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Challenges Both New and Old Chapter 4

Those Who Do Not Learn From the Past...

Yuffie ran to her house with tears in her eyes. What had possessed her to try and murder her father? Yes, he was being a jackass, but he didn't deserve... this. What had been running through her head? She honestly couldn't remember... this was unusual. She'd lost her temper plenty of times before, and done things she'd regretted later, but nothing to this extreme.

The doors burst open and she flung herself upon the bed, her tears dripping onto her bedsheets. You didn't get him now, but that's okay. He has to sleep sometime. "Who are you?" Yuffie cried. "Get out of me!" Dear child, I am only out for your and Wutai's best interest. "By killing my father?" No, by instilling you as ruler. You know better than anyone else that Godo overestimated his failure. I'll bet he never told you just how close we actually came to winning. Yuffie started. "What? He... whuuuuuuuuuuhhh..."

She instantly lost consciousness on her bedsheets.



"Go forward, men!" heard Yuffie faintly. "We've nearly reached the center!" Yuffie regained consciousness looking at the most beautiful view of Wutai she'd ever seen. Gorgeous trees intermingled with the spiked defense of nearly fifty guard houses. Even with all the post-Meteor expansion Wutai had gone through, it couldn't compare with what she was seeing now. Come to think of it, what was this? Wutai seemed to be under attack... had her prophecy come true?! Had Deling struck so soon? If so, what was she doing with his men? Yuffie raised her Masamune, her long silver hair flowing behind... wait! This wasn't her! As she automatically stepped forward, she realized: Sephiroth! She was in the body of her most powerful enemy. And he was advancing on her hometown! Buit this couldn't be... Sephiroth was long dead. Somehow she had been transported into Sephiroth's body, or one that looked a lot like it. Another dimension?... she doubted it. She tried to step away from the weaking tower structures, but both legs remained firmly planted on the ground. She tried to move his arms. They didn't budge an inch. Apparently she was only a guest here and had no physical control. Sephiroth walked unmercifully forward. Wu-Taing will fall this day. Wait, who had said that? Nobody. Not that Yuffie had heard, anyway. What was Wu-Taing?... she knew she'd heard it somewhere before. The war ends here and now. The war! The Midgar/Wu-Taing war! That was it! Until her dad had his ass soundly kicked by the Shinra, Wutai used to be known as Wu-Taing. Afterwards, she'd been told that Wu-Taing was too ashamed to keep its original name, and thus changed it to Wutai. But how had she heard these things from Sephiroth? He hadn't spoken it. Wait, that wasn't speech! They were thoughts! Yuffie had access to Sephiroth's thoughts! Did he hers? "Sephiroth, stop it this instant!" Nothing. Sephiroth tread down the Da-Chao mountain range, the very path that she had taken earlier today... or would take in ten years... or something. How had she even gotten here? She couldn't remember for the life of her. But more importantly, she had to stop this. Wu-Taing had to win! "SEPHIROTH!!!!" Yuffie tried to shout as hard as she could. She couldn't tell what she was doing right now... was she thinking? Speaking? I must press forward and end this quickly. I have the weight of the entire Shinra army on my shoulders. No! Without even a running start, Sephiroth jumped high into the air, his cape flowing out majestically behind him. A cluster of four guard houses entered Yuffie's sight, and she could do nothing but watch as Sephiroth shouted "Fire 3!" from midair, coming to a landing in the center of newly-burning towers. "There must be something I can do!" It appears that the town is up ahead. I shall go there presently and dispatch the head of this rebellious nation. Oh no! This must have been the day when Shinra finally won! But there was no time for further contemplation, as Sephiroth took off at lightning speed, expertly cleaving anyone who got in his way. It was sickening... of all the eyes she could have seen this horrible war through, why did they have to be his? Sephiroth stopped outside the pagoda. "Come out, ruler of Wu-Taing! You may fight me here, and die an honorable death, or else be hunted out like a bandersnatch and shot on sight!"

"I'm more than happy to oblige," assured a voice. But where it was coming from was a mystery. Sephiroth continuously shifted his view to discover the voice's origin. His Masamune at the ready, he stepped warily towards the pagoda entrance. He jabbed uneasily into the the darkness of the doorway. All right! He was nervous! The omnipotent Sephiroth, cowering at a disembodied voice! But instantly his sword was behind his back, and a fierce clanging sound was heard. Sephiroth's vision wheeled around to meet his opponent: the ruler of Wu-Taing. Yuffie gasped (or whatever the equivalent was in her odd spectator state). It was her father, but she was hard pressed to recognize him. The Godo she saw before her had none of his modern wrinkles. His posture was as straight as a bamboo stick, instead of slouched over in a constant state of depression or anger. He was not the out-of-shape, baggy-eyed ruler of Wutai, but an extraordinarily fit man with a cocky grin that Yuffie recognized as her own, tooth for tooth. This was definitely someone who was fit to rule the Wu-Taing clan. He was wielding a double-bladed staff, which he had used to try and gain the first strike. This was a weapon Yuffie had never seen him use. But perhaps the best part of the man she could now ecstatically call her father was that there wasn't an ounce of doubt or hesistation in his eyes. This was the man Yuffie always knew her father could be, and this was proof: he'd already been it! "Now, I can beat you the easy way, or the hard way."

"I wouldn't be so certain if I were you," Sephiroth warned. "The Shinra army is the finest in the world."

"Good thing we're not an army then," Godo replied smoothly. "We're a ninja clan, the most efficient, stealthy, and elite in the world."

Sephiroth steadied his sword. "I take it you're the leader and most likely their best man."

Godo shrugged. "That's what they call me. But I've heard rumors of late that I'm actually President Shinra." And without a word he used his weapon to vault himself toward Sephiroth, his foot extended forward.

But Sephiroth easily jumped out of Godo's way, causing him to fly directly into the pagoda entrance. Sephiroth chuckled as he heard Godo crash to the floor within.

Godo appeared at the entrance instantaneously, dusting himself off. "Well, I guess that's not the best way to make a first impresion on the famous Sephiroth. I do sincerely hope I'll be able to make it up to you."

Sephiroth concentrated on his Fire materia. "That makes two of us. Fire 3!" The flames appeared instantly where Godo was standing, and he was engulfed in a wall of flame. "No!" thought Yuffie. But the fire cleared, and Godo was nowhere to be found.

"Heya, Sephy," Godo called casually. Sephiroth attempted to turn around but was smacked upside the head with the flat of Godo's blade. Even though pain coursed through Yufie as if she were truly Sephiroth, she couldn't have been happier. Her father was taking on Sephiroth and winning! She knew he had been strong but she'd had no idea... wow!

Sephiroth quickly lept to his feet. "I see I'll need to actually work to beat you."

Godo patted his thigh. "Just because we don't use materia doesn't mean we don't know how to defend against it."

Sephiroth smirked. "It's not as if we haven't receieved training in countering your style either. In fact, since you like speed so much..." He twirled his Masamune casually in his right hand, despite the fact that he needed a ridiculous amount of torque to support a sword of that length. He quickened his rotation, then shifted it to his other hand. Yuffie noticed this thoughtfully; apparently her father wasn't the only one who had gone through an ego crunch. Sephiroth began creating wider and wider slashes as his sword spun around his body.

"Are those parlor tricks supposed to impress me?" Godo smirked.

Sephiroth didn't take the time to answer. Moving at least as fast as Godo must have to dodge his spell, he shot forward, not breaking his slashes for a second.

"Aaaaagghh!" cried Godo. His hand flew to his right shoulder as Sephiroth passed him. He dropped to one knee as Sephiroth slowed to a stop, halting his movements. Godo removed his hand to find it smeared with blood. "So, it seems you're good for something after all, Sephy. Let me just take care of this here..." Godo raised his arms, clenching his fists as he suddenly gained more power. Bright light started to emit from his skin. "Meet the Wu-Taing magic, Sephiroth! OMNI-change!" Godo cried with a final flash of blinding light. When it cleared, a warrior based on ancient Da-Chao carvings stood in his place. He had three heads and four arms, just like the form Godo had finally revealed to Yuffie when she fought him during her travels with AVALANCHE. "All better!" Godo stated.

"You may have some shape shifting tricks up your sleeve," Sephiroth stated. "But your larger form only makes a bigger target. I'd say the battle has become a tad unfair, actually."

"For which one of us?" Godo forewarned. And he flung his hand towards the ground. Smoke immediately started to dissipate from the ground where he was standing.

"Smoke bomb, huh?" Sephiroth noted. "What makes you think I'll wait-" Godo launched himself into the air, landing on top of the pagoda. It was far higher than Sephiroth could have hoped to jump. The bomb spewed out smoke at a faster and faster rate, doing its job of masking all of Sephiroth's surroundings. Yuffie was torn... she felt anxeity at the fact that her dad could come out of nowhere and strike at the body that she happened to be inhabiting, but she really really wanted him to do it.

"Say, Sephy..." Godo's voice regained the omniscient quality it had before. "Do you have any family?"

Yuffie felt Sephiroth's anxiety and confusion at Godo's cavalier manner during this duel. What was he doing asking about family? Sephiroth decided to play the game. "No... The Shinra army is all I've ever known."

"Have you ever stopped and thought about how sad that is?" Godo asked. "No wonder you're such an easy pawn."

"What?!" snarled Sephiroth, instantly enraged. But before he did anything, he appeared to become calm. Yuffie knew he suddenly had an idea, but she couldn't tell what yet. "A pawn, huh?" He took out his ice materia.

"Yeah, isn't it obvious? I mean, I have my family and the entire Wu-Taing culture to fight for. And what do you have? A promotion?"

"Ice 3," whispered Sephiroth under his breath. The ice attack formed about three feet in front of him. Yuffie was confused. Godo was obviously not where the attack had hit, and it wasn't like Sephiroth to miss by this much, even in these conditions.

"Do you have a higher paycheck? The admiration of your underlings?"

"Ice 3," Sephiroth whispered again. This time the ice appeared farther away. If Yuffie were in her own body, she would probably be feeling a chill now, but Sephiroth's body had been toughened against such adversities.

"How can you tell me you're not a pawn, Seph?" Godo's voice was closer now, but still impossible to pinpoint. "You have no reason to fight other than the order of your fat-cat boss Shinra. I have to protect my people, my wife, and my daughter. Just wait till she's old enough to fight alongside me... you'll definitely be in trouble then!" Yuffie sighed. Her dad had only ended up helping her with rudimentary training. Everything else she'd picked up on her own.

"Ice 3." Sephiroth cast it again, this time behind himself. And as the area got a little colder, Yuffie started to feel anxiety. Through Sephiroth's body, she began to feel a small pocket of warmth close by... no doubt her father. This was a truly clever maneuver on Sephiroth's part. She would have had to admire it had the circumstances been different. "So tell me, Godo," Sephiroth started, moving slowly towards the heat. "What's your ambition? You fight to protect your family, but what more? Have you no dreams beyond your small and pathetic Wu-Taing community?" And with that he swung in a wide arc. "Dad!" thought Yuffie. But Sephiroth's sword was met with Godo's blade, as the man himself suddenly became visible. Quick as a wink, he used his extra arms to instantly twirl his weapon and catch Sephiroth's blade under his own, pushing it to the ground. Not pausing for breath, Godo placed his foot on Sephiroth's thin but sturdy blade and propelled himself over Sephiroth's head. And then Yuffie felt searing pain spread from the middle of her back outwards. Groaning in pain, Sephiroth staggered backwards, collasping face up on the ground. Godo appeared before him, placing one foot on Sephiroth's sword-wielding hand and using one arm to hold the blade. His other foot landed squarely and firmly on Sephiroth's chest.

Yuffie was beyond words. There was nothing she could say, she could even fathom, that described what she was feeling. It was as if the words "My dad was able to beat the greatest warrior ever known in less than five minutes" spoke entirely for themselves.

"Alright now, Sephy," Godo began casually. Yuffie only wished she could see the look on Sephiroth's face... feeling his contortions of pain and surprise just weren't enough. "I'm going to clear this smoke away and let everyone see us as we are right now. You and your men are going to leave here and never return. You're going to tell Shinra exactly what happened here and that we demand peaceful negotiations." Without waiting for a response, Godo suddenly shouted, "Tornado!" Immediately all the smoke was wrapped in a huge twister and flown away. Yuffie's boundless pride was suddenly jerked back a little... didn't her dad say they didn't use materia? What the hell was going on here?

Sephiroth apparently felt the same way. "Liar," he rasped.

Godo indicated his belt and gestured to the many materia Yuffie could now see that were on it. "Oh, these? I just... AGGGGGGGGHHHH!" Godo suddenly screamed in pain, sounding far worse than Sephiroth had. Sephiroth picked his head up and saw a large sword jammed in Godo's back, wielded by a Shinra cadet. Sephiroth pushed Godo's feet off of him, knocking his opponent off balance. He then grabbed the Masamune out of Godo's hand, invigorated enough to stand and wield his own sword. The cadet who had ambushed Godo pulled his sword out and retreated a few steps; suddenly Godo was rained upon with a hail of gunshots. A second Shinra underling came into view, firing round after round of bullets at him. Yuffie was in utter disbelief. Godo had beaten Sephiroth. The fight was already over! What the hell was this?

One of Godo's arms went immediately to support his back, a bloody mess. He was hunched over and his breath was labored. "I..." he started. "You-" He suddenly fingered one of his materia. "Ultima!" And the pale green light that Yuffie had grown to fear so much appeared in abundance, knocking all three of the Shinra men back. When the light dissipated, Godo was gone.

"No!" thought Yuffie. "No! No! No! No! This is how we lost the war? Because of two idiotic Shinra meatheads? This isn't right! My dad had won!"

Sephiroth's two life-savers were out cold, but he had just enough stamina left to cast a few recovery spells on himself. It was a temporary solution at best, but he would get better medical attention as soon as he could. For right now, he had to assist the others. He staggered to the two unconscious men and cast a life spell on each of them. They groaned and, with assistance from Sephiroth, managed to climb to their feet. "I... owe you both much," Sephiroth said awkwardly. In his entire life, he'd never been in this position before.

"It wasn't a fair fight, sir," the sword-wielding one said, as he placed his weapon onto his back. "Not only did his fighting form carry unfair advantages, but he blinded you and made it more difficult for you to fight." The other Shinra man looked down at the ground and said nothing, seemingly unsure how how to react.

"Well..." Sephiroth began. He couldn't tell if the one who had spoken actually believed what he said, or was trying to make Sephiroth feel better. "Well, in any case, name and rank," he ordered.

"Zachary Caraway, sir. SOLDIER, first-class."

"And you?" asked Sephiroth to the lower-ranking, silent one.

"Cloud... Cloud Strife, sir.... standard Shinra armsman."



"Zack?" repeated Laguna in confusion.

"Yeah," responded the driver. "Now hurry." The driver walked hurriedly to the door, and held it open for Laguna. As clever as the solider was, it wasn't apparent to him why all the secrecy was necessary. This was only a special inauguration... or so he'd been told. Who knew what secrets lay-

"Move it!" shouted Zack.

"Okay, okay," Laguna held up his hands in defense. "I'm coming." He ran through the door, and Zack hurriedly entered behind him and shut the door. Laguna heard the door being locked behind him, and then suddenly felt himself being pushed forcefully forward.

"Come on. We have to hurry. The Galbadian patrol will be around in a half an hour." Galbadian patrol? Colonel Caraway was climbing the Galbadia chain of command faster than this Zack was shoving Laguna along. What did Caraway have to fear from Galbadian patrols?

Laguna didn't even have time to narrate the events around him as he emerged into a private office, stumbling to adjust to the sudden change in space. He looked around the dimly lit room and saw two other men waiting. They were both fairly tall. Laguna approached them warily. "Hi... I'm... Laguna Loire."

The shorter one extended his hand first. Laguna noticed his grip was unusually strong. "Kiros Seagul."

The other one followed suit. "Ward Zaback."

"So.... uh...." Laguna scratched his head awkwardly. "You guys here for the... ahhhhh... inauguration too?"

"Yes," said Zack, as he entered the room. Adjusting a switch that Laguna couldn't see, the driver walked across the slightly brighter room and sat down at the desk. He removed his hat and looked up. "Colonel Zachary Caraway," he said by means of introduction, but that was all Laguna and his fellow soldiers got. "I apologize for the erratic behavior, Laguna, but we are short on time."

"So..." Ward began, "this is a special inauguration?"

"That is correct," Caraway responded. "The typical inauguration would involve an oath swearing that you will protect and serve Galbadia at all costs. For certain reasons, I felt that you three should be exempt from such an oath and have gone to great lengths to ensure that those in charge do not discover this."

Kiros nodded his head in understanding. He hazarded a question. "Did you ever take the oath?"

Caraway paused for a second. "...no. For several years I was mistakenly presumed dead. However, upon the resurgence of Shinra as Galbadia, I felt that I could comfortably resume military employment. Before then, there was too much fear of AVALANCHE interfering. Upon my return and explanation that it was, in fact, Shinra guards who shot me and presumed me dead, I was offered employment in the then-sparse Galbadian army. I was never asked to retake the oath."

"You didn't like AVALANCHE?" Laguna questioned.

"By no means," stated Caraway. "How could anyone have any faith in such a horribly misguided terrorist group that would help that madman Sephiroth? I'm just certainly glad I wasn't in Shinra when they made their move. But I was able to go back afterwards and tell them where I'd been the whole time."

"I see," Ward responded. Caraway seemed to be begging a question. "How exactly... did you prove that you were indeed the same man that they had mistakenly shot at?"

"I provided a blood sample, and very specific data regarding the last mission I had gone on under their employ: The Nibelheim incident. There is absolutely no one else," (Laguna thought he saw a half-second wink from Caraway's eye) "living who would have any knowledge of that information."

Laguna knew it was risky, but had to try it. "The Nibelheim incident... I've heard of it. When Sephiroth cashed in his chips, right?"

"Laguna, don't," Kiros admonished, as if they'd already become fast friends.

"Yes," responded Caraway suspiciously. "Why?"

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but... wasn't there a third person with you two?"

Caraway seemed to loosen up a little at this question. "Yes, there was indeed another person with us, but he was killed during the incident. The last thing I remember him saying was..." Caraway thought for a second. "'Let's mosey,' and I said that he should say something a little more forceful, like: 'Move out!'"

Laguna breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, 'Zack.'"

"'Colonel Caraway,' please," Caraway requested, "or 'Zachary' if you must. I do have an image to maintain."

Laguna's face couldn't help but break into a smile. "Don't we all..."

Suddenly there was a knocking at the door. "What the-" Caraway started. "The patrols are never here this early! You all stay here, I'll get it." Caraway arose and walked quickly out of the room. The three soldiers listened as he walked to the door and opened it. "Reno! What a nice surprise! You usually don't come around this late."

"Yeah, well, I had to come by and congratulate ya, Zacky-boy. Looks like you might be next in line to be a general!"

Laguna started. "Should we hide?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Kiros and Ward said simultaneously.

Reno and Caraway presently entered the room. "Hey," said Reno. "Who're these clowns?"

"They can still hear, Reno," Caraway admonished.

"Hey, hey. You guys know I didn't mean it, right? You're cool." He went and slapped each of them on the back. Reno looked only marginally older than he did pre-Movement. There were a couple of emerging wrinkles on his face, his eyes were a little baggier, and he probably had a hair colorist. But overall, he didn't seem to have changed significantly at all. "Yeah, plus the boss gave me the night off and Rude's off doing prison duty, so I figured I'd come hang out here, Zackarola." Reno made a big show of draping his arm around Caraway's shoulders. "We don't do this often enough, y'hear?"

"So, ahhhh..." Kiros began. "I... guess we'll just be going now..."

"Nah, waitaminute, stay!" Reno said. It was evident he'd already had a bit to drink. "I mean, tell me you guys. Really. What's your life's story? Where've ya been, where d'ya wanna go? Let's chat, man! Let's chat."

"Uhhhhh..." Laguna muttered. Reno was looking at him expectantly. Caraway just shrugged. "Well... I'm Laguna Loire..."

"Laguna Liar?! Hah, that's a good one, a good one. You ain't a liar, are ya, kid?"

Laguna became flustered. "You know... it's... funny you should say that. I... write fiction, which is kind of lying..."

"We're going," Ward stated. He took Laguna by the arm and dragged him away.

"Let's do lunch sometime, Liar!" Reno called to the rapidly departing Laguna.



Palmer finally spoke. "About three months ago, the new leader of Shinra put out an All Points Bulletin for all members that were even remotely involved with AVALANCHE. Everyone from Cloud to Marlene is wanted. The entire world is looking for us. We've all had no choice but to literally become different people..."

"That ain't true," Barret butt in. "For one, we ain't seen hide nor hair of Yuffie since Midgar, and for some reason that Deling guy doesn't want to capture her!"

"He wants to maintain good relations with Wutai," Palmer assured.

"So he says! I bet there's something else going down!"

Red interjected. "Have you attempted to make contact with her?"

"Wutai's under this strange new ruler," Barret shook his head in confusion. "We've tried to ask about Yuffie, but no one seems to remember her. Dunno what's been goin' on, but we can't even get in to find her!"

"Because you're afraid of getting caught?"

"Hell no!" Barret shouted disdainfully. "We've changed, but we can still kick ass! It's those damn mountains... the Highwind couldn't get past them anywhere."

"So you've all gone incognito?" Red asked, to make sure he understood.

"We've changed everything, from our hairstyles to our professions to our names!"

"Except for Cid, that stubborn bastard," muttered Barret.

"He got rid of his last name, anyway," Palmer put in. "And Cid's a pretty common name."

"But here's the bad news," Barret said, turning his attention to Red. "Ol' Palmer and I here keep getting recognized."

"We've tried everything," Palmer explained in frustration. "Barret's beard, his arm, my clothes, my gun... but there just aren't many people who have the same body builds as we do."

Red became uneasy... he didn't like where this was going. "...And none of the others have had this problem?"

"All of us have been spotted at one point or another," Barret explained. "We couldn't change overnight. But no, nobody else has it as bad as we do."

"....And you want me to help you change your forms. I'm sorry, I don't think I can do that."

"Why not?" insisted Barret. "We were really counting on you!"

"I sympathize with your problem," Red explained, "but the generosity of the Planet is not something to be abused. People don't just get shape-shifted every day."

"We know!" Barret exclaimed.

"If we didn't, we would have all come here seeking this service," reasoned Palmer. "But we know that it's rarely done, and trust us, we're at the end of our ropes here! We even had Shera and Marlene try to change us!"

"...what?" asked Red. Shera and Marlene? What did they have to do with anything?

Barret realized first. "He doesn't know, Palmer."

"Oh," said Palmer. "Hmmm, how to put this? You, of course, recall Aeris the sorceress, right?"

"Sorceress?" repeated Red.

"That's what Deling's callin' em now," Barret explained. "Since Palmer here, and others like him, was never familiar with the Ancients, they started using the first label that was given to them. Kinda bastardizes the whole race though."

"But what's this about Shera and Marlene?"

"Oh," repeated Palmer. "We, ah, don't know how, but somehow they've become sorceresses."

"Ancients," corrected Barret.

"Cetra," corrected Red.

"Oh yeah," said Palmer. "He uses that name too, but a little differently. He calls them Centra, and they were some race that lived a long time ago."

"I was surprised he actually kept that name pretty much the same," Barret remarked, "and didn't try and fucking cover it up like he did everything else!" Just thinking about it made his blood boil.

"But wait," said Red, confused with this latest development, "so Marlene and Shera, two girls who had no Cetra power whatsoever, suddenly have it?"

"No," replied Palmer. "Not just them. Tifa and Elmyra have shown lesser extents of Centra-"

"Cetra."

"Cetra power. So they can't do as much, it seems."

"Well..." began Red. "What can they do? What can they all do?"

"Ho boy," replied Barret.

"It's... kind of a touchy subject," Palmer explained.

Red was truly puzzled. "What?"

"Tifa's made some... cosmetic changes," Palmer stated, speaking slowly and carefully.

"Hmmm?" asked Red.

"She..." Barret started, but suddenly broke off and looked around. After ensuring no one else was there, he finished. "She... got her guns reduced."

Red's naivete of modern day slang, however, and Barret's intimate comfort with it, caused the information to be lost in translation. "Her... guns? Like yours?"

Barret slapped his head with his human hand. "...no. Her bazongas, her ornaments-"

"Her breasts," clarified Palmer.

"...what?" asked Red. "Her breasts?"

"...yeah," admitted Barret. "She said they got in the way and stuff, and she didn't like the stares. So she just made them smaller."

Red's curiosity was piqued. "...without any kind of surgery?"

"None," Palmer reported. "She said she just concentrated and it... happened."

"Intriguing..." Red stated. "And that's it?"

"Like we said, Tifa doesn't seem to have a lot of Sorceress or Cetra power," Palmer summarized. "Neither does Elmyra."

"What could she do?"

"Almost nothing. All she did was take a few years off her body... it's just as weird."

"I'll say!" interrupted Barret. "The woman goes to bed nearly forty, she wakes up around 28!"

"That is... especially odd. Not completely new, but quite rare. Please continue."

"It gets even freakier... Shera and Marlene have gotten a lot more power, it seems."

"How so?"

"Well, Shera can make things move without touchin' em!"

"Telekinesis," clarified Palmer.

"And she's freaked out of her mind about it too!" Barret resumed. "She used it to save Cid when he was salvaging the Highwind once... it was a long time before she told anyone."

Red appeared to be taking this in with enormous ease. "I haven't heard of anyone being able to do that in quite a while. And Marlene?"

"...I don't even know how to explain her," Barret said.

"It's true," agreed Palmer. "I'm almost certain you've never seen anything even close to this one before."

Red seemed to take this as a personal affront. "Try me."



Red's eyes were open in amazement. Barret had never seen him like this before. "She did what?"

"...I can't even begin to figure it out," confessed Barret. "And I'm her dad. She told me as much as she could... eventually."

"Cloud said he didn't recall feeling anything particularly odd at the time," contributed Palmer.

"Pshaw," responded Barret. "Cloud's always been kind of a nutjob... wouldn't take his word on something like this."

"...you're absolutely right," admitted Red. "I've never heard of such a thing before in my life."

"It's definitely bizarre," agreed Palmer.

"There's one last thing you oughta know," mentioned Barret. "They all say that the power came from Aeris."

"Aeris..." murmured Red. "So, they've inherited her powers?"

"It seems that way."

Red pondered this for a moment. "...they're all female."

"Yeah, we wore ourselves out thinking about that one too," noted Palmer. "We tried to find out if Yuffie had any, but like we said, we couldn't reach her."

"This doesn't add up," Red concluded. "Aeris couldn't do half the things these girls apparently can. Unless she was hiding them from us, which I doubt, there's no way her powers could have turned into... these."

"Yeah," responded Palmer. "Though we think we might have an idea."

"Oh?" asked Red, appearing to be interested yet somewhat amused. "What is it?"

"Well, in the lifestream, everyone is part of one consciousness, right?"

"...yes..." agreed Red. This was new for him. He was used to being on the uptake.

"And the Ancients were especially in tune with the Planet?"

"They were."

"Which means that, if Aeris was indeed responsible for this tranferrance of power, maybe she... transferred more than just her own."

Red nodded his head thoughtfully. It wasn't often he admitted his approval for human ideas, but he wasn't a sore loser. "The more I think about it, the more sense it makes... perhaps we were wrong when we conceptualized the Cetra as a race propogated by blood."

"So what are they?" questioned Barret, who had thought they'd gotten this whole mess straightened out a long time ago.

Palmer, however, already seemed to be picking up Red's thought track. "They may have kept their powers alive by giving them to other people. You said Aeris was the last sorceress, right?"

"Yeah," confirmed Barret. "'Cept it's the Cetra."

"Right." Palmer scratched his head awkwardly. "Sorry. Anyway, she was the last Cetra... so this must how the Cetra race continues to survive."

Red immediately jumped to implications of such an idea. "Theoretically, these four girls could have the power of the entire Cetra race at their fingertips."

All three of them suddenly went silent, contemplating this possibility.

"...theoretically, of course," finished Red weakly.


Chapter 5

All That Glitters Is Cold 2 Fanfic Competition
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