Appointment With Destiny Chapter 4
Sephiroth's men escorted him right up to the doors of the Shinra building. Once there, one of them took the reins of his chocobo and led it away. Sephiroth swept into the building. He was saluted all the way to the elevator. Ignoring the robotic guards, he rode the elevator up to the 66th floor. He didn't have any problems getting through security on his way into the meeting room.
Heidegger sat at the table talking to Hojo. He looked up when Sephiroth entered.
"Well son, how did it go?" he asked.
"The Cetra is mine," answered Sephiroth, barely managing to keep the smile off his face.
"You've got the Cetra?" Hojo's eyes lit up. He pushed his way in front of Heidegger rubbing his hands eagerly. "Where is she?"
Sephiroth's gaze turned cool. "She's with her family in Kalm."
"What!" Hojo looked outraged. "You've won the greatest prize in the world and you left her with a bunch of civilians?"
"Her family will watch over her," replied Sephiroth.
"But look how long it took to win her!" continued Hojo, "Nineteen generations! You should bring her here at once!"
"It's her family's responsibility to prepare her for our wedding," said Sephiroth with an edge in his voice. "She'll stay where she is."
"She's from another world!" insisted Hojo. " She might be carrying diseases she's immune to, but are deadly to us! I should examine her immediately!"
"If that's the case, the people in her village will be the first to sicken and die," answered Sephiroth. "We'll burn it to the ground to prevent the spread of disease to any other areas."
Hojo looked as if he'd been slapped.
"You'd kill her?"
Sephiroth gave him a chilly smile. "If I had to."
Hojo gathered himself.
"Why take the chance?" he asked. "If you think disease is a possibility, you should bring her to me!"
Sephiroth narrowed his eyes. "What I do with my bride is none of your business! Stay away from her Hojo."
Hojo's expression turned stormy.
"Why don't you get out of here and let me talk to my father?" asked Sephiroth. "I didn't come here to see you anyway."
Hojo looked as if he wanted to say something nasty, but he bowed his head and left the room.
Heidegger shook his head.
"You didn't have to put it quite that way," he admonished.
"I don't like him," said Sephiroth. "The best thing that mental case can do is stay out of my way!"
"Now Sephiroth," began Heidegger. "There's no reason to get into name calling."
"Better I call him a name than run him through with my sword," replied Sephiroth. "One of these days, he's going to make me kill him."
Heidegger sighed and shook his head.
"Let's not talk about Hojo now. "After all these years, our family has finally captured her."
"Yes Father." Sephiroth's eyes glowed. "The last of the Cetra will be my bride."
"Congratulations my boy," Heidegger put his hand on Sephiroth's shoulder. "You've passed the test the rest of us failed."
"Thank you Sir," said Sephiroth with pride.
Heidegger looked wistful. "Is she beautiful?"
"More beautiful than I ever dreamed."
"When is the wedding to be?"
Sephiroth thought about Aeris and a wave of longing passed through him.
"In thirty days," he said. "When I return, to Midgar, she will be with me."
"What's her name?" asked Heidegger.
"Aeris," said Sephiroth letting the word roll off his tongue. "Her name is Aeris."
Heidegger smiled. "She seems to have had quite an effect on you."
Sephiroth's gaze was intense.
"I feel like a man who has crossed the desert for many days without water," he said. "The first time I saw her, my thirst fled. Aeris is the water I desire."
"Is Aeris as eager to quench your thirst as you are?"
Sephiroth gave him a rueful smile.
"She'd rather lay in the sun and die," he said, "But she lost the battle, so she has no choice."
"How I envy you" Heidegger sighed. "The Cetra who escaped me was the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen in my life. When she looked at me, my heart forgot how to beat. She didn't even smile at me. All she wanted to do was defeat me and be done with the whole ritual. How I would have melted if she'd given me one little wink!"
He sighed again.
"Of course she didn't," he admitted, "But whenever I dream of her, she always does."
"Don't be sad Father," said Sephiroth. "You can comfort yourself with grandchildren."
Heidegger smiled. "You're right son. There is that."
"I'd better get going," Sephiroth, "I have a few things in my office to attend to."
"I'll see you later Father."
Heidegger saluted his son. "Good work SOLDIER!"
Sephiroth saluted before he left the room.
Heidegger's watched him leave with a thoughtful expression on his face.
* * * * *
It took four women to measure Aeris and mentally design her wedding dress. Aeris wanted to toss them out of her room and order them never to come back but she kept her pain to herself. It seemed as if the whole village was in an uproar trying to make sure there would be enough decorations to make the church look nice. Aeris chewed her bottom lip and tried no to scream.
She barely managed to keep her face neutral when one of the women made jokes about the sexy night gown she was going to make for Aeris' wedding night. She winked at Aeris playfully as she held up a swatch of material that was so sheer Aeris could see into tomorrow. Aeris wanted to die. She crumpled on the bed with relief when the women left to get started on their sewing.
Elmyra came into her room. She seemed surprised to see Aeris lying on the bed. "Why Aeris dear, do you feel all right?"
"I feel terrible," said Aeris.
Elmyra touched her forehead. "You don't feel hot."
Aeris sat up.
"I feel like a paper doll."
"How's that dear?" Elmyra looked puzzled.
"I feel like a doll everyone wants to dress," said Aeris. "Nobody cares what I want to wear or do. They just go on doing whatever they want as if I didn't matter."
Elmyra sat down next to her.
"This wedding is going to happen whether you want it to or not," she said quietly. "Sephiroth won you fair and square. It doesn't matter that you weren't warned before. He's not going to be denied. The best thing you can do is hold your head up high and do what you have to do. Don't embarrass us by having him drag you away kicking and screaming."
"You wouldn't say that if you were in my place!" snapped Aeris. "You'd feel the same way I do!"
"Maybe," admitted Elmyra, "But this life is all you have left. You can be strong like your people were or die a coward."
"Die?" The angry look faded from Aeris face. "Who said anything about dying?"
"From what I understand Sephiroth and Jerin are of the same temperament," answered Elmyra. "He won't take no for an answer."
"You're saying he'd hurt me if I refused to marry him?" Aeris was disturbed. Was Elmyra talking about the same Sephiroth who'd pulled her back inside the barrier and the Sephiroth who spoke kindly to her before the battle?
"It's possible," said Elmyra. "He was a little rough when he turned you over to us."
Aeris remembered the way Sephiroth had shoved her at Elmyra and her despair slipped another notch.
Elmyra saw her expression and gave Aeris a hug.
"Don't let me scare you," she said. "Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. I just want you to think of the possibility."
Aeris nodded glumly.
"Come on," said Elmyra taking her hand. "I'm getting ready to start dinner. You might as well learn to cook the foods here."
Aeris let Elmyra take her into the kitchen. Elmyra took a lot of time explaining one spice or another and how to prepare the dish she was making, but Aeris found it hard to concentrate on what she was saying. When they finally sat down to their meal, she hardly ate a thing. Elmyra told her the neighbors were giving her a chance to rest before they met her the next day. Aeris nodded, not caring whether she met anyone or not.
That night in bed, she cried into her pillow. When she wiped her eyes at last, she tried to go to sleep, but her body refused to cooperate. An hour before sunrise, Aeris got up. Opening the closet, she took out a long pink dress Elmyra had purchased from one of the local shops.
Aeris dressed quickly and dragged a brush through her hair. She found a pink ribbon in a box on the dresser. After she made sure Elmyra was still asleep, Aeris sneaked to the front door and let herself out. She locked it behind her.
The air was cool, but not uncomfortably so. Aeris hurried out of the village and started across the open plain. She didn't know where she was going, but anywhere was better than waiting at Elmyra's house for Sephiroth.
She walked almost an hour, she felt like kicking herself for not bringing food and water. Her stomach rumbled, reminding her of how little she'd eaten the night before.
I'll find something somewhere, she promised herself. I just have to wait until I come to the next town.
She wandered on for another hour before she began to get tired. She saw a tree in the distance. She made her way to it and sat down to rest. If she was back in England now, she would have been at the airport boarding a flight for America. If only she'd let her friends talk her out of making this stupid trip! Aeris bowed her head. That wasn't true. The urge to come to England had been so strong, she'd have probably hijacked a plane if she couldn't afford the fare.
Her stomach rumbled again and Aeris sighed. If only there were fruit trees growing in the wild. Sephiroth had brought an apple to the ruins with him. Did that mean apples grew here too, or had he simply picked up one on Earth? She wished she could forget how hungry she was.
Elmyra has to know I'm gone by now, thought Aeris. I wonder if she's angry with me? I wonder if she'll call Sephiroth? She has to know how to reach him. What will he do?
She wasn't waiting here to find out. Aeris stood up and brushed leaves off her dress. She was going to put as much distance between herself and Kalm as possible. She looked around. Where could she go? Where wouldn't Sephiroth find her?
I'll just have to do the best I can, she thought.
Filled with determination, Aeris started walking again. She'd only walked for fifteen minutes when she saw blue green bubbles rising over a hill. She made her way up to the crest and looked down upon the strangest creatures she'd ever seen.
They were blue. Aeris rubbed her eyes and looked at them again. Whatever they were, their heads looked like an elephants with tusks and trunks. There was a huge blue hump behind their heads, but the rest of the body was definitely that of a buffalo. One of the creatures was sitting back on its rear blowing blue bubbles at the sky. The other stood watching it.
I'll bet a zoo would pay a lot a money to have animals like these, she thought.
The creature blowing bubbles blew an extra large one. It rose into the sky and popped with a loud snap. Aeris forgot she was looking at wild animals and not a circus act. She clapped her hands and laughed.
The creature stopped blowing bubbles immediately. The second one wheeled around to face her. Aeris stopped clapping and froze. Something about the way they were looking at her told her she'd made a mistake in revealing her presence. She was just about to back away when the one sitting down blew a stream of bubbles at her.
The bubbles she'd found so amusing before, weren't funny anymore. Wherever they touched her skin, they burned like hot frying oil. Aeris slapped at them, trying to keep them away from her face and received more than just burns for her trouble. The smell of the bubbles were making her queasy. She slapped the last one away and pressed her hands against her stomach. The creature made a trumpeting noise and blew another stream of bubbles in her direction. Aeris turned and fled.
She felt so lightheaded, it didn't feel as if she was moving very fast. Her skin burned. Aeris looked back hoping the creatures would stay where they were. Both of them stood on the top of the hill watching her. Aeris kept running. She tripped over a stick and almost fell, but she caught herself ran even harder. When she looked back again, they were chasing her.
As clumsy as the creatures looked, they caught up much too fast. The first one cut off her escape. The second blew a stream of bubbles in her face. Aeris fell, trying to catch her breath. They circled her, trumpeting and waving their trunks around. Aeris climbed to her feet and sucked in her breath. She screamed. One of the creatures took offense at the noise and knocked her down with his trunk. He blew bubbles across her back. Aeris screamed in agony. It felt as if someone was dragging a row of hot knives across her flesh.
They're going to kill me, she thought. These horrible things are going to kill me!
Blackness blurred the edge of her vision as she tried to raise her head to scream. She didn't hear the sound of galloping feet or the angry cry. The only thing that registered was the creature standing over her, blocking the light. In the next instant, it was gone.
Her throat and lungs were burning from inhaling the musty scent of the blue bubbles. Aeris gasped harshly, trying to get enough air to survive.
The second creature trumpeted, but the sound cut off abruptly. Aeris was trying to crawl across the ground on her hands and knees when she felt someone grab her from behind and roll her over in their arms. She thought she heard her name, but she wasn't sure and she didn't care. Darkness was beckoning to her, and the darkness was so much better than the pain that had taken over her body. It was so much easier to go to sleep than to try and breathe the thick syrupy air.
A warm tingling sensation spread through her body from her head to her toes. Aeris blinked. Whoever was holding her, moved so their body blocked the sun from her eyes. Aeris looked up into eyes as green as her own. That's where the resemblance ended. These green eyes were full of anger.
"What in the hell are you doing out here?"
Sephiroth! Where had he come from?
"You heard me!" he growled through his teeth. "Where do you think you're going?"
The events of the last few minutes came back to her crystal clear. Aeris tried to pull herself out of his arms but he tightened his grip on her.
"Let go!" she demanded. "You're hurting me!"
"Hurting you?" Sephiroth stood up, dragging Aeris to her feet. "You're lucky I found you when I did or you'd be dead by now!"
Aeris looked beyond Sephiroth and gasped when she saw the bloodied bodies of the elephant creatures.
"You killed them!"
"Should I have let them kill you instead?"
She hesitated and he shook her.
"Stop it!" she cried.
"I thought you'd try something like this," he snarled. "I just didn't count on you getting so far away from the village!"
His fingers were digging into her flesh. Aeris struggled against him and he shook her again.
"Stop it Sephiroth!" she cried. "You're hurting me!"
He let go.
"I ought to do worse than that!" he said, watching her rub her sore arms.
"What can you possibly do that's worse than kidnaping me from my home?" she countered angrily.
He looked at her speculatively and Aeris suddenly realized she was all alone with him. She blushed deep red.
"You don't have to worry about that now," he said sharply. "I was thinking more along the lines of locking you in one of the holding cells at Shinra Headquarters until the wedding."
Aeris didn't know what the Shina Headquarters were, but the thought of being locked away like a prisoner until he came to get her was terrifying.
"No please!" she said. "Take me back to Elmyra. I won't run away again!"
"Why don't I believe you?" he asked. "I might as well save myself the trouble of posting a guard outside Elmyra's door and take you back to Midgar with me right now."
"No!" Aeris was desperate now. "I'll stay at Elmyra's. I promise!"
"What do your promises mean to me?" Sephiroth reached for her. "Forget it. The first time I left you alone you took off. We're going to Midgar."
Aeris danced away from his hand.
"Don't press your luck with me Cetra!" he said with a dangerous look in his eyes.
"Sephiroth please!" begged Aeris. "I won't run away again. I didn't know there were monsters out here. Do you really think I'd be crazy enough to try this again knowing what I might run into?"
Hand outstretched, he hesitated.
"Please don't lock me up in a cell." Aeris dropped to her knees on the ground. "Do you want me to beg on my knees?"
For some reason that made him even madder.
"Get up!" he shouted, dropping his hand.
Aeris rose to her feet fearfully.
Sephiroth stared at her with conflicting emotions. He was angry with her, but at the same time, he couldn't help but notice the green of her eyes, the soft curve of her lips or forget the way he'd felt when he rode over the top of the hill to see the Elfadunks killing her. As much as he wanted to shake her senseless, he wanted to take her in his arms and find out if her lips were as pleasant as they looked. She must have seen something in his eyes because she clasped her hands together over her heart and the fear in her eyes took on new dimensions.
Sephiroth tore his eyes away from her and looked at the bodies of the creatures.
"Are you still going to lock me up?"
Sephiroth frowned at her. "You won't get a second chance."
There was a spark of hope in her eyes.
"Does that mean I can stay with Elmyra?"
His gaze was unnerving. Aeris turned toward the blue creatures. "What are these?"
"They're Elfadunks," he said slowly. "They are but one of many monsters that roam this land unchecked. They kill hundreds every year."
"Where do they come from?" Any conversation that took his mind away from her, was good in Aeris' opinion.
"There was a malfunctioning reactor in Nibelheim," said Sephiroth. "The leak caused mutations. The same thing happened in Gongaga when the reactor there exploded and sent out clouds of dangerous fumes. The mutated monsters keep breeding."
"Oh." Aeris stared at the creatures. "I thought their bubbles were harmless soap bubbles, but they burned my skin and I couldn't breathe."
She examined her arms and hands.
"I don't see any burns and I can breathe fine now. What did you do?
Sephiroth didn't answer.
Aeris looked up and saw him staring at her again.
"What did you do?" she asked again.
"I'm skilled in the use of materia," he said finally. "And I have a few other tricks up my sleeve."
I don't doubt that for a moment, thought Aeris.
"You'll find out soon enough," he answered. "We have to go now."
The giant gold bird was munching on greens nearby. Sephiroth looked at it. It raised its head and came to him.
"How did you do that?" asked Aeris. "You didn't speak to it."
"That's just one more thing you're going to have to learn about me," he said. "You'll have plenty of time."
Aeris wished he'd stopped making references to their wedding but she held her tongue while he leaped upon his feathered mount.
"Come on." He held his hand out to her.
Aeris didn't budge.
Sephiroth scowled. "Don't make me come after you Aeris."
"What is that thing?" she asked.
"It's a chocobo," he said. "Come on."
"You ride birds?" Aeris looked at it doubtfully. "Don't you have horses here?"
It was his turn to give her a strange look.
"What's a horse?"
"You put a saddle on its back and ride," explained Aeris. "Except they have four legs and a long tail."
"I don't know what you're talking about," he answered. "I've never heard of one before."
"Well I've never seen a chocobo before either," said Aeris. "I walked out here. Why don't you just let him walk beside me?"
"We don't have time for this!" he said suddenly. "I have other things to do today. I've wasted enough time tracking you. Get over here now!"
The chocobo turned his golden head to look at Aeris. She backed up another step.
"I don't want to ride him," she said.
"That's it!" said Sephiroth angrily. "You're going to Midgar!"
"But you said-" she began.
"That was before you made me mad again," he snapped.
"But I've already promised I wouldn't run away again," she cried. "I just don't want to ride that thing. Birds don't get that big where I come from!"
"I've just about had enough of you," he said shortly. "This is your last warning."
"All right! I'm going back," said Aeris angrily, "But I'm walking!"
She turned back in the direction she had come from and started walking away from him. Sephiroth stared after her narrowing his eyes. How dare she defy him? He kicked the chocobo forward. He was right on top of her before Aeris had time to look back and react. Leaning over, he ignored her startled scream and pulled her up on his mount.
She startled fighting him the moment he sat her in front of him.
"Let go of me!"
"If you want me to let go, fine!" he said, releasing her. At the same instant he urged his chocobo into a gallop. It took off at breakneck speed.
Aeris found herself in a precarious position. Sephiroth was holding the reins and she wasn't holding anything. she felt herself slip a little.
"Feel free to hold onto me if you wish," he said. "Or don't. It's your choice."
The chocobo was running even faster now. Aeris felt herself slip again. She wrapped her arms around Sephiroth as the chocobo rushed across the plain.
"Sephiroth stop!" she cried.
In response to her words, he made the chocobo go even faster.
"Let me off!" she shouted.
"All you have to do is let go." he said.
Aeris looked over the chocobo's head to see where they were going. To her horror, she saw they were headed straight for what appeared to be an ocean.
"We're going to go in the water!" she said. "Sephiroth stop!"
"You'll be all right," he said. "As long as you can swim."
She made a move as if to jump from the chocobo's back, but Sephiroth wrapped an arm around her. Try as she might, Aeris couldn't loosen his grip.
"What are you doing?" She couldn't tear her eyes away from the water. "You're going to kill us both!"
Sephiroth laughed. They were running out of land.
He's just trying to scare me, she thought. He'll turn aside before we hit the water. I know he will.
But he didn't.
Aeris muffled a scream with her fist as the chocobo rushed out over the water.
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