Evolution of Innocence Chapter 20
By Janet Monstwillo
The cloud of Bio3 sent over the group was suffocating, and they fell to their knees, coughing.
Derin coughed and used the White Wind enemy skill. The healing breezes restored their energy and health at once.
Jumping forward with his sword, Cloud viciously slashed the slimy being in front of him. Screeching and flailing, the form of Jenova unleashed a useless attack of "????" upon Daphne.
The girl smirked and touched one of her green materia. A sudden burst of energy penetrated the air, and a huge fireball enveloped Jenova. The casting had been so strong, that Daphne was knocked off her feet. "Geez, Derin, never told me your materia was that good," she shouted over the din.
Shaking his head, Cid turned back to the enemy and watched as the form took a final shuddering breath, then crumpled to the floor. "Well, shit, that was easy."
Derin cautiously approached the carcass. "This doesn't look like a very strong monster."
Puzzled, Cloud joined him. "Oh man. We've seen this form of Jenova before. It's just Jenova-Birth."
The group whirled around as they heard someone stand up behind them. Kayley glanced at them with frightened eyes. "I don't understand," she said softly, "I thought that things would come back to life after I made it into the Lifestream."
"Well you should be proud then," spat Daphne sarcastically, "you were right. You unleashed a bunch of terrors back onto this Planet. Terrors that we had already eliminated."
She stared back in surprise. "But that's the thing. Someone...in the Lifestream...said that I didn't break free. He said that a council had decided that I should live a human life, and that coming here, to the crater, was what I needed to do to know my purpose."
Cloud glanced among his companions, to see if anyone was buying her crap. (Why does Derin look like he understands this oh so well?) "What is it, Derin?"
Ignoring his old spike-headed companion, he looked to Kayley. "What else did this person say to you?"
Tossing back her red locks, she held her head high. "That the Elders in charge of my home world were asses, and this life they gave me will determine the fate of everyone back on my planet." A bitter laugh escaped from her lips. "No pressure."
"What reason do we have to believe you?" demanded Daphne.
"Does it matter?! I already told you to kill me, you stupid bitch!"
The two girls glared at each other while Cloud and Derin watched this exchange nervously.
"Well does anyone have a fucking suggestion for what to do now?" muttered Cid.
The others turned to him expectantly.
"From my view, I see that we had a mission to save Cloud and make sure things weren't gonna come out of the Lifestream. Well we got Cloud, but those damn monsters are coming back, while Miss "I'm a Reincarnated E.T." claims that it isn't her fault and she was supposed to do what she did!"
"There isn't anything left here for us to do," said Derin, "so I suggest that we call the others, meet back up in Junon, and try to figure things out."
"What about the alien?" sneered Cid.
Seeing the fear in Kayley's eyes and pitying her situation, he looked thoughtful. "She's just one person. I suggest that as long as we keep her heavily guarded, the best place for her to be is with us. Having her will only help find the solution to this new problem."
A soft snicker came from Daphne's direction. "Whatever you say, Zack," she whispered to herself.
Cloud led the group out of the cavern. Next came Cid, who managed to keep his spear aimed directly at Kayley while carrying on a PHS conversation with Red XIII. Daphne lightly trotted behind them.
And Derin brought up the rear of the group, wondering if he had been the only one who heard Daphne mocking him.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Tifa slowly approached Vincent's door and cautiously, she knocked.
"Come in," replied a somber voice.
She kept her eyes directed on the lovely floorboards of the Nibelheim Inn bedroom. "I thought I heard the PHS ring."
"Yes." Vincent stood up and walked to the window. "Cid's group didn't stop Kayley. However, she appears to be of little threat at this moment. Cloud is fine."
"What are we supposed to do?" said Tifa, allowing herself to look up.
"Barret and I decided, and Cid agreed. We'll stay here tonight and the Airship will pick us up in the morning."
"Thanks for asking me," she muttered sarcastically.
"I thought you were asleep. You're supposed to be resting."
"According to you, I am. But I'm a grown woman, you know, I can take care of myself."
Vincent shrugged. "Fine then. How will you get along if you happen to pass out the next time in a situation where there's no one around to carry you to safety?"
Her eyes widened in anger. "What are you trying to do, Vincent?"
"Get you angry with me," he replied matter-of-factly. "You should have been mad for what I did to you in your room, but you're not, so I'm trying to give you a reason."
"Like I need any more reasons than those you already give to me? You butt into my life, my issues, and then act like I'm not supposed to care. You take it upon yourself to assume that you know my needs, my dreams, and my desires. Is there anything else you can do to me to make me more angry?"
"I'm not the first one to try and help you. Yet, you've brushed those people aside."
"Oh, so since I haven't managed to do that with you, you think it's all right to be this way?"
"I just don't see why this would bother you any more than with another person." He grabbed her shoulder, forcing her to face him.
"It bothers me because you've been absolutely right."
He blinked back surprise.
Tifa glanced down. "You've been absolutely right...up until the point where you left me in my room."
"Isn't in funny, how the thing I ought to object to most, according to you...is something I wanted?" She brushed his hand from her shoulder. "I'll get out of your way now. It's time we dealt with what you want."
She paused at the doorway. "What?"
(Don't go!) his mind shouted.
"That's what I--"
His mouth formed words on its own. "My wants don't deserve to be fulfilled. I don't deserve to be happy. But if I did...I wouldn't be letting you walk out that door."
"But you are letting me," she said softly. Her eyes met his.
Vincent turned away, not chancing a glance in her direction until he heard the slam of the door behind her. (Things will be better this way.)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Cloud's group strode cheerfully into Icicle Inn. "Two rooms, please," he said.
Daphne started. "Only two?"
"One for sleeping, one for guarding Kayley," said Cid, "simple math, girl."
"Oh geez, thanks a lot," she muttered sarcastically.
"I want my own room," demanded Kayley.
"We're not leaving you alone," declared Cloud, pocketing his change.
"Oh, kinda like last night then," she said, smirking.
Daphne's eyes widened as she saw tinges of red come to his face. "What is she saying, Cloud?"
"It's nothing." He cleared his throat. "Let's drop off our junk and see about getting something to eat."
Trudging up the stairs, Kayley poked Daphne in the back. "Want to know about your man?" she whispered.
"Yes. I mean, well, he's not my man..." (Yet.)
The red-head flashed her brightest grin. "He was wonderful. Like a stallion. Lasted so long..."
"You slut," Daphne sneered as she turned to face her adversary.
"Believe me, I wouldn't take just anyone. Unlike spike-head over there. Maybe you'll need to invest in a tight leash once he is your man."
The others turned to face the pair, hearing some heated words, just in time to see Kayley get cracked across the face.
"You better learn to keep your mouth shut," Daphne said in a low voice, "because even if Derin has a soft righteous heart, there are several of us that would love to see you dead."
"It's nice to see your true colors come out now that you aren't hiding behind your disguise of savior of the Planet, Cetra," she replied, loud enough for the rest to hear.
Cloud grabbed her roughly by the arm, dragging her with him. He handed his bag to Daphne. "Drop this off for me. I guess I'll take first watch, since Kayley appears to be a little less harmless than some of us would think."
Daphne took the bag and walked quickly to the other hotel room.
Cid looked at Derin. "You knew Aeris a long time?"
"Well...maybe you can help me out a little. I didn't know the damn girl for that long, and she seemed nice enough. But to be blunt...she seems a little more...bitchy now. Maybe I should wait and see if it's PMS or something..."
"Cid." He took a deep breath and continued. "Yes, she's been acting a little different than she had in the time that I've known her. I think it may be partially because of the pressure of resuming her old life. We...came back here from a peaceful plane."
"You're taking it pretty well."
"I can still clearly remember that place. I was sent as a guide. Aeris came for her life back, so her memory has faded. In her fuzzy recollections, all she can tell is that this place isn't as happy as others she has been. Hopefully, she will become more tolerable."
He gave Derin a funny glance. "Mind if I ask something personal?"
"I guess not."
"You and Aeris? And then Cloud is butting in your way?"
"In some ways. Yes, I do love her," he said softly. "But in part, she came back for him. I have to accept that, it's a fact. Doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt."
"You're stronger than I thought, kid. Don't know what I'd do if Sh--if I was in a similar situation."
Derin worked up a little grin. "Oh I'm sure you'd be just as strong. Maybe curse a little more."
"Can't help that I like my words to be full of fucking color."
"Nope." (And I can't help but be startled... Aeris sounds so harsh to my ears. Was she always like this, and is it because my mind is clear now, that they sting so? Or has she become rough around the edges, lost, and striking out in fear...)
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic