Evolution of Innocence Chapter 4

By Janet Monstwillo

“This is it.”

Cloud looked around. “This place is...”

“All I can afford at the moment. My mother’s hospital bills knocked me out. And I refuse to impose myself on Joel.” Daphne managed a weak smile. “It’s not that bad, really.”

“It doesn’t look safe.”

“I can handle it, after all...” Her words trailed off. (What am I doing? Saying? I was going to say I grew up in the slums. I grew up in Mideel, the safest place on the planet. Well, when you’re talking about crime, anyway...)

Cloud smiled. “I know you’re not helpless. I just don’t know how I could keep from worrying about you when this is where you live.”

“Well, maybe...” She looked into his eyes. “Do you wanna be my bodyguard?”

(After what happened to Aeris?) “What?!” he asked angrily. He saw the hurt flash across her face. (It’s not her fault. She doesn’t know. She couldn’t understand.) “I’m so sorry, Daphne.”

She stepped back. “Fine,” she said softly.

He grabbed her hand. “Wait. I didn’t mean...” He looked down into her eyes. (Aeris.) He shook his head. (No, dammit, this is Daphne.) “Daphne,” he whispered. “You’re coming with me, so don’t argue. You’re going to pack yourself a suitcase and I’m going to rent you a room at the hotel.”

“Why bother? Aren’t you leaving tonight?”

“No, I’m staying there, too. I’m sort of on an...extended visit. I have some business to take care of. It would put my mind at ease to know you were safe. I’m sorry that I sounded mean. I would protect you with my life.”

Daphne looked at him warily. “Why would you? You hardly know me.”

“I feel like I’ve known you all my life. This all...feels right. Like it’s supposed to be like this. For the first time ever, I think I understand things just a little.”

(Not me. I’ve never been so confused in all my life. I don’t understand what’s going on, why I seem to be haunted by him. How is it that we can know each other before we get to know each other?) “Fine, then,” she said, “I’ll be back down in a minute.”

“Cloud, I’ve been looking for you.”

Cloud whirled around. “Damn, Red, what the hell are you doing here? You just freaked me out, big time.”

“I need you to come with me to my observatory. Now.”

“Well, you’ll have to wait a bit...”

Red XIII growled. “The matter is imperative.”

“I’m waiting for someone,” said Cloud, “for godsakes, hold your horses.”

“Cloud?” Daphne emerged from the building, eyeing Red XIII in fear. “Wh...what is that?”

Cloud walked over to her and took her hand. “A friend. A very impatient friend.”

Red XIII shook his head in disgust. “A very annoyed friend who has been looking all over Junon for you.”

Her eyes widened in alarm. “It talks!”

Red XIII stepped closer. “Yes, and with much more comprehension than the average human. Can we go, Cloud?”

Daphne shrank back and shielded herself behind Cloud. (I remember...being in a lab...and that animal...)

“Daphne? Are you okay?”

She looked into his concerned eyes. “I...can’t help it...” She glanced at Red XIII. “I beg your pardon, s...sir, but I’m scared.”

Red XIII turned and started walking. “Cloud, come with me. You can follow at a distance if the lady’s fear prevents you from actually walking with me. We will be meeting everyone else.”


Red XIII nodded. “Yes, you will be the last to arrive. Tifa, Barret, and even Yuffie were here before you. Although I’m sure they weren’t having such an entertaining evening.”

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

No one expected to be gathered again so soon. Reunions are good in their own little way, but only when the news relayed is good. The party did not want to come together for another crisis of the Planet. But, as Vincent put it, “We are the only ones who concern ourselves with the Planet’s condition. Our journeys together have proven that. If we do not continue to protect it to the best of our abilities, the Planet will surely die. We have been chosen by whatever fates exist to carry on the roles of protectors. And carry them on we shall, if not for the Planet’s sake, but for our own.”

Red XIII looked around the room. “I’m sure you’re all wondering why I called you here tonight.”

Cid nodded and lit up a cigarette. “Damn straight...” he muttered.

“There is great distress in the voice of the Planet. The cries started up again right after Meteor fell, but for a while I disregarded them because I was certain... Well, no excuse is going to suffice. Once I started investigating the Planet’s cries, I knew there was only one cause. A soul has forced its way from the Lifestream back onto the Planet. One who was dead now takes his place among the living.”

Daphne looked around the room in amazement. (No one could possibly believe this, could they?) But everyone else looked completely at ease with the notion of the dead returning to life. She met Cloud’s eyes.

He gave her a half-smile and squeezed her hand. “Red? Do you know for certain that this...spirit...is a he?”

Red XIII shrugged. “I doubt Aeris’ return could cause such distress. I’ll be blunt. Whatever soul has returned, it has done so without permission of the powers-that-be, and has tipped the scales back towards the Planet’s destruction. It may be Sephiroth, Hojo, or even some ancient unknown force, but we have to all be prepared and informed now, so when this soul decides to reveal its identity, we can defeat it.”

Daphne felt all sorts of fears settle in the pit of her stomach. (Why am I afraid? Why should I be afraid? Why do those names scare me so?) She held Cloud’s hand even tighter.

“Don’t worry,” he whispered, “it’s nothing major...Red’s just a little paranoid.” He kissed her softly on the cheek.

Tifa watched this exchange from her position on the opposite side of the room. (Damn you, Cloud! Why do you have to come here and shove that chick in my face? She doesn’t have a clue what’s going on...she isn’t one of us...) “Red, do you have any idea of how we approach this spirit, or how to defeat it? Do you even know whether it has a body or not?”

Red XIII shook his head. “I have given you all the information that I have. I felt it necessary to notify you all so you can keep your eyes open at your respective locales...I need everyone aware so you can spot this evil. If you have a suspicion, do not hesitate to use the PHS and notify us all.”

Daphne could feel a hazy question forming in the back of her mind. (What if...what would happen when a soul...) “Do you know whether a soul that returned would be in the same form or not? Or would they have to use the body of someone living?” she asked softly.

Everyone’s eyes turned to Daphne.

“It is a thought-provoking question,” said Vincent, “for if a powerful soul has forced itself into a living body, that would not only be the cause of these distress signals...it would be an unfortunate thing for us.”

“The enemy could look like anyone,” said Yuffie, “the enemy could be anyone.”

Tifa scrutinized Daphne. (I bet I know who the enemy might be.)

“I swear, it ain’t me this time,” said Cait Sith. There was a click and a whir, and then they could hear Reeve’s voice. “And next time we have a meeting, I’ll actually be there.”

“This body-switching idea sounds plausible,” said Red XIII, “I don’t know where you found this girl, Cloud, but she sounds like a smart one.” He turned to Daphne. “Can you fight?”

“A little,” she said shyly.

“One of her friends told me she was a devil with the rod,” said Cloud, “she’s probably being modest.”

“The rod?” asked Barret. “We ain’t got nobody on one of them since...” He trailed off.

There was an uncomfortable silence.

Red XIII cleared his throat. “I think if a soul was inhabiting a different body, the soul would still be inclined to act as it did in its ‘former life.’ So I would say a man running around in a black cape carrying a Masamune to be fairly dangerous. As well as a man in a lab coat looking for unusual research specimens.”

(And maybe there’s a girl with a pink hair ribbon, holding a rod and a basket of flowers...) Cloud’s mind drifted off into a sea of possibilities and lost dreams.

“Cloud,” she said softly, “everybody else is leaving.”

“Aeris,” he murmured.

“What?” asked Daphne, puzzled.

(Damn it, not again! If I can’t get my mind off of Aeris, it is not fair to Daphne.) He looked into Daphne’s pretty eyes. (I don’t understand. Half the time, she helps me forget. And in the other half, she makes my memories breathe a new life.) “Are you ready to go?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Red, we’re heading on out,” Cloud said.

“Be careful, Cloud. Whoever or whatever is trying to start something again...they will probably have their eye on you for their first target. We are going to meet back here in a week unless there is something unforeseen that arises.”

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

From his vantage point high above the city, Derin watched two figures emerge from one of the buildings. (There she is. With him. My maiden of light, and she walks with a man of darkness. His mind is a troubled storm.)

Derin stood exactly six feet tall. He wore a tight black T-shirt and a pair of black leather pants. The clothing emphasized both his lithe, muscular form and the contrast of his pale skin to his short black hair and dark brown eyes. On his face was a day’s growth of beard and he looked haggard from lack of sleep.

(I have been searching for weeks and I have finally found her. In order to save you from the coming darkness, love, I have to save you from the man who helped destroy you before. I don’t blame him for being weak. But I will not let you stay with him if he is weak and I am strong.)

Derin saw Cloud and Daphne leave Red XIII’s and head for the Junon hotel. He picked up his gigantic sword and prepared to follow them. (Of course, I do have the advantage. Sweetheart, you only know who you are. I know who you were...and who I was...) He glanced behind his shoulder, making sure he would not be followed. (And I know who our enemy is.)


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