A Promise Kept Chapter 8
"She is the last Cetra on this planet. Her safety is important to our course." (Sephiroth)
Aeris woke up feeling like a broken wheat bag. She groaned softly and opened her eyes, blinking hard.
When her vision finally cleared, she found herself lying flat on her back, with her cheek pressed against Sephiroth's bare chest. He had thrown himself on top of her to protect her, but somehow he managed to position himself in such a way that he didn't crush her with his much heavier weight.
Aeris blushed severely at the intimacy, praying that no one else on the plane saw them this way. She moved with difficulty, trying to free herself from under his arms. Just then Sephiroth stirred, his eyes snapped open.
It only took him a few seconds to get into focus, he quickly pushed himself into a standing position and helped Aeris to her feet.
"Are you alright?"
" " She looked at the ground, still too embarrassed to say anything.
" I'm sorry."
"Umm?" She blinked in surprise, having no idea what in the world he was apologizing for. She looked up at him.
Sephiroth was still holding her waist to steady her, but he refused to look her way. His body was tense and rigid, and his expression was cold almost pained.
Aeris immediately understood. He thought she loathed the physical contact. She had noticed it earlier too, the ex-general seemed to think that everyone else saw him as a virus. Aeris silently scolded herself for being so thoughtless, and gently put a hand on his arm to reassure him.
Sephiroth looked down at her questioningly, she smiled at him: "I don't know why you are apologizing. But thank you, for protecting me."
He nodded, unable to explain why he felt so relieved hearing her words. He doesn't give a damn about what the others think of him does he?
Aeris looked around the place. On the far end of the plane Cloud and Tifa just woke up, both very much embarrassed. Somehow they were thrown into the wall together, Cloud had his face buried in Tifas bosom, and Tifa's long legs wrapped around his waist.
Aeris turned her head elsewhere, pretending that she didn't see the humiliating scene. But Sephiroth saw the laughter on her face that she tried so hard to suppress. Aeris winked at him playfully, and mouthed the words: "We saw nothing of that, okay?"
Sephiroth almost smirked. But he quickly checked himself and only nodded his agreement, turning his attention to other people.
He and Aeris immediately saw Vincent in trouble and rushed over. Sephiroth lifted the huge metal chunk that crashed Vincent's left leg, with some help from Barret.
Then Aeris and Red XIII cast cure3 on him and he was able to move after that.
Just then they heard Cid stir in the front. The pilot cursed every single executive of Shinra, Shera in particular, with such an enthusiasm that left everyone amazed. He would have put sailors to complete shame.
"He sure turns cursing into an art." Tifa murmured as Cid emerges from pilot's room.
"Well, what the %$#@ you all staring at?" Cid boomed, "Get your asses outta this *&^%ed place, now!"
No one minded his harsh tone at the moment. One by one they climbed out of the ruined plane, leaning on one another for support.
Cloud felt extremely irritated to see Sephiroth's hand around Aeris's waist, but he forced himself not to lose it. Aeris looked tired and pale, it was obvious that she needed assistance And no, they did NOT look like a couple!
"Well, does anyone know where are we right now?" Red's deep voice made Cloud snap back into reality. He looked around and frowned: "I don't know Cid?"
"I don't give a *&^% damn if we are in ^%$# hell!" The pilot was still in a very bad mood.
Cloud was about to say something when Vincent cursed out aloud: "Shit! We got company."
Indeed, about thirty men dressed in Shinra uniform appeared. It was an MP squad.
Cid spat on the ground: "This is not the %$#@ time!"
Everyone silently agreed before drawing their weapons and staggering into battle positions. Most of them were exhausted, weak, and dazed. The last thing they want to deal with was an assault.
Aeris bit her lips nervously and gripped her staff tighter than usual. She was never a great fighter. Usually she could somewhat hold herself but in her weakened stage she was not at all that confident. Besides, she was not even sure if she had what it takes to cast her healing spells, and healing was the only thing she could help her teammates with
But before she had time to reflect on anything else, the fight started. Suddenly everyone around her moved in a speed so fast that it made her dizzy, weapons clashed and curses exchanged. Aeris did her best to concentrate on her surroundings and guarded herself against her two opponents, but it was just so hard to focus
She felt her energy draining away and her mind became numb. It wasn't good, she better finish this soon. Aeris clenched her teeth, hard, and fought on.
Nearby, Tifa was having the same trouble. She found herself out of breath and her attacks became weaker and weaker with every passing moment. Her exhaustion had slowed her down. Agility was usually one of her biggest advantage over her enemies, but not today. Tifa glanced around quickly and made her decision. She fought her way toward Aeris, yelling her name at the same time.
Aeris understood Tifas intentions immediately. Yes, it would be better if they could watch each others backs. She tried her best to force her opponent back, moving toward Tifa. But It was just so hard Her hands were numb and shaky now, staff clashed with a heavy sword. Aeris winced, feeling a hot pain in the muscles around her shoulder blades.
Suddenly she heard a cry behind her back, then, in a speed quicker than lighting, a figure stepped in from the side and finished her opponent.
Aeris breathed a sigh of relief. Sephiroth had came to her rescue.
She was allowed a few precious moments to catch her breath, as she watched the fight with awe and admiration. Sephiroth looked calm, his movements were extremely graceful as if this was what he was born to do. He had great talents in the battlefield.
Finally Tifa found her way to Aeriss side, just in time too. The two quickly pressed their backs against each other and faced their attackers. Each found the job easier without having to worry about enemies from the behind.
Sephiroth saw that the girls were holding themselves well, he then attacked the MPs more freely, wandering further away from Aeriss side.
In another fifteen minutes, the assault squad was taken care of. Everyone sat on the grassy field, exhausted.
"So, any ideas about where we are?" Red spoke first, breaking the silence.
Vincent spoke carefully: "I am not sure, but this might be the island of Wutai."
"Sephiroth, you led the war with Wutai right? What do you think?" Aeris asked for the silver hair man's opinion.
"It does look familiar." He said looking at his feet, "If I'm not mistaking, the town is just about fifteen miles ahead."
Everyone else looked at Cloud, expecting him to make a decision. After a short while Cloud nodded reluctantly: "Let's go find out."
Aeris secretly breathed a sigh of relief and smiled: "We should get going then. Maybe we can still catch a late lunch in town."
"Sounds good to me." Barret echoed her enthusiastically on that.
They reached the town around two o'clock in the afternoon. Vincent stopped when the gates were visible ahead: "I think I'll stay here and wait."
"Why?" Red cocked his head to the side and asked.
Vincent replied with a hint of bitterness: "I'm originally from Wutai. If my old acquaintances sees me like this, they will freak out."
Sephiroth then spoke quietly: "I will wait here as well. I led the war against Wutai years ago. I'm not welcomed here."
Barret snorted and muttered under his breath, but loud enough for most of them to hear: "You are not welcomed anywhere you crazy psychopath."
Sephiroth didn't move but his eyes flashed in anger and his jaw twitched. Cloud tensed up, putting a hand on the handle of his sword.
Aeris spoke softly, trying her best to break the tension: "I'll wait here as well, Cloud. I'm too tired for any exploration and excitement right now." She emphasized on the word "excitement," clearly hinting what she meant.
Cloud stared at her for a couple seconds, then slowly lowered his hand: "Aeris are you sure?" He didn't want to leave her alone with Sephiroth and Vincent, but she was right, they were all too tired for a big fight right now.
Aeris smiled reassuringly: "Yeah, I'm ready to collapse any moment. I'll probably take a nap here, if you don't mind."
"Be careful then." Cloud finally gave in to her wishes, and gestured for the rest of the group to follow him.
Sephiroth stood like a statue, watching the group disappear from his view. He felt extremely angry but in his heart, he knew there was truth to Barret's words. He felt painful.
Get over it. He clenched his fists and told himself. You promised your mother to help them, now do your job and get it over with as soon as possible.
Aeris watched him for a minute, then slowly walked over and put her hand on his arm. He almost jumped, but then he allowed her touch, his face rigid and expressionless.
"Give them some time." She pleaded softly, "Please, don't be angry with Barret."
"What he said was the truth." He replied flatly, "I was insane, I killed many people, and I know I'm not welcomed anywhere."
"But you have changed. In time they, and rest of the planet, will appreciate what you are doing for all of us."
He finally shifted his gaze to her face: "That doesn't change the fact that I'm a monster."
Aeris frowned: "You are not a monster Sephiroth. You are human like the rest of us please remember that."
"A human with inhuman capabilities and an unstable mind." He reminded her bitterly, "I'm contaminated with Jenova's cells."
"I'm the last with Cetra blood in me, does that make me a monster too?" She replied calmly: "You are using your abilities to help us. As for unstable mind I'd say you are controlling it pretty well since you joined us. I I respect that, Sephiroth. I just want you to know that I respect you for what you are doing and, for who you are."
He stared at her in surprise, never expecting to hear such words from anyone. She however did not turn away from his gaze. Looking into her soft green eyes, he could tell she seriously meant every word she uttered.
Sephiroth felt a lump in his throat: "Thank you, Aeris."
She smiled and bowed her head, suddenly shy for being so outspoken. She cleared her throat: "I guess I better go take my nap, before I collapse on the ground. I don't want to be the first person on this planet to die from lack of sleep."
Sephiroth looked at her with concern: "Are you alright?"
She paused for a moment, then chuckled: "Yes, I'm fine. Don't take my words too seriously Sephiroth, girls tend to exaggerate everything out of proportion."
She found a tree and sat down against the trunk, looking up to him and smiled: "But I am kind of drowsy right now. So Later, Sephiroth."
" Have a good rest." He replied, walked over to sit on a huge rock nearby. Further away Vincent leaned against another tree, polishing his gun.
Well she sure hope Sephiroth would start talking to Vincent too, those two have a lot in common. With that thought Aeris allowed herself to relax in the warm afternoon sun, and soon fell asleep.
She had the strangest dream. There was no sound, no people, only strange images flashing before her eyes like a slide show. She saw a black orb, an ancient temple, a terrifying yet beautiful meteor, and shell houses. These images kept on repeating. She wanted to reach out and touch them but trial after trial she found no success.
Finally she let out a cry of frustration, and she woke up.
What was that all about? She wondered briefly, was it some kind of a vision? If it was, what message was it trying to send to her? Then Aeris noticed that the sun was about to set, it was getting late. She quickly got to her feet and looked around expectantly for Cloud and the rest, but found them nowhere in sight. Only Vincent and Sephiroth were here with her, one seemed to be deep in thought while the other polished his sword.
Knowing how much tension existed between Cloud and Sephiroth, she'd rather not ask the foreboding SOLDIER about Cloud. So she turned to Vincent instead: "The others are not back yet?"
He shook his head: "No."
"It's taking them too long I hope they didn't run into any trouble." Aeris said, more to herself than to Vincent. She then bit her lower lip: "I think I'll go there to look for them. If I happen to miss them, just tell them to wait awhile for me okay? I won't take long."
"Do you think it's wise?" Vincent asked, "You shouldn't be exploring the town alone. Perhaps I should go with you."
She shook her head: "No, I'll be okay. I'm just gonna go take a quick look at the town. Besides I want to take some time to think about certain things."
Vincent nodded: "Be careful then."
"I will, thank you." She walked back to her belongings, found a scarf in her pack, and wrapped it around her head to conceal the materia in her hair. Sephiroth must've heard her conversation with Vincent, but he didn't say anything Maybe he didn't care who goes where at all.
Oh well. Aeris shrugged mentally and picked up her staff. She waved to both of them and walked toward the town.
Moments later Sephiroth got up, putting on a brown cloak: "I'm going after her."
Vincent nodded. His face was straight but there was a hint of amusement in his eyes: "I thought you would."
Sephiroth glared at him: "She is the last Cetra on this planet. Her safety is important to our course."
Vincent nodded again neutrally: "Agreed."
Sephiroth looked at him suspiciously. He was about to say something but then decided against it. Without another word he took off.
Vincent gazed after his disappearing figure with a mixture of emotions. The son of Lucrecia is falling in love, he could tell. It would probably do Sephiroth a lot good, if if Aeris feels the same way toward him. But does she?
Vincent had doubt in his mind. After all, Aeris was just the kind of person who showed compassion toward everyone around her. Maybe what she felt for Sephiroth was nothing but that compassion. Much as he hate to admit, Sephiroth's cold exterior was intimidating, and his past and tendency to be a loner just adds to the problem.
Vincent rubbed his forehead with his good hand, and sighed.
Sephiroth caught up with Aeris right after she entered the town. She was surprised, but his intrusion did not upset her. She had to admit, she felt safer exploring around with a companion.
Cloud's group was nowhere in sight. Disappointed, Aeris was about to head back when she saw a bar, she then decided to gather some information from there.
She entered into the dark room with Sephiroth only a few paces behind.
Looking around idly, Reno suddenly spotted a girl who wore a red jacket, her back looked utterly familiar to him. He squinted several times and then identified her as Aeris Gainsborough.
Reno considered his options. Although on duty right now, he could pretend that he didn't see her. But maybe if he brought her to the Temple of Ancients, Tseng 's job would be less risky. He thought about Elena's worried expression and made up his mind.
He walked straight to her and tapped her on the shoulder.
Aeris turned around, when she saw who it was her expression changed into one of surprise. Obviously she didn't think she would run into him here.
"Reno," She regarded him with a rather forced smile, "I didn't expect to see you."
He nodded solemnly: "I'm on an assignment in Wutai. I'm sorry Aeris, but you would have to come with me."
She smiled sadly: "You are going to kidnap me?"
He nodded, wearing a serious expression instead of her usual mockery: "I will use force if I have to."
"She is not going anywhere with you, Turk." A cold voice suddenly cut in. Sephiroth emerged from the shadows behind Aeris, He pushed the hood of his cloak back slightly, revealing his eyes and a lock of silver hair.
That was all Reno needed to identify him. He swallowed nervously: "I thought that Strife guy was your bodyguard? Since when did that change?"
"Sephiroth is my friend." Aeris said flatly, arching an eyebrow, "Now if you will excuse us "
Reno was thinking of stopping her, but Sephiroth glared at him coldly, with his gloved hand on the halt of Masamune. Reno gulped. He wasn't about to test his battle skills against the finest SOLDIER in Shinra's history, however
"Aeris, please wait!" He called to her almost desperately.
She stopped in her track and turned her head: "What is it, Reno?"
He walked up to her slowly, and confided in a low voice: "Remember this morning, Tseng was not in Rocket Town? Well, he got an assignment to find an item called the Key Stone. I believe it is the key to open the Temple of Ancients."
"What?" Aeris gasped.
Reno nodded: "Shinra is still looking for a way to blast the shield around that island. Tseng was ordered to retrieve the Key Stone and then get a materia of some sort from the Temple, once the shield is defected."
He looked at Aeris darkly: "Look darling, call me paranoid if you want to, but I really have a bad feeling about this whole business. I think Tseng might be in danger Please help him if you could."
Aeris nodded gratefully: "I will Reno, thank you and take care of yourself."
Once they exited the town, Sephiroth immediately took off the brown cloak he wore. Meeting Aeris's questioning gaze, he shrugged: "It only gets in the way."
"I see." She smiled, happy that he would actually talk to her without her asking a question. She decided to make an attempt at conversation: "What do you think of the things Reno said?"
He thought for a moment, then replied: "I can't tell if he is being completely honest with us."
"I think he is." Aeris paused for a moment, then told him the truth she never told anyone before: "I'm actually friends with him him and Tseng."
All that indicating Sephiroth's surprise was the slight arch of an eyebrow.
"I've known Tseng since I was but six or seven. He came to recruit me for Shinra, but he never used any force against me, gradually we became like friends. He, and then Reno, taught me how to use my staff. When Shinra discovered my real identity they were ordered to capture me. They took their job seriously when they are on duty, but they never tried too hard."
Aeris sighed softly, "I'm sure Reno was really worried about Tseng, that's why he told us those things."
Sephiroth nodded thoughtfully: "Then there must be a reason behind Shinra's actions. It seems they are going through a lot of trouble to get to the Temple of Ancients Do you know that place Aeris?"
"No My birth mother died when I was very little, although we still have a weak telepathic link between us, communication was very limited." She shook her head sadly, "I really don't know much about my heritages I'm still trying to figure out who I really am."
Sephiroth pondered her words. It was the first time that he realized that there were a lot of similarities in their pasts. Maybe
Maybe that's why she seemed to understand how he felt and what he was going through. She was one of the very few, dead or alive, whom ever offered him compassion
However he didn't let his thoughts drift any further, instead he focused on their conversation: "Reno mentioned about Shinra ordering Tseng to retrieve a materia from the temple. I think that's a major hint to their goal. Do you have any idea what materia are they talking about?"
"I don't " Aeris suddenly froze in her track. Images flashed past her mind, images from the dream she had this afternoon. Images of a black orb, an ancient temple, and a meteor hovering in the sky.
She then understood.
White, hot flames exploded before her eyes, she felt as if the ground was dissolving under her feet. Her knees buckled, she held her head between hands and fell on her knees with a cry.
She then heard it. The screaming voices of the Planet
"Aeris!" Sephiroth shouted her name in alarm. He immediately knelt down beside her, but was unsure of what to do. "Aeris! What's wrong?"
His voice seemed distant All she could hear now was the wailing of the planet, so urgent, so frightening, so
"Stop!" Aeris clenched her fists over her ears and begged through teary eyes: "Stop! Please stop "
That was what Cloud and the rest saw, when they came back for their teammates. They saw Aeris on the ground begging for mercy, with Sephiroth right in front of her.
Almost everyone jumped to conclusions.
"What are you doing to her? You god-damned bastard!" Cloud shouted, raising his sword and charged at Sephiroth.
"Let go of Aeris!"
"You *&^% let go of dat girl!"
Tifa and Barret were right on Cloud's heels.
"No! Stop!" Aeris threw herself into Sephiroth's arms, leaning against him for support and to prevent the fight. With her eyes closed in pain, she barely managed to whisper: "It wasn't him, it was the Planet "
Sephiroth would have gladly accepted Avalanche's challenge, but with Aeris hung limply on his arms, he could think of nothing else but her pain. Holding Masamune defensively with one hand, he gently pressed Aeris's head against his shoulder with the other: "Is there anything that I can do?"
Watching the scene, Cloud's eyes flashed in anger, but he said nothing in fear of upsetting Aeris further.
Beside him Tifa wore a blank expression. It bothered her to see her friend so close to that monster, but somehow she felt she had no right to interfere. At this moment Sephiroth seemed changed.
Finally the screams in Aeris's head subsided. She took several deep breaths, and the pounding in her head ceased, her heartbeat slowed down.
"I'm okay now, I think " She pressed against her temple, and apologized to Sephiroth, "Sorry."
He said nothing, instead steadied her. Cloud asked anxiously: "Aeris, what just happened?"
"I think I just received a warning from the Planet." Aeris said with an unusually dark expression, "Cloud, we must go to the Temple of Ancients as soon as possible, there lies a materia with tremendous power. If it falls into the hands of Shinra or Jenova, the result could be devastating."
Tifa looked at her in surprise: "That's exactly what we heard in town, that Shinra are after the Black Materia in the Temple of Ancients. Yuffie, I guess you are telling the truth."
It was then that Aeris realized that there was someone else standing behind Cloud. She was a teenager girl of sixteen or seventeen, who, judging from her choice of weapon, was a ninja.
Aeris smiled weakly at her: "I'm Aeris, nice meeting you."
"Likewise, I'm Yuffie Kisagrie, Leader of Wutai." The girl replied evenly, "I have a ship ready to sail anytime, what will take us to the island where the temple is. We can go whenever you guys are ready."
"We still have to get Vincent." Tifa said, after a moment, she added, "Don't worry Yuffie, we will help you take care of Rufus."
Yuffie nodded and said nothing.
Go To Chapter 9
Return To FF7 Fanfic