Chapter 5

Bugenhagen.

It seemed impossible to Sephiroth. The old man was a renowned scholar of the Planet and the stars. His writings had inspired the men who had finally put an end to Sephiroth’s madness, and it had incited them and countless others against ShinRa.

But a Cetra? And a leader among the Cetra, if the records were any indication.

It could, of course, be a coincidence. Bugenhagen might simply share a name with this Cetra in the records.

But Ghaleon’s discovery was the best lead any of them had uncovered, and it must be followed.

Sephiroth did not care to see the world above again. It was possible that there was nothing left. He had come close to destroying it. Come close? He knew not if he had succeeded in that monstrous task, for he had fallen before his transformation was complete.

Aeris and the other two Destined Ones stood on the transport station, waiting for him.

Sephiroth held up four of the environment masks stored in the station. "We should use these."

Aeris lowered her eyes, as Ghaleon and Atriedes exchanged confused glances. "We cannot know the state of the world above..." Sephiroth said, his voice nearly catching in his throat.

"You are right," said Aeris gently. She met his gaze and nodded.

Sephiroth slipped the mask on. A field, less intense than but similar to that of his energy blade, surrounded him, clinging tightly to his body like a second skin. He handed the others their masks.

They must do this.

If he had destroyed his world, this would be a pointless journey, for Bugenhagen would be dead. Everyone. Everything. All would be dead.

But he must face it. If there was even a chance...

They must do this.

He looked again to Aeris. "Let’s go," he said.

The Core facility dissolved around them, and Sephiroth looked up. The metal ceiling gave way to a bright orange sky, a sunset.

And around him, there were people. He turned to Aeris. She smiled.

Cosmo Canyon was little changed from the last time he’d seen it, what seemed a lifetime ago when he’d been leader of SOLDIER.

Now, as then, the people of the canyon fled at his arrival.

The makeshift buildings seemed to have been added to since his last visit, and there were many more people, but little had changed.

The world remained.

Sephiroth tore the mask from his face.

"What a quaint village," Ghaleon said, smirking. "I am certain that a Cetra lord would take up residence here."

Sephiroth could not contest his companion’s claim. Cosmo Canyon hardly looked like the domain of so important an individual as the one described in the Cetra records. But they must know for certain.

A man wearing a dusty brown coat stepped from one of the lower buildings, perhaps to see what the commotion was. He looked up.

His eyes were a piercing blue, intelligent and quick. His face, though hardened by sun and wind and with a thin layer of stubble, was unmistakable. A scar, inflicted when the face was younger and softer, ran up one side.

Rufus Shinra.

And in his hand, a raised carbine, pointed at Sephiroth’s chest.

Sephiroth’s energy blade leaped into his hands, almost of its own accord, and flickered to life.

"Stop!"

The voice came from behind Shinra. It was unquestionably old, ancient even. But something about it halted Sephiroth’s blade, and it seemed to have given Shinra pause as well.

Behind Shinra stood the man the Destined Ones had come to see.

Bugenhagen.

The old man floated out of the building and laid a hand on Shinra’ shoulder. "You do not wish to pull that trigger, young man," he said, his voice gentle yet firm.

"Wrong," Shinra said. His blue eyes burned with hatred.

Hatred for Sephiroth. And who could blame him?

"You do not truly believe you could kill Sephiroth, do you?" Bugenhagen asked.

Shinra shook his head, his eyes never leaving Sephiroth. "I’ll try."

"Please, stop," Aeris said. She stepped in front of Sephiroth and put her hand on his arm. "Sephiroth?"

Reluctantly, he lowered the blade.

A part of him wanted this man’s blood. Rufus Shinra, son of the man who had ordered the creation of SOLDIER. His enemy. Sephiroth had killed the elder Shinra, and he had always intended to finish the family off.

But that was all in the past.

Shinra still held the carbine, his hand trembling. "I..."

"Lower your gun, Rufus Shinra," Bugenhagen said. "These are the men I told you of."

Shinra blinked.

Sephiroth kept his face impassive. Perhaps this search had not been fruitless. If Bugenhagen knew of them, he might truly be the one spoken of in the records. Ghaleon and Atriedes certainly had not been to this world in the past, and Sephiroth was sure he was presumed dead.

Bugenhagen patted Shinra’ shoulder. "These are the other Destined Ones."