The platoon trudged up the muddy path, water running downhill between their feet. They still hadn't made contact yet with the Wutai troops, but rumor had it that they were holed up in the hills that now surrounded the platoon. The unit of Wutai troops they were looking for was led by the infamous Hamato, a commander the Shinra Army had learned to fear for his cunning in battle. The hills looked dark and rain soaked from the storms of the past few days.

"Sergeant?" The lieutenant called out from the middle of the column. Lieutenant Mandrake had been "in country" less than two weeks, and it showed in how he did things. Everyone, except the lieutenant, knew that walking up the middle of a valley in the open was coming close to suicide here in Wutai.

"Yes, sir?" Sergeant Kormack was the perfect foil to his new lieutenant. He was short and burly, while the lieutenant was tall and gangly. The sergeant had been in Wutai a lot longer than two weeks.

"Once we reach that hill up ahead, we'll set up camp for the night and wait for reinforcements before we finish our sweep."

"Yes sir." Kormack turned away and called out to the platoon, "Hurry it up there!"

About 10 minutes later, they reached their destination. Tactically speaking, the only thing the hill Lieutenant Mandrake has chosen for their camp had going for it was it was higher than the path, somewhat dry, and had some bushes for cover. The sergeant looked around.

"Alright men, get your gear unpacked and tents put up, the faster you do it, the faster you can have dinner."

The men shrugged off their packs and set to work. Tents quickly came up and defensive positions were laid out and manned. Cook fires came alive, despite the soggy ground and wood. The men ate and got settled in for the night.

The light rain let up some time after midnight. The stars came out, illuminating the valley, through which came a light breeze. Fires slowly burned down as men traded places, some going to sleep, while others took over the watch.

The attack came at dawn. The Wutai troops were dressed like the peasants of the village the platoon had passed through the day before. They moved in three groups out of the surrounding hills, coming in on three sides. Only the path back down the valley was clear. Each group had about 30 rebels. All together, the Wutai force outnumbered the platoon 3 to 1. Mandrake and Kormack stood at the highest point on the hill and looked around. The valley ran from north to south, and they were at the northern end. The Wutai troops were coming from the north, east, and west.

"I don't like these odds sir, they're coming at us on three sides and who knows what they have down the valley. If we fall back now, we can make it to those trees and hold out."

"They won't storm the hill, Sergeant. We have clear fields of fire and plenty of ammunition. We will stay here and wait for our reinforcements. When SOLDIER gets here, we'll really show'em what the Shinra can do."

"Yes sir," it was the only thing Kormack could say. But he knew better. Out in one of those rebel groups was Hamato. Hamato was known to use materia on Shinra troops just before an attack. The magic would throw the Shinra off guard and allow the Wutai fighters to get in close before the Shinra could respond. Many units, including some large regiments, had been destroyed by Hamato this way. At least the reinforcements were SOLDIER, not that it would matter if the platoon was gone by then.

Kormack and Mandrake looked up as the Wutai troops let up a wild yell. A glow began to grow from the northern group as someone began to call up some magic. Arcs of magical light began to streak into the sky as Hamato called up the power of his materia. Mandrake set off for the perimeter of the hill, leaving Kormack to oversee the battle. He had a clear view down the hill as Hamato lifted his curved sword and pointed it at the line of Shinra soldiers. A stream of light jumped from the tip of the blade and hit a machine gun position, creating a ball of flame.

At that moment a bolt of lightning came from behind and struck Hamato. Sergeant Kormack turned his head to see a black clad man come up over a hill leading a battle-hardened unit of SOLDIER. The sergeant felt a surge, but realized the rebels still outnumbered them 2 to 1. Kormack knew how good SOLDIER was, but were they this good?

SOLDIER divided up, five of them moving towards a group of 30 rebel troops. Kormack saw the lieutenant rushing around, yelling at the men to open fire. He looked up to watch the first group of SOLDIERs attack their target. They used magic first, hitting the rebels closest to them, some exploding in flame, others turning to stone. Then they began using their swords. With each sweep, it looked like two or three rebels went down. Nothing could stop SOLDIER!

The other two Wutai groups saw all this and began to move back into the hills. SOLDIER and the Shinra unit began to pursue. Sergeant Kormack gathered some men and took off in the direction of Hamato's group. They caught up with them in time to see the black clad man and Hamato begin to fight. Each drew his sword. Hamato had his graceful katana blade. Then Kormack saw the black clad man's sword and realized.

Everyone in Wutai knew who Sephiroth was, but the sergeant hadn't recognized him; but only one man could possibly use a blade as long as he was tall.

The air instantly grew chill as Sephiroth used ice magic. Kormack could see the frost form on Hamato's beard, but he quickly countered with his fire magic. Sephiroth must have had a fire ring, for the flames surrounded his body with no effect. Realizing his magic would be useless, Hamato brought his sword up into the ready position and then struck. Sephiroth parried the katana easily. They circled each other slowly, looking for a weakness in the other's stance and style. Hamato struck again with a sweep to the head.

They locked blades and looked into each other's eyes. Something in Sephiroth's blue eyes made Hamato turn white, and Sephiroth pushed forward hard, knocking Hamato to the ground. Sephiroth quickly brought his blade up over his head and swung down. Hamato brought up his katana to block; Masamune cut right through the steel and completed its journey in Hamato's now lifeless body.

The battle ended soon after. Throughout the day, the SOLDIER and Shinra units mopped up what was left of the Wutai troops and then came back to the hill for the night. The squad leaders reported in and Kormack asked where Mandrake was.

"Where is the Lieutenant?"

"Sir, he bought it, sir."

"He's dead?!"

"Yessir, up in the ridge, them rebels turned and fought and he caught a round in the chest, sir. Nothin' we could do for him."

Kormack dismissed the men, and walked off. Mandrake had been right about the reinforcements, but wrong about what the mission was for. The sergeant walked over to where SOLDIER was camped out. "Excuse me sir, could I please speak to you for a moment?"

Sephiroth looked up, "Fine, speak."

"In private?" Sephiroth got up and started walking, Kormack fell in beside him.

"Sir, why were we sent out here?" Kormack asked.

"Sergeant, your unit's mission was to sweep--"

"Excuse me sir! We both know you don't sweep a valley this large with only a platoon. Why were we sent out here on a suicide mission?"

Sephiroth stopped walking. "You did well today, Sergeant, you might as well know. The commander of the rebels, Hamato, has been very good at hitting us and eluding us. Everyone knows that Wutai has spies from here to Midgar. They know where we are and where we are going. So I decided to use that to our advantage. They see a young lieutenant fresh off the boat from Midgar. They see our lieutenant take his platoon out into the countryside when every other officer knows better. So Hamato thinks our lieutenant will make a good target. We send you out and follow and when Hamato made his move, we made ours."

"And now my lieutenant's dead because of your nice little plan, did you expect that?"

"Our fresh young lieutenant had a few bad comments from Shinra Headquarters too, but men die everyday in war anyway, two problems solved at once. If it makes you feel any better Sergeant, at least he died for a good cause."

Kormack stormed off, leaving a man whose black clothes ideally suited his personality.