Redemption Chapter 33

By Janet Monstwillo

When will this end it goes on and on
And over and over and over again
Keep spinning around I know it won't stop
'Til I step down from this for good

I never thought I'd end up here, I never
Thought I'd be standing where I am
I guess I kind of thought it would be easier than this
I guess I was wrong
Now one more time
–Lifehouse, "Sick Cycle Carousel"

Azura's concentration on the materia in her hands eventually killed the potency of the blue barrier. Even as a reddish-purple vortex swirled in the heavens above, Aeris shoved her way past the blue energy.

"You gotta stop," she gasped.

The smaller girl glanced up, a reddish tinge highlighting her normally gray eyes. "There's no stopping it now," she murmured, fear just barely managing to creep into her words.

Aeris grabbed her arm.

One hard shove and the older girl was thrown to her knees. Azura glared. "Just because I can't stop it, doesn't mean that I'm finished with what I'm doing!"

"Rissy..." Cloud set his mouth and ran headstrong into the group, only to find a barrier in Patrick's left arm. (Never imagined that he could be so strong.) Struggling against the figure to his right, he suddenly heard a voice invading his thoughts.

("You didn't believe it, did you?")

He shook his head and continued to reach out towards the crystal. The vortex held steady, swirling and moving, giving the casual observer the impression that space was folding in on itself. The casual observer would probably be right.

("So how does it feel, letting the gates of hell open, with your son at your right hand?")

A look of recognition materialized in Cloud's eyes. ( did that voice from so long ago manage to get so many things right?)

Patrick turned, with a bemused expression on his face that contradicted the haunted look in his eyes. "Isn't this everything you ever imagined, father? Feel the glory. Your son caused all of this. This is how one person can mangle every hope of one Planet. Every twist and contortion in the intentions of fate is a perfect match. It matches every pant of breath, each scream of pain, all your moans of pleasure, every single drop of blood fallen from delicate flesh torn... Any and every curse whispered containing your name...mutated the light into a grisly tool, bent and molded to the every whim...of your most hated enemy."

"I did not make this!" He screamed in anguish, reaching down, straining against his son, with all of his strength. Seeking to wrench Patrick's arm away, he shoved his hand down–hard...

...into nothing.

Cloud nearly fell to his knees but managed to preserve his balanced stance. Twisting a bit, he heaved his shoulder into Patrick with all his might.

The boy tumbled from this unexpected blow, cursing a bit on his way down.

Immediately, he ran to Azura, wrapping his strong arms around her waist.

As she threw her self to and fro, grunting with exertion, in an attempt to free herself, Aeris rushed up. Raising one of her crystal sabres high, she made one single slash downwards towards the huge red rock.

It shattered like glass, shards falling into the soil, ringing whenever two pieces would clang together.

The mage collapsed almost instantly. "No..." she whispered.

"We had to do it, Zuri," said Cloud, still not knowing if she was in her right mind or not, "you were breaking the fabric of time and space. There already are pockets in the air itself that are holes to another place."

"You don't understand," the girl said softly. "I'm not quite sure what Jenova's intentions for that portal are...but I do know one thing. Without the materia, I don't know if there's any way on this Planet to seal that gate again."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Sean was walking along the outskirts of the ruins of his home. Burnt-out shells looked slightly less depressing when seen from a distance. The flames were long dead, but white smoke still billowed over the tops of the mighty elms where he stood. He turned away, not bearing the irony that a deed so terrible could produce anything with the purity of white.

A slight form suddenly stumbled into his side. "Oh!" cried out a small voice in surprise.

"Did you want to be alone, too?" He looked down into Marta's burgundy eyes.

"Well..." she twirled a chestnut curl around one of her fingers. "All the stuff I see in town scares me...and...Mama's reaction is just weirding me out. It's spooky here in the dark, too, though." She sighed a bit.

"Of course it does. Standing near a ghost town would disturb anyone."

The younger girl bit her lip in apprehension. "Oh gawd, I didn't mean it like that..."

"I know you didn't. know, I'm just fucked up right now." He shook his head, remarking to himself about how he never used that sort of language. "Nothing or anything will set me off. Pick your favorite combination."

"Sean?" Her voice was nearly a whisper. "I have this weird rumbly feeling down inside me."

"What kinda feeling, Marta?"

"I don't think things are over yet."

He shrugged. "As long as that damn psychopath Patrick's running aroun–"

"No. I mean here. In Wutai."

A small shiver ran down his spine. "You're probably just–" His voice died as...he could have sworn some shadow just passed across the glowing moon.

She raised a hand to her mouth in terror.

"What the hell was that?" He shook a fist at the sky. "Why would anything come here? Everything is already fucking destroyed!"

Shakily, she took his hand in hers. "But...we're still here, right?" She tugged on his arm a bit. " parents...drawing attacks like beacons. And they're all sitting ducks, mourning a burnt down town!"

He glared at her. "What did you say?" The tone was a menacing, low growl.

"They'll die if we don't go warn them something is after us. The destruction of the town can't be reversed. And neither will the harm that flying thing is gonna do if they get ambushed."

"Oh." Startled by the rashness of his own judgment, he leaned over and embraced Marta as way of apology. "We have to hurry."

With a quick nod of agreement from Marta, the two of them tore back towards the shell of Wutai.

A few minutes later, the embodiment of shadow landed in the very spot the pair had stood. Sniffing a bit, gathering their scent in its nostrils, the creature blinked its blood-red eyes and released a blood-curdling battle cry into the breaking dawn.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(I'm not sure where you came up with the concept that your life was going to be easy. Where would you be if you had contentment and solace? There would be nothing to strive for, nothing to achieve.

That's not the issue. The issue is whether or not it's right for a person to have to strive for sanity.

There's a difference between experiencing hardships and creating your own. Maybe you shouldn't have been so self-deprecating.

And maybe as the voice of reason, you should have piped up a bit more often.

Where did I have the chance? Between the fury and revenge, the sex and drugs, the corruption and deceit, the insecurity and begging, there really wasn't any room for me.

I'm too old for this.

Then you should just lay down and die.

I can't look her in the face after this.

Good thing that Raieyana is not the thing you need to protect the Planet from.

Me? I believe Patrick said it best when he said that I never really do anything.

Oh you've done quite a bit. It's been very obvious this whole time that you've been part of this story from the very beginning. Just waiting until you completely realizing the fact to do something about it?

Look, just because I helped protect the materia and Zuri doesn't mean anything, except that I was guilty.

Considering the fact that it's in the nature of males to detest the offspring of other males, don't you ever wonder where the unnatural guilt came from?

Adding more to the pile isn't much if the pile stretches an infinite distance.

The pile disappears if you atone.

I'm beginning to learn that.

Learning? Do you need any more information than that?)

Reeve broke away from his internal debate. "Information?" he whispered aloud.

(One who sees, one who who grieves, and...)

" who learns." A flash of realization danced upon his features. Rushing down the sand dunes, he held his speed as Cosmo Canyon came into sight. He ran into Tifa's house.

Raieyana rose somberly as he entered the dining room, a tattered and folded letter in her hand.

Pausing for a moment, he caught his breath before he attempted to speak. "I think...I am the last of the four."

Unshed tears glimmering in her emerald eyes, her only reaction was to clutch the paper to her heart, slightly nodding.

"I... You might understand my recent...admissions. I am the one who learns."

Quiet for a moment, she simply took in the new information. "This," she whispered, "was like having him back. It's been so long...I can't forget what you said to me, but it's been too many years for me to even wonder about the what-ifs." A bitter half-smile crossed her lips. "Besides...if Ryald hadn't tried to kill me, I probably would have run off with him anyway."

An uncomfortable silence hung in the air, the unfortunate side effect of too much information.

"I have a strange feeling that Patrick managed to get his hands on Cloud and Aeris...and the materia."

Raieyana nodded. "Me too. I had Cid go get the Airship ready."

"This is it, then? I'm about to head off to the battle of ages, and that's it?"

"I'm just glad that for once, it's not me in the prophecies."

Leaning back, Reeve slowly closed his eyes. "I can go back to Junon or something after this mess. Don't even worry about upsetting your own life because I was a–"

A burst of laughter interrupted his self-sacrificing speech.

He peered at her with curiosity.

"Reeve." She kept her eyes fixated firmly onto the ceiling beam directly above her. "My son's losing his mind, my daughter's fooling around with a guy that raped me, and my other son's got vengeance plan against his little brother. You may have contributed to the death of someone I loved, but that seems like ages ago. I don't need this. Not now. We can sort us out later. I'm not giving you up without a fight, though."

He was in shock. "Ray?"

She rolled her eyes. "The fight won't be with'll be in myself. And later."

Cid burst into the house. "Come on, you lazy jackasses, it's time to save the world."

The two of them exchanged sheepish looks and headed out the door.

"Get your behinds in gear, too, because I want to get home sometime before my son fucking graduates from high school!"

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