Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 7 > Haunted House

Local Legend

by RapunzelK 0 reviews

A little fun with AU's. What if Sephiroth had found Vincent on that first trip to Nibelheim? General Sephiroth, SOLDIER 1st Class Zack, and a new recruit named Cloud visit a remote mountain c...

Category: Final Fantasy 7 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Fantasy,Humor - Characters: Aeris Gainsborough,Cloud Strife,Hojo,Sephiroth,Vincent Valentine,Zack - Warnings: [!!!] [?] - Published: 2015-08-17 - Updated: 2015-08-17 - 2736 words

Ordinarily, Zack had no trouble going to sleep. As a child he’d been able to sleep anywhere, any time, and he’d carried the ability with him into adulthood. It was a useful skill to have in the military; being able to drop off as soon as the company was called to halt, and the even more important, able to snap from dead asleep to full awareness at a moment’s notice. A SOLDIER was supposed to follow orders without question, and if General Sephiroth said to get some sleep, that was one command Zack was confident he could follow.

Except sleep would not come. Zack couldn’t decide if it was the cold Nibelheim air, the funny wet-wood smell of the room, or the kid shifting under the blankets in the bed next to his. Too bad the other one had lost the coin toss. In his mind, the other kid should have had first dibs. The poor guy had been carsick the entire trip; the last hour of bumpy dirt roads almost ending in disaster. As a last resort, the general has cast a sleeping spell on the hapless recruit in order to spare everyone further misery and an unpleasant cleanup detail.

To Zack’s mind, it wasn’t all that late. Even when one got up at o'dark-thirty, 11PM didn’t seem that bad. Then again, he’d never needed that much sleep, and the makou made up for any sluggishness no matter how many hours he did or didn’t get. He wished he’d brought a sweatshirt. The room was chilly. Sheets and blankets shrugged around his bare shoulders, he stole a glance at the general’s bed.

Despite his command that his troops get a good night sleep and the warning of an early morning, Sephiroth himself had yet to retire. Unlike many of the commanding officers, Sephiroth had deferred the inn’s small wash room to his subordinates, allowing them the benefit of what hot water there was. Zack also secretly suspected the general had done this so that he could change clothes in peace. There was no such thing as modesty in the army, but it was probably bad for morale or something for the troops to see the boss in his underpants. Although Zack was pretty sure that would be good for morale; soldier, civilian, and pretty much everyone else’s- except maybe the general’s. Sephiroth was kinda uptight about military regulation that way. Zack chuckled to himself at the thought of the great General Sephiroth, hair haphazardly pulled back in a loose ponytail, bare-chested, and wearing flannel pajama pants while brushing his teeth. Even Sephiroth had to brush his teeth, didn’t he? As far as Zack knew, makou did not prevent cavities. He certainly didn’t want to find out from experience.

The lights were already out, the only ambiance coming from the stars gleaming in through a crack in the curtains. A horror movie creak from the door and a tall, deeper shade of black in the doorway announced the general’s return. He didn’t bother to turn on the lights, his eyes glowing green in the darkness like those of a cat. Instead, he simply crossed the floor without so much as a squeak from the aged wooden planks to the remaining bed, setting his carefully folded kit on a nearby chair.

Ordinarily, Sephiroth would have had his own room. However, the upper floor of the Nibelheim inn was set up dormitory style, with three beds occupying a single large room. As the highest ranking members of the team, Zack and Sephiroth merited their own beds, leaving the two infantry guards to split the third. Zack had been half afraid the rustic bedsteads would be too short for the general’s impressive height, but apparently the things were almost a perfect square; as wide as they were long. The good news was that the beds were easily big enough for two people. The bad news that army or not, it was always damned awkward to share sleeping space with somebody if you weren’t dating them. At least, those were Zack’s thoughts on the subject. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as the general slid his feet under the covers and stretched out. It was near thing, but he did, in fact, fit. Zack had been half afraid Sephiroth would have had to lie diagonally or else risk having his feet dangling over the edge.

“‘Night, sir,” Zack said, wishing he sounded and felt more sleepy.

“Good night,” was the flat, but not discourteous response. Turning over, Zack tried to get comfortable. Off to his right, the guard coughed and resettled as well. Apparently nobody was really ready to shut down. Nibelheim was a couple of hours off from Midgar, but that meant according to his internal clock, it should be closer to 3AM. Which did not explain why he could not freaking /sleep/.

Outside, the village clock struck 1AM. After a few minutes, the guard who’d drawn first watch trudged in and stood expectantly at the side of the bed. Zack huffed into the darkness and waited while boots were put on, weapons taken up, and the other guard went outside. He’d expected the kid who’d just come in to shuck his gear in a heap on the floor and faceplant into the sheets in as little time as he could manage. Instead, he plunked down on the edge of the bed and just sat there for a minute.

Oh right. The kid used to live here.

“I’d ask if you were homesick, but this is your home,” Zack commented, wondering if the recruit could see his lopsided smile in the darkness. The younger man’s eyes glinted softly as he turned and offered a weak smile in response. Cloud- that’s what the kid’s name was- had naturally blue eyes. As a common infantryman, he had yet to be exposed to makou, but in the moonlight his eyes shone like pieces of polished materia.

“I still feel a little gross from the ride up here,” he admitted. “I’m not sure lying down is a good idea.”

“Go downstairs and get yourself a mug of tea,” the general’s voice cut into the darkness. Both Zack and Cloud blinked at that.

“Er...thank you, sir,” Cloud said with a sloppy half-salute before wandering out the door.

“Poor kid,” Zack remarked as Cloud creaked his way down the stairs. “I hate puking.”

“He’s not vomiting,” the general corrected.

“Only through sheer force of will,” Zack countered. “Besides, that acid, gaggy feeling is bad enough on its own. Hell, he might feel better if he did puke. Get it over with, yanno?”

“I trust your judgement on that,” was the dry response. It was the closest the general usually came to humor. Probably something to do with being a commanding officer and a living legend.

“Haven’t you ever had the flu?” The question was honest, curious, and not the least bit accusing. The mighty Sephiroth had probably never had so much as a cold once in his life. He could probably put the fear of Holy into germs just by glaring at them. The general was silent for a long moment.

“Not in years,” was his eventual answer.

“How many years?”

He seemed to be counting. “Twenty, I think.”

“You haven’t been sick since you were /five/?” Zack gawped. Sephiroth’s silhouette shifted as his broad shoulders rose briefly in a shrug.

“I think I might have caught a cold when I was nine,” he mused, apparently searching the recesses of his memory. “I don’t really remember. I’m sure the professor has it noted somewhere. Either way, it’s been a long time.” He shrugged again. “Makou.”

“Damn,” was all Zack could come up with. However, knowing that makou was a good defense against the common cold made the next round of injections somewhat more appealing. Somewhat.

The hot scent of steam and the coolness of mint percolated the darkness. A moment later, Cloud shuffled through the door, a mug of tea cradled in both hands. Sitting down on the bed- this time on the edge nearest the other two men- he took a cautious sip.

“Sorry to keep you up,” he mumbled over the lip of the mug. Zack had lifted a hand to wave the apology away, but thought better of it. He outranked the kid, but it was up to the general to decide whether or not Cloud would be forgiven, or warrant a light reprimand. Before he could close his mouth or lower his hand, however, the general spoke up.

“It’s alright. I want to know that you’re fully recovered. Besides, neither of us was sleeping.”

“What he said,” Zack seconded. “Guess we’re waiting for our internal clocks to catch up or something.”

“Oh… Well, as long as I’m not keeping anybody up…”

“Nah,” and this time he did wave away the apology.


For a moment they sat awkwardly in silence, the only sounds penetrating the darkness the settling of the building, the tiny night creatures outside, and Cloud quietly sipping at his tea. Sephiroth leaned back against the headboard of his bed with a barely audible sigh, his chin tipped toward the ceiling. Tugging the blankets free, Zack wrapped them around his shoulders like a cloak.

“Well, since nobody’s tired, wanna tell ghost stories?” he asked. Sephiroth turned his head to give him a decidedly confounded stare. Zack shrugged sheepishly. “Well nobody’s gonna sleep anyway.”

The perplexity in the brilliant green eyes had not lessened. Right. Normally commanding officers didn’t go in for this sort of thing. It was the sort of dog watch, tight-corner conversation only the grunts had with each other. For a brief moment, Zack felt sorry for him.

“You know any good ones Cloud?”

The younger man coughed and sputtered, having chosen that moment to try and swallow a mouthful of tea.

“Me?” he gasped.

“Yeah. What about that creepy old haunted house at the edge of town?”

“You mean the Shinra mansion?”

“Shinra mansion?” Sephiroth echoed. “I was given to understand that only the reactor was Shinra property.”

“Well, it’s been called that for as long as I can remember. There were people from Shinra who lived there once.”

“Who?” Zack asked, intrigued. “Some sort of rich big wig?”

“More likely some corporate upstart,” the general put in. Cloud shook his head, messy blonde hair glinting briefly silver in the dim light.

“Nope, it was mostly scientists.”

“Scientists?” It was Sephiroth’s turn to be intrigued.

“See…” Cloud paused, looked into this mug, apparently collecting himself. Taking a final sip, he set the mug down and pulled his feet up to sit cross-legged on the bed.

“This is how my mom told it to me. When she was little, back before she was married, Shinra came to town. It wasn’t the first time they’d come; they’d built the reactor long before her time, but this was the first time in a long time that Shinra had ever been interested in boring old backwoods Nibelheim.

“There were trucks full of supplies, trucks full of books and equipment, and one truck full of people. There were no SOLDIERS in those days, but they did have TURKS. A group of Shinra scientists had come to study something they’d found in the mountains; two men, and two women. Two couples. Study what, they never told us, and the TURKS did a good job keeping the scientists separate from the locals.”

Cloud had forgotten he had an audience. His posture had relaxed, his voice falling into the cadence of a tale told and heard a hundred times, repeating it the way it had been told to him.

“They stayed for quite a while. At first it was a bit strange, but after a while, everyone got used to it. While they didn’t interact much, the townsfolk got used to seeing the TURKS and the scientists come and go. Whatever they were doing in that mansion, they mostly kept to themselves, and we all figured it wasn’t worth bothering about.

“Mom saw them here and there, shopping at the general store, picking up mail at the post office, or just walking around the village. Usually, husband and wife would go out together, or sometimes both the wives would go out with a TURK to look after them. It was always the same one: a tall man with black hair.

“One night, the lights in the mansion went out. Terrible noises echoed around the mountainsides. People swore they heard gunfire, screams, and worse. For three days it was dark and no one went in or out. Late on the third day, the trucks arrived to take all the supplies, and scientists, and TURKS back to Midgar. They did not take the books, but they did take something else: a coffin. Instead of a truck, a car had been brought for the scientists, since one of the wives was expecting a baby. When the TURKS got into their truck, one of them was missing. Nobody knew what had become him, but everybody suspected.

“After the Shinra people had left, the mansion became dark. Shinra troops and maintenance crews came by from time to time to check up on the reactor, but the chain was never taken off the mansion door. No one ever went inside it. Everyone in Nibelheim was too afraid. See, not long after the scientists left, strange things began to happen there.

“The mansion might be abandoned, but it was not silent. Screams could be heard coming from within its walls. Inhuman roars rumbled through the stone. Strange creatures- the results of the experiments the scientists performed- began to roam its halls. You can still see lights flickering in the windows sometimes, and on still nights, you can hear the screams.”

“Anybody ever go in to check it out?” Zack asked. As ghost stories went, Cloud’s recitation had a bit to be desired, but it was intriguing nonetheless.

Cloud shook his head. “No one’s crazy enough to try. I mean yeah, okay, kids have dared each other to knock on the door or throw rocks at the windows, but I’ve never heard of anyone going in.”

Zack had trouble believing this. “Not ever?”

“Never ever. It helps that the door’s chained and locked and the Shinra people took the key.”

“They didn’t give it back?”

Cloud shook his head again. “Not that I know of. Doesn’t really matter. It’s not like anyone’s ever gonna willingly go in there.”

“I want to go in.”

Both Cloud and Zack looked up sharply. Sephiroth’s green stare pierced the darkness as he looked back.

“I want to go in,” he repeated. Noting the blank stares of his subordinates, he tried to explain. “We’re here to investigate the monsters. If research was performed there, then whatever happened inside the mansion may well be part of the problem.”

Cloud, apparently did not think much of this turn of events if the look of vague horror plastered across his face was any indication. Sephiroth nodded at him.

“You will lead us there.”

Cloud swallowed hard, the action involving his entire body. “Wait, me?”

“Yes,” Sephiroth continued. Turning to Zack, he ordered: “Get dressed.”

“What, now?” Zack asked, now just as dumbfounded as Cloud.

“Yes. Both of you. Doubletime.” Turning his back to them, he bent at the waist, stripping off his pajamas before reaching for his uniform trousers. It took Zack a moment before he was able to shake himself and start pulling on his own clothing. Too bad it was so dark. SOLDIERS had decent night vision, but he’d not yet had enough makou to make out much fine detail. Alas, his morale would have to wait another day. Night. Something. Cloud didn’t have much to do, just pull his boots back on and retie them. While it didn’t take Zack long to pull himself together, Sephiroth was still ready in half the time, despite his uniform being much more elaborate.

“Alright Strife,” Sephiroth prompted. “Lead the way.”

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