Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 30
Heaven and Hell
"I don't know about this," said Tifa, under her breath. She jumped slightly
as a voice said "Why?" immediately behind her. Turning, she beheld Sephiroth,
smiling faintly at her, one eyebrow raised. Despite her inability to read
him she somehow knew his question was serious, and not just making conversation.
She spread her hands, unable to explain away her feelings. "I don't know,
this place just feels...odd." She shifted uneasily under his green gaze,
and turned towards the Pride to mask her confusion. "Are we ready?" she asked
in Aerith's general direction. "Shera feels very strongly about her plane,"
the Ancient answered, amusement twinkling in her eyes. Her tone became one
of mock exasperation "Perhaps too strongly." Shera straightened out from
behind the engine cowling and winked at Tifa. "I'm ready!" she yelled for
the benefit of everyone, ducking back behind the cowling and getting back
to her work. Aerith sighed dramatically, shook her head and shared a
commiserating look with Tifa. It was obvious where the engineer's priorities
lay. Since they weren't in any particular hurry, no-one minded the slight
delay, especially since Shera obviously knew what she was doing and everyone
wanted the plane in good shape. Sephiroth shrugged, settled himself on a
nearby rock and chewed on a blade of grass thoughtfully. Aerith looked at
him for a moment and then joined him, moving into the crook of his arm as
if she always belonged there. He adjusted unconsciously and Tifa, watching,
briefly envied them their easy comfort with each other. The world seemed
blurry for a moment as she wiped away an errant tear and then turned away,
unable to deal with the sudden onslaught of emotion that seeing them together
like this brought on. She thought of Cloud, always there for her, his strong
arms around her, always ready with a small joke or a quiet comment, reserved
for her and only her. She missed him terribly, and it made her angry. She
opened her mind to the Planet, knowing the comfort she could find there and
floated for a while until a gentle touch on her arm (she knew it was Shera)
brought her out of it. "Shall we?" Shera asked, unusually quiet. Tifa nodded,
still unable to speak but for now at peace. They set out in the direction
that Aerith indicated.
The forest eventually cleared, disclosing a massive building in the shape of a pyramid. There was a moat around it and a simple rope bridge going from the forest to the entrance to the pyramid. Tifa could not tell if there were any openings into it, but at the top the pyramid was flattened and there seemed to be a darkness there, deeper than the darkness of the forest. It was completely black and gave off a feeling of...Tifa wasn't sure exactly but the closest she could think of was...sleep. No one had been here for a long time. There was no wind. But Tifa could sense the enormous potential that was lying here, waiting for...what? Perhaps for someone to awake it...
Aerith was the first to break the spell, moving forward with a sense of purpose that she certainly did not feel. For the first time in years, she felt uncertainty that had nothing to do with her purpose. This was something else, something beyond petty revenge (although she had never thought of her hatred of Shinra as petty). She was wondering now if something WAS awake here, something that had seen her, appraised her and silently condemned her purpose. She shrugged, mentally, and reinforced her defenses. As far as she was concerned, it was none of the long dead Ancients' business what she planned to do in her spare time. Besides, she knew that if someone did not take care of Shinra, the Planet would wither and die. She stepped upon the bridge.
As soon as he saw Aerith fall to her knees, Sephiroth was next to her, holding her up, asking if they should retreat, scanning the area warily. She shook her head dizzily, grateful for his strong arm to lean on, but definitely indicating that they should stay. She was simply not ready for such an onslaught of voices, memories and questions. Standing up, she pushed her hair aside and concentrated. She could hear them all at once, but now realized that if she made a special effort she could make out individual voices and even what they were saying. It was not an attack, simply an outburst of joy at the sight of an Ancient after so long, a warning about that which lay ahead and questions, so many questions...
SILENCE! she screamed at the voices, mentally. They were not like normal minds, which she could contact individually or join together of her own volition. They were a part of the Lifestream, yet not of it. As such, they assailed her from all directions and drastic action was required. They died down, some surprised, some shocked, and some acquiescing out of respect. She took a deep breath and began her own interrogation.
Shera watched as the Ancient's eyes focused once again on the material world and breathed a sigh of relief. Sephiroth knew better. "Are you all right?" he said, his voice low but intent, searching her eyes for sign of anything irregular. She reached out a hand, tremolously touching his face and smiled, "Yes, my love," she murmured softly. "There are thousands of them, but they are easily cowed." Sephiroth gazed at her a moment more, holding her hand to his cheek, then relaxed and nodded, briefly. "What have you found?" he asked, not releasing her hand. She smiled at him and turned to the others.
"So we just find it and get outta here, huh?" asked Yuffie, trotting to keep up behind the rest of the group. She's never heard of a Black Materia before, but she most certainly wanted to find it. Aerith nodded impatiently, scanning the corridor ahead. Something was preying on her subconscious but she was not certain what it might be. She was also quite glad that the voices of the Ancients have quieted down (for such wise and peaceful people, they certainly were talkative), but again, she was not certain why they did so. There were too many ghosts, especially here inside the Temple and she could no longer discern any individual voice anyway. Thus she could no longer ask them questions, which was a pity. She sensed they were wise, or at least held the experiences of many lifetimes and wished, briefly, for guidance. Something unpleasant ran by, laughing softly, in the growing gloom.
"We are here," Aerith's soft voice rang out in the quiet. Tifa started, brought out of her own reverie. This place seemed much like a tomb, and Aerith's soft and melodious voice seemed discordant in the dead air. But Tifa had learned many things recently, and she could also tell that the life that Aerith brought here was not unwelcome; simply unexpected. She focused her gaze on the room that they had arrived at. It was laid out like a throne room, or a place of worship; the heights of the room were lost in the darkness, and the walk towards the altar (or was it a throne?) was lined with columns. Beyond the columns, on the dark brown walls were paintings and carvings. On closer inspection, Tifa saw that they were linear in fashion, seeming to detail a great catastrophe. Whether this was a story or a warning, she could not tell. Upon the altar lay what Tifa assumed to be a small replica of the Temple. It was exquisitely detailed, and as Tifa leaned over to look at the entrace, she could see that the inside seemed to match the corridor that they had took to get here. "Don't touch it," Aerith breathed, next to her, halting her wondering hands. Tifa turned a puzzled gaze onto the Ancient, as she walked by, circling the small model, examining it closely. Finally, she stood back and took a deep breath.
"This is the Black Materia," Aerith proclaimed, and then added, "The Temple we are standing in is also the Black Materia." Tifa shook her head, uncomprehending, "So you mean there's two of them?" Aerith smiled and answered, "The Ancients were very powerful. There only exists a single Black Materia, and it is both this object as well as the Temple." She ignored Yuffie's sharp intake of breath and continued. "Through an application of a small magic and a few modifications to the 'model', the Materia can be reduced to an object that can be carried around. However," Aerith paused, looking troubled, "the magic must be maintained for the entire process." Tifa stared at the Ancient, and understanding slowly dawned in her eyes. She let out the breath she wasn't aware of holding, "They didn't want anyone to just walk in and take it, huh?" Sephiroth's head snapped upwards, as did Aerith's and Tifa's question was answered from a raspy voice, up from above the shadows. "Correct!" The owner of the voice dropped down from above, his wings rustling behind him as he plummeted towards the shocked group. Scant meters above the floor his wings unfurled with a loud snap and his descent was halted sharply. He dropped the last few feet, and Tifa imagined she felt the ground shake under his feet. His wings pulled inwards again, and folded behind his back, becoming a red cloak. Yuffie blinked. She knew her eyesight was fine, and her eyes were young and sharp, yet the seven foot bewinged demon known as Chaos now appeared to be a rather handsome, if very tired man with long, black hair, a red cloak covering him from his shoulders down to his - Yuffie blinked - steel-spiked boots. Yet the quiet menace and power emanating from him were unmistakeable; this was Chaos, now in human form, otherwise known as Vincent Valentine - and Sephiroth's father.
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