Darkness Falls Chapter 7
Everyone turned around to see Kaede Knight standing in the doorway. He calmly walked towards them as the others backed away slowly, raising their weapons. All except Aeris, she remained still. Kaede merely walked up to a chair and sat down. Cloud stepped forward, bringing his sword up to Kaedes throat.
Go ahead, said Kaede, I wont stop you, youd be doing me a favor.
Cloud, said Aeris, let him go.
First, I want to know if we can trust him, said Cloud, he may still be under Drahk control.
That could be very true, said Kaede, but I broke their hold a long time ago.
Let him go Cloud, repeated Aeris, let him explain what happened.
Cloud lowered his sword, Just being careful Kaede, dont do anything foolish.
Wouldnt dream of it, smiled Kaede grimly, dont worry, I understand your concern. In fact, Im surprised you didnt kill me, many of my own kind have wanted to...
The Planeswalker became silent and pensive.
Please, said Aeris, tell us what happened.
Yeah, voiced Cid, I think you should explain yourself.
Kaede sat back in the chair, bringing back the painful memories.
I will start from where Aeris left off. I knew she would eventually piece together some of my past. After all, smiled Kaede, she is a Cetra.
The others listened as Kaede started his narration.
Yes, I did bring suffering to many, and learned of the dark arts from the emperor. I was adept at fighting, using techniques from both sides. This gave me a distinct advantage, for all methods of battle were open to me, Drahk, Cetra, and Planeswalker. I have been told that I maintained a certain sense of honor, that despite the many things I committed in the name of the emperor, I always kept to a warriors code. I fought, but it was always with true fighters. That doesnt matter, Ive never tried to justify my actions. Theres been too much pain wrought by my hands to atone for all my wrongs. Anyway, I seemingly only killed innocents once while under their influence. I dont know how...but I must have been able to control my actions somehow, even subconsciously.
So, I lived for many years in a coma, while my dark half committed atrocities in my name. You must be wondering how I look so young despite all the apparent years of training. The truth is, I was only a teenager when I was captured by the Drahk, and there were other...abnormalities during my tenure in their service. I spent my teenage years with the Drahk. After that, I broke free, and for the last hundred years, I have been trying to pay penance.
Hundred! exclaimed Yuffie, how can you be one hundred years old?
Over one hundred, Ill explain that later, smiled Kaede.
The others became silent again.
Vincent broke the quiet.
They took you as a child, he cursed, those...animals.
I try not to think about it, anything else?
Yes, said Tifa, how did you break free?
Kaedes face became grim, I told you I killed innocents once. It was the first time I ever fought for the Drahk in that capacity. You see, I was always competing with Methos for rank within the army. The emperor had given to me the title Horseman of Chaos, the most powerful generalship, and Methos wanted it. He was not content with simply being the Horseman of Death, he wanted more, he wanted it all. Methos would answer to nobody but the emperor himself.
While I was the emperors right hand, I was not so of my own free will. Had I been turned, I would have been the most powerful Drahk, and second only to the emperor, if not more. With his support, no force within the army could have stopped me. The emperor saw great potential in me. But I never killed innocents, I maintained a persistent sense of honor. So, years after my induced coma, I was sent to test my faith, by killing the leaders of the Planeswalkers, and their loved ones. Not the masters, for that was a task the emperor wanted to enjoy, but I would be allowed to kill several of the minor leaders and civilians. So, I was sent to destroy a village, only half of whom were militant, the rest were not even in the war. They merely let the Planeswalkers use their home as a base of operations.
Cloud and Tifa shifted uncomfortably in their seats, remembering well how their own village had been destroyed by a madman.
Kaede continued his story.
They had powerful defenses, but they were no match for my army and I. With only a small battalion, I was able to overrun the city, butchering the opposing forces. I fought many brave warriors, but they all fell. For the first time, I killed many innocents as well, and my dark side reveled in it.
That was when I came face to face with my true targets. They were a man and a woman, and they seemed vaguely familiar. But I could not recognize them.
He became silent again, gathering his thoughts. The others looked at the Planeswalker, recognizing the obvious. As a sign of loyalty, Kaede had been sent to kill his two best friends, the ones he had grown up with as a child.
Kaede continued, Some part of me must have still held on to that sense of honor, for I agreed to fight them alone. When we clashed, the very elements themselves rose up in discord. Lighting crackled through the air as our blades met.
I was surprised at their skill. Only twice before had I encountered such skilled fighters: with Methos, and at my dojo. But I did not remember everything about my past. They fought long and hard, but they were no match for me. Still, I respected their fighting, and after a while agreed to battle them without my armor, so they could truly fight me, face-to-face. I removed some of my armor, and last of all, I took off my helmet. When I faced them, you can imagine their reaction.
There I was, their old friend, standing there, waiting to kill them. They had thought me dead. But instead of joy, my survival was causing them nothing but pain and toil. Talos and Kyra had been my best friends, my only family, other than Sensei, and I was destroying their home.
They asked for my name, I gave it to them. This further set them aback. They saw that I did not remember them, and guessed what had been done to me. They tried to remind me, to make me understand; but all I could find in my cold, dead heart was hate.
They saw it was pointless to try anymore. I was gone, they thought. So, Talos promised to make my death as painless as possible. He ran towards me, but I anticipated his every move. He attacked me with all the skills of a master fighter, but I knew more than he, it was only a matter of time.
The others listened expectantly, knowing what was coming next.
I ran him through with my blade, said Kaede with an even voice, it was not immediately life threatening, but it was enough to slow him down. Kyra screamed in agony as she saw her husband bleeding. She ran in between us, not caring of the consequences. Kyra cradled Talos in her arms, crying in pain. She made sure he was alive, then stood up.
Now, my old friend, Kyra said, you will have to kill me if you want to get to him.
Talos was too weak to do anything, while Kyra and I fought like demons. My troops were still there, but had stopped their attack to witness my fight. My sword was a blur, as Kyra tried desperately to find an opening. But for all her speed, she still couldnt beat me...
Kaede stopped, he grew silent. The others knew what was coming, hoping it wouldnt.
The warrior continued, I...stabbed her through the heart with my sword. She had been my best friend, I had had deep feelings for her as a child. But there she was, bleeding her life out in my arms...the arms the man who had killed her. Taloss screams were almost secondary in my mind. What truly horrified me was the look in her eyes. It was as if I had betrayed them, wronged them more painfully than Methos could ever have done. But her eyes held no anger, merely shock, pity, and sadness.
Something snapped in my mind. With a scream, I let loose a giant wave of energy, which consumed all of the Drahk troops. In the aftermath, all that was left were myself, my dying friends, and a burning city. For the first time in years, I could think again. But still, my movements were not my own.
It is not easy to explain what happened next. I...ripped my way out of the remains of my armor. The device that had held me captive for so many years, was actually a part of that magical armor. It had been made even stronger by the mystical substances forged into it, and the drugs that were injected into my body.
Kaede let the group ponder that for a while before he continued.
However, I left something behind, my dark half was buried inside that armor, and it could still move on its own. The Drahk must have planted some sort of warning device on it, for Methoss voice came from it.
So, he said, you are finally free at last, traitor. You never deserved your vaunted position, it was always mine.
I replied, You always were limited by your hatred and your deceit. There is a reason why I was to be your leader, you have no discipline.
Methos taunted me, reminding me of what I had done in the name of the Drahk emperor. That was when the armor attacked me. It was like fighting two people, Methos, and myself. I had left a piece of my soul in that armor. And even though it was the side to myself that I most hated, that made it all the more difficult. I fought against it with all my strength, trying to destroy the symbol of the beast I had become. Every time I attacked, I dealt a killing blow, but how do you win against something that cannot feel, that cannot bleed? Despite my superior skill, the armor was winning. I could deal it five wounds for every one I received, but it would still keep coming.
How I won that fight, Ill never know, but Methos made a mistake, and I destroyed the armor with a blast of energy from my bare hands.
What did...that feel like? asked Tifa.
It was like killing a part of myself, one of the hardest things I ever did, answered Kaede, his eyes closed, I was still as confused as before. Even though I had destroyed the abomination, I still had the capacity good and evil inside me, as do we all. Perhaps I had regained my control of myself, but I could never forget what I had done. Physically, I was only in my teens. Mentally, my coma had kept me as such, but already I had caused so much pain and suffering. I felt as if I were split in two, so confused was I.
As the armors power was waning, Methos managed one final retort, saying that I could never be the same, that I had killed my best friends. I stamped on the armor, and vaporized it with more energy blasts, but still, the words haunted my mind. I shouted out loud, howling my pain into the sky.
Then I saw him again...Talos was still alive. I went to him, and healed him of his wounds. Instead of killing me there, as I expected him to do, he embraced me, fully understanding what had happened. I promised I would make it up to him, for I had loved Talos and Kyra like my own family. So, I asked him to get help, to bring others who could heal the broken bodies of the townspeople. He didnt know what I was planning, but for some reason, he still trusted me.
What did you do? asked Vincent.
I did something I had never done before. I...said a prayer for the dying. I drew the souls of all the dead and lost into myself. Talos quickly found help, and began to heal the other broken bodies within the city. Meanwhile, I kept the souls of a thousand dead locked within myself.
How did that feel? asked Aeris shakily. Was this what had caused her so much pain, when her mind had been joined with Kaedes?
Kaedes face grimaced in anguish, the mere memory of it agonizing.
Do you know what it is to feel so many souls invading your mind? asked Kaede, It is not something meant to be experienced by normal people, but I had ceased to be normal a long time ago. It felt like dying a thousand agonizing deaths, a thousand times each second. My body was ablaze with the anguished emotions of each of those people, but most importantly, of Kyra. The vision of her screaming eyes was burning through my mind, threatening to tear me apart.
Talos managed to heal most of the people, and I released their souls, hoping my plan had worked. Many were saved, some were not...
Talos and I went to Kyra, but she was silent. We hoped above hope that she was alive. When Kyra finally drew breath, I knew we had been successful. Those that were left alive could start anew...
Talos and Krya somehow found it in their hearts to forgive me. Together, we trained with the Planeswalkers I learned of the ways of the Cetra as well, and tried to redeem myself with the High Council. Some welcomed me, others cursed me. Ever since then, I have fought against the Drahk...
What about your two friends? asked Reeve.
They went on to become powerful leaders among the Planeswalker ranks. We went our separate ways, fighting what battles we could.
Despite what you say, said Cloud, you couldnt be so young. How old did you say you were? One hundred?
Actually, answered Kaede, the armor that I broke free from caused unnatural changes within my body, keeping me young. In all my days with the Drahk, I never aged one day. It took me a hundred or so years to regain my original metabolic rate, and revert to normal again.
Wait a minute, youre saying you really are over a hundred years old? asked Cloud in astonishment.
Yes, but physically, I am still in my late twenties, and I will age normally, according to your standards.
Amazing, its as if your body was held in stasis, said Red.
The Planeswalker nodded.
So, asked Yuffie, are your friends still around?
Yes, said Kaede, they were both of a different race, so they aged differently. A hundred years to them is teenage to you.
As it is with my race, said Red.
Ah yes. Nanaki, I had forgotten the longevity of your ancient warrior race.
You knew my kind? asked Red.
Only in legends. I heard a long time ago, in fairy tales, about an ancient race of warriors who help the Cetra to stop the last Jenovans.
What did you say? blinked the Cian warrior.
Kaede smiled, Is it so surprising Red, that you helped to save the planet? After all, it was your race which helped the Cetra to originally cultivate this planet those hundred or so years ago.
Do you know anything else about my kind? asked Red.
I am sorry Nanaki, said Kaede, the stories were never more than rumors, to protect the planets location from the Drahk. I never even knew the name given to your race until now.
Red looked downward.
I am sorry, said Kaede.
Dont be, said Red, it just...would have been nice to know more about my race.
Take heart Nanaki, there is always hope...
Red remained silent and pensive.
How many races have died at the hands of the Drahk? asked Cloud
Too many, genocide has always been one of their favorite tools.
Yet you managed to save some of those races, said Shera.
Kaede nodded, we have taken our victories where we could.
You...managed to save an entire town from death, said Tifa, How? Could you do the same for our-
I know what youre getting at Tifa. said Kaede, To answer your question, it is always a near thing. In fact, it is often impossible to bring back the dead even a few days after death, if at all. More than anything, it is simply an enhanced form of your 'cure' spells. I have forgotten how it was I saved that town, my mind shut that experience away, but it must have been a surge of energy, a trace of power left by my armor. I was lucky in that one case because the souls had not yet undergone transition. Under any other conditions, I would not have been even half as successful...but in Aeris case, I was lucky.
Lucky? asked Aeris, How so?
Two things aided me in my efforts. First, Aeris, is that you are a Cetra. As such, you have natural ability to heal yourself, and preserve the life forces within you.
And the second? asked Aeris.
The second reason I was able to save you, is that you were preserved in the lake in the City of the Ancients.
What do you mean? asked Cloud.
Well, even with her biology, and my powers, it would have been nearly impossible for me to rejuvenate her. However, whoever put her in that lake saved her life. The healing properties of the waters not only preserved her body, but also sustained the vital energies within her to allow for a soul to return. Otherwise, I would never have been able to heal her.
Cloud was overwhelmed, I...put her into that lake.
Then, said Kaede, you are just as responsible for her new life as I am.
Cloud began to shudder slightly, I saved her...I saved Aeris...
Yes, you did, returned the Planeswalker
Cloud buried himself in Tifas arms, holding her tight. Aeris put her hand on his shoulder, reassuring him.
Did I...miss something? asked Kaede.
Aeris turned to Kaede, Cloud always blamed himself for my death, although I never held him accountable.
Kaede understood, And now he feels a small sense of redemption. Believe me Cloud, take it from someone who would know...it was never your fault. You are only responsible for her life, not her death.
Thank you, breathed Cloud, grateful beyond words for this blessing.
So, said Red, you were tested and toyed with to become a weapon, just as I was, as were Cloud and Vincent. But what of now?
What of it? asked Kaede.
I think, said Shera, That Red wants to know if we can trust you, whether or not you are still under Drahk control.
I know it does not sound very grateful, acknowledged Red, but I think we should know.
The Drahk, cursed Kaede, killed my family, and used me to cause pain and destruction against my people. I will die before I see it happen again.
I trust him, said Aeris, everyone deserves a chance to make things right.
Thank you Aeris, said the Planeswalker, and I vow, while I still live, I will do everything in my power to make sure nothing happens to your friends, your planet, or you, Aeris...
Aeris was about to reply, when she heard a roar from above.
Ah, said Kaede, my ship has finally arrived.
The group followed, as Kaede walked outside to his ship. When they got outside, they saw a beautiful craft, streamlined and lethal. They could see several weapons ports. It was black and silver, looking much like the sleek jet fighters of Shinra, but much larger, and much more impressive.
Shit, said Cid, that is one bitchin ride!
Her name, said Kaede, is the Kitana.
You have got to let me fly her some time, said the captain.
Certainly, said Kaede, I want to pick up the Turks that the records speak of. Reeve, I believe they were among the elite forces of Shinra?
Actually, they still are. answered Reeve, They are probably in Kalm, if you want to find them.
Will they have any reservations about working with Avalanche? I know the two have a history together.
The Turks and Avalanche have come to an understanding, said Cloud, we often have had to work together, ever since the rebuilding of Midgar started.
Although we may not always see eye to eye, said Red, we still respect each other.
Good, because we need all the help we can get.
The craft landed outside the city, and they boarded. Upon entering, they could see that the interior was just as beautiful as the outside. It did not seem like a ship, more like a comfortable barracks.
You may notice that this ship is not spartanly adorned, said Kaede, This is because I often use my ship as my base of operations, it is my only real home. So, make yourselves comfortable. Everything from quarters to training rooms, it has pretty much everything you are likely to need.
The ship was amazing. Right now, they seemed to be in a giant gathering room, Kaede pressed a button on the wall, and window-like openings appeared, showing them a perfect view of the outside.
Video feed, said Kaede, makes it seem like a ballroom. Youd be surprised how often I use this ship as a diplomatic vessel.
Kaede smiled as the others stared in awe. It no longer looked like the inside of a ship, but a giant ballroom, beautifully crafted and boasting a wonderful view of Costa del Sol against the sunlit horizon. Avalanche was speechless.
You should see this place at sunset when flying over the ocean...makes you feel like you're walking on water, laughed Kaede, there are also guest rooms and quarters with exterior views. Now, please follow me to the bridge.
Kaede cut the video feed, and Avalanche followed him into the bridge. It was rather straight forward, with multiple seats and stations for both crew and passengers.
Cid, would you like to do the honors? asked Kaede.
Cid walked up to the controls, and saw they were written in a language he had never seen before.
Uhmm... I cant read this, said Cid.
Oh...right, sorry, said Kaede, Kitana!
A female voice answered, Yes Kaede?
Please set the controls to this planets language.
Yes sir. it answered, immediately all the writing became coherent to the others.
What was that? asked Cloud.
That is the ships computer, said Kaede, it controls some of the functions of the ship, such as interface coordination.
Wow, said Cid.
Go ahead, said Kaede, try it, you should find it simple enough.
Cid glared at the controls as he rubbed his hands, like a child in a candy factory.
Kaede, said Cloud, are you sure thats wise, I mean, Cid flies like a bat out of hell sometimes.
Oh come on Cloud, yelled Cid, Im an expert fer cryin out loud!
Thats what were afraid of, said Tifa.
The members of Avalanche strapped themselves into their seats, and watched as Kaede and Cid sat in the drivers seats. They silently prayed that they survived this experience.
Cid hit the accelerator, and the Kitana immediately took off. It shot through the air with lightning quick speed and accuracy. Cid had never flown a craft like this before. As the captain drew the ship away from the city, he hit the afterburners, gunning through the air like a man possessed.
YEAH! shouted Cid, I HAVE GOT TO GET MYSELF ONE OF THESE!
Cid turned the ship through various twists and turns. He changed the directions at the drop of a hat, just to check the ships precision. He was amazed to find it could literally stop and turn on a dime. Cid steered the ship over grassy plains and mountains, and towards the ocean. He flew high into the air, then dived towards the sea, pulling away at the last second, causing trenches of water to splash about in the ships wake. Poor Yuffie tried desperately not to lose her lunch, but it was a near thing.
Pretty good, said Kaede, but let me show you something really interesting.
May the planet have mercy on our souls, said Barret sardonically.
Cid gave Kaede the controls. Kaede quickly steered the ship straight up into the air. Then, pulling a corkscrew turn, he immediately bulleted down to the ocean again.
When they were very close, Cid began to worry, Uh...Kaede, shouldnt we turn or somethin?
Kaede merely grinned, and increased throttle. The Kitana gunned towards the water. Cid went white with fear, holding on to the railing, waiting for impact with the water line...
He never felt it. The ship cut through the water like it wasnt even there. Kaede turned the Kitana horizontally, maneuvering it like a submarine through the water. Except that no submarine had ever traveled this fast. Avalanche could see the entire underwater world in all its glory. Various creatures looked on with amazement at the peculiar new being shooting through the waters. Kaede immediately pulled up on the flight stick, and the Kitana jetted towards space. When they were in orbit, overlooking the planet, Kaede shifted the controls to auto-pilot, allowing Avalanche to catch its breath.
Im...gonna...urp, Yuffie breathed, Im gonna be sick...
Kaede pressed a button, and a door opened up.
Bathrooms in there, he said blandly, trying not to laugh as Yuffie ran for the door.
Cid leaned back in his chair, breathing heavily.
Great Planet have mercy, said the captain, what the hell kind of ship is this?
It is interesting isnt it? smiled Kaede, I like it.
Damn right, exclaimed Cid, I really have to...
Cid went silent as he finally realized where they were. They were floating above the planet. They were in space, and its beauty nearly brought tears to Cids eyes.
Is something wrong? asked Kaede.
No, nothing, answered Cid, its just that...
He couldnt say any more.
Shera explained, This has always been his dream. Its the second time in our lives that weve come to space.
Well Cid, said Kaede, perhaps later, I could share some of this technology with you, so you can visit as often as you like.
Cid was speechless, but managed a small thank you.
Okay, said Kaede, back to business.
He steered the ship back to planet side, heading to Kalm to pick up the Turks.
Authors Note: Aaaww, how sweet. Everything is so peachy. More plot development, plus I wanted Cloud to feel slightly redeemed. Warning: it may be a while before the next bloody fight scene, but Ill still try and make things interesting. It won't stay calm for long... Okay, if I havent lost all my readers yet, you can still contact me. Later...
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