Joining the Lifestream
He had ended it all in one fell swoop. Sephiroth, the greatest yet most terrible warrior on the Planet had killed her, when he descended from the sky and plunged his sword, the Masamune, into her back, like he had done to so many others.
But that’s not what she remembered when she fell to the ground, as her final memory. All she remembered was a small marble, green in color, fall out of her hand into the water. She had no clue what the significance of that marble was, but at the time, she couldn’t even remember her name, or her past, or anything else. All she remembered was the marble.
And that’s when she asked the question. She didn’t know how she asked it, or why, since there shouldn’t have been anyone to answer it in the darkness that surrounded her. But she asked it anyways. “Who am I?”
To her surprise, she was answered by a soft, soothing voice. “You are Aeris Gainsborough. You are the last of the Cetra. They end with you.”
Aeris would’ve looked around for the source of the voice, but she was too distracted by the answer it gave. It all came rushing back to her; she remembered everything. The slums that she grew up in, her mother, her friends, her death, everything.
One thing, or rather, one person stood out in her mind. Cloud. But not the Cloud she knew. Not the kind, gentle man who had gone through so much, so much that he didn’t even understand. Not the man who she loved.
All she remembered was Cloud, with a face that wasn’t his, and two arms, holding a sword high above his head, ready to strike her. That was the last thing she saw before Sephiroth ended it.
“Forgive him Aeris… he didn’t know what he was doing…” the voice spoke again. This time, Aeris searched for it, but couldn’t see where it was coming from, despite that it seemed some light had entered her vision.
But even with the voice, and the light, she still felt alone.
“What… what do you mean?” she called out.
“It was not by Cloud’s will that he attacked you. Sephiroth was controlling him, using the Jenova cells in both their bodies…”
“There were Jenova cells in Cloud’s body?” asked Aeris, her curiosity now overcoming her earlier uneasiness. “I mean, I knew all along something was strange about Cloud, but—“
“You needn’t worry yourself with that any longer Aeris, your part with them, the People, is over.”
She wanted to argue, wanted to say that she still needed to know about her friends. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t dispute the voice, because she felt her will to do so fade away. It was as if she knew that there were more important things to speak of, even though it pained her to know that she was no longer a part of Cloud and all her friends.
Once again, light and warmth began to seep into the area. As Aeris’s mind continued to grow tired, another part of it seemed to shift into focus. She remembered again the marble. The newfound light had dimmed the darkness surrounding her, but she was still in the dark on this. She remembered everything else from her life, and the one thing she couldn’t remember was the most important.
Most important. How did she know it was so important when she didn’t even know what it was?
The voice chimed in again, clearer this time. “That was the Holy Materia. You used it to summon what could stop Sephiroth. You spent your final breath praying for this to happen. You very well may have saved the Planet.”
And another light turned on in Aeris's head. She remembered the Materia her mother had given her as a child. She thought it was useless, but then she remembered the stories that her mother had told her as a child, before she died. Stories of the Coming of Holy. When she remembered those stories, she knew what she had to do. It had cost her her life, as she was killed in the process, but it made her glad to know that she had succeeded.
She wanted to scream from her happiness, but instead, a thought interceded it. All she could manage to say was, “Who are you anyways? How do you know all the answers? How do you know all of my thoughts?”
The voice replied in one sentence, but that one sentence answered all of Aeris’s questions. “I am Holy.”
Suddenly, light flooded into the room, and it shone so brightly that no darkness was left. It was the light of Holy. Aeris stared up at it, awestruck. She saw the answers to all of her questions, the secrets to all of existence. It was a truly glorious sight to behold.
But even within the beauty of Holy, Aeris saw something terrible, something that made her remember something her mother had said to her, when she told the tales of Holy.
“When Holy is summoned,” she had said, in a soft yet daunting tone that had fit the storytelling mood, “it will purge the world of all things not pure, and all causes for it. No one is without risk from this splendid deity, though it is not without a purpose; it will bring salvation to our Planet, so that it can begin once more. This could mean the destruction of an entire race, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s not so bad considering the rewards.”
When Aeris looked into the bright light of Holy, she saw the Planet, fresh and new, yet empty. It was empty, because all of the humans were gone without a trace. Cloud and all of them were gone.
“It’s not fair!” Aeris cried, suddenly feeling a surge of pain and anger. “I summoned you to protect them, not to destroy them!”
“Aeris,” set the voice more firmly than before, but still warmly and softly. “You are of the Cetra. You have a tie to the Planet that is unbreakable. All along, were fighting to protect her, no one else. You loved the humans, but they are, as a whole, detrimental to the planet’s well-being.”
“But Cloud… how could he forgive me…?”
“He knows you did the right thing. He knows that even though it means he can’t keep living, what would’ve become of him otherwise would have been much worse. He doesn’t fully understand it, but he is happy for you, and for the Planet. And he still loves you Aeris.”
Holy’s words comforted her little; except for that final sentence. Cloud’s love meant everything to her, even if Holy said her sole purpose was to save the Planet.
“Now come Aeris,” said Holy. “You have another job to do.”
“But… you said my part was over…”
Though it had no face, Aeris almost thought she saw Holy smile.
“You summoned me, you did your part in life. Now you must fulfill your part in the afterlife, the part all beings must be a part of it. This Planet needs healing, Aeris. It needs the Lifestream, and like many others, you are now a part of it.”
And Aeris finally understood. For the last time, she saw Cloud, as she as always thought of him, as the one man she had ever really loved.
But Holy was right, she had a job to do. The Planet needed her. Aeris realized then that she had already sacrificed her life and her love. To turn away now would be unforgivable.
She let the image of Cloud fade out of her mind. She had to do this for him as much as anyone else, and she wouldn’t let him or the Planet down.
Aeris Gainsborough let go of herself, and finally joined the Lifestream.