A Promise Kept Chapter 7
"To hell with your *&^% Promised Land crap!" (Cid)
She was running, running for hours, days, or was it years?
She kept running, across streets, fields, mountains, but a low hissing sound followed her wherever she went, and the scenery looked identical from one to the other. There was nowhere to turn. She realized with despair. Yet, yet she had to keep running.
The hissing sound filled her ears, darkness covered her eyes Then suddenly, there was light dawning ahead, it seemed to approach her, faster and faster, As if itself was moving toward her, welcoming her Before she could react, she was there.
A city under water a palace of crystal dreams the home she searched for so long.
She stopped running, and slowly made her way to the altar.
~Pray, pray for Holy.~ She heard voices screaming in her head.
She felt compelled to obey. Slowly she knelt down, closing her eyes.
~That's right. Pray for Holy, child, pray for Holy and you shall be free.~ The voices in her head echoed one another, until she could no more hear the low hissing sound that haunted her day and night. She smiled. Maybe this was her home; maybe she would be free after all.
A sharp, cold object pierced through her body. She stared down with unbelieving eyes, and saw the tip of something deadly emerge from her chest.
Her heart froze. She began to fall. Finally, after all these years, she finally made out the meaning of that hateful hissing. Finally she heard it clearly.
There is no escape.
Everything went black. The ground under her dissolved into thing air. She plummeted down to the bottomless pit, into the evil that awaiting her there.
Aeris bolted up from her bed, gasping for air. She sat in complete panic for a moment, until her eyes adjusted to the darkness.
She was still alive, in her motel room, in Rocket Town.
Aeris climbed out of bed. Her knees buckled and threatened to give away, but the room was suffocating her. She had to get away.
She opened her door quietly and slipped into the hallway, walking down the stairs and into the street.
It was really late, no one was around, the street looked gloomy and deserted. In fact, the only sound she could hear was from her own pounding heart. Aeris walked some distance blindly, until she finally reached the door of a closed restaurant. Leaning back against its wall, she tried desperately to calm herself.
Night breeze felt freezing on her face. She lift a hand to wipe her face It was wet, whether from sweat or tears, she could no longer tell.
Aeris clenched her hands so tight that her nails dug into her palm, and tighter until she bled.
Is this my fate? She questioned silently, Am I to be chased all my life, to be hunted down like an animal?
There is no escape. She felt fear grasping her as she remembered those chilling words, no escape
Suddenly she heard footsteps. Aeris turned her head and immediately saw a tall shadow came into sight. She gasped and froze in place, for a moment thinking her nightmare had came true.
The figure walked closer yet, letting moonlight reign free on his face, his waist long hair shone like a silver cape behind him.
Sephiroth?! What what are you doing here? Aeris stammered.
Taking a walk. He replied in his deep, even voice, emotionless as usual.
Oh She swallowed, secretly loathing herself for appearing so weak.
Sephiroth smirked a bit, his voice becoming harsh: "Sorry to have disgusted you with my presence. Ill leave you in peace now." With that he brushed past her, heading back to the inn.
"W wait!" Aeris called out almost desperately.
He stopped, and turned his head to her with a blank expression. She swallowed hard: "I wasn't frightened certainly not disgusted by you, Sephiroth. Its just that I had a nightmare, and please dont leave."
Sephiroth studied her face closer. She was still shaking, and pale, and her eyes full of fright. But now he knew, it wasn't because of him. He saw the pleading in her eyes and understood, she was just like him, wandering at the middle of the night, pursued by nightmares.
His expression softened. Hesitantly, he walked over to her and asked: "Are you alright?"
"I'll be okay." She tried to smile, but in her present state failed miserably. With tearful eyes, she whispered: "It's only a dream, I'll be fine once I got over it."
He lowered his head. Before he knew, he had spoken: "I had a nightmare too "
"I know. I could sense it." She said, eyes half-closed and seemed to calm down in his company. Softly she spoke, "I could sense it all around you Sephiroth, you seem troubled."
He stood speechless for a moment, then shook his head, leaning against the wall beside her: "They don't go away." He said hoarsely, "You think you could run, but they are just a step behind you, waiting for a chance to hunt you down."
She couldn't help but feel a shiver up her spine. It was almost like he took those words right out of her mouth only he was running from a different nightmare.
She sighed softly: "Get over the past is not easy, I understand."
" It's not easy, it's impossible. I don't even know why I bothered to try, it is a lost course " He laughed bitterly, "Five years, no, all my life, all my life had been a damned mistake. Everywhere I look I see nothing but despise, fear, hatred Those who I killed screamed for revenge. When Jenova occupied my mind I did not feel, or care, but now... How ironic it is, she destroyed my life but I can not live with myself without her, I ."
"Don't say that!" Aeris shook her head immediately, "Everyone makes mistakes, you didn't go for the easy way out, instead you are fighting Jenova and taking responsibilities some of them are not even your responsibilities It is really a brave thing to do."
" But I don't know how long will I be able to live like this This is only the beginning, yet it's almost too much "
Aeris felt greatly for the man, as she saw all kinds of emotions torturing him: confusion, guilt, regrets
He stared at her, and for the first time, she saw an overwhelming sense of helplessness as he asked bitterly: "How do I end it? It never ends "
Without thinking, Aeris took his hands in hers. Apparently she startled him, but he was too surprised to withdraw.
"Listen to me." She said softly, looking straight into his eyes, "I haven't experienced what you been through, and perhaps I can never fully understand how you feel. But you have taken the first step, and that was the hardest thing to do. From now on it will get easier, I promise."
"How?" He asked bitterly, looking away, but he allowed her to hold onto his hands.
Aeris smiled gently: "True, you have killed, and that can not be changed, but the future is not written. Run forward with your heart, and you create the path that would lead you Help the Planet, Sephiroth, life and death is a full cycle, your good deeds will gain you forgiveness. As a Cetra, I guarantee you that much "
Sephiroth gazed into her emerald eyes, and was surprised beyond words. There were no hatred in her eyes, nor despise or fear. The only thing he found was compassion.
" Thank you." He looked at her small hands clasped over his much larger ones. Fragile as her appearance might indicate, she was the only one who dared to get this close to him No one else ever dared, ever wanted to touch him
"Aeris " He hesitated for a moment, and then finally asked, "You were troubled too, do you want to talk about it?"
She was surprised by his offer. She didn't think Sephiroth was the type to listen to other's problems. Aeris smiled in gratitude and whispered: "It was just a nightmare I don't know how to explain, but it's like my own search. I'm looking for answers and paths too." She sighed softly, "This must sound weird, but I do get visions a part of being a Cetra I guess. My enemies do not necessarily come from the past, but from possibilities of the future as well, and that really scares me out of my wits sometimes."
It was after she finished that she realized she said too much. For some reason she just confined a part of her secret to him, a part that she told no one else.
Sephiroth was silent for a moment, then he spoke in his deep, even voice which always carried an aura of authority: "I don't know what you have to face, but I will try to protect you from harm, I promise."
Aeris blinked several times before she realized what she just heard. The greatest SOLDIER in history, her one time nemesis just made an offer to watch over her. A beautiful smile slowly lit her face: "Thank you."
They looked at each other for a moment, then Aeris yawned and smiled shyly: "I think I'll be able to get some sleep now." She rubbed her arms, realizing with much embarrassment that she only wore a nightgown. A very conservative and modest one at that, but it was a nightgown nonetheless.
Sephiroth noticed as well. He cleared his throat uncomfortably and took off his trench coat: "Here "
"Thank you." Equally uncomfortable, she wrapped the leather coat around her shoulders. It warmed her, but obviously the coat was not designed for her. She looked down and noticed that the coattail is now sweeping the ground.
"I'm sorry." She said apologetically to Sephiroth, "I guess I have to grow a couple inches taller before I try for the statues of a general."
He found himself chuckle slightly as he replied: "It's alright."
Together they walked back to the inn, both more at peace now. Half an hour later when Sephiroth was lying flat on his bed, he thought about everything that happened and concluded with a lighter heart that maybe, for once, his life might be going the right direction.
Because of the nightmare she had, Aeris slept past dawn. She didn't wake up until her door flung open suddenly, and voices from outside intruded into the room.
She opened her eyes half consciously, looking at Tifa: "Good morning Tifa "
"Sorry for being rude, but we are in a rush." Tifa closed the door behind her and hurried to Aeris's side, "Please get up now, it's past eight, and Shinra troops are here."
"What?" Aeris jumped out of her bed, bolted into the bathroom, changed and quickly washed herself in five minutes. She ran out with a ribbon in her hand, her hair untied: "I'm sorry, I have no idea I slept over. Where are the others?"
"Downstairs waiting. Don't worry, only the troops got here, we still have a little more time." Tifa told her, handing over her pack and staff.
Cloud was beginning to get anxious when he saw Tifa racing down the stairs, followed by Aeris. Cloud was surprised to see that she didn't wear her braid, instead allowed the golden-brown waves to cascade down her back freely. At this moment she had a wild beauty almost similar to that of Tifa.
Sephiroth too noticed that. His expression remained blank but his felt a strange pang in his heart.
"Cloud! I'm sorry I slept over. Should we get going?" She flushed him a bright, apologetic smile, didn't notice he was staring at her.
Cloud cleared his throat and nodded: "Of course. Shinra troops have all arrived, and I spotted Rufus just moments ago. I think they are heading to Highwind's."
"Cid Highwind, the mayor."
"Oh." Aeris followed the others out the door, Tifa caught up with her, handing her a paper bag: "Here, we saved this for you."
"Thanks." She reached into the bag and started munching on a toast.
The party slowly advances toward Cid Highwind's house, using shops and villagers as their cover. After a while, they successfully found cover in the shadows of a grocery store, close enough to see the people standing in front of Cid's door.
From where she stood, Aeris saw that Cid Highwind was a fairly tall man in his thirties. He had short, messy light brown hair, and seemed tough-built. Addressing him was no other but Rufus Shinra, in his white coat as usual. However, Reno accompanied him instead of Tseng, who was his bodyguard. Aeris wondered briefly why Tseng was not here, before directing her attention to the other two seemingly important people present. Those two were both women. One wore a cream-colored business suit, the other was in a flashy golden dress and golden high-heeled boots.
Beside her, she heard Barret curse softly: "Dammit, Shera's here. That's f*&^ing no good."
"Who's Shera?" Red XIII asked quietly.
Sephiroth replied: "She is the head of the Weapon Research Department of Shinra; the one next to her is her assistant Scarlet."
"The trashy prom gal?" Barret asked him; the first sentence he directed to Sephiroth since he joined them.
Sephiroth nodded, and Cloud hissed: "It doesn't look good, we need to hear what they are saying! Let's spread out."
With those words, Cloud dodged left into a dark alley, followed closely by Tifa. Barret and Red went the other way into an alley to the right. Vincent tapped Aeris's shoulder lightly: "I'll stay here to secure an exit."
She nodded, turning to Sephiroth. The tall ex-general looked back at her and she smiled a bit: "Please lead the way."
He nodded, turning his attention back to the surroundings with calculating eyes. Finally he pointed at a Shinra truck beside Cid's house: "We go there."
Aeris's eyes widened: "What? How?" She stammered.
Sephiroth's lips curved upward slightly: "I'll get us there trust me." He led Aeris through the crowd, disappearing around a tall building.
Sephiroth felt somewhat awkward as he led Aeris through alleys, slowly approaching their target. Aeris was obviously untrained in this field; he had to put his arm around her waist and practically walk her there. He had more than once infiltrated enemy bases, leading his troops to victory, but never before did he have to do while being this close to another person.
Aeris concentrated on being cooperative as she could, clutching his arm for her dear life. It wasn't until they were crouched under the side of that huge truck, that she dared to breathe normal again, and pieces of conversation finally began filled her ears.
"What do you mean you are not here for the space program?" Cid demanded angrily.
"I meant exactly what I said. It was a waste of money and resource, those who started the program were fools to think the Promised Land lies in space." Rufus said coldly.
"To hell with your *&^% Promised Land crap!"
Aeris winced slightly at the insult, but Cid continued to shout, "Are you telling me to just &^%$ forget about what I worked for all my life? ^%$#& Damn you Rufus!"
"You will address me as Mr. President, Highwind." Rufus glared at him icily, "I couldn't care less, but Shera insisted that she has a proposition for you. Shera?"
The woman in business suit stepped forward, pushing her eyeglasses up. Cid smirked: "Oh, how may I be at your f_ _king service?"
"Listen Cid, my record shows that you are the best pilot we ever had, and I need your cooperation on my new project."
"What the &^%$ do you want?"
"I need you to fly your plane to the Temple of Ancients and defect the shield there. Shera said coolly, Of course, I will do some proper adjustments to the plane before the operation, to make sure you will be successful."
Aeris flinched at the mentioning of the Temple of Ancients. Is this something of her people? How come mother never told her about it?
Cid's angry voice dragged her attention to the present: "*&&^%! You are not laying a finger on my babe, you freaking psycho b_tch!"
Shera sounds unaffected: "Please, Cid, we need your expertise in this field."
"Hell no, I'm not working with your f*&^ing "
He was cut short by a click. Shera held a handgun, aiming straight at Cid's head with her finger on the trigger: "Alright, asshole, shut the f*&k up and listen to me. I didn't come to this shitty place for your insults. When I ask you something nicely, either you do as I said, or you can kiss your messed-up life good bye. Do I make myself clear?"
Reno whistled at Rufus' side. Shera shot him an evil eye, but he grinned innocently: "You rule, woman!"
"What do we do?" Aeris asked Sephiroth in a whisper. If they are to take action, they have to take it now.
Sephiroth suddenly spotted a slim figure next to the small airplane. He pointed: "Look, there's Scarlet."
"Is she trying to steal the plane?" Aeris's eyes widened.
Sephiroth nodded: "We have to stop her. I trust the others are somewhere nearby, leave Shera and Rufus to them."
Scarlet almost fainted when she saw the two people suddenly blocking her way. "S S Sephi " She stammered.
"Sephiroth. I didn't think you would forget my name so soon." He said coolly, one hand on the hilt of Masamune.
"Wait! You You are dead!" She took two steps back, almost tripped on the rim of her flashy gown. She opened her mouth, and was about to scream in horror, when she found the tip of Masamune on her throat.
"I'm not going to kill you unless I find that necessary. Do I make myself clear?" He asked quietly.
Scarlet barely managed a nod.
Sephiroth withdraw the sword gracefully: "Good. Now tell us something we want to know. What is Shera going to do with this plane?"
Scarlet swallowed: "We We are going to add M Mako blaster to the plane and use it to to attack "
Her sentence was cut short by gunshots. Sephiroth mumbled a curse, waving his blade at Scarlet. She ran back to Shera with amazing speed despite her high heels, and her high-pitched shrill made Aeris grimace.
Cid was considering his options when all of the sudden a red beast flew down from the roof, landed on Shera and knocked her down to the ground with the impact. At the same time a man with a huge sword appeared from the left with a beautiful woman at his side, both started to attack Rufus.
Cid grinned. Whoever these people are, he certainly welcomed the timely interruption. Cid's grin widened as he jumps forward, landing a punch on Reno's stomach. Reno had his attention on the AVALANCHE members that he was caught off guard. Cid's punch caused him to lose balance. Cid broke into a run toward his plane.
Sephiroth acted quickly, blasting the approaching guards with bolt magic. Aeris waved for Vincent to come, before engaging into a fight with Shinra guards. Cloud easily gained the upper hand in his combat with Rufus. Reno, now recovered from Cid's attack, stumbled forward to help Rufus, but the two have no desire to fight, as Reno covered for Rufus' retreat. At the same time, Tifa disarmed Shera, while Scarlet simply stood there, screaming as if her dear life depended on the high pitch.
"More troops are coming!" Barret groaned, sending massive fire at the soldiers.
Cloud looks around and shouted: "Go for the plane!"
"Quickly!" Vincent yelled while running toward them, shooting at the guards. Slowly they were able to advance toward the small plane.
Near the plane, Sephiroth efficiently stopped any soldier from getting too close. Aeris stayed close behind him, sending long range bolts of magic on anyone who chased after Cid.
Soon the man got to their side safely.
"Love ya woman!" He shouted to Aeris, before jumping onto the plane.
Hitting a few buttons on the control panel, the engine hummed and then roared, coming to life.
Cid leaned over the door and yelled: "What ya waiting for? Get your &^%$ asses on!"
Aeris continue to bombard the guards chasing after her friends with her bolts, until she was exhausted of her magical power, she then jumps on to the plane wearily.
Cloud Tifa and Red XIII soon made it too, Sephiroth got in next, while Barret and Vincent held off the guards with their bullets.
"I'm taking off!" Cid yelled.
"Barret, Vincent, get in!" Cloud came to the door to help.
Vincent jumped onto the plane as it began to rise.
Barret gave the guards one last wave of fire, then leaped for the door with all his strength. He didn't make it in, but Vincent caught his arm, pulling him up. Cloud caught Barret's other arm.
The plane took off as Cloud groaned: "Damn it, you need to go on a diet!"
"Hey everyone all right?" Tifa asked moments later, as Cid began to take a course westward to the sea.
"Yeah, we made it." Red XIII grinned, "Where are we heading?"
"Oh, I can tell you where you are going." Suddenly a female voice replied, it didn't belong to Aeris or Tifa.
"The hell?" Cid cursed from the front, "Shera? What the *&^%%?"
"You didn't think you could get away so easily, did you Cid darling?" Shera chuckled, "While we were talking, I had Scarlet deliver a present to you."
"Oh shit!" Barret muttered.
"Shera, you mother *&^%#$! What did you do?" Cid changed course immediately, looking for a landing.
"Why Cid, you break my heart. Scarlet, give them the surprise, shall we?"
"Whatever you say, boss. Kya hahahahaha "
"So that's why Reno calls her Kya haha " Aeris whispered to no one in particular. Then she heard a loud explosion in the back as the plane shook violently, sending her flying from her seat. Sephiroth, who sat next to her, quickly pulled her toward him to steady her.
"*&^%$^%&%$%! That was the engine room!" Cid cursed, "We are going down!"
The plane shook even more violently; dropping down with a speed that made Aeris's heart sank to the floor. She clutched blindly onto Sephiroth and shot her eyes tight. The last thing she heard was screams and Cid's booming voice: "Shera, you mother of *&^%$^& bitches! I'm gonna get you for this! *&&^&%*(*& "
Then, everything went black.
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