Departing from my trilogy (with its third installment delayed indefinitely), and needing something to do on the days when I have writer's block with my book, I have decided to write another separate fanfic. *pauses for cheers and/or groans* Since I can actually introduce this one nicely without spoiling any future revelations in the story, here goes... But first, I'd like to apologize. Yes, this fanfic deals with the A.R.F. (Aeris Resurrection Fetish). This is an A.R.F. fic. But it isn't any old clich├ęd A.R.F. fic. (I know it's a bad acronym, but it beats the hell out of writing everything over and over again.) So yes, I resurrect Aeris. Well, she's not Aeris...but Aeris isn't dead anymore...hmm...this introduction is getting a little confusing... Let's just say that this story will please the Aeris fans and hopefully, everyone sick of the same old Aeris resurrection fic. Or it could please no one and I will have rotten cyber fruit thrown at me.

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Evolution of Innocence

By: Janet Monstwillo

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Part 1- In the Eyes of an Angel

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Chapter 1

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"This is not the end. This is only the beginning. I can't let it end like this. I won't let it end like this. I owe it to him; I owe it to everyone. There is too much pain involved." Aeris folded her arms across her chest and stared at the master with contempt.

"They wouldn't be sad if they knew the truth. If they understood what happens when they leave the Planet, they would feel happy for you."

"But...I... I hear his voice, calling me."

"If everyone went back because someone called them, don't you see what chaos there would be? But for you, there is a hope, my child."

Aeris eyed him warily. In this "Promised Land," she was beginning to doubt she ever had a physical life. She had begun to sink into her spiritual being. If she had completely done so, she would not have been so unhappy. (But if I let it all go, I will forget. And I won't, ever! Even if it means an eternity of pain, I will remember.) "Hope? For what? Reincarnation in a century or so, I suppose," she said scornfully.

"There has been a few, very few, sent back to their contemporary time," said Master Eldor.

"Don't lie to me. You told me when I got here what was done was done."

"You can't go back to your old life, to your own body."

She sat down and hugged her knees. (That's all I... all I...) She swallowed, trying to keep the tears from falling. "Then why would I want to go back?"

"So your death would not have been a waste. Why did you sacrifice yourself? To save everyone else? Well, everything you fought to protect is being threatened again. Sometimes, when it is necessary, a Protector is allowed to inhabit the body of a soul grown weary of life. Whose spirit has been broken so much, the peace of death is most welcome."

"A Protector?"

Eldor smiled. "Yes, you are a Protector. One who sacrifices their life, their future, for the lives of others. Leaves the Planet while their spirit is still so full of life, that it brings even the most stern, strong, and silent man to tears."

Aeris closed her eyes. She still could see the look in Cloud's eyes as she felt herself leave. It was getting harder to place; she had no idea how long ago it was she returned to the Planet. (Weeks? Months?) "I have a question."

"Yes, my child."

"If I decide to do this, what would it be like?"

"You would possess the life of the body you inhabit. You will probably not remember who you were, or why you're there. You will probably have only a vague feeling of purpose."

"What use would I be, then? To anyone?"

"Any feeling of purpose, no matter how abstract, will weigh greatly on the balances that decide whether the Planet lives or dies."

Aeris was silent for a moment. "Who will I be? When do I go?"

"You will become Daphne Angelon. You will go as soon as possible."

"What does she look like? What is her life like?"

"In many ways, she is like you," said Eldor, "yet, in many ways, she is completely unlike you. Even if you somehow are able to remember yourself, your mission will come to you at the time when you are least likely to find it. Hidden behind mortal dreams and pleasures lurks the purpose that you are being sent for. Do not allow yourself to become distracted. Good luck, Aeris, and godspeed."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The phone rang. Daphne sat up. (I must have dosed off in my chair.) She picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

"Is this Daphne Angelon?"

Fear struck her. (This is it. This is the call. It's all over.) "Yes."

"This is Dr. Armstrong, from Junon Medical Center. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your mother passed away about fifteen minutes ago. She didn't seem to be in pain, and I think she went peacefully in the end, which is rare in cases of extreme Mako poisoning. You and your family have my condolences."

"Th...thank you," she said numbly. Tears blurred her eyes as she hung up the phone. (Yeah, me and my family. She was my family.) Her body started shaking as she put her head in her hands and sobbed. (You would think it gets easier. When Dad died in the war, when I was three, when Artie and his family died in the Sector 7 collapse...) She thought of her older brother and his wife and small child. (I know if he were here right now, he would smile that cocky smile at me, and tell me how life was great in Midgar, how he was rolling in the gil.)

Daphne had been away visiting an old friend when the geyser erupted in Mideel. Her mother had been exposed to the Mako. It only took two weeks for the illness to hit her. So Daphne put her mother in the hospital in Junon and had been working two jobs to foot the bills. She sniffed. (And it was all for nothing...) The doctors had told her that the chance of recovery was very slim. But she had still hoped. (After everything, how could I have Mom taken away from me, too?) She laid her head back on the lumpy chair in the shelter she had called home for the past two weeks, after the bills took so much money she couldn't pay the rent even for her dive of an apartment. (Please, God, whoever the hell is listening, please just let me be with them all when I wake up. I'm so tired, and I'm lonely.)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Aeris looked up from the image of the broken young woman. "How old is she?"

"Barely nineteen."

"And to have had so much loss..." she murmured.

Eldor shrugged. "It's all relative. You had as much loss, didn't you?"

"I was never alone. I always heard my mother's voice. It was like I had a guardian angel." She looked at the sleeping raven-haired girl. "I can be her guardian angel."

"You will be the Planet's guardian angel. It is time."

"Will she know?"

"All she will feel is peace descending."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"'Scuse me, miss?"

Daphne opened her eyes, with difficulty. She looked at the shelter volunteer who had woken her up. "Yeah?"

"There's someone here looking for you."

A young man stepped out from the shadows. "Thank you ma'am." He came closer to Daphne. "What the hell you doing here, Daph? You know you could come and stay with us if shit got rough. What you doin' in a place like this?"

"I...I didn't want to be a burden, Joel." (Since Rachel was killed in that car wreck last month, I didn't want to come and remind your family of her.)

"It would've made my folks happy. They've been so down since Rach died, and to tell you the truth, they've been worried about you. So have I. You've been workin' yourself to death, and if you don't let anybody help you, you're gonna get real sick, too. How is your mom?"

Daphne closed her eyes. "She's dead."

Joel wrapped his arms around her. "I'm so sorry. But you shouldn't be alone like this. Especially now. C'mon, come with me. You can get a hot shower, as long as you want, and a real bed to sleep in, not this piece of crap."

She nodded. (I remember when I was little, and I had the biggest crush on Joel. Rach's older brother. Back when she was alive, and I had a life.)

Joel smiled, and picked up her suitcase. "Is this all your stuff? Well, then, come on, Daffster." He took her hand, and they started walking towards his house in Lower Junon.

Daphne took a deep breath. (I feel different somehow. As if before, I was a different person. Everything seemed hopeless. I can get through it now. I'll never be truly alone.)