Evolution of Innocence Chapter 25
By Janet Monstwillo
It seemed everywhere he turned, he caught the very end of a harsh whisper. The bearers of such tidings remained anonymous, but Cloud began to suspect that not all was hunky-dory in the company of Avalanche. "What the hell is going on here?" he muttered to himself.
"You've spooked everyone out, that's what, you retarded waste of hair gel." Cid's fierce verbal onslaught had returned, due to Barret's need to raid the pantry.
"I can't apologize for things that happened when I had lost complete control over myself."
"That's right, so apologize for everything else, you damn jackass!"
"Yeah!" chimed in a cheerful voice. Yuffie carefully sipped ginger ale in an attempt to appease her queasy innards.
Cloud waved them off. "We have to make sure Daphne is all right."
"She's probably just peachy." The ninja hopped from tile to tile on the floor of the cockpit. "I mean, Aeris was always okay by herself, all her troubles started when you came along." Winking, she stuck out her tongue.
"Why didn't we ditch you when we had the chance," the sullen pilot muttered.
"Who me?" Wide-eyed, Yuffie pointed to herself with a look of mock innocence.
"No, fucking moron, I'm talking about the lame-ass."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Highwind lurched to a stop just outside the limits of Junon City. "Hey," said Derin lightly to Cloud, "why don't you and Barret go and visit Elmyra in Kalm? There's a pretty good chance that Aeris would want to visit her mother, don't you think?"
Blond spikes bobbed a bit as he nodded. "That sounds like a decent proposal. If Barret will feel like joining me," he said, a bit of sadness in his voice.
"Of course I do, spikey-ass. Someone's gotta make sure ya don't screw shit up again!"
Giving a tentative smile to his hulky friend, he turned to Cid. "And you'll drop us off, right?"
"Sure thing, chocobo-brains." The pilot flashed him a thumbs-up.
The others began climbing down the ladder, headed towards the port town. "Wait," said Red XIII quickly, "how about taking Yuf"
"No way!" the ninja yelped, and she hurriedly followed Reeve off the deck.
"Dammit," muttered the cat.
"Hey there, watch your fucking mouth!" admonished Cid.
"D'ya think Aeris would've needed to buy more materia, Reevie? Huh?"
"I'm not sure, Yuffie." He watched in mild amusement as she danced around him in circles, on the pretense of "working off the airsickness."
"Great idea, why don't you go check out the materia shops while we find other leads?" Red XIII looked hopeful.
"Really?" A hint of suspicion entered her upbeat tone.
"Oh, sure." Derin winked.
Vincent concurred. "It's certainly better than what Cloud had us do in Nibelheim."
Catching on, Reeve shook his head a bit and grinned. "Why don't I join you and we'll go check it out?"
"Cool beans!" She cheerfully ran off in the direction of the shopping district.
"Cool...beans?" Tifa looked quite confused.
Smoothing back his dark hair, the ex-executive followed behind. Turning back to his companions, he mouthed "Public Service Award?" before disappearing behind their hyper teenage friend.
"An award sounds like a good idea, actually." Tifa laughed. "So how much are you going to pay him, Red?"
"I'll give him my lifetime pass to Gold Saucer and buy him a grand of GP," the cat declared.
"Where should we begin?" Vincent asked.
"Bar!" declared Derin and Tifa simultaneously.
"...I was thinking her apartment might be a good lead." Red XIII cleared his throat. "That's where I met her and Cloud a few nights ago."
"Cloud met her at a bar," Tifa insisted, not able to completely delete the snide tone from her voice.
"A friend of her owns a bar. She works there occasionally," Derin elaborated. "Plus, I have a feeling she went straight to this friend upon her Junon arrival."
"This need not be an ordeal. I'll accompany Red XIII to the apartment building, and you too can check out this bar you're speaking of." Vincent crossed his arms and looked at the others. "Sound easy enough?"
"Of course." Derin hopped up. "Follow me, Tifa."
The lion began walking in the opposite direction. "It is this direction, I believe."
Tifa was amused to find that every time she peeked over her shoulder, she saw Vincent glancing over his.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Reno gazed absentmindedly out the door of "Joel's Tavern." He snorted to himself. (Maybe I can offer a suggestion of a new name for this stupid joint.) Taking a drag off his lit cigarette, he glanced inside to check on the others.
Elena and Rude were sitting in a booth, opposite each other, concentrating fiercely on the cards they held in their hands. Narrowing her eyes, the blonde woman reached a hand towards the undealt stack of cards, snatching one up.
After a moment or two of watching her sort through her hand, Rude spoke up. "Aren't you forgetting something, Lane?"
Closing her eyes in concentration, she shook her head. "Wait! I've got it." She set down her cards, save one which she discarded.
He stared at her demonstration at disbelief.
"Gin!" She jumped up and hopped a bit, pleased with herself. Then she caught Reno's scrutinizing gaze and froze.
Shaking his mussy red spikes, he mouthed a word at her. "Lame."
Dejectedly, she stuck out a tongue.
Rude, noticing the exchange, turned towards the door only to lower his shades, displaying his disapproval with the raise of an eyebrow.
Turning back to the street, Reno cracked his knuckles in boredom. (There aren't even any shady characters outside, let alone ones that want to bust into the bar.) He watched a couple enter the materia shop across the street. (Easy money is boring.)
"So, are you going to tell Ms. Angelon?"
He jumped at the voice that suddenly materialized behind him. "Wha?" He gave his companion a shove in the shoulder. "Damn Rude, stop doing that. And there's nothing here to tell."
"Well I suppose not, since they haven't entered the bar, but I would think she'd like to know who's across the street. We are keeping an eye out for Avalanche, aren't we?"
Rude handed his partner a small pair of binoculars.
Shaking his head, Reno focused through the shop window onto the two browsing customers. (Guy in a suit. Dark hair, goatee...) "Whoa, that's Reeve," he muttered. "I oughta invite him over for a drinkow!" He glared at his bald friend, who'd given him a "love tap" on the back of the head.
"That's not quite as important as the girl."
"She was pretty cute, come to think of it..." A threatening glare from Rude quieted him back down again. Focusing in on the other member of the pair, he suddenly realized just who he was looking at. "Fuck, that's Kisaragi?!"
Snatching back his equipment, Rude shook his head. "Very perceptive, Reno. Maybe you can be employee of the month now. Shall we tell her, then?"
"Tell me what?"
The pair jumped together, before turning to look behind them.
Daphne stood in front of them, arms crossed, with an expectant look on her face. "Well, boys?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Kayley sighed and glanced around the chocobo stable of the Highwind. With Goldie gone, the place was empty. (Thank goodness) she thought to herself before plopping down on a warm bale of hay.
She'd been left alone on the Airship, for fear of what sort of reaction she'd inspire in the Ancient. (What a crock, I mean, that chick was psycho before I'd done a thing to her. That's pretty messed!)
Alone was a euphemism for being practically stalked from one end of the aircraft to the other by Cid's crew, of course. She'd ducked inside the stable in hopes of eluding them. (After all, if I wanted to do harm, this would not be the place to do it.) Plus, the traces of barnyard smells from its former occupants were probably deterring any thoughts of retrieving her.
She had to wonder about the amazing coincidences happening lately. "I was the one who saw Meteor again...when I was the one who had a hand in summoning it in the first place."
"It's not so much a coincidence, as very good planning," a voice suddenly said.
"Huh?" She glanced around in surprise. "I thought I was alone."
"That's a error in thought that most humans have in common." A mouse suddenly jumped up onto the hay next to her.
"A talking mouse? I'm going schizo," Kayley mumbled.
"Now, now child, calm down a bit. Mice still don't talk. However, there is a very important message that you need to hear, and the Planet works in mysterious ways." Hopping onto its hind legs, the small creature did a gesture with its forelimbs.
She shook her head slightly. "Whatever."
"We're going to go through an exercise in logic, all right?" The animal waited for her nod before continuing. "That Red XIII, he pretty much hit the nail on the head when he figured out that these problems on the surface are being caused by a spirit forcing its exit from the Lifestream. Now, while those of us in charge of souls don't generally allow anything life-threatening to bring harm to the Planet, we decided that a particular soul needed to be taught a lesson."
"What are you saying? That you let something force its way back into the land of the living?"
"I suppose you could say that, but it's a tad inaccurate. A spirit can't force its way back. So we forced the spirit back, therefore breaking the fabric between life and non-life. Instead of instantly reviving everything that ever lived, it's slowly reversing the events that occurred between the death of said spirit and the time that the spirit returned."
"That doesn't seem so bad."
"Until you look and notice a small planet is on a collision course with ours, and you realize that there may be a very huge foe regenerating itself as we speak."
The mouse shrugged. "Yes, but that's not the most important enemy on the horizon. You're regenerating, but this time, entirely soulless. That may actually make Jenova weaker, but it will still be a tough battle nonetheless."
"Can anything be done?"
"Well, everything would revert to normal if the balance of souls is restored."
"Then someone has to kill the person responsible!"
"That won't work. The spirit returning must be willing...that's why we also brought along our own insurance. If the renegade is not willing to come back, we have another who can return in her stead."
"You said 'her'!"
The mouse nodded.
"Why are you giving all this information to me?" Kayley asked. "I mean, the person isn't me, and I doubt you're going to let me return in place of said stupid world-destroying soul."
"You are the one who must convince her to return." The mouse vanished from sight. "It will be hard, but the only true sacrifice is one that remains unselfish from this life to the next. Tell that to Aeris..."
Kayley sat up with a start. Her head had been resting on top of the hay bale, and her legs curled underneath her. She shook her head, attempting to clear her mind. However, she was certain that her dream was not some stupid menagerie created by her subconscious, but a true message from the Planet.
Unfortunately, it seemed the Planet wasn't anywhere close to finding Aeris, either.
You slip down into your own mind
Read the views you have defined
Demand you be repaid in kind
But insist you get to cross the line
Tune your memory with the stars
Dwarf the past, heal the scars
Attempt to make your heart unmarred
Then cage yourself with hidden bars
In truth, your soul lies still sealed
And soon reality will be revealed
You thought nature could be appealed
Just because he cut you...as you kneeled
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic