Redemption Chapter 8

By Janet Monstwillo

Patrick sat, perched high above the trees. He was at a part of Mt. Crist that was rarely traversed by the Undorians. His small hunting platform had developed into a refuge when he was upset or angry.

It actually wasn't unusual for Patrick to leave home for a day or two, spending the night in this platform-turned-treehouse. He'd leave to cool down and return in a better state of mind. However, the only person in the family who knew where he went and what he did when he vanished was Raieyana. She was in no state to inform them now that Patrick might not have left for good.

He sat and watched his house, recalling how no one had tried to stop him from leaving. (Correction. No one but Azura.) As hard and intently as he had stared at her before turning his back on the world he knew...he was still already beginning to lose the memory of her face. It is hard to recall something you only had the chance to look at for a day or so.

The sky was dark; night had come again, like it always did. (No matter what happens to its puny minions on the surface, the Planet keeps spinning as if that's the only thing that ever matters. The only thing we can depend on, no matter what happens, is that eventually the night will come again. Even at the polar caps where day could last for weeks in the summer, the night returns eventually. To all lives, some darkness shall fall. Even if it's only nature's darkness.)

There was only one light on at his house. (Who would be up so late after all that occurred last night?) He realized that he had never seen a light in that particular window. He became even more startled when he figured out that it was because that window was the one in his room.

(Are they going through my things, trying to discover what makes me tick?) He reached into his knapsack and pulled out his journal. (Where's my sketchpad?) A slight panic overran him as he remembered he had left it on his bedside table.

A sad quiet descended over him. (Now I don't even have my drawing of Zuri. From this day on, I shall be like someone dead to her, and I will never see her again. I can't even have the pitiful likeness my wretched hands scribbled out.) Patrick sat and watched the light in his window, vowing to stand guard until the precise moment it was gone and the sky was consumed by darkness.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Could you tell me what it's like on the outside
Were you really lost and out of control
Were you reaching for your freedom
When the gatekeeper called for the toll

--Styx, "What Have They Done to You" (verse 1)

* * * * * * * * * * *

Azura woke up at midnight, just like she had wanted to. Her shaky hand had managed to set the oil lamp alight, and, ignoring the phantom shadows on the walls in the hallway, she entered Patrick's bedroom.

There were still a few weapons sitting on the racks. Patrick had tried to become proficient in as many as he could. She paused and looked each one over carefully. Lifting the crossbow off of the braces, she remembered the archery events she had won in Wutai, lack of training aside. She grabbed the reserve arrows beneath it. (They're so small and sharp, like darts almost. So you can carry lots.)

Slinging her first choice over her back, she looked for another. (Hmm...a rod...and then a rod with a button?) She grabbed the second weapon and held it at arms' length, daring to push the button. Two blades popped out of either end, and she recalled that this particular type of rod was called a staff. She studied it carefully before deciding the button was the only way to retract the blades; she breathed a sigh of relief when she found out she was right. (Such a pretty weapon.) It had the gorgeous distinction of an adamantine, Undorian crafted staff. The blades were black stars encircled by a red circle.

She took a deep breath. Her next step was to go through Patrick's closet and drawers, which spooked her a bit. But she knew deep down that she ought to bring armor and materia for her trek through the forest. The top drawer in his larger dresser brought victory. Immediately, she tied one of the ribbons around her upper arm. The assortment of bracelets led to an internal debate, though. Patrick had everything from a Carbon Bangle to the good, all-purpose Mercury Bands that were unique to Undor-Hai.

(He told me that the one he always wears is the Ziedrich.) She couldn't decide which kind to use, though. (An elemental defense would be good, but I'd rather have something that would help me be strong.) A certain delicate armlet caught her eye, and she pulled it from the back of the drawer. "Mystile," she said softly, reading the engraving. (I like it. I'm drawn to it for some reason.) She slipped it on, admiring the way it sparkled in the lamplight.

She removed the large blue case from the drawer, finding row upon row of materia contained inside. Although most of them were of the basic kind, the ones that Raieyana mastered every other day in her training classes, Azura saw a nice collection of summons. Each materia had its own little foam holder and the type was written below the slot. She took the Cure with the most AP, and a Poison, Lightning, and Heal. Her eyes lit up as she found a Mime and a six-star Enemy Skill. She added a Master All and a summon called Hephaestus. Finally, she found a purple one called "HP Plus" that had her puzzled. Then she remembered her brother telling her that more HP just meant you could take more hits before you... (...died. I'm really doing something dangerous here. But I'd rather be out living than hiding in Wutai.)

She found a bag in his closet and packed up the sketchpad, along with some special battle items and a couple "disposable tents." There was only one thing left to do. She crept with the lamp into Aeris' room. (I'm sorry, Rissy, but being the princess doll back home has left me without proper clothing for this trip.) She found a pair of brown leather pants that the tall Aeris had long outgrown and a deep green sleeveless sweater. The shirt was rather loose on Aeris' slender figure, but fit Azura a little tightly in one certain spot.

Glancing in the mirror, she suddenly had two thoughts. (I look a lot like Mom...) Despite her gray eyes, which Vincent swore his own mother had, she had received the majority of her coloring from Yuffie, while getting a temperament from neither. (...and when did I get boobs?) She turned sideways and ran a hand lightly over her torso. (Maybe it's just the sweater.)

Azura felt both guilty and extremely lucky when she discovered not only did she have the same size feet as Aeris, but Aeris had left a pair of shoes that were perfect for running around and killing monsters. She took them and put the sneakers on her own feet, then paused to leave a very apologetic note to Aeris, leaving more than enough gil to replace what she took from the closet.

The note she left to her parents was much shorter and full of little apology.

"To Mother and Father:

     I refuse to go back to Wutai and hide like a child, even though that is what you seem to want most for me. I have to go out and learn what life is like sometime, and if you won't let me live with your permission...

     I'm just going out to have a life of my own. I offer no apologies and no regrets. I would only have regret if I went back to Wutai.

--Azura Valentine"

* * * * * * * * * * *

Take me, break me, hate me
Just try your best to make me
Lose my way, and go crazy all alone
Somewhere deep inside me
I'll try hard to find me
And someday, I'll have a life of my own...

...Let me die on my own terms, let me live and let me learn
Now I'll follow my own way, and I'll live on to another damn day
Freedom carries sacrifice, remember when this was my life...

--3 Doors Down, "Life of My Own" (Alt. Into, Chorus)

* * * * * * * * * * *

("It's time."

Time? For what?

"A promise was made unto you long, long ago. The time for you to receive the rewards of what you have sewn is very near. Do you still refuse them?"

What are you talking about?

"Your son has been cast out by the man whom he has been told to call 'Father.'"

My son? What has happened to Patrick? What has he done?

"He saved his mother's life. But eyes that were discriminatory viewed his brave actions as a crime."

He's only fourteen...

"Only? You've waited at least that long..."

Is this the voice of my tempter?

"Perhaps. The voice of your tempter was also the voice of your Savior. Cloud Strife, sometimes certain deeds have to be done. You must be addressed certain ways in order to cause you to go down the right path."

I hardly think Patrick's conception was the right path.

"All that happened is how it should be. The crime was only as bad as it had to be for you to know remorse, and for Raieyana to learn the lessons she needed to learn. In the scheme of things, all on this Planet are just playing pieces."

So why do you speak of this "reward" that was presented as a temptation?

"You have chosen to live your life as a hermit, an outcast. The time for your return to your friends is very near. This is part of the reward."

Reward? I'm finished with the "saving the world" bit.

"That's what you think.")

* * * * * * * * * * *

Don't let the world bring you down
Not everyone here is that fucked up and cold
Remember why you came and while you're alive
experience the warmth before you grow old.

--Incubus, "The Warmth" (chorus)

* * * * * * * * * * *

Azura stumbled for about the twentieth time and fell. A tear slipped down her cheek before she was able to stop herself. (I won't cry...I--I won't!) She closed her eyes. (I can't go back now, I'd look so foolish. Even if I get myself lost, I have to keep going. This is my fate, whatever comes, comes.)

She suddenly heard a low growl behind her. (Oh...shit!) She turned around and clumsily wielded the staff. In front of her was a dragon that was about eight feet at the shoulder. She cast Poison and prayed.

She felt an odd sensation course through her body. A bit of power seemed to surge forth from the green crystal in her bracelet and soar out from her hands. This stream flew forward and hit the dragon directly in the heart.

The dragon took damage and snarled. It cast a threatening eye on Azura, judging her size and strength. It reared back and ran towards her, ready to attack her head on. She turned and ran, but tripped over the same tree root as before and landed on her hands--hard. Holding up her staff in defense, a scream of terror escaped her lips.


A scream awakened Patrick from his sleeping bag. Unlike the last time he went to protect someone, a momentary lapse into debate coursed through him. He decided that since he was already banished, nothing worse could be done to him. (I still have my conscience to live with. If I am aware of my actions, then I must do the right thing.) He grabbed his spear and jumped right out the window.

He ran in the direction of the sound until he heard the distinctive battle snarls of a Sapphire Dragon. They had become very common after the Midgar explosion, but now only remained in this uninhabited area of the continent. The dragon slashed at its prey on the ground, and Patrick could hear a feminine whimper of pain. He set his teeth and carefully touched the materia on his armlet with the level 4x Cut. On a normal user, it sent forth a surge of adrenaline which would let them get anywhere from three to five attacks, but it would be random hits on anything in the general area.

People with no discipline at all would hit trees, rocks, and sometimes their companions when using this skill. Patrick had been practicing, and not only could he land all his hits on the same target, but on a certain area on the target. He let all his mental energy become focused on the heart of the dragon and ran forward for the kill.

His seventh and final slash actually cut the beast into two pieces, which flew off into the trees from the sheer force. He looked to the person who had been attacked, but she was still huddled in a self-preserving position. Blood freely flowed from her bare arm. She placed a hand to her armlet and touched a green materia. "Cu--cu..." she stuttered.

Patrick kneeled beside her. "Shh..." He raised his spear. "White Wind," he said. A green, soothing breeze flowed from the tip of his weapon and enveloped them both. When the air cleared, the girl had him in a tight embrace.

"Umm, you're welcome?"

The girl released him and he finally got a good look at her.

"Zuri! What the hell?"

"I don't know where to start."

A protective anger surged into him. "You could have died just now!"

Though she was still not over the fright of the dragon, she met his eye calmly. "I'd rather die out here than just be shipped off to Wutai like an infant. Besides," she continued, "I was looking for you."

"Me? For all you knew, I could be anywhere now."

"I know. But you'd probably be in your 'special place.'" She pulled the sketchpad out of her knapsack. "You shouldn't leave maps to your hideout in the middle of nowhere unless you want someone to find it."

"You were the one in my room tonight!"

She nodded. "Duh. I'm wearing your weapons, armor, and materia."

He scrutinized her appearance. "Where'd you get the clothes?"

"Your sister."

Raising an eyebrow, Patrick grinned. "Really!"

"I left gil to pay for what I took, and an apology note."

"You shouldn't have. Those pants don't fit her, she thinks that sweater makes her look flat, and she hates those shoes."

"This sweater makes her look flat?" Azura was shocked.

"She doesn't have the shape you do, Zuri." He blushed. "Not that I spend all my time looking at your shape." (Time to change the subject.) "What are your plans?"

"Step one was to find you."

"Which you managed to do pretty quickly and successfully." He smiled. "What after that?"

Azura looked at Patrick and took his hand. "Stay with you."

He did not allow another word to pass through her lips before he took her into his arms and held her close. "Is that what you really want?"

"I like being with you. When I'm with anybody else, I still feel...alone."

"Then we can keep each other from being all alone." He smiled.

She met his eyes and nodded. "That's 'the plan.'"

* * * * * * * * * * *

So close, no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters
Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don't just say
And nothing else matters

--Metallica, "Nothing Else Matters"


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