Love and Life Chapter 9

Black Magic Woman

By Medina

“Where am I?” Tifa asked, blinking her eyes at the brightness of the place that she awoke to. Her eyes came into focus and standing before her was... Aeris?

“Tifa? You’re here too? But how? You’re not an Ancient...” she said, helping Tifa up off of the ground. Tifa looked around: before her was a magnificent place, full of beauty and life. There were hills in the distance, there was water too, but it all seemed... perfect.

“And where is this? I was just with Cloud in the Midgar forest, and I was really really tired -- no, I was dying... I’m dead? Then if you’re here, this must be...” she trailed off and looked about again.

“...The Promised Land. Yes, this is it, and this is where I am, but normal humans like you are supposed to return to the Lifestream itself-- is there something that you weren’t telling people all that time?” Aeris asked.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Tifa told her. “Say, er, how are you?” Tifa asked, trying to get a conversation going with Aeris now that she was here again. Aeris giggled in the way that she tended to do.

“I’m fine. All of us here, thanks to Holy, were able to send our power back to the planet and we were able to save things, as you saw,” Tifa nodded, “And... I found out that my death there was, er, fated. They needed one more person here to send their power back, and hey, one madman and a sword ended that problem,” Aeris joked a rather morbid joke.

“The Promised Land...” Tifa remembered Cloud. “With me gone now, Cloud must be pretty lonely...” she said, looking down. Aeris remembered him too.

“Oh yeah...” she thought, looking around, “How was he doing, after I left?”

“He took it hard -- I know that he loved you, Aeris, back then. I think that he deserved to have a chance with you. You had shown interest in him from the start, and I, well, put him aside for so many years,” Tifa told Aeris. She had wished to tell this to her for such a long time now, but had never had the chance. Aeris blushed and looked down, demurely.

“Well, thanks Tifa, you flatter me, but I don’t see you as any less deserving than I am. You know him much better than I ever got a chance to -- maybe you had your reasons for putting him aside so long ago. No hard feelings here,” she said, grinning.

“And none left here. Gosh... I still can’t believe that I ended up in the Promised Land. How is this possible? Me, Tifa Lockheart, a normal human going to the land of the Cetra.”

“Yeah... I wonder if someone could explain it,” Aeris said. And, like a wish being granted, it happened. Behind her popped up a little man. He was very old, and had a white mustache, a bowler hat and a cane.

“Hey, you, girls,” he said. Tifa and Aeris turned around, startled.

“Who are you? I haven’t seen you around here before?” Aeris said, giving him a good looking over.

“That is because I’m not from here, but you summoned me up. With your askance, Aeris, and your power, Tifa, I have come to explain your situation to you,” he told them, tipping his hat to them. Aeris and Tifa looked at each other.

“Erm, okay,” Tifa began, “Can you tell me how I ended up here?” she said, not really expecting much.

“You, Tifa Lockheart, are not what you seem. Five years ago, you should have died when Sephiroth slashed you at the reactor,” he began, catching both Tifa and Aeris’ attention. “But you didn’t die. Have you ever wondered why that is?” Tifa looked around, thinking.

“Ah... no, actually, I just thought that I recovered naturally. I woke up a week after that in the Shin Ra mansion in a bed, with Zangan beside me. He took care of me until I was fully healed and able to leave. I don’t see how you can say that I was supposed to die if I did in fact live, but now that you mention it, it was quite a bad wound... actually, I thought that it was ne arly as bad as what killed Aeris,” Tifa conjectured, now feeling a bit confused. She looked to Aeris, who had no solution for her either.

“Tifa, dear, you were taken, along with Cloud and Zack, into Hojo’s lab of horrors. But instead of the normal “Sephiroth Clone” infusion, you underwent a different, more detailed experiment. Hojo wanted an eternal bride for himself when Sephiroth brought forth the new world that Hojo though that he would be part of. So he saw you; a pretty young girl with nothing to lose, and at his mercy. First off, he had been saving up some special Jenova cells that he had recently discovered that were shared with Sephiroth. Though he had no idea what these would do, he put them in anyway. Secondly, he put in Cetra cells, which had been extracted from Aeris’ mother, Ifalina, after ShinRa salvaged and dissected her corpse. And lastly, he added a bit of naturally condensed mako, which is nearly materia, but has no elemental charge to it yet,” he waited a moment, seeing the look of disgust on Tifa’s face.

“That old pervert... did that to me?” she shivered, “ugh... I should have been more psycho than Cloud was -- and bride to that old balding mad scientist; I’m glad that I never knew anything about this,” she said, feeling tainted. Aeris patted her on the shoulder in consolation.

“Well, look at the bright side: you and I are almost sisters!” Aeris smiled, trying to be positive. Tifa grinned back, though a weak one.

The old man looked as if he wanted to go on. Tifa and Aeris gave him their attention back. “Yes, but Hojo’s plan never saw light. He nearly accomplished all that he wanted, but the ShinRa were forced to withdraw in haste the week after Nibelheim was burned, so he had to leave you there, for all of his equipment was there. By this time, Cloud and Zack had already escaped, and only a few stragglers remained. He never was able to implement the final part of his plan, which was to erase your memories and reprogram you as his wife, lucky for you.

Inside one of those experiment tubes you were left, and neither Hojo, nor you, nor anyone else knew of the powers that his meddling had left deep inside you. The Cetra cells and the Jenova cells alone would never have done anything if it were not for the pre-materia mako. The mysterious, potent energy of it brought out the full potential of the cells. The Cetra cells allowed you to come to this place, and if you really would have tried to listen, you too could have communicated with the planet the way that Aeris did. But the real interesting part is the Jenova cells. You noticed the way that Sephiroth was able to almost fully resurrect himself after Cloud threw him into the depths of the reactor? You have that power now, but not only to virtually resurrect yourself, but fully,” Tifa and Aeris looked at the old man incredulously. He nodded, “Yes, and also, since you have the power of that pre-materia, your spiritual powers are beyond belief, thus how you were able to summon me. Being in the Promised Land, you are also allowed access to other realities, and you will be able to return fully to any reality which you do not already live in. Now, that sums it up pretty well. You have an awesome power, my dear, and some great choices at hand.”

“Wow...” Tifa marveled, looking down at her own hands. Such power and ability that she never knew she had... though all thanks to that old goat, Hojo.

Aeris looked amazed, and a little doused by the revelation: Tifa, the girl who had never had much special about her before was now ten times as exotic as she, Aeris, had ever been. “Now I know how the other half feels...” she said to herself. “You can go back to Cloud now, Tifa! He won’t be lonely,” Aeris added aloud, painfully. Tifa looked back at her friend empathetically.

“I guess that would be right, since I’m not longer in my own reality, I could go back, right?” she looked at the old man, who nodded. She looked at Aeris again, who now had her old smile back on her face, though Tifa knew that Aeris was forcing it. “What about bringing other people back? Is that possible at all?” she asked the visitor, who thought about it for a while. Tifa glanced back at Aeris, who, this time, had a genuine grin upon her cute countenance.

“I’m not really sure, my dear,” the old visitor answered after his moment in thought, “I don’t believe that it’s been tried too often, to be able to bring another back into the world with you. I would guess that it would have to be filling the void of not having you, Tifa, in it, but that would mean that only one of you could go back to a single reality at a time.” Tifa and Aeris exchanged glances again, both hopeful, but realizing the potential problem. “And,” he added again, “I do believe that I’ve left something out. You, like Sephiroth, will be able to survey the world that you enter into without becoming part of it; entering in a semi-ethereal form, whereas your essence is still a part of the Promised Land. This may help you in your choosing of realities.”

“We have GOT to do this, Tifa, it’ll be a kick!” Aeris nearly screamed in so much excitement. Tifa wasn’t as gripped as Aeris; she wondered if there were some sort of consequence to all of this. “Hey Old Guy, how do we get to doing this?” she asked in the cutest manner she could muster.

“Aeris, please, let me handle this -- It is my power, right?” she said uptightly, flourishing her hands out in front of her to get Aeris to back down. The girl did, and tried her best to wait patiently. “Now, just a few more questions -- who are you, where did you come from, and how do you know all of this? I just find this all a little to convenient for common sense to trust. It all seems too simple,” she said, looking at the old man suspiciously.

He took of his hat for a moment and brushed off the dust and looked up at Tifa, who blinked back down at him. “I am the keeper of the nexus between time and space, and the reason that I know all of this is that I have access to all the events of the past, present and future. Your power is not nearly as simple as I have described it to you. Had I explained to you in full what you had within you, neither you or your bubbly friend would have a clue as to what I was talking about. In short, your powers opened up a rift within time and space, allowing you into my realm, where you will have to go through in order to go to where you wish to go, which is why I, specifically, am here. Now, do you wish to use your powers or not?”

Tifa turned a little red, having just been told off, but regained her composure, smiled, and nodded to him. “Yes. They say there’s no time like the present,” she noticed Aeris, again, who was watching her with those plaintive green eyes. “Oh, and I’d like to take Aeris with me.” Aeris smiled even wider, and walked up next to Tifa.

“Now,” the old visitor began, “simply will yourself there. In the ethereal realm a thought it more powerful than anything else.”

Tifa did thus, wishing all three of them to be in the place that the old man had described to them, and in an instance, they were there. Tifa looked around: nothing but the swirling blackness of the universe, and a platform, with a lamp post, and doors that looked like they led into utter nothingness. Aeris was looking around in much the same way, and the old man simply sauntered to his customary place under the lamp post.

“So we’re here. What do I do?” asked Tifa, more bravely than she actually felt. The old man gestured to the large door on one side.

“That door represents full immersion into a reality. Don’t use that one until you’re sure which reality you want to return to,” he pointed to another, smaller door. “That one represents the entrance into the semi-etheral way, where you will be able to return. The final door,” he pointed to the door behind them, “will lead you back to the Promised Land. If you want to return from either the Promised Land or the semi-ethereal state, you simply will yourself. When choosing realities to go to, they will come at what sort of reality you bid, or by random, if you wish. Just wish right before you step through... (yawn), that’s all you need to know... the power’s in your hands, my dear,” he said in a rush, seeming eager to get into the snooze which he settled himself down into as soon as he had finished speaking.

Tifa looked at the doors, and then at Aeris. “What do you want to do now, Aeris? I was thinking...” Tifa started slowly, “you deserved more time with Cloud... and Cloud -- he deserved the chance to choose for himself which woman he loved more,” she looked at Aeris nervously, but the girl showed nothing but support on her face, and placed her hand on Tifa’s shoulder.

“You don’t have to, Tifa, really...”

“But I want to. You were robbed of your life, and I wouldn’t want to go back to Cloud if he really should have been with you in the first place,” Tifa explained.

“In other words,” Aeris said, “You want to be first pick, or not picked at all.”

Tifa looked down. “Yes... actually. I just wouldn’t want to be always overshadowed by you, and the fact that I could have given you back to him at this point.”

Aeris looked around, trying to seem distracted. “I see. I understand too, but, I was kinda interested in exploring some other realities -- if you didn’t mind sending me, that is,” she added on hastily.

Tifa looked up jubilantly, and nodded. “Of course, if you want to, I’d be happy to let you look. Do you want to go now?”

Aeris nodded. “But how do I get out?” Tifa thought for a moment, and just decided that if she had as much power as the old man made out, she would be able to implement her own rules to those people who she was to help.

“You should just be able to come back whenever you feel like it, with a week’s max at any one place. I’m planning to go and look around too, but we shouldn’t get too wrapped up. When you think it’s time to move on, just wish for me to come back, and I’ll hear you. Okay?” she looked at Aeris, who nodded again. The two of them stood before the small door. Aeris thought for a moment, then looked at Tifa, who willed the reality shift, and opened the door. Aeris waved, and walked in. The door shut behind her, waiting for Tifa’s choice. She thought for a moment, and remembered how it might be good to take care of some business for now. She opened the door and was gone.


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