Evolution of Innocence Chapter 9
By Janet Monstwillo
No! Cloud stepped between Derin and Daphne. Grabbing her by the shoulders, he shook her. Hows he got you brainwashed?
Derin laid a hand on Clouds arm. Ive done nothing to her but help her remember.
Remember? Cloud trembled. She cant remember things she never knew.
Daphne met Clouds eye. You are right about that. So what if I do remember things that only Aeris could have known?
He put them in your head, then.
Now how the hell would I do that. Derin shook his head.
You tell me!
Red XIII stepped forward. Cloud. If Daphne says she remembers things about Aeris, maybe you should be open to
I dont remember things about her, Daphne said, I remember everything. I am her.
The only response she met was eight pairs of doubting eyes.
Cloud, she said desperately, I told you my payment for your bodyguard duties would be going out with you once...Tifa, I told you never to call me Ms. Aeris, and Barret, I told you that Marlene was safe. Even though I knew Tseng was going to hit me.
The three of them were stunned, but remained silent.
Red XIII started at the sound of his birth name. (We never told Daphne what my real name was...how...?)
The reason why I was afraid of you outside of my apartment is I partially remembered how Hojo shut us up in that cell together...he raised you up on an elevator. She glanced around. Should I continue?
Cid lit a cigarette and took a long drag. Say something about me.
When we were flying the Tiny Bronco and Shinra shot us down, you told us to hold on to your drawers and dont piss in em.
For maybe the first time in his life, Cid Highwind actually looked meek. He looked at the raven-haired girl in awe.
Yuffie, she said softly, I was so sorry for you. Sorry that you had to go down to the altar with Cloud that day. I know you cried every night for weeks. I just wanted to give you a big hug and tell you everything was going to be all right.
You could see that? Yuffie whispered.
Daphne nodded. I watched you all. I had to make sure that everything was going to work out after my sacrifice.
Vincent was silent.
Oh, I forgot to mention you, she said with a toss of her long hair. I remember you too. How you went back into your coffin like a big grouch after we told you we were hunting Sephiroth.
He looked at her and raised an eyebrow.
And then only going with us so you could beat on Hojo! Geez.... She smiled. Not that he didnt deserve it, but I would hope you answered to a higher obligation than revenge.
Im here now, arent I?
Yes. Daphnes eyes sparkled. Im so proud...of...all of you. Still hard at work, protecting the Planet, even when youve earned a retirement.
How bout you? asked Barret. You paid a higher price than all a us. Yet...youre back... how?
Derin smiled. There are many souls who are weary of life. The powers-that-be dont feel too badly in letting them trade their bodies for peace. Then protectors are sent in place of the weary souls. More life insurance for the Planet.
How do you know all of this? Cloud glared at him with an almost inhuman amount of viciousness.
Havent you guessed? he asked, amused.
Cloud just narrowed his eyes.
Daphne placed her hand softly on Clouds shoulder. Thats Zack.
Cloud just turned on his heel and slowly walked away from the group, disappearing in the darkness.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
I suppose the revelation was quite startling, said Derin. The entire group, still sans Cloud, was gathered at Red XIIIs rooftop observatory.
That still leaves him little excuse for abandoning us, remarked Vincent. After learning that Aeris was standing there with us, I expected to learn that Sephiroth was here, too.
Derin was oddly silent.
I keep getting the feeling that you know more about all of this mess than you are willing to let on.
I was...advised, before my passage back to this Planet, that I was not to give the solutions to questions, but to guide others to the answers.
What does that mean?
Well...it seems that Im more like insurance than anything. The Masters in the Promised Land expected that you all should be able to solve these problems. Im here just in case. I didnt really have a role in all of this.
No role? Red XIII furrowed his brow. Then why were you allowed to return here?
I made a promise once to someone very special, Derin said softly, and in the Promised Land, promises are never broken. Because of this, the Masters understand that sometimes allowances must be made in their plans. He glanced at Daphne, wondering how slowly her memories were returning to her.
Daphne was quiet because all this talk about promises had indeed brought a memory back to her...
(I want to meet the real you, Cloud, Aeris whispered.)
Cloud started from his dream. Aeris had been dead for three months. In some ways, it had seemed like three seconds; the images of her were burned so deeply into his memory. (But other times it seems like three centuries. That she was gone, long gone before I ever got a chance to do the things I wanted. Say what I wanted to say. I was so stupid then, still lost in my delusions. She probably just saw how I acted like Zack and cared for the Zack-like parts of me...)
He lay awake a long time, thinking bitterly. Eventually he found he was able to close his eyes and drift back into the land of slumber and thoughtless wandering.
Aeris glanced up from the pool where she had viewed this scene. True, the Promised Land was lovely, but she was compelled to check in on her friends as often as the Masters would allow. She knew they sometimes wondered at her attachment to the material world.
(They dont understand. I was so close to the spiritual when I was alive... That I am still close to the tangible while I am only a spirit myself.)
She was held in great reverence by the Masters, and they even allowed her to visit the dreams of her friends. (After I argued my case by showing them Yuffies grief, they said I could come to them, but only in dreams. I would go to ease their pain as well as my own. The Masters thought I would soon let go. But I swear, I wont. Not now, not next week, not ever... As long as my friends live, I will watch them and visit them.)
Aeris descended down into Clouds dream...
(Aeris, where are you? Cloud cried. He was wandering down a dark trail in a forest in the middle of the night. The only thing that guided him was a glimpse of pink ribbon now and again.
Suddenly, in front of him, walking softly, was a maidenly form. Clothed in all silver, the girl stepped out of the trees. The air around her sparkled; she seemed to be giving off her own radiance. Her green eyes glittered with unshed tears. Cloud, you have to stop doing this to yourself.
I can bring you back with me, he whispered. Just let me find a way.
That wouldnt be right. I did what I had to do. This was my part. We all wanted to save the Planet; this was my way.
No. A tear traced a path down his cheek. I had so much to tell you. Show you who I really am down inside. Prove to you that I was worthy of you, and not just some Zack wannabe.
What about Tifa? Aeris asked diplomatically.
Cloud stood silent for awhile. She means a lot to me. But, I doubt I can get over the hurt from when I got blamed for the bad things in her life. Back when we were small.
She cares for you deeply. What if you cause bad things for her now?
Ill try not to. He suddenly looked at her, locking his eyes onto hers. Blue eyes met green; both were filled with pain and grieving.
Aeris broke eye contact first. Neither one of us needs to regret what could have been.
How about what should have been? Cloud asked with sudden insight.
Aeris had come to soothe him. He, in turn, had led her to question herself, and the powers that reigned over her. I dont know.
Ill promise to live and let live, if you just give me one bit of hope, swear to me... he began.
If you ever come back, if theres a way for me to see you...that youll give me a chance to be to you what I should have been to you on that altar.
Give me one thing to hope for. I could live to be a hundred years old, and if you give me that, Ill have one reason to breathe if nothing else.
I promise you Cloud, said Aeris, that if we ever meet again... But she could not bear it any longer. She turned and fled back down the dark path into the forest.)
That was the last time Aeris visited a dream, any dream. She finished the promise in her own head, back in the Promised Land. (I promise you Cloud. If I find a way back...Ill tell you how I feel about you. Let you have your say. Then maybe we can both have peace.)
The next time she met with a Master, she met with Eldor. She had a few questions to ask him.
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