Venus Gospel Logos Part 3
By Princess Artemis
"That all happened about three weeks ago," Cid finished his story about how he got hurt, strangely calm. Red XIII had noted with increasing optimism that after leaving Rocket Town, Cid had managed to maintain his composure, albeit with great difficulty at times, the entire trip. The farther they got from Rocket Town, the better he coped. Red XIII wondered briefly if it was just a change of pace or the fact that the shadow had been left behind in Rocket Town.
"Wow. I didnt know Shera was the violent type," Cloud commented after letting Cids story sink in for a few minutes. He took a sip of his beer and diddled with a small coaster on the table. He had trouble imagining Shera hurting anyone. He knew she seemed weak when she was seen silently putting up with Cids crap, but he also knew her to be exceptionally calm in the face of adversity, which took a great deal of strength. Even when Palmer was trying to steal the Tiny Bronco she had been very calm and low-key about it, suggesting that Cloud should go talk to him. Shera seemed like the type with a fuse a mile long.
Cid frowned. "She isnt," he replied after a long silence. He rubbed the scar again. The confusion of emotions he had been feeling seemed to have subsided for the duration. He still felt terrible for pushing Shera to that point, but it was not a paralyzing remorse. "Not usually, anyway. She puts up with a lot," he added. Using the butt of his old cigarette, he lit another. He wasnt generally a chain smoker, although he consumed more than his share, but remembering how he was burned and talking about it had drained him. Even now the world was just a bit dimmer to his right, but thankfully not too much. He was almost deaf, however.
Cloud leaned his elbow on the table and supported his head with one hand. His brow furrowed in thought. The two engineers had lived together for years, not even romantically, and they still got in rows that would put many a lovers quarrel to shame. They shared a deep friendship, but even that love foundered. The blond swordsman wondered how he and Tifa would fare in the long run. He lived with her now and they had their share of battles, mostly small ones, but some were extremely hurtful. He loved Tifa passionately but that wasnt enough. He gazed into the distance, searching for some answer that would allow faulty humans to love without killing each other in the process. He got no answer.
Red XIII looked up at Cid. "I see youre feeling better. Perhaps you just needed a change of scenery. It must have been very unsettling to have an attempt made on your life." The fiery animal turned toward the door. "I hope that is all it is, anyway." Hoping against what he knew deep down to be the truth. Humans were not the only kind to set the veil of what they wanted to know over what they did know.
Cid flicked some ash off the end of his cigarette. Red XIII was just deceiving himself. The pilot still felt that shadow, somewhere, not near, but somewhere. He knew it was following him to Kalm, he knew it was in the black smoke, but he didnt know why it followed. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the swinging door of the Empyrean Circle open and so he looked toward it. A familiar person walked in, but for the moment, Cid couldnt recall where he had seen the man.
The man looked around the room then strode toward the table occupied by Red XIII, Cloud, and Cid. He carried an envelope in his hand. Cloud gazed at him warily. The man wore average clothes, a green turtleneck sweater and jeans. He arrived at the table and proffered the envelope. "This just arrived for you, Mr. Strife."
Raising his eyebrows, Cloud reached out and took the envelope. "Who do I know that would send me mail?"
"Its from a Ms. Shera Stargazer," answered the man.
"Shera! Why would she send me mail!" Cloud exclaimed. Cid looked intently at Clouds letter.
Red XIII set his large paws on the table. "Well?"
Cloud shrugged then slipped a finger under the seal on the envelope. He managed to tear a corner off the enclosed paper in his bungled attempt to open it. Tifa had purchased many a letter opener for him but he always lost them. He grinned sheepishly at the mocking stare he got from Cid. Cloud removed the letter with some difficulty but it was extracted without further incident. He unfolded the paper and held the torn corner in its rightful spot.
Cid looked back at the letter carrier, suddenly remembering where he saw him before. "You were in Rocket Town. I remember; you asked about my spear. What the hell are you doing here deliverin mail?"
The man looked askance toward Cid. "I dont know what youre talking about, sir. Sorry." With that, the man turned to leave.
Cid narrowed his eyes at the retreating stranger as Cloud read his letter, a deep frown marking his features. "This doesnt sound like her at all. She says everything is fine and asks how the weather is. She also says something about daisies growing and how she wishes we would visit sometime. I dont think this is even her handwriting."
Red XIII placed his nose near the paper and the envelope. He growled deeply and said with a mixture of fear and anger, "The envelope smells like Shera but the letter like Seir!"
Cid stood quickly, grasping his stomach. He felt extremely ill. Should have thought of that! You knew there was a dangerous man in Rocket Town! He stumbled back, stooped from the intensity of his anxiety. Itll be your fault! He felt like crying but found himself strangely unable.
Red XIII declared, "We have to go back. She may be in trouble. We dont have time to cross the ocean by boat lets go to the Chocobo ranch and get Cids gold Chocobo. Ill see you to Junon."
Cloud rose and stalked to the door. "Youre right," he answered with a determined tone, "I wish you could come, but youre right, well have to cross by Chocobo. Cmon, lets go." He grabbed the Ragnarok and set it on his back, then turned to say goodbye to Tifa.
Cid wrapped his shaking hands around the haft of the Venus Gospel, feeling the spears faint life flicker a bit stronger. He took it and left Tifas bar.
Outside, the two men mounted their Chocobos and quickly rode out toward the Ranch. Red XIII followed, easily keeping pace with Boco and Setzer. It took just about a half-hour to reach the Ranch, where Choco Billy, one of the ranch hands, greeted them warmly.
"What can I do for you?" Choco Billy asked good-naturedly.
Setzer sidled up next to him, cooing quietly, her crest rising in greeting. Cid looked down from her back, holding one hand on her black feathered head. "I need to take Cid out," he said, a bit awkwardly.
"Will do!" Choco Billy answered as he turned toward the stables.
"Cid?" Cloud asked in amusement.
The pilot grumbled as he dismounted Setzer. "Yuffie named her. That damn brat was mad cause she kept pukin her guts out all over my Highwind. Decided to take it out on the pilot, which happened ta be me."
Cloud shuddered with laughter, causing Boco to wark nervously. "Cids a she!! What is it with you namin your girl Chocobos with guys names?!"
Normally Cid would have taken it out of Clouds hide, but his heart was to heavy with worry and guilt over Shera. When Choco Billy led Cid, Cids gold Chocobo, from the stables, the pilot mounted her in silence, setting his spear in its holder. Your selfishness probably got her killed The torrent of guilt and pain he left in Rocket Town threatened, menacing behind him and slowly advancing. It was alive like a fire, ready to consume everything in its path. In terror of himself and what could have happened to Shera because of him, he rode his Chocobo away at top speed without another word.
Cloud blinked, gaping. Then he frowned, looking over at Chole, Choco Billys sister and an excellent judge of a Chocobos capabilities. "Cid is faster than Boco, huh."
Chole nodded. "Shes a good Chocobo. Ive never seen a faster. If your friend just rides her at half speed, I dont think even Boco could catch up."
"Damn," Cloud muttered under his breath. He looked down toward Red XIII, who appeared to be upset. "Well follow him if we dont catch him by Junon, we can take the boat across."
Red XIII nodded, worried about his friend and stung by is behavior. He was upset that Cid hadnt even had the decency to say goodbye. "No it would be best if I just followed by boat. He may get himself in trouble and you should reach him as soon as you can. If Seir has done something to Shera, she will need your help also. I doubt he would hesitate to kill Cid." The fierce animal looked up toward the blue sky.
* * *
And Seir laughed.
* * *
Cid slashed at the walls, the golden blade of the Venus Gospel effortlessly biting into the drywall and drawing white dust into the air. Glass dishes shattered as he brought the spear down on the kitchen table. The weapon cleaved the wood in half, sending splinters flying. Its blade sharper than a scalpel and made keener by Cids tormented spirit, the spear bit into anything it touched. Cutting deeply into another wall, the blade glinted fiercely, reflecting the rage that was destroying its master. Cid was lashing out at the pain that was eating him alive. When he had arrived home earlier that evening and found one of Sheras white coats torn and stained red with blood, the true storm began and he was lost in it. Somewhere deep in his shattered heart he knew what he was doing was futile; no amount of destruction would ease his pain or assuage his guilt. This only deepened his rage, the Venus Gospel now slashing at shadows in the air. He howled in unmitigated despair as he tore apart his home, reflecting the pent up hurricane of pain destroying his soul. Ever vain swing of his spear brought him closer to madness, feeding his inner agony rather than purging it. The gaping maw of that terrible beast only got hungrier the more it devoured itself. It was a pain too deep for words; its incoherent madness was so far below language nothing so sensible as words could describe it.
Sobbing inwardly, his breath catching on tears he could not shed, Cid stood the beautifully colored weapon on end, bracing it between one leg and the arm of the red checkered couch. He looked deep into the intensity of color the Venus Gospel wore, seeing his reflection in the shining blade. He was sickened by what he saw, a man with the heart of a cruel dragon. Fists clenched, he lifted his arms up high, holding them above the golden wing blades that flared out from either side of the vibrant blue shaft of the spear. In some frantic belief that something must end for his inner torment to end, Cid had nearly destroyed everything in his house. Now he would destroy himself. He brought his wrists down hard against the Venus Gospel, trailing blood on the gold. A distant sense, almost a gasp, shuddered through the weapon. It recoiled against the taste of its masters blood. Cid let it fall; it clattered to the floor, the blue dulling and its sharp edge fleeing.
Shera left the old launch pad, carrying a bag containing an assortment of metal odds and ends she intended to fabricate into parts for the classic car she was restoring. As she strolled toward her house, she heard the sounds of wood cracking and glass breaking. She dropped her bag and ran toward the back door, wondering if someone was robbing her house. She was about to take a metal rod from the ground to protect herself when she heard Cids anguished cries. She rushed in, turning the hall corner just in time to see the Venus Gospel fall, wet with blood. She let out a startled cry then quickly grabbed both of Cids hands. She held his bleeding wrists in a grip of steel.
Sheer force of will and fear kept Sheras grip tight as Cid struggled to free himself. She must hate him with a deep loathing to prevent his life from draining from his veins. What level of cruelty had he driven her to that she wanted him to continue in such pain? Why would she not allow him to die? Wasnt there peace in that last darkness? He didnt even realize Shera was safe and alive, such was his confusion.
"Let me go!" he cried, still struggling in vain.
"Why? So you can finish bleeding to death? Captain! Get a hold of yourself!" Shera shouted back.
"Let me go!" Cid repeated, his voice shrill, expressing perfectly how close he was to falling over the precipice. Suddenly, Shera let go, allowing his blood to flow freely. A wave of dizziness forced him down on the couch. Now maybe he would find his elusive peace. His vision clouded, leaving nothing but black and bright sparkles.
A moment later his vision cleared. Cid looked up at Shera and nearly screamed. She had grabbed the Restore materia out of his spear and was now casting a cure spell on him. He tried to fight it, but no death wish could resist holy magic. Things were moving to fast; Cids mind shut down as he inwardly let go of every thought. He began to shiver, deeply chilled by the blood loss and mental exhaustion his frenzy had left. He gazed in terror up at Shera, his breathing fast and shallow.
Shera returned the gaze, both anger and sadness warring for her mastery. She could not understand why he violently rejected any kindness of hers, no matter how minuscule. It angered her. But to see him in so much pain felt like a knife in the heart. "What is going on, Captain? Why are you acting like this?" Her voice betrayed her conflicting emotions.
Cid was utterly lost. What had he done this time to hurt her? Whatever it was, she would never forgive him. He couldnt be forgiven. How could she not know that both of them would be better off if he died? He tried to say so, but the words were choked off, the pent up tumult swallowing them. The harder that hellhound raged the more it cut itself off from any release. There was nothing for it but to ruin him. It had nearly finished him. Shera started to cry. Cid shook harder, feeling his own tears drown him. Even that release was denied him. He could not cry.
Wiping away some of her tears, Shera knelt down on the floor beside Cid. She laid a hand on his knee, but she couldnt tell if he shrunk away because he was shaking so hard. She looked around the front room, taking in the ruin. Very little was unharmed. She returned her gaze to Cid, watching him shiver like a small, terrified animal. She cried harder; she couldnt stand seeing him like this. How could he do his to her? The feeling was irrational, but felt nonetheless.
"Captain please stop. Youre hurting me," she said, unable to keep out the note of anger. He turned his head away and closed his eyes, making some agonized noise that sounded as though it were all he had left in him.
Shera looked down at the blade of the fallen Venus Gospel. The golden blade was dull, almost tarnishing where it touched Cids blood. It seemed as if it was trying to shrink back from that blood. Shera drew her own blood-soaked hand along the face of the gold wing, leaving a crimson streak. She thought she felt the weapon shudder.
Shera looked back toward Cid, turning so that she could see his blue eyes. He did not look back. "Why are you doing this to me? Did I do something to hurt you? I"
Cid interrupted her words. " No " he managed to whisper. "No " he said again, his voice gaining some strength. " I I did, cant be forgiven " He covered his face with his hands, not caring that they were sticky with his own blood. He lay down on the couch, brining his knees up to his chin. He tried to curl himself up as tightly as possible. Cant be forgiven. Cant be loved. She must hate me so much. "Go away " he whispered.
"Captain " Shera spoke softly as she gently touched his blond hair. She nearly hissed in anger when he somehow managed to curl up even tighter in an attempt to escape her. She got up to leave, furious now with his repeated flights from her. How could he do that? And why now? What could have happened to change him so much? They had lived together in this house for years and he had never acted so distant. Was he finally just tired of her? He had said so many awful things to her she wanted to believe he didnt mean any of it, but did he? The hurt she felt from his recent distance was beginning to get the better of her. Why was he doing this? She clenched her jaw, resisting the urge to hit him. Maybe he was as heartless as his words. Patience tried and finally broken, her anger rose at the same time as humiliation at being such a fool burned her ears. She clenched her fists and opened her mouth to rain down curses, worse than any he had ever shouted at her.
A glint caught her eye, drawing her gaze to the Venus Gospel.
The gold shone now against scarlet. One drop of Cids blood fell, soaking into the rug where it landed. Faint life Shera recoiled from what felt like a slap in the face. She jerked back in mental shock. The shine, the faint life now settled itself in a corner of her heart, small yet inexorable, intent on revealing what she truly held there.
I dont know why, how he feels
--So what. He hurts me. He has and still is, now more than ever.
Why is that
--I dont care.
I dont know why he hurts me, but I know why it hurts
--But he hates me! Look! He wont let me help him!
Do I know he hates me
Do I know what he feels do I know that he feels
--What?! Of course he has feelings!
Did I ever really see that before
--Yes! Of course!
Did I ever see that before
DID I EVER EVEN CARE
No, I didnt
I was too worried about my hurt too worried about me selfish
Yes, he hurt me, but he apologized
--I forgave him. He said he would never hurt me again. And look! I believed him! Im such a fool!
I never believed him I never forgave him
Shera blinked. She hadnt forgiven him. She told him she had, but in truth, she hadnt. Only moments ago he said he couldnt be forgiven could it be this was her fault? Could it be that he knew she had lied, even to herself? Now she knew why she had burned Cid with her frying pan. She had never forgiven him. Suddenly she felt sick. Yes, Cid had said some awful things over the years, but it was Shera who held onto them. In the end, it was Shera who was hurting Shera. Cid had legitimately hurt her, but nothing he had ever said could continue hurting her long after the words were said. She had taken his dagger and stabbed herself with it. That wasnt his fault, but she blamed him anyway did that hurt him? Could holding on to her injured feelings cause Cid pain? Shera was loath to admit it, but the answer was yes. The least of the hurt it caused Cid was the burn, the mark of which might never heal.
She had never forgiven him any slight.
--This is my fault. All of it.
I cannot continue to deceive myself The devil takes the seeds
Cid has taken that dagger against himself
In this end, Shera realized, Cid was not only hurting Cid; he was killing himself from the inside out. "Oh, Captain Cid what can I do?"
Just love him just forgive him
Shera walked over to the sink and washed her hands. She then picked up a nearby handtowel and wet it, bringing it back to her Captain. She began gently washing the back of his hands, cleaning off the sticky blood. Again he pulled away, but this time she did not get angry. She continued undaunted then began to speak softly, "Im sorry Captain Cid. I didnt forgive you before, and Im very sorry for the pain that caused you "
Cid groaned, unable to hear her words without his gut twisting in knots. Cant be forgiven, cant be forgiven " lying you dont forgive me " The words kept repeating in his head, over and over, fueling the fire. Cant be forgiven, still hurting her! Im always hurting her! The words he had just spoken stung him, knowing they were harsh. Hurting her. He twisted, making sounds more animal than human, unable to relieve the fast returning storm, wanting to vent its rage but knowing he couldnt. He held his head, as if to crush it, writhing in his inner torment.
Shera sat back hard, taken aback by Cids actions. He acted as though he were losing his humanity. Somehow, she knew there wasnt much farther he could fall. Every strangled noise he made felt like a dart stabbing her; she froze in fear for his life.
No matter how fast or how far Cid ran, he could not escape himself or the shrieking jackal devouring him. He felt its teeth, its gale force, tearing him still, not satisfied, insatiable He grabbed the Venus Gospel violently, desperately seeking the only escape he knew would work. He saw again his reflection in the shiny blade, through a layer of his own red blood. Hoping this would be the last time he saw his face, he stood the weapon as he had before. The spear shuddered almost as if it knew its masters intentions. The glint in the gold quickly dulled as the blue flame in the center of the blade faded to black. It seemed to be running as well, but from what would a spear run?
i dont want to drink your blood but i will cut your heart
Cid trembled, the Venus Gospel shaking in his grip. He was certain he was finally succumbing to madness. From what did it run?
Sheras heart stopped for a moment in disbelief. Was he going to try this again?! "Cid! Why are you doing this? Dont do this!" She grabbed one wrist as he raised his arms over the flared blade.
Tears unshed caught in Cids throat. "I wont hurt you anymore this way everything " he paused, voice faltering, then continued, " wont hurt anymore." He wrenched his arm out of Sheras grasp. This was the only way.
"And this wont hurt me?!" Shera nearly screamed. "I love you, Cid Highwind! Id give my life for you! You know that! If you commit suicide, that is a hurt that will never heal. All of the rest, its in the past. Its gone. This wont heal!" she cried, tears flowing heavy, panicking that he wouldnt see it, that her Captain would die.
The blue flame of the Venus Gospel flickered. How pointless it was for a weapon to run from blood. It was just as foolish for a man to run from his soul. The gold fled the spots stained with Cids blood, leaving a tarnished black. Cid looked at it again, his blood, bled for his pain but it hadnt taken the pain with it. She was right, wasnt she? All the things he had done if she loved him, this would top them all.
Cant be forgiven, cant be loved. No, its not true. It wont hurt her. How could it? You would be doing her a favor. Still, he lowered his arms, grasping the Venus Gospel tightly.
Shera moved behind Cid, wrapping her arms around his waist. She laid her head on his shoulder, allowing her long brown hair to fall on his arm. Tears flowing, she thought again about what life would be without her Captain. Her Captain
All I can do
"Cid," she began, whispering in his ear, "you keep saying that you cant be forgiven. Why are you saying that? Dont you see? I love you and I forgive you " She swallowed hard before saying her next words. It was against her better judgment; the words most likely were best left unsaid, but she needed him to understand that if she was wronged and dropped the matter, the matter was dropped. "Isnt it me you hurt? So doesnt that make it my choice to forgive you? You have to acknowledge that, Cid. Ive decided that you are no longer guilty. Dont throw that in my face!"
The pilot tightened his grip on the Venus Gospel, using it as a support. A small spark of his bleeding soul held onto her words, wanting to believe them. He felt the Venus Gospels faint force pass through his hands, seeking out his spirit and magic. The spear connected; it flared bright, the blade casting off the blood that disgraced it, the blue flame growing strong. Normally the weapon amplified the relative strength or weakness of Cids spirit and magic. This time it was Cid who gained strength from his spirit touching the Venus Gospel. It was that tiny corner of his wounded spirit that the weapon had touched, and it grew bright. The weapon stood formidable, immovable, steadfast to the point that the only way for him to escape utter destruction was to stop resisting and let it sink its blade deep into his heart of hearts. Cid stared at it with new sight. No, it wasnt the spear itself that was irresistible, but the spirit in it, the real Venus Gospel. He stood gaping at the weapon, shocked out of his madness, his soul quietly waiting.
I want to believe her
There was something else, the voice of the storm, the teeth of the jackal How can you believe her? Youve done too much. Is she violent by nature? Yet she burned you that in itself shows how damaged she is. You cant forget that that scar will never vanish, you will never hear properly again you can feel it tingle, your vision is clouded
Cid blinked a few times. It was true his eye and ear had been permanently damaged; it was barely noticeable in his vision, but he was half-deaf now. He could never forget the action that had caused these injuries.
But I can forgive
She forgave me
--Can she forgive me?
Like hell she did. She lied then and shes lying now. You cant trust her!
Is she she said the words
Words!! Thats all you have, meaningless words.
--Words arent meaningless! If anyone should know by now, its me! Dammit, Ive been throwing words at her too long they aint meaningless I remember, sticks and stones, but words can kill.
They kill, but they cant give life you cant trust her.
I dont know that
Who am I to say she did not mean her words
Shes gotta walk the talk. When has she done anything to prove her words? She burned you, that proved her words, didnt it? She would never give her life for you. She wouldnt even risk it.
She did she has
--I would have died
In a way, Shera had given her life for Cid. When she was checking the oxygen tanks, it was so he would not die. And more than that, it was so he could have his dream it was indeed a selfless love that moved her to put his happiness above her life. As it turned out, Cid couldnt let her make that sacrifice; so his dream ended so she could live. Perhaps now it was time to even the score... In order to give her her happiness, he would not risk his life; he would live it. He would live for her.
No, you cant. Shell turn on you.
I can what choice do I have
--Live for her or die by my own hand Give her
The one I love
-- what she wants, make her happy or let my own pain consume me, disregarding what it will do to her Oh, God, Im afraid
Isnt much of a choice I am presented with life and death
-- I Ill live for her
I choose life
No! NO!! You cant do that! How can you? You hurt too much; itll hurt too much to live. She cant want that! Its a lie! ALL LIES!!!
She has said what she wants
--I have to trust her
Something shrieked in his head then fled. Cid felt its absence although he never could remember it being there. In its place, he felt the Venus Gospels unwavering spirit. He knew then what had taken the teeth from the ravening jackal, what had calmed the storm. It would no longer eat him alive, no longer rage futilely. It was still there, the pain hadnt gone but it had slipped a notch. If Shera forgave him, he was forgiven. It didnt make one bit of difference how he felt about it. But he would keep his promise. He let the Venus Gospel fall to the floor. He wouldnt hurt her.
"Oh, Shera, what have I done?" Cid asked, suddenly seeing that he had allowed his pain to take over, that his distrust and guilt had let that rage feed on him. He began crying, finally the tears flowing freely. Shera helped him to sit down on her lap, holding him and letting him rest his head on her.
"Im so sorry " he whispered. He wouldnt reject her forgivenesshe realized now that would hurt her. It was hard, but he understood why; she loved him, and it would hurt anyone for someone they loved to refuse a gift of that magnitude. He cried harder, feeling some of the pain finally vent. He didnt deserve her love but again he couldnt reject it. It wouldnt change how she felt if he even wanted it changed. He smiled at the thought, the first time in days. As long as he was facing the truth, he might as well fess up about that, too. Crow with a side of humble pie. Eat up, Cid. #$@*.
Wiping some of his tears away, he looked up into her face. She was crying too. He faltered for a moment in his resolve, but gained his footing again. "Shera um " Slipped.
Shera picked up the damp handtowel and used it to clean Cids face, removing the blood he had smeared across it a little while ago. "Yes?" she asked.
" Uh um Damn, I need a cigarette." Slipped again. He started to cry again. He couldnt now, but he would get it out. He silently promised Shera he would tell her how much he loved her, sometime, when the pain of the storms ruin wasnt so fresh. He wouldnt hurt her.
For a long time, they just sat there and cried.
* * *
How could this be? It was so close. So close to being truly alive, to finish its being. It would not give up; the dragons son couldnt cast it off forever. His destruction would be complete and the shadow would be complete. The dark creature left the corner in which it slept, stretching forth its wings. Its snout had grown long and thin, needle-like teeth sharp and black. It now sported long twisted horns, two on each side. Its wings had grown strong, no longer wavering like smoke; each one had on its leading edge a four-fingered hand. The fingers tapered to hard points; it had no nails. The shadow cried, a long whispering sound, then flew into the air. The dark presence removed itself from Kalm, heading back to Rocket Town.
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