A Promise Kept Chapter 12
"Jenova summoned that &%$#% METEOR here?" (Cid)
If Aeris had any doubts about Sephiroth's reputation before, she had no doubts now. Given time, this man could very well lead an army of untrained civilians into conquering a nation.
Being exhausted both physically and emotionally, and partly because there wasn't really anything they could do at the moment, the team decided to wait for Jenova to make the first move, while they rested and gathered their strength. Cloud still couldn't believe what he had done to Aeris. Although she forgave him fully, it would be some time before he could bring himself to look at her straight in the eyes whenever they talked.
During the time, Aeris trained with Sephiroth closely. He taught her how to handle the staff better, showed her basic moves, and sparred with her.
At first Sephiroth was a little reluctant to practice with Aeris, afraid that with his abnormal fighting abilities, he would somehow accidentally injure her. However, Aeris' confidence in him helped him to overcome his fear. He was surprised by her determination and endurance. Whenever they had time they trained, never once did she complain about exhaustion. However, her restlessness was starting to alarm him.
"Aeris, I think this is enough practice for one afternoon."
"But..." Although rather breathless, Aeris seemed unwilling to stop.
However Sephiroth read the exhaustion from her face and shook his head firmly: "Don't go overboard with it Aeris. It would do you no good."
"I know..." She finally sighed in resignation, lowered her staff and wiped the sweat beads off her forehead. Glancing at Sephiroth, she hesitated for a moment, then smiled timidly: "Do you think we can... err... sit here for a while? I... I want to talk to you."
Sephiroth looked mildly surprised, but he nodded wordlessly, sitting down on a boulder. "So... What do you wish to speak to me about?"
Aeris sat down next to him. She was silent for a moment, but finally spoke up: "Sephiroth... Jenova has the Black Materia now. She... is going to be stronger than ever before."
Sephiroth nodded: "That is to be expected... What exactly does the Black Materia do?"
"Several things. First of all, it enhances the magic of whomever in possession of it. It also makes the person more immune to magical attacks. But why Black Materia is so dangerous is because..." Aeris shivered slightly before continuing, "It has the ability to summon the Meteor to the Planet."
Sephiroth frowned: "That's what Jenova is going to do, isn't it? At the temple, she raved something about gathering the Planet's energy when the Meteor comes."
"Yes. Black Materia is sort of like a summon material, only much more powerful. If Meteor is allowed to come, nothing on the face of this planet would survive the impact. I think Jenova wants to harvest the energy this planet would release, in attempt to heal itself." Aeris said in a small voice.
Sephiroth nodded: "It is very unfortunate that we don't know where Jenova is right now..."
Aeris bowed her head: "Whenever she summons the meteor, I will have to stop her."
Sephiroth arched an eyebrow: "How?"
"With this." She slowly took something out of her braid and held it for Sephiroth to see: "This is the Cetra's other treasure, the White Materia. With this, I can summon Holy and push the Meteor back to where it came from. But..." She bit her lower lip in worry, "I don't know if I can do it. I mean... I 'm not that strong at all..."
Her voice started to tremble with fear: "What if I fail? What if Jenova really summons the Meteor and then I'm unable to stop it? I'm the only one who can use the White Materia, but I..."
"Aeris, have confidence in yourself. You've came this far..."
"I could not have done it without you guys. I depend on you all the time to get me out of trouble. Honestly Sephiroth, I lost count of how many times you have saved my life. I... I really feel worthless at times..."
Her nervous ramble was cut short by a hand placed on her shoulder. A little startled, she lifted her head to see Sephiroth looking down at her with a serious expression.
"As I said, you are not weak," He told her quietly, "and don't ever think yourself as worthless."
"But... I... I can't even hold my own during a battle."
"That can change and will change." Sephiroth replied flatly, "Skills come with practice and experience. And don't forget, you are a powerful healer and magic user."
She opened her mouth to say something but he continued to speak: "Don't you realize Aeris? True strength comes from within. You... are far more stronger than I am because... because you saved me."
Aeris could only stare at him speechless.
"You say I saved your life many times... But don't you know? It is you who saved my life, and my soul..." Sephiroth averted his eyes. The tiniest hint of a blush crept up his cheeks, but he continued anyway:
"Your strength saved me from Jenova... and from myself. If not for you, I would have drove myself to the bottom of hell... worse, I could've fallen back into Jenova's traps. Do you know what my mother said to me before she... vanished? She told me I should come with you, because you have the ability to help me find answers... and I think she was right."
"I believe in you Aeris... We believe in you." He said quietly and slowly, "So please... believe in yourself too."
Tears welled up in her eyes. She suddenly threw herself into his arms and buried her face in his shoulder. Sephiroth was surprised but he did not pull back. Instead, he encircled her waist with his arms.
"Thank you..." Her voice was muffled but full of gratitude, "Thank you for saying that. I... I never realized that you thought of me that way, and knowing it... somehow makes me feel stronger."
"You are welcome, and you are a strong woman Aeris." A slight smile formed on his thin lips as he looked down at her, Mako eyes shining with a rare humor, "I was a General. So if I say you are strong, then you better believe it."
"Yes Sir!" Aeris giggled and lifted her head, giving him a playful half salute.
Sephiroth smirked. But then, as he continued to hold her gaze, he suddenly found himself unable to turn his eyes away.
She... was so beautiful. He had never met anyone quiet like her before. The first time he saw her was at the Shinra headquarters, on the roof... even though he was controlled by Jenova at that time, he still found her to be different from the others. When she finally helped him to break away from Jenova in Nibelheim, he was... awed.
She was an angel who walked the earth
Slowly, almost unconsciously, he brought a gloved hand up to her face. He paused when his fingertips were mere micrometers away from her skin, and she held her breath, nodding ever so slightly.
He traced her features with his gloved hand, intrigued. Everyone said roses are the prettiest things, but he never paid any attention to them to notice the beauty. But if he did, he imagine the roses would look like her A pink rose blossoming in the spring
Slowly, Sephiroth lowed his head toward hers, until he could feel her gentle breath on his face. Aeris closed her eyes as he instinctively did the same thing, and their lips met in a gentle kiss.
Unfamiliar feelings stirred inside him, he pulled her closer, supporting her head with one hand and put the other on the small of her back. Their kiss deepened until both were breathless.
Eventually they pulled apart. Sephiroth looked down at the young Cetra girl in his arms, and felt warm inside, as if the coldness residing in his heart for so long was finally being chased away... by her. He had never shared such intimacy with anyone except her. And she was gazing into his eyes, with that serene smile forming on her lips. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to hold her like this, to share her warmth, for an eternity...
It was at that moment that he knew, if for nothing else, at least he would fight for her, against Jenova, Hojo, Shinra and anything else, until his last breath.
Aeris leaned her head against his chest and whispered: "Sephiroth..."
Suddenly, the sky darkened ominously. The pair looked up in alarm, just in time to see streaks of bloody red pierce the black clouds. A bright, scarlet star began to emerge from behind the clouds, lighting half of the sky with a beautiful but sickly reddish glow.
Sephiroth stared at it and narrowed his eyes: "What... is that?"
Aeris was silent for a moment, then slowly replied: "Meteor."
"Jenova actually summoned that &%$#% METEOR here?" Cid growled, "Wonderful! Now what the %^&$ do we do?"
"I have to pray for Holy. It is the only thing which can stop Meteor." Aeris said quietly and bit her bottom lip. The Cetra girl had just spent the last half an hour praying for guidance, which obviously worn her out, "I... need you to go to a place with me..."
"A ruined city where the Cetra used to live." Aeris' emerald eyes seemed to be glowing as well. Not from Mako of course, but from a sort of knowledge that can not be shared, "From there, I will summon Holy to push Meteor away, but I need your help."
"This... is beautiful." Tifa whispered in awe, unable to tear her glance away from the giant shell structures all around her.
The group had traveled for days before finally reaching their destination. Some guys at the Bone Village warned them that no one had ever successfully passed the Sleeping Forest, which surrounded the ancient ruin, but Aeris just smiled and led the group right into the woods. Sure enough, it was only a short time before they stepped into the magnificent remains of the city.
"My people... used to live here before Jenova came." Aeris answered sadly, "I... I wish I know what life was like back then."
Cloud nodded: "Don't think about it too much. We will defeat Jenova, once and for all, so she will never have the chance to do something like this, ever again."
"You are right, we will." Aeris smiled a bit, "C'mon, let's hurry up."
Soon they were standing before an altar. Several feet below, water blue as the purest sapphire sparkled with a dazzling color.
Aeris turned to her teammates: "I must pray for Holy here. Once my prayer reaches the heart of the planet, Holy will be released. But... I have a feeling we will have to deal with some interference."
Cloud narrowed his eyes: "You mean Jenova."
"Yes." Aeris nodded, "I think she knows what I'm doing. It is unlikely that she will not try to stop me. So..."
She didn't need to finish her sentence. Her teammates all nodded in understanding and readied their weapons.
"Don't worry. Count on us." Tifa promised.
Aeris smiled at her friend, taking a deep breath, trying hard to believe in herself, she whispered: "Alright, now then, let me get started..."
"You can do it." Sephiroth suddenly spoke up, looking straight into her eyes, holding her gaze firmly, "I know you can, and you must know it too."
Aeris nodded, her wild heartbeat finally calmed down a bit. Turning toward the altar, she walked to the center of it and knelt down. Clasping her hands together in front of her chest, she closed her eyes and began to pray.
Suddenly, the White Materia in her hair shone brightly and surrounded her with a blinding white light. Below her, the water stirred, a mysterious mist rose and gathered around her petite figure. Aeris' lips moved slightly, a gentle, faint whisper was heard:
"Mother of all creations, please hear my plea. The world is about to be consumed by a great darkness, therefore we came, searching for light. Please, I beg you, let Holy be released..."
The rest of Avalanche watched in awe as Aeris went on softly. They felt a powerful aura expanding, surrounding them. It was intimidating but caring at the same time. It was the aura of a half-Cetra who was destined to carry the burden of an entire clan upon her shoulders. It was the aura of one who can communicate with the voices of the Planet...
It was the aura of the Planet itself.
Slowly, the mist dissipated, the light emitted by the White Materia grew fainter. Aeris slowly stood up and turned to the group, giving them a beautiful smile.
Suddenly, Sephiroth's eyes caught a movement from the side. He turned in alarm, just in time to catch a glimpse of a shiny, black handgun.
"Aeris!" Reacting on instincts, Sephiroth leapt toward her as fast as he could, and tackled her down to the ground, shielding her body.
He heard gunshots, gasps, screams, and then, a sharp pain from just below the shoulder invaded his senses.
Avalanche did not know what just happened, but they acted fast. Vincent and Barret began shooting toward the source of the gunshots, and a dark figure was forced to reveal himself. He leapt down from behind the shadows of the wall, wearing an evil smirk on his pale face. His raven black hair fell neatly behind his shoulders.
"Tseng!" Cloud gripped his sword tightly, "Or should I address you as... Jenova?"
The Turk smirked: "Ah... the moron who gave me the Black Materia. How nice it is to see you again." He then frowned, "But that Cetra bitch is still so very unpleasantly alive."
He looked pass Cloud at Aeris, who was now kneeling next to Sephiroth and healing his wounds. Tseng's frown deepened and he hissed: "My son! You saved the meddling Cetra yet again... How dare you to betray your mother like that!"
Sephiroth's wounds closed under Aeris' healing magic. He slowly got to his feet and pulled Aeris up behind him protectively.
"Three things." He said calmly, narrowing his eyes at the enemy before him, "First, you should really only address yourself as a bitch. Second, I'm glad I spoiled your f_ _king plan once again. And one last thing..." His eyes flashed in barely contained rage as he threw a bolt3 spell at Tseng, launching forward with Masamune at the same time:
"I AM NOT YOUR SON!"
The raven-haired man dodged the attack swiftly. Through his body, Jenova smiled in mocking: "You are being a fool if you think you can defeat me."
"Wouldn't know until I try, now would I?" Sephiroth swung his Masamune skillfully and cut Tseng's arm: "Never underestimate me, Jenova!"
From the other side, Cloud and Red XIII delivered powerful magical blasts to the alien as well.
"Very well, if this is the way you want to play, you fools!" Tseng's eyes flashed with a strange reddish glow. Raising his hands upward, he chanted a strange spell: "Death Rain!"
Thousands of sharp, deadly black icicles materialized out of nowhere and started to rain down on the party.
"Wall!" Aeris immediately raised her staff and cast the spell, but it was still a bit late. A few icicles passed through the barrier before it was fully activated. Luckily everyone managed to escape them, if only barely.
The other icicles hit the force field Aeris created and were instantly vaporized by the clash.
Sephiroth smirked as they slowly forced Tseng into the corner. "There is nowhere to turn now, Jenova."
"Is that what you think?" Tseng chuckled in apparent amusement. Suddenly his eyes narrowed as a cruel smile appeared on his face: "Watch."
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