Chapter 6

The portal behind Sephiroth disappeared.

It was good to be out of the facility. The thought of spending the rest of his days there had been less than appealing.

Of course, if he had done so, those days would not have been numerous.

Sephiroth did not believe in destiny. If he had, he would have thought this a prime example of it. If he had not been defeated, if he had not fallen into that particular current in the lifestream, if, as all logic dictated, Aeris had not decided to heal him, if she had not stumbled upon the recording...

He shook his head.

Well, if not, then in less than a year, it would cease to matter.

He looked down at Aeris, who had sunk to her knees in the thick, green grass. “Are you all right?” he asked.

She nodded. “It just feels so good to be in the sun again,” she said.

Sephiroth pulled her to her feet. “We have, at most, a year in which to find three -Heirs-, with only the vaguest information as to their location, using technologies we have only begun to understand, and with any number of possible enemies.”

“Yes?”

“And you are concerned about sunlight.”

She nodded again.

He shook his head. He hadn’t wanted to bring her with him. She was a liability, pure and simple. Better to have just sent her back to the surface.

But the Remote Teleportation Device he needed to travel to and from the Core required a Cetra’s touch to activate.

And Aeris was the only Cetra alive to operate it.

In Sephiroth’s opinion, the Cetra had been extremely short-sighted. Their prophetic master plan, more concerned with keeping the power of the Core from being abused than with using it to accomplish their ends, struck him as stupid and wasteful.

Of course, if the -Heirs- had been in the Core facility when Jenova came...

Destiny, again?

Or blind luck?

It didn’t matter. Not to him.

Soon, unless he did something about it, it would not matter to anyone.

The world was going to end in about a year. Not just his world, but many. Many worlds - he hadn’t even known they existed. Now, to make up for nearly destroying his own, he would try and save them all.

A fitting penance for such a sin.

“Let’s go,” he snapped, and began walking.

Once they’d discovered the danger, and the prophecy which told how to avert it, the urgency of their efforts to decipher the records had increased considerably. That had led them to the gate device.

Hopefully, it had led them to understand it. Aeris claimed that they could access it remotely. He had no choice but to trust her.

It was not a pleasant thought.

Rather than dwell on it, Sephiroth focused on the present. He needed to remain alert, anyway. He could not allow himself to drop his guard. If he did, it would cost both their lives.

This world was not unlike his own. The wilderness which they had arrived in was green and heavily forested. Even the plants were similar. Rarely had he seen such towering trees, however, or such thick grass beneath them.

“It’s almost as if the sun shines all the time here,” Aeris said, following his own thoughts.

He looked up - it was difficult to see through the thick canopy of trees, but...

“Perhaps,” he said, “it does.” His mind had been trained for combat, but the calculations which kept him alive on the battlefield were useful elsewhere, as well. “If that large moon has roughly equal mass to the world, then it could become tidally locked, with light reflecting from the moon onto the planet. The only ‘night’ would be when this world caused a lunar eclipse - that could be as rare as once every few weeks, by our standards, and would almost certainly be less common than the night created by planetary rotation.”

She blinked.

Cetra she might be, but her education left something to be desired.

His eyes shifted back down to the surface. He held up one hand, while the other slid to the energy blade at his waist. Thankfully, Aeris stopped at his signal.

“What is it?” she whispered.

“It,” he said, “is a city.”

Because of the thick woods, the city below had escaped his notice until he was almost upon it. He slowly crept forward until he could get a better look, then, deciding it was safe, waved her forward.

It was hard to believe that the bustling port town could escape anyone’s notice at any distance. Although it was technologically a far cry from Midgar, it was nearly the same size. From what he could see, Sephiroth could only assume that it had grown quite swiftly - the outlying buildings reminded him of nothing more than the barracks ShinRa had built to house SOLDIERs on campaign. They kept the rain off the heads of those within, but that was their only virtue. In contrast, the inner buildings were large and opulent, even gaudy.

“If we are to find an -Heir-, I would say that is the place to look,” he said.

“I wouldn’t think an -Heir- would live in a place like that,” Aeris pointed out. “Wouldn’t they be more likely to be in some sort of temple or palace?”

He sighed. “Quite possibly. But cities are the surest source of information, and unless the local temple or palace simply escaped my notice, information is the best we can hope for at this point.”

“Oh,” she said.

He started down toward the city.

The descent was simple for Sephiroth. Unfortunately, it was not so simple for Aeris, and he had to help her the entire way down. How much time was he going to lose getting her through situations that would not have presented him with any challenge?

Hopefully, he would find some use for her.

When the reached the foot of the hill, Sephiroth had to revise his opinion of the city. These buildings lacked even the one virtue of those prefabricated barracks - he doubted that rain would be kept out by the poorly built wooden roofs.

The people were not much better. By far the majority were quite obviously armed, mostly with swords. A few carried crossbows of various shapes and sizes, and here and there he saw what looked like extremely primitive firearms. They apparently felt weapons a more important purchase than decent clothing - most were dressed only one step up from rags, in simple undyed tunics and wrapped leggings.

Better to spend as little time here as possible.

He grabbed one of the few unarmed passerbys. “I am looking for someone,” he said.

The man looked down at Sephiroth’s hand on his arm. He shrugged and tried to pull away.

Sephiroth held on.

The man muttered something under his breath, and a biting cold shot through Sephiroth’s outstretched arm. Instinctively, he pulled back, and the man, unconcerned, went on his way.

Now Sephiroth knew why some of the people weren’t armed.

Definitely better to leave as soon as possible.

“We should try in there,” he said, pointing to a large shack that, from the crudely painted sign which hung above it, he assumed was a tavern. He didn’t wait for Aeris to acknowledge what he’d said.

The inside of the tavern lived up to its exterior, and then some. The smell of alcohol, and of the cheapest sort, filled it. The patrons were, if anything, even more dangerous looking than the pedestrians outside.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Aeris whispered.

Sephiroth nodded.

He walked up to the bar and pushed a semi-conscious man off one of the stools. Without a second glance, he sat.

The reaction was immediate.

Four other patrons got to their feet, the bartender reached for a crossbow, and Aeris gasped.

A moment later, four other patrons had joined the first on the floor, although they were not even semi-conscious. Sephiroth looked down at the crossbow bolt he had caught just before it pierced his arm, then tossed it aside.

The bartender slowly lowered his weapon.

“I’m looking for someone,” Sephiroth said, “named Althena.”