Darkness Falls Chapter 12

By Gemini83

Yuffie and Vincent opened their eyes in confusion as they heard screams. Rude woke up, not long afterward. Looking at Kaede, they could see that Aeris was trying, unsuccessfully, to calm him down. They quickly went to him, the men pinning down his shoulders, while Yuffie tried to hold down his legs. This further upset Kaede, and he began to thrash wildly against the three peoples’ vise. Despite the power of the three, it was all they could do to keep Kaede down. Aeris turned on the lights in the room, and could see that Kaede’s eyes were darting back and forth, unsure of where he was. He struggled against his constraints.

Aeris got an idea, “Let him go!”

“Are you crazy!?” screamed Yuffie, “he’ll trash the place!”

“I have a plan,” returned Aeris.

“That is not wise,” said Rude.

“What if you mind link again?” asked Vincent, “If we let go-”

“Just let me try,” said Aeris.

Rude, Yuffie, and Vincent let go of the flailing Kaede to allow Aeris to try her plan. They were surprised when she gathered Kaede up in her arms and clutched him to her. She simply held him, not letting go.

Aeris knew the disorientation that must be going through his mind, for she had felt it herself. So, she battled it the only way she knew. Whenever she was frightened as a child, Elmyra would always hold her until the fear went away. Later, in the City of the Ancients, Kaede had held her close when she had been afraid, when she had first surfaced from out of the darkness of death. Now, she tried to comfort him in similar fashion, willing into him a sense of warmth and protection.

Kaede felt confused at first as he woke up. When he had been restrained, he raged even more wildly, images of his days with the Drahk flashing through his mind. But then he felt a warm, soothing embrace. It was unlike anything an enemy would try to do, and it soon calmed him down. It was that same calm, that same pure bliss, that had reached out to him in his dreams. As the shudders stopped, Kaede slowly allowed himself to be eased down onto the cot, and looked up at the one who had helped him.

Aeris smiled back at him with calm and understanding eyes. “Welcome back.”

“...Good to be back,” said Kaede, at first speechless, “thank you...Aeris.”

“‘Don’t worry,’” smiled Aeris, bringing back an old memory, “‘nothing will harm you,’ remember that?”

Kaede’s lips twitched in a grin as well, “of course, I said those words to you in the City of the Ancients.”

Aeris laughed, “I guess that makes us even...almost.”

Kaede closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

“Wow,” said Yuffie, “if you had told me you were going to try THAT, I would have held you down too.”

“You Avalanche always were crazy,” said Rude, smiling slightly, “I forget that is the source of so many of your victories...”

“Uh...thanks,” said Aeris, “I think.”

“How did you know that would work?” asked Vincent.

“Because,” answered Aeris, “when he did it for me, it worked wonders.”

The others simply stared at her askance as Aeris enjoyed her private joke. They relaxed again, and the rest of the night went uneventfully.

It was morning, just a little after dawn, when they found out that Kaede was missing again. Everyone met in the hall outside the kitchen. Yuffie told the others what had happened during the night. When the others looked at her in astonishment, Aeris blushed a little.

“Well, it was the only thing I thought would work.”

The others continued to search for Kaede, and then came across a note at the breakfast table.

It read:

“Well,” said Elena of the Turks, “he sure gets to business fast doesn’t he?”

“You can say that again,” agreed Tifa, “he wasn’t even supposed to be out bed for a week yet.”

“He’s a tough one to crack,” said Cid, smiling, “reminds me a little of myself when I was young.”

“Be careful,” laughed Shera, “don’t give him any ideas.”

The others finished breakfast and decided to walk in on Kaede early. When they entered the Kitana, the ship’s computer told them that Kaede was practicing in the training room.

The computer directed them to the training room. The group entered a large, glassed-off room, much like a sky-box at a stadium. Inside the room were various computer terminals and monitors.

That’s when they saw Kaede.

“WHAT THE HELL-?” yelled Barret.

Kaede seemed to not have heard, but lay still in a matted gym. A chain, tied around his boots, connected Kaede to the ceiling. Weights were tied to his hands as well.

“Doesn’t that hurt?” asked Yuffie.

The ship’s computer replied, “Sire Kaede trains with such weights quite often, shall I notify him of your arrival?”

“...No,” said Aeris, “we’ll wait until he’s finished, thank you.”

Kaede continued to lift his weighted hands to his knees, as if he had heard nothing.

“This room must be sound-proof,” said Cloud.

“Yeah,” laughed Tifa, “Barret’s racket can wake the dead.”

“Hey you two-” started Barret.

“Shh,” said Yuffie, “come on guys, I want to watch.”

They looked on as Kaede continued to train. Once he was done, he raised his chained hands to the hook around his ankles, securing the weights once more to the ceiling. He then jumped down to the floor. Kaede began to don some strange looking bracelets and anklets, as well as a belt.

“What are those?” asked Red.

“Training weights,” said Cloud, “I use them all the time, helps you build speed and strength.”

Kaede calmed himself, then assumed a horse stance. After stretching for a while, he began to flow into a series of katas, with several combinations of attacks.

“Hmm,” said Cloud, “doesn’t look like he even feels those weights.”

Kaede walked up to a punching bag, and began throwing a series of attacks. Each punch rattled the bag. He then unleashed a furious series of jabs and kicks. The last kick split the bag in half, spilling sand to the floor.

“Kitana!” he said, “bring out the stone slabs!”

Several stone projections rose from the ground.

“Do these have the...what do they call them?...adamantine veins running through them?” he asked.

The computer replied in the affirmative.

“Very well, thank you.”

“What’s he going to do?” asked Aeris.

Cloud shook his head, “No way, he can’t-”

Kaede began to punch at the stone pillar, grinding his gloved fists into the cold, hard rock.

He is, thought Cloud, “He’s actually training with adamantine deposits for punching bags!”

“But...aren’t those supposed to be the strongest metal on the planet?” asked Elena.

“Looks like he found a new use for them,” returned Red.

Kaede continued to pound into the stone behemoth, ignoring the pain. Each punch left an impression on its surface. His gloves, tattered and torn, fell from his hands. Kaede continued to punch.

“How can he...do that?” asked Reno in disbelief.

Kaede continued to punch into the metal. Crimson marred the grey surface, as Kaede continued to punch with his bleeding hands. With a powerful kick, the stone finally cracked, crumbling to the floor.

“Shit!” said Barret, “He can do that to stone and Adamantine?!”

“Apparently,” said Cloud.

The others were speechless.

Kaede sat down on the mat, drying the sweat from his brow. He seemed to be deep in thought, not even bothering to look at his bleeding hands. When he was finished, Kaede put some more weights on his arms and legs, and walked up to another stone/adamantine slab.

Again he punched into the cold, hard rock, but this time, his strikes were faster than ever. It was as if the weights had no affect on him at all. Kaede unleashed a flurry of kicks and punches into the rock, jarring the stone projection back and forth. After only a few more punches, the boulder simply crumbled, unable to take the constant strain.

There was one more boulder left. Kaede stood there, breathing hard. He seemed to be deep in thought again, focusing his mind. However, something passed through Kaede’s mind, Aeris could see it in his face, a grimace of some painful memory from his past.

Kaede opened his eyes in anger, blazing energies coalesced around the figure. He screamed forth his rage. Never before had anyone seen such raw emotion come forth from the man. He glared at the boulder, and brought forth his energized fist. Upon impact, his hand sank nearly a foot into the stone and metal. The boulder shattered like glass, pieces of stone and metal flying everywhere.

Kaede bowed to where the stone monolith had been, before grabbing his towel again. Kaede wiped the sweat from his face as he began to stretch the tension in his body.

“Great Planet!” said Elena, “the man is horrendously strong!”

Cid leaned back against the wall, accidentally bumping against the light switch.

Kaede saw a light come from the observation room above, and snapped his head around to see who it was.

Aeris timidly waved at Kaede, who did not look pleased. It wasn’t that he looked mad, but his whole demeanor screamed it.

“Well,” said Cloud, “let’s mosey!”

Cid slapped his own head, “Fer’ cryin’ out loud Cloud,” he said, “can’t you at least say it with-”

Cloud smiled at him, “Hey, I just do it to annoy you.”

Kaede came up from behind them, startling the group.

“Glad to see you’re all awake,” he said grufly.

They followed him out as Kaede walked back to the beach. Upon reaching the sand, Kaede turned to Cid.

“The Highwind’s finished,” he said, “I parked it outside the city.”

“Thanks a lot!” replied Cid, eagerly rubbing his hands.

Yuffie piped up, “Well Kaede, that was certainly some...interesting training.”

“Yeah man!” said Barret, “When you gonna’ teach us?”

Kaede glared at Barret, and the group thought they had pushed him too far.

‘Perhaps he had not been ready to show us that,’ thought Aeris.

Kaede surprised them by clapping Barret’s shoulder.

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” said Kaede, “I wasn’t sure how you’d take it...”

“What kind of strength was that?” asked Cloud.

“It goes hand in hand with what I’ve taught you up till now,” answered Kaede, “you must learn to focus your mind, move past your limitations.”

“And then we’ll be able to crush adamantine in our hands!” exclaimed Yuffie.

Kaede nodded.

“Awesome!” she jumped into the air.

“Indeed,” replied Kaede.

“Well,” whispered Rude, “this is getting interesting.”

“No kidding,” said Elena, “looks like we found the excitement we were looking for!”

Throughout the rest of the day, the group continued to train their minds...to focus. Kaede pushed their limits, and when they reached it, he pushed them again. Eventually, the others were able to truly master the concept of ‘mind over body.’

Soon, most of the group that wanted to had mastered the technique. But there remained one last person...

“You sure you wanted to continue?” asked Kaede, “you won’t be the only one who didn’t try this.”

The piloted merely grunted and nodded to the rock in front of him.

“Remember,” said Kaede to a panting Cid, “the warrior stays focused. Clear your mind of distractions. Fill your mind with your will. Use that reason that you are fighting for, envision your need to protect it.”

Cid concentrated, bringing to his mind thoughts of Shera, and how he would never let ANYONE take her away from him. He glared at the stone boulder in front of him.

“Think about everything that’s important to you, and strike out,” said Kaede, “calm yourself, fill your need. And when it is done, your enemies will be gone, and there will only be you, and what you fight for.”

Cid opened his eyes, and punched hard into the stone. His hand sunk deep into the rock, and the boulder crumbled down to join the sand.

Cloud and the others cheered.

Cid smiled, then started yelling.

“Are you okay?” asked Kaede.


Cid screamed curses into the air as he grabbed his hand, “#$^& IT! I THINK I BROKE MY %&^*@*% HAND! AARRGHH!”

Kaede examined Cid’s hand, then muttered something as he looked at it.

“You’ll be fine,” he stated, “you just sprained it, nothing broken.”

“Are you kidding me?” said the pilot, “My hand feels like mush!”

The others laughed as Cid hopped up and down, cradling his hand.

If Avalanche thought it had been tired before, that had been nothing compared to what they felt now. The others were exhausted, and Kaede allowed them end training early. Cloud and Tifa decided to walk the beach again. Cid and Shera went off to test the new Highwind, and soon the jet could be seen spearing through the air, heading out into space. Most of the others just went back to the villa to collapse in their beds.

Aeris simply stood with Kaede, watching as the seagulls flew about over the ocean.

Kaede turned to Aeris, “You’ve been unusually quiet, is something wrong?”

There were so many things that she wanted to say.

“Kaede, didn’t you say you catch yourself wondering what it would be like, to have a normal life?”

Kaede stared away into the horizon, “All the time...”

“Then why don’t you allow yourself to enjoy life?”

“I’m...learning,” he tried to say, “please remember Aeris, I haven’t really had much of what one would call ‘normal life.’ And if I seem a bit cold, know that its only because I’ve never been able to afford the luxuries of emotion.”

“You...punched into that stone as if it were nothing,” said Aeris, “I could see you were in pain, the blood flowing from your hands, but something happened to you.”

Kaede looked at Aeris, guessing where this was going.

“You want to know,” he said, “what got enraged me enough to fight like that.”

It was more of a statement than a question, and Aeris nodded.

Kaede sighed, seeming more melancholy than usual, “I remembered some aspects of my dreams...failures at the hands of the Drahk, your planet, shattered and broken.”

He failed to tell her how he had felt, when he had seen her dying, he did not, could not, tell her how it had felt. He saw her friends dying, but so much agony had he felt, when he had looked into her screaming eyes...

“You used that to fuel your will,” she concluded, jarring Kaede from his thoughts.

“Yes,” Kaede answered.

“Can you teach me?” asked Aeris, “can you teach me to focus like that?”

Kaede shrugged, “I am already teaching you all to-”

“I know what you teach us, it‘s to help us increase our own natural potential,” said Aeris, “but I...I’ve always had to be in the back. I always had to wait and see while the others fought, and all I did was back them up.”

“And now,” said Kaede, understanding, “you want to take a more active role.”

Aeris nodded.

“I don’t know if I can do that,” said Kaede, “you are too important to risk. If the Drahk are truly after you, we need to keep you as safe as possible.”

“But that’s why I need to be taught,” said Aeris, “I need to be able to help you, not just back you guys up. I want to-”

Kaede shrugged the idea off, and turned away. Aeris grabbed his arm, and turned him around.

For an electrifying moment, they were speechless. Kaede stared into Aeris’ pleading eyes, while Aeris’ heart beat like a drum.

“Please,” she managed to say.

Kaede lowered his head and sighed, how could she manipulate his mind so easily? He would normally have never given the matter a second thought.

“Very well,” he said.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Kaede trained the others to fine tune their skills. They were already well on their way, it way now simply a matter of controlling their power. Then, at sunset, Kaede would teach Aeris in the secret arts of her ancestors, showing her things that only a Cetra could do. Aeris began to feel a bond with the man, a half-Cetra himself. Something about his reclusive nature drew her closer. Kaede was so calm, so focused...

Kaede began to feel something deep in his being...something had begun to change. This Cetra had actually been able to see into his mind. And now...it seemed as if she knew his every burden. Something inside him held onto Aeris, as if trying to find a missing link he never knew he had. Every moment with Aeris was like getting a piece of himself back. He continued to teach her, finding peace and solace in their time together...

The others had gone for the day. Cloud and Tifa decided to go shopping, while Kaede and Aeris trained some more on the beach. He was teaching her to focus her energies, so that she could multiply the natural powers within her. This would enhance the power of the summoned magic, as well as her special powers and fighting abilities.

Aeris lunged with her staff, going into the motions that she had learned that day. Planting the staff on the ground, she catapulted into the air, twisting and turning before landing her attack.

“Good!” said Kaede encouragingly, “now draw your powers for a final strike!”

Aeris smiled to herself, Tifa and Yuffie aren’t the only girls who can fight!

She concentrated her energies around her, then brought her hand up as she released, sending forth a huge rush of energy into the sea.

“That was impressive,” applauded Kaede, “however, there were some minor flaws, which would leave you open to a counterattack. Here, it should be like this.”

Kaede went through the motions, showing her how the stance should be performed.

“Okay, now you try it.”

Aeris tried, but still made a mistake, “Uh...can you show me how that goes again?”

“Sure,” he said.

Kaede took her sweating hand into his own warm hand, and guided it right where it was supposed to be.

It had been a long time since Aeris felt Kaede’s hand make contact with hers, and she almost forgotten how it felt. His hand is so warm... so calming...she thought...he can crush stone with his bare fists, yet he’s so gentle...

Aeris closed her eyes, feeling the soothing touch of her hand against his.

Kaede could smell the powerful fragrance she emitted, it was the scent of sweet flowers... This was the first time he had gotten so close to her, not since that night on the stone wall. He was beginning to lose himself in her powerful, charming aura. She was so close...almost in his arms...

Aeris felt his hand lightly squeeze hers when he moved it, and she gently squeezed back in response. Kaede could feel that it was more than just a reflex. Aeris opened her eyes slightly, and stepped forward...

Kaede completely froze. He slightly trembled, realizing that she was drawing closer...

'Does she...is she...?'

She looked up into his eyes...

Kaede turned his head, noticing that Cloud and Tifa were walking their way.

"A-Aeris! You're losing your concentration" he struggled to say as she lightly fell against him.

Kaede fell backwards, with her on top. He hurriedly tried to get back to his feet, but Cloud and Tifa had seen them already.

Aeris realized too that others were around, and immediately apologized. "Oh... I'm... forgive me!" She let go of his hand and stood up. She tried to look normal, but was blushing from embarrassment.

‘I hope... I hope they didn’t notice...!’ she thought, ‘Why did I do that???

"No problem Aeris! Remember to stay focused next time..." Kaede said, forgiving her.

He too, was shocked from Aeris’s sudden movement, ‘What in all creation was THAT?’

“You guys okay?” asked Cloud to Aeris.

“We’re fine!” replied Kaede, “Just helping her improve her fighting that’s all.”

Cloud and Tifa shared a confused look. Cloud raised his eyebrows and mouthed ‘Kaede?’

Who would have thought that Kaede, of all people...? Tifa brushed the thought aside and shrugged.

“Well,” she said, “Shera probably has dinner ready, she and Elmyra have been going crazy since you brought us those new spices!”

“My pleasure,” said Kaede, “you go on ahead and I’ll catch up!”

Cloud walked back to the villa, “You coming Tiff?”

“I’ll be up in a minute!” she answered.

Tifa turned to Aeris, “so, you coming, or do you have some work left?”

She tried to keep an innocent face on, but Aeris could see the gleam in her eyes.

Aeris turned to Kaede, “are we done for today?”

Kaede finally regained his wits, “I think that’s enough for now, I’ll be up in a moment.”

Kaede began walking towards the shore, looking at the sunset.

The two girls walked back to the villa.

Tifa turned to face Aeris in a conspiratory tone, “What was that about?”

Aeris blushed, “Honestly...I don’t know.”

Kaede had always seemed so distant, a lone wolf. Aeris knew she had felt a bond with him, but...what had happened just now?

Kaede walked along the shore, trying to sort his feelings. Had she actually...?

And he, Kaede the cold fighting machine, he had responded. He had...liked it, whatever it was. Kaede tried to remember his feelings then, but could only bring to mind the relaxing euphoria. In that moment, all his worries seemed to have vanished.

‘I can’t,’ he thought, I can’t allow myself to become involved with these people!’

Once it was over, if he survived, he would move on again, go on to the next fight. His entire existence had been a living hell of war and decay, he couldn’t afford emotion or sentiment in his life.

Kaede vowed to himself, that he would see them through, all of them. No matter what happened, this planet would not fall to the Drahk.

And he tried to tell himself that he wouldn’t feel anything for these people. They could count on him only so much, and in the end, if he wasn’t dead, he would leave them anyway. He would have nothing to show for his troubles, just moving on to the next challenge. It was the right thing to do, wasn’t it? He may be dead inside, but at least he was protecting them, it was the honorable thing to do, it was his duty.

‘So why don’t I feel like I’m doing the right thing?’

Kaede gathered his thoughts and walked back to villa, he would continue his training tomorrow.

‘Let the confusion be buried in the night.’

The next day, Kaede was up with the sunset. The others came to the shore to see that he had been practicing for hours. His blade cut beautiful patterns through the sea air. Performing various jumps and somersaults, Kaede flew through the air, fighting with imaginary opponents.

The Turks soon arrived, and Avalanche drew itself ready for training again.

“How’s the hand?” smirked Reno

Cid glared at Reno, “Strong enough to snap you in two kid, so back off!”

Reno simply laughed and turned to Kaede.

Kaede looked into their faces, and saw the suspicion in their eyes. Nobody was fooling anybody else, they all knew what had happened last evening. If Kaede knew anything about these people, he could expect them to watch him like hawks when nightfall came and he taught Aeris again.

Kaede decidedly ignored the speculative glances and began the training for that day.

“Firstly,” said Kaede, “today we are practicing somewhere else.”

“Any particular reason?” asked Red.

“We are going to train on a secluded beach,” answered Kaede, “What I have planned for today may get a little...interesting.”

“What do you mean?” asked Rude.

“You’ll see...”

The others could not get a single other scrap of information from Kaede. They gathered in the Kitana and flew to the shores near Cosmo Canyon. When they landed, Kaede began his instruction.

“Okay people,” he said, “I’ve basically been teaching you all various new techniques, but it’s time for more practical exercises.”

“About time!” said Yuffie, “I’ve been waitin’ to kick some monster butt!”

“Control yourself Yuff,” said Vincent.

The others stared at Vincent.

“What did you just call her?” asked Barret.

Vincent simply shrugged as if nothing had happened. Yuffie smiled and stuck her tongue out at him.

Red simply shook his head, “Back to the task at hand people.”

“Indeed,” said Kaede, “First, I will summon forth the Knights of the Round.”

“Why are you going to do that?” asked Elena.

Kaede smiled, “Hand to hand combat...”

“What?” exclaimed Tifa, “you mean you’re-”

“Don’t worry,” said Kaede, “I think you all are ready. Besides, it’s going to be one knight to one of you. If you feel up to it, we may even spar with each other later.”

“Great, no wonder you wanted to train here today,” muttered Cloud under his breath. He remembered how devastating the Knights could be when fighting enemies. He did not relish the idea of finding out first hand what that experience was like.

Kaede brought out the red materia, summoning the Knights.

“Greetings Sire,” said King Arthur, “How may we serve you? Have the brothers Bahumet returned?”

“Not yet,” said Kaede, “however, I have a more...sporting idea.”

Kaede explained his plan to King Arthur, who laughed at the thought.

“Indeed,” said the knight, “it has been a long time since we fought worthy opponents in single combat...we would be honored.”

Facing them head to head, thought Cloud, They don’t seem as tall.

The entire morning had been spent sparring with the knights. Surprising even themselves, the group had been able to match the knights blow for blow, even surpass them. Unfortunately for Cloud, however, King Arthur was no pushover. The guy had actually managed to dodge the Meteorain, one of Cloud’s strongest moves. Retaliating with his own sword, King Arthur knocked Cloud back, sending him flying through the air. He waited as Cloud slowly got back up.

“Remember,” shouted Kaede, “be calm and focused. No matter what enemy you face, handle them with discipline, and the rest will follow.”

‘Great,’ thought Cloud, ‘why don’t you tell HIM to remain calm while I bash at him!’

“I can guess what you’re probably thinking right now,” said Kaede, “just concentrate, power is not all you need to defeat your opponent.”

Cloud calmed himself down, allowing the energy to surge through his body. When he felt he could control it, he opened his eyes and rushed towards King Arthur.

The knight swiped forward with his sword, and hit nothing but air. He turned around to see Cloud behind him.

Cloud couldn’t believe he was moving so fast. He had never been this powerful before. However, he couldn’t celebrate yet, Arthur was still swinging.

Cloud blocked the attack, and tried to go on the offensive. However, nothing could lower the Knight’s guard. Unless...

Cloud deliberately left an opening. When King Arthur swung his sword to capitalize on the advantage, Cloud disappeared again.

This time, Arthur looked up to see a screaming Cloud rushing at him. The Knight was completely caught unawares, and had to retreat. Cloud attacked Arthur with Omnislash, this time, scoring the knight’s armor with powerful blows. The final blow sent the Knight reeling backwards. Arthur backed away further, slowly bringing his sword back up. As Cloud came forth, Arthur brought his sword down hard. Cloud met the blow, and grinned at Arthur through crossed swords.

“Good!” said Kaede, “You’ve finally mastered the art of speed as well as strength.”

“Is that it?” smiled Cloud, “I’m just getting warmed up!”

“We’ll try again later,” laughed Kaede.

“It’s probably just as well sire,” commented Arthur, “I have not battled like this in ages.”

Kaede brought out the red orb again, thanking the Knight of the Round.

“Nay sire,” said Arthur, “it was our pleasure and honor. It is felt good to challenge such noble and capable warriors. Farewell...”

The Knights disappeared back into the orb. Kaede put the orb back inside the ship, then came to the training ground again.

“Well,” asked Tifa, “what now? It’s only midday.”

Kaede turned to the others, “You have all done well. Now, we spar against each other.”

“Great!” said Yuffie, “This will be fun! I’ll show you all my superior skills!”

“Don’t get cocky kid,” said Cid.

“I have been wanting to go at it again,” said Elena.

“Indeed,” agreed Rude, “it will be interesting to fight you Avalanche once more.”

“Perfect,” said Cloud, “So, who goes first?”

The others were at a loss, they all wanted to see any combination of fighters, but who would start the festivities?

“The first person,” said Kaede, “will fight me.”

He stepped forward, dropping his black overcoat. The others could see his muscular figure underneath the black tee-shirt.

Yuffie mouthed a silent ‘wow.’

“I can see you’ve been training yourself,” voiced Red, “you look stronger than before.”

Kaede smiled, “can’t let myself get weak, besides, training with you all has been good for me. I was able to hone my own skills. So, who’s first?”

The group remained silent, they admired Kaede, but they knew he rarely pulled his punches.

“Hey Aeris,” whispered Tifa, “why don’t you go. It will give you a chance to be close-”

“Don’t even think about it,” said Aeris vehemently, “besides, yesterday was just an accident.”

“Yeah, sure,” smiled Tifa.

Aeris looked back at Kaede, studying his features, his powerful arms, his deep, piercing eyes, the kind that could stare into your soul...

Tifa pushed Aeris forward. Caught unawares, Aeris had no choice but to step forward, lest she fall.

The others turned to Aeris.

“Aeris?” asked Barret, “you’re goin’ against him?”

The others obviously hadn’t seen Tifa’s move, but she and Cloud smiled at each other.

Aeris glared daggers at her ‘friend.’

‘Gee Tifa, thanks a lot!’ She looked back at Kaede’s perfect form again. ‘Of course, I can’t say that I have any complaints...’

An explosion went off in Kaede’s mind.

‘Wait, I can’t fight her!’ he realized.

He could fight any of the others, one warrior to another. But he had risked hell and high water for this woman, and he couldn’t see his way to harming a single strand of hair on her. Yet she was a Cetra, she had learned much, and Kaede had been yearning for a good fight... Kaede shrugged his warring emotions aside. He had fought everything from demons to the elements themselves, he could handle this.

Aeris settled herself into fighting position, remembering what Kaede had taught her. She was glad she had decided to wear the body suit under her normal attire, she would have felt too self-conscious otherwise. Aeris calmed herself, preparing for battle, then she opened her eyes, glaring at her opponent.

The girl smiled at Kaede deviously, this confused the man, throwing him off guard.

Aeris made the first move. While he was still surprised, she lunged at him, bringing her staff forward. Kaede managed to avoid the attack, but was off balance. Aeris jabbed Kaede in the gut with her weapon, then she swept the staff along the ground, knocking Kaede off his feet.

Caught completely unawares, Kaede managed to land on his hands and jump backwards, landing in a ready position. But Aeris had struck the first blow. He nodded to her, acknowledging her skill.

‘Damn! I have to be careful, she caught me completely open!’

The others looked on with equal surprise.

“Wow,” said Cloud, “I didn’t know she could be so...”

“Crafty?” suggested Tifa.

“That sounds about right,” answered Cloud.

Kaede simply waited for her to come again. Aeris attacked with her staff at lightning quick speed. Energy blazed through the air as Kaede met her with his blade.

Kaede smiled slightly, ‘Now this is what I call a fight!’

He went on the offensive, slashing at her with several combinations of attacks. He side stepped a return blow, then rolled behind her, bringing his sword down.

Aeris managed to turn and block the attack with her staff, and they stared at each other through crossed weapons.

The look in Kaede’s eyes was intense, his mind warring with itself. He was enjoying the thrill of the challenge, yet it was all he could do to will himself to fight her. ‘No, I can’t...what is this feeling...?’

Kaede swept the ground with his feet, tripping up Aeris. She managed to use her staff, propelling herself off the ground and landing a safe distance away. Then they charged at each other again, trading blow for blow.

The others gasped, the two were fighting perfectly, almost as...equals.

“When did she learn to fight like that?” asked Yuffie, astonished.

“Wow!” said Tifa, “Those extra lessons really seem to have helped her fighting abilities!”

Cid yelled his support, “Yeah kid! That’s the way!”

Barret starting rooting, enjoying the turn of the fight.

Kaede smiled, getting ready to attack again. That was when he felt it...something was wrong.

Mistaking the look for distraction, Aeris attacked at the open Kaede again, bringing her staff straight at his chest. Kaede grabbed the end of the staff in his palm and pulled it away. The tip of it cut into his skin, causing blood to flow. Aeris stepped back in surprise and shock, looking at Kaede’s wounded hand.

Red saw the look in his eyes, “Kaede, what’s wrong?”

Kaede muttered something under his breath that Aeris couldn’t hear.

“What?” she asked, “What is i-AAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Aeris suddenly felt white hot pain shoot through her body. She screamed in agony, loosing all self control.

Kaede turned to Aeris, grabbing her and easing her down, “Aeris? Aeris speak to me!”

She did not reply, but merely clutched her head in pain.

“Aeris!” shouted Kaede, “what’s wrong!”

Aeris tried to stammer something, “Ka-Kaede, th-the pain, make it- s...s...m-make it stop!”

Aeris fell unconscious, the hearing Kaede’s cries of her name ringing in her ears.

Cloud and the others ran up to the two, while Kaede cradled Aeris in his arms.

“Kaede!” demanded Vincent, “What is this?”

Kaede heard more explosions, and they weren’t in his head this time. He cursed under his breath.

“What did you say?” asked Elena.

“They have finally come,” said Kaede, “the Sleepers have awakened...”

Cloud’s shocked mind slowly registered the importance of that remark. If the Sleepers had awakened, then the Drahk would not be far away...

“And,” continued Kaede, “They have their sights on Aeris.”

The others looked all around for signs of trouble.

Kaede simply clutched Aeris closer to him, while the explosions got closer...


Author’s Note: I just love cliffhangers, don’t you? Sorry if this is getting on your nerves. I just naturally seem to write from plot twist to plot twist. And what’s happening to Aeris? Rest assured, your questions will be answered next chapter. You are soo going to hate me after reading the next few chapters (grins evilly)! Give me some feedback. See you later.


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