I looked down at the band of comrades, as they made their way across the grassy plains. This was the same group I had seen my mother with before, the same group that I had been following since I had seen them in Nibelheim, while I was resting. But it has been weeks since I had seen my mother with this party, and I know it in my heart that she is dead. And it is with a bittersweet note that a remember my father's search that had lasted so long, in which I had succeeded, then failed.
My name is Raieyana. I am the daughter of Tseng Amine and Aeris Gainsborough. I know this sounds illogical, considering my mother is--was twenty-two, when I am sixteen. This would make Aeris only a young child when I was conceived. But I was produced in a lab, by Hojo of Shinra, perhaps in his quest for an Ancient that could withstand his grueling tests. For whatever reason, I came into being. According to my father, Hojo combined samples of his cells with those of Aeris, creating a child. Hojo did not even tell my father about this until I was at least six months old. With this new knowledge, my father smuggled me from the lab and brought me to my aunt Aula in Upper Junon, to be taken care of while he searched for Ifalna, and later, Aeris. I never really knew my father very well, although when I did see him, he was always surrounded by an aura of depression, desperation. He was sorry for what he had done, what Shinra had done, especially what Hojo had done. But he was too afraid to leave Shinra, too afraid for himself, maybe even for me. I remember finding him dying in the Temple of the Ancients. He told me not to worry...and that he loved me. He said he was sorry for anything he might have done to hurt me. I told him he had done nothing to me that he should be sorry for. I held his hand as he died. I heard his last words. Find her...and stop Sephiroth. And then I cried for the first time in a long while.
Sephiroth may be dead, but the Planet is not yet saved. I have a duty, a responsibility, to all those I hold dear to protect it from the danger that I know is now imminent. I cannot do it alone; I am the only one who can protect it, however. I must not fail, because there is no other person who possesses my knowledge of this crisis, or the solution. But getting allies is my first objective. This is my only thought as I walk down the hill towards the party.
It was two days after the death of Sephiroth and the destruction of Meteor by Holy. Cloud and the others were walking across the grassy plains towards Kalm. They were on foot, because the Airship had been left in Junon for repairs. They were going to see Elmyra, Aeris' adoptive mother, Marlene, and they were going to meet up with Reeve. Cait Sith was to officially retire. The sun was shining; birds were singing. Peace had finally come, or so it seemed.
Cloud saw a young girl of about sixteen or seventeen approaching them from the nearest ridge. He motioned towards the others to stop.
"What is it Cloud?" asked Tifa, watching him intently.
"Is it," whispered Red XIII, "no, it can't be..."
Cloud looked at her again as she came closer. (Same dark hair, same green eyes, Aeris' face...) But it was not Aeris. There was something different about this girl, not just the way her eyes and hair shone with a fire in the sunlight. She was carrying an adamantium staff and a small satchel. She slowed, because she had reached them.
"Are you...are you Cloud Strife?" she asked, with Aeris' voice. But hers was slightly different, the tone like as if she had never been happy--ever.
(How can she not be happy? The Planet is saved. Sephiroth is dead.) "Yes," he said, "that is my name." She looked him directly in the eyes.
"I have been following you," she said.
"What?" asked Barret, outraged. But that was as far as he got. They were interrupted by the buzz of a helicopter and the whir of a Gelnika.
(Damn) thought Raieyana (I thought I had more time.) The others watched in amazement as the Turks descended from the helicopter on a ladder.
"What are you bozos doing here?" asked Elena.
"Notice how the Turks mysteriously reappear after both Sephiroth and Meteor have been destroyed," muttered Yuffie.
"You know what," said Elena, "this is not our purpose here, but I guess it's payback time for you guys doing in my boss."
"If you're talking about Tseng," said Raieyana, "you're sorely mistaking, because these people didn't kill him."
Elena snorted. "Scum like you are not worthy enough to speak the name of such a man."
Raieyana walked closer. "Like you ever knew him," she said.
Elena looked her over. "You are certainly not cultured enough to have been even an acquaintance of his," she retorted. She looked ready to fight.
Raieyana shook her head. (Oh dear. I've got to stop this thing with the irate blond chick with a thing for Dad right here and now.) "I'll tell you what, the next time a total stranger accuses equally total strangers of killing your father when you know Sephiroth did, then I will fight with you over this. But I think I have a little more knowledge of the event of my father's death than you do, so I would suggest you keep your mouth shut before you come off as an even bigger idiot than you already have." Raieyana didn't usually chew people out; she really tried not to let other people get to her. But Elena, thinking she knew it all about Tseng, really had gotten on her nerves.
This little outburst of Raieyana's had everyone stunned, even the Turks. Yuffie's mouth was hanging open--wide. Vincent softly pushed her jaw up so it was closed again. "You don't have to thank me," he said, "trust me, I did it for my own benefit, not yours."
Reno stepped up and put a hand on Elena's shoulder. "Come on Elena," he said, "remember our orders--find the Hope and Renew materia orbs."
"What?" asked Raieyana.
"Look little girl, go home and play with your dollies. Come back when you're old enough to drive," said Reno.
What she said next wiped the smug smile right off of his face. "You can't possibly think that I'm not going to try and stop you every step of the way. I know what you're trying to do." At that particular moment, she really looked quite formidable.
Reno collected himself and raised an eyebrow. "Listen kid, stay out of our way, or you're going to get burned. C'mon Elena, Rude, let's go." They climbed back up the ladder into the chopper and took off, with the Gelnika following.
Cloud turned to Raieyana. "Tseng's your father?" Raieyana told them all about her life, from test tube to the present.
"I was following you because Aeris was with you," she said, "but then, you know. Now Shinra's up to something."
"We're on our way to Kalm," said Cloud, "why don't you join us, Raieyana?"
She shrugged. "Okay, I might as well."
When they arrived at Kalm, Marlene was waiting there to greet them. "Papa!" she laughed as Barret lifted her up on his shoulder. Then Reeve came out of the house where Elmyra had been staying.
"Look," said Barret, "it's the Shinra manager. How's public relations goin' these days?"
"Barret, you know I quit," he said.
"Yeah, I do," said Barret. Then he laughed. "Just don't think of going back to those Shinra," he said, shaking his finger. Everyone laughed. There really weren't any hard feelings now.
Raieyana remained silent, thinking about a few things in a new light since their little encounter with the Turks. (In that brief moment, they gave me more information than they could have possibly realized. I never would have thought she would... Why would she...)
Elmyra came out onto the porch. "I've cooked a delicious dinner for everyone, so..."
"Whoo-hoo!" yelled Barret, "Chow time!"
He quickly followed her back into the house, while everyone else tried really hard not to laugh. That dinner was the best meal Raieyana had in a long time. (Elmyra sure knows how to cook. If only she didn't keep staring at me like I was a ghost...)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Elmyra invited everyone to stay the night, but Raieyana bowed out, opting to stay at the inn. So she left after dinner.
"Hey, guys," said Reeve to Cid and Vincent, "I'm going out for a cigarette." They barely looked up from their card game as he followed her out the door. "Wait up," he called, catching up with her. "We never got a chance to get properly introduced. I'm Reeve."
"And I'm not one for formal introductions. I'm Raieyana."
"Raieyana," he said, "look, I know you're planning on leaving tonight. The way you left Elmyra's, it was a little obvious."
"Well then, Reeve, you have great insight," she said, "but I have my reasons. I'll come back after I take care of a couple things. Just one thing, though--you or the others, don't any of you try to mess with the new Shinra president until I come back, okay?"
"Why?" he asked, intrigued.
She smiled. "Let's just say I have great insight, too. Good-night," she said.
Reeve watched her leave, then lit up that cigarette. He slowly walked back to Elmyra's, not noticing the full moon. It was blood-red.
At about midnight, Raieyana prepared to leave. She pulled a dark cloak around her shoulders and left her room. Leaving her room key on the counter in the lobby, she walked out into the night.
Cloud was there, waiting for her. "So, why are you taking off?" he asked.
"Look," she said, "I've been following you for a long time. I need to go home."
"If you need to go to Junon, we're swinging back there in a few days, so..."
Raieyana stopped him. "No. I kind of have two homes. Junon is one and the other is...Undor-Hai."
"But that's just a legend," said Cloud.
"Maybe to you," said Raieyana, "but it is a very real place to me."
"I bet you also believe in witches and demons and monsters," he said.
"What do you call Sephiroth?" she asked, walking away, "I'll see you around." Cloud watched her leave and then he went back inside, also ignoring the scarlet moon.
Raieyana was at the trail to Undor-Hai, at the foot of Mount Crist. The Undorians, cautious of strangers, let few outsiders into their hidden land. But Raieyana and Aysta were allowed to live there, train, and learn. Raieyana had always wondered why she was able to easily enter such a secretive society. (Was it because I am an Ancient? Or because I have a few more Jenova cells than the average clone?) She started up the trail. (I've got to get Lia to clear this. But this is never easy anyway.) Raieyana had forgotten just how hard it was to get up to the top, especially crossing the gorge aptly nicknamed "The Bottomless Pit" using only a single rope for a bridge. But she made it to the top, finally.
"Welcome home, Ray," a slender blonde girl called.
(Lia) thought Raieyana. The nineteen-year-old leader of the Undorians ran up and gave her a hug.
"Oh, Ray, I've missed you so much. What's been going on out there? How's it been?"
"Lia," said Raieyana, "there's a big problem. I think Aysta's president of Shinra now."
"Aysta?" said Lia, "well, if she's the president, then there can be nothing wrong, right..."
Raieyana shook her head. "I would have thought that before. But I saw the Turks while going to Kalm. They were looking for White materia," she said, "and only one of us three would know about it and what it can do. The only one outside all this time? Aysta."
"Would she really use the Ancient translation against us?" asked Lia.
"I don't know," said Raieyana, "but I think she has her own objectives now. I think she's become the enemy. I think she wants to bring Sephiroth back. So I need to bring some people up here to equip them. We have the best weapons. There's eight in Cloud's party, and I'm going to get Ish and Blane--if I can--so ten, I guess."
"Ray," said Lia, "allowing outsiders here is not going to boost my approval rating with the people. But I will do what has to be done. We've translated a little more and we've completed the Evenstar. Aysta's not going to get very far. I only wish it wasn't one of us that was our adversary in this..." They walked towards Lia's house, planning.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Aysta sat in her office, staring at her computer monitor. (Where is that paragraph? Damn this word-processing program...deleted parts of the most important files...sure, leave the stupid Freecell "readme.txt" file intact, but anything of value, no, delete parts of it...)
"President?" Scarlet walked into the room.
Aysta looked up from the screen. "Yes," she said, irritated.
Scarlet handed her a picture of Raieyana. "While looking for the White materia, the Turks ran into Her. Reno says this girl threatened them and also said she was the daughter of the deceased Turk Tseng Amine."
Aysta sucked in her breath angrily.
Aysta handed the picture back. "Put out a warrant with Soldier for the arrest of a certain Raieyana Amine. Spell it right. If she enters my Junon, I want to know and I want her here where I can see her with my own eyes."
"Yes, president." Scarlet left in a hurry.
The computer beeped. Aysta spun around to look at it. "The file has been salvaged" appeared on the screen. She clicked and the screen was filled with hundreds of pages of translation. Aysta hadn't left Undor-Hai empty-handed. She had taken her copy of the Resurrection texts with her. She leaned back in her chair, revealing a fine gold chain on which a Black materia hung. Mutate--to change the physical thing, to alter the inner Lifeforce; to cause as great a damage as Meteor, if not greater because of its subtlety.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The entire group was arguing over what was to be done about Raieyana's disappearance.
"If she's not mature enough to stay with a party once she's joined it, then I say we forget about her," said Yuffie.
"Cloud," said Tifa, "with Shinra roaming around again, no one should be roaming around alone. We have to try and find her."
"I don't think she would have been so blunt about leaving if she didn't want us to follow her," said Reeve.
"So Red," said Cid, "where is the approximate location of this Unbor-Lai place?"
"Well," said Red XIII, "Undor-Hai is rumored to be near Mt. Crist, which forms part of the ridge beyond Midgar."
"I 'spose we could follow her," said Barret, "absolutely nothin' to lose in it, I guess, except for quality time with Marlene."
"Looking for an imaginary trail to an imaginary place is exactly what I like to do," said Yuffie, "I never wanted to see Wutai again, anyway."
So they went to look for Undor-Hai, with some of them cursing Raieyana in their heads.
Raieyana left down the back trail for Junon, nearly encountering with Cloud and the others in their search for a trail. But she didn't notice them; they didn't notice Raieyana.
"Whoa, trail alert," said Yuffie.
"I'll be damned," said Cid.
"Well," said Cloud, "only one thing to do: head up the trail and hope they're friendly at this place." They started up the trail.
Suddenly a slender, blonde girl lept down from a tree above. "I would suggest," said Lia, "that you leave now. If you won't go peaceably, I'll have you know that there are fifty armed warriors hidden in the forest around you."
(A trap?) "Umm, we're looking for Raieyana," stammered Cloud, thinking of those fifty armed warriors.
"Wait a sec," said Lia, "what's your name?"
"Party of eight," said Lia, "well guess what. You're not under threat anymore. We've actually been kind of expecting you. You can follow me to Undor-Hai." She smiled at them. "Contrary to what you may believe, it does exist. Come and see the splendor of my city."
When Cloud and the others arrived at Undor-Hai, they found it to be nothing like they had expected.
(Wow) thought Yuffie (houses in the trees. These people must be as agile as birds.)
Lia led them to the largest tree-house. "This is my house, and Ray's, too," she said, "come on up." She climbed up the rope ladder swiftly.
Reeve was first to follow. (If I die, there's always Cait Sith.)
Barret was a little embarrassed. (Why did I let the Shinra manager go first? I'm such a wimp.)
Eventually, though, everyone got up the ladder. Inside, the house was beautiful and surprisingly modern, with any convenience imaginable except electircity and Mako energy. "Look ma," said Cid, "no Mako."
Vincent slapped him on the back of the head. (I shouldn't have let him have that third beer. If no one watches out for his drinking, who will?)
Lia smiled. "We've never had Mako or electricity and probably never will. But it makes it so much more beautiful here than other places because the Lifeforce stays outside the houses, in the Planet, where it belongs."
"Are you Ancients?" asked Tifa.
"No," said Lia, "but we study them in great detail here. We've translated many of their texts and scrolls. Raieyana is our best translator, even better than Aysta."
"Who's Aysta?" asked Vincent.
"Ray will have to tell you that," said Lia, "but I should probably go get your weapons. But we can do that tomorrow, I guess."
"Ma'am," said Red XIII, "we have our weapons already."
Lia started to leave the room. "No, your new weapons. We have everything from sword and guns to...lances and ninja stars." And so Cloud and the others spent the night in the legendary sanctuary of Undor-Hai, sheltered between Mt.Crist and the sea.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Raieyana looked at the Shinra building in Junon. (They've added on to it) she realized (I wonder what else Aysta has done in my absence? What to do first? See Aunt Aula or storm the Shinra building? I'll go with door number 2.) She headed towards the entrance.
"I'm sorry, miss," said the Soldier guarding the entrance, "you can't come in here."
(What has she won? She has just won a...jack-ass. Yes, a bona fide jack-ass. Tell her what she could have had if she chose door number one, Al. "A brand new Cadillac, and twenty-five thousand dollars in spending money for her seven-day cruise to the Bahamas...") "Why the hel--, I mean, why not?" she asked. (After all, I could have real, valid business here. Just because I haven't doesn't mean that I should be set apart from those who don't want to knock the whole damn thing down...)
"Because," the Soldier with the very familiar voice said, "Ray, it would be very dumb, with the warrant Aysta has out for you, to just go in and hand yourself over to her." He took off his helmet.
"I knew it was you the whole time, Ish," she said.
He closed his blue eyes, smoothed back his longish red hair, and laughed. "Sure you did, Ray," Ishmael said. "Well, let's just go to your aunt's house." He checked his watch. "It's my break, anyway."
"Oh, Ray, it's good to have you home," said Aula, her eyes brimming with tears as she embraced her niece. "Unfortunately, however, you can't have your old room. I've been boarding some Soldiers here. Blane is one of them, but you don't know the other three."
Raieyana would have been surprised at learning Blane was a Soldier if Ishmael hadn't explained to her on the way over how Aysta had convinced them both to join. (It was supposed to be me, Ish, Blane, and Aysta--together forever. Yeah, right.)
"If you come upstairs," said Aula, "you can see Blane and the two guys. Denmae is working."
"There's a girl Soldier here? I've never seen a female Soldier before, Ish," said Raieyana as they went upstairs.
"You haven't seen Denmae," was all he said. They entered a room where three young men were playing cards.
"Hey Aula," said a brown eyed, dark haired Soldier of about eighteen--Blane, "and Ishmael, and...Ray?" He got up and hugged Raieyana.
"This is Ruther..." he said. A slim, dark-skinned man with a shaved head nodded.
"...and Legolas," finished Blane. A short muscular man with grey eyes and bleached-blond hair stood up.
"Pleased to meet you," he said, shaking Raieyana's hand.
In two hours, it was like old times. Ishmael had to go back to his post, but Ruther, Legolas, and Raieyana were talking like old friends. "It just isn't right, Ray," said Blane, "Aysta's warrant and all. She's betrayed you, turned her back on the person who is practically her sister. And it's ruining Aula. Seeing her daughter backstab her own cousin who has done nothing wrong. You're not a criminal, Ray."
There was a pounding on the door. They could hear a gruff voice questioning Aula downstairs.
"Sergeant Michaels," said Ruther, "Raieyana, we have to get you out of here."
"I'll take her," said Blane, "you guys cover for us." He opened the window and started to climb out onto the fire escape. "Ray?! Come on! You're not going to prove anything by getting locked up."
"We're going to go get Ish, too, right?" she asked.
Blane nodded. "Ruther and Legolas will meet us outside of the city. And I guess they'll bring Denmae. Don't want to leave her to be interrogated by Michaels."
Raieyana climbed out the window. (I didn't expect to be running from my hometown the day I arrived. I guess sometimes things don't go as you planned, though.)
The next day, Lia came with weapons for all of them. Tifa was studying the exquisite detailing on the Adamantium Claw, while Barret tried out his new Nuclear Reign, which not only shot out large bombs, but doubled as a short-range weapon. Red XIII was examining the capabilities of his Mars Clip, which always attacked with a Fire-Elemental combination. Yuffie received a set of six ninja stars and the Spiral Blade, which basically had a sharp, spiral blade. Cid got the Sepulchre Lance: plain and white, but contained a hidden chamber of poison released when an enemy is pierced with the point; Vincent received a pair of uzis. Cloud had a new sword, the Lowlellean, which had an astonishing eighteen materia slots and amazing attack power. Finally, Lia handed Reeve a pair of thick knives.
"That's all?" said Barret, "Hahahaha!"
Vincent promptly slapped him on the back of the head. (Am I the only one around here who doesn't drink?)
"Sure, these look like plain ordinary knives," said Lia, "but when you push a button on the handle, they emit a powerful poison. And it catches enemies off guard, because they really don't look like much of a threat, but in the hands of the well-trained fighter, these things can be more effective than a sword."
Reeve took the knives. "Did you choose these weapons for us?" he asked.
Lia shook her head. "No, Raieyana did."
Reeve examined the knives a little more closely. (She really does have great insight.)
"Why does Reeve get the cool weapons?" Yuffie whined, bringing on a slap on the back of the head from Vincent.
(She just has a bad attitude.) Vincent spent much of his time, in fact, contemplating Yuffie's bad attitude and how he could correct it. He had come up with nothing so far up to this point, besides the ambiguous concept of back-of-the-head-slapping. It wasn't working on Yuffie. Really hadn't worked on anyone at all, for that matter.
A young girl walked into the room. "Lia? Raieyana has come back...with a few friends. What should I do?" she asked.
"Send them up here, of course! And tell Ray we appreciate her taking her sweet time getting her butt back up here," said Lia.
Blane and Ishmael received new-and-improved versions of their Soldier staples, but Lia had to go back to the stockroom for Ruther, Legolas, and Denmae. Denmae was a real enigma, with short strawberry-blonde hair and brown eyes so dark that they looked almost black. Lia returned with their weapons. "So Ray," she said, "have you told any of your friends why they are here? I'm sure they'd like to have a slight idea."
"Well," said Raieyana, "the first thing I need to do is notify everyone that Aysta is president of Shinra, Inc. I knew she'd been planning this for some time; she was trying to get to Rufus and I guess she convinced him to leave her the company in his will. The sleeping your way to the topconcept. I'm sure you're all familiar with how that works. He probably didn't think he was going to die for a while, so..."
"Wait a goddamn minute," said Cid, "who's Aysta?"
"Aysta is Aula's daughter, therefore, Ray's cousin as well," said Ishmael, "the four of us, Blane, Ray, Aysta, and myself, we all grew up together."
"Aysta, Lia, and I have been translating Ancient texts on Resurrection for some time now. It's probably not a coincidence that Shinra started looking for the White materia right after Aysta has, for all practical purposes, vanished. She always talked about taking over Shinra, doing some good, but I think she has her own plans to take care of now," said Raieyana.
"Resurrection?" said Cloud, "resurrect who?"
"Take a wild guess," said Raieyana.
"Not Seph..." said Red XIII.
Raieyana nodded. "Yes Sephiroth," she said, "and to do this, she needs the six White materia: Hope, Spirit, Renew, Holy, Mercy, and Faith. And she needs a Black materia."
"Meteor?" asked Tifa.
"No, not that. Mutate. But don't get me wrong, Mutate can be just as bad, or even worse if it's in the wrong hands. And it definitely is in the wrong hands," said Raieyana.
"So what can we do about it?" asked Legolas.
Lia lifted up a large black sword with the stars and the moon etched on it. "Aysta never stuck around to finish the translation," she said, "otherwise she would have known exactly how we can stop her. We're not totally finished with the texts yet, but if we can't prevent her from getting the materia..." She handed the sword to Raieyana. "...we can prevent the Resurrection spell from completely working by destroying Mutate."
Raieyana displayed the materia slots. There were six in a star shape, all joined to one in the center. The six White materia surround Mutate.
Cloud looked at the Lowlellean, obviously dissatisfied. "Can I trade?" he said, "I want the better sword."
Raieyana said, "I'm sorry, but no. You see, I'm..."
"...the only one who knows how to use it," Cloud said with her mockingly. Vincent would have slapped him on the back of the head if he wasn't all the way across the room.
"So what are we gonna do about this?" asked Barret.
"Well," said Raieyana, "we could look for the White materia ourselves. After all, we all know where Holy is, right?"
"Wait, wait, wait!" cried Yuffie, "before we decide to do anything, I'd just like to inform you all that we don't have our Airship!" Everyone stared at her. It was the most intelligent thing they had heard her say in two entire weeks.
Cloud groaned. "It's in Junon, for repairs."
"Six of us are wanted in Junon now," said Blane.
"And we can't be sure that Shinra hasn't taken claim of the Airship for themselves," said Reeve.
"So what are we going to do about my Airship?" asked Cid.
"Ishmael and Denmae still have their Soldier uniforms with them," said Raieyana, "and I suppose a couple more of us could go in disguise with them..."
"I nominate Raieyana and Reeve," said Red XIII.
"Why us?" they asked at the same time.
"Well," he continued, "Reeve grew up in Junon and so did you, Raieyana, so you probably know the best way to get to the airport inconspicuously. Any disguise stuff Raieyana has is probably for herself..."
"That's true," she said.
"...and if Reeve changed his outfit the slightest bit, no one would recognize him."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Reeve.
Red XIII shrugged, which looked very odd. "You're always wearing a business suit," he said, "if any of us passed you on the streets in, say a grunge/punk outfit, not a one of us would know it was you. No one."
"So," said Cid, lighting a new cigarette off of his old one, "we'll wait for you at Ft. Condor, while you..." He took a drag. "...go get my Airship and bring it back."
He flicked the old butt across the room. It landed on one of Lia's potted plants and caught it on fire. Lia ran hurriedly to another room and came back with a bucket full of water, which she dumped on the plant. "There goes any hope of tea for me this winter," she said.
"In my opinion, loss of tea isn't much of a loss," said Cloud, "maybe he did you a favor."
"You could have told me, Cloud, that you didn't like tea the last time you were at my house. I yelled at Shera and you don't even like tea?" Cid was rather angry.
"Umm," said Ishmael, "we're leaving now. Better be at Ft. Condor when we get the Airship."