There was a chill in the Northern Crater. Raieyana shivered. (When this place collapsed, it made new caverns, with new demons. Demons for me to conquer. Me, alone.) She heard a sound behind her. She whirled around. (Nothing.) She breathed a sigh of relief, and turned back around.
"Hi, honey," snarled a large mutant wolf, about three times the size of the wolves around Nibelheim. Raieyana was taking no chances. She whipped out the Evenstar.
"You caught up with me at a very bad time," she began, moving towards it. She heard more snarls. Raieyana was surrounded.
"Kar," growled one, sniffing Raieyana, "can we have a little fun with her first? I've never had a two-legger before."
"Whatever you want," said Kar. Suddenly Kar split in half.
"Reeve?" said Raieyana, astonished.
"Hey, Ray," he said. "I followed you." In a flash the four other wolves were dead.
Raieyana smiled, relieved. "Cloud had no idea what danger he was putting himself in when he was flirting with me the other day."
Reeve shrugged. "Anyone who makes a lurid pass at you, dies. It's just that simple." He looked at her. "I didn't want you facing her alone," he murmured, "I just couldn't let myself leave you by yourself."
"Well," she said, "it's great that you did, Reeve. But I have a job to do. Can you let me do that by myself?"
"Unless Aysta comes out of the closet, no problem," said Reeve.
She looked at him. "Y'know, that's my sister," she said.
He shrugged. "I keep forgetting because you two have no similarities."
"Come on," Raieyana said.
Four hours later, they still hadn't reached Aysta. Suddenly the narrow tunnel opened into a large cavern. "Reeve can come with me," a male voice said. "Blane?" whispered Raieyana. "Don't do this--"
"Shut up," he said. He pressed a revolver against Reeve's neck. "We're going to see Aysta, understand?" he said. Raieyana nodded. He led them over to a corner of the cavern. A circlet with materia was glowing.
"Denmae," Aysta said, "take Reeve off Blane's hands for the moment. Now dear sister, you will see the power I have over others, even your precious Ishmael."
"Ish? What have you done to him?" Raieyana asked.
"Nothing...yet. Why, do you think I should?" Aysta smiled wickedly. "Now, back to business. Blane, put the gun in your mouth." He did as she said.
"No," Raieyana whispered.
"Pull the trigger," said Aysta.
"Stop!" Raieyana yelled, but it was no use. She closed her eyes when she heard the bang and didn't open them until she heard Blane's body hit the ground.
"Don't think, Ray, that I wouldn't make you watch Ishmael do the same thing. Or your new lover-boy, whoever the hell he thinks he is." Raieyana suddenly noticed Ishmael and Reeve were standing behind Aysta, hands at their sides.
Reeve was looking straight into her eyes. (Ray, don't worry sbout me. Get Aysta...)
Ishmael was looking at the ground. (What have I done...
only what she deserves...
I love her...
you used to love her. Not anymore.)
"Oh, Aysta," Raieyana said, "what makes you think you can make me do anything?"
"Well, Ray, if you don't do what I ask, know that I can torture Ish and what's-his-name the same way as Blane," said Aysta, "I really don't think that you would enjoy that. Either way, you see my power, either way you get punished for your disobedience to our dear, beloved Father."
"Aysta, the only thing you have on your mind is revenge on me, for God knows only what. Whatever I did to you, sure make me pay, but Ish, Reeve, they've done nothing to you. They have nothing to do with this. This is between you and me, sister. Unless you need hostages because you can't do it by yourself..." (Always hit the inferiority complex first, the rest of her later...)
"Fine," said Aysta, and she waved her hand. Reeve and Ishmael fell flat on their faces But Reeve only fell because Denmae, who was behind him with a gun to his head, fell. It was apparent that Aysta's mind control had kept her and Ishmael where they stood, but not Reeve. That was done with Denmae's gun. "I really didn't want to do anything to them anyway. It's hard to get men who are really good slaves to mind control."
"Reeve," said Raieyana, "take Ish out of here. He looks bad."
"What about you, Ray?" Reeve asked.
"Just go!" He nodded, put Ishmael's arm around his shoulder, and led him out of there.
(If you can control minds, sis, then me too.) "Denmae," Raieyana said, looking deep into her eyes, "sleep." Denmae immediately passed out.
Aysta chuckled. "Did you really think you were ever gonna stop me?" she taunted. "Even now, it's basically all over. Father's back, and really, it's all thanks to you...for trusting your old friends when you knew I had the powers of mind control... But, hey, Ish never would have hopped on the Aysta bandwagon if you didn't have a new man. By the way, what is so great about this Reeve guy? All he does is decimate men that so much as glance at you with this jealous rage he seems to have. Well, sis, I'd even forgive you now if you apologized, but really it's up to Father." She climbed on a tall rock jutting out from above a huge drop-off. She raised her arms above her head. "Oh, Father, with your infinite wisdom, judge your prodigal daughter as she dares to defy you, even now, in your moment of glory..." she began. Than she slipped, and fell.
"Aysta," cried Raieyana, running to the edge. Aysta was gone. Raieyana glanced at the circlet. (That was rather anti-climatic. Damn you, Aysta. Sephiroth's coming back now. But maybe I can still stop it all still, if...) She grabbed Mutate, and stuck it in the center slot of the Evenstar. She put the White materia around it. (One empty slot...too bad Aysta didn't know where Faith was. But I can end this now, here.) She started to reach for something, but she heard Reeve's voice.
"Ray...are you okay? If everything's settled, you can come over here now." She hesitated, glancing at the glowing materia, then headed to join Reeve.
"Aysta?" Reeve asked.
"Fell off a rock. Dead. Never had much coordination," Raieyana said.
Ishmael moaned. He was on his knees, obviously ailing. "Ray, I'm sorry. I...I..."
Raieyana stopped him. "Now, Ish, it's okay. It's not your fault--it's Aysta's."
Ishmael shook his head. "I tried to fight it. For so long now, I... Ray, I can't do it anymore."
Ishmael closed his eyes. "I still hear it, telling me...things. But it's not Aysta anymore, it's Sephiroth. Ray, I don't want to hurt you."
"Ish, you haven't. There's nothing you could ever do to hurt me."
(Here it comes) thought Reeve. (I'm just waiting for her to say the words to comfort him that will break my heart. Go on, Ray, Tell him you love him. After all, you do, don't you? Nothing could faze me, really. But this guy, he's suffering, you can ease the pain. Go on Ray. I'll understand. It's too soon to think you could even possibly love me...) There was a loud crash. Then another. "Ray, this thing's going to collapse pretty soon," said Reeve shakily.
"Ray," said Ish.
"Yes," she answered.
"Make it all end, please."
Raieyana was confused. "What?"
"I can't live like this," he said, "I'm in love with you, yet every second, every minute, is filled with voices telling me to...Ray, I'm going to lose my mind. I'm half-way there already." Another crash. "It's going to cave in, you have to get out of here. Ray, just don't take me with you when you go back up. Tell them Aysta killed me."
She shook her head, and smoothed back his hair. (Always too long, never stayed in place... I'd do anything for you Ish, but I can't do this, please...) "No Ish, if I do that Aysta will have killed you."
"But Ray," Ishmael said, "if you take me with you it will kill me anyway. Not my body, but my soul..."
Raieyana started to cry. "I can't leave you here, Ish. This sounds so selfish, but I need you. Everything from my past is gone. Bet you don't know this, or Reeve either, but when we were in the Shinra building, I saw a newspaper opened to the obituary page. I saw my aunt's...Aula, she's dead. Aysta must have killed her, because my aunt wasn't very old. Not old enough to die on her own. And Ish, Blane's gone, and Aysta, my father... If you die, I won't have anyone...no one..."
"Shhh..." He put his finger to her lips. "Him." He pointed to Reeve. "He loves you. You'll have him. Reeve, you'll take care of Ray, won't you?"
Reeve nodded slowly. (How could he know that I...love her?)
"All I want is peace," Ishmael said. "Give it to me, please."
"Okay Ish," she said, "close your eyes. Sleep." Raieyana was grateful for her skills is hypnosis once again as Ishmael went into a peaceful slumber. "Please don't feel any more pain." She kissed him. Reeve took her hand. "Good-bye, my friend," she said.
Reeve was silent. (Aysta was on a level well below the destruction she caused. Another thing to blame Sephiroth for? Who is to blame because this boy dies? Hojo, Ray, or perhaps...even me?)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
From the deck of the Airship, they could see the crater collapsing on itself. "I don't know if that's a good sign or a bad sign," Red XIII said.
"Look," said Cloud, "there's Reeve and Raieyana." Reeve climbed up the ladder first and put his hand down to help up Raieyana, who was still very upset.
"What's wrong?" asked Tifa. "What happened?"
"Well," said Reeve, "Aysta's dead."
"A relief," said Legolas, "Denmae?"
"Umm, Blane?" asked Ruther.
"Ishmael?" asked Vincent quietly.
"He's dead," Raieyana said. "Aysta killed him. (Ish, no one will ever know. I swear.) And, well, she succeeded in her plans."
"What?" said Cloud.
"The materia was glowing when I got there, already working. I could have stopped it even then, but..."
"So why didn't you?" asked Barret angrily.
"You know what?" she said, "I'm sorry. I'm just so sorry that I had to be with my friend when he died. I'm so sorry that I got all the materia back. And Mutate as well. I'm so sorry that I still have a plan to stop Sephiroth before he takes over someone's body, especially when the most likely candidate for that is sitting among us." She got up and started to leave. "Wait. Why don't we keep going here? I'm sorry I was born, because then Aysta wouldn't have been born. I'm sorry my father existed, because maybe then Aeris wouldn't be dead. I'm so sorry that I disappointed all of you by thinking 'Maybe Sephiroth's going to come no matter what the hell I do, but I'll never see Ish again after today, so I should be there.' I'm so sorry, so damn sorry!" She left the deck.
"She's had a hard day," said Cid.
"Yeah," said Reeve coldly, "she has had a time."
Barret walked over guiltily. "Take her to Costa Del Sol for tonight. Let her get rid of the bad vibes. Come back tomorrow."
Reeve looked at him suspiciously, wondering what he knew. "Why me?"
Barret shrugged. "Because from where I stand, I think you're the best friend that she has left. Mebbe she needs someone to talk to. I don't think I would make the best choice. So you go with her. Give her a peaceful night."