After a nice reprisal of "welcome home Ray" from Lia, Raieyana, Reeve, and Ishmael met up with the others. Yuffie jumped up and ran over to Raieyana triumphantly. "I give you Hope," she said.
"Okay," said Raieyana, "two from Yuffie, now is anyone else going to give me a White materia?" Cloud walked over and handed her Spirit.
Blane sauntered over. "I'll give you Renew, if you'll give me a kiss."
(Blane we broke up, remember?) she thought. But, she leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek.
"Here you are m'lady," he said, handing her Renew.
Raieyana hauled out the Evenstar. "There's Mercy, now Spirit, Renew, Hope, and...Holy," she said, placing each orb in its respective slot.
"Now what?" asked Ruther.
"Ray," said Ishmael, "we have to do something about Aysta."
"I know, I know," she said, "but we shouldn't rush into anything. I--"
"Ray," said Blane, "Aysta is the immediate problem. If we don't finish her off now, there was no point in getting the materia. We might as well just hand it all over to her now. I mean, I understand this is hard for you. It's hard for me, too."
"It's not the same, Blane," she said, "to you, it's like 'well, she was my friend, but she's gone bad.' To me it means another member of my family is going to be dead when this is all over."
Cid walked over and put a hand on her shoulder. "I thought that's what it always meant."
"I know, I just...well, I thought maybe she would come to her senses. I understand why I have to do this, I just never brought myself to face reality before. Aysta must die...but, can we at least wait until tomorrow?"
Reeve took her hand. "No one's asking you to go out and do it right this second. Right?" he asked, addressing the others. They nodded. "So," he continued, "we all need tonight to rest, anyway. Then...well, we'll go do what has to be done."
Raieyana nodded. "Tomorrow it all ends."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It was a little past midnight when Blane met Ishmael outside Lia's house, where they were staying. "So," he whispered, "are you ready to do what needs to be done?"
"But," Ishmael said, "Ray..." His voice trailed off into the darkness.
Blane grabbed his shoulders and shook him. "Ishmael," he said, "she has forgotten you. So what if you love her? She will never love you."
Ishmael looked at him. "Shut up. You sound just like Aysta."
"So," said Blane, "did you ever think for a minute that maybe Aysta's right? C'mon, you know what you could do."
"What?" Ishmael asked warily.
"Help Aysta. I mean, after all, look what Ray's been doing to you. It would just be a little practical joke. Like old times."
"Old times..." Ishmael whispered. Then he nodded. "Okay Blane, you win. Where's Ray's room?" Blane pointed to a window in Lia's house. "Be back in five," Ishmael said. "Wait. Take the sword?"
Blane shook his head. "Just the materia. We'll head to Junon right away, so take your stuff with you."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Yes, come," Aysta whispered. "closer and closer to the end, my goal, Sephiroth's glorious return. Right Denmae?" She looked over at Denmae. Her eyes were glassy, she uttered no reply. "Too much mind control for one day?" Aysta ruffled Denmae's hair. "Well, when the boys get here, I won't be so intense with them, okay? I just can't believe Ish went along with Blane. Surprise, surprise. But then I guess he never expected to see innocent little Ray tongue-in-cheek with another man. But then, life's just full of surprises."
"President?" Scarlet walked into the room. "Are you okay? I heard your voice in the next room and I thought..."
"I know what you thought," said Aysta, "you thought I was talking to myself. Going crazy, perhaps? No. I was just talking to my friend Denmae." She smiled at Denmae. "So don't bother yourself about me, Scarlet. Just bother with getting me a Gelnika prepared. Three others and myself are going to the Northern Crater tomorrow. Oh, and if two ex-Soldiers come in..." She handed Scarlet a picture of Blane and a picture of Ishmael. "Bring them up here. I will be expecting them. They have a present for me."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Raieyana woke up with the sun streaming across her face. She stretched her arms over her head and yawned. Then she noticed the note taped to the Evenstar. She walked slowly towards it, puzzled. (Ish's handwriting? What does it say?)
I never wanted it to end this way. I never expected it to end like this. But then, I never expected that we wouldn't be together. I guess I woke up yesterday. I saw you and Reeve. Have a nice life with the path you chose, if you can live with it, knowing now how it has affected mine. Blane, Aysta, they knew--but never mind what they knew. The only thing that matters now is what I know, and what you know. I couldn't leave without saying something, anything. And I say it now--forgive me, forgive me, for being to weak to ignore the suggestions. They've slowly come on, the voices telling me things I never wanted to hear. But there was only so long I could hold them out of me. Forgive me Raieyana. I always will love you, me. Maybe I'm just not me anymore.
Raieyana caught her breath. (Forgive you for what, Ish? For leaving? What about Blane, Aysta?) Then she turned over the sword. All the slots were empty. "Oh God, Ish," she whispered. "Not the materia..." Tears welled up in her eyes. She ran to room Ishmael and Blane were sharing. She whipped open the door. (Empty, all their stuff gone...) She was starting to panic. She ran to Reeve's room. He was sound asleep. "Reeve, wake up." She shook him. He kissed her on the cheek.
"Ray? What is it, hon?" he mumbled.
"The materia's gone, and so are Blane and Ish."
He sat up, now wide awake. "What? I swore I just heard--"
"You did. We gotta get the others, tell them."
"Raieyana," he said slowly, "did they go to Aysta?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. But they're probably in Junon by now. We have to catch her before she does anything. Now where would she go with the materia?"
They both looked at each other. "The Northern Crater!" they said at the same time.
"The hell? Raieyana, they're your friends," Barret said.
"Barret," said Reeve, "don't you think she's upset enough, without you..."
Cloud held up his hand to silence Reeve. He was holding Ishmael's letter. "Actually Reeve," he said, "I think you're the one who caused all this."
"So what, now it's all my fault? It's not like I'm the one who goes crazy anytime someone with a little bit of Jenova in them walks by. I saw you coming on to Ray the other day."
"Well," said Tifa, coming to Cloud's defense, "at least he's only five years older than her, not ten, like some cradle robbers I know."
"Please," pleaded Raieyana. Everyone calmed down a little. She continued softly. "Arguing is not going to stop Aysta. There's only one way, and I think I'm the only one who can. After all, there is no way I can be susceptible to her mind control."
"She's right. She needs to go and stop Aysta, quickly. Maybe you can win Ishmael back. From the letter, he doesn't sound completely with Aysta's camp, yet," said Legolas.
"Allright," said Cid, "never wanted to go back there, but I guess it's off to the Northern Crater."