Evolution of Innocence Chapter 18

By Janet Monstwillo

It was green, that was all she could see.

Green liquid flowing...glowing...knowing... It has seen ages of time pass before its depths. It has been used, abused by the men at the surface. Mako can kill; Mako can heal.

There was a light ahead of her, and Kayley reached out for it.


Suddenly, everything changed. Seated on the lush grass of a beautiful garden, dressed in a tunic of green, Kayley gazed at the figure in front of her, startled and half-frightened.

"You were mistaken about the properties of the Lifestream."

Composing herself, she shrugged. "I guess I was."

"Bodies do not exist here, cells do not exist here..." Eldor stroked his beard. "Essences are here."

"I thought--"

"I know," he said, "and others still on the surface thought that, and guessed your plan. But Jenova, a body decays while a spirit does not. That is what returning to the Planet means. The body stays on the Planet, and the essence of the person returns."

She lifted her head proudly. "But I was put into the Lifestream and was so strong that my spirit did not break apart."

"Yes. That was because the council had decided that you should remain."

"A council?" The woman appeared puzzled.

"Do you know where we are?" asked Eldor, apparently changing the subject.

"Of course..." Kayley trailed off. "At least, I know that I'm in the Lifestream. I entered it on the Northern Continent."

"What you say is true, yet not true at the same time. We are standing at a gateway. I have come to speak with you, since that is the decision that was made. You are standing at the very threshold of the Promised Land."

Gazing around her, Kayley found it hard to argue in the taunting way she used to do. "It...exists...?"

"There was no talk of such things on your home world. I understand why you thought it impossible. But yes, it exists. The Promised Land is a resting place for all growing souls between lives."

"The Cetra once said that they could speak to those in the Promised Land," she offered with a tinge of disbelief.

"As well they could. The Cetra were actually a race of more learned souls, who kept us informed here about the state of the Planet. Unfortunately, you destroyed them."

"Yes, well, the friends of the last one destroyed me, or at least thought they did."

Eldor sat down beside the woman with Jenova's soul. "Oh, they destroyed you. That's why we had the trial."


"Yes. It should never be said that the way to the Promised Land is hard, because it's not. Life is a pathway for learning, and many, many mistakes can be made."

"We did not speak of it where I came from."

"And the souls on your world continue to de-evolve. There was a great split between the Elders in charge of your world and this one...and now...we do not know what has become of them. All we know is that no more spirits have returned from life on your Planet."

"So all my people are without souls?"

"I do not know for sure. The decision was made by the council. You were to be given one incarnation as a human and that would be the basis for the state of your soul and of your entire world."

"But I broke free from the bounds of the Lifestream. I wasn't given a gift."

"No." Eldor looked at her. "We gave you this life. The old way is done."

"My body can regenerate though..."

"If Jenova ever regenerates again on this Planet, it will be like a comatose being. You shall not be able to enter it, and it will have no knowledge. The only thing processing within its mind will be involuntary body controls."

"What does that mean?"

"Jenova is dead. You can be Kayley. What you do with that is up to you." He helped her stand up. "You were given your memories to know what your lesson is to be. We knew you would need to come here and speak with us. When you return, your skill with materia will be gone and nothing will be any different from the way this body was before. Except you inhabit it."

"I didn't ask for this. I'd rather be dead!" Kayley fumed. "When you send me back, I will kill myself."

"So be it. Just remember that your soul was offered a chance for immortality...through compassion. And you refused it through your own folly."

Whirling on her heel, she began walking quickly away from him. "How do I get back?" she demanded.

Then she was back. The Lifestream, once inviting, now was suffocating and flowing in the opposite direction. Kayley coughed and choked as she accidentally breathed some Mako into her lungs. Struggling, she stroked upwards with her arms until she thought she would die from lack of oxygen.

After what seemed like an eternity, she broke through the surface and gasped for air. It took her a minute or two before she noticed. Cloud, Daphne, Derin, and Cid. All staring at her with contempt and fear.

For the first time ever, Jenova felt her body tremble.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Please be all right Barret, please be all right...) Tifa chided herself for going off so far. (If we had been closer when we heard the battle start...) But all her worrying was in vain, for the most part. As she came over the top of the little rise in the trail, she saw Barret very much alive--but also very much in combat.

Vincent stepped into the fray, touching the Enemy Skill in his Death Penalty. The orb glowed with a steady light as he cast Enemy Guard. Energy surrounded the three of them, creating barriers against physical attacks and magical, plus giving them a boost so they were faster.

Feeling safe enough for a momentary pause, Barret turned to them. "'Bout time you two showed up! I think the peeps in the Crater failed, 'cause we've seen this monster before."

Tifa gasped as she recognized it. (The Materia Keeper? But how...?) "I thought we killed it!"

"Red XIII said that if Jenova found herself within the Lifestream, all of our previous enemies would return to life. I suppose this is the first of many tortuous battles. On the bright side, if we die today, it will be the last."

Her eyes were on him. (Don't say things like that.)

He turned away. (I can't help it. Even my normal way of talking upsets her...)

Barret jumped forward, spraying the creature with another barrage of bullets. The Materia Keeper took a swipe at the large man, but he was able to duck out of the way.

Vincent got a good shot at the monster's head, and the retaliation for his attack was a cast of Dispel upon Tifa. The energy barriers around her disappeared and she no longer had her rush of speed.

Gathering her energy, Tifa prepared to summon something big. She glanced at her armlet. (Choco/Mog. Umm...no.) She lifted up her Premium Heart and looked in the slots. (Guess the best I can do is Odin.) The red orb glowed as she did the ritualistic motion. A haziness began to pervade the forms of the three allies and they faded away.

Storming down from the mountains, Odin charged upon his six-legged horse, tossing his Gunge Lance in the air. The huge heavy weapon delivered a shattering blow to the head of the Materia Keeper. Then the god picked up his lance and simply rode back into the distance.

The hit had been critical, and the monster was now enraged. Gathering what must have been close to all of its remaining energy, the Materia Keeper managed to whip up the strongest Trine spell that the group had ever seen.

Imagine a pyramid of lightning; they were all inside of it. The sheer force of the energy involved brought Vincent to his knees, but, for some reason or another, he was wearing his Tetra-Elemental pin. Any bolt that passed through his M-Barrier was drawn into the odd piece of metal, keeping him from harm. He got back to his feet and checked on the others.

Barret had stood his ground and was grinning as he held up his Bolt Armlet, dispersing anything that came near him.

A little moan of pain came from Vincent's other side. He turned and saw Tifa struggling to sit up from her position, lying on the ground. Even the last sparks were dancing around her body, flitting in her hair. There were burns on her bare skin. (How...?) Then he saw the problem. (Aurora Armlet, good for ice; Ribbon, prevents status change; and Fire-Elemental in her weapon; she was prepared for the Nibel Mountains but not such a deadly burst of electricity.) He also remembered the Dispel.

"Cure3," he said, feeling the energy soar through the materia. His blood ran cold as the monster's Ice3 spell struck him, but he did not take his eyes off of Tifa as she finally stood.

She suddenly felt herself being drawn to the ground again. The heaviness was unbearable. Feeling like she had gained a million pounds, she slumped in the snow. The Materia Keeper had cast a Demi spell on her.

Vincent looked at her in alarm. (Her breathing's becoming irregular...) He watched as a shiver passed through her. (...and the weather's getting to her...we've got to kill this thing and get to an inn.)

"You a holy terror," yelled Barret, shaking his gun arm at the creature, "so take this, ya piece a' shit!" He held up his arm to the sky and summoned Alexander.

For some particular reason, this summoner struck a chord with the Materia Keeper; the monster reeled on its heels and ran away as fast as it could. The last thing the party saw was Alexander running after it. A few minutes later came a death cry as the three of them returned back to the battle site.

Tifa fell to the ground, completely unconscious.

Barret went wide-eyed and immediately brought the soothing power of Life to her aid. Vincent quickly followed with White Wind from his Enemy Skill.

She didn't wake up. Falling to his knees, Vincent reached down, touching her. He checked her pulse, then felt her forehead, her cheek, her hand. "She's alive," he said, hiding his relief.

"Then what the hell is wrong?" demanded Barret.

"She's very cold." He glanced at her clothing. "Probably should have worn warmer clothing. She might be in shock despite all of our curative spells." Wrapping her up in his cape, he gently took her in his arms. "We have to get her inside...and quickly."

"Damn Nibelheim is closest place," muttered Barret.

He nodded silently, and began walking quickly down the mountain. Barret could barely keep up, but that wasn't a problem. Vincent did not think that this would be a good time to have to explain all the worry in his eyes. Or how tightly he was clutching Tifa's lifeless form.

(...if we die today...)


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