Crimson Core

Crimson Core

By: Theodore 'Blitz' Leung

The soft ticking of the grandfather clock was only surpassed by the flipping of pages in the silent and dark study. On the far wall was a large silver broad sword, still shining after so many years. At the opposite side was a wall full of bookshelves, each shelf filled to its maximum capacity. In front of the shelf was a large desk with books stacked on each corner. In between the books was a small lamp that provided the little illumination in the room. At the desk sat a petite woman, her long brown hair tied back into a ponytail. She wore a pair of black jeans and a blue T-shirt. In her gloved left hand was a small red orb, her gloved right hand leafing through some pages of ancient text. The sapphire eyes behind the pair of reading glasses read the ancient text, most of it the woman understood.

"So much to read…so little time…" she whispered, flipping to the next page. She yawned lightly, taking of her glasses and wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. She checked the grandfather clock in the corner of the study.

"One in the morning…" she told herself, yawning once more. She took a small bookmark from the table and placed it in the book, shutting the book softly. She stood up, stretching her stiff limbs from hours on hours of research, then placed the small red orb onto a pedestal that stood beside the lamp.

"I got carried away again," she told herself, heading towards the door of the study. She pulled the small leather gloves off her hands, pocketed the two, then exited the room, making sure the door was locked behind her.

Her abode wasn't very big, but that's what you get when you live near a university. It was a one floor apartment, albeit slightly bigger then most. There was a study; converted to a study to be exact, bedroom, kitchen, and, of course, a bathroom. She headed straight to her bedroom.

The bedroom wasn't really fabulous. In fact, there was a large mess of clothing lying across the floor and bed inside. The woman cursed silently.

"I told myself I'd clean the room today," she hissed, then sighed. "Guess I forgot again…" she muttered, mentally slapping herself for getting too involved in her work once more. She just shrugged, turning on the alarm clock in the room and then flopping onto the bed. She didn't bother changing, as it is, she was accustomed to sleeping in non-sleeping garments. In a few minutes, her exhausted body and mind was asleep

* * * * * *

Gloved fist slammed into punching bag with extreme force, nearly knocking the practice instrument off its chain. The woman stepped back, waiting for the punching bag to fly back at her. Before the bag could hit her, she threw a roundhouse kick into the bag, knocking it to the side, where it swung back and forth like a pendulum for a few moments.

"Remind me never to get on your bad side, instructor," a voice complimented behind her. The woman turned around, brushing some sweat off her forehead with the back of her gloved hand.

"Now, now, Lucas, I'd never hurt a friend," she told the young male before her, smiling. Lucas smiled back, tossing her a white towel. She caught it and nodded gratefully, wiping the remaining sweat off her forehead.

"I still don't see how you have time to practice, teach, and research with your schedule, and still have time to mark all our works," Lucas commented.

"I just do what I can," the instructor replied, smiling once more. "But I better get cleaned up before class starts," she added quickly, becoming serious. "And you better get prepared, because today's session will be very fast."

"Of course, Ms. Lockheart," Lucas replied, a bit jokingly. Instructor Lockheart giggled lightly.

"Come on, I'm younger then you," she replied, punching Lucas lightly in the shoulder. "Just call me Aeris when we're not in the auditorium." She slid her gloves off, heading towards the locker room of the gym.

* * * * * *

Aeris Lockheart browsed through the history book her class would be studying from. Her long brown hair was now braided together, tied back with a small pink ribbon. All around her in the auditorium, students filed in, all of them older then her. She sighed slightly. It was tough being the youngest person on the grounds and being an instructor for the university.

From the crowd, she identified Lucas. The young man waved, prompting a smile as a response from the instructor. She waited patiently for the class to settle down before beginning her lecture.

* * * * * *

"You know, I just love your classes," Lucas commented, taking another bite from his hamburger. He sat across from Aeris, the two enjoying some lunch together. "Somehow, you always seen to find ways to make it interesting."

The two were just one of the many groups in cafeteria of the university that day. They took a seat by the window. Outside the window was a massive bonfire. Never in anyone's life on the campus have they seen the ancient fire go out.

"I'm sure some of the other students beg to differ," Aeris commented politely, sipping her pop. "You just have a knack for history, that's all."

"Ancient history, to be exact," Lucas corrected once his mouth wasn't full anymore. "Speaking of which, I was browsing through the library and I found this book. I've been meaning to ask you about the contents for a bit, specifically this certain detail."

"Well, tell me then," Aeris told her student. "I can't help if I don't know what to help on." She added a smile to her end, before diving into her fries.

"It was about ancient monsters of the past that helped wandering parties," Lucas started, now very serious. "They were called forth to assist the party in battle, whether it be to attack the enemy or maybe just protect everyone. They were called Summoned Monsters." Aeris stopped chewing her fries. She was interested before, but now she was intent on hearing what her student had to say.

"Somehow, they just disappeared from existence, the book never going into detail about how," Lucas told them. "But what was interesting was one of the Summoned Monsters described. He was a monster in the shape of a massive fortress, a fortress so big it could engulf an entire castle with ease. The fortress used its holy might to smite all those that would threaten the kingdom. This…monster…just seems like a little overkill on tiny monsters that travelers might run into from time to time, however. Actually, that was a later reference of this Summoned Monster, written on a piece of line paper and placed in the spot where a page was ripped out. I guess the original reference to this fortress was taken out, for reasons unknown."

"Alexander," Aeris muttered under her breath, recalling where she heard that story once Lucas was finished his explanation.

"A who?" Lucas inquired, not hearing completely.

"Alexander," Aeris repeated for her companion. "Legend dictates that a long time past, in a righteous war between good and evil, one of the battles was fought over a fortress. The fortress was a crucial point in the war, as it linked up to many large cities before and after it. Call it the choke point that everyone was after."

"The battle resulted in many casualties for those fighting in name of all that is holy. Even with the tactical advantage in the fortress, the occupants were getting beaten and beaten quickly. One of the Espers, an Archangel, was defeated by the tidal wave of evil forces. In the last ditch effort, the Esper's spirit became one with the fortress, and the fortress became a living mass of holy energy. In a brief second that made the fortress alive, the entire wave of daemons and devils were defeated. A surge of holy energy irradiated every evil one inside the fortress and everything within a one mile radius around it."

"I'd like to see that book of yours," Aeris told Lucas upon finishing the tale. "I've found very few books that deal with Espers, but this is the first time I've heard of Summoned Monsters. I'm sort of impressed you were able to find such a book." Lucas chuckled.

"Don't underestimate me, instructor," he told his teacher. "My passion for history is about the same level as yours." Aeris smiled lightly, finishing her lunch and then standing up.

"I have a class to teach, as you probably know," Aeris told Lucas. "When you have time, can you please come over with that book? I'd like to research it."

"Sure, no problem instructor," Lucas responded, nodding.

"And please, outside the class, Aeris will do," the instructor told her student, smiling lightly then heading off to her next class.

* * * * * *

Aeris browsed through the book Lucas brought her that night. With one hand and her attention, she went through the book quickly, the other hand flipping through pages on another book.

"What are you looking for?" Lucas asked, looking over his instructor's shoulder. The second book Aeris went through had all this dialect that the boy didn't understand.

"Evidence," Aeris replied seriously, stopping on a certain page with the second book. On the first book Lucas brought, she found the section about Alexander. Quickly going back to the other book, she read the ancient dialect to herself quickly. The instructor spent so much time on these books she basically learned more then one language. "Yes…the Archangel who fell in that battle was known as Alexander…"

"Guess we got our evidence," Lucas remarked, looking around. This was his first time in the instructors study, and he never knew she owned so many books dealing in ancient history.

"There's more," Aeris told him, flipping through the pages of her book. "The war they fought in was known as the Magi War. A sort of righteous war. It was mainly against Espers and Human beings. By this, we can figure Espers are the same as Summoned Monsters."

"But why was there a war in the first part?" Lucas inquired. He knew he had to seek his answer from Aeris, as since he couldn't read the book. "If Humans asked for these Summoned Monsters helped regularly, why would they be so intent on killing each other?"

"It has to do with the Magi War, according to history," Aeris answered. "In the War, Humans wanted to take the power of Espers. Apparently, in death, the Espers turned into an emerald crystal with a crimson core. Anyone in possession of such an item can, over time, learn the powers of the Esper they're holding. For example, a Fire Esper would grant you Fire Powers over time. The stronger the Esper, the more power you can get over that 'learning period'."

"And all this from one book?" Lucas asked, a bit surprised with all this information.

"When you have an ancient book like this dedicated to telling the history of this one war, you can get quite a bit of information," Aeris responded softly. "I just wish I knew how long ago this was…it would help greatly…"

"Yeah, that would help," Lucas agreed, looking up at the small red orb on the pedestal on top of the desk. "Hey…is that Materia?"

"Supposedly, though if it is, I haven't figured how to unlock its power," Aeris replied, taking the orb in her gloved hand. "It's a family heirloom from a long time ago. Hard to find anything like it in this time and age."

"Very," Lucas concurred, watching the Materia piece. "If I do believe…Materia disappeared when it began to shatter throughout the world for unexplained reasons. No one was sure of what, but people became much less reliant on Materia after the 'Armageddon' incident about four thousand to five thousand years ago."

"And what was this Armageddon incident?" Aeris quizzed quickly, waiting for the response.

"Just a giant meteor, apparently summoned by a certain Materia, lost with that battle where that group defeated the man responsible in the first place," Lucas answered, proud of his knowledge. Aeris nodded, impressed.

"Good to know the knowledge I imparted reached one soul," she commented. She placed the Materia back onto the pedestal, then continued to browse through the book Lucas provided for her. Flipping back, she found an interesting incantation for a Summoned Monster. She was of ice elemental, one of the easier ones to summon without draining much magic power. Aeris read the spell for no particular reason, hoping for some kind of effect.

"Guess not," she remarked when nothing happened for a few moments.

"Wishful thinking," Lucas spoke, stretching his arms. The spoke too soon. The Crimson Materia on the pedestal began to glow, at first, softly, but the glow intensified in exponential values. The two were forced to cover their eyes from the blinding light.

"It has been so long since I've been summoned…" a female voice spoke softly. Slowly, the two Humans removed their arms from their eyes, finding a third person in the room. She was humanoid in form, with sapphire coloured skin. She lifted her left arm, a small trail of crystal ice following the hand.

"Err…Shiva…?" Aeris asked, wondering if that incantation she chanted really did summon this monster to this location.

"Yes…you are the one who summoned me from my core…" Shiva spoke, facing the female historian/researcher. The Summoned Monster examined the summoner for a few moments. She then looked around the room, gaze falling onto the massive blade against the wall in the study. "You are a descendent of Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockheart…"

"Err…who?" both Aeris and Lucas asked, wondering what the heck that monster was speaking of.

"Two Humans in the world much past now…two Humans of a small group that made the difference in saving the world from destruction," Shiva explained cryptically.

"From destruction…?" Lucas muttered. "Do you mean the Armageddon incident? The massive meteor that threatened to destroy the planet?"

"Is that what it is called now?" Shiva asked, not expecting an answer. "Much time must have passed since that time where I was called upon to fight. Much…if it is not remembered clearly now."

"It is generally not remembered at all," Aeris explained. "The only reason me and Lucas know of such an event is because of our research in the past."

"Research?" Shiva thought, blinking once. "May I have the pleasure of your name, descendent of Strife."

"Aeris…" the historian answered.

"Aeris…" Shiva repeated, remembering that frail Cetra from the past. She had many lost memories…fighting on the moon, tortured in the Magitech facility…summoned forth to save the world from danger. Her memories varied wide and far. "You are not that same Aeris from that time, but you have her gentleness…you hold Strife's determination…and you hold Lockheart's bravery."

"I take it you are nostalgic for the past," Lucas remarked, getting a faint smile from the monster.

"When you have lived as long as I have, and have seen as much as I have, you start to think about the past a lot," the Summoned Monster replied. "Though, admittedly, it is nice to be summoned without need to fight anyone. It is rare that ever happens in this time and age." She sighed lightly, brushing back her sapphire her with an ice-cold hand.

"Actually, I have a question to ask," Aeris told the Summoned Monster. "Guess that is expected from a historian like me…well…I'm just wondering whether you are known as a Summoned Monster, Esper, or Materia?"

"I've been known as all three, through the third option would better be described as a Summon Materia," Shiva answered. "History has given me different titles."

"Yeah," Lucas agreed. "We've noted two books mentioning Alexander, one as a Summoned Monster, another as an Esper, though the Esper was first an Archangel before becoming the fortress he is now."

"That is true," Shiva told them. "In the Village of Summoned Monsters…" she paused briefly, trying to recall when that was. "I believe…that was about 110,000 years ago…approximately…give or take a few hundred years. Anyway, the Village was home of many Summoned Monsters, though a great calamity in Mist village nearly wiped out the Caller population."

"Wait…Callers?" Aeris asked, interrupting the speech of the Esper.

"Callers were the ones who brought forth the Summoned Monsters to aid their party in combat," Lucas informed his instructor. "It was in the book with Alexander."

"And this book survived 110,000 years?" Aeris asked, surprised the book was that ancient.

"There have been persevered fossils for billions of years. Books could do just the same," Lucas justified.

"The two villages were sister villages," Shiva continued. "One for Summoned Monsters, the other for Summoners or Callers. The Village of Summoned Monsters was a peaceful location, and yes, one of the Summoned Monsters there was an Archangel known as Alexander."

"And Alexander was turned into a fortress during the Magi War, correct?" Aeris asked, curious about the past. Shiva nodded her answer.

"The Magi War was the bloodiest war ever known to Human and Monster history," Shiva informed them. "Many lives of Esper and Human alike were lost. However, the leaders of the Human armies, they didn't care for their casualties. As long as they can kill the Esper and turn it into an Esper shard to absorb their energy, it didn't matter at all. Greed can bring anyone to do the most horrendous things," Shiva concluded, sighing lightly.

"Greed and power…those two threaten everyone around…" Luacs commented, looking away.

"But…" Aeris thought, taking the summon Materia with her gloved hand. "If you were known as Espers, how did the Esper…of crimson core and emerald shell, become this ruby form?"

"Believe in destruction," Shiva responded softly. Aeris and Lucas exchanged dubious looks, unsure with what the Summoned Monster meant.

"Many years after the Magi War, another one broke out," Shiva informed then, telling of another historical event. "Unlike the last one, there was actually peace talks, but those broke down. One man took control of all Magic in the world, and in order to save the world, a small group of adventures defeated this mad man. The defeat, however, resulted in the essence of magic to evaporate. Without the source of magic, there was no more magic in the world. All the Esper crystals shattered into pieces and fell onto the ground."

"Slowly, the Esper shards grew, much like a flower. And like any flower, the eventually bloom and flourished. The exposure to Mako energy in the planet empowered each shard, bringing it back to its former glory. Eventually, Materia was excavated, and, was used. However, even though the shards were empowered, the lack of Magic essence prevented any Human from learning the spells permanently."

"And the use of the shards increased their power so you can perform more powerful spells as long as you hold possession of the Materia," Aeris asssessed.

"So to say…an Ice Materia can part of that core?" Lucas asked Shiva, pointing towards the red orb in Aeris' hand.

"In all essence, yes," Shiva responded. "Apparently, the lose of using Materia came with the fact that people became less and less reliant in Mako energy. The two are linked in some odd fashion, and since one isn't used, the other isn't used much either."

"That would explain a lot of things," Lucas remarked, glancing down at the book. "And a lot of history has been explain in these walls."

"I must add, this is the first time I've been able to stay so long out of the Summon Materia," Shiva told them, looking around once more. "Maybe I can release the other Summoned Monsters…and we can live our lives once more…"

"What do you mean…'release'?" Aeris asked, a bit confused now. "I though the Summoned Monsters died."

"They bodies died, but their spirits remained in the Materia," Shiva told them, getting into details unknown to any Human on the planet. "When summoned, they make a temporary body of magic for their form. However, that magic will eventually dissipate and the spirit will return to the Materia. This is the longest time I've been away from my core, and it doesn't seem like my body will fade either. It seems the time of inactivates increased the amount of power the Materia absorbed exponentially. In all theory, we could all be released, possibly taking refuge in an area close to Mako so it will always charge our forms."

"Then…that means the Summoned Monsters will be free once more…" Lucas commented, in awe. "But…aren't you afraid of the greed of others to take you again?"

"As you see now, very few Summoned Monsters remain," Shiva told them. "And even less Humans know of our existence in this age. It will not be a problem to keep our secret."

"So we will be searching for crimson Materia to release these monsters out," Aeris spoke, assuming an adventure coming up.

"Correction, I will search…you need not concern yourself with this matter," the sapphire ice lady told them.

"But how do you expect to release the monsters with the incantations?" Lucas asked her.

"I can talk to them," was the response. "Summoned Monsters always had the will to be released from the Materia. It is just so much energy is needed to maintain their body that they only do it when absolutely necessary. Only the words of spell will force them out for that short time they can maintain themselves."

"But now that you know of this new development…" Aeris continued, not needing to finish her sentence. "I guess, then, this will be the last we see of you?"

"Most likely," the monster of ice responded. "I must ask for your secrecy in the matter. I, nor do any of the others, want to start another Magi War. Can I have your word?" She staggered slightly with those last words. Aeris glanced back at Lucas, her student nodding gravely.

"You have our word, if you trust us," Aeris added softly.

"I trust the decendent of Strife any time…and I have faith in the friends they choose," the Summoned Monster replied, smiling lightly. She got a pair of smiles back. Shiva turned away, about to leave through magical means.

"Oh, wait!" Aeris shouted, still clutching the Materia tightly. "What about this?"

"Keep it," Shiva answered, not looking back. The monster knew Aeris meant the Materia. "If I can stay close to Mako veins…I will not need that prison anymore…"

"Consider it a memento of our meeting," Shiva added, before flying off, her body phasing from existence.

"And…that's it…right?" Lucas asked. "It all seems like a dream…"

"A dream well lived…" Aeris answered quietly. "We have just witnessed something no one else has in a long time. Even if we can not tell about it, part of the mystery of our history has just been solved."

Aeris clutched the Materia tightly, speaking the incantation once more before placing it back on the pedestal on her desk.