Tranquility, from within and without. Things had become a clear spiral pinpoint of light that illuminated her final purpose on this earth. She'd made peace with all the things she'd left undone in this life. Cherished all the things she'd managed to do as fate's clocked ticked and her final bow came closer and closer. Her only regret in life was that she had never truly loved someone, never had her loved returned in the same fashion. None of it mattered in the end. She would die, sacrifice herself to save the planet. The words were so easy to utter. The thought so simple and neat. But it wasn't. She didn't want to die, though she had accepted its inevitability. In her heart of hearts though, she wished that there was a different end to her story. An alternate path for her to take, a solution that she'd not yet discovered, anything but her martyrdom.
She opened her eyes, which were glassy with tears. God, she wanted to cry, to let loose a scream of rage at the unfairness of it all. Take it away.....just take it all away.....it's too big for me.....she begged the planet, hands clasped, Why does it have to be me? Why? I don't want to die.....please.... The planet hummed back to her, sending her not words but feelings. It sent her images and thoughts of all the beings that crawled over its surface. You aren't a normal girl, it hummed, you are my shepherd, my last caretaker and the only one who can heal me. You must do what is asked of you, else all those who live upon me will suffer. It makes me weep to think that you must do this, but it is the only way. She nodded, understanding and accepting her role in this play. Fear was set aside, and she prayed. Prayed for absolution, to purge the great sin from her world, and for the healing of an old wound.
A crash came from above, glass shattering as something large broke through the ceiling of the temple. She could feel the glass remnants hitting her shoulders and head. He had come, the man who would murder her. The girl opened her eyes, gazing up lovingly at her friends who could do nothing but gape in horror. She felt the wind as he swooped behind her, his shadow covering her as he raised his sword high. God.....God, please let it be quick.....I'm so scared....I don't want to die.....The sharp tip pierced her flesh, gods above it hurt so much. She could feel the pressure of the blade as it entered the small of her back, the steel pushed through exiting through her midsection just above her breast. How easily it slid through her, as if she where no more solid than water. Her thoughts were overcome by the pain, it was all she could see, all she could feel. It was hard for her to breathe, the strike had punctured at least one lung if not both. She didn't let it show, somehow the planet gave her enough strength to choke back her own pain. She wouldn't scream, wouldn't cry....not in front of him......That would bring him too much pleasure, he wanted her to....She intended to deny him his moment of triumph. She wanted him to see her face painless and strong, she wanted it to haunt him. He was the weak one, not her.
The world became a cacophony of sound and blurring lights. Whatever force that had held her companions in silent, horrified limbo released its hold on them. They shouted, someone screamed, the voices were too loud and she had found it too hard to focus on comprehending the words. She could feel his boot on her back as he pushed her off his sword. More pain shot through her body, but it only seemed to serve as an equilibrium. Sliding off the weapon, she slumped and was only saved from hitting hard ground by the quick rescue of one of her friends. His arms were so warm. It'd be okay if she could just die here. In the arms of a friend, though they'd never gotten close enough to be anything but. It didn't matter to her though, he was a friend....a good friend. One regret gone. She had friends at last. No longer was she alone in the world. They might not have understood her, but at least they loved her and accepted her for who she was.
She looked up at him, it was so hard to see. Her other friends had gathered around him, she could feel their presence all around her. The warmth of the love and care for her radiating outwards, beyond the confines of her mortal body. Everything was tainted black...she could feel her life ebb away, her consciousness slipping from her body and merging with creation. Sweet and warm....suddenly pierced again, by those cold blue-green eyes.....the cruel sound of his laughter dying away until all was darkness.
Aeris woke with a start, tears streaming down her delicate face. It was that damn dream again. God how I hate it. More precisely, it was a premonition. She knew it. A vision of her future and her eventual death. A reoccurring nightmare that had retarded her sleep for years. Aeris wiped at her eyes. Today was her birthday, she turned sixteen if you counted by human years. But she wasn't human, she was Cetra. An ancient race, long forgotten in the annuls of time. Shepherds of the planet, guardians of the life stream. In the years of her people she was quite old, her soul having lived for thousands of years. Born into this shell to serve one purpose. As the last of her kind she had a sacred duty to perform. To rid the planet of a mistake her people had made before this new race had crawled from their caves.
The crisis from the sky, it had been her people's down fall. Jenova was the name the Cetra had given it. They had offered it friendship, showed it what they had learned and it had used that knowledge to it's own perverse end. Driving her people mad, and nearly destroying all existence. Jenova was a virus, a defective entity who envied the light. The Cetra were the source of that light, givers of life. Jenova gave only death. It had taken all the power of the remaining Cetra to stop Jenova. They froze her, and buried her, too weak to destroy her completely. They'd stopped her, but in the end, her goal had been partly achieved. The line of the Cetra began to dwindle, until there was only herself and her mother Ifalna. Shinra took care of her mother, all that was left was her. Now it was up to her, to put an end to Jenova's evil for good.
Aeris sighed, looking out the window at the choked gray sky. Slivers of light were all that managed to get through the giant plate that hung over the Midgar slums. Midgar, the largest city on the planet. A city of dualities. The view that Shinra, the military rulers of Midgar, liked to promote was the shining silver sections on the top. The slums underneath this top plate were never discussed. The slums were what allowed the privileged rich to live so well. The slums produced all the products used on top, all the menial workers and servants came from the slums, the large and dangerous Mako reactors that powered the city were housed in the slums, people in the slums suffered to serve the rich. The only gratitude given to the workers were the piles of garbage that the rich dumped on them in heaps. In Aeris's eyes, Midgar was an eyesore, an abomination that she longed to escape from. But she was only a mere slip of a girl, and the world outside was just as hostile as the world she lived in. She barely held her head above water here, what chance did she have outside?
Aeris looked at her clock, ten after six, time to go to work. She slipped out of her night gown, it was old and worn as most of her clothes were. Once disrobed, she quickly dressed for the day. It was early February, and though it had never been very cold in Midgar, it was still chilly enough to layer clothes for warmth. She pulled on a simple cotton dress, its sleeves slightly longer than she liked. Being poor the choice between fashion and comfort was a luxury she couldn't afford. Comfort always won out. Still, there was a slight bit of vanity on her part, after all she was still a sixteen year old girl....despite her odd situation. She buttoned up the dress, looking in the mirror to confirm that she didn't look too horrible.
The dress was pink, her favorite color, as most of her clothing was. Most in the slums wished to blend in, wearing dark colors that suited the very darkness of the city itself. Aeris did everything in her power not to blend. She was determined to stick out. To be a ocean of hope in the midst of despair. Besides, brighter more hopeful colors suited her.
Satisfied, she strode over to her dresser, digging through her drawers until she found a pair of socks. Plumping herself onto the floor she slid them on one foot at a time. She hopped up, stretching a little to get any remaining kinks out. The last touch was to brush her hair, pulling it up in a simple pink sash. The sash was special, it had belonged to her real mother. She'd given it to Aeris before she died, it had a piece of White Materia attached to it. Her mother had called it the last hope. Aeris had never understood what her mother had meant by that.
With a last tug, Aeris felt ready to meet the world for another day. Trotting down her stairs, she grabbed her coat, simultaneously putting shoes on while pulling her arms through the sleeves. It had been a habit that her adoptive mother, Elmyra, had always taken delight in. She'd swear to Aeris that one of these days she'd fall over and wallop her head real good. It never happened, Aeris seemed gifted with an uncommon grace. Perhaps it came from her Cetra heritage, perhaps not.
Exiting the small dwelling, Aeris picked up her basket before setting off to gather the flowers she'd be selling for the day. She sighed heavily, it was hard...holding the fate of the world on slender teenage shoulders. Aeris tried not to think about it, tried to be positive and not let it bother her, but it did. Her steps echoed in the quiet morn, crunching on the frost covered ground beneath her feet. Bending down, she began to pick her flowers carefully. Her home was hidden, not many came this far into Sector 5. It was best that it remained so. Being the last of her kind meant she was hunted. Shinra had long been experimenting in areas it had no business digging into. The legendary power of the Cetra were one, amongst many, they wished to exploit for their own purposes. They'd learned about her existence around three years ago, god knows how they'd found out. Perhaps it was the unnatural field of flowers cultivated in such a barren place. Her flowers bloomed, year round, no matter what the weather. She could grow any kind of flower she wished. From hot house beauties like the orchid to the most common hardy mum.
A band of Turks, Shinra mercenaries, had been sent after her so many times she'd lost count. For some reason, the man they sent to kidnap her had taken a liking to her. His name was Reno, and for one reason or the other, he'd always bungled the mission somehow. Letting her escape, unsure it was good luck or bad luck to have his good will. There hadn't been an attempt in some time, she was probably due any day now.
Slim fingers deftly picked out individual blooms. She smiled, being the steward of the planet had at least a few perks. Her flowers were the only thing that brought her any real joy. Though she'd never let her mother or the few acquaintances know it. Her troubles were beyond their care. They were unable to help her, unable to ease her pain much less understand it. If she told them, they'd just call her crazy. The girl who talked to the planet. The girl who had the uncanny ability to know the future. A freak...She wondered briefly if there was anyone else in this vast city who felt as alone and misunderstood as she. Probably, Midgar was a city that ate souls. It beat you down, till you had no hope left at all. She suspected it was the atmosphere of this damned city that had been getting to her. Still, she felt so alone...so miserably alone....I hate this city.... it's just not fair......She tried to suppress the rising tears and failed. Aeris wept soundlessly as she finished gathering her flowers, clumsily placing them in her basket. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she rose and wiped away her tears for the second time that day. She wouldn't let despair win. It had her by the boots, but damn it all she would fight it. She had to. Each day was a gift and she would enjoy it. Enjoy every last bit of life she had left. Her days were numbered. Enjoy it, while it's yours to live. She smiled, putting on her game face.
Stepping off the train onto the top plate, Aeris shivered, pulling her threadbare coat closer to her tiny body. Selling flowers had never made her much money, just enough to squeak by. With an adoptive mother who'd taken ill and herself, money had been tight. It was lucky that because of her natural gifts as a Cetra she could use her skills to help heal her mother. Medical care was expensive, besides the fact that she put little faith in Shinra's doctors. None of them were as good as her. Not arrogance on her part, only truth. Her magic would never cure her mother's illness, but neither would the doctor's care. It had seemed the last few times she'd used her skills, that her mother had gotten incrementally better. It did her good to remind herself of positive things like that. Happy thoughts, Aeris, happy thoughts....She walked the streets with purpose, determined to keep her spirits up. I won't be broken....not by this city....not by anyone.... There were few people on the streets yet, only a few early risers like herself milled about. Once the morning formally started these same streets would be choked with people.
Aeris let her mind wander while she people watched so she wouldn't dwell on unpleasant thoughts. In a big city like Midgar, it never did well to look at others the way Aeris did. It unnerved people. Denizens of the city liked to keep to themselves, staying detached from one another. It was easier and safer. Looking garnered attention and attention was not always what one wanted, especially if it was from the wrong person. Looking was an invitation for the wrong people to mess with you. Aeris never cared. Fate had already determined when she died and it was not at the hands of some petty criminal. Fate protected her, at least that's how she saw it. So she looked and watched and smiled. People much busier than her bustled past her, perceiving themselves to be so much more important than a pauper from the slums like her. That they knew so little of their place in the universe was enough to make her smile.
The city dwellers blurred, tones of gray and blue and black melding together. A sudden flash of white caught her eyes. She slowed her pace, staring wide eyed at a young man who passed her, walking in the opposite direction from her own path. He was a little older than her and quite a bit taller. Very handsome, with snow white hair that caught in the bitter February wind. Long bangs fluttering over skin as colorless as his hair. She looked at his eyes, cold, hard little lumps of glowing blue-green set in an emotionless face. Mako eyes.... She ceased movement, her heart hammering in her chest, coloring draining from her face. Her blood turned cold as their eyes met, her face frozen in unadulterated fear. She dropped her basket, gasping.....It was him.....The man that had haunted her dreams. The murderer of her future self. All she could do was stare at him, his cold eyes burning into her as she shook in fear. The man broke contact with her, long platinum hair still fluttering behind him. She froze to the spot, only moving once she was sure he was gone. He'd left, thank the gods he left.....Tearfully she bent down to pick up her flowers, throwing them back into her basket as quickly as her shaky hands would allow. Though she couldn't see it, the young man had stopped and doubled back. He was an expert in stealth, watching the odd girl curiously as she picked up what was lost and hurried on her own way.