Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 29

Hallowed Land

By Damodred

The dull drone of the engine and the occasional rumbling of the storm succeeded in lulling Tifa to sleep. It's been a long day, and an even longer night, fraught with discoveries, uncertainties and trusts endowed and abused. Her sleep was uneasy and she often awoke, staring at nothing for minutes and then falling back into fitful sleep, shivering in the chilly air. Eventually, she felt a warmth spread throughout her body and a welcome sense of comfort pervaded her bruised soul. She slept soundly and dreamlessly, her head on Sephiroth's shoulder, his cloak draped over her resting body.

Aerith glanced back from the copilot's seat, raising an eyebrow. The tall SOLDIER sensed her gaze and looked up from his bemused contemplation of Tifa. He had been absent-mindedly playing with her hair, twirling strands of it around one of his long, slender fingers and looking out the window occasionally. Not that there was anything to see, even as they flew on into an early dawn. Milky clouds moved rapidly outside the glass pane, and towards the morning changed into a cohesive, uniform mass of white. The fog muted all sound, and lent itself to quiet contemplation, whispered conversation or silent companionship. Her mind's at rest now; the turmoil is gone. Aerith informed Sephiroth, still studying his expression. He nodded once and passed his hand over Tifa's face. She sighed softly, once, but continued sleeping. The white-haired warrior frowned slightly, turning his gaze towards Aerith, beginning to ask a question. He knew that the spell he'd cast on her was designed by SOLDIER to give an easy, restful sleep that could be disrupted at any point to bring the sleeper to full awareness in seconds. It was strange that Tifa didn't wake right away, but in cases of extreme exhaustion he supposed it was possible. About to ask Aerith to peek into Tifa's mind just to make sure, he didn't see as the tall woman's eyes flew wide open, glowing an unholy red. Quick as lightning she stood up, grasping his arm and twisting it savagely behind his back. Her strength, and the pain drove him to his feet as Aerith unbuckled her belt, walking towards the passenger area of the plane. His arm gave out with a loud snap as Tifa shoved him contemptuously at the advancing Ancient. They both went down in a heap, Aerith's head striking the metal floor of the plane with a thud. Sephiroth's face was struggling for composure as he tried to get up, cradling his damaged hand with his healthy one. He threw Aerith a quick, concerned look but seeing that she was unhurt began healing his arm. Aerith struggled to clear her vision, kneeling on one leg, and propping herself up with her arm. She could see Tifa, but with a transparent, demonic shape overlayed on her form, standing a few feet away from them, not moving. The lines of force coming out of the shadowy figure led somewhere ahead of them, disappearing into the floor of the plane. The lines pulsed as Tifa's fists clenched and her hair streamed out from her head, pushed away by the power she was exuding, forming a hellish halo around her head. Her mouth opened and a raspy, inhuman, but unmistakably Chaos's voice emerged from her throat. "I hold the Black Materia, traitors!" it spat at them, the words chilling their hearts. "You cannot defeat me," it continued, gloating. It made as if to speak further as Tifa's mouth opened but suddenly paused. Her form was suddenly still, frozen in an eerie tableau, and her mouth slowly closed, to be replaced by a slight, soft smile, contrasting sharply with the glowing red eyes. They could hear an unearthly howl, resonating with their minds as the presence shrunk down to a pinpoint and vanished, the howl cut off suddenly, the lines of force shining a bright white for an instant and then evaporating. It was as if a switch had been thrown as Tifa's hair obeyed gravity once again, the infernal red faded from her eyes and Tifa herself slumped to the floor, unconscious once again. Exchanging puzzled looks, they walked warily towards her, Sephiroth's arm swinging uselessly at his side. He ignored it as they approached, twitching a bit in startlement as she began to stir anew. She sat up, smiling triumphantly but winced and groaned, reaching up to her head with her hand. "I beat him," she said weakly, still holding her head, grimacing with the residual pain. Aerith nodded, serene once again, "Your training paid off," she observed, glancing back to check on Shera, who has suddenly become the most vulnerable person in the group, having no way to ward off a mental attack, if another one should come. Even Yuffie, whose training must have included some sort of awareness of the Planet, to make her so stealthy and strong, had some sort of protection. Aerith moved to the front, taking the copilot's seat once again. If Chaos decided to attack and overpower Shera and showed more guile about it, they could fly straight into a mountain before they knew anything was wrong. The short-haired pilot didn't believe the danger, but acquiesced to Aerith's wishes anyway, pulling up above the cloud layer and improving visibility. They flew on, into the growing light.

"There!" pointed Aerith. Shera squinted, making out a darker patch on the horizon. "Looks pretty small," she said dubiously, making the slight course correction necessary to intercept the pointed out land. She had been flying for most of the night, letting Aerith fly when a course correction was necessary. Stifling a discreet yawn, she wondered at the other woman's certainty in flying; from no visible clues she simply picked the direction and changed the course, unhesitating. Apparently it paid off, as the small island came into focus.


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