Redemption Chapter 3
By Janet Monstwillo
"Dinner was nice," said Azura, in her quiet way.
"You're serious?" Patrick pushed with his foot, rocking the porch swing they were sitting on.
"Yes, Pat. I usually end up fending for myself. Mom is always at the pagoda, Sean and Daddy hunt monsters, and Kati spends half her time here with your brother."
"Poor baby Zuri," Patrick teased.
She sighed. "Sometimes I feel like that's the only thing I'll ever be to anyone. When our mothers were my age, they were doing something. I feel so useless."
"Times of peace breed useless people. Every year, more people up here try to stop us from training warriors. In a few years, the day will come when my mother will have nothing left to do except make us go spar with her."
A small smile crept into Azura's face, making her pretty features sparkle. "Well, I hope our parents are arranging my training in there." She gestured to the glowing living room window. "Kati and Sean came here when they were fourteen and stayed for two years. I hope it's not too late to shape me up."
"You're the youngest. If you leave, your parents will have an empty nest. I'm sure that's why they're reluctant." Patrick put a friendly arm around her. "I'd like to see you stay here, too. I've missed you."
The bright smile grew even wider, and a touch of pink spread across her cheeks. "Really?"
He nodded and met her eyes. "I'd like to see more of that, too."
Puzzled, she tilted her head a bit. "More of what?"
"That beautiful smile."
"Oh." The blush deepened and she shyly closed her eyes.
Startled, she turned towards the front door. "What is it?"
Sean smiled. "Don't look so scared. Mom and Dad just want you to come inside so they can talk to you."
Azura giggled nervously. "Okay." She turned to Patrick. "Looks like I'm going to get an answer right now," she said, taking his hand and giving it a little squeeze. "Hope I'm lucky."
"Me too," he murmured as he watched the small girl. (She's practically skipping to the door. So excited.) He suddenly noticed Sean's eyes were on him.
Sean was studying Patrick. He couldn't help but come to the conclusion that his sister ought not to stay anywhere that kid was. (I know she wants to train, but if my opinion is asked for... I will be strongly against her staying here.)
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Don't you ever get tired of not having to do anything, Kati?"
"I'm doing something right now. Watching a beautiful sunset over an ocean shoreline, with the person I'm completely in love with."
Ishmael leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "That's not what I meant. All our lives, our friends have been in awe of us because of our parents. And we've been in awe of our parents. I can't help but be bitter that this generation will be without heroes."
"Don't you want to have a safe, peaceful life?"
"Of course, but--"
"No 'buts', Ish." Kati was the only person in the world who called Ishmael "Ish," being ignorant of the unspoken rule between Raieyana and Reeve. Ishmael himself despised nicknames from anyone but her.
"Why not? I'm going to work a quiet job, have kids, and die. It just seems so anticlimactic."
"I'd rather be bored with you than have excitement without...and then you end up on your mother's mountain memorial."
"I'm too strong for that. I'm the mixture of two people who saved the Planet."
"Yeah right." Kati arched an eyebrow. "What if you inherited all the weak points? That would suck."
"Yes it would. But I would never have to fight for my life unless I was mugged, so I guess I have nothing to worry about." He lay back on the blanket he had spread out across the sand.
She leaned over him and brushed a stray bit of hair off his forehead. "If anyone mugged you, I'd kick their ass."
"Tough girl." He pulled her down to him and their lips met.
A starry sky rose to look down upon the happy couple on the beach. The two of them were too young to remember the turmoil that had existed in their lives when they were children; still too optimistic to think that good times would ever come to an end. They planned to announce their engagement the next day.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"So, your mother and I have talked with Raieyana and Reeve. If you wish to train here in Undor-Hai like your sister and brother have, you may."
"Really, Daddy?" Azura hugged him. "I was wondering if I ever would get to. Then after, maybe you'll actually let me leave town by myself."
Vincent smiled. "I'm actually quite sorry about this. It took me two years to convince your mother to let you go."
"Shh, honey. It's just hard for me to accept my last baby's all grown up almost. I was in denial more about my age than yours." Yuffie hugged her daughter. "But that's not all your father and I want to tell you."
"Yes." Vincent avoided eye contact with Azura; he didn't know how he could bear to start the discussion any other way. "It's about Patrick."
"I've missed him so much," Azura sighed. "He's the only other person who ever understood me."
Yuffie breathed deeply. "He's the other reason why we hesitated to let you stay here. You know he didn't visit us with the rest of his family. It's because he was punished for being violent."
"Violent?" She looked startled.
"Yes, sweetie. Not to people, as far as we know, but he's only just turned fourteen. He's nowhere near grown up yet."
"You think he'd hurt me?" Tears formed in Azura's eyes.
"I would hope that he wouldn't," said Vincent quietly.
"Don't you know he protected me when all the older kids picked on me? Kati and Sean were mean to me...they got meaner with Aeris and Ishmael...but he made them leave me alone."
"I know that," he said gently, "and that's one reason why we decided to let you train if you wished. But I'm also worried because he's been training for awhile, and you've barely started."
Yuffie patted her daughter's hand. "Don't think we're being too hard on him. You can stay, you can even be friends with him. We're just telling you to be careful."
"We'd rather you didn't spend much time alone with him. Not until you've been training a little while, at least."
"Did you tell Raieyana and Reeve about your 'concerns'?" asked Azura sarcastically.
"We discussed a few issues with them. Everything is all right. We're just being cautious parents, I promise." Vincent looked at her warmly. "So what's your decision?"
"I want to stay here, of course. But...I'd rather just start now and stay here after our vacation."
"What about your things?" Yuffie shook her head. "I know you're rather attached to them."
"They're mostly packed up. I was going to get a new room back home anyway, remember." She smiled. "I used a system. I can tell you the names of the boxes I would need here. I have a list."
"Well, that can wait. It's probably time you headed to bed."
"But Kati and Sean aren't in bed. Neither is Pat."
"That's none of your business. Besides, you're the one who wanted to start training now. You need your sleep." Yuffie kissed her on the cheek. "You can stay in the third room on the right."
Azura rolled her eyes. "Fine, Mom." She picked up her bag and started down the hallway. There was a problem, though. She accidentally went into the third room on the left.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Raieyana stepped out onto the porch and was surprised by what she saw. "Patrick, you're still out here? You've been on the swing for hours."
He calmly continued the gentle rocking motion. "Is there now something wrong with me swinging too, Mother?"
"Of course not," she said, as she sat down next to him. "I just thought you never liked it."
"Well, Zuri likes it."
"Is that what this is about? You know, she's going to stay with us to learn some battle techniques."
"Good, a girl like her needs to be able to protect herself."
Raieyana talked to Patrick as much as she could, but she was often taken completely aback by the things he said. "A girl like her, honey?"
"Yes." He finally got up off the swing and walked to the railing. "Small, sweet, pretty, with a nice figure. She looks weak. If she ever means to go anywhere on her own, she better know what parts hurt the worst after you hit them. Or she'll learn the hard way...that in the real world, it's hurt or be hurt."
"Where'd you pick up a depressing thought like that, Patrick?" Raieyana asked warily.
"Simple observation, Mother." He met her worried eyes. "The strong always take advantage of the weak. You should know that as well as anyone."
Startled into anger, she blurted out a defensive question. "Why do you say that?"
"You train the warriors in this place," he said, "but your response makes me wonder if there is some other way you would come to that understanding."
"No." Her voice was now firm. "It's just surprising to hear you speak in such a way sometimes. You remind me of my father."
"Grandfather Tseng, I assume."
She nodded. "Sometimes you seem much older than you are, and I don't like it. You'll be an adult soon enough Patrick. Enjoy what things you can now, for once you leave childhood, you don't return. And you and I both know that I have the utmost authority on that subject."
"I'm sorry that you had to be, Mother." His tone was a flat and unemotional contrast to his words, however. "I can't help if I get contemplative in the dead of night, though."
"You can if you go to bed when you should," said Raieyana with a smile.
"True. But I don't sleep that well."
"Neither do I, honey." She stood up and dared to give him a hug, which he allowed in a rare moment of acceptance. "Can you try for me now, though?"
"I'd try anything you asked, Mother." His voice was unusually warm. "If you try the same thing yourself, that is."
They stepped inside the house. "Sure thing," she said as she entered the master bedroom. "Goodnight Patrick."
He acknowledged her with a nod before heading to his own bedroom. He opened the third door on the left and walked inside.
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