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AN: Yeah, first chapter is done! Sorry it took me a while; I just kinda got lost on where to write due to school and all. Well, hope you like it and R/R! Oh yes, I know that the 13th Sephiroth clone was discovered, but that'll be explained in due time ^^.

 

Chapter One ~ A Missing Secret

"So this is Midgar..."

A woman overlooked the ruins before her, the once bustling city of Midgar that had been the headquarters of Shinra Inc. She was in her early twenties with long, silky black hair and eyes that resembled the blue depths of the ocean. She began to descend the cliff, the harsh winds slapping against her petite frame. She wrapped her white cloak tightly around her as she continued on. After climbing down a few more feet, she jumped off a height that seemed impossible to land alive. However, she was not an ordinary human being. Her feet barely made a sound as they touched the poisoned ground, a light green swirl of Mako dust gathered around her boots. She brushed them off her clothes and drew her daggers, wary of the monsters that inhabited the plain.

It had been two years since Midgar's fall, and many new and frightening creatures had risen from the ruins. They didn't dare let any human inhabit the place and those who had tried exterminating their kind never returned alive. Some of the locals in Kalm had said that the monsters originated from the laboratories of the Shinra building, free from their years of experimentation. Others said that the monsters were new and mutated forms of the originals because of the Mako that had escaped. Their new personas were more relentless, more brutal, more powerful.

However, these creatures were the least of her worries. She was here because of the rumors. She heard about a forgotten man arising from the dead and plotting the Planet's destruction based on a legend. She wanted to make sure that they weren't true.

"Meteor sure did its work," the woman murmured to herself as she sifted through the debris.

A roar echoed not far below her, distracting her from heading towards the Shinra building. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion as the necklace she wore began to tremble slightly in warning. She patiently waited for the monster to reveal itself, the roars getting closer and louder.

"C'mon, where are you?" she asked, her eyes darting around for the monster.

The ground beneath her shook violently before finally caving in to reveal the monster that lie underneath. The woman jumped in the air, casting a spell that kept her afloat. The monster was a large Behemoth unlike any that existed. Its thick fur was matted with the blood of its victims, yet bits and pieces of its body was a pure light grey. Dark, catlike amber eyes glared at its new prey who had disturbed its sleep. The woman hovered over it, just out of reach of its poisonous blue claws. It lashed out at her, but she easily avoided its attacks, putting away her daggers. They would be ineffective against such a large creature.

As the Behemoth was frustratingly trying to capture the woman, she began to chant in an archaic language, gathering the lifestream together. Warm green streams of the lifestream circled around her body. The Behemoth yowled in pain as it felt its body burning. Its own blood began to seep out of its body from its pores hidden beneath the matted fur, evaporating in the polluted air. When the woman opened her eyes, the monster writhed in pain as the fire within its body engulfed its victim to death. The woman carefully let her levitating spell fade and landed back on solid, stable ground. She glanced back at the Behemoth's charcoal corpse before heading into the abandoned Shinra HQ.

She was completely overwhelmed at the smell even before she entered. Since the building had been abandoned, nobody had bothered to take out the stench of death and blood that lingered. She covered her nose and mouth as she ventured further into the building, resisting the urge to vomit the morning's breakfast. Her eyes cautiously scanned the lobby area, noting the various corpses sprawled about. She came closer to one dead body, again fighting back the sickness that crept to her stomach. The corpse was heavily decayed, but much to her surprise, it was neither human nor monster. She carefully lifted the lid of the thing's eyes, noting the Mako that still lingered inside.

Man made, she thought as she stepped over it towards the glass elevator. The thing was definitely exposed to a high amount of Mako, mutating it. What the heck was Professor Hojo thinking?

She stepped inside the elevator, quickly closing the door so that she could breathe some fresh air.

"Good thing this has air conditioning," she murmured, sliding in a card key that a former Shinra executive gave her a few months ago. "I hope this still works."

Sure enough, the electricity of the Shinra headquarters was still functional, running on its back up generators for the past two years. The woman took this time in the elevator to look outside, seeing the full extent of damage that Meteor dealt upon the polluted city two years ago. She began to remember her brother and his vow to take vengeance upon Shinra Inc., after they destroyed their home. She sighed and shook her head, brushing away the painful memories as the elevator paused at the sixty-seventh floor. Surprised that it stopped, the woman pressed the "up" button, but the elevator would not respond. She tried a various other amount of buttons, but it seemed that the electricity finally died. She banged her fist against the controls in frustration.

"Damn elevator," she muttered.

Heaving a great sigh, she reluctantly entered the sixty-seventh floor. This was the floor where the science department mainly worked as well as the floor above. The woman carefully made her way through the floor, covering her nose and mouth from the Mako haze and the stench of death that hovered on the floor. It was dark and because of the Mako fog, it was also very hard to see. The woman would once in a while cast a "light" spell, clearing some of the fog around her.

She blindly made her way to the entrance of the laboratory when she heard the familiar hiss of a seal opening. Her hand instinctively went to the pouch where her daggers lay, and she waited. Her eyes frantically looked around for the source of the noise and finally beckoned her legs to move.

Her magic was of no use in here. There was too much Mako still around. The woman was afraid that if she cast any of her more powerful spells, it would probably cause a bad reaction with the Mako around and make the building explode. She continued to search for the source of the sound when another hiss echoed to the right of her. She sharply turned in that direction, noticing a Mako mist seeping out behind the broken JENOVA chamber. The woman looked around for a place to enter, hearing a heavy thud coming from the same area. She managed to find a small opening behind the chamber where the mist originated and carefully crawled through, not even bothering to pull back the loose strands of hair that stuck to her face because of the heat that the Mako steam gave out.

She finally managed to squeeze through the hole and entered a hidden room no bigger than a medium-sized closet. What she saw inside shocked her.

"My God..." she murmured as she scrambled to the body lying on the ground.

The body was a boy of around twelve years or so, maybe younger, the woman guessed. He had long, black hair that seemed to be graying at every second that passed. His lean, muscular body was somewhat unusual to a boy his age, but the woman paid no attention to it. She took off her clock and wrapped it around his naked, shivering body to keep him warm. The boy continued to shiver and coughed. He tried to open his eyes, but it was as if he had never used the muscles before. The woman tried to comfort him, looking around for an exit.

It's impossible to go back the way I came. The entrance is too narrow for the both of us, she thought. I've got to find another way out and fast. This kid's burning up!

The boy coughed again, but he had coughed up some Mako as well. The woman tried to keep him still as he continued to cough and whispered a cure spell to calm his spasms. She lied him down on the metal floor; his shivering had stopped.

"Hold on for a minute, okay?" she said to him even though she knew that the boy probably didn't understand what she was saying.

"Uh...agh..." was his reply as he still tried to open his eyes.

The woman lightly knocked on the walls of the small room, hoping that there was an area where it would be hollow. It was fairly dark, with the exception of the dim light that the Mako chamber that the boy apparently came from emitted, so she couldn't see clearly. As her hopes were beginning to dwindle, her ears caught the hollow sound echoing back at her. She stepped away from the wall and took out a grenade from her sack, unhooking the pin with her teeth. She tossed the grenade at the wall, its exit leading her back to the laboratory. She quickly returned to the boy and carried him out of the room, finding her way out of the Shinra building.

<Kalm Inn>

"Naoko? Naoko, wake up."

The woman stirred from her sleep at the call of her name, opening her eyes. Her friend greeted her with a comforting smile.

"Hey, are you okay?" she asked.

Naoko stretched out her body in the uncomfortable chair she had slept in. She yawned and rubbed the sleep away from her eyes, glancing at her friend who had taken a seat next to her.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just tired," Naoko replied, rotating her neck to get out the kinks. "How's the kid?"

"Well, he's suffering from a severe dose of Mako poisoning," her friend informed. "I'm actually surprised that he's alive. Any kid at his age would be dead on the spot with the kind of Mako exposure you described to me."

"But is he going to be okay?" Naoko asked. "Kyo, you don't have to hide the details from me."

Kyo sighed, realizing that she could not hide from her friend. "Well, from a doctor's perspective, he's responding surprisingly well to the antidotes I've given him. He should survive unless his body somehow gets a bad reaction because of all the substances he has in his body. Personally, though, I think he would be better off dead."

"What?!?" Naoko exclaimed, jumping out of her seat. "Why?"

"Don't get the wrong idea, Naoko," Kyo reassured her. "I know that you want to help this kid, but I'm starting to believe the rumors that the townspeople are spreading. Every time I look at him, he's starting to look more and more like a miniature version of Sephiroth."

Naoko sighed and strode over to the window, brushing back her hair. Her muscles were still a bit sore from the trip to Midgar barely a day before. Her arms leaned against the window sill as she looked out at the quiet town.

"So what if he looks like him?" she asked more to herself than to her redheaded friend. Then she added a bit more quietly, "It's not his fault. He has no choice in what he looks like."

<Kalm Inn ~ room>

The boy tossed and turned in his bed as his nightmare continued to plague him.

It's useless to resist them, boy.

"...No....." he cried mournfully in his sleep.

When the time comes, you will have to take their place.

He vehemently shook his head. "No, I won't."

You can't hide from fate. You'll follow these orders whether you like it or not.

"....I...won't listen to you...."

Accept your fate, boy.

"NO! I'M NOT GOING TO BE HIM!!!"

The boy sat upright in his bed, gasping for air. He slowly lowered his arm stretched out in front of him back down to his side and tried to get his breathing back to normal, closing his eyes.

"It was a dream, just a dream," he kept on repeating to himself.

He opened his eyes and stared at his reflection in the mirror on the dresser a few feet in front of him, surprised to find himself clothed in a large white dress shirt and loose black pants. The boy's face twisted in disgust at the smell of alcohol that reeked on his clothes, figuring that they probably were stolen from a drunk. He looked around the room curiously as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. A vague blur of the past events flashed by in his mind. What happened? Where am I?

"Oh my gosh! You're awake?!?"

The boy sharply turned his head in the direction of the voice only to be blinded by the light from the doorway. "Agh..."

Naoko, noticing his sensitivity to light, quickly shut the door behind her as Kyo rushed towards the bed. The first thing that she did was take his temperature, and to her surprise, it had gone down considerably.

"You broke your fever already!" she exclaimed. "I didn't expect that you would recover so fast."

"Huh? What?" the boy asked, confused at the statement that the red head in front of him was saying. "Who are you?"

Naoko turned to get a good look at him, a bit shocked to see that his eyes were a bright green that glowed softly in the dark. That glow...those are Mako eyes...

"My name's Naoko Rofel," Naoko introduced herself to the boy. "I was..." She hesitated for a second. Should I tell him the truth or not? The poor kid looks so confused. "Um, I was in Midgar and...found you there."

"Mid...gar?" the boy repeated slowly, focusing his attention to Naoko while Kyo continued to do the typical doctor check up. "I was in Midgar?"

Naoko nodded as she came closer to the bed. The boy's hair was completely silver now. The glow that his eyes emitted in the dark was a bit unsettling to her; it reminded her too much of her own brother's eyes. "Yeah...you were...unconscious, so I brought you back here."

She gestured at Kyo who was now in the process of testing his blood pressure. "That's my friend, Kyo. She was the only doctor who would take an emergency so late at night yesterday, and she was able to cure you of Mako poisoning."

"Mako poisoning?"

"Well, I didn't exactly cure you," Kyo corrected. "I merely just gave you a whole mess of remedies and vials of elixirs since there really isn't a cure to Mako poisoning. Mako poisoning happens when you're exposed to a whole lot of Mako energy at one time. Your body basically goes haywire, to the point where you don't even realize who you are. It's very rare for people exposed to a high level of Mako like you did to survive. I only heard about one successful case around two years ago." She then pressed a button on the blood pressure monitor. "Now don't move for a few seconds...yeah, like that. Okay, it's done." She took off the cuff on his arm. "I'm amazed. You're perfectly fine."

The boy was looking at Kyo all this time, but she seemed unwilling to look at him. She kept herself busy putting away the monitor. Inwardly he frowned, not quite sure why the woman wouldn't make eye contact with him. However, he didn't think much of it when Naoko took a seat next to his bed.

"Do you remember anything that happened to you? Anything at all?" she asked with extreme concern.

The boy looked at her, feeling at ease at her general interest. He pondered for a moment about her question then shook his head as his mind came to a blank.

"....No," he quietly replied. "Nothing at all."

Naoko cocked her head, recognizing the look of loneliness in his eyes. "Not even your name?"

"....My name?" the boy repeated as he though long and hard on the question. "My name..." he said a bit more quietly and shook his head as his mind came to a blank again. "I....don't remember."

"It's typical," Kyo interrupted as she continued to put away her medical belongings. "Victims of Mako poisoning tend to get amnesia a lot. Most of the time, those memories they once had are forever lost."

Naoko gave a look of annoyance at her friend because of the curtness in her voice, but she looked back at the boy, no longer unsettled by the Mako glow in his eyes. She gave him a soft smile. "So you don't remember, huh?"

The boy shook his head. Naoko's smile grew wider and stood up. "Okay...then we need to make up a name for you. Let's see..." She thought for a moment when her brother's face flashed in her mind. "....Seth. Your name is going to be Seth. And, uh, you can be my little brother."

"Naoko!" Kyo protested.

Naoko looked at her friend. "What?"

"Are you sure what you're about to do? Letting him go with you on your journeys when he looks like the very man who had tried to destroy the Planet two years ago?" Kyo argued. "Don't you realize how difficult it's going to be to deal with the people in practically ANY town? The scars haven't healed yet and he's going to keep those scars strong if he tries to go out in public."

"So what? I'm not just going to leave him here by himself," Naoko reasoned. "He'll be in the exact same situation, maybe even worse. Besides, I don't mind. It's nice to have company around when you're traveling, right, Seth?"

The boy blinked a few times in confusion at the sound of his newly appointed name before giving a smile smile and nod in return.

"Okay, then it's settled. I'll get you some new clothes since God forbid you can stand the smell," Naoko said. "And I'll get you something to eat; you probably haven't eaten anything in a while. C'mon, Kyo, let's go."

Kyo reluctantly left the room, giving one last, detached glance at Seth. Naoko followed her and was halfway through the doorway when Seth called her.

"Um...Naoko?" he meekly asked.

She turned around, keeping the light to a minimum. "Hm?"

"Uh..." Seth scratched the back of his head. "Thank you. For helping me, I mean."

Naoko smiled brightly at him. "Hey, we all have to help one another. And you can just call me 'Sis'. We're family, right?"

Seth returned her smile, accepted. "Right. Thanks...Sis."

Naoko nodded, still smiling, before closing the door behind her. Kyo stood at the end of the hallway, waiting for her. Her grey eyes were gravely serious as Naoko walked lightly down the hallway.

"You're serious, aren't you?" she said to her.

Naoko nodded, just as serious. "Of course, I always am."

"That alibi isn't going to convince a lot of people, you know."

"I'm well aware of that, but it's better than nothing. Besides, he's like us, Kyo. He's different."

Kyo heaved out a sigh. "I know....but we don't look like Sephiroth."

"But we can change that."

"What do you mean?"

"I need a pair of scissors and a comb. And some new clothes for him. If he looks too much like Sephiroth, then we'll change his physical appearance a little bit."

<the next day>

Naoko and Seth were packing up their gold chocobos with supplies early the next morning where the majority of Kalm was still fast asleep. Seth was decked out in new attire; his stolen clothing a day ago were thrown in the trash. He was now wearing a pair of black jeans, a white tank, a denim jacket, and a pair of heavy duty black boots that were bought by Naoko the night before. His hair was cut to about shoulder length and neatly tied back in a short ponytail. Covering all of this was a black cloak that Kyo had personally given to him. He began to remember her last words, realizing that she was not the hypocritical and detached doctor she seemed.

"Whatever you do, wear this cloak in the villages and towns that Naoko warns you about," she had told him. "Don't speak to anybody, nevertheless take off your hood to reveal your face. The people will mistake you for someone else if you do, even if you're only just a kid. Just be careful, okay?"

He silently nodded to himself to abide by her words as he set the last pack on the birdlike creature and hopped on its back, looking to see if his "sister" was ready. Naoko was wearing the same clothes she had been wearing for the past two days for her time was limited. Her white cloak had been washed, covering the worn and faded colors of her tanktop and jeans. However, despite the condition of her clothing, she did manage to keep herself clean. Her long, silky black hair was tied back in a loose braid, its health shining off from the sun's rays. Seth silently admired her beauty, wondering why she hid herself under the cloak when there seemed to be nothing wrong with her, unlike him.

Naoko soon finished stacking the last of her belongings and hopped on her chocobo. She met Seth's quiet gaze.

"Ready?"

He nodded.

"All right, let's go!"

She gently coaxed her chocobo forward, and it happily went into a quick trot. Seth whistled for his chocobo to follow, and the two left Kalm to look ahead on adventures to come.

A figure stepped out of the shadows, watching the two leave. His dark eyes fixed on Naoko, then on Seth. He smiled evilly to himself.

"The thirteenth clone," he whispered in a raspy voice before walking back into the shadows.