Redemption Chapter 23
By Janet Monstwillo
Bright blue eyes watched every movement of the bewitching figure as it moved among the people of the village Azrael-Merdot, known as the gem of the North.
Asula knew this had been the home base of the others for close to a century. While Igmar-Boleyn had been a nomadic group's winter hunting grounds, this group had broken away from the Cetra way of life--and the Planet.
The girl settled herself back down into the brush, smoothing back light brown hair. (I have been cursed. Cursed to be the only one left.) She had searched ashes, bent over frozen corpses chanting healing spells, to no avail. The young, beautiful magic prodigy could not reverse time or completely defy the rules of nature.
So the tears ran down her face. She, who once thought she held the heavens in her hands, now knew the truth. The heavens could wrench her fragile body with the scorching heat of a thousand stars.
To emerge from such a gauntlet alone truly was a curse. She prayed with every fiber of her being that such a curse was shared by her extraterrestrial adversary. Erhiz had told the tribal elders to pray that the Calamity had arrived alone.
Erhiz had understood a lot of things. The price for that understanding was her life. Brushing back the tears became much harder, as Asula was now weeping openly. Sobs wracked her delicate frame; she held herself, as there was no one left to do it for her.
"Things cannot continue on this way forever," she murmured, "something has to give out, and if it is me...the Planet will give out soon after."
For she remembered the last thing Erhiz had said to her: "I can see that this time, Asula, it will be up to you. You cannot eliminate her, but only you have the strength to slow her down enough for the Planet to prepare.
"When the right moment finally comes, Asula, he will be there by your side."
Pa`at Rich ben lumine auglina Jenn O'Vahh--the son of the sun will shine brighter than the Calamity from the skies.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"I never knew it was this big!" Kati whispered loudly.
"Welcome to the city, country mouse." Cid laughed like he had just made the funniest joke in the world.
Brother and sister exchanged meaningful "is fifty-three too young to be senile" looks before Sean shushed him. "We gotta look inconspicuous and not suspicious, sir."
"But not uncommitted."
"Err...right, Mr. Highwind." Kati tapped her foot impatiently. "What diversion tactics do you have planned?"
"I'm gonna pretend to be a disgruntled customer of Alcor and cuss a lot."
"What about us?"
"You can cuss, too, just don't tell your mother."
Sean shook his head. "Nevermind. We'll back you up. Ready when you are."
Cid tossed his cigarette to the ground, extinguishing it with his shoe. "Let's get this field trip over and done with."
"They just went in, Dad. We can get ready and go right behind them."
"Then we gonna bust these asses!"
"Just try to contain the excitement, Barret," said Reeve. "The most important goal is to save Marlene, Yorlain, and the rest of the executive board."
Ishmael was still watching the Alcor lobby carefully from their hiding spot. "They haven't sent out the signal yet," he said, frowning.
Reeve shrugged. "I wouldn't be too concerned yet. Maybe it was harder for security to be distracted by Cid than we all thought."
It was almost like a platoon of the old Soldiers had stuck around just to play body guards to crooks. Cid had known the place would be heavily guarded after a violent takeover, but these guys were supposedly keeping a tame face in front of the public.
Not after today. (We look like normal customers. Why did they ambush us?) Sean had never expected to use his Undorian training, even for this distraction bit. However, he decided to shower many expensive gifts at Raieyana's feet after her broadsword techniques became his lifesavers.
Kati stumbled and fell, about to be cornered by three huge men, and completely unable to get the signal off to the others outside. (It was Arctic Blast for the go-ahead, Bolt Plume for help...) she thought as she dropped her katana for a shuriken, hurling it at her opponents. Grabbing for her weapons, she looked up in time to see one of the men reach for her leg.
The soldier fell down after Cid's burst of third level fire, rolling to extinguish the flames before turning his murderous thoughts onto the middle-aged pilot.
She had forgotten about the other two, and one repeated his friend's move, successfully whipping her feet out from under her. The man grinned viciously before wrenching one of her feet violently to the left.
The loud shattering of her ankle filled the room, but her scream was carried on the wind.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The trek through Junon had been relatively easy, but quite cautious, so far. The quartet was linked by their common goal of not running into Reeve's group. So far, so good. Junon was eerily quiet. Cloud had seen it like this a few times before; the others were perplexed by it. Truth be told, Junon was a very intuitive city.
The group was more focused on themselves, though. Problem was, and always had been, this: the Alcor building was on the only street that connected Upper and Lower Junon. Therefore, the only way to reach the docks was to pass by it.
"I wish we had thought to get disguises," lamented Aeris.
"I'm sure the others are quite busy with their work," said Azura. "If we just hurry by quickly and quietly, they'd never ever notice us if they did manage to see us."
"It's really the best chance we've got." Cloud looked thoughtful. "We can't risk the time looking for disguises here. But Patrick and Azura look quite striking, I must say. Let's keep them on the inside of the sidewalk. Should mostly block them from view of the street."
The others nodded and arranged themselves. With a collective deep breath, they began walking towards the building.
They were just in time to hear a feminine wail and watch as two dark haired men began to race to the entrance, followed by a burly man with a gun arm--they recognized the trio all too well.
Someone also recognized the scream. "Oh god," said Azura softly, "that was Kati."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Patrick." She sniffled. "She must be in pain. They must be in trouble."
"I'm sure they're fine. Ishmael, Reeve, and Barret just went in to help." Patrick's eyes narrowed.
A tear rolled down her cheek. "Pat..."
His look softened and he turned towards Cloud and Aeris. "Is there any way for us to gauge the battle from this distance?"
"Well I used to hear rumors about this strong materia user...who possessed the ability to remote view using a Sense materia..." Cloud's voice trailed off. "That was over twenty-five years ago, though."
"Do either of you two have a Sense?"
Aeris reached into her armlet and yanked out a yellow stone, handing it to him.
"Thanks." Patrick turned to Azura. "I want you to try using this, Zuri. So we'll know if we need to help them."
"How?" She looked bewildered as she slid the orb into an empty slot on her armlet.
"Normally," said Cloud, "the energy of Sense focuses your mind towards the interior of an enemy. You can feel its strengths and weaknesses, plus use its health to estimate how many more hits it can take. What Patrick wants you to do is focus inside the building."
"Yes," Patrick said. "Concentrate on the entrance and lobby once you begin. It might also help to think of Kati, Sean, Barret or the others while you build energy."
"I'll try my best," she said softly, secretly relieved that she had put the orb into her armlet. Materia seemed to work better the closer it was to her body. She closed her eyes, concentrating.
The air around them crackled with energy, and Cloud felt an odd twinge inside. With all his experience, he had never seen something like it before. This twinge turned to shock when he realized the materia wasn't even glowing. (She's doing this all on her own.)
A yellow glow coursed around her skin, yet Azura's eyes were closed tight. (Show me. I need to see... Open my eyes--) "I'lionne telemaar!" In a flash, the vision came to her. Six people, outnumbered, and slowly fading. If she concentrated on a certain person, she not only saw them clearly, but felt every throb of their wounds...
"The do need our help." Azura opened her eyes.
The other three nodded, and Patrick stepped forward. "We'll all go in. Stay close to me, do the spells you know. I'll protect you." He leaned over, kissing her forehead, whispering in her ear. "I need you."
As they ran towards the entrance of the Alcor building, to protect the very people they wanted to avoid, Patrick wondered what the others thought of Azura and her power. Her awesome power...he knew by the looks on their faces that they had seen, too.
Azura had not just brought the vision to herself, but to all of them.
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