend of Sephiroth, and had found an old document in the Cosmo Canyon archives about a memorial located at the center of the jungle. She had asked several others to accompany her, but Midgar was a dangerous place, left untouched since the destruction of Midgar City, and they had refused. Ryan was famous for his reputation as a fighter and he felt that this trek would suit to boost his fame.
Ryan looked around for the watcher he expected, but no-one was in view. Various ruins of sector walls and destroyed buildings were visible through the dense foliage.
"What are we looking for?" Ryan asked, not without apprehension.
"A way in, a handle, a crack, something!" Amy almost screamed.
Ryan stood up so quickly he swayed for a moment as his head swam. "IN?" he yelled, "Im not opening that!"
Amy continued her search. "Im paying you, now do it!"
"Fuck that! What arent you telling me? Whats in there?"
Amy looked up at Ryan. There was fire in her eyes. She would not be stopped in her task. Not by Ryan, not by anyone. "The books they speak of a survivor one of the Nine one who still lives here "
Ryan reeled. "Tha thats not possible. Seven hundred years "
"N no." Ryan didnt know what was going on, but he decided to get his priorities straight. And with that eerie presence he was close to panic.
"FOOL! You are nothing but a coward!" Amy returned to tearing at the vines. Suddenly she stopped. A rusty iron ring was in her grasp. Half standing, she dug her heels into the dirt and heaved on the ring.
"Stop!" Ryan was stricken with dread, now. He stumbled towards Amy to drive her away from the structure, but Amys fist connected solidly with his jaw, sending him blundering backwards where he landed hard on the concrete.
There was a low rumbling. Amy lost her grip on the ring when a wide drawer in the memorial began to move outwards. She fell backwards and scraped herself along the ground on her hands and heels, away from the moving stone.
The drawer continued to move with a grating sound. Ryan was paralysed with fear, now, and could not move an inch. After what seemed like an eternity, the drawer stopped at its full length. It had extended itself out from the tomb approximately seven feet. Ryan could not see in yet from his view from the ground, but his dread redoubled when a rustling sound emanated from the depths of the stone, as if cloth was being moved.
A figure sat up in the drawer. Its gaze sweeped across the clearing and came to rest on Ryan. His eyes bore into Ryans skull, as if the figure could see everything Ryan had stored away in his memory.
The figure was tall, his skin pale and his hair long and dark. A lock of it fell in front of his right eye as Ryan watched. Rotted cloth stuck to his skin in patches. It had probably been red once. Now it fell away as the stranger moved slightly. The figure placed his right hand on the edge of the drawer for support and turned away from Ryan, looking at Amy now, then back to Ryan. It he sat up straighter in the drawer, placing his left hand on the stone. Ryan nearly screamed when he saw the hand. It was not a hand at all, but a dangerous looking golden claw, its fingers tapering to razor-sharp points. "The legend " thought Ryan. "One of the Nine a vampire. Immortal, untouched by Time "
"Why have you awakened me?" asked Vincent.
Ryan heard a choking sound from his right. Amy was laughing. "Oh, shit." he thought, "Shes starting to lose it." She stood upright, not turning away from Vincent, and spoke.
"You " she stammered, " youre Vincent Valentine, one of the Nine who saved the Planet ?"
"I am," Vincents voice was calm but stern. "How long?"
"How long has it been?"
"S seven hundred years "
"Why are you here?"
"We searched for proof of the Legend. I I found a reference to the Aeris memorial in an old document in Cosmo Canyon."
"Then you have your proof. Leave me be. I wish only to sleep." Vincent lay back once more, and his left arm disappeared from view, much to Ryans relief.
"But you have to come with us!" Amy was hysterical. "This is fantastic. It will show everybody the truth!"
"Go!" Vincent yelled.
Ryan had staggered to his feet and moved to Amys side. This was not his fight, but his anger was pushing his fear aside. He had grown up in a large family in the Junon slums, and had faced many hardships. But his family had always supported each other. Even now, Ryan sent money home to his brothers and sisters still too young to work. But when Ryan remembered his childhood, he didnt remember the shortage of food, the sickness or poverty. He remembered the stories his father had told them every night without fail. His favorite had been the famous Legend of Sephiroth. Not because he believed it was true, but because his father had put a special focus on the story. He told of a group who tied themselves together like a family, facing challenges side by side, and overcoming odds by teamwork.
Now all that was coming to the surface in the face of this man who cared for nothing.
"Bastard." Ryan spat.
Vincent looked at him in amazement.
"Youll lie here for all eternity because you think you done everything that is necessary?"
Vincent had not heard a voice with so much venom in it for years, and listened.
"You hide from troubles because you dont care. We need you now, and you drive us away?"
"My troubles are my own." Vincent replied, his voice still calm. "The world has grown, and you can fight your monsters without my help."
"We are our own monsters!" Ryan shot back. "I have heard legends of the Nines abilities, and that is all they are believed to be, legends! We are forgetting the past!"
"Believe what you wish. I am not so vain as to want to be remembered for one victory."
Ryan, lacking for any collar to grab hold of, suddenly grabbed Vincents long hair and hauled him upright, forcing him to look at the memorial. Vincent was so surprised at the speed of the man, he made no counter-action, but yelled in pain.
"Look at the inscription, Valentine." Ryan hissed in Vincents ear. "This is all we have left of your group. A long-lost memorial in the middle of a forgotten jungle, and stories told so many times, we dont believe them anymore. She will not be forgotten. Hardly true, now, huh?"
Vincent went wide-eyed.
"Come with us. " Ryan continued. "Prove to the others what you have proved to me. For Cloud. For the others. For Aeris."
Vincent sagged, his hair freed. "For their memories I will come." He stood up and stepped onto the concrete. Amy, still astonished at Ryans outburst, stared.
Ryan tossed his backpack at Vincent. "And for Gods sake, put on some clothes."
It wasnt a long journey to the edge of Midgar Jungle, but seemed longer to Ryan because of the tense silence. Vincent didnt speak a word throughout the trip, and Amy only spoke when necessary, like giving directions. Ryan himself was rerunning all the stories his father had told him about Avalanche and their adventures. He wasnt sure if hed ever pluck up enough courage to talk to Vincent again, but he was going to have questions ready anyway.
After two hours walking, the group reached the abrupt edge of the jungle. Amys mapreading had been perfect, they hadnt strayed from the path once, and their truck was just over the next ridge. Still silent, Amy took the wheel.
"You sit in the front, Mr. Valentine." Ryan called over to him.
"If you would permit, I would rather stay in the back and stretch, thank you." Vincent climbed into the back of the truck among the supplies and equipment. He sat down on top of a few blankets and started working out the cricks in his stiff limbs. Two hours walking hadnt made up for three-quarters of a centurys sleep, obviously.
"Whatever." Ryan sat next to Amy in the cab, and gave her the signal to go.
Vincent groaned as he cracked his right elbow. He was sore all over. That was the worst part of the sleep, waking up. Even the nightmares couldnt compare, not that hed had any since Sephiroth died, thankfully. He remembered that after sleeping for almost thirty years, hed been woken up by Cloud. Never having slept for more than a night at a time before, Vincent had stood up a little too dramatically, by doing a backflip. His back had screamed at him all day after, but he refused to show it.
Working carefully, he undid the small catches in his left arm, and removed the claw. A small amount of dust spilled out, and he removed the rest using a paintbrush he found among some archeology tools. He reattached the arm and watched the scenery go past. From his experience, he knew it was impossible to get from Midgar to Junon (He presumed they were going to Junon, the truck was littered with junk labeled "Property of Junon University". Plus, the only shirt he could find in Ryans backpack that fit had "Junon Fencing Championships" on the front.), so they must be flying at some point. Did the northern half of the continent have an airfield now? He knew Ju
Abruptly, Vincent was plunged into darkness. A dwindling point of daylight was all that was visible. Turning around, he saw another point of light getting larger. Sometime in the last few years, theyd dug a tunnel through the mountains dividing the continent. He had a lot to learn about this new world. Obviously there had been a lot of changes.
The next change Vincent saw was several miles out of the borders of the Junon he used to know. Small shacks were beginning to appear at more and more regular intervals, families living in squalor in houses made of whatever debris they could find, normally wood and metal sheets, probably scavenged from the remains of Midgar. Women in shawls wandered around begging, children dressed in rags ran to and fro, playing in the dirt. There were no men to be seen anywhere. Vincent assumed that they were working to provide for their families. He had seen this before in the Midgar Slums. It was still horrific that human beings and yes a few of his old friend Red XIIIs unnamed species could live in such sordor.
The truck continued through the slums to the urban center of Junon. Vincent noted the resemblance to Midgar, the lights and music, the revelry of the inner city as opposed to the miserable poverty of the suburbs. Vincent recalled the short time he had spent in Cosmo Canyon and what Bugenhagen had explained to him, that all life returned to the planet and created new life elsewhere. He wondered if the same to applied to cities, since it seemed that once Midgar died, Junon rose up in Midgars image.
Eventually they arrived at a large pair of gates. Amy leaned out her window and ran a card through a scanner. The gates chimed softly and opened, allowing the trio in before closing behind them. There was a short tarmac path leading up to the main building. They passed a sign Vincent had been expecting: Junon University. Finally the truck parked in a space provided for "Staff members only" and Amy and Ryan got out, stretching from the long journey. Vincent jumped down and walked over to them.
"You both work here?" he asked.
Ryan shook his head. "Not me, Amys a lecturer here."
"I teach archeology." she said.
Vincent looked around at the campus. It was immaculately clean, no litter anywhere, and the grounds were well kept. The building was huge, he imagined it must be at least as big as the Shinra building used to be, but spread out only twenty floors high rather that seventy. He turned around to the way they had come and was rewarded with a fantastic view of the ocean. Looking down, he could see almost all of Junon. Finally he realized that JU must be situated where the giant machinery that powered the Mako Cannon was once. That meant that a vast amount of the university was underground, and what he could see must only be about two thirds of the whole building.
"Its getting late." Amy noted. "Perhaps Id better show Mr. Valentine his room."
Vincent turned. "My room?"
"The dorms arent completely full this early in the year. The term only starts tomorrow. Youll be there for the duration, until we can find you something else. Im sure you have no money."
Vincent fished in his pockets for the little money he had with him during the long sleep. It amounted to about twenty gil.
Amy peered at the coins, but shook her head. "These arent any good to you nowadays. We have a new currency, and these are just too common to be worth anything to a collector."
Vincent pocketed the change again and followed Amy through the door of the dorm building and down the corridor. Ryan followed them both, glancing around him. It was obvious that this was new to him too.
They reached a door marked "167" and Amy produced a key, handing it to Vincent.
"I hope youll find it adequate. Ill want you to meet the other lecturers and Department heads in the morning, so Ill call you around seven." She turned to Ryan. "Ill need you there too, Im afraid. Do you want to uh stay here too? I cant open any more rooms, so youll have to take the second bed in Mr. Valentines room. I wouldnt ask but since its almost three in the morning now, it seems stupid to walk back to your apartment which will take you at least an hour "
"Stay here? I suppose, if Mr. Valentine doesnt mind."
Vincent shrugged. "Whatever. Its not my room anyway."
"Thank you," Amy said. "Goodnight, Mr. Valentine. Ryan, can I talk to you for a second?"
Vincent walked into the room and sat down on the bed, listening. He could hear Amy and Ryan whispering outside.
"Keep an eye on him." Amy whispered.
"What do you think hes gonna do, Ame?"
"Just stay alert. I dont quite trust him yet. Im not even sure hes the real Vincent."
"Ame, you found him with clothes rotting on him in a memorial seven hundred years old. Hes pale, has sharp canines, a metal claw and fits the general description of the original Vincent. Who do you think he is?"
"Do it." she hissed. "Hes our greatest discovery in ages that can prove the Legend. If hes a fake or disappears, Ill be laughed out of the university."
Ryan looked down at his shoes. "All right, but I dont like spying, especially on someone this important."
"Ill add it to your final salary, okay?"
"Forget it, just make sure I can see this through. I want to be there when they announce his existence. The guys a hero."
Vincent gave up trying to listen in on their conversation and turned his attention to the room. It reminded him of his digs at Shinra Training Facilities. Two beds, two wardrobes and two bureaus. A single window was set in the wall between the beds. The previous occupant had left a poster on the wall above the left bed. "Save The Planet Kill Yourself." it declared. He wandered over to the window and looked out. He could still see the ocean and the bright lights of the city. So full of life.
Vincent thought about a philosophy that Cid had adopted all his life. "If you dont seize opportunities when they come, theyre gone forever and youre pretty much fucked." Vincent decided that as a philosophy, it probably could do with rephrasing, but it was true and the call of the city was too exciting.
"Ill make sure you get full credit for your part in this. Goodnight Ryan."
"Gnight Ame." Ryan strolled into his room as Amy walked downstairs. Damn, it was cold in here.
"Shit, Vince, whys it so cold?" He looked around. "Vince? Vincent?"
Then he spotted why it was so cold. The window was wide open, the curtains blowing in the breeze. Vincent was nowhere to be seen.
Tadhg Looney's Fanfiction