Ang (ff7aeris) wrote in new_shinra87,
Ang
ff7aeris
new_shinra87

FF7 novellas - The Maiden who Travels the Planet - pt 1

Written by Benny Matsuyama
Published in the FFVII Ultimania Omega book.

Translated by Xcomp.

The Maiden who Travels the Planet (section 1)

Prologue

Underwater...

Aerith was sinking. Lying stretched out with an expression as if she was asleep, she quietly sank into the cold and tranquil lake. The net of light scattered by the ripples of the surface danced upon her motionless body. It was as if it was trying to tie onto her.

Her kind face could no longer have those expressions that were full of energy. The feelings of joy and fun that would spread to everyone around her, the anger she had towards the weak, and the endless tears she had in sorrow... None of them were going to appear again.

Her body was going to be silenced for eternity.

However, that didn't mean the end of Aerith. She was watching. She wasn't watching through her beautiful green eyes but through her soul... She watched within a discarnate body filled with the energy of life, as it overlapped her physical body. She watched as the surface of the lake drew further away. She watched as the human shapes gazed at her from the hazy other world (the world where things were alive was another world to her). She watched Cloud's face which looked as if his heart was going to fall apart from the sadness of loosing her, the anger and hate he had for her being taken from him.

"Don't blame yourself. There's nothing to worry about anymore. It's going to be all right even if Meteor falls. So don't let yourself be dragged down by those feelings. Just think about how you can be yourself."

She tried to say it but her lips wouldn't move. There was no magic that would let her thoughts reach Cloud from her spiritual body as Cloud disappeared fast into the distance. The light that twinkled on the lake's surface became weak and distant as she sank. She fell smoothly into the depths of the Cetra ruins, The Forgotten City. Aerith, the last remaining survivor of the Cetra had fulfilled her mission to protect the Planet. The final place where she was supposed to reach had no boundaries no matter where she went...

Chapter 1

Yes. No matter where she went.

She had reached the bottom of the lake. But even now Aerith continued to sink.

Her physical body after many years of losing its life was now held deep underwater, covered in plantation that was like powdered snow. It told of how she was now separated from her short twenty-two years of live for eternity. The vessel that had been separated from the soul was going to return slowly to the Great Earth in the pure water.

Aerith's consciousness was moving to the next lower level.

Nothing changed as she breathed lightly in the dust that floated around her. Aerith continued to sink through the heavy layer of precipitation. The only thing she could see was darkness... But it was a warm, tender lightless world where she didn't feel lonely.

She soon realized that it wasn't dust or mud that she was feeling. Her senses had adjusted so that she could feel the things around her. Her five senses were at a higher level that let her feel the true nature of the objects.

The world she could see now was not of darkness.

She was inside some faint green light that wrapped around her. At the same time, she recognised what she saw. Energy that was split into thousands no, millions of streams were flowing and circulating around every nook of the Planet. The flood of light that engulfed her was one of the streams that separated from the rest. The amount of Mako energy that the Planet had was far beyond human expectation and could not be presented by mere figures.

Aerith watched as if the Planet was beating with life. She watched the brilliance of the Lifestream that drifted around. She recognized the source of life of which everything returns to.

It was a place full of energy where countless souls were merged together along with their knowledge and experiences. Even their memories were unbound from them. But Aerith was "whole". She remained herself in the place where the consciousness of the dead flowed and swirled about, keeping the character she had when she was alive. She retained the consciousness of the Aerith Gainsborough she once was and she was now drifting with the Lifestream.

She didn't know that she would become this way.

As the last surviving Cetra, she had the role of maintaining the Great Earth’s richness during her life’s journey. Aerith talked to the Planet. Talked to the consciousness that was part of the Lifestream, that is. She was told that death was not the demise of life.

Most humans thought death meant that they would become nothing. Having their consciousness engulfed by darkness, never waking again, a nothingness that can't be comprehended ? they thought death meant to be totally annihilated. That's why humans feared death. They were afraid of losing their existence. Even if they themselves realized that they were a race that had a short lifespan, there were many that wanted to avoid it. Even those that had reached an old age after a fulfilling life.

Aerith knew that death didn't mean to be annihilated. She even knew about the world that a Cetra would reach in the end once they had fulfilled the mission they had on the Planet. That was why she accepted death fearlessly even when she had a strong feeling that it was going to happen to her soon one day. She fulfilled her mission the way she should have without any fear. Her heart was at peace even though the humans, who lost their power to speak with Planet long ago, said that she died an unnatural death. She had no regrets such as wishing she was still alive or because she avoided her mission.

Even so, she was sad. Her heart was in pain.

All the companions that she had journeyed with, the people she grew close to for the first time, the mother that raised her and looked after her for fifteen years Elmyra, the people that she didn’t know too well, the people who she might have met in the future, people she hadn't met yet... It was a fact that she could no longer be with the "living".

Aerith also knew that the sadness was also with those who she left behind. They didn't know that she still existed as her soul. They didn't need to know. Even if she wished they did, the sadness wouldn't be healed if they knew the truth. The thought of everyone's sorrow made the pain in her even worst.

Aerith was in even greater pain when she thought about Cloud.

She also had good feelings towards him. At first, she thought he somehow had some similarities to her first love. Even so, his looks, voice and personality weren't similar and he also made her think of him as a mysterious person... But it soon didn't matter. She loved him much more than her first love. Cloud was her hero and he couldn’t get away from danger. She saw him as someone full of confidence, cool and had the impression that he would disappear in an instant if she took her eyes off him. She wanted to stay by his side forever if she could. She really wanted to.

When she left her companions and headed for the Forgotten City, Cloud's heart was like an egg that was on the verge of cracking open. It wasn’t going to crack open like the way an egg hatched but, as if only the yolk was going to seep out of it. It was as if his mind was going to shatter. She wanted to comfort him. If she wasn't the last survivor of the Cetra she probably would have done so without a doubt.

However...

The pale black and silver white man, who was once a hero, had taken over the will of the "disaster that fell from the skies", Jenova and was in a state of madness. He was going to summon the most powerful destructive magic, Meteor using the Black Materia. Having been passed the mission from her Cetra ancestors, she had no choice but to carry it out. Sooner or later Sephiroth was going to summon the giant meteor that will surely inflict an enormous amount of damage to the Planet. It would cause a wound that could destroy the very Planet itself. Without doubt, the Planet would then concentrate a large amount of the Lifestream to heal itself. It was Sephiroth's intention to make all that power his. After that, he would become one with the Planet and become something equal to a God. He would probably then burn all the humans he hates to death. The future of the Planet and the cycle of all life would all end as she knew it.

Aerith could sense from the whispers of the Planet that something could be done to prevent the worst from happening. She also knew that it was something that only she, the last remaining Cetra, could do. She could only obtain the indepth knowledge from the Forgotten City. But heading there also meant that she would become the greatest obstruction to Sephiroth's plans.

That was where Aerith hesitated. Will she let all humans die or was she going to avoid such a disaster in exchange for her life... But she never did think about it and was already prepared. When she did hesitant about leaving Cloud in sorrow, she would think about how it wouldn't save her companions or the people of the world. She had already made up her mind. There was no other choice. It was all for Cloud too.

And so alone, she set off to the altar that was in the Forgotten City to find out what she had to do. Indeed, the key was the last of the Cetra. It was the White Materia that was passed down by the Cetra... As if it held the fate of the last remaining Cetra, this tool could summon the ultimate White Magic Holy needed to counter Meteor. It was the Materia that was entrusted to Aerith by her mother, Ifalna. She had never used it before and had always hid it inside her ribbon, never leaving her. She had the White Materia. Finding out that she had it on her, she prayed with all her heart. Through the Materia, she talked to the Planet trying to summon the White Magic Holy that would destroy Meteor.

Even the slightest hesitance may have meant that her prayers wouldn't reach the Planet. But she done it. The requirements were fulfilled before Sephiroth struck her, after realizing her intentions. She accepted the death that she had felt long ago as the sword pierced through her. She looked at peace.

But a cry came through to her.

It wasn't the sound of her cry. If it was then she would have felt the blood gushing up through her throat and the fury that forced its way out from the depths of her soul - It was the sound of Cloud's heart cracking. It was the cry of his heart that could never be healed of the grief he had towards Aerith's death, the blame towards himself and the hatred he had for Sephiroth.

She was surprised at the great sorrow he had for her. She was a little happy that he thought so much of her but she also felt the pain that was many times greater. There was nothing she could do about Cloud's suffering and the pain ached in her heart.

The pain continued even though she was in the Lifestream.

Although she had lost her body, she recognized the pain by creating an image of herself in her mind. Aerith looked down as she put her hands to her throbbing heart... Before long, she realized something.

All around her was the existence of countless number of consciousnesses. There were lots of voices and an abundance of memories. Everyone around her was something that she never felt when she was in the church in Midgar. Like her, the souls of those that had died had returned to the Planet and were all here.

Even so, she couldn't see anyone nearby that had a form like she did. From what she saw, only she retained the image of her past self in the mist of the flowing energy full of different consciousnesses.

"I wonder... If it's because I'm a Cetra?"

The words came out as a murmur from Aerith. Here, words and thoughts were the same. As an entity of consciousness, her thoughts and feelings were only expressed as waves she emitted. Similarly, the huge number of memories in the Lifestream also reached her as all sorts of waves. All around her she heard whispers of how if you didn't retain a strong ego, you would soon no longer know which consciousness belonged to you.

"I was hoping my words would reach Cloud..."

She puffed out her cheeks a little looking displeased. She was not affected by the confusion of the various consciousnesses that existed in the sea of memories and knowledge inside the Mako energy. Because of her experience of hearing the voice of the Planet when she was young, she had built up a lot of patience. Aerith was raised so that she could retain her own consciousness and not lose her personality.

But she understood returning to the Planet depended on how she was separated as a "whole". Even when water droplets fall into a river, they blend in and can't be seen anymore. No matter how used to things she was, she thought it was odd how her soul could still remain unique in the vast sea of conscious energy.

"But the Lifestream must be a Cetra too, just like me. My mother died and she was also a Cetra... It's been fifteen years. In that time, maybe I’ll disappear and become one with the Planet too."

Slanting her head to the side, she thought more about it.

"Will I be able to talk to Cloud somewhere? So that I can tell him I'm fine... It's kind of odd saying I'm fine but maybe I can be "clearer" about myself here."

Maybe she could be clear about her affections towards Cloud here. Then maybe they would be seen as family or lovers... During her lifetime in Midgar, she felt many souls of the ones that tried to confess their love. Those that still had those feelings or had those feelings left behind them could strongly retain their consciousness as a "whole".

"But does that mean I'll disappear as soon as I meet Cloud? I wonder if that's what's happening or... Is there still something else I've still to do...?"

At that instant, Aerith felt something like an electric shock surge through her. She clenched one of her hands into a fist and hit the palm of her other hand, as it struck her. It was only her imagining her phantom self hitting her hands together but, she could clearly heard the "bang".

"It makes sense. There's a meaning to all this. There must be some reason why I haven't merged with the Lifestream yet and why I am still here as the way I am. Like how I was the only one in the world that could summon Holy from the Planet... There might still be something left that I have to do."

Just when the thought crossed her mind, she felt a little commotion from the Planet. It wasn't from the individual consciousnesses but the Planet as a whole as if to confirm what she was thinking.

"...I see. I wonder what it is."

Her question was answered with silence. The Planet too had yet to know what it was.

She smiled like the flowers that she used to sell in the slums. In the gentle fluorescent light, the smile that was loved by everyone bloomed sweetly.

"It's OK. There are still people I don't want to be separated from. I can't sleep yet. Until that time comes, I'll wander around here for a while. I’ll spend my time here in the Planet... In our Promised Land..."

Wishing she could send away her thoughts, Aerith looked up at the sky... She looked beyond the shell of the Planet above her head. The particles of Mako that floated and shooted around looked like the night sky to her.

She looked up into the sky like the time she sat beside Cloud around the kindling fire in Cosmo Canyon.

Chapter 2

In the world of Mako - Aerith knew that the concept of time and distance here was different from the surface.

Time seemed to flow by slowly and if she wanted, it could also flash by in the blink of an eye. The passing of time in the Mako held no meaning in the first place. The Planet's history was made up of accumulated memories, all merged together and were always by her side. There were memories of the present and also of the past. There was no way that Aerith could have seen all of them but, the events that were inscribed into the memories had surpassed time and were all linked together as a whole. It hinted that time was moving into the future in the world of the living. As those new memories from the surface merge together with the Planet, new life would be brought into the world as the energy from the Planet is delivered. That cycle told her how time flowed by one period after another.

Everything was linked to the insides of the Planet through the Lifestream. Even on the surface, in the most distant places, the flow of conscious energy would be delivered. On the other hand, there were places that were so close but yet, the energy couldn't reach. There were areas that existed where even the winding flow of Mako can’t get to. Aerith thought it must be the fault of all the Mako reactors. The energy was never meant to be used that way and if they continued to draw it out by force, it will eventually upset the balance. If the Planet could help humans live a easier life then it probably would have done so. But Shinra Inc. was going too far. If their greed was to continue, then the equilibrium of the Planet's life would collapse... Aerith remembered how flowers would only bloom in the church and how the city of Midgar was drenched in Mako.

"And that's why the people of Shinra wanted to know where the Promised Land was. A land abundant in Mako energy, where only the Cetra knew how to get to... But that place was here. It’s the place where everyone would reach in the end as they returned to the Planet. The land where the Shinra could obtain all the energy they wanted didn’t really exist, did it? It was all just a mistake."

She murmured as she let herself drift with the Lifestream. She gazed at the moving Mako world that had very little change.

"The Promised Land that Sephiroth had in mind was much different. He was trying to create it all by force. He was going to wound the Planet on purpose so that almost all the energy would gather in one place. So that he himself could control it all alone. That was the Promised Land Sephiroth wanted..."

Aerith shivered as she imagined what the Planet would be like if that happened.

"I wonder if Cloud and the others are all right... I hope Tifa and Cloud aren't pushing themselves too hard going after Sephiroth..."

"...Cloud? Tifa? Barret?"

The waves of one of the consciousnesses right beside her expanded as it reacted to her words. She rushed to leave the current she was in because it was the first time she came across another firm conscious other than herself. When she reached the place where it came from, a shadow rose from the Mako. It wasn't as clear an image as Aerith but she knew it was the remnant of a female.

"You know them? Who are you?"

"I'm..."

It seemed her memory was muddled. It was probably because most of her soul had already merged with the Mako. But her core hadn’t decomposed and was still drifting there as a whole.

"Oh, I have to introduce myself first. I'm Aerith. Could you be one of Avalanche's members?"

"Avalanche... Yes, yes that's right."

The memories she had was being reconstructed from the Sea of Mako. Realizing who she was once again, her transparent figure rapidly returned to the form she had when she was on the surface. As if Aerith had some influence on her, the colours also came back to her.

Compared to Aerith, she still looked faint but she looked human now and the clothing she had worn also reappeared. Her hair was tied back in a pony tail so that it wouldn't get in her way and her clothing looked like that of a soldier. She too had arrived here too early and she was about Aerith's age.

"How stupid of me to forget... I'm Jessie from Avalanche. Hey... Are you Miss Aerith?"

"You can just call me Aerith."

"Thanks, Aerith. You know Cloud, Tifa and Barret don't you? How is everyone? Are they still fighting Shinra? Oh..."

Jessie shook her head as if to apologize. "You must be like me now that you've come here."

"Don't worry. I'm sure they're all fine."

She changed her thoughts as she tried not to think about Cloud. Here, she couldn't lie so she had to not think about it.

"There was something that bothered Barret for a long time. So you died that time... You were one of the people who were trying to protect the Sector Seven pillar as a member of Avalanche back then. I've only met Mr. Wedge so far..."

"Wedge?!"

Jessie's eyes widened. "Yes, Biggs too! All three of us arrived here together but lost sight of each other... Yes, until just a moment ago, I couldn't remember anything. Until I met you, Aerith."

As if guided by Jessie's memories, two more figures appeared. The forms of a man with a thin beard and another that was stout bodied rapidly formed together.

"Wo- Woah."

The bearded man, Biggs stared at the palms of his hands. "I’m still me. I thought I was going to disappear."

"I'm so happy I can see the two of you again. And... You're the one that nursed me that time, Miss... Aerith? Did you die too?"

Instead of giving the obvious answer, Aerith nodded with a smile.

"It's been a long time, Mr. Wedge. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Biggs. After that time, I became a member of Avalance too so that kind of makes me a junior to all of you, doesn't it?"

"Hmmm, that kind of shows how dangerously high the death rate for Avalanche is, doesn't it?"

"Is Barret still the swagger of a guy he is? Well, he is quite a likeable guy."

"Junior? I'm too happy! It's always been my aspirations to be a senior!"

After that, Aerith told all three of them what Avalanche was fighting for now. It wasn't just Shinra Inc. anymore but also with the much more dangerous existence known as Sephiroth... They had left Midgar to stop his evil ambitions of making the Planet his.

"So Cloud's become one of us now... I'm so happy."

"Heheh... He's a cold guy but I knew he would join us."

"Does that mean Mr. Cloud is a junior too? He’s going to be tough to deal with."

There was a lot of commotion among the phantoms of the Avalanche members as they laughed and smiled. But in the end, Aerith noticed their sadness. Some deep remorse bound the three of them together.

"What's wrong? All of you look like you're in pain..."

"Well... It's because of the way our lives ended. We can't redeem ourselves now."

Jessie looked down sadly as Biggs continued.

"We fought with Avalanche because we had the same sympathy and thoughts. We thought that it couldn't be helped to have a few sacrifices if we were to stop Shinra. But we were completely wrong. We understood that when we came here... You know about it too don't you, Aerith? About the explosion of the First Sector Mako Reactor."

"Yes... The First Sector was a little distance opposite from the slums I lived in. We weren't told much about it but, we heard quite a lot of people died..."

"At that time, we only thought that they were getting what they deserved if they got caught in the explosion, since they were all people that worked for Shinra on the upper plate. But in the end, all of us ended up here whether we worked for Shinra or not. So we’ve been thinking about why we did it. All we were really doing was raising our voices and shouting out our opinions like drunks. We were just over-exaggerating about how we were saving the Planet..."

"...I too didn't think about it that much. I didn't want a minor role in life. I wanted to shine. So I thought by joining Avalanche, I could be a hero who could save the future of the Planet and that's all I thought about... I never imagined that it would get others involved. It's just so foolish..."

Wedge lowered his head in embarassment.

"The whole plan was actually drafted by the old Avalanche which no longer exists anymore."

Jessie went on regretfully, "There were many more members in Avalanche and they were a much more extreme group. We only inherited the name of their resistance group, "Avalanche" from those people who are no longer around. But details of how to make a bomb and the plans of where to set it were left on a computer. Since I was good with machinery and bombs, I decided to try it... But I'm sure that plan was never intended to be used to just disable Mako Reactor One. The people that came up with the horrific plan hated the Shinra. They hated them so much that they would go as far as sacrificing lots of people... I should have realized it. Barret knew nothing about it."

"That's why we..."

Dejected, Biggs looked up to the sky. "Why we wanted to merge with the Planet right away. We wanted to disappear. I remember now. But it was impossible. Barret's fighting to save even more people. We can't do any of that to atone for our sins. We can only be here and continue to suffer."

"In the end, it was all too easy for us to forget who we were because we wanted to be at ease here."

"It just didn't work. When we had the chance, we would revert the way we were. Even then we're not as clear an entity as you are. It's somewhat like a curse."

They all laughed with self-derision until it all ended with a sigh.

"But... But."

Aerith tried to comfort them with her words.

"Everyone's been wrong before. Even I have been selling flowers thoughtlessly for money..."

"Hmmm... I really can't compare my stupidity to that."

"But all of you have been suffering all this time..."

"Thanks, Aerith. But as a senior in Avalanche, it's such a shameful story. All that big talk feels like it's backfired on me."

"I really can't forgive myself. That's why this is the only way I can be here."

"Someday, the day may come when we can return to the Planet but right now, we can't. Now go, Aerith. You must be in that form because there's a role you must fulfil. We're worried our sinful memories will transfer over to you."

"No..."

"And then we'll suffer even more. So go, please?"

Jessie was lying. Aerith knew that she was trying to get far away from her so that she wouldn’t have to share their pain.

The phantoms of the three people were fading. Aerith bit her bottom lip as tears welled up.

"Please let me say this at least. That day, many people managed to escape because the three of you worked hard to protect the Seventh Sector pillar. I'm sure the number of people that managed to escape was more than the people who died in Sector One... And I also managed to save Marlene because of that. Maybe that isn’t enough to free you all… I know that people's lives aren’t something you add and subtract with but... Please remember that it's not only sins that you carry."

"...Thank you. Thank you, Aerith."

The voice of someone that no longer knew who they were echoed and they were taken back to the prison that they had decided for themselves. They sank into the sea of memories.

Aerith wiped away her tears and started walking again. She prayed that the souls of the Avalance members would be able to rest in peace soon.

Chapter 3

Aerith didn't know how much time had passed on the surface. Has it been days since she met Jessie and the others, or was it just moments ago?

She wondered if their pain could be healed by themselves. As she asked herself that question, she continued to travel the underground world. She drifted in the Lifestream in the Planet's Sea of Mako.

When she saw the next phantom, she held her breathe.

The point of a steel tube rose from a swirl of faint light. When she realized that it was an artificial hand linked to an arm, she thought that Barret too had left the world of the living. Aerith was sure that she had escaped Midgar with her mother Elmyra. Her heart tightened as she thought of Marlene.

"Marlene!"

Aerith's waves of thoughts expanded and they reached the phantom. The full figure of a man with a gun attached to his arm rose from the Mako. The weapon emitted a cold glow from it but it was from his left arm. The gun was fearsome as if it was physically real and the man's faint figure was stained in red.

"You're..."

"A woman... Where have I seen you before? You even know Marlene's name."

"We've met haven't we, Mr. Dyne."

He was Dyne, the governor of Corel Prison, an exile land full of sand and scrap. He was also once Barret's close friend. After what Shinra done to his hometown, his despair made him irrational and falling into a state of madness, he slaughtered many people.

"Ah, I see. You're the girl that was with Barret. Then that means you must be dead too. What a pity."

Not believing what he saw, Dyne laughed. "I can't believe that after killing so many people, I would end up in the same place as an innocent girl like you after I die. This world truly is absurd. What a boring thing this Planet is. Everything really should be destroyed."

"Is that what you still say?"

Aerith's figure stood in contrast to Dyne's. She raised her slender eyebrows.

"Even though you really care about Marlene."

"Who cares. Girl, you-"

"I'm Aerith."

"Heheh... You're a strong one. My left arm is all that remains of my past life. Fine. I'll call you by that name. You heard what I said that time, didn't you? The words I had with Barret. When I was trying to destroy everything, I was going to take Marlene with me here too."

"You're lying. You were just bluffing."

"I can't lie here, right? I was seriously thinking about it at that time to say the least. Then I challenged Barret to a deathmatch and became enlightened."

For a while, Dyne laughed out loudly because of how he had to pay it all back with his right arm and his body. "And I thank Barret for that. After all, I've been swallowed up by the very "world" I wanted to destroy. I didn't want to end my own life. So instead, I wasted all those useless people that were scared in the exile land to free them and make them happy."

"...."

"Do you see now, Aerith? Before you is the helpless, broken apparition of a man that even the Planet won't accept. The Planet that my wife Eleanor has already returned to. And I've already entrusted Marlene to Barret. Whatever happens to the Planet afterwards has nothing to do with me."

"...."

Looking at how silent Aerith had become, he laughed again at how he managed to make the cheeky little girl back down. Then he realized that it wasn't funny and noticed that Aerith never took her eyes off him. He realized he didn't manage to make her back down at all. There was a glow in the gaze of her jade green eyes that made the madness in him back down.

"...You have no guts."

"What did you say?"

"I'll say it again. You have no guts. You don't have the courage to go back and start over. You've only been tumbling round and round where it's the easiest going for you."

As Aerith stared at Dyne, she took a step forward. Under the pressure of her powerful eyes, he hid his face with his gun and unconsciously stepped back.

"Barret also exchanged one of his arms for a gun. He said he would destroy the Shinra with his feelings of regret and hatred. That's why he too had his hands stained with the blood of many people. But he didn't fall apart. Besides taking on the burden, he's really trying to save the Planet this time. He's trying to protect the world that Marlene will live in without running away."

"...Being able to change like that is that simpleton's strength."

"Is Barret special and you're different?"

Dyne moaned at her question. He was waking from his intoxication. It was the thing he hated most of all... He had been intoxicated all this time so that he could forget about himself but, Aerith's direct gaze scattered the mist of madness around him. The armour around his heart shattered.

"I reek of the blood of those I killed with my bare hands right to the very depths of my soul. Can't you see? They've all been clinging onto me all this time. If I go back at all, I'll be dragged back by them."

The red mist that clouded around Dyne's figure suddenly changed into a sticky substance. In the four years since Corel Town got destroyed, he didn't care about how much hatred built up with his metal left arm and because of that, it was now drenched in blood. It was the lock of sin that made Dyne give up.

"Just how am I supposed to start over? All I could do was stay intoxicated. All I could do was hate everything and drown myself in madness! Was I wrong?"

"You're wrong."

She didn't use coercion but instead, she approached Dyne gently. Extending out her hands, she touched the layer of blood that covered him.

"The blood bound to you is something that your feeling of guilt is making. The lives you took away returned to the Lifestream long ago. You can't forget about what you've done but, there is no reason why you can't start over. I guarantee it."

"...."

From the point where Aerith touched, the blood dried up into tissue, detached from Dyne and wore away. Then, Dyne's left arm started to fade away.

"...Will I be able to join the Planet someday?"

"I'm sure you will."

"When Marlene's reaches the end of her lifespan and comes here, will I be able to come out and greet her as part of the Planet...?"

Aerith looked up at Dyne's face and nodded smiling.

"Because you're starting all over again. It will be all right."

Dyne's faint face could now be seen clearly. It was different from the person she met in Corel Prison. It was the true face of someone who sincerely loved his family and hometown more than anyone else.

He could not return to the peaceful times when he would sweat in the mines of Corel before the tragedy happened. Both Dyne and Aerith knew that. Even so, the hearts of people can be rebuilt. They can stand up and face those sad painful memories. If they couldn't then the absurdity would truly spread throughout the world.

"What can I do in this Sea of Mako? No, it's what I must do... I'll continue thinking about the ones I killed for a while. Until the day I can merge with the Planet."

"Yes, I think that's a good idea."

"Aerith, I'm sorry how I treated you. I'm glad I met you."

"You didn't treat me bad at all."

"You really are a stout-hearted one."

For the first time, Dyne smiled from the bottom of his heart and quietly, his image faded away. The tip of the gun on his left arm disappeared.

"After dying and experiencing all that, I can finally stop turning my back against Barret and Marlene. Let me say my thanks..."

Just before he sunk into the Lifestream, Aerith saw it.

She saw Mako particles make their way towards Dyne and huddle together on him as if they had a will of their own. Dyne's faint, surprised voice could be heard.

"Eleanor?"

And so, Aerith went back to her journey.
Tags: aeris, aerith, ff7 novellas
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