The voice called softly, faintly and gently.
At the mentioning of his name, the nightmare vanished and was replaced by a warm glow. Vincent looked towards the glow and slowly, Lucrecia materialized before him in a white gown stained with blood.
"Vincent, I know there is great distress in your soul. Things that you may not consciously be aware of, but your subconscious knows."
"There was much I wanted to tell you before I left the world, but I couldn’t get through to you."
"Lucrecia…my sweet angel…"
"I may not be such an angel once I tell you the things I should have all those years ago…"
"It does not matter…I still love you…"
"I know…and some of what I need to tell you is from the darkest corners of my soul…demons I had hoped to destroy before I left…they are like the demons of your soul…"
"Lucrecia...what are the demons that scratch and tear at my heart? Please, tell me."
"For that, I will have to take you back to Nibelheim, thirty-one years ago..."
The glow disappeared and was replaced with a scene all too familiar in Vincent’s mind.
"All you remember is our relationship here in Nibelheim, but what you don’t know is why it all happened. Am I correct in that assumption?"
"Yes, I remember it well..." Suddenly, the intense emotions he had thirty-one years ago returned to him in a tidal wave; washing his entire existence with joy, love, hatred, and most of all, betrayal.
"Tell me what you remember, Vincent."
"I remember the night you told me you loved me..."
"And then, the days afterwards where there was nothing but joy and love between us. Then, all of a sudden, you began to take interest in Hojo. I thought it was nothing, at first; dismissing it as an admiration for a fellow scientist. But then, it became more than that all of a sudden, when you married Hojo clear out of the blue. I felt very left out and confused. I hated Hojo for stealing you away from me, and I felt betrayed because you had shared a bed with me, but went and married someone else, especially on such short notice without even explaining why."
"It’s true that I married Hojo without much of a warning. I’m sorry, Vincent. During those days, I was thinking of my own goals more than anyone else's feelings. For me, it was a debate over which one of you was the more practical choice. I loved you an incredible amount, but my common sense won out in the end and I married Hojo because he was a scientist like me. Also, you were a Turk. What was I to do if you were out on a mission and I needed you? Or what if you died? What then? Hojo proposed to me only a few days before he and I were married. In those few days, I made the most selfish decision of my life, and I left you out of it. That is one of the demons I bare; my selfishness over others feelings, especially yours, Vincent."
"Furthermore," Lucrecia continued, "I, too, had nightmares about Hojo. The inhumanity of the man I had recently married began to show up. He began eyeing me differently than before, and before I knew it, he was so consumed by his work on the Jenova Project that he didn’t regard anyone as human anymore. It was at that point, Vincent, that I discovered I had a child growing in me. The father, I realized, was you..."
Upon hearing those last few words, Vincent stumbled backwards and could scarcely keep himself upright.
"You always knew it in the back of your mind, Vincent. That’s why those demons hound you so. You had a premonition that I could have been carrying your child, but pushed it onto Hojo because that’s what I told you."
"Why didn’t you ever tell me this before?!"
"My reputation as trustworthy scientist was at stake. A female scientist was hardly ever taken seriously back then, as you will recall. What would people say if they knew I was having an illegitimate son? Thus, the demon of selfishness returned to claim me."
"Wait, how can you even be sure he was my child?"
"Hojo wasn’t a romantic like you, Vincent. He only laid with me in bed once, and he thought that was enough. It appeared that way too when I told him a few days later that I was pregnant. Hojo never suspected that the son I carried was not his because he didn’t keep track of how long I was pregnant, nor did he care, as long as he got his new specimen..."
"I only went along with Hojo’s experiment because I was spiteful for even having a child, especially an illegitimate one. I, in my spite and selfishness, felt an urge to destroy this being; this bastard of a son whose father I wasn’t even married to. I lived for a long time with this sin on my heart."
"What was worse was the spite was against you as well."
"Is that why you didn’t stop Hojo from performing his experiments on me?" Vincent said, holding up his claw.
"Yes...Only years later, when I was discarded like some used petri dish, did I really think over what I had done...and that was when I realized that I loved you more than anyone else in the world...But it was too late to do anything about it all...and so the demons of my sins hounded me for thirty years…as they still hound me today...the demons of selfishness, spite, hatred and destruction...they destroyed me...they destroyed us...the three of us..."
"But what of my demons? Why do I have so many? If what you say is true, then my only fault so far is being the father of a son I never knew. Or are they the result of my knowing that I had a son? Are they plaguing me because I was never the father I should have been?"
"In a way, yes. A few of them are the result of you knowing you had a child, but they torment you because you were never there for him. Other demons are part of your struggle to see some sort of fairness in life. You always felt..."
"...like you were taking all the pain by yourself, when it’s like you really weren’t because I was also suffering..."
"Exactly...your demon of hatred is one you've created for yourself. It's time to let it go…You can't go on for the rest of your life hating yourself for what I did."
"Lucrecia…more than anything in the world, I want to be with you…I want to end my life and join you…"
"Vincent…you also possess the demons of selfishness and spite. I can see them, and you must learn to rid them from your soul. You say that you want to leave your life and return to the Planet, and yet, it is so selfish of you not to think of your friends. You only want to die to satisfy your own needs and wants. What about your friends? Do you think that they aren't deserving of your life?…that their friendship is not enough to keep you alive?"
The silence that followed seemed to last forever. Vincent bowed his head in shame. He had never thought of things that way. After a while, Lucrecia spoke up.
"Vincent, it’s too late for me to physically atone for my sins. However, it isn’t too late for you...or Sephiroth...since I was directly responsible for what happened to our child, I felt that the only way I can patch things up and make amends is to help you and Sephiroth gain a second chance to right the wrongs in your lives. He will be returned to you."
"What? I don’t understand."
"Vincent, listen...When a person dies, they are given a choice. Those who are truly remorseful of what they had done while they were alive are given a second chance…a chance to go back and right the wrongs before their spirit dissolves into the Lifestream. During all those years I spent in hiding, I began to truly regret everything I had ever done. I promised myself that if the Planet gave me a second chance, that I would give that chance to my son. Just as I predicted, Sephiroth was not given a chance to relive life because he regretted nothing. I spoke with him during the time I was ill; while I was drifting back and forth between the two worlds. He finally found out the truth of his origin and felt a need to claim his rightful identity. Only in reflection did he see the absolute evil of his actions, and in doing so, he vowed to change. I gave him my chance to relive life…to atone for my sins against him. Thus, Sephiroth’s spirit will return to the earth. He will return in the form of a child, the child that was ripped from you...this time around, with your love and help, Sephiroth should turn out alright and better spirited. He’s your responsibility now, Vincent...take good care of him; better than I ever did." With that, Lucrecia started to fade into the landscape.
"But I don’t know how to care for a child!"
"Open your heart, Vincent, and let your emotions go...you have a radiant and beautiful soul, like the beauty of the snow."
Vincent woke up with a start and looked over at his clock. It was 3 am. Peering out the window by his bed, he noticed that it had stopped snowing and the clouds had cleared up a bit. The moon cast its eerie glow on the snow and it made Vincent think of what Lucrecia had said in the dream... "like the beauty of the snow..." Just when he was about to go back to sleep, a loud knocking at his front door made Vincent get up to see who it was. He hurried downstairs, fumbled with the lock and opened the door. There was no one outside except for the lone basket on his front steps. Bending over to see what was in the basket, he was surprised, but not so surprised, to find a baby boy. Attached to the basket was a note:
Please look after this child because we, ourselves, have no means of doing so. His name is Zack.
Looking at the child, Vincent remembered what he had promised. Gently holding the baby in his arms, he looked up into the night sky, and whispered, "Thank you, Lucrecia, for giving us a second chance."