There’s no such thing as soulmates. Sephiroth’s heard it from Professor Hojo for as long as he can remember. It’s superstitious nonsense. He’s a SOLDIER. SOLDIER’s don’t waste their time on foolish romantic notions, and doesn’t he have training to do? Sephiroth does, and so he takes his sword and heads to the simulator. He’s young, only thirteen, but he already looks like fifteen or sixteen. That’s what the Planet’s own dose of mako will do to a guy. He tries to put the idea out of his head and concentrate on forms, but his hand itches. It isn’t his sword hand, thank goodness. After practice, he pulls his gloves off and examines the back of his hand. There’s a faint mark there; a tea stain slightly darker than his usually fair skin. Maybe it’s just a rash.
Sephiroth doesn’t have time to think about romance. He’s to be shipped to Wutai in two weeks. He’s fifteen and the stain on his hand has turned into a name. It doesn’t look like anything but a weird pattern on his otherwise unblemished skin, but he can read it. He reads it as often as he can: Felicia. It’s the name of the person who loves him, or rather, the person who will love him. Sure he has Genesis and Angeal, but it’s not the same thing. Maybe once the war is over, he can look for her, and things will be better. Felicia. He falls asleep with the taste of it on his tongue.
Wutai is over, but the fires he set there have only spread to Midgar. Angeal’s dying, Genesis has defected, and most days it feels like Zack is the only thing standing between Sephiroth and completely losing his godsdamned mind. Even Felicia seems to have deserted him. The name on his hand has faded, whole letters disappearing. In desperation, he shows it to the Professor. Hojo scowls at him, disapproving. Sephiroth wonders what it is he’s done wrong this time? It’s not as if he wrote the name himself.
“I knew this girl,” the Professor tells him, and Sephiroth’s jaw nearly hits the floor. “She’s dead.”
He doesn’t believe it. He can’t believe it. And yet… His friends have abandoned him. He’s alone now. Has Felicia left him too? He sits down heavily on one of the exam tables.
“I know it hurts.” The Professor’s voice is gentle, a tone Sephiroth’s not heard from his lips at any point in his life. It sends a chill shivering through him. “Believe me, I know. It’s better if you can’t see if. If you don’t remember.”
As the Professor approaches him with an instrument Sephiroth doesn’t recognize, he notices a thick scar on the back of Hojo’s right hand. Too late, he understands.
He leaves the Science Department with a bandage around his hand and tears standing unshed in his eyes. It isn’t the pain in his hand, it’s the pain in his heart. Across the back of his hand, Hojo has drawn an elaborate tattoo, completely obscuring what letters remained. The person who loved him is gone. He’s never met her, and he’s not sure how he’ll learn to live without her.
The tattoo fades after about six months. Accelerated healing due to all the mako. After a year, it’s gone entirely. The scars linger in Sephiroth’s mind and heart, and not on his skin. A handful of letters remain, but they’ve shifted, and two new ones have appeared, Now it spells out something different: Elfe. The hell kind of a name is that?
It’s not until the briefing for Corel that it hits him, that he makes the connection. Inside the folder, he reads the name and sees the photo next to it. Elfe, leader of Avalanche. He sits frozen, staring at her sullen mugshot while the briefing goes on around him. He’s found her, and now he’s got to kill her. All evidence suggests she doesn’t love him, she hates him. What must she have thought when she found her name appearing on her skin like invisible ink? Had she done like the Professor and tried to obliterate it? Had she tried to cut it away, to burn it off, or simply cover it in ink?
He’s the last to leave, wandering out of the briefing room as if in a dream. Maybe he is being a sentimental fool. What kind of idiot pines after a woman who only knows him by a word, a name on her skin? She’s known him longer than he’s known her. Wutai has made him famous in all the wrong ways. She’s heard the war stories, has an active vendetta against Shinra. She can only hate him. He goes to his room, intending to pack, but drops heavily onto the sofa instead. It takes more than an hour for him to stop crying.
Elfe has never had a name on her hand. For as long as she can remember, she’s had a shard of materia there instead. That’s fine. She needs no one, least of all a soulmate. Not everyone gets the marks, and when she was thirteen, it had been devastating. She’s twenty-five now, and could care less. All that matters is the death of Shinra and the life of the Planet.
Intelligence says Shinra’s on to them. That’s fine. Avalanche is on to Shinra. They’ve spent months spying on each other and taking potshots. This time, Shinra won’t know what hit them. Sneaking into Corel via the vast network of mine tunnels is easy. Laying the explosives proves a bit more difficult. Of course, their luck can’t last forever. The damn Turks get in the way, and then Sephiroth shows up. Shinra’s sent their greatest weapon to send a message: they mean business. Elfe draws her sword, not even a little bit afraid. She means business too.
“I don’t want to fight you,” Sephiroth tells her. There’s something in his face, in his tone, that sounds like the truth. But how can a weapon not want to fight? What is a sword meant for, if not to kill? Elfe decides that even if he doesn’t want to fight her, she wants to fight him.
Oddly enough, she wins. Okay, so maybe it’s a technical win- he leaves in the middle of the battle, but not before she’s sent him sprawling in the dust- but virtually no one can say they’ve crossed swords with Sephiroth and lived to tell the tale. Kind of him to offer some propaganda she can use for her own purposes.
After Veld, after Fuhito, after Zirconiade, she’s got a whole materia and an empty heart. For the space of a few minutes, she had glimpsed what the stone had hidden. The diamond takes up the whole of her hand, but beneath its faceted surface, she can now see the name shimmering like stones at the bottom of a mountain lake:
For a long time, she isn’t sure what to think or feel. At first she’s angry, cannot believe the gods would play such a malicious prank. There are rumors of a destroyed reactor in Nibelheim, of a village burned to the ground in the process, and she wonders: was that for her? She’ll never know. It’s the last time anyone sees or hears of the legendary Silver General.
“I had my chance,” she tells her father one afternoon when the pain is particularly bad. “I had it and I lost it.”
Veld strokes a hand over her hair, his expression kind, yet so sad.
“I know how that goes,” he says, and tilts his metal arm toward her. There’s something engraved on one of the struts inside his forearm. It’s so delicate, she’d never noticed it before. Squinting, she realizes it’s a name. And it isn’t her mother’s.
He nods. “Never could do anything the easy way. I had my chance and I lost it. Sometimes...that’s just the way it is.”