Evolution of Innocence Chapter 21
By Janet Monstwillo
"Child." Eldor smiled. His smile brought with it the warmth and glow of a summer's day. The grace of the Elders was so encompassing, it made the Promised Land itself seem brighter.
Aeris paused, her gown and hair fluttering in the light, springlike breeze.
"Sit." He gestured to a place beside him.
She did as she was directed, managing a tentative smile.
"You have a question on your mind."
Nodding, she finally dared to speak. "It is a very serious question, one which I bring to you only after much consideration. I fear that it is wrong to ask it, though."
"The only wrong question here is that which is left unspoken. You are here for us to guide you. If you are lost, the only way to lead you to your path--is to know the point where you've wandered off."
"Do all questions come from losing the path?"
Eldor contemplated his reply. "It's not quite as black and white as that. A question comes form not seeing the path, but you can be on the path and not know it. It's clearer here, but on the Planet, the path is invisible; yet many walk along it nonetheless."
He continued. "Questions aren't the indicator there, it's the answers. Here, you will always get guiding answers; it's your decision whether or not to embrace them."
"I want to find my path," said Aeris softly.
"Then, child, I must hear your question."
"Can I go back?"
"Already? Don't you like it here?"
"Not if my death causes another person so much pain." She sighed. "I don't ask this for myself."
"Are you sure? What you want most, that is your greatest illusion. You cannot move along the path and have that desire come to be."
"Zack told me that the time a life exists is but a blink of an eye up here. If it were about me missing this person, I could cope. But down there, things are harder. Time moves so slowly."
The Elder looked at her, with eyes full of sadness. "This grieves me. You have come so far in these months. Life is a lesson...and you ask to defy the lesson."
"Then you can join me. It is an ironic agony, to feel so much sorrow in the midst of paradise."
"You lived a life close to the Promised Land. When your next time comes, it will be hard for you, you will be separated from this place you hold dear. That is your next lesson."
"I just want a short time as myself!"
Eldor's voice was stern. "You will never return as Aeris. Aeris will never be on the Planet again. Her consciousness is sensitive..."
"I am Aeris. That is not something you can know, my strengths."
"The return of Aeris would be unnatural. The results would be nothing like you expected. And the price would be high for you...perhaps even the Planet. You could potentially cause the upset of a delicate balance...asking for me or another elder to extricate the mortal component of a consciousness from the Lifestream."
"My death itself was unnatural!" cried Aeris. "It was decided by the motives of a being outside the Planet, outside us!"
"You would have me put the Planet at risk, just because you think your course was altered by something beyond it?"
"You would imprison me here? A slight risk has that much bearing...when I myself had saved the Planet?"
He was silent for a moment, thinking quietly to himself. "Most souls enjoy a longer rest. But if you are so eager, I will allow you to continue your lesson." (And until she departs, she will now hear only what she wants to hear from me. For at this stage...that is all she will listen to.)
"Thank you for allowing me to question things." She bowed.
"Tell me now, the main reason why you wish to live again."
"This is not the end. This is only the beginning. I can't let it end like this. I won't let it end like this..."
(Such a rare young soul...so wise and fresh at the same time. She learned one lesson quickly--discrimination--to be able to set aside her desires to fulfill her destiny. She will soon learn another--distinguishing.
Each time on the Planet is a unique time and a unique role. There is no mystical rule barring a soul from going back to the previous role--it is simply impossible. And after learning this lesson, no soul would try to go back.)
"...There is too much pain involved." Aeris folded her arms across her chest and stared at the master with contempt.
(Yes, pain. But not in the manner you perceive it. Soon, child, you will know that all too well.)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Daphne awoke with a start, her mind racing. ("...put the Planet at risk...") She shook her head. (It was only a dream. Even the images of it are beginning to fade. They would stay fresh...I would remember everything if had really happened in the Promised Land...right?) She closed her eyes. The truth was, she couldn't remember anything about the Promised Land except for joy...and some sort of slight aching.
A tear rolled slowly down her cheek. (I could see the beyond much more clearly even as Aeris. I was never lonely, I was never afraid. Somehow, I know in my heart that it was a beautiful place, a place where pain was forgotten, and many things were taught.)
(What could have possibly been so important that I would want to leave such a place? I probably begged to go...I wonder why?)
She wrapped her blanket around herself and snuggled into her pillow, silent tears softly falling. (I wonder why I have this feeling that I had to hurt someone in order to go...)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Derin sat on one of the beds, sword tip placed on the floor. He had the hilt in one hand and was spinning it with the other.
"Isn't this rich? You have to miss out on sleep to guard a suicidal me. I have to miss out on sleep because I don't trust you."
"I won't kill you."
"Why do you understand so much of what I said? Why do you believe me?"
He sighed. "I was sent here from the Promised Land to guard against some sort of imminent danger. I'm an avatar of my pure soul, so I have a feeling I'm a tad bit more understanding than...well anybody."
"Is that a normal thing to happen here?" Kayley looked at him questioningly. "Everytime this ol' chunk of rock is in danger, to send a special protector from the Promised Land?"
"Now that I think about it...not really." He looked slightly puzzled. "I mean, until recently, there were Ancients here, but their existence wasn't to save the Planet. They were the `let life happen as it may,' led by destiny, nomadic types."
"But you're here to help this place?"
He nodded. "Maybe even to help you. The Elders were mysterious in my job description. They told me I'd eventually figure out why they sent me, though."
"You know what would help me?" The redhead smiled a little. "If you could get that chick with the black hair to get off my case."
"Riss hasn't been anything like herself lately. Of course, that's to be expected, I suppose."
"You have feelings for her?"
(She's quickly learning insights, for a former alien.) "In some ways, if there were an essence beyond feelings, that would express what it is I--" He paused. "I care for her now. When I loved her, she had brown hair and green eyes."
Derin laughed bitterly. "No. Her last life...she was the last Ancient."
"She's kinda harsh for a special protection person, don't you think?" Kayley's eyes were wide. "I mean, that's what she is, isn't she?"
"That's what she thinks she is."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The night air surrounding Icicle Inn was cool and crisp, awakening Daphne's sleepy mind as she slipped out the lobby entrance. (What am I doing? I don't even know where I'm going to go...) She closed her eyes for a brief moment, then forced herself to move forward, slipping onto the Airship.
(All I know is that I have to go. The way we have been seeing things is terribly wrong somehow. I need to figure out who I am before we can figure out how to set the Planet right.)
The mechanical door slid open with a whoosh. Daphne stepped inside the stable and silently thanked all the powers that be. For a golden chocobo, Cloud's chocobo in fact, was tied up inside, cheerfully munching on some greens.
"Hey girl," she whispered softly to it.
"That's it." She grabbed the reins, stuffing some greens into her bag, and slowly led the chocobo through the ship and onto the gangplank. With a light hop, she boosted herself on top of it.
Tugging gently on the reins, she led the bird at a trot until she was well outside the village. Daphne looked back at the inn, noticing that only one of the rooms was lit at this late hour. "I'll come back," she whispered. "You got to know who you are, and what your purpose is. I need to know mine."
Urging Goldie on, she galloped away, her course lit by moonlight. (It wasn't supposed to be like this.)
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