Redemption Part 5
Part 5- The Child of Destiny
“I know it must sound presumptuous of me to just outright say it, but...” Aeris’ voice trailed off. (Oh no. What if I was wrong?) She slowly took a deep breath.
Cloud realized she had been upset by his reaction. (Oh no, oh no...not again. Can’t I do anything right without hurting someone?) “No...it was just surprising to hear someone say it. I don’t know if I’ve heard anyone say it.”
“So it is true,” she mused softly.
“Of course.” He shook his head. “Of course you’d find out...because the idea to hide the truth was my idea.”
“That’s not why.” A smile. “Believe me, Cloud. I know because the time has come. We can’t hide the truth anymore.”
“So you know the truth? All the truth?” A realization suddenly hit him. “I didn’t want to do it, I swear I didn’t–” He gasped as fourteen years of pent-up emotions overtook him.
“Shh...don’t.” (I’ve never seen anyone in so much agony before...he...he hurts so bad because of how the grand scheme of things got skewed by her.) She did the only thing that she could think of, taking him into her arms. “It’s all right now...I know it. Everything will be fine...”
“It’s not all right, it’s not. You wouldn’t act like this if you knew how it happened.” He laughed bitterly. “I would run a sword through any man who did the same thing. Planet forbid I ever work up enough balls to do it to myself.”
“No. The Planet told me. I know. I know everything. Everything.”
Scared blue eyes peered into her face. “How much do you know?”
The sadness and hope intermixed inside her, and she raised her eyes upward. Though she knew both his pain and that of her mother, she also knew the opportunity that had been offered up to all that lived on the Planet. “All anyone could know about you. Things that played out for you during years’ worth of time...the knowledge...the memories...have suddenly bestowed upon me.”
“You know everything in the Planet?”
She shook her head. “I know everything in Cloud.” Placing a hand over his heart, she managed a small smile. “It’s been a long time since you’ve had someone willing to vouch for you, isn’t it?”
He looked away. “It’s bad enough for the Planet to treat me as I’ve been told it has. Why should it curse you so?”
Aeris stood up and shrugged. “Hey, I’ve been trying to think of all this new knowledge as a gift from the Planet. Though I’m just guessing that the powers-that-be want some kind of agent here for their own purposes.” She glanced down at the man. “It’s weird though. I’m beginning to think that they’re doing something else to me.”
He stood up next to her. “What is it?” he asked with concern. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Oh yeah.” She gave a little laugh. “It’s the funniest thing. First they give me all this knowledge and understanding so you have a friend with you.”
She briefly nodded, then leaned in closer to him. “For some reason or another...” A wink. “...I just want to do this.”
Every fiber of Cloud’s body tingled in surprise as Raieyana’s daughter brought her lips to his, in a deep kiss. Intensity surged through his mind, willing him to withdraw from what he knew would be a mistake. (No. Even if it’s selfish, even if it doesn’t mean anything at all, let me have this moment. If one other person can feel it inside to have mercy on my soul, I know I can go on.) He cautiously returned the gesture, prolonging it as long as he could. (If only this one moment would never end...)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The man with the axe inched closer. “Get back,” growled Patrick.
Daniel shook his head and prepared a spell. Closing his eyes, he gathered the energy it would take to cast. (Please work. I don’t want either one of them angry at me.) “Sleep–All!”
Azura gasped as her protector fell to his knees in slumber. “What’s wrong with you guys?” she fumed.
Daniel suddenly saw the ribbon on the girl’s arm. (Oh shit.)
Benjamin smiled and prepared to go after Patrick. He jumped back as a bolt of lightning struck the ground in front of him. “Ow! Fuckin’ hell?!” He dropped his weapon; apparently, a bit of the electricity had conducted through the metal in it. “How’d the bitch cast so fast?”
She tossed her head. “I’m not fast, you’re just slow.”
“Oh really.” He dusted off his weapon and prepared to cast something on her. (Something good. Make her pay.)
“Ben!” Daniel shook his head. “Status stuff only.”
“Screw that, she shocked me. Obviously she’s not the helpless babe that everyone suspected. She’s that freak’s slut.”
“Esuna,” said Azura softly.
A blue light flashed and Patrick stood again. “Don’t you come nearer,” he swore at the two warriors.
“Dan? Put him back to sleep, she’s not strong enough to keep waking him up.”
Unfortunately for Benjamin’s plan, Azura had a mastered Heal materia. She hadn’t bothered to check on Patrick after the Esuna spell; she was too busy working on her next. Her eyes flashed green as she cast Resist on him.
Patrick grinned. (I gotta give her a kiss for that later.) “So what d’ya say boys? Are you going to leave a grown girl by herself, or should I let her fry you guys?”
“We saw her measly Bolt3 spell.” Benjamin grinned. “So she can cast. Big deal.”
Shoving her way past Patrick, Azura gave Benjamin a once-over and laughed. “Right. And I’ve never seen a grown man get so worried over a simple Bolt spell. Level one, honey, and you couldn’t even take it.”
Patrick held out an arm to hold her back.
“Pat? Can I cast something on him? I won’t kill him–quickly.”
He cracked a smile and waved a hand. “Ladies first.”
Daniel and Benjamin looked at each other warily. She pointed to Daniel. “Step back, Danny-boy. I’ll handle you next.” She winked at Benjamin. “Here’s to never seeing your ugly mug again.”
He rolled his eyes, and decided to cast something on her while she prepared her spell. (Cocky bitch. If I ever get my hands on her when that Danny isn’t around...)
Unfortunately for him, he had no idea that she was nonchalantly gathering her magic power during the conversation. She cast Frog Song on him while he was still in mid-eye roll.
Patrick laughed. “Zuri, that has to be the best thing I’ve seen you do yet.”
She bent over and picked up the sleeping frog. Handing it to Daniel, she said, “You’re lucky he was with you. Otherwise, you would be the toad.”
He sighed. “What am I supposed to do now? My dad told me to come get Azura Valentine.”
“Tell Legolas that Azura doesn’t want to be found. And the next time he sends a toad after her, it’ll come back squashed.” Patrick crossed his arms.
“You know you can’t stay out here, Patrick.”
The blond boy nodded. “I’ll leave the area.” After seeing the glance sent his way, he rephrased his statement. “We’ll leave the area. Me and Zuri.”
“Will you have enough to live on until you can get someplace else?”
“I’m not sure. Dan, you couldn’t do me a favor, could you?”
“Depends on what it is,” he said slowly.
Patrick looked up. “I’d like to get some more of my things from my house. Is there any way you could get everyone out of it?”
“No one is there, Patrick. They took your mom somewhere.”
A brief look of worry crossed his face, and Azura noticed it. She decided to take over for him. “Can you help us get back without having to face any more of these ‘warriors’?”
Daniel thought for a moment, then nodded. “Follow me.” He left the toad sleeping in the grass as he led the two back to Undor-Hai.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
He broke away, breathing heavily. “This isn’t right.”
Aeris cocked her head to the side. “I am an adult, you know. I can kiss whomever I decide to.”
“You don’t know me.”
She laughed. “Actually, it’s you who doesn’t know me. I got mega-brain integration by some floofy angel up there. I got to see every side of you.”
“That’s what I don’t get. You say that...and then you know I’m the father of your brother...”
“...like that makes it any better.”
“It helps a little.” A small smile brushed her lips. “Besides, look at how you’re reacting. Have you ever been kissed before?”
“Your mother doesn’t count.”
He turned away from her. “And you’re just a child.”
“You’re just saying that to me because I was right!” She grabbed his shoulders and turned him so he was facing her. “Cloud, have you ever been in love even?”
“No. But I’m a child.” She smirked.
“I thought I was...once. But I never got the chance to find out. I was your age...she was a sweet little thing. Then again,” he continued bitterly, “I only seemed to notice how special she was...after she was gone.”
“It still hurts?” Aeris looked at him.
“No. Well, a little, but I came to terms with it many years ago. One of those things that ‘had to happen.’” He lowered his head. “Anyway, I didn’t even get a kiss from her, and then...someone loved me once, but by the time I saw, she was done with me.”
“Life isn’t a storybook.”
“We all know that deep down, but you haven’t really seen that yet. That’s why you shouldn’t even bother trying with me. I burned the book back when you were still just a child.”
She touched his arm. “A kiss isn’t going to bind me to you with chains of steel. It could be the first link, though.”
The fire had begun to die; a husky twilight had descended upon the room. “Do you even want a link to me?” asked Cloud.
“No...I wouldn’t settle for something so small. Somehow, I do know you, though. This is very soon, too soon for anything. But I need the time for you to learn if you want a link to me. If you can trust me...” Green eyes fell on his blue ones. They were the third of their line to do so.
This time, the lips that reached over were his own. This kiss was an answer to her question; even a friendship could not be built in a day, but the chemistry that seemed to spark in the very air between them was hard to ignore.
Suddenly, the door flew open as Patrick and Zuri entered the house. The sight that greeted the boy’s eyes was that of his sister, in the arms of the man who had once hurt his mother, long ago.
“She wants to relay a message to you. ‘I’m all right,’ she says, ‘and I need you to stop looking for me. I’ll come back when I wish. Sending people to find me will only end up in them getting hurt.’”
Vincent glared at the PHS. “Legolas. You’re saying Daniel found her and just let her go.”
“She turned one of my best warriors into a frog.”
“It’s called ‘transform magic.’ It can easily be prevented with a ribbon or something.”
“Which she was wearing. Especially since she’s with Patrick, the only way to force her back home would be to knock her unconscious and drag her back. After killing him.”
“You can’t be serious about that, can you? Because I’m not going to send people out to kill the kid. And you have to be concerned enough whether your daughter will be okay...”
“I doubt she’ll be okay with him.”
“Danny said she looked perfectly fine. I wash my hands of the matter, Vincent. She’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself, and she doesn’t want to come back.”
(How can she not want to come back...?)
“She told Daniel that she wanted you and Yuffie to know she was fine, but she made her decision.”
“She’s just a child...”
“According to Daniel, a child with fearsome strength in magic. You can make your own decision. It’s beyond what we can do here. Out of bounds. It’s a family matter. You can only hope someday she decides she wants to remedy whatever bond was broken there.”
“Nothing was broken!”
“Vincent. It’s not my concern. Go talk with your family. That’s what you need to concentrate on.”
Vincent slammed down the PHS as his wife walked into the room. “Who was that?”
He sighed. “Legolas.”
“Any news from Undor-Hai?”
Worry crossed her face. “What is it?”
“They found Zuri. She’s with Patrick, and she has no intentions of coming back. They manhandled a pair of warriors, of which one was Daniel Masterson.”
“Yes. She told Dan to tell us that she isn’t going to come back to see us until she’s ready. She threatened anyone we might send after her.”
Yuffie let out a sigh of relief. “So she’s fine.”
“Fine? She’s out there, alone, with Patrick, and refuses to come home! That’s just so fine!”
She shrugged. “She’s at that stage...”
He returned her remark with a cold glare. “That stage?”
“Calm down honey. You were never a sixteen-year-old girl. Just think, how much better behaved she is than I was at sixteen!”
“I always appreciated that...but...” He glanced at Yuffie. “I also remember what you were doing when you were sixteen. You know, the whole reason for Kati’s existence...”
“Oh.” She sat down. “That.”
“I’m slightly worried.”
“You did mention birth control methods in the ‘birds and the bees’ talk, right?”
“Me? I thought you gave her that talk.”
A startling realization crossed Yuffie’s face. “Uh oh.” She looked at her husband. “I hope Zuri cools down. Soon.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“This is very interesting, indeed. How long has it been hidden back in the library, do you think?” Red XIII examined the scroll.
Tifa shrugged. “I honestly have no idea. It wasn’t until I learned to read that dialect that anyone would have had a clue to its importance.”
“Why do you think it is important? Besides the fact that we haven’t seen it before, that is.”
“Well...as you know, the Cetra were expert word builders. Many words are just compounds...because there are so many syllables that have their own meanings, some that differ in context.”
“Yes, that’s one of the things that makes these ancient writings so difficult to decipher.”
She looked at him. “A few years ago, I was lucky enough to get a good look at the scrolls that Raieyana had worked on about twenty years ago. The ones that talked about resurrection, and the prophecy about her resurrection. It was the only place that these two glyphs appeared together. Khazed.”
“What does the word mean?”
“Sacred death. Raieyana sacrificed herself, so the prophecy of Khazed referred to that instance. The same word is in the title of this scroll I found.”
“Another prediction of sacrifice.”
Tifa shook her head. “Maybe, but I doubt it. I believe that if I get a chance to work on this, we’ll find that it is referring to her death. The title...it’s prophecies beyond the Calamity from the Skies and the Sacrifice.”
Red XIII held up the scroll. “So what you are saying...” He spoke slowly. “That right here, in our hands, could lie the key to our future?”
“When do we begin?”
“Now. Unless you want to sleep tonight. I doubt we’ll want to stop once we get into this.”
He thought of Raieyana’s words and how they piqued his curiosity. “I’ll go get the things we need.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Patrick?!” Aeris’ eyes went wide in surprise.
“I was told that no one was here,” he said in a low voice. “Don’t worry, I’ll be on my way.” He turned to leave.
“Wait!” She ran to stop him. “You can’t go. I was looking for you.”
“You were trying oh so very hard.”
“Well, in case you didn’t notice, it’s dark and kind of late. I was going to go out into the woods in the morning.”
“Why did you need to find me? Do you want to attack me too or something?”
“Attack you? Patrick...” Her brow furrowed. “Is everything okay?”
Azura spoke softly. “That’s really not the question to ask someone at a time like this.”
Aeris looked sheepish. “Fine. This is all right. Now I don’t have to search for Patrick, and he doesn’t have to hide. Anyone comes by here, I just say I haven’t seen you.”
Patrick eyed Cloud with suspicion. “That would help. Now could you tell me who this is?”
He stepped forward. “Cloud Strife.”
“I see. Never knew you were such great friends with my sister.”
“Pat...” said Azura, a tone of warning in her voice.
“What?” He turned to her. “I have no right to ask what this strange guy is doing fondling a member of my family?”
“He didn’t fondle me!” exclaimed Aeris.
Giving the girl a look of sympathy, Azura addressed Patrick. “Look. We need to discuss some things anyway, so why don’t we go to your room and talk.”
“Patrick?” Aeris stepped forward and looked at him. “You will come back with me to Cosmo Canyon in a few days, right? To see Mom?”
“What does Reeve have to say about that?” he spat out.
She winced. “If we find a way back without using the Airship, he’d never know.”
“Tell me if you do. Then I’ll come. Zuri?” He turned to her and they prepared to leave.
“She needs you. I know she does. I’ll fight Dad on this, I know what’s right here. I know the truth.”
He sighed. “I just can’t face him again now.”
“You won’t be alone.”
“Let’s hope that’s enough...” He walked up the stairs to his room, followed by Azura.
Aeris sank down onto a couch and sighed.
“I thought that went rather well,” said Cloud sarcastically.
“No, that’s the best part of it all. For a conversation with him, it did go well. We never really got along too well. It was like Ishmael and I had our own world, and then there was Patrick.”
“Not much family bliss, huh?”
“We were happy enough. Mom was always around, keeping the peace. God, she’s so strong. To see everything collapse now that she’s not well...makes me finally understand how strong.”
“You seem pretty strong yourself.” He sat down next to her.
“Eh, it’s hereditary. Besides, I had to be. Two tough brothers. Especially that one upstairs, always too strong, too smart for his age.”
“I know. I was surprised. I had a fourteen-year-old pictured in my mind. He looked...almost your age. Of course, I’m sure my surprise also had something to do with...I know Azura’s sixteen, and next to him she looks so small and innocent.”
“You say that, but if you knew her...” Aeris shook her head. “Before, she was innocent. She don’t look all that innocent anymore.”
Cloud was quiet for a moment, thinking. “You don’t suppose that this change could be the result of anything he might have done to her...?”
She shook her head. “No. It’s just the well-behaved princess didn’t want to be sent back to Wutai the minute there were problems here. She’d always been friendly with Patrick, and she was there when my Dad went nuts on him. So she went to find him. I always knew deep down she was gonna be looking for him after I heard she ran away.”
“So...we’re going to try to get to Cosmo Canyon then? Without calling Cid?”
A nod. “Hopefully avoiding my father.”
“The only way to get to that continent is to take a boat or fly out from Junon.”
“I know that. But Dad is there, handling a problem with his company.”
“We’ll just have to stay away from the Alcor building.” He smiled at her. “It’s just sneaking four people through a major city. Nothing big.”
“Right!” He laughed with her, but suddenly she stopped and looked at him.
“What is it?”
She blushed and looked down. “I dunno. I haven’t been acting much like myself at all today.”
“Like in what...”
“It’s just...you must think I am such a big flirt and I’m really not at all. I’ve never really done anything at all. I’ve never even been kissed.”
He leaned in closer and touched her hand. “So are you saying that you mind...that you kissed me earlier...and then when I kissed you–”
She didn’t let him finish. She turned to face him, about to tell him... And then she noticed that her lips were a mere breadth from his. “No,” she whispered, “I liked it.”
He covered the small space between them and kissed her hungrily, then broke away. “Maybe I should let you finish what you meant to say before I butt in like that again,” he said softly.
“I was just...” She broke eye contact. “I just wonder now what might have happened if Patrick hadn’t interrupted us.”
Cloud stood up. “Me too.” He glanced at the stairs. “Where should I sleep tonight?”
“On the couch.” She walked to the stairs. “I’m gonna go to my room now. Goodnight, Cloud.” She ran up to her room before he could give her a response.
“Goodnight...Aeris,” he murmured as he sat back down on the couch, trying to comprehend all the odd feelings coursing through him. (Too much happened today.)
“You do know that the only way to get on that continent by ourselves is by boat from Junon, right?”
Patrick nodded, glancing at the girl sitting cross-legged on his bed. (Still seems like I only first truly saw her a second ago. Can’t believe she’s sitting there. With me. Every time I turn my head, I’m afraid that she’ll vanish straight into the night air.)
Azura watched him pacing back and forth across the room, as she smoothed a tangle from her long hair. “Will it work?”
“It should. Aeris isn’t stupid enough to lead us anywhere where Reeve might be.”
“Pat.” She pleaded with her eyes. “I know you’re angry with him, but shouldn’t you call him ‘Dad’ out of respect?”
“Respect for what? His hatred?”
“He doesn’t hate you.”
He sighed and stared out the window. “There’s a trait...passed down from my mother, and I think I received it. Dreams that are actually messages from somewhere beyond the physical Planet. Ever since that...that one night, I’ve been having dreams.”
“Me too. Some scare me.”
“Mine have been showing scenes from the past,” he said, half-patronizing. “My mother’s past. I have good reason to believe that Reeve isn’t really my father.”
“So?” Azura stood up and walked over next to him. “He was there for you. He’s still your dad.” She placed a hand on his.
He turned away. “He was always cold to me.”
“He probably tried his best. If the truth seems harsh to you, it must be duly so for him.”
(Why does she take his side?) “Does he need your defense now, too?”
A few tears glittered in her eyes in response to his harsh words, but she willed them not to fall. “Even if he hated you, nothing good will ever come from you hating him back. I thought you wanted to help your mother. Even if Reeve is not above hating a stepson, you should love her enough to face him with strength. Hatred is weak.”
He turned to her in time to see a drop fall from her eyes to the floor. It sparkled in the dull lamplight. “Zuri. I always knew he didn’t like me. I’m just so...so tired of it all. Aeris was nice today, but it always seemed that Mother was the only one who really wanted me around. One of my dreams has told me even that might not be true.”
She reached up and touched his face. “I want you around.”
His eyes flashed and he covered her hand with his own.
“And just because you weren’t planned–Pat, everyone knows that no one meant for Kati to be born. Your siblings probably weren’t planned. That doesn’t mean our mothers love us any less. Your mother is one of the most truthful people I have known. If you think she loves you, it’s because she does. It’s not a charade.”
“Do you truly believe that, Zuri?”
She smiled and nodded. “Of course.” She shyly closed her eyes and turned her face downward. “I know because...I love you too.”
Azura quickly walked to the other side of the room, towards the suitcase she had left sitting there before she fled. It was as if she didn’t want to hear his response. Her cheeks burned at her revelation. (How could you just come out and say that to him? He wasn’t expecting that. What if he didn’t want that? What if he doesn’t want you around now?) “Which room should I stay in tonight?” she asked lightly.
Patrick turned away. “You mean you don’t want to stay here?”
“I just thought you wouldn’t want me...especially with Aeris around.”
“You stayed in here when both sets of our parents were down the hall.”
She noticed that he included Reeve as his parent in that particular statement, storing it away in her memory for use later. “Well I wouldn’t mind staying, but I don’t want to get you in any trouble...”
He laughed. “Right. Zuri...if you want to take your slip of the tongue back, go right ahead.”
She turned her back to him and went back to her nightgown search.
She whirled around. “What, you expect me to say I didn’t mean it? I am not a liar!” Her knees felt weak, her throat tight. Slowly, she turned and kneeled in front of her bag. She pretended like looking through that suitcase was the most important thing in the world to her. However, right then and there, the most important thing was standing behind her.
Patrick’s eyes went wide when he heard a muffled cry come from the raven-haired girl. (What have I done?) “Zuri?”
“Don’t worry...” She swallowed hard. “I’ll just go. Find a room on my own or something.”
(No!) He slowly walked over to her, kneeling beside her. “Stay,” he whispered.
She turned her tear-streaked face to him and began to shake her head.
“Stay,” he pleaded. “Because the worst moment in my life was when I realized that you were the one hurt by that dragon. And the best moment was when I realized that you had braved that wilderness out there to find me.”
“It’s not enough if you don’t believe me,” she said softly.
“I’m so sorry, god, I am. I just...couldn’t...at first...it seemed too wonderful to be true. Then you wouldn’t look at me.”
“I’m looking at you now.”
“I know...” his voice trailed off as his eyes searched her face. “Zuri, you’re just so beautiful. Why would you be looking at me?” His eyes closed in pain. “I’m a killer.”
She leaned forward and her lips traced a path across his face, light as a feather, opening slightly when they found Patrick’s. “No,” she whispered, “you gave me a life.”
He kissed her, with more passion. “I love you,” he stated simply.
Azura nodded and she wrapped her arms around his neck. There was something in her eyes.
Suddenly, he understood. He lifted her carefully as he began to stand, smiling softly all the while, as she planted soft kisses all over his face...his neck. He began to carry her–then he remembered.
Reaching over to the nightstand, Patrick turned off the oil lamp.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Tifa closed her eyes and brought her fingers up to her temples, massaging them.
“You know, you probably wouldn’t get the headaches if you wore your glasses.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She looked at him. “Red...you’re still young in terms of your lifetime. You don’t know what it’s like to have delusions of youthfulness. Especially when most of your friends had Mako and Jenova treatments...and look ten years younger than their ages! Or Vincent.” She scoffed. “It’s not fair.”
“You kept your figure.”
She patted the part of her physique she was well-known for. “Thank the Planet for that, huh? I can wear bifocals and have dentures and have white hair, but as long as my fucking breasts are perky, I’ll never be old.” She shook her head. “You know part of this fatigue is because these texts are so impossible.”
“The Khazed scroll seems easy when you have Raieyana around to correct you on it. Remember the one time she went to finish it and locked herself in a room on Highwind I for three hours? She told me she only did a sentence and a half.”
“It was an important sentence!”
“True. But she forgot the last sentence. Turns out it was way more important to her than she ever would have guessed.”
“But we know that outcome!”
Red XIII studied his passage. “So far, all I can come up with is there once was a happy village, then Jenova came and everyone died.”
“Tell us something we didn’t know.”
“Actually, there are a few names dropped. Maybe they don’t seem too interesting at first glance within the passage. Let me read them to you in a group. Riana, Kal’od, Reiven, Pa’at Rich, Asula, Erhiz...”
“Wait a minute!”
“Stranger still is that there is an accent on Erhiz. The ‘e’ isn’t pronounced.”
Tifa looked extremely confused. “If I thought you weren’t speaking clearly, I would have thought you said ‘Raieyana, Cloud, Reeve, Patrick, Azura, and Riss.’”
“Yes, that’s the point. Is it a coincidence, or does it have meaning? Take into consideration Rissy’s claim to know how to help the situation. Add in the fact that the Cetra word has been altered so it wouldn’t be mistaken for Aeris...”
“It’s like the writer knew that there would be confusion if he had just said ‘Aeris.’”
“Perhaps they did know. The problem here is that the author is talking about the past. But it sounds familiar. Cloud and Raieyana are to have a child named Patrick. Reeve doesn’t want the child to be born.”
“You never knew?”
“About what?” She looked at him. “What the hell are you talking about? Cloud and Raieyana having...Patrick?!”
The lion sighed. “It’s a good thing you’re sitting down. You probably don’t want to hear what I have to tell you. It’s about something that happened about fourteen and a half years ago...”
Dirk turned around and glanced at the groveling employee. “What is it?” he growled.
The man’s only response to his vicious look was a frightened stare.
“Well? If you’re going to interrupt my scientific work, at the very least, it should be some matter about my corporate takeover.” He peered at the terrified man. “Aren’t you in charge of the whole ‘Ryald’ business, anyway?”
He nodded, trembling. “He still hasn’t returned.”
Rolling his eyes, Dirk turned away. “Well duh. After a week or so...for his mission, not turning up means he’s dead. Pity. The boy had such a sense of revenge in him.”
“You made him well, sir.”
“Of course I did! Although sending Jack Reno’s clone after Reeve was actually more of a distraction for his wife.”
Dirk smiled. “There once was a Turk named Rude. When the Turks were involved in a kidnapping attempt on a woman named Raieyana, Rude decided to get all the money for himself. His attempt at this involved locking her up in a cell...with Reno. Happened to have a surveillance camera on them, too.” He tossed a videocassette on a nearby lab table.
The employee picked it up after Dirk’s gesture. “What is this?”
“A most interesting videotape. Reno meant a lot to Reeve’s wife, apparently.”
“Why do you want me to look at it?”
“Because your new job is to knock off Reeve’s wife, and that’s the best picture you can get on her.” A cruel grin highlighted his face. “Besides, I’ve found that watching the president of Alcor’s naked wife is a most enjoyable experience.”
“May I just report my message to you before I leave then, sir?”
He yawned. “Might as well. Go ahead.”
“The Highwind II has been spotted outside the city limits.”
“Good.” Dirk rubbed his hands together. “Let them try to get this place back.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Aeris sat at her window, watching the sun rise. (The days seem too long and too short at the same time. Too short to help Mom, but too long to have to wait through. Can anything better come in the morning? Even with all we know now...?)
She stood up and got dressed quickly, absentmindedly putting on a tight pink dress before braiding her blond hair. Grabbing her bag, which she hadn’t bothered to unpack, and her sabres, she tripped down the stairs and into the kitchen. She was hoping that a nice little cozy breakfast might improve everyone’s mood.
The soft sounds of Aeris bustling in the kitchen met Cloud’s ears and he soon felt like he had to open his eyes. Tossing off the light throw blanket he used during the night, he got up and walked in. His inquisitive eyes enjoyed the sight of the soft morning light glowing around the girl’s lithe form.
She looked up as he walked through the doorway and just froze. (Why is he wearing next to nothing?) Apparently, her two brothers had been rather discreet of the fact that cute pajamas were really for girls, and guys just liked their underwear. An egg slipped from her hand to the floor as she gawked at Cloud in nothing but a pair of boxer shorts.
“Sorry to have startled you,” he said softly. “I’ll clean that up.” He grabbed a towel from the counter and bent over to wipe off the floor.
(Common sense would say he can’t be that hot and be his age.) She thought for a moment. (Well wait a minute...Yuffie got together with Vincent when he was older than Cloud, chronologically. And she was sixteen! So there’s nothing wrong with enjoying his body, right?) A slight blush crept over her cheeks at that thought. (I mean enjoying the look of his body...) Her brain skipped a beat. (...right?)
He saw the reddish tinge on her face and misjudged the reason for her embarrassment. “Don’t look like that, I’ll just be louder next time I sneak up on you.”
“I wouldn’t care what snuck up on me, if it looked like you do,” she said softly. Her eyes widened. (Did I say that out loud?) “Umm...I mean...”
Cloud stepped a little closer. “What do you mean?”
She shook her head.
(I think I should probably leave her well enough alone, anyway.) He glanced at the eggs she had cracked. “I though Lia had imposed some sort of vegetarian regime over this place.”
“Well we have softened her over the years. We can use milk and unfertilized eggs now...so we at least have some variety.” She smiled. “So I can show off with my cheese omelets.”
“Your mother was always a pretty good cook, if my memory serves me right.”
Aeris nodded and went back to work, calling herself foolish for thinking that any bit of Cloud’s attraction had lasted through the night.
“I’m not that hungry though,” he said regretfully.
“No?” She bit her lip. “But I was making this for you.”
“Nothing for yourself?”
A grin crept to her lips. “I’m not that hungry.”
“And the others...?”
“Neither one of them likes eggs too well.” She glanced at the window. “Hmm...” She picked up the bowl and tossed its contents out the opening onto the grass below. Sticking her head out, she examined the ground where it had landed. “Phew. No one was walking and got it on their head.”
Cloud looked at her incredulously. “Most people check for that before they toss things out the window.”
She turned a bright shade of red and sat down at the kitchen table, her head in her arms. “Oops,” she groaned, embarrassed.
“Don’t take this the wrong way. But you don’t seem to be all here this morning.” He lightly placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s very early, you know. You could go back and have another hour or so in bed if you want.”
“But I already got dressed!”
“Well we can easily take care of that–”
Aeris looked up and met him with an astonished expression. “‘We’ can take care of that?”
“Oh...uhh...I didn’t mean it like that,” he stammered.
“Too bad,” she said lightly.
His eyes widened.
She stood up. “Well you better get dressed. It won’t do if the others come down and see you in your underwear.”
Cloud stood up after her, a light shade of pink still touching his cheeks.
“I doubt they’d appreciate it as much as I do,” she added as she walked up the stairs. “I better wake them up now. Might as well get an early start.”
Cloud watched her ascend slowly, then shook his head and went to his sack. He pulled out a dark blue shirt and a pair of pants that he had purchased the day before. (At least I bought something slightly presentable before coming here. I wonder what she would think if she knew I usually don’t even sleep in boxers?)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It was hard for Azura to believe that his face, so troubled when awake, could look so peaceful in sleep. But whether Patrick was at peace asleep, or more because of what happened before he went there, would remain unknown.
She had been awake since a little before dawn, watching him, as the light from the sun crept through the sky, descending to illuminate his features. As much as darkness suited his personality, the light did wonders for his looks. Her fingers had crept to stroke the stray strands of his hair, which could not decide whether to reflect silver or golden tones back, first at the moon, then the glowing sun.
He stirred and blinked his eyes at the soft morning haze surrounding him. Right in front of them was the girl he loved, the golden sunshine forming a smooth aura around her head.
“Good morning,” she murmured softly.
He gave her a small smile in return. “Did you sleep okay?”
He smiled a bit more. Then a thought came to him and a bit of worry crossed his face. “Are you–” he began.
Azura silenced him with a quick kiss. “I’m fine.” She emphasized the two words, giving them heavy meaning. “Perfect,” she whispered.
Patrick stroked her cheek softly and was about to say something to her.
There was a soft knock at the door.
“Yeah?” said Azura, without thinking. (Oh no. This is Pat’s room.)
Aeris’ voice sounded confused indeed. “Umm...can I come in?”
Patrick checked to make sure they both looked decent enough before answering. “I suppose.”
The door opened and Aeris walked in. “Did I interrupt something or wake you?”
“We were just talking.”
“I was going to wake you up so we could get an early start. I guess you beat me to that. How long have you two been up?” There was an invisible question in her words. It happened to be “will you tell me you’ve been up for a long time already, so I can assume the best of this situation?”
Patrick was never one to run from a confrontation. “I’ve only been awake for a moment or two. Zuri was up a little before me, I think.”
There was a bit of “older sister reprimand” in Aeris’ eyes as she continued. “Well if you want something to eat, I can make it for you.” She slowly said the next part, because it honestly disturbed her. (I find them like this...she’s sixteen and he’s just fourteen. It could be totally innocent, yet not innocent at all!) “You should probably get dressed and come down.”
“All right,” said Patrick. “I’m not hungry.”
“I can just have some fruit or something.” Azura’s words were soft, but contained no embarrassment.
From this tone, Aeris deduced that the situation must be completely innocent. “Okay,” she said, her voice gaining more cheer, “Cloud and I will discuss transportation. He has a chocobo, but I doubt either of you two should try to borrow from the Undorian stables.” She trotted down the stairs, her conscience about a ton lighter than it had been a minute ago.
“I’m glad that wasn’t your mom,” said Azura, giggling.
“Mother’s pretty cool, actually.” Patrick grabbed another pair of boxers. “It’s Reeve I would have worried about. Or your parents.”
She nodded in horror. “Anyone but my father.”
“I’m going to take a shower.”
“Okay. Good thing I took mine late last night. My hair takes forever to dry.”
Patrick smiled as he remembered her middle-of-the-night trek to the shower, and how he had waited for her to come back...just to let her curl up against him, damp locks and all. “I should only be a few minutes. That should give you time to ‘innocently’ change.”
“Yay.” Azura giggled once more as he walked to the bathroom.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“I think we’ve found a solution,” said Aeris to Patrick as he came downstairs twenty minutes later.
“Oh really,” he said coolly.
“Yep,” said Azura cheerfully. “But there’s only one stipulation.”
“What is it?” he asked warily.
“Well...” She coyly met his eyes. “You wouldn’t mind me riding behind you on a chocobo, right?”
He sighed and sat down. “No, of course not. For a second you two had me worried.”
“You two can take mine,” said Cloud, very business-like. “Then Aeris and I will each borrow an Undorian one, or share one, depending on whether or not there are enough black or gold ones available. Those should get us to Junon quickly.”
“Yes.” Patrick nodded. “It’s about seven a.m. now. When do you think we’ll reach Junon?”
“Hmm.” Aeris thought for a moment. “Well, I suppose you and I will want to do a little more packing, and then to get the chocobos...we won’t leave ‘til eight thirty at the earliest, probably. So we’ll get there at eleven?”
Cloud nodded. “That sounds pretty accurate. Maybe a little sooner if we all get golds, but I doubt that they’ll enthusiastically lend us one.”
Patrick shrugged. “I killed a bunch of ‘em a few years ago. I guess they’d be more eager to lend to you than to me.” He wrapped an arm around Azura and gave a small smile to his sister. “Rissy...why don’t you and Cloud go ahead now? Zuri and I will pack the supplies, okay?”
“Okay. And then when we get back, off to Junon it is.”
“I just pray we don’t cross paths with Reeve,” muttered Patrick.
Azura shivered a bit and cuddled closer to him. She did not want to see another confrontation between Reeve and Patrick. After the past few days, she had sensed a bit of rage developing within Patrick. No matter how much she loved him, no matter how much she tried to kiss the pain away, this rage remained; it scared her, horribly.
Though Jenn O’ Vah destroyed
With massive pain employed
The blessed mother still remained
Through grievous bearings–pained
Slipping through the mountains high
Escaping where the evil lied
Deep ran the Cetra naïveté;
She could not deceive the Calamity
But she was not last, rather the first
A line long meant to feel the hurt
Of pride resounding in the air
Heavy is the weight they bear
Yet, at long end comes Sacrifice
Brought to pain by some Strife
This quest, then through tatters worn
Brings the Son of the Sun–born
He stopped reciting the translated text. “It seems to make sense, doesn’t it?”
“Not particularly, Red.” Tifa groaned.
“Well I just meant in terms of telling a story. I’m sure that there is hidden meaning and metaphor within it.”
“Of course. Then again, I haven’t known the details of Patrick to make any connection... How long have you known?”
“Before Reeve left, he told me Patrick wasn’t his son. I asked Vincent what he knew.” The red creature stood and stretched. “He knew much. Though I doubt even he has any inside secrets to this scripture.”
“All I know for sure is that khazed is in this passage, so that means Raieyana.”
“At long end comes Sacrifice...” he murmured. “Wouldn’t that be implying that the Sacrifice is near the end of this historical account?”
“Maybe...but what is with the two synonyms in the next line? Brought to pain by some strife...?”
“Tifa, I think you need to go to bed.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m sorry that the implied hidden meanings aren’t jumping out into my brain.”
“What is Cloud’s last name?”
Her eyes widened.
“And of course, ‘Son of the Sun’ is Pa’at Rich in the runes.”
“So our Cetra text predicted the very things occurring now?!”
“Well in double meanings, I suppose.” His brow furrowed. “I got some more of it translated besides that piece.”
“Well go right ahead.” Tifa grimaced. “You seemed to get the interesting part, anyway.”
On the Planet, this child has no face
Nor in the land of Promise, or other place
In the final age of alien hope
The binding breaks; cut the rope
A chance to deliver shall be freed
Without others, cannot succeed
One who sees, one who burns;
One who grieves, and one who learns...
The age where Meteors eclipse the stars
After the last–land escapes without scars
Hidden poison placed by false gods
Who resurrect our race, against the odds
A guild twice rises from the ashes
And with the Cetra ever clashes
Another one is wrought anew
But falls to greed and avarice, too
Give this prayer to those who believe
Stand strong against those easily deceived
A path is forged for all–
Allow none to fall
One more liquid orb within the deep
Will be summoned forth from eons’ sleep
Another time for all to fight
Remains within the endless night
And He, although the grains of sand
Slip through time, still will demand
Redemption for a deed long planned–
Thinks penance little reprimand–
Must take the time to understand
That never shalt a soul be damned
Though flames of hatred may be fanned–
It’s to the Skies he’ll raise his hand...
Then never more the sickness falls
Safe forever are the halls
More things are still left unsaid
For true salvation–cannot be read.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
When Igmar-Boleyn burned, they had wept.
Somehow though, there remained an inner sanctum inside them. Telling them, that they must flee, run away from an evil pursuing them. Nothing good had befallen them since the arrival of the woman named Jenova.
They had driven her out because of the sickness, but Reiven still had answered to her, and in the end, met his own end. The dreams had told them that. The dreams had also pleaded, begged, implored them to stay alive.
The dreams begged but would not tell them why. How can two lone survivors of a holocaust know their importance?
Riana, seven months’ pregnant, struggled up the precipice. “We shouldn’t go this way. It’s too hard.”
Erhiz reached a hand down and struggled, pulling her up. “It’s our only hope. And She could cut us off here, too.”
Finally, Riana reached the ledge. “How can we find a place to hide? The land is small, and we have no way to cross the waters. The Calamity will catch us...my baby...” She placed a hand on her swollen abdomen. “I want to see it born.”
“One more climb. The Planet is telling me that there is a cave right above here. We can go deep into it and be safe. Build a fire and be warm.”
She sat down, with labored breathing. “I can’t. I’m too weak. Can’t we rest?”
“The Planet says to hurry...”
“Well the Planet isn’t with child.” Riana sat down on the ledge, shivering slightly.
Erhiz looked at her companion. “Nay, Riana, we must go on. Your lips are purplish.”
“It’s a trick of light. I feel perfectly warm.”
“No. You are being tricked by the cold. We must go to that cave; we must!”
A voice resounded from what seemed to be the sky. “I cannot believe you two stayed out here without cover for so long. I had feared I would not find you.” A slender form descended from on high. Jenova, levitating in the air, reached out her arms. “Why not let me carry you off? Surely you will reach a better place once I am done with you.”
Erhiz stepped forward. “Do not try to lie to us.”
“Lie? I thought your ‘Promised Land’ was a good place to be,” she said with scorn.
The two women became frozen in terror.
“Tell me how Riana escaped from Reiven, for that is all I wish to learn from you. The village was Reiven’s doing.” Jenova made the pretense of sorrow coat her features. “I tried to help him, but he went crazy in the end despite that. His jealousy for this woman burned, and he vowed to kill her child. He told me he had.”
Riana’s voice was barely above a whisper. “My father had taken a new wife, and she was carrying my half-brother or sister. Reiven slew her, not me. He foolishly went to the wife’s chambers in the chief’s residence. My husband and I lived in other quarters.”
“Interesting.” The alien had used the distraction of Riana’s story to come closer to the pair.
Suddenly, Erhiz knew what was in the mind of the enemy. Shoving Riana towards the rock wall, she yelled “Flee up to the cave, Riana...flee! Your son must live or the Planet will have pain eternal.” Then she dove onto the floating form of Jenova, hoping her attack would cause them both to hurtle to the ground.
Catching her breath, Riana struggled up the craggy face of Gaia’s Cliff, making progress despite the hindrance of her swollen belly.
Jenova winced as the girl’s body collided with hers. Plucking it up before it could fall, she stared coldly into Erhiz’s eyes. “I shall have my wish. The simple devices of your Planet do not affect me. You can remember that as you slowly die.” She gently tossed her to the ground, making sure the impact would not be hard enough to kill the girl–at least not instantly.
Meanwhile, Riana had managed to get her arms up on the next ledge. She felt like they would break off as she struggled to pull her enlarged body over the edge. At long last, she finally made it on top and saw it. The cave mouth was lying right in front of her.
“The Planet makes a sanctuary for the Son of the Sun’s birth. Enter the cave, and it will be a haven.”
Riana did not know where the voice had come from, but she nearly wept for joy as she bolted to the cave’s entrance. Then she fell and heard a cackle of glee.
Jenova had the pregnant woman by the ankle. She slowly dragged her away from the cave. (This time, I shall do my own dirty deed.)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
(“Precious mother. That was all you were born to do. Die and give birth, that was your destiny. Far below mine. You shall awaken as I reawaken, for when I kill him, you must be aware. It is better that way.”
Awaken? What is the purpose of being awake? When the events of my life play out as they will...I have no control. I need not be awake.
“The way of life on your precious planet will not allow that. You shall be aware, as the whole sphere shall be aware, when I rip your precious son’s throat from him. He will not succeed against me, though you and your Planet have. This once. I will not be so thoughtless next time. I thought your pain had made you weak.”
Pain does not weaken me. It tires me. All my life I have been grieving for people. I cannot believe that anyone would play on that grief.
“Of course I would. All I needed was someone willing to be my next ‘Crazy Scientist’ slave. He has plans. He’s captured Alcor. The world spins while you sleep. Awake. Awake.”
Why should I follow the sound of your voice to the light?
Why? Tell me...once and for all, who are you?)
Raieyana sat up suddenly. “Why must I wake up?”
Red XIII looked at her in amazement. (“Please come back to us. Wake up, we need you,” I had said to her. What sort of development is this?) “I asked.”
“My world has been many dreams and visions.” She blinked. “How do I know that you are real?”
Suddenly, a ninja star spun by her, landing mere centimeters above her head, quivering after its landing in the wall behind her.
“Why did I ever let you watch her?” snarled the lion.
Yuffie smirked. “Is the star real...Ray?”
Ninja stars required a special type of handling, which Raieyana had learned and, thankfully, learned well. She taught this handling in Undor-Hai. Turning around, she cautiously removed the star. Glancing at the other two in the room, she raised an eyebrow. “Little proof. I know how to use these.”
Red XIII and Yuffie sighed.
Raieyana shrugged and deliberately brought a tip to her arm, slicing a small line. “Ouch,” she said softly. “I guess I am awake.”
Blood spilled from her cut and onto the blanket covering her. “I’ll go get my Cure materia,” said Red XIII quickly.
“Don’t bother. It doesn’t work on me. No materia ever worked on me, except for after the time I died.”
“Why is that?” Yuffie looked amazed.
“I’m not sure. The same went for Aysta...I always thought it was something strange Hojo had done to us.” Raieyana glanced at them. “Someone could go get something I could use for a bandage though.”
“Oh right!” Red XIII ran off.
Yuffie and Raieyana smiled at each other.
“Welcome back,” said the ninja.