Unnamed Story

BY : Roaming_Firefly
Category: Final Fantasy VII > Yaoi - Male/Male > Sephiroth/Vincent
Dragon prints: 2592
Disclaimer: see full disclaimer below



Chapter 10 - Twenty Jin



The Archdaemon circled slowly around Sephiroth as she did Nero, sniffing at the ex-general from time to time. Sephiroth held himself still against the unpleasant feelings rising from his gut. The situation of being put on display and examined like a lab specimen was much too familiar.

"He looks like a hybrid...but he smells...different...from that one there." the Archdaemon nodded towards Nero.

"My lord is most perceptive and wise," Gooey-Duck's smile looked a tad exaggerated, "he's a hybrid, yes, but this one is a Mortal-born."

The Archdaemon made a non-committal sound as she reached out and ran her hand along Sephiroth's well-muscled arm. Sephiroth struggled to stay still as goosebumps rose in her wake. He had never liked to be touched. Since his earliest memories, touch had always meant either cold bony fingers clamped around his arm, tugging him to places he didn't want to go, poking, prodding, arranging him around the various sterile metals of medical equipment like a rag doll, or harsh reprimand, or the violence of battle. And the situation and its familiarity certainly did not help. Tah'rh took no notice of his discomfort however, and continued until she reached his hand. She grabbed it and turned it upwards for inspection, running her thumb across the callouses.

"A fighter...a swordsman." she said, mostly to herself.

"We have been fortunate to see him in battle before we made his capture. He's a most impressive fighter." said Gooey-Duck, still sporting that exaggerated smile.

"Well if he got himself captured by the likes of you and that ogre there then he can't be that impressive." the Archdaemon scoffed, not bothering to spare the slave trader a glance. Sephiroth didn't bother to take offense. He'd been in situations where ShinRa scientists hovered about their precious specimens, flaunting them at each other. His examiner's gibe was not directed at him.

Gooey-Duck stiffened a bit, but that smile managed to stay in place, "We assure you that he is indeed a most impressive warrior. Of course humble servants like us had not the skill to bring him down..."

"Too' down na pack o' Wastelan' Hounds, wit da' un he did." the ogre suddenly spoke, gesturing to Vincent. Gooey-Duck turned to it incredulously, looking like he wanted to throttle the stupid thing.

The three demons' attentions turned to Vincent.

"Is that right?" said the Archdaemon, amused, "take that one out too then, I want a look at the both of them."

Gooey-Duck could only school his features back into their too-pleasant place as he kicked the ogre to task.

Vincent's silent grace contrasted sharply with the ogre's lurching clumsiness as he was led from the cage.

"An assassin..." the Archdaemon murmured. Tseng and Reno also looked on thoughtfully. As the ex-Turk straightened his also-impressive height beside Sephiroth, his untamed ebony hair stark against his pale skin, his crimson eyes cold and unafraid, all three demons' eyes widened, and a hush fell over the onlookers. It was the Archdaemon who finally voiced the sentiment: "He's absolutely beautiful!"

"Is he also a Mortal-born hybrid?" asked Tseng as the Archdaemon circled Vincent, her tail swinging in a pleased dance.

"Yes, my lords. Nothing gets past your exalted eyes." Gooey-Duck's fake smile took on a smidgen of genuineness as greed once again flashed in his dark eyes.

"Say uh...Boss, I heard that humans are social creatures, and so are their get. So they need to be bought in pairs...or even better, in threes, just in case, you know, one of them dies and the other gets lonely."

The Archdaemon's brow rose as she glanced towards Reno, "Isn't that for elephants?"

Reno shrugged, "Works for humans and hybrids too."

"We're not getting the Hell-born, Reno." sighed the Archdaemon in exasperation, "Just one of them will cost between 50 Yem to 150 Yem per month on food alone, times however long they manage to live, plus the cost of energy and maintenance for their dwelling, and the projected cost of..." The Archdaemon continued to calculate away to herself as she turned away from the dejected redhead and continued her inspection of the 'hybrids'. Reno huffed in a manner that said this particular mood of his sovereign's is one that he'd seen many times before, and he knew that there was no use trying to argue with her during it. He looked to Tseng, who shrugged back at him with an equally knowing smirk.

"They have...a very strong smell of humans about them..." the Archdaemon slowly drew back and narrowed her eyes at the two men.

"That's perhaps from their Mortal-born heritage." Gooey-Duck hurriedly explained.

"Still..." the Archdaemon furrowed her brows as she stared at the 'hybrids' contemplatively.

"They also arrived from a spontaneous vortex, probably never spent any time in Hell their whole lives...it's not unusual for hybrids to acquire a few extra human traits if they spend too much time in the Mortal worlds."

The Archdaemon cast a long sideways glance at the slave trader, then looked back at the two men, lifting her inhuman eyes straight into their faintly glowing ones, "How old are you? And by that I mean how many years have passed since the day you were born?"

Gooey-Duck's smile twitched, his beady eyes widened. Nero's blue eyes flashed as they snapped up to the demons. Behind the slave merchant and the demon party, N'geal's brows furrowed as his dark eyes trained onto the Archdaemon's back.

Sephiroth frowned, completely caught by surprise at the question. He himself had not considered that question in a very long time. If ShinRa's files were to be trusted, and he wasn't sure if they were, then he'd have been 25 by the time he was sent on that mission to Nibelheim...and he was pretty sure that 5 years passed before the next time he..."died"... Since then...3 years? 2?

"60."

Sephiroth's eyes pivoted in surprise towards the ex-Turk beside him.

The Archdaemon nodded. "And you?" she asked Sephiroth.

"Thirty...three."

"And..." a slow smile appeared ominously on the Archdaemon's face, "That is the truth you're telling? I do so despise liars and I do have a reputation for...disposing of persons who are untruthful to me."

From the corner of his eyes, Sephiroth saw Gooey-Duck blanch. Whispers rose from among the onlookers. The former general's sensitive ears faintly caught the words "previous Archdaemon", "murder", "uncontrollable", "tantrum", and "undying brat". Whether she heard them or not, the Archdaemon paid them no mind.

"I see no reason to lie about my age." said Vincent calmly, his red eyes steady.

"It's accurate to the best of my knowledge." said Sephiroth coolly, matching Vincent's steadiness.

"What about those Alraune over there," the Archdaemon gestured to the plant-creatures in the cage beside them, "what is the shape of the patterns on their petals?"

Sephiroth looked towards the plant-creatures and the flower petal-like growths on their bodies and frowned in puzzlement, not seeing where the Archdaemon's trying to go with this.

"Solid colours, different on each individual, with darker coloured spots near the origin, also differing in colour between individuals." the former general answered truthfully.

Vincent nodded his agreement.

"And that is also the truth you're telling?" red-and-gold eyes bore into the two men.

"What reason would I have to lie about such things?" Sephiroth questioned back boldly, momentarily lapsing in his self-control due to confusion and the discomforting familiarity of being questioned and examined and held in display.

"Indeed," nodded the Archdaemon, seeming to not take any offense from Sephiroth's show of disrespect and instead looking quite smug, "there would be no reason for you two to lie. Someone else however..." She turned menacingly to the now wide-eyed and unsmiling Gooey-Duck.

"Did you know, that hybrids can sometimes be somewhat...difficult to define and identify?" asked the Archdaemon, seemingly speaking to the two men but keeping her eyes on the slave trader, "Human genes do sometimes interfere with demon ones in rather unexpected ways. But there are certain things that are constant enough that can be used to test for true hybrids as opposed to impostors. The time it takes for them to reach maturity for example...as related to the amount of time they spent in Hell during their maturing years. And so, an age test is usually the staple of a series of tests that is administered to expose the true nature of a supposed hybrid. As is the sight test. But you two would know nothing about that, would you? Since you are nothing but a couple of modified HUMANS!" The Archdaemon advanced upon the ashen-faced slave trader, her canines bared, her eyes almost pure gold. Reno and Tseng smoothly took a step so that their positions now blocked off any escape routes the slave trader might have tried.

"My lord, please! You must understand...I bear no ill intent, this is simply..."

"Simply what? An oversight? The testing methods for hybrids were developed by and for slave traders. Are you telling me that you, one of the best slave trader of all, would fail to administer even the most basic of the tests?" Energy began to buzz and crackle in the air about the Archdaemon. All the other demons in the stall tensed and held still.

"My lord!" Gooey-Duck dropped to his knees, "I am ever the humble servant to my most honoured lords! Never would I dream of deceiving my most mighty masters! How would I dare? I am but a poor merchant, weak and foolish, only managing to scrape together a hard living through the work of these unworthy hands, only hoping, praying that I would never fail my masters through my abundant inadequacies..."

Sephiroth stared incredulously: the despicable slave trader was actually starting to weep, making himself the very picture of pitifulness.

"ENOUGH!" the Archdaemon looked as if she was ready to burst with rage at the slave trader's display, "if you're going to beg for your life, you better get to the point before I ram it up your lying ass!"

"My lord, I meant no deceit! As this dull-witted assistant of mine had so oafishly blurted, these two took down an entire pack of Wasteland Hounds before our very eyes with nothing but the most primitive weapons! And that one," the slave trader pointed to Vincent, "even transformed into a Galian Beast! We thought surely that was proof enough that they can be nothing less than true hybrids!"

The Archdaemon's eyes widened. She turned to Vincent, suddenly loosing all interest in the blubbering slave trader.

"Show me." she commanded.

Vincent's collar promptly glowed red. The gunman dropped to one knee and gritted his teeth against the pain. Red energy swirled around him and swallowed him. When it dissipated, kneeling in place of the pale ex-Turk was a horned monster with purple-black fur and a blood red mane. The monster snarled and roared its pain and fury. The Archdaemon bent down so that her eyes were level with the monster's. The monster immediately quieted, but it remained tense and a low growl rumbled in its throat. Slowly, the Archdaemon reached out a hand and held it in front of the wary monster, keeping eye contact all the while. Tentatively, the monster sniffed the offered hand, and gradually the low growl subsided. The Archdaemon pushed her hand under the monster's chin and cupped the long muzzle.

"Humans are indeed vile creatures," the Archdaemon murmured, still looking into the monster's golden eyes, "always tampering in things that they have no right, no idea of the consequences..."

"My lord?" Tseng inquired quietly.

The Archdaemon drew back from the monster. "You may turn off the hex now," she informed the slave trader, "he's ready to change back."

Gooey-Duck blinked and hesitated, but obeyed. Red energy once again swirled up, and then it was once again a pale ebony-haired man that crouched beside Sephiroth. Vincent was breathing hard, but his crimson eyes were clear, and he didn't seem to be harmed.

"Can the other one transform too?" the Archdaemon asked without looking at the slave trader.

Gooey-Duck quickly set the spell to work.

Sephiroth watched as his collar began to glow with no small amount of apprehension. Still, he wasn't prepared for the revolting sensation of violation when unseen claws dug themselves into that most private part of him hidden deep within. Those claws twisted in his being, pushing and pulling until his wings, that part of him that he'd always managed to keep to himself, even from the prying tools of ShinRa scientists, was forced against his will from his back. The former general shook with the effort to stop himself from lashing out in outrage.

"One wing? Is he supposed to fly with that?" incredulous whispers and condescending chuckles rose from a few of the onlookers.

The Archdaemon however, made no comment as she stared thoughtfully at the silver general, her eyes still partly gold. She reached out a hand again and this time, it took on that white glow that had cracked against Nero's claw. Her talons looked substantially longer than moments before, and Sephiroth was certain that it was not just a visual illusion created by the glow. The former general couldn't help moving away warily from the hand.

"What?" the Archdaemon arched an eyebrow at him in mocking amusement, "afraid I'll hurt you?"

Sephiroth glared at her in fury.

"Relax, I just want to get a better look at your incorporeal wing." said the Archdaemon, her amusement not at all abated by the glare.

Sephiroth blinked in confusion, then froze when the Archdaemon's hand touched it. Mako eyes widened in astonishment. How is this even possible? Nobody—save maybe Angeal and Genesis—knew, or could possibly have known about his other wing. It was invisible, insubstantial, not even he himself had ever managed to be able to touch that wing even though he had always known that it was there, in the same way that people know exactly where their hands and feet are without needing to look. The glow from the Archdaemon's hand flowed forth like steam from heated springs. Sephiroth watched in amazement as it brushed up against his secret wing and revealed faint, translucent outlines of delicate feathers.

"Amazing..." whispered Tah'rh, "You might even be able to fly the Currents."

Sephiroth frowned at her in question, but the Archdaemon had already withdrawn her hand and turned her attention back to Gooey-Duck.

"40 Jin."

Gooey-Duck's beady eyes bulged, "F-for... which one, my lord?"

"For two." the Archdaemon said cooly.

Gooey-Duck's jaw went slack. "T-twenty Jin...each? B-but even as non-hybrids, they're worth..."

"Worth what? Considering that you and your rotten tongue tried to deceive me into buying a couple of worm-begotten humans as hybrids, I'd say 20 Jin is a very good price indeed—a much higher price than what your sorry life is worth...especially if it's really as miserable as you say it is." the Archdaemon narrowed her eyes and adjusted her stance to one of subtle threat, as if daring Gooey-Duck to refuse her offer. Reno and Tseng stood vigilant behind the slave trader.

Gooey-Duck's beady eyes wavered uncertainly for a few moments as he studied the maverick Archdaemon before him, and finally, he settled on swallowing his misgivings. "Of course, I am most grateful for the graciousness that my lord has shown such an unworthy and foolish servant." Gooey-Duck carefully schooled his features in place and slipped back into humble merchant mode, "if my lords will please come with me..." the slave trader bowed and gestured as he led the three demons through the procedures and paperwork that made the purchase final.



"...You're not going to mark them, my lord?" Gooey-Duck asked carefully.

"They both have very beautiful bodies. If I'm going to put a permanent mark on them, then I must think carefully on the design..." the Archdaemon answered absentmindedly as she deftly punctured skin and cartilage on Sephiroth's left ear and fastened a broad silver earring ornately decorated with emerald patterns.

Sephiroth gritted his teeth. It wasn't because of the pain. That was minor and his enhanced healing quickly took care of it. It was that he was being touched way more than he cared for. He noticed though, that Vincent too did not like to be touched. He had become somewhat better at noticing the ex-Turk's subtle changes of expression over the past days, and it was plain to his practiced observation that Vincent had been near ready to spring out of his own skin when the slave trader's bony hands worked over his neck, wrists and feet to remove the shackles and the slave collar.

"...These will work well enough until I come up with something satisfactory," the Archdaemon finished as she fastened an identically patterned ruby and gold earring onto Vincent's ear, "no one in the Axis will be able to look on these and not know who they belong to."

Sephiroth wondered sardonically if her 'these' and 'they' meant him and Vincent or the earrings—or if there's a difference at all. He hadn't failed to notice that the patterns on their earrings resembled the ones on the larger, more decorated earring on the Archdaemon's own ear. Her property.

At least the earrings weren't ugly...and at least in appearance didn't resemble the tags on the ears of Hojo's lab animals...too much. Glancing at the man standing beside him, the former general supposed that the simple and elegant design does look good on the ex-Turk's pale ear.

Sephiroth had watched the purchasing procedures of the slaves who had been bought earlier. It turned out the slave-marks, such as the one on Fenris's shoulder, were no mere tattoos of coloured ink. They were seared into the flesh with the raw magic power of their demon masters. Perhaps that was why the demons felt no need to mark their slaves in places less easily hidden by clothing or hair. In fact, it seemed that slave marks could be placed just about anywhere on a slave's body that their masters see fit. Sephiroth had long inferred that demon eyes can somehow see more of the world than human ones. And the moment the too-warm earring touched his skin, thoughts of how snakes could lock onto their targets with deadly accuracy in the blackest of nights through their ability to see in infrared light flashed through his mind.

Interestingly enough, the slave merchant was leading the Archdaemon through the purchase procedures with meticulous care, not at all trying to gain some petty revenge on her by "overlooking" any steps or such. Sephiroth knew that it wasn't because of any love the slave merchant had for this overbearing customer. More likely it was because of the watchful Tseng and Reno at his back. That and neatly done paperwork also seemed to be part of a slave merchant's business reputation.

"...My lord...what about your slave collars..." Gooey-Duck asked uncertainly when the Archdaemon drew back from the unshackled slaves and looked as if she were ready to go.

"I do not need such heavy-handed methods to control my slaves." the Archdaemon snorted dismissively.

"But...how will my lord make the slaves go with you to your Circle?"

The Archdaemon raised an eyebrow at the slave trader, "I don't see why they won't just follow me there."

Gooey-Duck and the rest of the onlookers had to work hard to not look like they thought the Archdaemon was insane.

"Unless...they have become fond of this place and wish to stay longer in your tender care and good company." the Archdaemon gave the slave trader a sarcastic smirk.

Sephiroth heard a cough from the cage he had shared with Fenris and the others. He wasn't sure from which one of the three remaining young men it originated.

What fate awaited them, Sephiroth wondered. For the children, who had clearly angered the sadistic slave merchant, their immediate future was certain to be grim. And what of the headstrong and spirited Inuyasha and Nero, and the fiery Genesis. And Fenris and N'geal, who had aided him with their own special brands of wisdom throughout his time here, much like Zack and Angeal had in by-gone days in SOLDIER.

"He's dead. He's dead because of you, boy. Because of your pathetic weakness."

Hojo's words echoed, unbidden, through his memory.

No. This is no time to allow himself to get attached, to get sentimental. Those things made one weak, and he didn't need them. He had long known since the very beginning that they were going to part ways one way or another, had known that nothing but grim reality awaited him and his shackled companions. He should have known better long ago too, in SOLDIER. For now, his own survival was uncertain, and he could not afford such weakness to slip through.

"I like to think that my tender care is somewhat better, if not the company." the Archdaemon turned her smirk to Vincent and Sephiroth and continued, "Your primary purpose is to look good and to make me look good in front of other Archdaemons, so you can be assured that unless you make yourselves liabilities or dead-weight drains on the economy, I'll not mistreat you—least it makes me look like I've dragged something out of the sewers to stand in for a slave. Plus," her dark red eyes glistened mischievously, "although Junon is a major trading port in Hell, the parts of the Currents that flow through it only lead to other parts of Hell and select regions of the Wastelands. However...7th Circle is well-supplied by various tributary Streams of the Aether Currents, as well as seasonal vortices, that can access any part of the Wastelands. Its libraries contain maps and charts detailing the courses and flows of the Currents and the routes between various parts of the Axis and even parts of the Mortal worlds. The Circle also has many aircrafts and ships capable of traversing the Currents. For any slave wishing to escape back to their own world, I'd think it's a very good place to start, no?"

Now not even Gooey-Duck can keep from looking like he thought the Archdaemon was insane.

Tseng and Reno exchanged a look between them—one of exasperation for Tseng, and one of amusement for Reno.

Sephiroth glared at the grinning Archdaemon. The manipulative bastard!

Tseng politely cleared his throat, "My lord, even so, it would be better if we give them some kind of collar and cuffs to affirm their status and their ownership. Their appearance and their smell are sure to attract the attentions of less than reputable individuals. It's better to be safe."

The Archdaemon thought about it for a moment, then nodded in agreement. She gathered a globe of daylight and condensed it until it hurt Sephiroth's fascinated eyes, then she divided it into five portions and wrapped them around Vincent's neck, wrists, and ankles. With a crack of enchantment, the light solidified into five ornate golden bands of varying shapes and sizes, all of them decorated with patterns that matched the earring. She then did the same for Sephiroth, only his bands were silver. All the other demons except for Reno and Tseng tensed uneasily at the display of light magic.

"...My lord, you're not going to put any hexes on those...?" asked Gooey-Duck, pretty much given up by now on trying to keep up appearances.

"Not unless their behaviour say I should." the Archdaemon flashed her new slaves with a wide toothy grin that once again reminded Vincent of Yuffie...when she had her thieving paws on some mastered materia...

"...And...if my lord don't mind this old servant asking...do you require us to assist you with clothing for your slaves?"

"Why?" asked the Archdaemon with an raised eyebrow, "They look fine as they are."

"I agree." supplied Reno as he eyed the two men who were dressed in nothing but the earrings and the metallic bands.

"My lord," Tseng cut in, "I have made some preparations myself, I hope you don't mind." He reached into his cloak and pulled out long lengths of cloth. Sephiroth observed in mild amusement that he looked quite like one of those magicians pulling out large quantities of colourful scarfs. The dark-haired demon deftly wrapped the cloths around the two men so that the earrings and metal bands were exposed to all who cared to see, but that everything else was safely covered.

"Are we done here yet?" the Archdaemon huffed in impatience and glared at Gooey-Duck as if daring him to say anything more. The slave trader didn't. "Good. Then let's get out of this shit hole." She then tossed a cheeky grin over her shoulder at her new slaves and strode out of the stall as if she fully expected them to follow.

Sephiroth fumed at her assured stride and the smug arcs of her tail. Determined to beat her at whatever game she was playing, he took one last look over his shoulder at those who had been his unlikely companions all these past days, and with a glance at the silent ex-Turk beside him, he followed the Archdaemon into the streets, with his back straight and his head unbowed.

 



Author's Notes: Phew! What a long chapter. Thank you very much for all those of you who reviewed. You are awesome ^^

There's been some changes going on in my life. Namely, I got a new job :D that is sure to consume my every waking minute, and then some, for at least the first month or so D: So I probably won't be able to update nearly as often as I have been doing. But I am fully planning to finish this story. It just might take much…much…longer than I first thought ^^;

But, as the old saying goes: a picture is worth a thousand words. So here's an additional "1000 words" for you awesome people ;)

roamingfirefly.[deviantart].[com/]#/d5364q6 (remove the brackets)

It's a piece of artwork I did for this story. When a certain other site rolled out the image manager and said we could upload images to be our stories' covers, my imagination started mulling over what the cover of this story could be. But when I drew it out, I found out two things: that site can only display the image in a tiny little rectangle, and, my drawing might be a bit...suggestive ^^; As a lot of you know, that certain other site has been purging stories with adult content. So far in this story, there's not been anything too explicit…I think… But yeah, maybe I shouldn't give this story a cover that looks like that to alarm people there ^^;



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