Angel of Love
True Love's Sacrifice Chapter 1
By Spawn of Piccolo
He sank into the clear, greenish depths of the Lifestream, blissfully unaware of his injuries. The warm waters soothed his aches and pains, and he closed his eyes, allowing himself to drift along with the current like a piece of human driftwood. Time passed, he knew not how much, and it seemed like many years had gone by when he finally settled on the bottom of the Lifestream, though it had more likely been only a few minutes. Soft mud settled on him, and suddenly the hole where Cloud had impaled him didnt hurt anymore. In fact, all of his wounds were being miraculously healed. Settling back, he let sleep take over while his body regenerated what it had lost.
"Sephiroth. Sephiroth, wake up."
Sephiroth opened his eyes again only to see the Cetra, Aeris, leaning over him. Slowly, he stretched in a catlike fashion and managed to sit up. Flowers of all kinds--irises, lilies, daisies, begonias, and zinnias, surrounded them. The plants reached to knee-high on himself, and sitting down they barely touched his nose. One particularly tall Queen Annes Lace rose up and tickled him right under his nose, causing him to sneeze.
Aeris smiled and brushed the offending flora away from Sephiroths face. He looked up at her and almost met her eyes before looking away. He was the reason she was here--he could not bear to look at her. Guilt overwhelmed him, and another feeling welled up inside him that he could not, or would not, consciously recognize.
He rose and looked around. They stood in the center of a meadow that was surrounded by a wide ring of trees. A few people were milling around near the trees, and one or two looked over in his general direction, but none took it upon themselves to approach him, to speak to him.
"Where are we?" Sephiroth asked, turning back to Aeris. She smiled sadly, and when she spoke her voice was almost bitter.
"The Lifestream. Or to be more precise, a small section of the Promised Land." She sighed and, noticing Sephiroths confused look, continued in her explanation.
"We are in a part of the Lifestream reserved for those that cannot be absorbed back into Spirit Energy. The reason why is simple--we are not pure. To be absorbed by the Lifestream, one must be pure of blood; completely human, or Cetra, or whatever race or species they may be. Those who are not pure, end up here." She looked pointedly at him. "And that means that we can never really die."
"So then, in a sense, we are immortal," Sephiroth mused. Aeris nodded. "So why are we here? What is our purpose?"
Aeris shook her head, grinning broadly. "Dont you go waxing philosophical on me, Sephiroth. Youre getting a bit too close to the meaning of life, and even I cant answer that." Pausing to stare out into space, she allowed the grin to fade into a small smile. "No one can," she murmured.
She snapped out of her reverie, grabbed Sephiroth by the hand, and began pulling him toward the tree line. He let himself be dragged along, not really caring where they were going just yet. After all, he had an eternity to find out, didnt he?
They passed through the ring, entering a forest of huge trees, trunks twice as thick as the barrel on the Sister Ray. After some time they approached a massive tree, huge beyond comparison, with a barely visible outline of a door on it. Aeris reached out and pushed against the panel, and the door slid open soundlessly, revealing a lightless, narrow stairway with no railing that twisted down into the darkness. Sephiroth leaned forward, trying to see down the stairs, and would have fallen over the edge if Aeris hadnt grabbed him by the cape and pulled him back.
A colored ball of light, the size of a fist, appeared in the air by Aeriss head, illuminating the winding staircase, if only by a few feet in each direction. Aeris stepped forward and headed downstairs, and the ball of light followed just behind her and to the right. Sephiroth came right behind her.
The stairs went down for about fifty feet, and then opened up into a large chamber with a perfectly circular pool in the center. Its mirror-like surface reflected the light from torches that hung in brackets on the earthen walls.
Sephiroth knelt down at the waters edge, trying to see past his reflection into the water below. Aeriss image appeared behind his, and she gently placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Would you like to see them?" she asked, and he knew she meant Cloud and the others. He nodded. "Look into the water," she commanded.
He leaned forward and stared into the glassy surface of the pool, which was quickly turning a dark, smoky gray. Figures began to appear in the haze, and he bent in closer, to see better the lives of those who had been his undoing
"Vincent! Are you hiding down in here again?" Yuffie squinted into the darkness as she stood in the mouth of a cave near Wutai. Since returning home with her after Sephiroths defeat, he had become even more of a recluse, coming out mainly for food. If Yuffie wanted him to go somewhere with her, she practically had to drag him along. Lately hes taken to spending his time in this cave in Da-chao.
"Vincent?" she called again, beginning to get worried. Usually he acknowledged her, at least to some extent. Something wasnt right.
Reluctantly, Yuffie walked toward the back of the cave. The floor sloped downward, and rocks clattered noisily as Yuffie kicked them out of her way. The walls were damp and covered in moss and lichens, adding to the already creepy atmosphere.
Suddenly she was seized from behind, and a hand clamped itself over her mouth to keep her from screaming aloud. Something cold and metal lay across her stomach, alerting her that it was Vincent before she could struggle.
"Dont move," Vincent hissed into her ear. "Dont make a sound. Dont even breathe." His claw returned to his side, allowing her more freedom, but his hand still remained over her mouth. "We are not alone in here."
As if to prove Vincents point, there was a shuffling sound, followed by a loud thud and muffled cursing. Yuffies eyes widened--that cursing was familiar. Slowly she removed Vincents hand, and crept closer to the source of the noise. Peering behind a stalagmite, she giggled as Cid and Barret came into view. A pile of presents was at their feet, and Barret had a party hat hanging from an ear at an awkward angle. Cid was sprawled on the floor, a gift stuck underneath his chin.
"Dammit, I knew we should have snuck them inta her house when we had the chance! Now weve gotta pick up all these presents! Nice goin, Cid!" Barret grumbled.
"Oh, shut up and just pray that Vincents still stallin her! Now help me with these and lets get movin!" Cid grunted, pushed himself up onto his feet, and rubbed his chin. "Stupid presents. Whyd we hafta put em in so many damn boxes?"
"Thats not too bad, actually. At least I know Ive got a lot of presents." Cid and Barret swore simultaneously when they saw Yuffie.
"Dammit kid, cant you even stay out of the way long enough for us to surprise you? Youd think we were doing you a favor, but no, youve gotta be so fuckin curious about everything that we cant even throw you a damn party! Vincent, is it that hard to stall her?!"
"All you said was to keep her from finding out as long as possible. It is not my fault that you were loud enough to be heard in Kalm."
Cid sighed in disgust. "All right then, help us with these packages and lets haul our butts down to Yuffies. Happy birthday, kid." He left, motioning for the others to follow him. Barret took the initiative, picking up the rest of the presents and grinning in a disarming way.
Yuffie raised her eyebrows and looked at Vincent. "You were in on this too? Thats just scary, Vincent."
Vincent shrugged. "They wished for me to help. Its not a big deal." He moved toward the front of the cave. "Come on," he said when she didnt follow him. "The others are waiting."
Yuffie scrambled after him. "So whos gonna be there? Is there gonna be cake, too? I hope its a chocolate cake! And what--"
"Youll see," Vincent said, interrupting her inquisition. "Happy birthday, Yuffie."
"Heads up! The bratll be home in fifteen, and she wont be surprised!" Cid called out as he kicked open the door to Yuffies home. Barret lumbered in behind him, dumping the presents onto a nearby table.
Tifas head popped up from the basement. "Oh no, what did you do now?" she admonished.
"Do?! We didnt do nothin! Its that damn kids fault! She cant keep her nose out of anything!" Cids face went red.
"Whatever," Tifa sighed. "Just help me with these decorations, will you? I cant put these streamers up and Red XIII cant reach them any better than I can."
Barret went downstairs to help, but fell over with laughter when he saw Red XIII, covered in pink, blue, yellow, and green streamers, like some gaudy mummy from Costa Del Sol. Red XIII gave him a disgusted look and swatted his nose with a paw. "Would you kindly get this off me?" he growled. "I would prefer not to be mistaken for a piñata."
Barrets eyes began watering, he was laughing so hard, and Cid, who had come down to see just what in the world was going on, soon joined him. Tifa stepped over them both, rolled her eyes at them in annoyance, and helped unwrap Red XIII from his crepe prison. "Honestly, you two," she started on Barret and Cid, "its not that funny!"
"Yes it is!" Barret managed to say. "Its the funniest thing I ever saw!"
"Really? I seem to remember a certain sailor suit that was pretty amusing," she shot at him. "What did Cloud say you looked like? A bear wearing a marshmallow? "
"Hey guys! Im home! You can give me my presents now!" The door slammed. Two seconds later Yuffies head popped out of the doorway.
"Happy seventeenth birthday, Yuffie," Tifa said, giving the younger girl a big hug. "How are you doing?"
"All right. Who else is here? Cloud? Cait Sith? Nanaki?"
Tifa smiled. "Cait Sith and Red XIII are here, but Cloud... hes busy right now, but hell be here later." She squeezed Yuffies shoulder. "Now how about some cake?"
"Uh-huh. "Cmon, its in the kitchen."
Cait Sith was also in the kitchen, and was just about to eat a large portion of the cake when Tifa and Yuffie entered. "Cait Sith!" Tifa yelled.
"Sorry! Say, Yuffie, how bout I tell your fortune? Last one I did was when I met Cloud, and Im kinda out of practice."
"Sure," Yuffie agreed. Cait Sith grabbed onto the ears of his mog, and the mog began the familiar shuffling dance. He then produced a slip of paper and handed it to Yuffie. "The love of your life will be dark and mysterious. Your lucky day is Wednesday," she read.
"Well, what does that mean?" Tifa wondered aloud. Cait Sith shrugged. Yuffie looked thoughtful.
"Hey!" Cid called from the other room. "Come on, lets open these presents already!"
They filed into the basement, leaving Vincent in a corner of the kitchen, alone. The forgotten scrap of paper with Yuffies fortune was in his hand, and he was staring at it thoughtfully. His lips moved silently as he turned the words over and over in his mind, already knowing what the meaning would be.
Meanwhile, Cloud was silent also, visiting Aeriss grave before he set out for Wutai. His gold chocobo, Tiny Bronco, was tethered nearby, impatiently scratching at the dirt. Cloud himself was kneeling before the altar, in the exact same place and position as Aeris had been in before she died.
A tear ran down his cheek as he remembered that night. He was still haunted by the way she had looked at him, when Sephiroth had run her through. If only he had figured it out sooner, maybe she would still be alive.
He knew he still loved her. But hed realized that he cared for her as he would a younger sister. Funny how long it had taken him to come to that, though. All the same, he still missed her, and it had been three months since.
He was suddenly interrupted from his prayer and contemplation when someone slipped a knife under his chin, touching the point to his Adams apple. "So," a chillingly familiar voice whispered into his ear, "my old buddy from SOLDIERs been having a little fun with Sephiroth. You shouldve left some for me, I wouldve taken care of it a lot quicker."
"Hello, Zack." Clouds breathing was shallow, trying not to let the knife point press too deeply into his throat. "Youve been doing well, I presume?"
"Oh, well, you know, just trying to survive is the main objective. After Neibelheim I escaped and made my way back to Midgar, and ended up in Sector Five in some blocked-off pipe. You were there--you should know. Remember the guy mumbling all the time? Like he was sick in the head?" Zack laughed. "That was me, all right. Say, whatever happened to that chick you were with, anyway?"
"Aeris? You should know. You went out with her." Clouds leg began to cramp, and he tried to shift without cutting himself. "Uh, could you possibly take the knife away from my throat?" he suggested.
Zack chuckled darkly. "I dunno, I kinda like it this way. And I wouldnt know what happened to Aeris, since you were the last guy I saw her with." He pulled the knife in closer, forcing Cloud to be pressed back against his chest. "So what exactly did you two get up to?"
"Nothing youre thinking of," Cloud snapped. "And shes dead, if you want to know, or even care. Sephiroth killed her. Now leave me alone to pay my respects!"
"Oh, I dont think so, Cloudy-boy. You see, I finally got it back together and I figured, hey, why not get my friend Cloud to help with the fun."
"What fun? What are you talking about?" Cloud frowned. "Dont tell me youre on drugs, because if you are Im not helping you out."
"Course Im not on drugs, idiot! Im just thinking of possibly stepping into old Sephys shoes. Think about it; taking over the world and becoming Gods not such a big responsibility, if you think about it. And being right hand mans not so bad, either. Whaddya say?"
Cloud gripped Zacks wrist and pulled finally pulled the knife away, then turned around to stare at him incredulously. "Who are you?" he asked finally. "Stepping into Sephiroths shoes? Are you crazy?! You know what happened to him, youre talking to the guy who killed him, and you want to be just like him?"
Zack snorted. "Hes not dead. And neither is Aeris."
"What do you mean?"
"Youll see." He pulled his wrist away. "And Ill be seeing you later." He turned and walked away, leaving Cloud to stare after him in disbelief and disgust.
Authors note: Yeah, I know Ive got some plot holes, so Im
going to explain my reasons for them. Here goes:
1. Cait Sith: I know hes really Reeve, but for my purposes and the fact that Reeve would be useless in a fight (and the fact that hes now the mayor of Midgar), hes in the story. For good.
2. Zack and Cloud: Since I just so happen to agree with Frank Verderosa (read The SOLDIER and the Flower Girl), thats what Im using, in a way. (And if Frank is reading this, I love your work! Keep it up!)
Thats all Ive seen, but if you find any more mistakes or plot holes, feel free to point them out to me. And email me at Spawn_of_Piccolo@planetnamek.org with your questions, comments, flames, compliments, suggestions, etc. Ill come out with the next chapter as soon as possible. Oh, and I apologize for any OOC-ness: I know it happens, but I prefer when it doesn't. Later!
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