Darkness Falls Chapter 9
Authors Note: Im putting a note here so as not to interrupt your reading. Concerning the songs I put in here, one of them is an original poem I wrote myself. The other, is I Will Be the One, I think its by Sarah McLaughlin. At that point, I am thinking of most Depeche Mode, U2, or Duran Duran songs, perhaps Seal. Overall, Im thinking of something sad and lonely but with a feeling of searching for some hidden peace. For the earlier ethereal music, Im thinking mainly techno, Dido, Enya, Keiko Matsui, Enigma, or something peaceful but without words. If you hate this music, sorry, just insert your own favorite types. Heck, rock would probably work too. Please dont make fun of me if this seems sappy. I MIGHT insert one more song later, maybe by Staind or Creed. Yeah, thats the ticket...
Not long afterwards, the Kitana had landed just outside Costa del Sol. Everyone went to Villa Cloud to freshen up. When they were done, the members of Avalanche, and the Turks, gathered outside the beach, just behind the villa. Cloud had managed to buy this extra bit of land just so he could practice in peace whenever he wanted. Kaede deemed this an ideal place for training, saying that it was the best place to practice undisturbed. It was pretty lucky that Villa Cloud was set apart from the rest of the city. Kaede had told the fighters to dress in clothing that would allow freedom of movement, but not to wear armor. Since most of them used such clothing normally anyway, this primarily meant Aeris. So, she dressed herself in her classic jacket and dress, with a body suit underneath. Reeve couldnt wear his white armor, so decided to wear brown khakis and a white shirt. When they arrived on the beach, Kaede began his instruction.
First, said Kaede, I told you to wear clothing that allowed movement, since you will be learning hand to hand combat. I do not pretend to insult your fighting prowess, you are great fighters, especially if you managed to destroy the Jenovans. However, you will need to progress further if you hope to beat the Drahk. Before we begin, I want you all to close your eyes and relax.
The others did so closing their eyes and breathing calmly.
Kaede began to summon forth his energies, do not be alarmed, he said, you will feel strange at first, but it will pass.
Strands of energy shot from Kaede and into the other fighters. Light throughout the air as it engulfed the group.
Cloud felt a tingling sensation throughout his entire body. He had never felt this much energy flow through him, not even when he fought Sephiroth for the last time in Lifestream.
The energy slowly receded. When it was done, everyone was breathing heavily.
I...I feel great, said Reno.
What did you do to us? asked Red.
I have just unlocked your inner powers, said Kaede, I showed you where the true power lies within yourselves. By showing you the path to that energy, you will now know how to call it up should you ever need it.
No kidding, said Cloud, Ive never felt this powerful before.
Let us commence with the testing, I have already shown you how to gather energy. I would like to see you all use your powers now.
The warriors gathered energy, and Kaede was pleased to see that they were fast learners. Throughout the course of the day, he taught them how to increase their speed, how to make energy attacks with both their weapons and their bare hands, and also taught them new fighting techniques.
By sunset, the group was tired and sweaty.
Geez man, breathed Barret, when you give a workout, you really give one.
Elena was gasping for air, Where...did you learn that stuff?
Kaede smiled, Years and years of practice, you dont need just materia to make yourself stronger. Inner powers can be used to control the elements. Pretty soon, youll just be using materia to complement your own inner abilities.
What about summon materia? asked Tifa.
Excuse me? returned Kaede.
Summon materia, explained Cloud, it allows us to call upon creatures to attack our enemies.
Interesting, I did not know that you had such weapons on this planet. I am used to calling them Gaurdian Forces. Can I see your most powerful summon materia?
Sure, said Cloud, handing Kaede four red orbs.
The Planeswalker held the red materia, getting a feel for the beings inside. A strange look crawled into his features.
I...know these creatures, said Kaede.
Before anyone could ask him what that meant, Kaede activated all four of the summon materia, Bahumet, Neo Bahumet, Bahumet Zero, and Knights of the Round.
Before them all appeared the kings of all Dragons, and the famed Knights of the Round Table. The dragons towered slightly over the group, while the knights were nearly face level.
Master Cloud, said Bahumet, I sense no enemies.
Why were we summoned? asked Bahumet Zero.
They didnt summon you, said Kaede, I did...
The summoned creatures turned around, then looked in astonishment at who they saw. The Knights fell to their knees, while the dragons lowered their heads.
My Lord Silver, said King Arthur, it is truly a great honor...
Please, said Kaede, stand up, I am no lord.
Only because you gave it up, said Bahumet.
To say that the others were shocked would have been a gross understatement.
Bahumet, said Cloud, why do you bow to him? Do you know Kaede?
Neo Bahumet nodded, Lord Silver is a great warrior, known to all guardian forces...
Lord Silver? asked Aeris.
Just one of my various names, said Kaede, it was my designation within the Planeswalker ranks.
The dragons and the knights laughed out loud.
Whats so funny? asked Tifa.
My Lord Silver- began Neo Bahumet.
Please, said Kaede, all I ask is that you call me Kaede.
Very well, sire Kaede, said the dragon.
Kaede winced, Thats not much better.
Old habits die hard, said Bahumet.
Old habits? asked Cloud.
Yes, answered King Arthur, Sire Kaede achieved great heights in the Planeswalker order. A hundred years ago, before we came to this planet, we knew him as a great lord and general. His designation, Lord Silver, signifies him as a leader among the high council of elders among the ranks of Planeswalker and Cetra.
Bahumet Zero continued, He turned down that position, instead choosing to become like the us, the guardian forces, and the Cetra, traveling to other planets and fighting the Drahk, they are-
I told them about the Drahk, said Kaede.
Did you say- started Neo Bahumet.
I also told them about my past as well, finished the warrior.
Bahumet narrowed his eyes, taking in this information.
Why did you come sire? asked the King of Dragons.
To finish what your creators started, answered Kaede, the Cetra brought you here years ago to fight the last of the Jenovans, however, it seems as if the Drahk have their greedy eyes on this planet.
The Drahk, cursed King Arthur, what do they want with this planet?
Im not entirely sure, said Kaede, I was sent here by the council to investigate the strange power of the Planet. I believe they want the secrets of the Cetra.
Dishonorable curs, spat Bahumet, what can we do, my lord?
Right now, nothing. I am training with Avalanche and the Turks.
And how are Milady Kyra and Lord Talos? asked Arthur.
They are still heads of the Council, but the advances of the Drahk hordes often draw them away to battle. They were well last time I checked.
When will the others arrive? asked Neo Bahumet.
I am all the council could spare, forces are spread thin everywhere.
What? exclaimed Bahumet Zero, they leave you to fight alone?
It was my wish, said Kaede, as you well know, I like to do things myself.
Indeed you do, laughed Arthur, Is there anything else?
Not right now, said Kaede, I will call upon you should I need assistance.
The guardian forces smiled, glad to see their old friend.
I will talk with you later, farewell for now.
Bahumet bowed, Goodbye sire, your coming is indeed a great boon.
The summoned creatures vanished, leaving the thirteen figures alone on the beach.
Wow, said Rude.
Well, whispered Red, that was...interesting.
I never knew you could just TALK to summoned creatures before, said Cloud.
Oh yes, replied Kaede, the Gaurdian Forces are quite knowledgeable about many things. They can do more than just fight.
You know those characters? breathed Elena, How old are you?
Physically? said Kaede, Im in my late twenties, but Ive lived for over a hundred years.
What are you, immortal or something? asked Reno.
No, I age normally, by your terms.
The Turks were at a loss for words.
Dont worry, said Kaede, Im sure the others will explain it to you sooner or later. For now, training is over. Go ahead, its only a few hours until sunset, freshen up.
All of them left, except for Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris.
Is something wrong? asked Kaede.
Nothing, said Cloud.
Were just trying to make sense of you, continued Tifa.
Dont try, returned Kaede, its an exercise in futility.
Come on, said Aeris, you have to have some feelings on this.
Kaede looked at the trio as if looking through glass. The glare sent shivers down their spines. His gaze became normal again, and Kaede looked at the falling sun.
I was trained to be a weapon, said the warrior, machines have no feelings.
Hey, said Aeris, dont say that.
Its true, continued Kaede, my whole life has been devoted to fighting.
Someone once said that I was no more than a puppet, stated Cloud, nothing more than a toy to be used and discarded. I proved them wrong, you can too.
Oh really, said Kaede sardonically.
Here, said Cloud, Ill prove it too you.
Cloud talked with Aeris and Tifa, telling them his plan. When he was done, the two girls smiled and shrugged.
Draw your sword, said Cloud
What? asked Kaede.
Draw your sword, I want to duel with you. If I prove to be correct, you will have to do something.
Youll find out, grinned Tifa
Kaede sighed, Very well, go on, prove your point.
Kaede drew his sword as he walked to the end of the beach. Cloud followed with his own sword.
The two nodded to each other before engaging combat. First, they circled around each other, parrying and blocking, getting a feel for their opponent. Aeris and Tifa looked on, cheering the two fighters.
Dont hold back, said Cloud, I wont.
Very well, answered Kaede, Do your best.
Their swords were a blaze of motion, a blur of light and sound. Sparks flew as their blades clashed. Cloud jumped back, and used his new found powers to energize his body with inhuman speed and strength.
Kaede attacked Cloud with amazing agility and quickness. The two jumped through the air, blocking and attacking in midair. When they landed, their blades were still an invisible blur.
As fast as Cloud attacked, he couldnt break through Kaedes immaculate defense. Kaede was surprised with Clouds fighting prowess.
You are a fast learner, but you still have a ways to go, said Kaede.
Kaede lunged in a backward flip, and landed on his feet several feet away. Cloud ran towards him, but Kaede used the time to charge his sword, unleashing a wave of energy at Cloud.
Cloud brought his sword up in a cross slash, barely managing to deflect the attack. The recoil still threw him onto his back.
That was my move, said Cloud, getting to his feet.
Yes, said Kaede, just wanted to show you what you can do if you train more.
Cloud ran at him, releasing a flurry of combination slashes, Kaede managed to avoid most of them. However, Clouds jumping slash caught him off guard, and the explosion threw back Kaede. He managed to stay on his feet, but the explosion had pushed him back, causing trenches in form where his feet had dragged.
Very good, said Kaede, pleased with Clouds performance.
Cloud ran at Kaede, slashing at his head. Kaede merely dodged the maneuver, flipping away while bringing his sword up. Cloud fell backward, Kaedes sword missing his face by an inch.
Kaede landed on his feet again, and grinned. Cloud got to his feet, breathing hard.
Dont worry, joked the Planeswalker, I wasnt going to kill you.
Cloud grinned, and raised a hand. He drew energy into a ball in his palms. Kaede knew this attack well, and prepared his defense. That was when Cloud fired the ball at Tifa and Aeris, who were still close by.
Kaede ran after the ball, jumping in its path. He grabbed it just a few feet from the two women, then spun around and threw it into the air, where the ball blew up into a thousand small sparks.
Kaede brought his sword up again, and looked at Cloud.
What was that Cloud? he asked.
Cloud and the two spectators immediately broke out into smiles.
Kaede stared at the trio as if they were lunatics.
I proved my point, said Cloud, if you had been merely a machine, you would have attacked me, and ignored saving Tifa and Aeris.
You could have injured them, returned Kaede.
No he wouldnt have, laughed Tifa, we knew his plan.
Kaede shook his head, his lips twitched in a slight grin, Very well, youve given me your opinion. I dont completely believe you, but I will comply with your request anyway. So, what do you want?
Something artistic, said Aeris, I saw some musical instruments in your ship when we went there today...
Kaede groaned, Wonderful.
Aeris and Tifa laughed.
Oh come on, said Tifa, it will be fun. You can play music cant you?
... Kaede remained silent.
Ill take that as a yes. Come on, said Cloud.
You go ahead, said Kaede, Ill catch up.
The others returned to the villa, while Kaede slowly strolled back. He kicked up sand as he walked, and thought about his past life. He stopped to sit upon a stone wall in front of the house, looking at the sunset. Kaede thought about the people he was helping. They were the type of people who would understand what he had gone through, but even they did not know the whole aspect of his life. How could a trained, cold-blooded killer ever have real feelings? All he had ever felt in his life was pain, or the need to protect against that pain. True, perhaps he did care for the lives of others, and he did not fight with hatred as his power. But how could he ever pay penance for what he had done?
A gil for your thoughts, said a voice, breaking him out of his reverie.
Kaede looked up to see Aeris, but remained silent, turning his head to watch the sunrise again.
Aeris sat next to him, Its beautiful.
When I lived at Senseis dojo, said Kaede, I used to wait everyday to watch the sunset. And every morning, I would get up early just to see it rise.
Sounds like a peaceful place.
Kaede nodded, Sensei taught me, that to be a true warrior, one cannot fight with hatred in their heart.
Sound advise. Then how do you feel about the Drahk? asked Aeris.
I despise them, he conceded, but I do not allow that hatred to consume me. I do not fight them because I hate them. Rather, I fight them to prevent others from being hurt.
Youre trying to redeem yourself, said Aeris. It was more a statement than a question.
The Planeswalker nodded.
Well, said Aeris, are you so sure youre still a machine?
Kaede turned to Aeris with an intense look in his eyes, Ive killed Aeris, I have murdered good people, men and women. My hands are too stained with blood.
Its not your fault, said Aeris, matching his glare, your hands may be stained, but your soul is pure.
The two watched the view in silence. When the sun had set, Kaede could see the others gathering inside. Several figures were coming out.
Kaede turned to leave, but before he went, he said one last thing to Aeris, in a voice so desolate that it shocked the Cetra.
You and your friends shouldnt care about me Aeris, said he, its no use trying to convince a cold and dying spirit that it can feel.
Kaede walked past the Turks, Elmyra, and Red, as they walked to see the first stirrings of night.
Care to watch the stars with us? asked Red.
Perhaps later, Kaede walked into the villa without another word.
Elmyra went to her daughter. She saw that Aeris was worried.
Whats wrong dear? she asked.
Nothing, said Aeris, just thinking about our new friend.
He acts so withdrawn. said Elena.
He seems nice though, said Elmyra, such a nice man.
Yeah, quipped Reno, not bad for a man whos over a hundred years old.
A hundred? shouted Elmyra.
Well... said Rude, hes actually twenty-something, but hes says hes lived for over a hundred years.
Elmyra remained silent, her mouth hanging open.
Aeris, said Red, I believe its time we told them the truth about him.
Aeris sighed, getting ready to tell them the tale, Its not a pretty story...
Kaede went inside the villa and saw that there was a ruckus inside the kitchen. He could hear voices coming from behind the door.
Fer cryin out loud, Cid yelled, what kind of slop is that?
Ill have you know, screamed Tifa, that this is a specialty at the bar!
Yeah, snapped the captain, they probably like it CAUSE THEYRE DRUNK WHEN THEYRE EATIN!
IF YOU HADNT BURNED THE STUFF IT WOULD STILL TASTE GOOD!!!
Kaede burst into the room, slamming the door open. The others turned and remained silent.
Problems with dinner? asked Kaede, raising a questioning eyebrow.
To say the least, said Shera.
We left Cid in charge for a while... explained Cloud.
Look guys, said Cid, I never told you I could cook, dont blame me.
Okay, said Kaede, out...
What? asked Tifa.
I said out, Ill do the cooking. I have got some exotic herbs and spices in the ship, said Kaede, Ill take care of it.
This doesnt mean that- started Tifa.
Dont worry, Ill still play your song, answered Kaede, I usually do it to pass the time anyway.
The Planeswalker walked out of the kitchen to go to his room. He came back with several sealed duffel bags, which he threw on the floor.
Im ready, Kaede said, okay, the rest of you, out, now.
Okay, okay, said Tifa.
The others filed out of the room.
By the way, said Shera, turning to Kaede, thanks.
The Planeswalker grunted in response. The others left the room as Kaede prepared to create their meal.
Great, the famous Avalanche, thought Kaede, as long as they arent thinking about food, they should have a fair chance during battles.
Kaede continued to prepare the meal while the others waited.
When Aeris finished her story, the others grew silent.
Tears rolled down Elmyras cheeks, My God...
Great Planet, said Elena, what kind of a man is he?
Sounds like another Cloud, or another Sepiroth, said Rude.
A frighteningly accurate analogy, grimaced Red.
Cloud called out to them, Come on in guys!
When the others entered the villa, they smelled a marvelous aroma.
Mmmm, smiled Aeris, Is that dinner? Tifa do the cooking?
Actually, answered Cloud, Cid burned it.
Aw come on Cloud, yelled Cid from behind, I said sorry to you and Tifa.
So, asked Elmyra, whos making dinner?
Kaede, answered Cloud.
Kaede Knight is making dinner!? exclaimed Elena.
What the hell? asked Reno.
Apparently, answered Shera, hes picked up various skills in all his travels, including cooking.
Kaede came out of the kitchen, looking like he always did. He folded a towel in his hands before throwing it into a wastebasket in the corner of the room.
So, said Barret, whats up?
Could someone else serve the stuff? asked Kaede, I feel the need to wash up.
Okay, said Tifa, no problem.
I also have a couple of bottles of Serran nectar on the table.
Whats that? asked Aeris.
It comes from a fruit that the Cetra cultivated, answered Kaede, its well known and famous. I can teach you how to prepare it some day, I have some Serra seeds in my bags.
Kaede walked upstairs to change while the others began their meal.
Whatever he had made, it tasted good. Kaede had turned the food in Clouds freezer into a masterpiece of cuisine.
He has got to get me some of those spices, said Tifa between bites.
Glad you like it, came Kaedes voice from behind.
The others turned to the hallway to see a familiar figure, all dressed in white.
Wow, said Yuffie, cool look.
I like a change once in a while, returned Kaede.
This stuff is great, said Reeve, come join us.
This ale is awesome! commented Cid.
Actually, said Kaede, it isnt alcoholic.
Youve got to be jerkin around, said Barret, Ive never tasted stuff like this.
Its true. Kaede walked to the door leading outside.
Mister Kayd, said Marlene, arent you going to eat?
No, thank you child, smiled Kaede, Im not very hungry. Enjoy yourself.
You sure? asked Vincent.
Kaede nodded, I will be outside if anyone needs me.
Kaede walked outside as the others continued eating.
What a lonely man, thought Yuffie, he reminds me of Vincent.
She stared at the quiet man. When Vincent looked her way, Yuffie wrinkled her nose and winked at him. He nearly choked on his food from surprise. The others laughed at their display.
Kaede sat on the short stone wall on the beach, gazing at the stars. His thought led him to the Drahk again. What were their true plans for this planet? And what of the strange prophecies in the records of the Cetra? Kaede cursed the cryptic nature of portents.
So much war, he said to himself, I hope that we are up to it.
Dont worry, came a voice from behind, we will be.
Kaede turned to see Aeris again. She came up and sat on the wall.
Im beginning to notice a trend with you, she smiled, you have a fascination with the beauties of nature.
The quiet man silently brooded on her meaning. She still believed he could have feelings, like normal people.
You are persistent arent you? asked Kaede.
I never give up, its my credo, said Aeris.
Apparently, answered Kaede, ...what do you remember most about your childhood?
The question threw Aeris off track, and she had to think before she could answer.
...I...have flashes of my biological parents now and then. Like you, I never really knew my actual mom and dad. But Elmyra adopted me, and became my family, Aeris smiled, I guess what I remember most is the love, how she would always be there for me. A hug from her could make all my troubles go away. Why do you ask?
Kaede continued to gaze at the stars, I often wonder, what it would be like to live like that. No battles...no worries...simply to live for no other reason than to enjoy the day. It seems alien to a person that has been neck deep in war since childhood.
Aeris pursed her lips as she looked at Kaede thoughtfully.
From someone who has seen both sides of the fence, said she, believe me, it is a wonderful feeling. Many people say they feel exhilaration when they fight. I suppose thats natural, but nothing is as satisfying as life.
I guess I never had much time for a normal, caring way life, it was always the fight. Fight to protect your sanity, fight to protect others, always fighting for something. I once heard someone ask, what do you see beyond your fist, to which I could only reply nothing but war, the fight is all.
Aeris looked into Kaedes eyes, deeply concerned.
Kaede, without caring, what is life worth? Without love, what is your soul worth?
I dont know...
Kaede distractedly threw a stone, clearly agitated.
Aeris touched Kaedes hand to get his attention.
She smiled at him, Believe me, you never feel more alive...than when you love...and feel loved.
Kaedes eyes softened as she said this, and he simply nodded.
Aeris noticed that their faces had drifted close, she began to notice how special this person truly was. She looked into his deep, powerful eyes, and was held captive by what she saw. She felt...drawn by those intense, blazing eyes. Despite his reclusive nature, despite his way of life, Aeris could still see the soul of a caring, sensitive man inside...
Kaede could not understand how this Cetra had unraveled him so easily. It was as if she understood his every pain, his every thought. Then he noticed how close his lips were to hers. He lost all ability to think as he inched closer...
Hey guys! shouted Yuffie, Come inside!
Kaede pulled away, and Aeris jerked her head back in shocked uncertainty.
What the hell was that? Kaede cursed at himself, What was I thinking?
Hey guys! Were going to the bar! hollered Yuffie.
Coming! shouted Aeris.
Aeris was surprised, Great Planet! What just happened?
Gathering her wits, she stood up and turned to go inside.
Aeris, said Kaede.
She turned around.
Thanks for the talk.
She smiled at him, Come on, lets go, the gangs at the 7th Heaven.
The 7th Heaven had closed for the night. It had been difficult to get everyone to leave. Especially today, after the news that so many well-known personalities were gracing the bar. Slowly, the patrons departed. Even so, the lights remained on, as old friends and new talked mirthfully. Barret and Cid were currently engaged in a drinking contest. Rude and Reno cheered them on.
Elena merely shook her head at their antics. She saw that Reeve seemed to be working again at his computer. The Turk walked over to the President of New Shinra Inc., with a bottle of ale in her hands.
Honestly Reeve, chided Elena, dont you ever take a break from work?
Reeve looked up at her and smiled sheepishly, its just some extra reports that I decided to work through. I really-
Elena waggled her finger at him, Thats just busy work and you know it. Your office assistants could have it done by tomorrow.
Reeve shrugged, I guess I really dont know how to relax.
The Turk smiled, I have the same problem. I keep making these little pet projects for myself just so I dont die of boredom.
Reeve winced, oh, dont say that. It sounds embarrassingly like my life...
Come on, live a little...
She poured the drink into two glasses.
Ill drink anything you put in front of me, said Reeve, trying a stab at humor.
The Turk laughed again, famous last words...
The two clinked glasses before drinking.
It pleased Red to see his friends relaxing. Reeve, especially, had felt quite depressed. He had taken on all the burdens of blame, reproaching himself for Shinras atrocities. The man had felt it his personal responsibility to set things right. So far, his plans for rebuilding had worked, and Reeve actually seemed to have calmed down of late.
Red saw the others talking happily. Kaede and Vincent, true to form, sat in their respective corners, remaining silent. However, Yuffie seemed to be engaged in a rather one-sided conversation with the former Turk. Red turned to see the commotion near the front of the bar. Apparently, Barret and Cid had finished their little contest. Now Reno and Rude were trying to get the two upstairs to sleep off their intoxication.
Red turned again to see Vincent and Yuffie walking up to him.
Hey Red! said the ninja.
Red nodded as the other two sat down.
We were just wonderin, continued Yuffie, if you knew any more about all this prophecy stuff.
Oh really? asked Red, I thought you were going to ask for my materia.
Yuffie laughed slightly, Come on, give me a break...
We were simply curious, said Vincent, whether the records said anything else about the Planeswalkers.
Other than the prophecy, answered Red, I have heard very little, although...
Red was interrupted when Kaede stood up to leave. He and Aeris had been talking with Cloud and Tifa, gathering as much knowledge on current events as they could.
Kaede finished the contents of his glass and started to leave.
Thanks for the drink, he said.
Dont you want to stick around? asked Tifa.
Perhaps later, answered he, thank you.
Dont forget our bet, warned Cloud.
Kaede nodded before leaving.
Vincent turned to Red again, Well Nanaki?
Red pondered before answering, It seems to me, from what I have learned about people like him, that Kaede is a wanderer. His only home was undoubtedly destroyed, leaving him with no roots.
Sound like the rest of us at some point in our lives, commented Vincent.
Red nodded, I guess he never found anything to hold on to. So his job is perfect, he never has to commit himself to anything, least of all other people. He simply travels from one world to the next, fighting his never-ending battle.
You know, said Yuffie, hes kind of creepy sometimes. Doesnt the man have any kind of social life?
His whole life has been war Yuffie, replied Vincent, a life like that doesnt leave room for many...comforts.
Thats what frightens me, answered the young ninja.
Red looked at Yuffie, was she actually concerned about Kaede?
The girl quickly regained her smug grin, besides, we already have one too many hermits in this group, she elbowed Vincent in the ribs.
The Cian warrior laughed, Yuffie never stayed depressed for long.
Leaving the others in the bar, Kaede chose to walk along the beach again. He thought about his life, about its twists and turns. Hed come so far from what hed been, but had he really gone anywhere?
The Planeswalker sighed, It always gets complicated whenever I grow too attached.
A voice deep inside him told Kaede that he was wrong. It was a quiet voice that he hadnt listened to for a long time, a side of him that had been buried years ago. It grew too easy to ignore that voice now. And something deep inside him knew, that if it ever went away, hed lose a piece of himself forever, and never be whole again.
Kaede decided to try Clouds idea. A quick trip through the Kitanas hull led him to a vast array of instruments. He decided to play what these people would call a guitar. Kaede exited the ship, opting to play on the stone wall overlooking the shores.
It felt peaceful here. It was late, hours before anyone would wake up. The few conscious members of Avalanche would undoubtedly stay in the bar for a few more hours.
Refusing to admit it to anyone, least of all himself, playing music gave him a sense of freedom. Kaede tried to pass it off as a hobby, but it felt like so much more than that. It was a release, a chance to regain a piece of what he had lost so long ago...
Without prelude, he began to play. Ethereal music poured out from his instrument, weaving its spell through the air. Kaede continued with his music. His eyes closed, he let the tune follow its own path, letting the melody flow as it pleased. And once again, he felt a little more at peace. He had been searching for it his entire life, and had managed to get a small bit of it whenever he played...he felt a calm come over him that even meditation could not bring...
Kaede had been playing for a while now, but he suddenly felt the need to voice his travels, to immerse the story of his life into the music. So he sang...
Barret and Cid had finally managed to sleep off some of their stupor. The others laughed at their friends as they slowly made their way down the stairs, arm in arm.
Rude and Reno were still cheering them on.
Shera simply shook her head as she talked to Tifa, men...
Yuffie laughed at the display. That was when she heard music. Vaguely, on the edge of her perception, the ninja could hear a peaceful tune, soft and ethereal. Then the music began to swell, becoming strong and passionate, and everyone could hear the serene melody.
Cid looked around the room, trying to find the source of the music, Is it my hangover, or do I here somethin?
Cloud got up, looking out the door, It seems to be coming from the Villa.
It sounds beautiful, said Tifa, lets see if...wait, did you say the Villa?
Aeris looked up, do you think Kaede-?
I dont know, answered Cloud, lets check it out.
The group slowly trekked back to the Villa, making their way to the source of the music. It was indeed Kaede, playing what seemed to be a guitar. The Planeswalker didnt seem to notice them, for he continued to play. Cloud was about to walk up to the stone wall when he felt Aeris hand on his shoulder.
Wait, said she, lets see what he plays for a little while...
The music stopped, and Aeris froze, thinking she had been heard. Then the music started again, spreading its peaceful tune through the night air. Soon after, words came as well.
I have walked down these roads of woe,
I have been down this path of blood,
Yet I keep to my path and never let go,
Your hope fills me more than despairs flood..
I see these ways of pain,
My soul yearns to heal you,
I travel on, I find my bane,
Yet I care not, for Ive found you.
I may fall, and I may die,
I may leave all of you behind,
I care not, ask not why,
I take my victories in kind.
I am lost, yet I have won,
For you remain to sing your song,
Gone, yet I am not undone,
For you remain to carry on.
And though I float, and fall away,
My soul still soars, life not in vain,
For you still live to dream each day,
Walk that road, freed from your pain....
Unbidden, the tears began to flow from Aeris, marring the normally joyous face. Cloud hugged Tifa close to him, as she melted into his embrace. They all remained silent, touched by the song. They could tell it was the story of his anguished soul. But it wasnt just his story, it was the story of all of their lives.
Finally sensing someone near, Kaede turned to see the others. His face revealed nothing other than calm composure.
I am sorry, said he, I did not know you were here.
Dont apologize, replied Aeris, that was beautiful.
Kaede shrugged, That was a fools stab at what cannot be expressed in words.
Cloud nodded, for he understood, all too well, the power of emotions...emotions so strong they could not be voiced, just felt. It was a rare look at a side of Kaede that he had not seen before, a side he himself had had to bury, so long ago...
Cloud hugged his wife closer, remembering who had rescued his broken mind, the woman who had filled the void that had been in his heart.
Having bared the inner pains of his soul to these strangers, Kaede was being surprisingly calm. Aeris voiced the groups opinion.
You should really do that more often.
Kaede shrugged it off, clearly not wishing to continue this line of discussion.
Can any of you play as well? asked Kaede.
Cloud answered, Well, yes but...
I think turnabout is fair play, choose your instrument.
Cloud picked up a keyboard synthesizer from inside the house before joining Kaede on the wall. Seeing his friends eagerly awaiting, Cloud gulped.
Dont worry, said Kaede, just follow my lead, youll be fine.
More music issued forth. Cloud began tentatively at first, but grew in confidence as the melody played.
Just let the music come, he reminded himself, the rest will follow...
What followed was electrifying. Their pain, their passion, it all came out in the music. There was no need for words, for the music touched the heart and the soul. It promised sweet dreams and emanated peace.
When Cloud and Kaede had finished, they opened their eyes to find the others staring.
That was... started Elena.
Awesome! Cool! I want more!!! stated Yuffie.
At least two of those, agreed Vincent.
Im taking requests, quipped the Planeswalker.
Try something with words, said Aeris, something about your travels.
Kaede looked to Cloud, who shrugged.
Dont ask me, he smiled, Im just playing backup.
Besides, laughed Tifa, you lost the bet.
I didnt lose, said Kaede, I merely acquiesced.
He thought for a while, then began to strum on his guitar. Again, Kaede let the words weave a story. It was the story of his life, and fittingly, a story of all travelers, even Avalanche.
Listen as the wind blows,
From across the Great Divide,
Voices trapped in yearning,
Memories trapped in time,
The night is my companion, and solitude my guide,
Would I spend forever here, and not be satisfied.
And I will be the one,
To hold you down...kiss your soul,
Ill take your breath away,
And after I...wipe away the tears,
Just close your eyes dear...
Through this world Ive stumbled,
So many times betrayed,
Trying to find an honest world,
To find...the truth enslaved,
Oh...you speak to me in riddles,
And you speak to me in rhymes,
My body aches to breath your breath,
Your words keep me alive.
And I will be the one,
To hold you down...kiss your soul,
Ill take your breath away,
And after I...wipe away the tears,
Just close your eyes dear...
Into this night Ive wandered,
Its morning that I dread,
Another day of knowing of...
The path I fear to tread.
Oh...into the sea of waking dreams,
I follow without pride,
Cause nothing stands between us here,
And I wont be denied.
And I will be the one,
To hold you down...kiss your soul,
Ill take your breath away,
And after I...wipe away the tears,
Just close your eyes dear.
I'll hold you down...kiss your soul,
Ill take your breath away,
And after I, wipe away the tears,
Just close your eyes...
When Kaede and Cloud finished, the others were still captivated.
That was beautiful, breathed Aeris.
Kaede simply lowered his head, deep in thought.
Damn, exclaimed Cid tapping his chest, that hit me right here, you know?
Tifa nodded, That was...exactly how I felt before Meteor. Where did you get that from?
Kaede simply raised his head and gave her a sad smile, Its mine.
Vincent nodded, Im beginning to see now...its similar to how youve lived your life, isnt it?
The Planeswalker remained silent.
Youve been searching for something, continued Rude, that much is apparent.
Kaede simply shrugged, clearly not interested in answering that question.
I think thats enough for one night, said Cloud, seeing this conversation was getting nowhere.
The Planeswalker nodded his head in agreement. The group slowly walked back to the Villa.
Wow, said Yuffie, that was something else.
Thank you, said Kaede, it is very useful when you have nothing else to do.
I bet, said Cloud.
And Cloud, said Tifa, you never told me you could play like that! You were great.
Aw, it was nothing, demurred Cloud, I had help-
Kaede simply shrugged again, you played well.
Cloud snorted sarcastically.
Whatever you say man, said Barret, that was still pretty awesome!
Hmph, said Cloud, Okay, well Im glad. But I mean, it was a joke. I didnt really feel very mature-
Do that more often, joked Tifa, and nobody will be able to resist you guys.
She wrapped her arm around Cloud, tickling him.
Cloud jerked away, grabbing her in his arms.
Dont even try it, he smiled before drawing her into a kiss.
Aw come on guys, whined Yuffie, not in public!
Let the two love birds have their fun, laughed Reeve.
Come on, said Yuffie, I think I may puke!
Listen kid, said Cid, his arms wrapped around Shera, you just have to understand how two hearts work.
All that mushy stuff is for softies!
What about Vampy? asked Cid, winking at Vincent.
VINCENT IS NOT A VAMPIRE! yelled Yuffie.
Red tried to calm the young ninja, Hes just teasing you.
Okay guys, enough, said Cloud, lets get to sleep.
Indeed, agreed Kaede, we have more training tomorrow.
Gee Kaede, groaned Barret, youre the life of the party.
They all left to go to their separate rooms.
Those Avalanche sure act weird, said Elena.
Yeah, chimed Reno, makes you wonder how they ever beat Shinra.
Unpredictability, said Rude, is a great asset.
Too true, laughed Reeve.
The night went rather well for the group, except for two people, who couldnt stop thinking about what had happened earlier that night on the stone wall...
What happened out there after dinner? asked Aeris to herself, and later, when he sang... Great Planet, my heart felt like it was going to throb out of my chest. Why did I feel so...?
Elmyra saw the concerned look on her daughters face.
Is something wrong? she asked before turning off the lights.
No mom, answered Aeris, everythings fine.
In his room, Kaede thought of Aeris again. What had happened to him? He had completely lost control of his feelings. He couldnt even understand what had come over him. Kaede shrugged it off as a freak accident.
The warrior tried to get some sleep, but he also had strange feelings about what the morning would bring. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, just like they always did whenever a threat was near.
Dammit, why do I always have this accursed sixth sense for trouble?
He could almost taste the danger on the horizon.
Just ignore it Kaede, tomorrow will bring what it will.
The next day, Kaede got up early to see the sunrise, as he had done nearly everyday of his life. He began to practice before the others came. The suns rays washed over the sand, while a pleasant wind came from the cool blue shores of the beach. He began slowly, but picked up speed, swiping and parrying, letting the blade dance to its own beat. The sword was no longer a weapon, but an extension of himself. He slashed all about, battling imaginary fighters. When he felt sufficiently warmed up, he ran into the air. Without powering up, he jumped high into the air, spinning and slashing downward before landing. He immediately drew himself back into a defensive position before parrying some more, laughing with exhilaration as he practiced.
Yuffie ran through the halls, waking up the others. Aeris and Tifa were the first to come out. Rubbing their eyes, they asked her what was happening.
Come on guys, get ready! You gotta see this!
Aeris and Tifa quickly got ready, while the Turks peeped out of their rooms as if a quaint little sprite had stolen into the house.
WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING UP AT THIS UNGODLY HOUR!? screamed Barret.
Come on guys! Were missing it! shouted Yuffie.
When Aeris and Tifa, as well as a half-sleeping Cloud, were ready, she led them to the beach.
Whats going on? asked Cloud sleepily.
Youll see, answered the ninja.
See what...oh, that was when Cloud saw Kaede Knight training on the sand.
Reminds me of someone else I know, smiled Tifa.
Cloud smiled back, encircling his arms around his wifes waist.
Aeris was astonished. She had seen both Cloud and Kaede fight before with their swords. But it was nothing compared to this. Kaede was training as if dancing to a hidden song. She was entranced with his moves.
When he jumped into the air, performing a combination of moves, and landed ready to fight again, Aeris gasped.
Kaede turned his head to see the others gathering on the beach.
Aeris was speechless. Tifa gazed with wonder at the Planeswalker.
That was pretty good, said Cloud, the only one who seemed to have found a voice.
I try, smiled Kaede...
The rest of the day was uneventful. The group progressed in their skills, so much so that even Kaede was impressed. By midday, the group was tired, but still ready to fight.
You all are doing very well, now we will-
Then Kaede stopped speaking, his insides went cold.
They could all see a strange look on his face.
Whats wrong? asked Red.
Damn! thought Kaede, I didnt expect them so soon!
Kaede, said Aeris.
They are not ready yet! Not all of them!
Kaede, Aeris said to his face.
Kaede snapped out of his thoughts.
Whats happening? asked Aeris.
They are here... answered the warrior.
Who? asked Reeve, already fearing the worst.
The Drahk... cursed Kaede.
Cloud felt a cold chill run down his spine, Damn...
Authors Notes: Great gugamunga! That was one loong chapter! Whats going on? Kaedes over a hundred, but is still in his twenties? Oh well, some folks get all the luck. Actually, to tell you the truth, I wanted the guy to be old enough to have known the Bahumets way back before the Cetra came to the planet. But I also needed him to be a young guy, but not an immortal or some weirdo who can live a thousand years like Nanaki. So...I had the Drahk tinker with his biology and then had Kaede revert to normal human biology. And whats this with him and Aeris? Anyway, Im sure some of you will hate what happened in this chapter, others may like it. PLEASE DONT FLAME ME!!! I read a few Vincent/Yuffie pairings and loved the concept, even though they are nearly ten years apart in age, if not more. Youve probably figured out that I used a quote from Street Fighter. I just felt it was appropriate. Anyway, now were getting close to some action! Next chapter the blood flies and I push the limits of the PG-13 rating!. You know how to reach me.
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