Chapter 10

Sephiroth stood before a stone wall in the cave under Bugenhagen’s home. Aeris and Shinra were gone, and he had to force himself not to wonder what they were saying. Bugenhagen had told the remaining Destined Ones that he wished to show them something.

The old Cetra placed his hand on the wall, spoke a few words, and the stone slid back, so quietly Sephiroth could barely hear it even in the still Cosmo night.

"The last arsenal of the Cetra," Bugenhagen said, and waved them inside. The door slid shut behind them.

The arsenal was most impressive.

"I brought these from the Core," Bugenhagen said, waving a wizened hand around the room. Indeed, the room itself might have been lifted straight from the Core, though it was circular rather than square. From the layer of dust that had covered the entrance, Sephiroth suspected it had not been used in a long time, perhaps never.

He’d been impressed with the array of equipment in the Core, but it seemed Bugenhagen had brought most of the best with him. Some of the devices resembled those ShinRa had issued to SOLDIER members, but others were unrecognizable to Sephiroth.

All looked dangerous.

"We have no need of these trinkets," Ghaleon said.

It was obvious that the Player was impatient to find the -Heirs-, or rather to find Althena. Sephiroth did not think his comrade’s obsession was prudent under the circumstances, but there was nothing he could do about it.

"Perhaps, Player," Bugenhagen said. He lifted a half-transparent, spherical object. It reminded Sephiroth of a Materia made of metal. Inside, he could faintly see nested layers of spinning metal rings. Bugenhagen tossed the sphere to Ghaleon.

"What is this?" the Player asked, holding the strange object up. The rings spun faster in his hand then they had in Bugenhagen’s.

Bugenhagen smiled. "It’s a spell forge. Magical energy that takes physical form, that we call Materia. You can use the spell forge to make Materia, although they also appear as a by-product of Mako refinement, and, occasionally, from the Lifestream itself."

Sephiroth left Ghaleon to the spell forge. He was more interested in the other equipment that ringed the walls of the room. Communications devices that might have been, probably were, the pattern for those used by SOLDIER, environment fields like those in the Core, harnesses for holding extra equipment...

"What’s this?" Atriedes asked, holding up a cylindrical item with two small Materia, both green, embedded in each end.

"Be careful with those, Bearer," Bugenhagen said. "They’re quite volatile. Push the button, release... I wouldn’t care to try catching that."

"A magical grenade," Sephiroth said, more impressed. He was surprised Bugenhagen hadn’t opened this armory for AVALANCHE. Perhaps a crisis for this world alone had not been enough.

Bugenhagen chuckled. "You could call it that. Better than ‘Combustible Magic Release System,’ eh?"

Sephiroth didn’t respond. His eyes were drawn to the sword rack at the back of the chamber. No blade lay in its metal grooves. But he knew of only one blade that would have been long enough to span the distance between them.

He looked to Bugenhagen.

The old Cetra’s smile had faded, and he nodded. "The Masamune," he said. "You didn’t know the Cetra created your blade, Seeker?"

Sephiroth shook his head.

"I’d hoped I could find it in the Core, but one of the arsenals was destroyed during the battle with JENOVA. Imagine my surprise to find the sword had turned up in your hands, hmm? It was more a curiosity piece than anything, until you came along, but I would have liked to get it back. Couldn’t find it in North Cave, though."

"That is unfortunate," Sephiroth said. Though he’d become accustomed to his energy blade, he would have far preferred his old sword. That steel was stronger than any magical field, and it was like an extension of his body when he fought.

But it was gone.

He would go without it.

He would also go without the Leader, if Rufus Shinra chose not to accompany them. The Prophecy required his presence, but retrieving the -Heirs- did not.

As if on cue, the door to the arsenal slid open. Shinra and Aeris stepped in. Sephiroth was puzzled by the expressions on their faces. He might ask, some day, when there was more time.

But not today.

"I’m coming," Shinra announced, the look on his face returning to one of sullen anger.

Sephiroth could understand this man’s hatred. It was, perhaps, even justified. But there was no time. He didn’t know how long finding the -Heirs- on the Esper world would take, and it was only a guess that the Espers had not just one, but all three. If not, the other two would also have to be found.

The past was done. The future was uncertain. Only the present, only the mission, mattered.

Sephiroth took one of the Cetra firearms from the wall and tossed it to the Leader.

Shinra caught it, looked it over, and slid it under his coat. Wordlessly - though Sephiroth had hardly expected thanks - he stalked past the others and began grabbing equipment. More guns, one of the armored vests, several other devices Sephiroth had not yet checked.

"I’m ready," he said, buckling the armor on without bothering to remove his coat.

"Destined Ones," Bugenhagen said, "it is time."

Aeris took a step forward, but the old Cetra put his hand on her shoulder. "I need you to remain here, little one. The Core must be prepared, and it requires Cetra hands. Besides, this battle is for the Destined Ones to fight."

"We need a Cetra to operate the RTD," Jowy pointed out. He was right. Without the portable teleportation device, they would have no way to return to the Core once they had recovered one or more of the -Heirs-.

"The Leader will be able to use it," Bugenhagen said.

Rufus Shinra... a Cetra? It was impossible. Yet Bugenhagen spoke without hesitation.

Sephiroth looked to Aeris, and, after a moment’s pause, she nodded. A faint smile crossed her face, or at least he thought it did. It could as easily have been his imagination.

He was surprised at the sudden anger he felt toward Shinra. Why should it matter to him what the Leader’s origins were, or what Aeris thought of those origins?

The now, the mission, was all that mattered.

"Let us go," he said, handing the RTD to Shinra.