The Fallen Chapter 5
With an exhausted groan, Rufus heaved his shotgun high above his head and, mustering what he would have swore was the last of his strength, brought it down to smash against the towering plant that loomed in his way, crushing the stem- though he would have called it a trunk- and sending all six feet of it crashing to the soil. He paused to stare, with entirely blank eyes, at the fruits of his labor and took the time to try to wipe his forehead with his already sweat drenched sleeve. Beside him Zack simply stabbed out with his sword, clearing a space twice as large as Rufus without exercising half of the effort. The young president shot Zack a look of complete and total annoyance, but couldnt sink to the level of asking him to take over clearing the way; the same way he simply couldnt ask Zack what the hell the tune hed been whistling non-stop was called. "So... Soldier.." he rasped out instead, voice catching and ripping in his bone dry throat, for Rufus had given up entirely on hiding his fatigue, "do you... see anything... you recognize?"
Zack was smart enough to hide the grin that fought to rise due to the slow, out of breath mumbling that was now Rufus only way of communication. It gave the Soldier a great deal of personal satisfaction to see that the leader of Shinra, although by no means fat, was horribly out of shape for any type of manual labor. In fact, Zack was actually forcing himself to move at a slower pace as to not leave his blonde companion behind. "Not really," he said, "but I know this sure as hell is not Gongana. Soldier simply pointed us and said go, they hardly ever even told us where we were being sent."
Rufus smirked. Hed managed to- although only to a small degree- knock the Soldier down a bit, or at least kept him from climbing even further up of the self-worth scale with his greater physicality and more suiting for the situation weapon. Peasants, his father had once told him, were simple enough to handle. You simply remind them that is exactly what they are, peasants. It was amazing how his dad had been so incredibly business wise but was stupid in absolutely every other aspect of the world. He hastily dropped the smirk from his face when he turned to look up, blinking into the harsh light coming down from above. "Yeah, just like a gun. You sure as hell make some good ammo though. Lets get going." Rufus made a step to continue on, but stopped as Zack quickly grabbed him by the elbow and held him still. The raven haired Gonganan had his head tilted to one side and was listening to something very intently. Rufus slowly looked around, saw nothing, then shot Zack a worried glance. "Uh..."
"Ssh!" Zack cut him off, letting go of Rufus arm and gripped the handle of his Buster sword with both hands. "I think we may have company."
Mirroring Zack in his sudden alert caution, Rufus raised his shotgun, but hadnt even got it all the way up when he felt something heavy and about the size of a globe slam into his back, sending both him and his weapon into the dirt. There was a loud ripping sound as his shirt was shredded open, and Rufus groaned as he felt 20 thick claws sink into his back and grind him into the ground, forcing the air from his lungs.
Zack stared for a moment, trying to identify the mess of dark, wet fur that was attacking his companion. It was about 2 feet long, and was just about as wide... in fact, it was pretty much that high as well. It resembled a hairy, spiky basketball, if you could ignore the two gleaming red eyes that peered out from under a tangle wire of fur. Zack leapt forward, and with one quick thrust, buried his sword deep... into a redwood tree. Stunned, Zack darted his gaze around to find the hair ball crouched all the way across the clearing, growling and hissing at him like some kind of bloated cat. Sparing Rufus a quick glance as the president rolled over towards his gun, Zack once again raised his sword and glared at the creature. "So," he growled, preparing to charge it. "your fast, huh? Lets see if you can out run this you ugly mother fu-"
The Soldiers barked out insult was turned into a breathless choke as he felt three heavy blows hit him from all sides, one into his stomach, another on his chest, and the third caved his legs in by hitting him in the back of the legs. Dust flew when he thudded against the ground, and he was swarmed be all 4 of the creatures, and his vision went red with blood as a paw swipe ripped his forehead open.
Now it was Rufus turn to watch the other get assailed, and without hesitation he snatched up his gun and took careful aim, finally finding a shot he could fire that wouldnt kill Zack as well as his attacker. Straight in the air. The blast from the gun shredded the leaves above, which then showered down over him like tear drops of chlorophyll, but hed managed to distract the things; even if it was only for a moment. Rufus sprinted forward and swung his gun like a baseball bat, catching one of them directly on its underneath and sending it flying into a tree. There was an audible snapping sound, but Rufus didnt hear it as he smashed the butt of his shotgun down right between the eyes of a second rat. Zack took advantage of the newly gotten maneuverability and backhanded the creature on his stomach so hard it cartwheel backwards, stunned, before rolling over and charging into the woods. The remaining thing tried to run but Zack spun his sword in his grip and stabbed down, piercing straight through its lower back and pinning it to the ground, prompting it to unleash a frantic, high pitched squeal, which suddenly cut off and was replaced by dead silence- an entirely unnerving turn of events, as it was obvious by the creatures squirms that it was still very much alive..
With a loud groan, Zack pulled himself up and looked around to make sure nothing else was coming, then turned back to Rufus, only to get a sudden mist of blood in his face as the Shinra forced the barrel of his gun into the pinned rats stomach and fired. The Gonganan wiped his eyes and flicked the liquid away, shooting Rufus a dozen glares at once. "What," he asked, "the hell, was that for?"
Rufus pointed at the remaining half of the creature with the tip of his gun, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "It was ripping itself loose," he winced, looking like he was about to be sick. Zack peered closer and realized that Rufus was right, the thing had actually been ready to rip the sword through its own lower abdomen to get away. How human like, he thought briefly, to kill yourself just to spite the men trying to kill you.
"Jesus," Zack muttered, surprised by the sudden bout of queasiness he felt, "what are these things?"
In answer Rufus flipped over the limp body of one of the still intact animals. "They look like rats," he ventured slowly, "really big rats. But they dont have tails."
Zack glanced up at him. "These arent normal rats, are they?"
Rufus frowned, something flickering across his face that was very nearly guilt, but not quite. "They must be... uh..."
"Mako rats," Zack finished for him, and Rufus looked away.
It was inside a small cottage in the woods just east of Midgar that a world with no Cetra become a world with two. The day was in that suspended pause between day and night where the sun was just a glimmering slit on the horizon, and even through the thick foliage that hung above you could see the sky in all of its reddish hue. The cottage itself, however, was pocketed in a completely camouflaged corner of the forest, and had almost no view of the sun, the sky, or even the horizon, and those things had no view of it- which was, of course, the point.
The cottage was simple enough. A square, wooden box, with a deceptively large number of doors and an unsettlingly small amount of doors, and with two beds lying side by side. The two individuals who lay in those beds, however, were an entirely different matter. There were no two on the Planet whos story, when told in full, could be less simple than theirs.
The first was of a gentle build, shallow curves that were barely visible beneath the pink dress she had sewn herself, features as delicate as the flower she wore at her neck as a brooch and had pawned off on the streets of Midgar, not in an effort for gil but instead to spread some color to the bleak place. Her head was haloed in flowing auburn hair that fell around her shoulders, and if her eyes had been open, it would have exaggerated the sparkling emerald green glow inside them.
The other could have been easily mistaken for a god. He towered above almost every other man on the Planet at an even 7 feet, with wide set shoulders that would have appeared massive even without the white and golden armored shoulder pads he has strapped around them. His actual body was slim- not that anyone would be able to tell due to the full body cloak he wore- but still contained an unbelievable amount of muscle and power. His eyes- also closed- truthfully mirrored the shade of the lady who lay in the bed beside him, but appeared almost gray due to the long, silver hair that fell back between his shoulder blades.
Time passed without effect, without meaning, with neither of them as much as drawing in a breath or batting an eyelash. The sun crept down behind the mountains, casting black shadows throughout the forest and covering the cabin in darkness, only to rise again in the morning, peaking over the rolling hills of Kalm. Beams of light darted through the forest and between the trees, but only when the first ray of sun snaked through the cottages only window and entered the room in which the two currently resided did the pair move, each suddenly gasping air into lungs that hadnt functioned in months.
Aeris Gainsborough rose first, sitting straight up and opening her eyes. She peered loftily around the room for a moment, before sliding out of bed and pushing straight her all too cheerful pink dress, then paused, staring down at her hands as if shed never seen them before. She wiggled her fingers almost playfully, and a bright grin split across her face. Almost skipping, she turned around to face her still immobile companion. "Oh I know youre awake Sephiroth," she said, growing a little more serious, "so quit pretending. We have a lot of preparation to get through."
The giant of a man in the bed exhaled deeply, apparently resigning to a conversation with Aeris that he obviously felt would be as annoying as it would be pointless. "Quiet women!" he snapped, still moving nothing but his mouth, "Im trying to remember the exact moment my life became a living hell."
Aeris was in no mood to repeat an argument shed made over a dozen times before, so she simply tsked and reached under her bed, pulling out a staff that would normal be considered a simple walking stick if not for a very intricate protrusion at the top. "Probably," she quipped, "when you decided to burn Nibelheim to the ground."
At this Sephiroth opened his eyes, even if it was just to shoot Aeris a look of both hatred and disbelief. His gaze no longer shone with that maniacal glaze, but still glew brightly with an intensity that only the eagles had mastered. "Normally," he began, voice hinting with a jagged edge of amusement, "I would allow you the point here just so I could get your voice out of my mind all the faster, but I still maintain that what the truth of my heritage did to my mind should get me off on at least a few of the actions that sprouted from that point. Insanity doesnt couple seamlessly with accountability. In fact, theyre not even close."
The flower girl sighed, brushing her hair to the side and turning away, not wanting to dispute the argument that the Planet itself has apparently accepted- for if it hadnt, Sephiroth wouldnt be lying there. She brushed around the room for a few minutes, trying to appear busy, but soon lost her patience. She needed Sephiroths help with what they were going to have to do, she couldnt carry two unconscious men herself. "All right!" she said reluctantly, "now what are you doing??"
As if realizing his unwanted companion was not planning to shut up anytime in the near future, Sephiroth finally got to his feet, brushed even the unusually raised ceiling with the high portions of his hair as he did so. He glanced down as the bed as if expecting something to happen, and when it didnt, knelt down and pulled out his Masanume. "I was imagining that this was all a dream. A bad dream. Especially you."
Aeris couldnt believe the Soldiers gall. "You were given a second chance that most people can only dream of and beg for! Not just the chance to save your name here on earth, but your soul for the rest of eternity! I hope you understand if you end up getting no empathy from me."
Sephiroth glanced down the edge of his sword and tilted his head, scanning the blade and smiling a grim smile of razor sharp teeth in approval. There wasnt a dent or a nick in it, which wasnt bad for over a year of not being treated. "No, Ancient, imagining that what happened before I died was a dream," Sephiroth mumbled, slicing the air effortlessly with a few practice swings, "that the ignorant fool had stayed home with his bar maid whore, instead of meddling in my business and forcing me to end up aiding... you... in saving this worthless hunk of rock."
Aeris only shrugged, glad that shed gotten him moving at least. "Well," she offered, "you could always go back to burning in the Lifestream until the end of time. You had the option to stay then and you have the option to go back now."
Sephiroth sheathed his sword and tucked it inside his trench coat, where for some inexplicable reason it disappeared from sight. "You really do miss the point," he said, no longer seeming like he was even talking to her. "If this world has to go on existing I would much prefer it remembered me and trembled at that memory than a world ruled by my so called father."
Aeris smiled, a much nicer smile than Sephiroth could ever manage to produce. Even a normal person could detect the hidden meanings behind those few words, and she had much more awareness of what happened in the world around her than any normal person. But beyond that, something better. Sephiroth was finally ready to get to work. It had taken 12 months of burning, but he was ready. Not a moment too soon, either, the Planet had been growing as anxious as she lately. "I guess," she said, "you can stay in here while the others come around."
Sephiroth was silent, but he turned around to face her, face mingled with confusion. You could tell his mind was working hard, looking for some check or balance hed missed to cause that statement so he wouldnt need to ask. Aeris, not wanting to waste anymore time, answering his unasked question before he ended up hurting something. "You arent planning to reveal yourself to them, are you?"
The towering Solider snorted and turned away, realizing hed been thrown off guard by yet another stupid weakling frailty. It never ceased to amaze him that a girl from an entire line of Cetra, an entire race awarded the title of the Planets helpers, could be so amazingly human. He couldnt care less if Strife of Rufus never wanted to see him again, he never felt like seeing them again either. "Theyll get over it," he sneered, staring out the cottage window as a hawk dive-bombed from above, crushing the life from some unseen creature with steely yellow talons.
It was Aeris turn to be thrown off a little. "Get over what?" she asked, "theyll kill you!"
Sephiroth tensed up, involuntarily grabbing the hilt of his sword and squeezing hard, causing the biceps on his arm ripple like a nest full of pythons. Talons. "Cloud Strife," Sephiroth said in a dangerously low voice. Strife. The Mouse. "Strife was never worthy to hold my materia. I," Hawk, "could crush his skull in my fist if I didnt think his hair would stab through my hand."
Aeris almost gave up and let the point go, starting out the door, but realized losing a few more minutes of time was an easy price to pay if she didnt have to listen to this kind of talk for the weeks to come. "Cloud killed you. Just Cloud. All alone, in that cavern in the Northern Crater. This time youd have not only him, but all of his friends, all of Shinra, and all of the Turks going for your blood." And then she continued out of the room, leaving him no time to reply.
Sephiroth stared blankly after her, anger smoldering in his eyes. The words of a foolish optimist rang in his ears, because thats what Aeris simply was. She assumed that everything would go by plan, that those three groups of men would even get into the house without several homicides taking place on the door step. Stupid. They would all die, they would all fail, and then at the very least he could get back to resting, fires or no.
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