"Mama? When are they coming?"
Tifa turned to her daughter. "Probably afternoon or early evening." She resumed her preparations on what was to become Raieyana's room.
"So why'd you wake me up at dawn? The weekend is my time off." Marta pouted. "Cosmo Canyon is the only place with year-round classes."
"Well honey, they never farmed here, it wasn't practical. That's how summer vacation started, so the kids could help with chores. Want to quit school and work for the Elders?"
She vehemently shook her head, tossing the long, chestnut-colored curls. "I'd rather go to school twenty-four seven."
"What in the Planet does that mean?"
"All day, every day." She rolled her eyes. "You're dense, Mama."
"Oh yes, quite." Tifa's mahogany eyes sparkled. "Now go get those pillows from downstairs. We want to make Raieyana comfy." A soft sigh escaped her lips after Marta left the room. Bygones being what they were, and the passage of time being so slow, many things had worn down the bitterness that Tifa had held in her heart for Raieyana.
(It's still so hard to think right now that I could be so worried about her. I haven't seen her in years.) A tiny bit of guilt stabbed at her for the jealousy she held within. (Just because Cloud approached her, years back, doesn't mean anything now. It's in the past, and there's not a bit of proof that it existed.)
Settling her feelings with this little thought, she continued to prepare the room. After she finished there, Tifa was going to go down to the cellar the Elders kept and see if there were any herbs that would help Raieyana's condition.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Lia woke up at the crack of dawn in her usual cheerfulness. (This is such a lovely day.) A sudden thought struck her. (I haven't seen Ray in about a week or so. I think I'll make my way over to her house. I know she'll be up, exercising and thinking up new moves to use on her trainees.)
She dressed quickly and threw down the slight pang inside her, telling her that something was...wrong. (I miss the good ol' days when Ray and the kids lived here with us. I knew we'd eventually outgrow that, but it was still loads of fun.) She lifted up her head, good spirits overtaking her again. (At least she's still close.)
Lia climbed up the ladder with ease and prepared to knock on Raieyana's door. She was startled as it opened and Reeve stepped out, holding his wife in his arms. "Reeve?"
"Lia!" Reeve was thrown off slightly by the impromptu visit. "I'd invite you in, but we're on our way out." A pause. "Ray's not well."
"I can see that," she said, concerned. "Is there anything I can do?"
Vincent stepped out to see what the voices were. "Lia." His eyes glowed a mellow red. "There is one thing. An intruder entered this house night before last. We do not know who he is, but he was a trespasser. He met a most...his end was not good." Hints of Yuffie's conversational skills were now second nature to him. "I can trust you will arrange a quiet cremation. For Raieyana's sake?"
Lia nodded in shock. "I have to make a report..." she began.
"There are two witnesses. You see Ray."
Some slight hesitation. "Yes."
"And Patrick has fled. Therefore, the report will have to be bare bones until either of the two is here and able to comment." He set down the suitcase he was holding and walked back into the house. "Yuffie?"
"Yes, darling?" Her words were iced with irony as she dragged the weapons bag down the stairs. "This is very heavy and unnecessary, you know."
"Are you all ready?"
"Well, Kati, Ishmael, and Sean are already out there. Zuri hasn't answered my knocking on her door. I guess you pissed her off good, huh, honey?"
"She was upset, but I thought she understood. Geez, it's not like if she doesn't answer our knocking, she won't have to go. I always thought she was more mature than that." He shook his head. "Go on ahead with Reeve. I'll deal with her."
She scrutinized her husband. "Sure she doesn't need her mother's touch?"
"Needing you? 'Daddy's Little Girl'? I doubt it."
"Fine then." Yuffie dropped the bag. "This is yours. I'm taking the suitcase. Au revoir for now...that's French."
"I'm aware of that," he said dryly before heading up the stairs to the bedrooms. He found the third door on the right and knocked softly. "Zuri?" (No response.) Two more knocks, rather loud. (Still nothing?) "Zuri!" he said emphatically. "Stop this nonsense!"
At a loss for a moment, he finally resorted to trying the door handle. Surprisingly, it was not locked. He easily swung the door open and prepared to deliver a scathing reprimand to his youngest daughter.
The room was empty, save for a short hand-written note, tacked to the headboard of the bed with two diamond hairpins. Vincent's present to Azura on her sixteenth birthday.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Patrick could have sworn he had moved to the opposite side of the little room with a blanket, in the most chivalrous move that could be expected. But somehow during the night, Azura had managed to wind up cuddled up next to him. (Great. If anyone finds us out here, we'll look so innocent.)
The real question he then asked himself was how innocent he needed to be. (I've been exiled from home, and the two people who cared enough to possibly defend me are... Well, my mother isn't well and Azura ran away...to me. So it will be my word against whatever word there is, and my word just works out to sound so correct.) He snorted in annoyance. (How am I ever supposed to win? I never get praised when I do the right thing, and although I'm scolded whenever I err, the attitude that I am presented with is... Bad is the only thing I'm expected to be capable of. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.)
He shook himself, trying to forget the eeriness of the dream he had the night before. (Another dream about those damn doors. More scenes of the supposed "truth." Shit, if anyone could get into my mind though, it seems like the perfect equation to try and drive me crazy.) He sighed. (And tonight's scene...your father telling your mother that he wants to abort you.) He tried to ignore these scenes, but they all took place in places he knew, and the people involved looked the right age for the timeframe involved.
("Am I correct in assuming you're not going to have this baby? There's no way I'd consider letting you take the risks of childbirth again...for Cloud Strife's child.") The presence in the dream had done a slick editing job with the words that had come out of Reeve's mouth. Patrick mused over the repercussions of this statement. (Does this mean Cloud Strife is my father, not Reeve? And if this is true...was the first dream a scene of...of...) He bowed his head; he was not going to allow his mind to finish the thought that a scene so violent was the event of his conception.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"All she left was this." Vincent handed Yuffie the note. "I checked the rest of the house. She took a few pieces of clothing from Aeris, but left enough money to cover it. I have no idea how much Patrick took with him when he left, but I figure she at least took a weapon and some materia from his things. She left the materia case open on his bed."
This exchange was on the deck of the Highwind, which continued to hover above Undor-Hai, delaying departure until this newest crisis was dealt with.
Yuffie failed at her attempt to hold back a sniffle. "Just what did you say to her last night, Vince?"
"I was merely telling her our decision about how to help Raieyana when she interrupted me. I did make a remark after that about how she was still not ready to handle things."
"Honestly Vincent, is anyone ever ready to handle a guy's head rolling around in the living room?"
"Well we decided to take her back to Wutai. You didn't argue with that decision, and you let me go talk to her. So don't try and tell me I was wrong in the way I handled her."
"Back in the days when we were her age, we were forced to handle many things. Maybe we have been babying her a bit, but it was only because we could. I just wish I could tell her that."
"Instead, she resents us for seemingly giving her special treatment. But I'm afraid."
"How far could she have gotten in the dark?"
"I looked in the woods nearby for any sort of trail. I found none. It would be our luck that the one kid that decides to run away untrained would be a prodigy at remaining undetectable."
"Are you two done spouting shit, or can I make a suggestion?" demanded Cid.
"We're done," said Vincent tersely.
"You guys have two choices. Go with us or stay here and look for Azura. You had a good reason for joining in the trip here, for without Reeve and the rest you don't got nowhere to stay. If you stay here to look for her, you'll have the chance of an icicle in hell because you don't know the area much better than you know what the Ruby Weapon's asshole looked like."
The two looked at each other. In any other circumstance, this colorful remark by Cid would have been rather amusing. But in this case...
"Cid, our youngest daughter who knows absolutely nothing about fighting is wandering the woods out here. Hardly anyone lives here, and everyone knows there are still plenty of monsters." Vincent's cold glare would have been the envy of any villain.
"Well, not to sound heartless, but if you think she's so helpless, you're gonna be out there searching for a corpse."
Yuffie was quiet. "My baby's out there all alone." Suddenly, a bit of insight came to her. "Unless she somehow managed to find Patrick." She turned her brightening eyes to Vincent.
"If that were the case, she'd be better off trying her luck with the monsters." Pocketing the precious hairpins, he turned to descend the ladder. "I'm going to inform Lia that we also need her assistance for a search of the area. We'll leave for the Canyon when I return."
The light went out. Yuffie mournfully turned to Cid. "If that kid is half as bad as Vince says he is, it's only because of what Vincent thinks. Not in spite of it."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Azura opened her sleepy eyes at about seven in the morning. Yawning, she blinked the sleep away and became aware that Patrick was already up and dressed, cleaning his spear.
"Mornin' sleepyhead," he said. He looked at his weapon. "I could swear I cleaned this last night, but it's so hard to see dark blue dragon blood in the dead of night." Holding it up into the sunlight, he nodded in approval at the sparkling of the clean spearhead.
She laughed softly, then thought of something. "Is mine dirty?"
"Did you hit the dragon?"
A tint of red crept into her cheeks. "No, I didn't get the chance."
"Oh. It looked kinda hurt when it was bent over you."
"Well I did cast a Poison spell on it..." She smiled a little. "I thought it would die."
Patrick nodded. "Bio3 usually kills a Sapphire Dragon. You're probably not as strong as me in magic power, though. Can I see your materia for that?"
She slipped the orb from her armlet and tossed it to him.
He studied the glowing sphere for a moment, then cocked his head in confusion. Briefly glancing at Azura, he stepped outside onto the uncovered part of the platform, which served as a porch. Slipping it into his armlet, he concentrated on a deer about twenty feet away. "Bio3!"
Nothing happened. Azura stepped outside. "What are you doing?"
"Testing something." He tried again, but this time went for a weaker variety of the poison magic. "Bio2!" Nothing. He sighed and waved a hand half-heartedly. "Bio."
The deer fell to its knees and began wheezing for dear life. Azura gasped and yelled "White Wind!" The green breeze surrounded her and transferred her good energy back to the deer, which hopped up and ran away as fast as its legs would move. She turned to Patrick. "What in the Planet where you testing?!"
He removed the orb and returned it to her. "The more a materia is used, the stronger the spell that could be cast."
"I know that Pat, I'm not completely dense." She seemed offended. "I know this materia wasn't much, but it was the only Poison one I could find."
"Just hear me out, Zuri. I mastered my Poison materia yesterday. You know that when this happens, it splits and a brand new materia is created, right?"
"When I saw the amount of damage you had given to that dragon, I thought nothing of it. Then I saved you and I thought to myself that I had accidentally taken my new materia and you had the master one. So I tested yours...and it's the new one."
"What's the big deal, Pat?"
"You didn't cast a Bio3 spell that was slightly weaker than mine. You cast a level one poison spell that is stronger than anything I could cast at that level."
Her eyes widened and she shook her head. "That's impossible. I've never used materia before last night."
"And you just saved that deer's life. I can't even save an animal that small that was attacked with a poison spell..." He looked at her. "Zuri, you have a great gift. I was worried before about how you would hold up."
"Yes." He took her hand. "If you are serious about staying with me, I'm going to have to teach you to fight. I have a feeling no one is going to be too happy with me any more. I'm not safe from attack, and neither are you."
There had always been an unspoken law in the village of Igmar-Boleyn. After a couple had been given to each other in betrothal and marriage, all the other prospective suitors were to give them a gift and forget any hard feelings. The Cetra were a people of peace and respect; rare was the time a man was bitter over losing a lady to a rival and, in those times, it was ever rarer for him to show it.
Riana was the daughter of the Cetra leader, a beautiful maiden who had a very close link with the Planet. Despite these obvious gifts, she also had such a sparkling personality that she would have been sought after even if she had been a lowly peasant. There were few peasants in the egalitarian community, for the only ones were those who wished to be.
The day came when the girl and her father had decided on the best person for her to marry and the announcement was made. Riana would be married to a young hunter named Kal'od. Thus, the ritual gifts were given by the spurned suitors and life returned to normalcy.
At about this time, something massive fell from the skies near the village. The elders conferred and decided that a spy should be sent to go check out the crater and make sure everything was all right. The man chosen for this job was named Reiven, who had been one of Riana's suitors and had still remained a close friend.
He had kept his severe jealousy of Kal'od deep inside his heart and it had begun to fester. So as he walked through the snowy drifts and climbed up the cliff created by the impact, all that was on his mind was how much Kal'od did not deserve to have Riana as his wife. He peered over the edge of the cliff. (Gaia's Cliff) he thought to himself (like the mother of the Planet.) This poetic, if unfitting, name stuck with the landmark for millennia. Down in the deep crater was a large, glowing pod, unlike anything Reiven had ever seen. He debated for a moment, then slowly climbed down the edge and crept towards it.
As he approached the object, a small hatch opened on it and a beautiful woman stepped out. "Hello Reiven," she said.
He was startled by her knowledge of his name. "How do you know that is what I am called?"
"I have been watching you ever since I arrived. I have seen your life and your problems. I can see that your village does not appreciate you as it should."
Always a bit conceited, he tossed his head at the things she said. He often had the same ideas himself. "I guess you're right. They sent me here to check on what landed."
"They sent you because they thought it was dangerous. They are jealous of what you are capable of, and that's why you were not allowed to have Riana."
The glowing embers within him surged in a new flame. "You knew of that?"
"Yes. I have a power that is greatly beyond those of you Cetra. I see some of this power in you. The reason why the elders fear you is because they do not want the Cetra to lose their power over the humans." She laid a hand on his arm. "I can help you, though."
"Can you?" He looked at her. "Help me get what I want?"
She nodded. "Together, we can be most powerful."
Reiven smiled. "What is your name?"
He should have noticed, but he was too blinded by the power she held before him. Her name spelled out disaster. In the Cetra tongue, Jenn o' Vah means "destruction from the skies."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
He had returned to the village with the visitor, saying she was from a Cetra clan on a far off continent. Her people were much more advanced than the Boleynian clan and this woman had much to teach them. The elders were cautious after hearing the innuendo in her name, but eventually allowed Jenova to stay with them. She was an eager member of the community, learning their rituals and customs. Her beauty earned her suitors of her own very quickly, but she sent them on her way. She had been betrothed long ago to a special man, she explained.
Reiven's rise to power took place slowly. He began to perform small miracles, and no one realized this was due to Jenova's aid. He was very confused by her instructions, but she was correct. Every time he let her use her strange instruments to place her own flesh inside him, along with Lifestream, he became more and more powerful. Soon, the village had two factions. One who were loyal to the old chief, and the old ways that existed before Jenova had came to live there, and the faction which followed Reiven and his doctrine of divine right.
He said that ruling the village was his divine right, and that he ought to have been given that right by receiving Riana's hand in marriage. Since the chief did not allow that, he was defying Reiven's divine right. This angered his followers, but Reiven insisted they have patience. Those who were set against him would soon be punished.
The next time a group of protestors came to visit him, they soon developed lesions all over their body. This group soon died from the mysterious disease. The other members of the village were consumed by fear. What had they done to anger the Planet so, that people who disagreed with one man would be condemned to die?
Jenova came to him one night, very late. "I trust that you are enjoying your rise to power," she said.
Reiven bowed. "Yes. Is there something you ask of me?"
"No. I am happy in my simple life here. The place where I used to live, I had much responsibility. I enjoy doing what I wish."
"And as long as I live, I will make sure you do whatever you wish, my Deliverer."
"I was hoping you would think that way. I need to ask you a favor. I'll explain as well as I can."
"Anything you wish from me will be done."
"I have told you before that I come from another star, and this gives me the chance to see things that your eyes cannot."
"Yes, Jenova." He studied her face.
"I will live on this Planet for many years, happy and peaceful, lest for one man. This man will have the ability to destroy me completely, obliterating my remains to the ends of the universe, to prevent my happiness."
"That is horrible! Let me kill this man!"
Jenova smiled cruelly. "The man is not a man yet. He is not even born yet. The woman you used to love, Riana, is heavy with child. Her child shall be the one to kill me. This is why the chief picked Riana to lay with Kal'od. He knew their offspring would be enough to destroy me." She concentrated and squeezed one tear from her eye.
"Dearest one." Reiven placed a protective hand on her shoulder. "Do not worry about this. I shall prevent this. I will make sure Riana does not have that child."
"That is not enough. She must not be allowed to be with child again. The danger is too great, she must be destroyed." Jenova stared deeply into his eyes. "The village must be destroyed."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jenova sighed, dropping Reiven's head to the ground. (I guess it was too much to expect the mortal not to care about his village.) The jealous man had been able to drive the sword into the woman he had desired so dearly, but could not give up on his hopes to reign over the entire village.
(So, I was forced to use the cells I had placed inside him... Make him submit to my will.) Reiven, under her manipulation, had destroyed his village anyway, just for the sole purpose of torturing him. (My puppet, yet he got to see and hear everyone he had known cursing his name as they died, and died horribly.)
He had ran to her, weeping and screaming, telling her that he didn't need her help anymore. ("Get out of my life, out of my head!" were his exact words, I believe. It's not my fault he can't follow directions.) She kicked at his head. (Besides, I was getting annoyed with him, anyway. I only used him because it was so much easier for him to go kill the anointed child than for me to.)
She shuddered at the thought of the child's name. The child who would now never be born...never. Pa'at Rich, son of the sun.
Azura was thinking about the dream she had the night before. She saw the events through Jenova's eyes, and the scenes had terrified her. She wondered if her father had dreams like this. Did her sister and brother have dreams like this?
She forced herself to concentrate again on Patrick's instructions on staff use. (Does Patrick have dreams like this?)
"Pay attention, Zuri!"
"I-I'm sorry. I was just...I had a nightmare last night, and it's hard to get out of my head." The most disturbing thing to her was the familiarity of all of the names involved. (I don't get it. Even if everything that happened in that dream was true, it happened two thousand years ago. What does that have to do with now?) There was nothing in her brain to tell her the truth though, which was that her dream had a lot to do with the present.
Aeris knelt beside her mother and prayed.
Reeve turned his head and walked out of the medical bay of the Highwind. Well, it was the Highwind II, and, in the words of Cid, "bigger and badder than the original." Since the first Highwind was obsolete and retired now, pretty much everyone referred to this as the Airship or the Highwind, to which Cid would demand "it's the Highwind II, dammit, say two!"
(Full speed ahead, to Cosmo Canyon. But is this the place to find the answers?) Something deep inside him told him that what he ought to be doing was to take his children to the City of the Ancients and see if they could hear the voices of the Planet. He stopped this thought, though. (Ray never heard the voices. How could my children? The blood of the Cetra has become too dilute.)
The blonde stood up and exited after her father. "Dad. We have to do something after we get Mom to the Canyon."
"What do you suggest?" There was a strain in his eyes that Aeris had never seen before. She had been too young during the time Raieyana was pregnant with Patrick, and Raieyana's death was years before her birth.
"I need to find Patrick." She looked at him. "How could you let him go like that? It's obvious he has all the answers to these questions. Besides, if it comes to a last resort such as that...if anyone could hope to get inside Mom's mind, it's him."
"What?" The tone in Reeve's voice told Aeris she was treading on thin ice.
Emerald eyes filled with tears and she fled from his presence, crying all the way to the bridge.
He turned and slammed a fist into the wall, Barret-style. (Dammit all to hell.)
"I'll be the first to admit that I do not live with Patrick on a full time basis, but the last I saw of him was not too terrible. Circumstances are hard enough without you transferring your harsh energies to your other two children." Red XIII emerged from between the supply bags where he had been napping.
"You don't know him at all," muttered Reeve.
"And do you, Reeve?"
"I saw him the day after he was born. Placed into the hands of a crazed madman, while I strained every muscle in my body and every bit of energy I possessed, trying to rescue him. I risked my life for his."
"That in itself does not equate to knowing the person at all." He frowned. "I just do not understand how you can feel such a way to your own flesh and blood. I denied my father, but that was just because I did not understand his actions."
"You are correct about one thing, Red. I do not understand Patrick's actions." There was a sudden fury in Reeve's eyes. "But I will not be chided for denying my own offspring. Especially when Patrick is not my son."
Red XIII watched Reeve storm to the observation deck. (With this startling revelation, Reeve's behavior begins to fall into place. But the problem is that his actions are in no way beneficial to Raieyana. No matter who Patrick's father was, he is still Raieyana's son. She may need him.)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Azura grunted as she hit the ground again.
She shook her head. "I'm fine." She hopped up again and readied the long stick she had been using as a practice staff.
Patrick twirled his own stick and took on a defensive battle stance. "Okay then, come at me this time."
She bit her lip and concentrated. A few steps toward him, a couple swings, and...Patrick had her up against him, with a move that would have placed his staff against her throat in battle. Her own stick was lying on the ground. (Damn it.) Then suddenly, she sensed an uneven balance of weight. (A-ha!) She leaned to the right, and before Patrick could compensate, wrenched the stick from his hands.
A blow against his lower legs landed him on his back. He looked up to see the end of the stick pointed at his throat and Azura grinning broadly. "Okay," he said with a smile, "your point."
The smile grew wider and she stepped back just a bit, relaxing her stance.
He flashed her a mischievous look and grabbed the end of her stick, pulling her down. She landed in a heap on top of him.
"Hey! That's cheating!" she protested.
"I know," he replied, tossing the stick aside. "It's break time."
"Oh really!" She was indignant. "Well, I think I'll spend my break pouting that you just made me fall for no purpose."
"Come on, Zuri, I was playing," he whined. Scooting up next to her, he gave her puppy-dog eyes. "If you say you forgive me, I'll let you win next round."
"You'd let me win when I'm training?" Azura added a bit of drama to her speech and turned her head with a "hmph." Before Patrick could get out another pitiful plead to her, she turned quickly to face him. Quickly pressing her lips to his, she kissed him-hard.
His eyes were full of surprise. "I think I'll just let you win things on your own from now on. I like the results."
There was a sparkle of extra confidence in her eyes as she smiled warmly at him.
They were interrupted by the roar of a large mutant beast. (Shit) thought Patrick (of all the times for one of these to show up.) "It's a Ruby Dragon!" he shouted to Azura, tossing the real staff at her. "Stay back and just work spells." He took a pair of sabres from his hip sheaths. "Come to papa!" he yelled at the dragon as he touched the 4x cut materia.
Azura stood back, readying a Bio spell. She found that the longer she prepared to cast, the more energy flowed into her. (Or is the energy growing inside me?)
Patrick continued his slice-and-dice action until the boost added by the materia began to wear down. (I got in there nine times.) He was amazed. (Over double what's advertised isn't a bad deal at all.) He looked to his partner, eager to see what kind of magic she had in store.
She hopped forward a bit and raised her arms, palm outstretched in the direction of the dragon's head. "Bio!" A torrent of bright green energy soared towards the dragon.
(Thank god her aim is true.) He could feel the sickening poison in the air itself as the thick stream passed close to him. The dragon roared in agony and tried to counter attack, but failed. The only thing it could do was muster up a meager Cure for itself.
(That won't help you.) Azura shook her head and decided to put another spell in the works. She twirled her staff, pointing the Lightning materia in the dragon's direction.
Patrick noticed that she was preparing to cast again. "Want to try and finish 'em off yourself?" he asked, half-jokingly. He knew that the Ruby Dragon was the strongest little enemy around, and it would take about fifty turns between himself and Azura to bring the beast to its knees.
She closed her eyes in concentration, knowing that the third level Bolt spell would take much more energy than the dinky poison. She could almost feel the electric particles moving between her body and her weapon, surging into her more and more. For a moment, she was scared. Patrick had told her that casting with a materia in your weapon meant using the weapon to guide it. But she also remembered how she had to stop touching the materia in her armlet to direct the spell, when it was in her armlet. So she dropped the staff.
(Uh oh.) His hand inched to his 4x cut materia, hoping that Azura had only had an accident and was otherwise okay. Then he stopped in his tracks. (She's still casting?)
Her eyes opened and glowed green like the energy contained in the crystals. Spasms of electric power shot from her outstretched hand and the Ruby Dragon went into series of convulsions. One upon the other, which were never going to end, as long as the spell poured from Azura. The glow in her eyes faded as the spell subsided, but the dragon was now a steaming, charred carcass.
"I got him!" She jumped up and down with joy. Hopping over her weapon, she wrapped her arms around Patrick in a tight hug. "This is already paying off!"
"Ack...Zuri, wait a sec." He wiped his bloody sabres on the grass and sheathed them. (I got the best materia prodigy since the legendary Sephiroth on my hands, and we're hiding out in the middle of the woods. And she thinks it's all due to my training?!) He stepped over to the body of the dragon. "This is a Ruby Dragon," he said in his best teacher voice. "It usually takes me about twenty minutes to kill one of these things, unless I get annoyed and use a summon like Ramuh. Then it takes ten."
Azura giggled. "Stop trying to win me over by doing the opposite of bragging."
"To anyone but you, those stats would be bragging."
"Did I do the 'amazing materia' thing again?" She looked confused. "But I didn't even cast it like you told me to."
"Never mind for today. Time will tell us what your strongest level is. Training's over for today. You look tired."
She walked over and picked up her staff, then skipped over back to Patrick. Spontaneity took over and she grabbed his hand.
He smiled at her and they walked back. Together.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
("The time is upon you. Get up, Cloud."
Can't you just leave me alone?
"I wish I could, but something happened to you a long time ago. In a time before your time, the natural order of things was altered. The destiny of the present generation was altered, in turn, to correct this mistake."
If you know so much about things, why don't you just go fix them yourself?
"Only one soul per generation is given to the Planet to fix such things."
And it's me, I suppose.
"No. It's your son."
"That's his name this time. It has been other things before. His destiny is twofold. To destroy the 'Calamity from the Skies...'"
Jenova? We destroyed her.
"As long as her cells reside in any human body, she is not truly gone. And until Patrick defeats her, she will never truly die. If Patrick succeeds this time, the Jenova line will die out."
I will be normal? All the ex-Soldiers...their children...we'll all be normal?
"Yes. Even though Hojo used altered Jenova cells in his experimentation, they are still truly part of Jenova enough for her to regenerate herself."
You say "this time." How could Patrick have failed before now? He is only fourteen.
"The true line of Jenova has extended for millennia. In every incarnation of you, you have created an incarnation of Patrick as your son. This is the first generation in which the 'Son of the Sun' has survived to be born and lived through infancy. His birth signaled the Reunion."
Jenova gathered her minions to destroy him?
"Yes. But she underestimated Raieyana and overestimated Hojo. It is time you understood the truth about Patrick. The Jenova/Hojo cells inside you tried to prevent your desire for Raieyana, but your desire for Aeris overrode that, and you wished to be with her anyway. Even though the same consciousness had practically no power over Raieyana, it hardened her heart to you."
Jenova made Raieyana dislike me?
"Yes. All to prevent Patrick's birth."
If those powers did not want me to have a child with Raieyana, then how the hell was I forced into...into...
"The intentions of the Planet marred by the desire of Jenova caused that. Raieyana was to have been deep in sleep, and you were supposed to have been led by Aeris...in a dream. She would have been reconciled with Reeve, her lover, and no one would be wiser...but Jenova..."
She made me violent to Raieyana after she used all her power to make Raieyana awaken at my presence.
"Yes. For even though Jenova could not prevent the conception, she thought she could prevent Raieyana from trusting you. Prevent Raieyana from wanting the child, loving the child. An attempt to make the destruction of the child as easy as possible."
But we were too strong. We were all too strong.
"You must go now, Cloud. The last efforts of Jenova have begun. Raieyana has finally made a concession to the mind control, after a shattering event. Reeve, Vincent, and others have hardened their heart to the anointed child. United you should stand... It is your job to reconcile things. Cloud, once you divided. Arise. Tomorrow you shall unify.")
(It was a field. She was all alone in a field. Poppies and irises grew as wild as dandelions there, and a warm breeze was always blowing.
The Promised Land had been the only place where Riana had been permitted to hold her son. Every time the chance had come to see him on the Planet, the attempts had been thwarted. Riana sighed. Pa'at Rich did not even have a face to call his own. Never in any incarnation had he ever lived to see the light of the star...the star which his bright soul was named for.
A hand was placed on her shoulder. She looked into the eyes of Reiven. "I'm sorry for the last time."
"You are sorry for every time. It saddens me that we have to live the same roles over and over."
"We were told in the beginning that our quest would save the humans on this Planet. We wanted to aid them. And now, it is also for redemption on the joys that she stole from our first lives, so long ago."
"Would you have said yes if you knew you had to be the adversary to the Plan in every incarnation?"
Reiven was quiet. "Would you have said yes if you knew you would never live to see the Son of the Sun born?"
"It must succeed sometime. The Masters would not have begun the Plan otherwise."
"If they would only let you and Kal'od return to the Planet without me next time..."
"They know better than us. And you should know by now that it is not the way. Nothing can remain unchecked. Not even the parents of the anointed child. They must have a foe."
"In this respect, sometimes I think the Masters are fools."
"They just have absolute discrimination. Perhaps they mean to teach the both humans and us, the Cetra, a lesson. I have learned much already."
"What have you learned, Riana? How much pain have you had to bear? They never told you that all the failure would haunt you, even beyond the physical realm."
"I have learned that the prevention of the Plan comes in many shapes and forms. Through lust for power, or even through the times when you have become my lover. We easily become misguided in our shadowy mortal coil."
"I hope we soon learn what form the implementation of this Plan comes in. The next incarnation will be hard. The Masters need us to fulfill the Aniz-Mi'ar prophecy."
"Khazed," Riana murmured. "The beloved sacrifice. So you shall be my lover next time. That makes me happy. I mourn for the lives I spent hating you."
"I mourn for the lives we failed."
"Arguing with the Masters." Reiven shook his head. "I gave that up centuries ago."
"Whatever could he be arguing about this time?"
"He disagrees with their plans to send me first, then him, then you. He thinks we have a better chance of success if he is the eldest in this incarnation."
"We never succeeded when he was or when he wasn't. It matters little what we want, for the Masters set up lives that we ourselves could not plan."
"True." He took her hand. "I go ten years before you this time, and the time fast approaches. Wish me luck, oh mother of the son of the sun?"
"May you fail as my adversary. Let the Plan succeed. For my life from two thousand years ago. For the innocence Jenn o' Vah removed from the Cetra, and removed from all mankind.")
Raieyana stirred on the cot in the medical bay as the Airship landed at Cosmo Canyon. It was time to try and unlock her from her frozen state.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Marlene walked up to the entrance of the Alcor building. Although she was rather disappointed that her visit with her family had been cut short by Raieyana's emergency, she saw her early return as an opportunity to prove herself to the C.E.O., Yorlain Armstrong.
Walking past the security desk towards the elevator, she murmured a greeting to the guard. She didn't need to produce any I.D.; all the guards knew her well by now.
A terse voice barked an order to her. "Walk back here slowly. Keep your hands where I can see them."
"What is the matter? I am Marlene Wallace!" She glared at the guard. "If you hinder me too long, I'll complain to the C.E.O.!"
"The C.E.O. eh?" The guard gave a knowing look to his partner. "I bet this one is on the list."
The guard grabbed her arm and slapped her across the face. "Shut up. Some people have been upset with the wimpy way this company runs. Yorlain was disposed of."
"I found it." The guard with the list looked up. "Marlene Wallace, level 4 employee."
(Damn straight.) "Now will you get your fucking hands off of me?"
The only response she received was the slapping of handcuffs against her wrists. "Level 4. Close to the C.E.O. Our boss needs you honey, for 'observation.'"
Alcor had originally set up shop in the former Shinra building in Junon. Even after the fire damaged the building, they decided to stay there. It was sturdy, after all. The upper levels, including the prison, had always been off-limits, with only Reeve and Reno, later Yorlain, having access to them.
Someone had opened up the prison, obviously, for this was where Marlene was taken. Something had gone wrong at Alcor. Really wrong.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Okay, kids, this is a serious problem. A girl went missing last night. We need to issue a manhunt of all the surrounding area." Legolas looked at the young warriors gathered around him. "We also have reason to believe Patrick may be hiding out in the forest, and we need to bring him here."
"Could you please not call us kids?" asked Benjamin, a skilled archer of twenty years.
"Sorry. It's hard to see Danny sitting there and not say 'kids.'"
Daniel frowned. "Call me Dan, Daniel, or nothing, okay?" He had spent eighteen years of his life fighting off the nickname Danny, he believed.
"Any other demands before I continue?" asked Legolas, amused.
He shook his head. "Why do we need to bring Patrick in?"
Taking a deep breath, Legolas addressed the group. "I suppose I can't keep this from being put out in the open. There was a trespasser at Raieyana's house night before last, and we have reason to believe Patrick was involved in his murder. Now, we're not going to put him on trial, as long as both he and Raieyana can attest to it being a defensive action."
"If he ran away, then it probably wasn't defensive," commented Benjamin.
"The decision for that is not up to you, to just assume, got it? If you find Patrick, we would like for you to ask him to return. If not, cast a status spell on him and drag him back here. Understand?"
"What if he uses force?"
"Then you have permission to subdue him." Legolas peered at the young man. "Is that what you're asking for? A chance to attack him? You will not get it. At least not from the community, Lia, or myself. He is a citizen just like you."
"Child of outsiders," he muttered.
Legolas grabbed him by the shoulder and locked eyes. "If anything serious should happen to him, his blood is on your hands. Get the picture?"
"Whatever." He broke eye contact. "What about the girl?"
Legolas stepped back. "Her name is Azura Valentine. She's about five feet three inches tall, a hundred pounds. Long black hair, gray eyes. She's at least half Wutaian."
"That's Zuri out in the woods by herself?" said Daniel in amazement.
Benjamin yawned and prepared to stand up. "What should we do when we find her corpse?"
"When you find her," said Legolas sternly, "you bring her back here. You know that. Now I have a map here. I divided the terrain into ten parts. Each part has a pair of names on it. The part you scout out has your name on it, obviously."
"Why can't we just go alone?"
"There are many reasons. Having a support for battles is one of them. Another would be for the scenario where Azura is found, but too injured to be moved. One will stay with her and the other would return here. Also, if Patrick becomes aggressive, I would hope two of you grown warriors could subdue the boy."
"Great idea," he said sarcastically.
Legolas looked up. "Are there any questions from those of you with slightly smaller mouths than Ben?"
Eighteen warriors shook their heads.
"So everyone is clear with their assignments?"
A soft chorus of "yes sir's" met his ear. The warriors prepared to head out to their assigned territory.
"After four hours, report back here. You will be given a meal, and if nothing has turned up, return for another patrol after you've rested." Legolas watched them head towards the door. "Oh, and one more thing."
Twenty faces turned back in his direction. "Good luck." They each nodded silently and headed out of the room.
He sat down in one of the chairs, tired. (How did I ever let Lia coerce me into playing 'General' to the troops?)