a boy's best friend

Disgruntled mutterings filled the cavernous armoury of the Shinra mansion. Which was strange, given the size of the person emitting them. Riku would have slumped his shoulders had they not already been forcibly weighed down by their solid metal armour.

"But why do I need to wear these, Sephiroth?" he protested again.

Sephiroth snapped. "I have told you, we're going to see Mother. You will dress as Mother wishes." He scowled at the argumentative young boy. "...And you will call me Onii-san."

Riku resigned himself to his fate. It had all seemed a rather good idea at the time. Sephiroth had power, charisma....well, charisma of a sort, he thought, but he wasn't entirely certain whether it was his opinion or one that had been given to him that made him think that. But anyway, he had taught everyone's darling Sora a lesson, and that was fine by Riku. Though now they had come to Nibelheim - the eternal topic of Sephiroth's conversation - Riku had noticed a change in him. He seemed unsettled, as close to nervous as one with no apparent concept of fear could be. Something had excited a spark in his deep turquoise eyes, giving the appearance of one who knew the future, and knew it had something to do with him.

But that didn't stop him being entirely unreasonable about the armour. They weren't even going to fight anyone, as far as Riku could grasp. Nibelheim had been a calm town for years now. He had never quite understood the circumstances but apparently the trouble subsided not long after a fire destroyed a good deal of the place. But whatever it was Sephiroth intended to do, Riku knew it was probably better just to stay quiet and do as he was told.

"Come on!" Sephiroth barked, "Mother will be waiting for us. I told her I would bring her a surprise today." He smiled gently at Riku, now clad in his own black coat and boots. "Mother will be pleased to see you..."

The journey to the reactor on Mt. Nibel was never one to be taken lightly, even less so in winter. Sephroth appeared to have boundless energy, scaling the jagged rocks and impossibly small tracks happily, chastising Riku for ‘making Mother wait’. Eventually they came to the base attached to the mountain Mako reactor. The entrance doors were rusted, but opened easily as Sephiroth pushed them with the tip of his sword.

"We'll be with Mother soon! You'll like Mother, she can help us." Sephiroth's face betrayed nothing of the joy in his voice. It concerned Riku how this could be so, but not nearly as much as the question of who ‘Mother’ really was.

Sephiroth strode up the steps to the reactor, past row upon row of odd-looking capsules. Every so often, something inside them appeared to be twitching. Riku followed obediently, if with due caution.

"Come on!"

They crossed the steel walkway to the centre of the reactor building. Everything in the room reflected a pale turquoise from the pools of natural energy collected below. Sephiroth stopped outside the final door and turned to look at Riku.

"Mother lives here, Riku. It's Mother we're fighting for. We have to help her save the planet. You'll understand soon enough..." He opened the heavy door and proceeded into the chamber.

Inside, Riku saw another of the strange tubes that had flanked the entrance to the main reactor, only this time it was glass, and inside he could see what might loosely be termed a human, in that it had both head and torso, but nothing else. On its forehead was affixed a plaque reading ‘JENOVA’.

Sephiroth was more agitated than Riku had ever seen him now. He flung himself at the base of the capsule, staring up at the face inside.

"Mother!" he cried in an excited but strangely earnest voice. "Mother! Look! I've found a new brother! This is good news, isn't it?" His eyes shone as he gazed at the seemingly vacant form before him, as if he were listening intently for an answer. Riku edged forward cautiously and immediately caught the attention of his ‘onii-san’.

"Riku! Come and meet Mother! She's pleased with you, you can stay with us now!" He grinned wildly as he pushed the boy towards the water-filled capsule. Riku stared at the horrifying misshapen being behind the glass. He could feel waves of energy pulsating around it, but even more than that he could feel his own fear. In panic, he pushed a startled Sephiroth away from him and ran as fast as he could from the chamber.

"Stop being so trusting, Riku!" he told himself as he ran down the pathway from the reactor, "Stop being so trusting of THE WRONG PEOPLE!"