Chapter 19

Sephiroth surveyed his new surroundings.

Like the Cetra facilities he had visited, the spire was lit by a glow that seemed to permeate the walls themselves. But where those facilities had been lit with a bright, sterile white light, this illumination was dim, with a faint greenish cast.

It was not a particularly pleasant effect.

The light shone only upon the section of the corridor that he and the other Destined Ones occupied, seemingly reacting to their presence. It could mean that the spire itself, or some entity controlling it, already knew of their entry. Even if that worst-case scenario proved false, though, it would be impossible to remain properly hidden if the glow gave them away.

"Can you dull this glow?" he whispered to Atriedes, who had come up alongside him.

Jowy nodded, patting the hilt of his talking sword. The Rune of the Night, he’d said it was. "I think so. We won’t be able to see too well, though. Ghaleon and I can use our magical senses, but you and Rufus-"

Shinra held up a pair of the devices he’d picked up in Bugenhagen’s arsenal. "These should do the trick," he said, sliding one over his eyes.

Sephiroth took the other pair, holding them up to see inside. They seemed to be some sort of night-vision goggles. He’d never used those ShinRa had provided, because his eyes saw farther across the spectrum than others’ did. But without the glow of the walls, there was no light within the spire.

He held the device up to his head. His eyes were immediately flooded with a bizarre vision, colors even he could not normally see. After a moment, he realized that it was the magical spectrum he was looking into, and the bright glow came from the walls. "There should be no difficulty."

Atriedes, whose own aura was completely hidden behind the abstract glow of the True Runes, drew the sword from his belt.

Sephiroth pushed the goggles down a bit. The light from the walls was completely absorbed by the sword’s power, hiding them from view. Only the blade itself still reflected the dull green glow.

"Let us move on," Ghaleon said.

"Indeed." Sephiroth started down the hallway, adapting to this new sensory data as he went. Although the auras of his companions bore little resemblance to their physical forms, the walls were clearly defined. And the more he concentrated on one of the others, the more distinct that individual’s form became.

He would not care to fight this way, but, combined with his other senses, it could make up for the loss of his sight.

They made far better progress through the winding tunnels of the spire than they had through the thick jungle. And the corridors seemed always to lead upwards.

Suddenly, they came to an opening, looking out over a chamber that was itself nearly large enough to swallow a city. Sephiroth held up his hand, hoping that the gesture would be understandable enough in the pseudo-real world of auras and magic.

He pushed up the Cetra goggles.

Here, the green light that permeated the halls was much brighter, offering its meager illumination to a vast chamber that surely had to fill most of the interior of the spire. Above and below, tier upon tier of walkways and terraces, all carved from the same black stone as the walls, crisscrossed the emptiness. The spire extended far below the level they had entered on, deep under the ground.

And everywhere, there were Espers.

Most were the sort they’d encountered outside, smallish and malnourished, their emaciated forms looking even more unnatural in the dim light. They milled about, moving without the desperate purpose of those outside.

Sephiroth thought of the lowest dregs of Midgar, those who had given up hope of escaping the city’s slums, either for a ShinRa career or the distant countryside, and had resigned themselves to living amongst the refuse of society.

No longer, he reminded himself. Such individuals had died along with those above them.

He pushed the past from his mind.

The Espers went about their tasks, working without much enthusiasm, but at a steady pace. He couldn’t see what those above were doing, but on the lower tiers, they toiled at great fields of fungus. Farms, perhaps?

"That’s the kind we fought in Burg, and I saw back home," Atriedes said, pointing at a pair of larger Espers that marched past the workers.

Neither of them were armed, but they carried themselves like soldiers. Sephiroth nodded. It seemed that this spire was where their enemies had come from. The weaker Espers scuttled aside to let these warriors pass.

Sephiroth looked up again, straining to see the ceiling of the chamber. It was far above them, but not as far as the top of the great spire would have been. The soldiers probably lived in the upper areas, and the elites such as Zalbard above them.

"Althena would be kept above these wretches," Ghaleon said. "We should not tarry here."

"Yes," Sephiroth said, adding, "the -Heirs- are probably kept above."

He did not need to see Ghaleon’s frown to know it was there. If the Player did not care about all three -Heirs-, or about the worlds, then that was his business. But Sephiroth could not allow such an outlook to get in the way of their mission.

"Then let’s get moving," Shinra said. "This place gives me the creeps."

Before Sephiroth could respond, the green glow faded, and the entire chamber was plunged into total darkness.