<–Chapter 19 Chapter 21–>
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its characters, and settings are all property of Square Enix so I can take no credit nor claim any ownership of that. I do take some credit for the story’s plot.
Banner Artwork Disclaimer: The featured artwork for the banner is entitled White rose I and was created by the very talented Deviant Artist RemusSirion who was gracious enough to grant me permission to use it here. The picture has been slightly altered from the original. All rights belong to the artist, and links are included for both the artist page and the work.
Chapter artwork disclaimer: the featured artwork for this chapter is by HACHIMITSUBANI. THE PICTURE HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY ALTERED IN APPEARANCE AND TO INCLUDE THE CHAPTER NUMBER AND TITLE. ALL RIGHTS BELONG TO THE ARTIST.
*******MAJOR CONTENT WARNING*******
Consistent and sustained graphic descriptions and mentions of rape/ sexual assault, sexual slavery/bondage, slavery, human trafficking, physical abuse, graphic descriptions of violence, mental abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, body shaming, starvation, torture, forced pregnancy, forced childbirth, miscarriage, forced miscarriage, abortion, and other potential disturbing and triggering topics.
- The Night King by Ramin Djawadi
- Heed Our Warning from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Movie Score
- Into Dust by Mazzy Star
I listened to all three of these while writing/editing this chapter.
Sephiroth fulfills the promise he made to Aeris the day he found her.
The sky above Midgar was blood tinged in haze with the remnants of sun on its edges. It bathed the dead city in crimson fall, but meant nothing to those far below. For those above it meant nothing either, for they were long gone and fled. Cracked concrete and twisted street lamps paid homage to once reigning estates, and the tower of course, that monolith mighty, still ever raped the sky.
Down, down below in what once was a church, a greasy man counted his gil. A tongue darted out over thin lips, as pitted eyes shone bright with glee. It was more money then he’d ever held, and his “business” was profitable. A chain skittered past his flurry of feet as the slaver paced, thumbing his bills. He glanced up and around where stained glass smeared the light to fall upon his fellows. All were busy with the same occupation…and in planning restock of “supplies.”
The doors did not creak but a shiver of cold caused the man to look up. A vision unseen in half of a year darkened what light reached the slums. His hands didn’t flutter because he held gil, but the slaver quick stove it away. Wringing damp fingers, he flashed slimy smile regretful in supplication.
“Great General, oh! Oh, you’ve returned. I’m sorry I’ve no more wares. We’re all full cleaned out. The last was sold no more’n an hour ago. You wouldn’t believe the wealth of demand. Men of means and great appetite.” He straightened tawdry clothes on ungainly form so shadowed by greatness and pale. The angelic face could’ve been a wall for what expression was held therein. Large fists in their leather tightened unseen, nearly splitting the tough, shiny skin. The fool slaver tittered and puttered about, sweeping chains ‘neath a pew with his foot. “But who cares about that. Let’s talk about you! How are you liking the girl? I know you enjoyed her. She was my best. Her tiny cunt was exquisite.” He could not help but muse as he chuckled, missing wrath that could empty all worlds. “No matter how many men she amused, it always remained tight and wet. But I’m sure you know that by now. What’s it been, over half a year?”
Silence ruled mask shrouded by silver, as the slaver grinned with slightest shrug. The general had always been an impassive man, but the girl had surely pleased him. There had never once been any complaint even from those who preferred her not breeding. No matter the time nor her condition, that cunt was always a dream. “I’m sure by now you’ve well experienced the satisfaction of her screams. I miss her still, Great General…” Beady eyes turned to bright stone. “Perhaps,” he wheedled the figure unmoving save for the grip of his fist. “Perhaps we could make a dea-”
The blow to his jaw spun him several times before the slaver crashed through an old pew. A length of steel penetrated his stomach, bleeding fat, and parting ribs. His screams called herald to all of his ilk who looked up from courting their greed. Like cockroaches scattered, but Sephiroth cared not. They would soon know the press of his heels. He withdrew the sword once and stabbed him through the groin, fulfilling the promise so made, and filth actually clawed at that blessed blade before larger hands crushed his fingers.
Sephiroth kept the sword in and leaned down casually, as moonlight framed his stark face. The dying looked up to winter’s epitaph, his parted his lips bubbled with blood. Then his back arched as black burst from his wounds, and broken hands clutched at his skull. The Great General tilted his head as though musing, while his victim shrieked below. The truth here was odd and strangely ironic. He’d not used his powers, and yet they had grown: the ability to rip minds apart. Slice through each thought, dismember all dreams, obliterate every belief. Force his victims to burn with one image before they pleaded with him for death. As if dormancy increased his will so he could fulfill this dark task.
Pupils narrowed sharp as a scythe to see Aeris upon her knees. The tiny maid wept for water, begging this wretch who now stood tall above. A meaty fist smashed into her cheek and the little Cetra went flying. She struck a wall and slid to the floor, quivering as she bled. Trying to cage the cries in her throat so they escaped in whimpering breaths. Then her master sauntered over, undoing his belt with a leer. She tried to sit up with her broken hands, when merciless leather ripped through her flesh. Failing in scream, Aeris curled in a ball to the rain of endless blows. All she could cry was, “Mercy, mercy,” until finally her voice, too, was torn. Curling in hard to skin taut on ribs that were far too fragile a fortress. All the time her master smiled in showing his possession “her place.” When her back was a blood feast and his arm was tired, he lowered his pants to finish the lesson…
Sephiroth slide the Masamune through hip bone, and the church had never heard such singing. “Are you crying for me as she cried for you? Are these sobs worth a hundred years?” He drew out the steel, slow as a lover who wants to savor the joy. Kicking the wretched onto his belly, he struck him with the flat of the blade. The wounds were too great to curl into torment, and that only increased his screams. The Great General struck him again and again ‘til his garb became bloody rags. The sword streamed with red was still cold on his neck when Sephiroth placed the tip there.
“Beg me for mercy.” His lips barely moved, and the slaver could only whimper. “Beg me for grace. Sing me the song of your death.”
Blood curls erupted as he eased the blade in like playing a harp wrought in steel. It was not aimed to saw his spine nor deep enough to call blessed darkness. Thus, the man begged for his only release, and Sephiroth stilled his hand.
“She will live as a queen. You will burn in the dark, and the Planet will know your crimes. Where you are going no flowers grow, and only fire will sing your end. You will live to bathe in flames, and I will never forget how you scream.”
With that he slid away, and pristine silver swirled fragrant wind in his wake. The tip of the sword was bright with blood, but its work had barely begun. Mako eyes seared the dusty air, as the Great General inhaled. He blocked out the weeping that dwelled close behind. His objective now lay elsewhere. Perfect lips curled up in a smile, while the stench of fear clung to his nostrils. Two other hearts assailed his ears, and one fool dared whisper to pray, but even if wisdom had moved him to silence, Sephiroth would’ve tasted his mind. All rung clear in absolute terror, and the fallen fed on it like feast. Shame would come later. Shame for his joy in hunting these vermin down.
Slats of old wood were piled near the edge of a fading pew. Sephiroth splintered it with the stomp of a boot, lifting a wretch out by the throat. The dead man shrieked with what wind was allowed, as he scratched against armor unyielding. Like a cat amused by a wingless fly, the general gazed up at his prey. When he bored through his mind, the man jerked and twitched, near convulsing upon the invasion.
“I didn’t touch her! N-Never, sir!” Then he screamed as his mind was flayed raw. Hands turned to useless claws in the air that did nothing against leather or strength. Those slits in pure emerald sliced through all thoughts, every wish, each foul dream ‘til he found it. Then Mako light seared over his face in heated, frozen rush.
“Speak again,” the general commanded, “and ensure the full truth flows from your lips.”
“I…didn’t touch her,” the man blubbered hollow. “I just…I-I just watched.”
“Yes, you watched and you enjoyed it, because you could not pay the price, but if you could, you’d dwell amongst those I intend to castrate today.” With a gloved thumb Sephiroth reached up and the wretch writhed in desperation, but the general’s strength was inexorable, and he had waited too long. There was no mercy within him this day. His soul bathed in Aeris’s tears.
Dust fell from the rafters in the force of those shrieks, but Sephiroth was nothing but calm. Slow as the caress of a careful lover he buried his thumb in the socket. The orb bulged out blue and frantic before twitching to hang from its stem. Almost gently, black leather pinched the nerve before ripping the eye from his head. Bile rose in his victim’s throat as the remaining organ blurred, but Sephiroth merely tightened his grip, and the man spluttered as he swallowed.
Lighting the palette of now suffering so he would always remember, but then to his mind came her vision in cower, and Sephiroth’s grip did slip. At that last moment, his thumb crunched through the eggshell thin skull right behind. The sound in held throat could’ve out-harshed a crow as the soon to be body stiffened. In exasperation only for himself, Sephiroth slid his hand farther back. Bone and brain already smeared his one thumb, so it mattered not when more bloomed to crushed skull. He dropped the foul mess, annoyed he would not be entertained by eyeless sobs.
The other heart increased its patter when its owner took running chance. The fallen became the watcher now, as the rat tried to scamper away. He fled from the church beneath Mako gaze, but remaining vermin were vanquished. The dying once master still whimpered and jerked. Sephiroth mused upon spilling his bowels. No, he might die before my work’s done, and I want him to witness it all. Silent step disturbed no boards nor dead beds where once hopeful flowers had bloomed. In rising dust, Sephiroth witnessed the past before it blinked back to this century’s horror.
That first night was hard. She’d called Myrna and Nellie who’d both come right away. Explaining to them and holding her tears, but her friends needed no explanation. The summons above made Aeris jump and she tiptoed to the door. There was a camera so that she could see exactly who’d come to call. Dusty, warm Myrna (flour did stain) and flushed Nellie greeted her there. She hurried them in and relocked the door, resetting alarms near to panic. Only her thumbprint (or of course his) could open that portal again. There was also a pass code along with the regular safety of lock and key.
Aeris made tea and in friends’ company nearly forgot she was alone.
“You’re not alone, dearest,” Myrna assured, and Nellie drank to that. The baker imbibed, but Aeris stayed sober. She didn’t want to be sotted alone. Myrna and Nellie would not stay the night, and Aeris wouldn’t impose. Though there were guestrooms and these were her friends, and asking would not be in vain…
They did leave quite late, though Myrna did ask if she was sure she’d be alright. Aeris nodded and painted a smile on her worried, pink lips. The “older” woman narrowed her eyes, but supporting Nellie she couldn’t quite argue. Her lush friend patted her on the cheek, a bit harder than would be desired, but Aeris had lived through far, far worse, and did not even rub her blushed flesh.
That night with her door closed and locked, too, she reminded herself she was safe. He’s gone out to hunt many times before, b-but I’d always awake in his arms. M-Maybe this hunting will take just as long and I’ll open my eyes in embrace. Alas that dream did not come to pass, though her night was still full of him. Upon the shore, he stood just watching the lonely waves near the seam. His eyesight was perfect so that he could see every dip and wash. Aeris ran to him, and he slowly turned, raising a finger to bid her to wait. The Cetra’s feet froze on the sand as if he’d commanded her step, as if he were again her master. Though he’d say he never was…
She decided she’d dress herself every day as if everything were normal. Why have all these clothes if she wouldn’t wear them? She’d had nothing for far too long.
Despite solitude, Aeris still only donned one of his shirts when she slept. Heaven’s Gate was fully secure and she’d no intention of leaving. She’d looked in the fridge and almost wept at how much food he’d prepared. Her belly was queasy for the situation, so she ate much less than usual. Thinking of her Great General’s return did not help at all to tame it. The sensation of sitting upon his lap, his powerful arms around. His thick fingers so very careful, massaging her fragile hands. A slight smile would lift, as he paused in the midst before gentle kisses rained down. Aeris would squirm however slightly and his eyes would deepen to jade. A low chuckle would escape his throat as he murmured, “My mischievous flower…how shall we play? Will you allow me the gentlest game?”
“Yes,” she exclaimed, awakened from nap as her insides attempted to calm. Flushed so pink her skin could be burnt, Aeris caught her breath. It was only past noon on the first full day, and chestnut fell disheveled. Narrowing summer, Aeris decided she’d do something about this, too.
She’d looked up hairstyles and practiced for hours, gleeful she finally could. In Sephiroth’s absence she had many to try, bind up, and then unwind. I’ll do a different one every day until my general’s return. Her ornate vanity reflected a face as gorgeous as its bearer was modest, but she kicked her heels (that dangled of course) as she switched on the circling lights. She brushed her hair first and did hold some envy that hers was prone to tangle. Unlike his silver like watered silk, flowing from crown to calves. He should have a halo, she thought with a giggle before thought of his rue made it poignant. He’d never agree and claim he’s unworthy to even touch my hand. Aeris refused to let sorrow drown what hope was trying to bloom. She turned to her laptop, studying pictures and words before lifting her hands.
The first one was simple, a biased braid from her temple across to her ear, but then another sight caught her eye and she found herself making rose bud. He says I’m a flower, and when winter’s over, I can bear them once again. She had plenty of hairclips, more than enough pins, and an abundance of patience and time. There was also the mass of chestnut hair that easily passed her own knees. Even high braided, the long tail of it bumped against her thighs.
She finished two roses behind her crown with flouncing “stems” of soft hair. The rest of the tresses she braided behind in a thick, twisted plait down her back. Just for a flourish, she put in some flowers, tiny baby’s breath ‘round the blooms. Finding the mirror again with flushed cheeks, Aeris tilted her head. She also had makeup, but had never used it, and her lips seemed pink enough. The Cetra did wonder what her lashes would look like with a fraction of his length. Though Sephiroth insisted hers were quite lovely, they didn’t compare to an angel’s grace.
For clothing she donned a pink and white dress, the former hue for the skirt. The bodice bore white rose florets to match with the ones in her hair. No straps accompanied and Aeris rubbed her shoulders, clutch trembling over that scar. She slid on soft shoes with giant pink bows and diamonds of rosy hue. The one incongruence was emerald bracelet where the gems tricked her into seeing slivers.
Before her large mirror, the Cetra decided that she liked the way she looked. Spinning around so the skirt flared and danced as high as her bare hips. The howling wind outside her window jerked Aeris towards her balcony. The outer screen rippled but it always held, nor was draft allowed into her warmth. Slim shoulders and legs were dually exposed, but that didn’t matter at all. She was in her house in her bedroom. I could be n-naked if I wished. Maybe then he’d believe me wh-when I asked… She covered her face dissolving to giggles. Nor did the Cetra have to turn to realize the blush had conquered her skin.
Aeris ate lunch then sat in the library, reading to daylight’s wane. ‘Til the Dreaming Sea swayed and slid out the window as night lit to myriad stars. The thick book of poems she could barely carry, unsure what burned her eyes as she read:
“Let us go…”
…over and over, over and over again. The words blurred like dust motes tossed in a storm, and the Cetra abandoned this quest. She thought about calling Myrna and Nellie, but did not want to bother. Instead she made tea and watched the sunset by the window side. Cerulean bore pale paint swirls that were deepened by sun and sea, and the little maid sighed, wishing to lean back and be caught in the strongest of arms. Instead the wall met her to slide cold on her spine. She was unsure why she whimpered at that.
Outside the once haven, he sniffed the still air. The scent hung for him to follow. Erratic thoughts called him, pleas for mercy to bathe his uncaring ears. There were so many others ensconced in the hovels, attempting to hide in the slums. The word was now spreading. Pale death had come, bearing a merciless sword. The must escape. All had to flee. Run from the pitiless light.
Sephiroth did not run. He needed not. There was nowhere for them to hide. The rats could scurry and cling to the walls, but the cat would always find them. Relentlessly stalking on silent black boots, he needed no vision to hunt. Though it seared through the corridors and the dark streets in herald of death in the gloom. He could shut emerald eyes and still seek them all, as the wrath remained burning behind.
Out the church and through the dead slums, Mako lit rancid darkness. Slicing through it like fire through ice, while the breath of that one bathed his ears. The tears on his cheeks lent salt to his scent, as he tried hiding in sunken hollow. The general swiftly kicked in the door so debris spun through rotten wood splinters.
“I could find you.” His low voice soothed and cajoled. “I could always find you. There’s nowhere in the dark you could hide.”
Reeking pissed fear wrinkled his nose, but did not disturb terrible smile. Sword drawn and weeping, yearning for blood, as once this man yearned for tight cunt. He fled out the back, pumping his arms as if magically he would take flight.
Sephiroth ducked through the low portal as graceful as ever he’d been. Standing up straight he shook out his hair so moonlight poured through the murk. Beneath that dark cover of concrete and steel, the heavens had come to wreak horror. Choking for breath, the man glanced back and a strangled sob twisted his lips. Unhurried, unrushed, death remained there, never ceasing in its approach. The monster that chases all down in deep dreams where you awaken before it can strike, but no morning would dawn to sunder with light that even the eldritch would fear.
“You can flee as you want. You can waste breath in screams. Did she scream for you as well?”
Sephiroth called him. Sephiroth asked, and the man almost paused to temptation. That low, soothing voice was near a caress in question to the accused. His feet said to run, but peace stroked his mind and told him he should face light. It would be loveliness men would die to see, glory beyond sun at night.
“Did she waste her breath? Did you show her mercy?”
The man wobbled as words pierced his mind. He should answer. He should give him truth. Greatness did so demand. His fingers clawed forward as if his flesh knew what his mind had been coaxed to ignore. He dragged himself round in jerky half motions, his feet turning on cracked concrete. The remnants of metal and broken machines littered the passageway. Waning streetlight could not compete with the shimmer of green so cold, and when the wretch turned, that stalking death faced him, peering down for required response.
Mako matched neon as Sephiroth then bored his will through a screaming mind. Cracking it open like a rib cage whose heart shuddered to be so exposed, and the fallen cared nothing that those screams manifested to real ones echoed through dust. He ripped through emotions, memories, dreams until he caught sight of his flower. Then her screams melded with the condemned, and the harmony burned through his soul.
Aeris was weeping, naked and chained on a bed that held no comfort. Sunken and filthy with dried seed and her blood, one once summer eye was swelled shut. The other stared up in silent pleading for her lips were swollen as well. Not from kisses. She had not known those ‘til he placed the first on her brow. Only her ankles were bound apart for the man liked to hold her down, feel her feeble struggles as tender flesh tore around. She was on her stomach to give him rear access, and she tried not to whimper, but couldn’t. Her belly was marred with bruises, and she was forced to lay on them fresh. The Cetra had dared to beg for water, just a tiny sip. She was starving, too, but would not risk the chance of pleading for sustenance. But water, just water, drawn from a tap, and she could fetch it herself. She’d do anything, any at all to slake the throat closing thirst, but Aeris had done nothing to warrant such “gift,” and now he would make her pay.
He shoved meaty fingers into her deeper than taut petals could endure. The tiny maid wailed, squirming in anguish as he taunted, “Drink.” He twisted his hand and held her wrists down as the Cetra convulsed within agony. “What have you done to deserve water? I’ve barely gotten my money’s worth. Do you know how much I paid for you?” He forced fingers deeper and Aeris bit the foul mattress to try hold the tortured screams in. “Beg me again. See what happens. Come on…beg me again.” Apologies ripped themselves from her throat muffled in mattress and tears.
The wails echoed in the fallen’s ears and Mako light washed his skin paler. There was no expression Sephiroth could form, and no blink could catch his rush. He clutched the man’s throat, but did not lift now. This one had a different death waiting. Instead black leather closed into fist, as he banished the sword here unneeded. The requirement now was to return the abuse meted out on the helpless and broken. Even on those with more muscle than her, the organs within are still soft. Swift churned to jelly and ever rib shattered, sliced lungs filled with viscera.
Sephiroth released him. As the dying fell, the general recalled the sword to lash him cross the stomach. He rolled to his side, struggling to breathe as blood filled what should’ve held air.
“Will you beg me?” he asked. “Can you?” he taunted. “See what happens if you do. Beg me.” He ordered and the dead had no choice. He used his last air for such pleas. He begged the fallen. He begged the gods. He prayed this was a dream.
Sephiroth laughed without any mirth, circling his victim round. Never did slivers leave the remains of what had tortured his flower.
“The only dream you have is death and your only god is silence.”
The dying covered his face, unable to bear the judgment of emerald in ice, and Sephiroth kicked him in the stomach to draw out more blood-soaked screams. Eventually silence was all he could give until he full gagged in convulsions. Blood seeped from his teeth onto the cold ground in the wake of his final breath.
The general left him only annoyed this one would not join the finale. You killed him too soon. Death came too easy. What matter? It will find them all. He scoured that section of the slums, and his superior senses found all. If they’d done nothing, he told them, “Get out. Leave the city now.” And they fled, away from death in thanks he’d passed them over. Sephiroth ignored them, wanting no laud, needing only satisfaction. He would skim for a mere taste of their minds, and judge them unguilty right then. If they’d raped others, he killed with his own guilt that he could not make them fully pay.
The next day it rained, and Aeris did sigh. She’d considered venturing out. High above sands, still safe and sound on her balcony. Or my garden. How could I forget? That space on the roof had been quite forsaken now that flowers adorned room and hall. The earth was at rest until coming spring. Though I could practice with my staff. The maid made a face. What good is practice without a perfect partner? They’d done it more than just that one time, and she’d yet to strike him still, but Sephiroth insisted she was growing better, and the staff sat well in her hands. If I had this…if I had this… She crumpled to the floor. Hugging her knees, the tiny maid rocked. Would it have done any good? Would they just have snatched and broken it over my body for daring to fight? I-It doesn’t matter, she told herself. They’ll never harm me again. Blinking, the flower maid took in her room, her window, her canopied bed. Her still drying hair and bathrobed form. Breakfast was resting well in her stomach, and she’d another style to try. Clearing her eyes, she rewashed her face and went to her vanity.
The Cetra brushed wavy chestnut til it straightened then wove it low near the nape of her neck. Pins and hairclips with turquoise and jade decorated the tightened bun. For finishing touches, she slid on a headband adorned with emeralds and pearls. Her dress was longer on this day, for that memory shook her hard. It did dip low between her breasts, and the skirts were wispy and green. It made her eyes shine near as bright as his, and she missed that Mako gleam. Aeris hoped he would return in this time so her general could see how they matched, but she passed out while watching her laptop, though she woke to ringing text. Gasping with joy, Aeris snatched at her phone and felt guilty for her disappointment.
She could almost see Myrna bustling about her kitchen. In fact she could see her if she went to the roof. She could wave as the sea hushed behind. Shaking her head, Aeris drew back to the reality now at hand.
Yes. Everything’s fine. He still isn’t back, but I’m okay. I know that I’m safe.
Good. If you need anything just yell. I’m making lemon pies. I can bring one over if you wish and a new recipe for hot chocolate.
Aeris bit her lip as the words blurred before. Even now it was hard to believe. She had a home, a life, and friends. She wasn’t a slave any more. The beautiful dress caressing her skin cost more than six months of her “renting.” Covering her eyes, she shook her head, as her thighs squeezed tightly together. Two hundred and thirty-one days, she thought. It still resonated through silence.
“Thank you…” she whispered as she typed it, but the words weren’t for Myrna alone.
Her neighbor kept her promise and brought all over with Emaline, too. She made the hot chocolate, but showed Aeris how as the maid read to her friend’s daughter. Somehow the words seemed more useful in being heard by other ears. Then Em wanted to go collect shells by the sea, but poor Aeris paled at the thought. Myrna patted her hand in understanding and promised they’d bring her some back. The Cetra sipped chocolate by the bright window, watching her friends and wishing for courage. My only “courage” is killing the men who raped and abused me for years. Maybe one day I can find my own, but for now, he’s all I have.
In the sector that once held the brothel, he found the man who’d given her the worst scar. The second worse, the general conceded. Mine no longer mars her skin. The wretch had been in the midst of pleading when Sephiroth opened him from shoulder to hip. Then he ordered, “Beg for me for death,” in eruption of entrails and blood. The second cut spun silver away from the feast of gore and white bone, but he still succeeded in destroying that which had violated her hundreds of times.
He’d bought her often and loved making here cower, as he decided which whip he would use. He’d make her play the Number Game, using two if she didn’t choose one. He’d quite a collection, and the weal she now bore came from a day the small maid had collapsed. Her chains were so heavy, and she was so weak from starvation and abuse. Her purchaser dragged her, grinning with joy to test out his newest scourge. Aeris had done what any would have presented with such situation. He had caught her savoring scraps and had beaten her til she miscarried…
The man’s jaw remained frozen for precious few moments then worked like a dog on a rag. He’d looked down and witnessed his hands cupped in his own released viscera. Sticky and warm as his legs gave way before nightmare draped in black.
“Did she cower for you?” Sephiroth asked, circling around the soon-to-be dead. His leather coat swept up the foul of the slums, but silver scent turned it to sweet. “Did she beg you for mercy? Did you enjoy her bleeding screams?’
The man’s mouth continued to pulse like a fish tasting air for the first and last time, and he could not help but follow the banner of silver slid silently on. It was a beacon, the herald of shadows coming to drag him down.
Sephiroth found the first of many who’d injured her tiny hands. Taken them, broken them, shattered slim bones as she screamed and pleaded and begged. As she apologized for her transgressions, as she promised them she would be good. By this time, the Cetra had long forgotten what gentleness even meant. Men’s hands existed to break fragile bones, fists to change pale flesh to bruise.
The general had cornered this particular rat and pierced his mind like a thousand swords. He gave up his secrets with shrieking ease and the echo of snapping bone. Holding out hands to ward off the rush, but the fallen had waited too long. He remembered the first time he’d brushed slender fingers and froze over pain’s memory. And how she had wept, oh, how she had wept when she realized he’d not do the same. She’d squeezed his hand as hard as she could and then wailed he’d destroy hers so frail.
The Great General caught the man’s thick wrist and crushed it with no hint of effort. His other hand clawed at the fallen’s chest as the condemned fell to his knees. Pale glory looked down at the descent still holding the ruined limb. He broke every bone in ever finger one by one by one. Then slowly, deliberately rolled the other wrist in his grip so the bones crunched tight. Like brothers-in-arms they were stuck together and would die together as well. Emerald erupted like myriad stars on the twisted face below. He wanted to watch every nuance of torture as this filth had done with his rose.
He had enjoyed it, her helpless pain as she asked him what she had done. It had been nothing…merely a scratch as he’d pulverized her insides. It had just happened. Aeris lashed out, unable to take the pain. His cheek bore a scratch that did not bleed, but the man had been enraged. He’d broken that finger and promised the Cetra that he would break more if she moved. Aeris had tried. She really had. She tried to remain still as stone, but it was too painful. It hurt far too much and at tortured depth, she had writhed. He snapped her pinky casually and then struck her hard when she screamed…
Sephiroth destroyed the other wrist ever so slowly, tightening his fist in slowest vice. The man wept and pleaded. His cries turned to screams and then shrieks that could stir the dead. The Great General neither relinquished his hold nor changed the mask on his face. He wore a slight curl on his perfect lips, an expression of pure satisfaction. Whether justice or vengeance Sephiroth did not care, and when he was done, he pierced him below and slashed upward to split him in half. Damn it again, the general thought, glaring down at the quivering parts. I am overzealous. None will be left for the final feast.
He combed every inch of that soon to die city, weeding the vermin out. For days he hunted, untiring, ceaseless, scrutinizing each crumbling stone. He was a shadow from the abyss and none could escape that dark fall. When the general found minds that bore his poor flower, he riffled through them for agony’s throes. If they’d done nothing or were themselves victims, Sephiroth let them go. Telling them, warning them to escape now before final judgment did reign. But if they had hurt her, he had no mercy, for in their memory dwelled her raw screams.
One man he made walk onto his sword, transfix himself upon the blade. Though he shrieked and tried to resist, he had no choice but to approach. Because he’d made Aeris beg and beg for her own forced penetration. He’d promised her sustenance afterwards if she would just plead to be raped. The music of such, no matter how sobbed, stroked his ego before the forced act. Afterwards, he’d chained her to the floor as he enjoyed a sweet repast.
Sephiroth reveled in the rapist’s wails now as he beckoned him ever closer. Crooking the fingers of his off hand, where each slight bend drew tortured step. Eventually the steel peeled through his spine like an overripe pale fruit. When this occurred, his legs turned to mush, but the general had a long reach. Slowly to savor the slicing of bone, the fallen drew the filth forth. Blood painted the blade in yet one more coat as his fist tightened on grimy collar.
The man battled darkness, lifting clawed fingers to try tear silver light, but it was like water to slide his grip through, and the general’s perfect face darkened. No rat would soil such shining hair and live to speak of its softness. He’d not live either, especially for leaving a brush of blood on high bang. Peering down at the contorted visage, Sephiroth twisted his head fully around. He did not deserve to have dying sight fade on angelic face.
The third day Aeris wore her hair loose in soft waves down her back. Her fingers were sore from the prior days’ toil, once broken bones set to ache. Behind her brows she laid a bright band of flowers in glimmering sheen. He’d smile to see her adorned like a queen with such a crown to match. Platinum bore the crystalline blooms, forget-me-not, lily, and rose. The last in the center, garnet so red, and ruby to mock living blood.
Her dress was white and cinched at the waist with a belt of silvery stones. She shook her hair back, looking in the large mirror where all three panels were lit. The skirt was a flounce and flutter of fabric that did not even reach her mid-thigh. Creamy white blended with her tender skin, but was still bested by those pale scars. Aeris smoothed the silk that rode on those ruffles, and the rings on her fingers did gleam. The emerald one glimmered like millions of waves beneath the northern lights. Her little flat shoes were silver today with bows on the toes wide and white, and she stood with clasped hands as she looked in the mirror, wondering how she’d come to this. I’m beyond lucky, the tiny maid thought, holding her sobs in check.
The day was quite sunny, but it was deceptive as the cold near knocked her from her feet. Aeris gulped air, as she shut the door of her balcony with a high sob. Even the sea slid cold and grey. I should’ve known, she berated herself. Rubbing warmth back to her upper arms, the Cetra’s quake did subside. Heaven’s Gate was always warm. He had not lied about that. He’s never lied about anything, she recalled while grabbing some books. Her laptop and tablet were already downstairs, and her phone was couched near her breasts.
Aeris did like the caress of the skirt as she skipped down the grand stairs. The ruffles shivered against her soft skin, and the Cetra wished they were his fingers. So close to her softest and tenderest parts. But…I wouldn’t mind if he touched. She gasped a bit at her body’s reaction, clutching her books a bit tighter. His absence had made her strange dreams far worse. If “worse” is the word I would use. It’s such an odd thing to want what so hurt you…but with him, it wouldn’t be that. I know he’d be gentle. I know he’d have care. His fingers…they’re so thick. A ripened blush covered all of her skin and so much of it was exposed. They’d never hurt me. They’d never tear, she believed setting her books on the couch.
The Cetra made tea and nibbled a scone, but her belly was taut with desire. Her little skirt hushed at every step, a soft entourage of sound. It rivaled the waves, closer to her ears, as she thought about texting her friends. They’d be a distraction, and then she felt guilty to use Myrna and Nellie so. But then she considered, there was no foul using, and enjoyment was mutual. Nellie was out and Myrna was busy with orders to fill that day, so Aeris entertained herself with her laptop and phone.
Another strange thing…to read the world’s happenings upon either device. That she could know what occurred far away in lands she had never been. Only Midgar was silent. She shuddered at thought. Barely any mentioned its name. Most believed it was dead, which wasn’t untrue. The dead and the dying abounded, but elsewhere the news seemed happy, mundane. I-Is the world truly at peace? The mist only told her that was not always so, but nothing she found spoke inverse. The Whispers were certainly peaceful and pure to the Planet’s soft hum below. She mostly ignored that. Though Aeris still heard, she could not forgive her once friend. It always tried singing and calling her name, but the Cetra had nothing for it. Sometimes it seemed sad to be so ignored, but its sadness held only her substance. There was no more foulness sucking it dry, and she realized another mist memory.
The maid fell asleep with hands curled on her tablet, wrapped in blankets on the large couch. Her tiny body was ensconced in the luxurious cushions. The sun passed its zenith, though its height did nothing to warm the winter caught shore. Winter… she pondered as her thoughts spun aloft. Winter skin and wintry eyes, but no winter heart, not that at all, and the warmth of that heats his pale. But never his eyes…his sorrow blocks that, she suddenly realized the truth. So long as he grieves, they’ll never be warm. They will be winter forever…their light ever cold, though filled with love never cut against sharpest pupil.
There were some who tried to fight him, and Sephiroth danced with them in the gloom. It was mockery’s battle, for the general divined every move before even a twitch. Two by two or four by four it made nary a difference. He hacked apart their flesh and bones by finger, toe, and limb. When there was too little left to writhe, he gutted them like plumped lambs. Then witnessed the rats that scurry on fours to arrive for still bleeding feast. Mako light seared the darkness so burned as he briefly watched savored meal. These vermin did not hold his interest. They did their natural born task, and as they performed, the weeping dead lifted their eyes as their lips were devoured. Sephiroth never blinked in his satisfaction to their faces in permanent scream.
In a heart that wore darkness as its shroud, a gleam did pierce through in blood rain. As he cut out a tongue and held a jaw shut so the wretch drowned in his own living blood. He thought about Aeris, utterly safe, while he, the fallen, cleaned out hell. For a moment Sephiroth saw her wrapped in blankets dozing on the large couch. Her tiny hand was curled on a tablet where she’d been reading a story so sweet. Beyond all he wanted to gather her close and whisper that he had returned. Watch beautiful face brighten with glee at his unworthy presence once more. He wanted to crush her so carefully close in the warmth of his strong arms. Kiss her with promise of eternal safety, full protection, and ever care. This tiny, soft maid who’d been so abused would now only know paradise. She’d play fragile fingers upon his broad shoulders, and he’d lay lips to her little hands. Then catch one (or both) to rub it so gently and massage what pain remained away. Never more broken, never more shattered, held in the most powerful clutch. “I’m yours forever,” he would tell her. And I shed my soul to grant you your vengeance. No, he realized, another lie. I lost my soul long ago…
Aeris would giggle, and that would cause joy on his ever-impassive face. Then he would tell her all of his truth, and she’d scream like the men he had slain. But it would be worse, because she’d never screamed…she’d never had the chance. Her tiny fists would beat futilely against his unnatural might, but never would Sephiroth hold her unwilling. He’d release her to cower and hide. Inescapable horror no matter the distance, and he was the worst of the worst. Nothing he said would change this fact. Nothing he did could erase his crimes.
She’d be no more his, and the general would vanish, leaving Aeris everything. Heaven’s Gate would be only hers, truer to now ousted fallen. To the shadows he’d turn to hunt them all down, a monster killing his own. The only hope the general had was she’d relearn to live without fear. After she changed the locks and barred all the windows, and he, of course, kept his promise. As Sephiroth slaughtered his countless prey, he prayed that she’d not remember…doors and locks meant nothing to him, but his vow to her would hold. He’d not trouble her nor taint her sight ever more past eternity’s end.
On his way back to the church with his sword weeping blood and the dead and the dying around, the general thought, Where it begins is where it now must end. Her once brutal master was still alive, for he whimpered when Sephiroth kicked him. His guts had turned black with exposure’s corruption, but his dying was long drawn and slow.
“Do you know what I am?”
Dried gore sealed his teeth, causing a crack when they opened. “…the Great…Great General, S-Sephiroth…”
“No, that is who. Do you know what I am?”
Only a whimper bathed in black gave a semblance of response.
“I’m the sum of an equation that should not have been written, and yet it adds up to perfection.”
The fallen circled this final prey that had also been his first. The rafters rained dust to the pitiful moans, and the motes danced in winter’s light. Beneath the pews, below the boards, the promise of lilies still dwelled, but Sephiroth only shook his head for that was a long to come vow.
“This is not the first time,” he said to the dying, “that I’ve destroyed a city.” His boots only creaked because he allowed it, the chorus to nails upon wood. “Many wonder how I did it before. Did I set fire with kindling to blaze? Did I use an accelerant? I’ll show you the answer,” Sephiroth promised, ceasing motion as though turned to stone. Silver hair and leather coat flared as his buckles gleamed. “It will follow you when you go, so all death will know the truth.”
Then the fallen snapped his fingers, and the entire city burned. Through the once haven, a shelter for blooms, the unrelenting flames ripped. Tasting old wood and licking fouled flesh, and her abuser found new strength to scream. Within every sector, if they still lived, every one of her rapists burned. Twisting in agony with tongues turned to ash and blood that boiled and steamed. Sephiroth watched expressionless, patient, for fire could not touch his pale. As that raw heat created hell’s wind, silver hair just lifted to dance. Even red fury could never compare to the tumult that lived in those eyes. Reflecting, increasing, blazing with light that shamed all those tortuous flames. Cries for mercy moved him not, as they echoed through Midgar’s walls.
The general only jerked around when stumbling feet caught his ears. There was a rat whole enough to run, and he half smiled for final sport. Searing wood, cooked flesh and bone wrinkled the edge of his nostrils, as Sephiroth stalked through the fire and out of the church to cut what remained down. He had half of one arm, a gash on the other, and afterwards just half a leg.
The once rapist whimpered, recalling she who was catalyst for his torment, but as shadow fell of both flame and leather, the man was forced to open his eyes. A beautiful epitaph loomed massively over, slivers more brutal than blaze. His eyes did weep before they heat burst, and Sephiroth took a step back. In them before they’d dribbled away, the fallen had seen himself. His glory, his horror, above all his truth. A monster left and a monster remains, a silver flame in the ashes.
Immune to both the fire and screams, Sephiroth passed through seared gloom. Sliding long fingers through flawless moon hair as the blaze crackled and spit. It touched not his pale nor melted pure emerald as he ruminated on his deeds. No remorse lived in a war forged heart. He’d done as he had promised. But soon she will see me as I am, and I must face that trial. There were bodies piled by the fence that led to Midgar’s wastes. The general gazed down with empty face. Ashen air had spelled their quietus. He’d dampened that sense and bore no damage for cells in constant return.
Those gates were half melted, but it mattered now as Sephiroth stepped forever away. The peaceful sea now met his gaze, as the smell of charred flesh filled his skin. It was as pale and perfect and ever, his hair mocking moonlight to gleam. The sea whispered secrets as it lapped at his boots when Sephiroth stepped ever nearer. Evening blushed shy right above the horizon, and he peered up to his favorite time. They were spent with her as the nights froze in time, eternity caged in sweet moments. He considered walking into the waves to wash off the blood of the slain, but she should see this. She deserved to witness the proof of her tormentors’ deaths. Nor does the sea deserve to drink foulness, but the whisper vowed it did not mind.
His weighted steps did approach the swell, the sun painting him in clearer crimson, and where the Dreaming kissed the sands, Sephiroth fell full of grace. Moonlight hair unrivaled by foam, tainted with blood as it were. It tangled within, but he did not care that his tresses were stroked by salt. Gloved hands were braced against the sands, foam receding with bitter blood. Salt breeze lifted what once had flown in the wind of ash and flame.
Nothing but peace surrounding the fallen, yet it could not pierce his sad heart. He removed his gloves when the waters ran clear, revealing hands white and pristine. It’s so deceptive. I know what they’ve done and what can never be cleaned. Gazing at them and the grooves in his palm that Aeris so loved to trace. Her delicate fingers upon his great hand that adored closing hers in their warmth. She’d follow the lines on that plain all the day, never growing bored. Marveling at their size and strength, as the general could only half smile. Though it was sincere to reach his eyes where they would gleam kindly if cold. He did not know how the Cetra stood it, that emerald to freeze winter’s heart. She saw something in it…more than corruption. She’ll know my truth soon enough.
The Dreaming Sea washed over him, the waterproof coat and black pants. Whispering waves could never erase the blood he had shed that day. The memory would ever live in his soul along with his lack of remorse. Slivers lifted to gaze that far way out on the endless expanse. Wrinkling waters shimmered in evening descended to setting sun, while seabirds wheeled and called. Two winged and natural. He curled one hand in the damp sand and tiny shells slid through his clutch. Everything here is beautifully normal…all except for me. Even the people, they all belong, but I am not of this place. I am a horror, a monster that must face the eternal judgment of the stars. They weren’t visible yet, but he knew they were waiting to condemn him for new crimes. And soon she will, my precious flower whom I love more light. Whose forgiveness I crave more than those stars. What will I do? He looked up despairing. Whatever will I do? I go to her reeking of fire and blood. She could not love me now…
Stowing the gloves into his pocket, Sephiroth rose as he’d fallen. Effortless grace as shadows lengthened and he was king of them all. He turned with a sigh, and a miracle happened. Those Mako eyes softened in light. Still just as stark and still just as piercing, on the estate their pulse gently grew. His rose was within and waiting for him. How many days had she yearned for return? Bah, “yearned.” He sneered at his presumption. It is you who desire her flesh. Like the filth whose blood now stains what once was a holy sword. Their corruption could not wash it clean no more than your vengeful acts could.
Golden rose painted the Gate, welcoming its master home, though his vision still burned with what he had seen and more with what he had wrought. It flashed within that far gentler fire blazed only through setting sun. He glanced at the sword not nearly as stained as it should’ve been. The Masamune did not hold blood. Its task was to kill not to show. She will be frightened. That clutched his own heart, that eugenics made perfection. When I appear bearing that which took her life. She’ll recognize it and perhaps save me from speaking the truth I so dread. He had to go confess to her. He could no longer wait. The maiden deserved to own her own hate, and he deserved all the lashes she’d borne.
Shutting his eyes as he lifted his head, Sephiroth let the pain of wing come. Punched through pale flesh, twisting his bones that were forced to reform around. There was no blood on his great, black wing, but it bore its own corruption. She should see me as I really am when I tell her my final truth…
Author’s Note: This was a difficult chapter to edit, not only because of its content, but also because I initially had both characters’ scenes separated instead of alternating. While I loved the impact of everything Sephiroth was doing, I still wanted to keep up with Aeris, but found her part to be much slower and even boring at times. Mixing it up worked better in my head, but this is also something I’d welcome feedback on.
The “Let us go…” Aeris reads is from T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
<–Chapter 19 Chapter 21–>