Redemption Chapter 9

By Janet Monstwillo

"Mama? When are they coming?"

Tifa turned to her daughter. "Probably afternoon or early evening." She resumed her preparations on what was to become Raieyana's room.

"So why'd you wake me up at dawn? The weekend is my time off." Marta pouted. "Cosmo Canyon is the only place with year-round classes."

"Well honey, they never farmed here, it wasn't practical. That's how summer vacation started, so the kids could help with chores. Want to quit school and work for the Elders?"

She vehemently shook her head, tossing the long, chestnut-colored curls. "I'd rather go to school twenty-four seven."

"What in the Planet does that mean?"

"All day, every day." She rolled her eyes. "You're dense, Mama."

"Oh yes, quite." Tifa's mahogany eyes sparkled. "Now go get those pillows from downstairs. We want to make Raieyana comfy." A soft sigh escaped her lips after Marta left the room. Bygones being what they were, and the passage of time being so slow, many things had worn down the bitterness that Tifa had held in her heart for Raieyana.

(It's still so hard to think right now that I could be so worried about her. I haven't seen her in years.) A tiny bit of guilt stabbed at her for the jealousy she held within. (Just because Cloud approached her, years back, doesn't mean anything now. It's in the past, and there's not a bit of proof that it existed.)

Settling her feelings with this little thought, she continued to prepare the room. After she finished there, Tifa was going to go down to the cellar the Elders kept and see if there were any herbs that would help Raieyana's condition.

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

Lia woke up at the crack of dawn in her usual cheerfulness. (This is such a lovely day.) A sudden thought struck her. (I haven't seen Ray in about a week or so. I think I'll make my way over to her house. I know she'll be up, exercising and thinking up new moves to use on her trainees.)

She dressed quickly and threw down the slight pang inside her, telling her that something was...wrong. (I miss the good ol' days when Ray and the kids lived here with us. I knew we'd eventually outgrow that, but it was still loads of fun.) She lifted up her head, good spirits overtaking her again. (At least she's still close.)

Lia climbed up the ladder with ease and prepared to knock on Raieyana's door. She was startled as it opened and Reeve stepped out, holding his wife in his arms. "Reeve?"

"Lia!" Reeve was thrown off slightly by the impromptu visit. "I'd invite you in, but we're on our way out." A pause. "Ray's not well."

"I can see that," she said, concerned. "Is there anything I can do?"

Vincent stepped out to see what the voices were. "Lia." His eyes glowed a mellow red. "There is one thing. An intruder entered this house night before last. We do not know who he is, but he was a trespasser. He met a most...his end was not good." Hints of Yuffie's conversational skills were now second nature to him. "I can trust you will arrange a quiet cremation. For Raieyana's sake?"

Lia nodded in shock. "I have to make a report..." she began.

"There are two witnesses. You see Ray."

Some slight hesitation. "Yes."

"And Patrick has fled. Therefore, the report will have to be bare bones until either of the two is here and able to comment." He set down the suitcase he was holding and walked back into the house. "Yuffie?"

"Yes, darling?" Her words were iced with irony as she dragged the weapons bag down the stairs. "This is very heavy and unnecessary, you know."

"Are you all ready?"

"Well, Kati, Ishmael, and Sean are already out there. Zuri hasn't answered my knocking on her door. I guess you pissed her off good, huh, honey?"

"She was upset, but I thought she understood. Geez, it's not like if she doesn't answer our knocking, she won't have to go. I always thought she was more mature than that." He shook his head. "Go on ahead with Reeve. I'll deal with her."

She scrutinized her husband. "Sure she doesn't need her mother's touch?"

"Needing you? 'Daddy's Little Girl'? I doubt it."

"Fine then." Yuffie dropped the bag. "This is yours. I'm taking the suitcase. Au revoir for now...that's French."

"I'm aware of that," he said dryly before heading up the stairs to the bedrooms. He found the third door on the right and knocked softly. "Zuri?" (No response.) Two more knocks, rather loud. (Still nothing?) "Zuri!" he said emphatically. "Stop this nonsense!"

At a loss for a moment, he finally resorted to trying the door handle. Surprisingly, it was not locked. He easily swung the door open and prepared to deliver a scathing reprimand to his youngest daughter.

The room was empty, save for a short hand-written note, tacked to the headboard of the bed with two diamond hairpins. Vincent's present to Azura on her sixteenth birthday.

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

Patrick could have sworn he had moved to the opposite side of the little room with a blanket, in the most chivalrous move that could be expected. But somehow during the night, Azura had managed to wind up cuddled up next to him. (Great. If anyone finds us out here, we'll look so innocent.)

The real question he then asked himself was how innocent he needed to be. (I've been exiled from home, and the two people who cared enough to possibly defend me are... Well, my mother isn't well and Azura ran me. So it will be my word against whatever word there is, and my word just works out to sound so correct.) He snorted in annoyance. (How am I ever supposed to win? I never get praised when I do the right thing, and although I'm scolded whenever I err, the attitude that I am presented with is... Bad is the only thing I'm expected to be capable of. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

He shook himself, trying to forget the eeriness of the dream he had the night before. (Another dream about those damn doors. More scenes of the supposed "truth." Shit, if anyone could get into my mind though, it seems like the perfect equation to try and drive me crazy.) He sighed. (And tonight's scene...your father telling your mother that he wants to abort you.) He tried to ignore these scenes, but they all took place in places he knew, and the people involved looked the right age for the timeframe involved.

("Am I correct in assuming you're not going to have this baby? There's no way I'd consider letting you take the risks of childbirth again...for Cloud Strife's child.") The presence in the dream had done a slick editing job with the words that had come out of Reeve's mouth.

Patrick mused over the repercussions of this statement. (Does this mean Cloud Strife is my father, not Reeve? And if this is true...was the first dream a scene of...of...) He bowed his head; he was not going to allow his mind to finish the thought that a scene so violent was the event of his conception.

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

"All she left was this." Vincent handed Yuffie the note. "I checked the rest of the house. She took a few pieces of clothing from Aeris, but left enough money to cover it. I have no idea how much Patrick took with him when he left, but I figure she at least took a weapon and some materia from his things. She left the materia case open on his bed."

This exchange was on the deck of the Highwind, which continued to hover above Undor-Hai, delaying departure until this newest crisis was dealt with.

Yuffie failed at her attempt to hold back a sniffle. "Just what did you say to her last night, Vince?"

"I was merely telling her our decision about how to help Raieyana when she interrupted me. I did make a remark after that about how she was still not ready to handle things."

"Honestly Vincent, is anyone ever ready to handle a guy's head rolling around in the living room?"

"Well we decided to take her back to Wutai. You didn't argue with that decision, and you let me go talk to her. So don't try and tell me I was wrong in the way I handled her."

"Back in the days when we were her age, we were forced to handle many things. Maybe we have been babying her a bit, but it was only because we could. I just wish I could tell her that."

"Instead, she resents us for seemingly giving her special treatment. But I'm afraid."

"How far could she have gotten in the dark?"

"I looked in the woods nearby for any sort of trail. I found none. It would be our luck that the one kid that decides to run away untrained would be a prodigy at remaining undetectable."

"Are you two done spouting shit, or can I make a suggestion?" demanded Cid.

"We're done," said Vincent tersely.

"You guys have two choices. Go with us or stay here and look for Azura. You had a good reason for joining in the trip here, for without Reeve and the rest you don't got nowhere to stay. If you stay here to look for her, you'll have the chance of an icicle in hell because you don't know the area much better than you know what the Ruby Weapon's asshole looked like."

The two looked at each other. In any other circumstance, this colorful remark by Cid would have been rather amusing. But in this case...

"Cid, our youngest daughter who knows absolutely nothing about fighting is wandering the woods out here. Hardly anyone lives here, and everyone knows there are still plenty of monsters." Vincent's cold glare would have been the envy of any villain.

"Well, not to sound heartless, but if you think she's so helpless, you're gonna be out there searching for a corpse."

Yuffie was quiet. "My baby's out there all alone." Suddenly, a bit of insight came to her. "Unless she somehow managed to find Patrick." She turned her brightening eyes to Vincent.

"If that were the case, she'd be better off trying her luck with the monsters." Pocketing the precious hairpins, he turned to descend the ladder. "I'm going to inform Lia that we also need her assistance for a search of the area. We'll leave for the Canyon when I return."

The light went out. Yuffie mournfully turned to Cid. "If that kid is half as bad as Vince says he is, it's only because of what Vincent thinks. Not in spite of it."

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

Azura opened her sleepy eyes at about seven in the morning. Yawning, she blinked the sleep away and became aware that Patrick was already up and dressed, cleaning his spear.

"Mornin' sleepyhead," he said. He looked at his weapon. "I could swear I cleaned this last night, but it's so hard to see dark blue dragon blood in the dead of night." Holding it up into the sunlight, he nodded in approval at the sparkling of the clean spearhead.

She laughed softly, then thought of something. "Is mine dirty?"

"Did you hit the dragon?"

A tint of red crept into her cheeks. "No, I didn't get the chance."

"Oh. It looked kinda hurt when it was bent over you."

"Well I did cast a Poison spell on it..." She smiled a little. "I thought it would die."

Patrick nodded. "Bio3 usually kills a Sapphire Dragon. You're probably not as strong as me in magic power, though. Can I see your materia for that?"

She slipped the orb from her armlet and tossed it to him.

He studied the glowing sphere for a moment, then cocked his head in confusion. Briefly glancing at Azura, he stepped outside onto the uncovered part of the platform, which served as a porch. Slipping it into his armlet, he concentrated on a deer about twenty feet away. "Bio3!"

Nothing happened. Azura stepped outside. "What are you doing?"

"Testing something." He tried again, but this time went for a weaker variety of the poison magic. "Bio2!" Nothing. He sighed and waved a hand half-heartedly. "Bio."

The deer fell to its knees and began wheezing for dear life. Azura gasped and yelled "White Wind!" The green breeze surrounded her and transferred her good energy back to the deer, which hopped up and ran away as fast as its legs would move. She turned to Patrick. "What in the Planet where you testing?!"

He removed the orb and returned it to her. "The more a materia is used, the stronger the spell that could be cast."

"I know that Pat, I'm not completely dense." She seemed offended. "I know this materia wasn't much, but it was the only Poison one I could find."

"Just hear me out, Zuri. I mastered my Poison materia yesterday. You know that when this happens, it splits and a brand new materia is created, right?"

She nodded.

"When I saw the amount of damage you had given to that dragon, I thought nothing of it. Then I saved you and I thought to myself that I had accidentally taken my new materia and you had the master one. So I tested yours...and it's the new one."

"What's the big deal, Pat?"

"You didn't cast a Bio3 spell that was slightly weaker than mine. You cast a level one poison spell that is stronger than anything I could cast at that level."

Her eyes widened and she shook her head. "That's impossible. I've never used materia before last night."

"And you just saved that deer's life. I can't even save an animal that small that was attacked with a poison spell..." He looked at her. "Zuri, you have a great gift. I was worried before about how you would hold up."

"Hold up?"

"Yes." He took her hand. "If you are serious about staying with me, I'm going to have to teach you to fight. I have a feeling no one is going to be too happy with me any more. I'm not safe from attack, and neither are you."


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