Evolution of Innocence Chapter 28

By Janet Monstwillo

Yuffie was inconsolable, seated obstinately between Reeve and Red XIII. The Turks, opposite them, merely looked on in disgust.

Finally, an irritated Reno broke the sniffle-filled silence. "Jeez, girl, you'd think your friend was dead again from the way you're carrying on."

"B-but Kayley just told us Aeris has to-" she gulped "-die or else Meteor will come!"

"At least you can tell her all the things you never got the chance to before," offered Elena in comfort.

The teen just burst into tears again at the thought.

Red XIII growled. "You're getting my fur soaking wet!"

"And you're a fucking heartless beast!" She yelled in return. "All of you!" she continued in accusation. "You not only don't give a crap whether the person who saved your lives gets to continue hers or not, but you can't even comp-re-hend what it means to me. She's the only one who ever treated me decently, with any bit of respect, and she'll be gone again, and there will be no one left who doesn't think I'm a selfish brat."

The others stared at her in startled silence.

"Aeris understood," she sobbed, "she knew that the materia was important to Wutai. All my life, all I ever heard about was the Shinra and how they were evil and how home would be strong again if we could only get our hands on materia. We'd have plenty and be safe and happy if we could get those pretty, shiny, little...tiny things."

The atmosphere around them turned to quiet once more, but the peace was a stale one. "Didn't she rip through time and space though?" Elena asked primly. "I mean, she can't go against nature without any consequences."

"It's more like a tipping of a scale," Red XIII replied. "I don't think she would necessarily have to go, but something has to return balance to the Lifestream."

"Well then she doesn't even have to die!"

"Would any of you take her place?" Yuffie burst out suddenly."

Elena shook her head. "Remember what I said about-"

"Oh right. Consequences. Nice talk coming from a member of a group of damn murderers. She saved our lives and you talk about consequences. You know what she deserves? To bend you all over the altar and rip into you herself. Ungrateful, horrible beasts!" She sprung to her feet and ran away into the night.

Slowly, Reeve rose. "We're in the middle of the city. Can't just let her run off like that."

His words were met with apathetic expressions.


"She'll come back," said the cat tersely. "She always does," he continued in a mutter.

The former executive just shook his head in disgust and followed in the direction of her egress. If Yuffie was that bad, then why was it that she was the only one making much sense at the moment?

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

From the midst of Junon Park, Daphne looked at the night sky, expressionless. (I guess no being is ever meant to see the same stars twice.) Seemingly immortal globes suspended in the heavens, they lived and died, but their rate was a bit more tolerable to the stirrings of a dying mortal. (Our lives are like photographs to them. Only a brief moment captured in time. All I wanted was...a full moment. Mine was half-developed.)

A voice pierced through the cloak of silence. "Can we talk..." It trailed off into confusion. "I don't even know what to call you anymore."

She turned, gazed into blue Mako eyes, and nodded. "I don't even know what to call myself. `Daphris' would probably be the most appropriate moniker at the moment."

Cloud smiled sadly at that. "I understand that you felt you had to come back. I understand, because I kept looking for you even though I knew that I wouldn't ever find you."

"Part of me wishes you never had," she whispered. "That I could be Daphne, a completely different person, and have my life with Joel...even if it did end in a week. I...I just feel that I gave and gave to life, and I get what? Death? My second chance forces me into another decision of self-sacrifice?"

He closed his eyes in frustration and pain; he'd given the situation all the thoughts he could muster. The only solution that existed was for someone to die, yet his answer was firm. "No."

"The Planet can't die for me. And...as twisted as it is now, what Eldor said in the Promised Land is true. Something is threatening the purpose of my sacrifice. Little did I know then that the threat was me." She shook her head. "No. I can't escape this. I caused this. I deserve to go back and end it like this all began. With my death."

Another voice entered the discussion. "No." Derin walked down the hill, joining them at the playground. "Think about it, Riss. I can't be happy here. I'm a pure soul. I belong back in the Promised Land, and you deserve a chance to live life to the fullest." He glanced at his old friend. "With...the person you love."

"But you came back for a reason," she whispered.

"To make sure that the right thing was done in the end. If you couldn't, wouldn't see the light, who do you think would have been there in your stead? Why can't you consciously let me go?"

"Because it's not your error to compensate for. You followed every rule. You encouraged me to stay, and told me all the reasons why I had to wait. Why my old life was gone, and how everyone would eventually be all right."

He took her hand. "That doesn't earn me a new lease on life, any more than laying your life under the blade earned you this one. You've learned from your mistake, though, and understand the problems that result from things. I have no problem..."

"I do." Daphne's voice broke. "I can't run away from the wrongs."

Cloud watched the scene, a mere spectator. Flashes, images of some sort, a memory were seeping into his mind.

"Hey buddy, I'm just going to set ya down a sec, okay?" Zack stretched his lean body, relaxing and tensing his tired muscles. It had been a long day's walk from Kalm. They were on a small cliff, overlooking their destination. Midgar, the floating city.

Cloud merely grunted in return. "Mu...st...mak...e...goo...time."

"That's right!" He smiled. "Hey, I think you're getting better. Anyway, look over there." He pointed in the distance. "That's where we'll head out to tomorrow. Ain't it great? They say that huge hunk of metal is suspended above the ground. Walking down the street is like being in a third floor apartment."

A rustling in the bushes startled him from cheerful speech.

"Geez, wonder what that was. Hang on," he said, backing away from his sick pal. Pulling back the branches of the lilac next to him, he peered outside their clearing.

The shots were loud, startling. It is doubtful that Zack even had time to register the thought that they were fired at him, before he hit the ground. Blood spattered from violated arteries, and his form lay lifeless in the dirt.

A man in a Soldier uniform walked up and kicked the corpse gingerly with one foot. Peering down at the body, he noticed the bleeding was dying down a bit. Of course, with the red stain coating the entire clearing in front of him, including the dead guy's buddy, it was pretty obvious to see that their target was dead.

"I'm getting sick of the AWOLs," his partner stated without sympathy.

He nodded his assent, then looked towards their second target.

"Goo...time?" Cloud asked, his face blank, lids blinking, and lashes brushing away the blood of his friend from his eyes. A clean path traced from his lower lip to his jaw, the after-effect of a long line of drool.

"This one's long gone." The first man set his jaw. "Even if he leaves, when the peacekeeping corps finds the body, they'll haul his ass in for murder."

"What are we gonna tell the boss?"

He slapped him. "What the hell you think? That we shot `em both dead. Motherfucker..." He continued to curse as the two of them made their way back to their transport, and eventually the base in Midgar proper.

Cloud cocked his head to one side in confusion. (Friendmanquiet.) He crawled over to Zack's body, not understanding what was wrong with his traveling companion. His skin was cool. Suddenly, a flash of memory popped into his head.

(Longsilverhairman. Takeswordofdeadmanandliftup.) He reached out and grabbed the Buster Sword. Thunder crashed and lightning crackled through the air. Raindrops fell, cleansing the ground, even Zack's body...his own face.

And Cloud Strife raised his blade to the heavens and screamed in pain.

(I owe them both my life) he thought.

"Don't you agree that for me to go would be the best way?" Derin asked.

He shook his head. "What about me?" he asked.

Daphne's eyes widened. "Of course not! Cloud, you're an innocent spectator in all of this... Why, I can't even bear the thought of such a thing."

"You can't...you can't leave us again," he whispered.

She bowed her head, a teardrop falling from her eyes. "I have no other choice," she said, "and if you won't take me there and be my support, then I guess I shall have to run off on my own again and do it myself."

He had no other choice but to take her by the hand. The three of them walked away together to find the others. It was time to tell them the end result of everything. Apologies were whispered; more tears than anyone thought imaginable fell that night. No one slept; no one could bear to dream.

When Aurora swept away the evening sky with the first morning light, the Highwind was there to greet her. On its way to the Forgotten Capital, the time had come to finish the ending of the second story.

Chapter 29

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic