disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII and all related names and characters are property of Square.

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Tears of Illusion ~ by Amariƫ

She sits huddled against a tree, all pretense of cheerfulness gone. Now she pleads, now sobs, but she does not move us; we know what is to be done, and who must do it. She has done this since we told her of her destiny; though she knows she must obey, she speaks as though the future is uncertain. She told him, that one who has distracted her mind from the path of fate, she told him where she went -- but not what she would do; said that she could not bear to have him hurt.

Why, then, did you not abandon it entirely? For he will know, in the end; he will know when he buries you --

No, stop! I can't... I won't! There must be another way! Tell me!

There is no other way now.

But if things had been different... if I had done something differently... would it not have happened this way?

We know not what was, daughter; we know what is, and what may be, but the past is set. Calm yourself now to your task.

She talks again of love; of her friends and her life. Does she not know that she will have life eternal? And her friends, they are human; they will not last, their souls will weaken and dissolve into the Lifestream. What does she want with them? They are not to share her destiny.

Come now, my beloved; you are our life, the life of the Planet; come and join us forever.

She speaks to herself now. Is not this the time I have waited for? Why do I hesitate, when all is clear? Is it for them, for... for Cloud? But I am to be their salvation, their protector and their light... they will not be without me.

You begin to see.

She stills, and her face fills with the realization of a fear hidden but now confirmed. But I... I will be without them.

Is this what she fears?

That is the price you must pay, daughter. You are not like them; you are the last of your kind, and will leave behind you nothing but your hope, and the Planet's salvation. Leave them to their lives; they will forget you in time, and find happiness with their own kind.

And me? Where will I go? Where will I go to when their struggle is over? May I not be reborn with them?

If you wish. You do share a part of their world, but you are not of it. If you choose to go back, you will lose your link to your mother's people; and to the Planet. You will become one of them, not living always above the toil of life, but endlessly returning to suffer once more.

How do they suffer any more than I?

We sense that she does not want an answer.

Is this what I was born for? Do I not have a choice as they do; to choose or to influence the course of my own life?

Your task is the most important of all those given; would you choose otherwise? To do so would be to betray yourself. As your love is greatest, so your sacrifice must be greatest; they cannot understand, they would hate you for turning aside from the saving of their race.

They... they wouldn't, they don't understand...

They do not know what is to be; they walk in a fog of ignorance. This is how you may show them your love; by going to your destiny, leaving them for their own sake.

For them... I will do it for them, I will die as I live, for love of them.

Think not of yourself, then, if that is what you wish; but go, for the hour approaches.

She stands, straightens her dress; looks up along the path.

Will you be with me?

We have been with you from the moment you were born.

The path beckons, the wind calls her; she looks back one last time. What does she see? Perhaps she thinks of her friends, for she whispers a prayer, then,

Cloud... goodbye.

We remind her of the road ahead. With a half-sigh, she turns, steadies herself, walks down the path; and all around her the flowers open to the sun.

***

author's notes: I'm not sure what inspired me to write this; I'm inclined to think I was influenced by watching Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi the day before, but for the life of me I could not tell you how. This is, in case my style is a bit too cryptic, a conversation between Aerith and "the Planet" in the Forest of the Ancients. Think about it -- we never really find out what Aerith thought about the whole thing, nor exactly what the Planet was saying; and draw your own conclusions.