Rose of Mideel Chapter 15
Rose of Mideel
By Chocobo Goddess
"Hold on, Deicacos, I need to buy some supplies before we go back to the inn. Wait here, okay?" Aerith patted her newly-named chocobo on the beak. He cooed and rubbed his head against her shoulder, making her laugh. "Silly. You know, you dont really look like your namesake right now."
Shed been thinking about what to call her new companion until the last town theyd passed through provided the perfect name. She had gone into the library to ask directions, and the librarian had commented on her big chocobo.
"Is that monster yours?" the woman had said, admiringly. "You know who he reminds me of? Deicacos, the steed of the Ancient hero Khries. He certainly looks fierce enough."
And so, Deicacos he became. He seemed pleased with the name, strutting proudly around once shed explained its meaning to him. She laughed at his antics now, however, when he didnt quite live up to his illustrious forebear. "Youre not so big and terrible, are you?" He cocked his head to the side and blinked. Giving him one last pat, she went into the store.
This was her favorite kind of place. It was cluttered, but not claustrophobic; a travelers dream. Local goods outnumbered factory-made and handmade items dominated the shelves. To the left of the door, a table held knitted sweaters and socks; another on the right had baskets of thick glass bottles for potions. Lanterns hung from the ceilings and vied for space with childrens toy airships and kites. Behind the checkout counter, she could see jars of herbs and tightly-bundled candles. The shopkeeper nodded pleasantly at her as he rang up someone elses purchases. She gave him a smile and continued to wander through.
Within a half hour, shed found just about everything shed need for her trip. Extra potions, a first-aid kit, dried rations, saddle soap, a cozy sweater, and some flower seeds were stacked neatly on the counter. She asked the kindly gentleman if he had any soap. He motioned to the back of the store, saying, "Theres some around the corner. Go ahead, look around. No rush, young miss."
There was, indeed, an additional section filled with "unnecessaries". Aerith selected a few cakes of rose-scented soap and looked around for anything else interesting.
A large bookcase had been set back in an alcove. It was completely filled with books of every topic. She mused about perhaps buying one, to keep her company when she was on the road. Not a novel, since she would tire of it quickly; certainly nothing about war or politicsshed had quite enough of both, thank you very much; maybe some legends, or myths, or something caught her eye.
Aerith picked up the small book. Its worn leather bindings spoke of hours spent reading; she wondered what its previous owner was like. "Lowell Barron," the spine read in stamped gold letters, "Rose of Mideel and Other Short Works." Somehow, the little object seemed comforting, as if it belonged in her hands. She brought it up to the clerk.
"How much for this?" She asked, mentally figuring out what she could spare.
The man looked at her over the tops of his glasses. "Ah, a Barron enthusiast, are you? You seem a bit young to appreciate his work." He gave her a fatherly smile to show he was only teasing.
Aerith bowed her head a bit. "Actually, the only things Ive read of his are what they teach us in school. But this book speaks to me. I suppose I just want to read something beautiful."
"Then youve chosen well," he said, his head bobbing up and down. "Rose of Mideel is one of his shortest, but sweetest poems. And that particular book, Miss, was part of the Great Sephiroths personal collection."
"What?" she gasped, heart racing at the mention of his name. "How do you know?"
He chuckled, mistaking her sudden breathlessness for fear. "Oh, dont worry, Im sure he wont come and try to get it back from you, oh no." Opening the book, the man showed her the inside cover. "But here, you see?"
There, in a neat hand Aerith recognized far too well, was an inscription.
"Seph--For your birthday, I suppose. I know youre a closet Barron
Just read the damn book and enjoy something for once, okay?
From your friend. Zack"
"H-how much?" she asked again, shakily. She couldnt take her eyes from the page. Tears welled up and blurred her vision. She wiped them away irritably, not noticing the shopkeepers alarm.
He came to a decision. "Well, you need this book, dont you, Miss?" he asked, peering at her. "I dont quite understand, but it seems that you really should own it. So its ten gil." He placed it back on top of her other purchases.
"But, sir! I know it costs much more than that!" She cried. "I can pay "
He held up a hand. "No, no, I insist. I believe that some books belong with some people. I suppose I could sell it to an autograph collector for much more, especially ones looking for truly famous names like Sephiroth and Zack, but you actually knew them, didnt you?"
All she could do was nod.
"Humm. I dont know how a nice young girl like you could have gotten mixed up with the General and his Lieutenant, but whatever the case, it was important to you. Thus, because of that, and because I own this shop and I decide what to charge, I say your price is ten gil." He looked sternly at her. "Just dont let me see this book get auctioned off or something, or Ill be quite disappointed."
She handed him the money for her items and bowed in thanks. "Sir, I will never let it out of my possession. Thank you so much. I will treasure it." Then, before she began to cry in front of a complete stranger, she grabbed her now-full bag, hugged the book to her chest, and went back out into the crisp autumn air.
When Aerith returned to her room at the inn, she curled up on the soft bed with the book and a cup of cocoa from downstairs. The blankets were pulled up around her, a single candle on the nightstand her only light. She stared at the book for a long time, thinking.
I wonder was it new or old when Zack bought it? Did Sephiroths fingers make these marks here? Was that dark spot on the binding from mud during a campagin? Did he bring this with him, to read on cold nights like this, or did it stay in his apartment, waiting for him to return? Oh, Zack, Seph, I dont have either of you now. Planet, III wonder if you hear me. Are you watching over Sephiroth in the Lifestream? Is he okay?
Thinking of Sephiroths death, once more at Clouds hands, made her feel ill. She hastily wiped away tears that she hadnt even noticed and opened the book, skipping over the inscription. I need to read something beautiful to take my mind off the sadness. So lets see if Mister Barron is all hes cracked up to be.
The book fell open naturally to Rose of Mideel, as though its previous owner had read and re-read it many times. The words of the simple poem leapt off the page, and into her heart.
Where Flora treads the grasses sigh.
Her gentle rustling passage sounds,
And soothes my mundane aching mind
With whispered words of earthly love.
The hours go unnoticed by
As we two lie upon the ground;
There is nothing like the joy I find
In gazing at her from above.
I taste the apples on her skin,
My barefoot princess, unadorned
But for the freckles on her face
And the promise in her eyes.
I love the sweetness of her grin,
And in her kisses, thrice returned;
Two lovers in this secret place
Make love beneath the open skies.
Now I am the most content.
This brazen beauty gladly shares
More passion than I have ever known
In all of my uncertain life.
I have told her parents my intent.
I shall catch her unawares.
And, so to never be alone,
Will one day make my rose, my wife.
Aerith read it over and over, only stopping when the words began to run together. She closed the book, very carefully, blowing out the flickering candle. Then she laid her head down on the pillow, pulled the covers up around her tighter, and wept.
Sephiroth huddled into a blanket. He sat forward, legs bent before him, staring into the fire. He had said nothing all day. There was nothing wrong with keeping quiet, Vincent knew that, but there was more beneath his companions serene exterior. Expressions would flicker across the other mans face, as if he were conversing with someone else. Vincent was unsure of exactly how the Planet communicated with him, but he hadnt thought it was so vocal.
At least, when Aerith had spoken with it, she didnt react the same way.
Vincent stood, momentarily drawing the neon green gaze before it returned to the fire. "Im going to scout around." He waited for a response, but none was forthcoming. Deciding to leave the other to his thoughts, Vincent turned and swept into the shadows.
Sephiroth noted the dark mans departure. The voices in his mind continued to argue.
SHOULD HAVE GONE MORE SOUTH. TOO LONG TO TRAVEL THIS WAY!
Yeah, well, Planet, remember that humans have a different perspective on things. Though, Seph, you really should go to Junon.
Sephiroth had had enough. Be quiet, BOTH OF YOU!
This argument ends now. Planet, you need to remember that I am unable to fly. Therefore, I must travel the long way around. There is no other option at this point.
NO, he sent, The Highwind is NOT an option.
The Planet fell quiet.
As for your suggestion, Zack, I will need to pass through Junon, but I have no plans to stay there. Why are you so adamant about it?
Because you need to go there. Zack sounded petulant. Theres someone you need to find there.
Give me patience, he thought to himself. First and foremost is my mission to find Aerith. Everything else takes second place.
Listen, Seph, Planet, remember I told you about someone starting up the reactors again? Well, its not just trying. Theyre gonna do it. And the person who can help you stop them is in Junon.His voice pleaded. You guys have to believe me.
YOU ARE SURE? The Planet sounded frightened. The surest way to hurt it physically was to start the Mako flowing again.
I wish I wasnt so sure.
We have to go through Junon. Zack, if this person is there, I wont go out of my way to find him, but if I happen to run into him, Ill see what happens, all right? Will THAT satisfy you?
Thats all I ask.
It paused, still uncertain, then, VERY WELL.
He drew the blanket around him tighter and curled up on the ground. Then were decided. Now, BOTH of you, STAY OUT OF MY MIND and let me get some sleep!
He drifted into the silence of rest. Just as he was feeling himself fade into unconsciousness, something pricked at the back of his mind. Irritably, he thought, What is it, Planet?
SORRY, it sounded sheepish, BUT AERITH IS VERY SAD.
Is she all right??
LONELY. REMEMBER, SHE THINKS YOU ARE DEAD.
I wish I could comfort her, let her know that shes not alone.
I KNOW THE FEELING. JUST THOUGHT PERHAPS, THINK OF HER. SHE MAY TAKE COMFORT IN THAT.
I think about her all the time. He yawned. Goodnight, Planet.
GOOD NIGHT, SEPHIROTH.
Sephiroth found himself dreaming about her, imagining her within the circle of his arms. He could swear that the scent of her hair filled his senses, that she truly was there, a warm presence curled against him. In the morning, he would shake his head ruefully at his romantic wistfulness, but for that night, his desolate heart was sure he was not alone.
Aerith woke in the little inn the following morning. When she was still groggy from her sleep, something told her to keep her eyes closed. She felt a comforting warm breath on her neck, and strong arms wrapped about her. They shifted, just enough to draw her closer against the body they were attached to. It smelled of camp fire smoke, autumn leaves, and worn leather, which suddenly was the most wonderful thing in the world. Seph
She opened her eyes to look up at him, nearly crying out in disappointment to find no one there.
It was a beautiful dream, though, she thought, collecting her things. Her hand lingered on the book. Id better get moving I still have a long way to go.
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