Evolution of Innocence Chapter 7

By Janet Monstwillo

“We’re being stared at.”

“I find myself often stared at,” said Vincent. “I’m surprised this is something new for you.”

“What are you implying?” asked Tifa.

Tifa and Vincent were walking through the convention displays, attracting glances from the delegates.

He caught her eye and shrugged. “In my opinion, you are not average. That’s all I meant by what I said. I meant no offense.”

A group of giggling pre-teen girls shoved their way between the two of them. The girls were all in very skimpy outfits, and had obviously stuffed their shirts to give the appearance of bustiness.

Tifa was visibly bothered. (Are they dressed like...me?) She blinked back a few tears.

“Their outfits don’t do you justice.”

“Do I...do I...” she stammered. “Vincent, is that what I really look like?”

“I already told you that it is not. Simple exaggeration. I can’t wait to see what the portrayals of me look like.” But the Vincent costumes were simply vampiric outfits with a fake claw. Nothing offensive there.

Tifa self-consciously ran a hand through her hair. (I didn’t think to tie it back...how annoying.) “Everyone’s looking at us!” It was a slightly paranoid thought, but she and Vincent were attracting a bit of attention.

“Well, I look weird, Tifa.”

“And I?”

“People look at you because you’re beautiful. That’s nothing to be worried about.” He cleared his throat and looked away. “There’s Red and the others. I suppose we should go see what the plan is.”

Still unnerved by what Vincent had just said to her, Tifa decided she needed some alone time. “I’ll be over in a bit, okay? I see something I want to check out.” She promptly lost herself in the crowd, without waiting for an answer.

Vincent watched her walk away and slowly turned towards where Red XIII was standing with the rest of the group. (Why do I bother to try and make her feel better? It is love she feels for Strife. I don’t even think I love her, so why should I try to ruin that?) His mind argued back and forth. (When I show her attention though, at least she won’t feel worthless. Cloud may be blind, but I am not.)


Red XIII growled. “I still think this harness is useless.”

Yuffie sighed. “Just because it was my idea.”

“I’m not your pet!”

“Of course not, you stubborn furball, but these silly people would go nuts if you just sauntered in here like a human being. Look, we know you’re nice and all that, but they’d be scared.”

“They are simple fools.”

“You do realize that you’re agreeing with me, right?”

“Especially the ones dressed as you,” he continued sulkily.

“Hmph,” she remarked with a pout.

“Grow up,” growled Cid as he tossed a cigarette butt on the ground.

Barret nodded. “Yeah, you foo’s are irking me something nasty. Now where’s all the peeps who dress like me?”

“They must not be here yet,” said Yuffie politely. She hurriedly changed the subject. “Oh look, there’s Vincent.”

“What have you seen so far, Vincent?” asked Red XIII.

“Well,” he began, “we saw a bunch of people in really bad costumes. All pretty peppy, no one who looks like a threat. But there are many people, and I learned from the information desk that this convention is a week long.”

Yuffie whimpered. “We have to stay here a week?!” she whined.

“We can save the Planet while you go home to your dollies,” said Red XIII, “it’s purely your choice.”

She scowled. “It just seems like a waste of time.”

“We can waste time now, as a price to gain the time we want to have in the future. Doesn’t that make the choice seem easier?” Vincent was contemplative. “Although it does seem kind of pointless without a slim lead. But we haven’t been here very long, either.”

“Speaking of ‘we,’” said Barret, “where the hell is Tifa?”

“She went to go check something out before I walked over here. She was rather vague.”

Barret was enraged. “You let her go off alone when the evil spirit demon-y thing might be here? What’s wrong wit’ you?”

Vincent’s eyes on Barret were as cold as ice. “She wanted to be alone. Why should I invade her need for privacy? She can take care of herself as well as any of the rest of us.” He paused. “Well, except for Yuffie, perhaps.”

“Damn you, I heard that!” Yuffie smacked Vincent on the arm.

“Thank you sweetheart,” he said sarcastically. “Let’s go look around. There’s supposed to be a recreation of 7th Heaven here. I always wanted to see that place.”

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

Daphne decided she needed a grande dose of introspection along with her double mocha. She sipped her hot drink carefully, her alert eyes scanning the crowd. (It’s useless for me to be a lookout for someone weird. I don’t know who half these people are supposed to look like, or even if they do look like who they dressed up as. I’m of no use to Cloud in any way. I’m just a young girl he met in a bar...why does he keep me around?)

As much as she let these thoughts spin around her head, she could not come up with a satisfactory answer to her questions. She only had one end in sight for her trail of thoughts. It was just as curious as the beginning. (Why am I staying with him?)


Cloud glanced over at Daphne to make sure she was all right. (She looks okay...but after that dizzy spell back there... I’m going to watch her like a hawk on its prey! Dammit, I’m going to protect her!) He kind of wondered if he wanted to protect her for her own sake, or more to satiate his guilty conscience for the times he had failed both Tifa and Aeris.

Deep blue eyes scrutinized every convention delegate that passed the coffee stand. (If the Planet were still at peace, we might all be sitting here, critiquing the costumes. It would be rather amusing. But instead, I’m looking for an enemy. I hate my life sometimes.) He indulged himself by letting his gaze glide across the body of a cute little red-head in a Turk outfit. She turned and met his eyes, smiling. Cloud quickly averted his eyes; he did not need a girl coming to hit on him. Especially not when she was a die-hard fan of his past battles, and especially especially not with Daphne sitting there. Not when Don Juan de Sephy was probably sitting next to her on the other side.

(I caught a flash of something in her eyes, though, and it was nothing close to admiration. Closer to hatred, more like malice. How silly...hating me because she’s dressed like she was in Shinra!) He scowled into his black coffee. (I despise wannabes.) He wouldn’t let his mind go on to admit that it was because he had once been a wannabe himself.


Derin was glad that Daphne wasn’t paying any attention to him. It left him free to look at her as much as he wished. He was planning, plotting... (Soon, dearest, I will find a way to jog your memory perfectly. Then you will run into my arms and leave this wannabe behind.) He smiled to himself, and then noticed that Cloud had his eye on something–or rather, on someone. Derin allowed his gaze to follow the invisible trail and it then came to rest on the red-haired woman.

(So she is here.) Derin became lost in thought. If she was attracted to the convention, she might have realized her past already. (Does she recognize us?) He was on the verge of attacking the girl then and there, when her eyes met his. The velvety brown irises reflected a simple, sweet look. Her attitude, in respect to Derin, was as tame as a kitten. However, he was observant enough to catch the malice that rested there while she looked at Cloud. (She knows who Cloud is, but Aeris and I are still cloaked in the disguise of these bodies, thank the Planet.)

He continued to watch his adversary carefully. (She seems to have seen something across the room that interests her.) Indeed, the woman was scrutinizing someone or something near the other end of the large ballroom. Suddenly, she moved towards her point of interest. In that moment, Derin also saw what had kept his target so captivated. (Oh no. She’s all alone, and the enemy will–)

Derin jumped up and, without a word to either Daphne or Cloud, he hopped over their table and into the crowds. He ran quickly through the mob in his way, following the path left by his red-haired adversary.


Daphne was startled out of her train of thought. “What was that all about?” she asked Cloud, worried.

His eyes narrowed. He could still see Derin, but not for much longer. (If I want to go after him, this is my only chance; if I don’t, he may kill someone. I can’t live with that. But...I can’t risk Daphne.) “You stay here,” he said firmly.

“What?!” Daphne was indignant.

“I have no time to argue. I need to follow him, but I have to make sure you’re safe. So stay here. I’ll follow Derin.” Without another word, he had lost himself in the crowd.

Daphne looked around the ballroom. No familiar faces seemed to greet her; all she could see were caricatures of familiar faces. She pouted and sipped her coffee, hoping against hope that the caffeine would calm her. (Don’t panic. Don’t panic,) she told herself. Then she saw a flash of red. (...about the right height...) She didn’t think another moment, and she ran towards it.

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

Barret growled. “Didn’t any of these peoples ackshully ever see the damn 7th Heaven? Don’t look a bit like this piece of–”

He was interrupted as a slender form ran up to Red XIII and enveloped him in a tight embrace.

The entire group was startled, but Vincent was the first to recover. “Does Red have an overzealous fan?”

“No,” said the person with her head buried in Red XIII’s mane. Then she burst into tears.

This worried Yuffie. She liked to play it cool, and this outpouring of emotions was a bother. “Hey, what’s wrong?” She kneeled down next to the girl.

Daphne extracted her face from Red XIII’s mane. Her words followed in a rush. “Cloud brought me here to look for an enemy and last night a weird man was in my room, but just a few minutes ago, Cloud ran after something and left me here alone. He was following Derin and I was scared I was going to be here all alone without anybody I knew with all these people dressed like you guys, but then I saw the fur and knew no one could fake that, so I had to follow it and I found...umm...Red.”

Yuffie looked perplexed. (How do I help?) She reached out and patted Daphne’s hand. (Gotta say something, don’t I? I should have stayed up there with Red’s leash!) “Umm...it’ll be okay? You’re with us now.” Thus, Daphne’s tight hug was transferred from Red XIII to Yuffie. “Ack...honey, I can’t breathe over here.”

“Sorry.” Daphne sheepishly released Yuffie from her clutches. “I don’t know what came over me.” She did look rather confused.

“Y’all okay over there?” asked Barret.

Daphne nodded.

The poor craftsmanship of the coffee stand finally dawned on Cid. “This piece of shit looks like a hunk of garbage,” he remarked.

“Not to be critical, Cid,” said Yuffie, “but ‘hunk of garbage’ would be a complimentary description of a piece of doo-doo. Doo-doo head!”

“I thought you were sixteen, not six,” muttered Red XIII.

“And I thought you weren’t going to talk inside the convention, ‘cause it would give you away,” she retorted. “Dumb-ass.”

“Who are you calling dumb-ass, ignoramus?!”

“Would you children stop the bickering?” snapped Vincent. “Daphne has been nice enough to tell us that Cloud just ran after what might be our enemy, and you guys are hurling insults, which you can do any day. Our enemy is here now. I think that makes the matter a little more important than Yuffie and Red’s annoying teenager aspects.”

This put a slight hush over the group. Daphne’s eyes were on Vincent, in awe. (Wow, he can make even this bunch listen to him.)

Vincent became aware that a pair of violet eyes were fixed on him. (Well, this certainly adds pressure to things.) He made himself meet them with his own. He gave Daphne a little smile. “Which way did Cloud go?”

“Well, pointing isn’t very specific. I guess I will just have to lead the way.” She picked up her rod. “That is, if you guys can forgive me for my hysterics.” She winked at Red XIII.

Red XIII laughed. “Of course.”

“You know Red, you really should keep it down,” said Vincent, “pretending not to be the real Avalanche and all.” He then looked back to Daphne, but the moment had passed.

Tossing her coffee cup in the trash, she made a gesture towards an exit. “C’mon guys, this way.”

They made their way quickly to the door. However, when the sounds of battle met their ears at the exit, they rushed out into the evening air quicker than quick.


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