Redemption Chapter 15
By Janet Monstwillo
Aeris sighed as the air around her slowly converted to the steady doom of darkness. (I have no idea where to look for him at all. Maybe this plan of mine wasn't quite as well thought out as I thought it was. Back on the Airship, when I could still see the sun.)
She wasn't about to give up, not at all. However, she was beginning to have doubts about whether Patrick was still anywhere near Undor-Hai at all. (And what about Zuri? She's either here in the wilderness, all alone and afraid, or she's off with Patrick...whatever place he is right now.)
She was proud of the good time she had been making up the mountain, even though nightfall had passed. She peered through the shadows and, with the last gleam of daylight, saw a blond-haired man farther up the trail. For a split second she wondered who it was, then she decided that it had to be Patrick. If his hair looked too dark, or the clothes a little odd, it was just a trick of the night air.
Cloud heard someone approaching from behind him and discreetly glanced over his shoulder. (A young woman, blond...wearing pink...running towards me?) He turned to face her and cautiously held his sword in front of him, as a precaution.
"Who's there?" he asked slowly.
"I could say the same thing to you," replied Aeris. (This is definitely not Patrick.)
"I'm here to visit someone. Raieyana Amine...and her family."
"Amine? She hasn't had that name in years. You must mean Raieyana Jordan." Her eyes narrowed. "That is, if you mean anything at all."
"Jordan..." he said softly to himself. (That was Reeve's last name, wasn't it? Of course. I was just being a little stupid.)
"So what business do you have?" A tinge of hostility crept into Aeris' voice. "There have been some...problems here as of late. If you cannot come up with a satisfactory answer, I'll have to destroy you."
Though the girl raised her weapon like she had been born with it in her hands, Cloud was troubled little. He could easily overpower the girl. Even if she was almost as tall as he, she was rather slender. He met her eyes with a look that proved he was not intimidated by her at all. "I'm Cloud Strife."
"You can't be!" Her eyes slowly examined him in wonderment. (But he looks...so...good.) "I thought Cloud Strife was older than my mother!"
"Who's your mom?"
"Raieyana," she said softly. "I'm Aeris."
On impulse, Cloud took her hand in his and brought it to his lips. "From a noble line. The Cetra." He released it, realizing that he had probably stepped over his boundaries. "When I learned your mother named you after..." A pause. "I wondered if it couldn't possibly be bordering on the sacrilegious. But it suits you."
There was something in his eyes. Even though Aeris had long known about the battles with Sephiroth and Cloud's noble actions then, there was something in her father's tone whenever he spoke of the one-time leader of Avalanche. A certain spin of knowledge began to circulate her mind.
Cloud saw the conflict in her eyes and mistook it for emotion. "I didn't ever mean it as an insult to you, it's just hard to see someone named after a person you knew well."
(The way Dad talks about Patrick...and then the way he always talked about Cloud... They're similar.) She glanced at Cloud. "No, that's not it at all. I've just got a lot on my mind. What brings you to Undor-Hai?" She motioned for him to start walking again, and they continued up the trail.
"Well," he answered slowly, "I'm here to visit someone I should have a long time ago."
He shook his head. "Don't ask me for my reasoning right now, but I need to see Patrick."
"So do I." Her eyes trailed off to a distant point somewhere. She was avoiding his clever gaze; she did not want him to see the emotion in her eyes. "There really have been problems around here lately."
"Can you tell me?"
"All I know...is there was an incident where a strange man came to our house in the middle of the night. I was in Kalm at the time, but apparently, Patrick killed the stranger...and Mom just kind of went into shock. Dad blamed it on him, and Patrick fled from the house." She sighed. "Seems the world just started crumbling that night. Next day, Vincent and Yuffie's daughter ran away into the woods around here, even though she's defenseless. Someone took over Alcor and locked up the executive board."
Cloud was quiet. "That seems like a lot to have happened in such a short period of time."
"That's not all," she said. "The night this started, Red XIII told us he sensed negative energy here. When I went to bed..." (No, I can't say this.) Her voice trailed off.
"Was it a couple nights ago?"
The girl nodded cautiously.
"Don't take this the wrong way...but have you been hearing 'voices'?"
Aeris was stunned. "How do you know?"
"That's why I'm here, now. Because I was told to be...in a dream."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Tifa raised her arms above her head, stretching in her chair. Reading ages-old scripture was taxing; she yawned as she stood up to make another trip to the shelves in the next room. Cosmo Canyon had long kept an extensive library of old scrolls, many of which had Ancient origin. For centuries, the Elders of the Canyon had guarded this library with their lives. But now that Tifa had direct exchange with Undor-Hai, there was a program going on. For every piece that Tifa let Lia and her scholars use, a scroll new to the Elders would be traded. Partly for collateral, partly for good reason.
It doesn't make sense to gather all the Planet's knowledge in one place; now the Elders at Cosmo Canyon knew about the Khazed scriptures that had foretold Raieyana's death and resurrection. In return, Undor-Hai now knew many things about the Calamity from the Skies and Gast's discoveries. There were many pieces that the Elders at the Canyon had long regarded as worthless. Even though the later dialects of the Cetra were easily discerned by the people at Undor-Hai or the Elders, the most ancient scrolls were still undecipherable, to most.
Tifa remembered the day about five years ago. That day, she had made up her mind that she was going to be able to read every single glyph written on every piece of scroll that Cosmo Canyon had. She had trekked up to Undor-Hai and learned the art of translation at Raieyana's feet. After a few weeks Tifa had been satisfied, and she returned home. She read a lot of simple mythological scrolls that were interesting, but not of much use to anyone. She used them to compile a simple book. She decided that the early Cetra civilization had not made any innovations worth discussing until later days.
Reaching back on the dusty shelf, she pulled off a large scroll of myths, wondering if they contained a hidden meaning that would help, or mention some ancient remedy that could help Raieyana. She turned to leave but suddenly something caught her eye.
The shelf was high in the air, and supposedly only contained a single row of documents for that reason. She was not tall enough to get a closer look, so she pulled a tall stool over beneath the shelf. Stepping onto it, she peered into the murky darkness. There was a small scroll that looked like it had been shoved to the back. She looked at the glyphs written on the outer part of the scroll. Teilenma'ar avid Jenn o' Vahh et Khazed. "Prophecies beyond Jenova and the Sacrifice."
Tifa studied it in disbelief. (This just might be a little helpful, now. I should get down and have me a look.)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"It's early. But if you're going to be up at dawn to train every day, I suppose we had better turn in."
Azura looked at Patrick. "The sun's only been down about an hour or so."
"Well, the days are lengthening now. We're having a real spring."
"I've never seen this before."
He smiled. "Neither have I. It's strange sometimes to think there is a lot that we missed out, isn't it?"
"I haven't totally minded the easy things."
She studied his face; she had begun to know him so well that she could tell--just by the dull look in his eye--that life at home had not been quite like her life at all. Giving him a little smile, she moved over close to him.
No thought was needed; this response was second nature now. Patrick wrapped an arm protectively around her as she rested her head on his shoulder. Looking deep into her eyes, he whispered. "My trade was worth it."
At this, she wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his chest. His strong arms clutched her tight against him, like she was a precious jewel, fallen from the sky. He did not utter the thought that echoed through his head. (I just hope, that for all that has been and will be, yours was worth it, too.)
"Pat?" She was looking up into his face. Her eyes shone like the stars.
He softly tilted her face up a little before he brought his lips down to hers. They clung tightly to each other. The world stopped for Patrick as she deepened the kiss, running her hands down his back.
"Hey, look there." Daniel pointed to a gleam in the distance.
"That's a fire." Benjamin grinned. "I think we've found something that we've been looking for."
Daniel stopped the young man as he prepared to charge on the spot. "Wait. You know what we're supposed to do, right?"
"Yeah. Use status-changing magic on the girl so we can bring her in stopped, sleeping, as a frog, whatever." He gave his partner a cocky smile. "I can do whatever the hell I want to the damn murderer."
"You know you can't. I won't let you either."
"You'd stand before a killer to save his life? His is worth more than yours."
"That's not the point, Ben. My mother would have my head if I bore witness to something like that. Patrick is the son of her best friend."
"He's nothing to me. Got it? Stay out of my way." Benjamin stormed through the trees, axe drawn.
The pair in front of the fire broke apart at the startling noise. Patrick patted his hip sheaths for his sabres and Azura slipped back a little so her staff was at arm's reach. They were both stunned to see an Undorian warrior standing before them.
"What d'ya know, Danny?"
Daniel came up behind Benjamin and was just as stunned by the sight before him as his partner was.
"Two birdies in one bush. This works out. You get the girl, I get the killer." He leered at Patrick. "What were you gonna do there, huh? Rape 'er or something?"
The couple slowly stood. Patrick could reach his weapons in a split second, and Azura concealed hers behind her.
"Just who do you think you are?" demanded Patrick.
"Hey now," said Daniel, "our piece isn't with you, okay? We were sent out to find the girl."
"Maybe she doesn't want to be found."
"Maybe we should ask her." Benjamin raised his axe, in preparation for a battle.
"I left," she said softly. "It's not your business."
"We have our orders," said Daniel.
"Do you think I care? This is my life. The only way you'll get me to go with you is if you kill me first."
Patrick stepped in front of her. "If either of you touches her, it will be over my dead body."
"Goody." Benjamin smirked. "You just gave me permission to kill you."
Both sides prepared for battle. The two warriors were merely fighting for orders, however; Azura and Patrick's fight was for freedom.
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