Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 33
"How is he?" asked Shera, from the pilot seat. After Aerith's spell had deposited
them near the plane, the Ancient had explained she was prepared for a hasty
retreat. They boarded the Pride and took off, still in shock over Tifa's
death. Aerith was handling it the best, having Cloud to take care of and
her lifelong hatred of Shinra to sustain her. She helped out Yuffie and Shera
as best as she could, but she simply didn't know how bad the damage was.
Despite the fact that they had known each other for only a brief time, Tifa
had managed to find her way to all of their hearts, especially Shera's. The
taciturn pilot had sympathized with Tifa's loss from the very beginning,
having experienced a similar pain. Yuffie was still young, and had never
experienced death on such a personal level. And Sephiroth... Aerith sneaked
a glance at the tall Soldier. He was in the copilot's seat, but his mind
was not on the task of flying the plane; he was casting within the Lifestream,
searching for Tifa's soul. Aerith's heart went out to him, but she knew she
could not deviate from her task right now; Cloud's future depended on it.
He might not thank her when he came to, but it was her duty to try and save
him. She had promised herself that Chaos would not take any more lives, no
matter what. The top priority now was to revive Cloud, find out if he managed
to gain any knowledge from his association with Chaos, and try to get the
Black Materia back. She turned her gaze inward, searching.
He didn't know where or who he was. All he knew was his sword and his duty; to defend his beloved. Somehow he knew something horrible had happened but could not face it. His mind kept going in circles, returning again and again to this point where all existence disintegrated. His thoughts were whirling, elusive as he tried to hold on to any lucid thought...his sword...beloved...Tifa...Chaos...sword...duty...NO!
He sat up, blinking in the bright light, groping for a reference point and focused, slowly, on the green eyes in the gentle face before him. "You've returned to us," she said gently. He didn't know her; he didn't know himself. A name floated from the depths of his subconscious. Tifa. No, this was not...a shudder wracked him and silent sobs shook him as he buried his face in his hands. He heard an inhuman, rasping scream and recoiled, revolted, before he realized it was his own. Before he sank back into the blessed darkness, a thought "Tifa...my love...my life and the Planet...for you."
Aerith turned towards the front of the plane, sweat drenching her brow. She faced Sephiroth's questioning gaze and Yuffie's horrified one. She nodded, "He'll be all right now," she said, softly as she looked down at the tortured, blond man. They flew on.
Rufus stared at the burning wreckage unblinking, until he thought the flames would sear his vision forever. He held Scarlet's inert body in his arms, his white cloak now stained red fluttering in the flame-generated wind. Before she lost consciousness for the last time, she told him of the winged monster, Chaos and his sudden, ferocious attack on their plane. Standing here, cradling his most trusted lieutenant's body, he could feel Chaos' impersonal hatred of all things human. He looked down; she looked so peaceful, as if she was merely asleep, in his arms. He swallowed convulsively and sank to his knees and a single tear dropped from his eye, rolled down his face and fell, finally shattering on the cold ground. "Chaos," he whispered softly, and the flames of revenge danced in his eyes, reflections of the fiery wreck of the downed plane.
Far away north, in the cold darkness of the crater where the Lifestream gurgled its song and the cries of the Planet could be felt through the air, a delicate hand closed around a round, black rock. A sudden, white light streaked with angry red striations leapt out from the hand, and shot straight up. The air crackled with strained power, and the cry of the planet grew louder. The bar of light thickened and almost seemed to solidify, still crackling and humming. As abruptly as it had began, it was over - the call had gone out. Darkness fell as the white shaft of light disappeared into the sky, and a loud crack akin to thunder shattered the pregnant silence. The Planet stirred and groaned, and the cries grew more urgent and fearful. A tall figure smiled faintly and whispered "Meteor."
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