Return of the Angels
Prologue: Tales and Truths
"Tell me the story again, Mother? Please?"
"Dear, wouldn't you like to hear another one? This one's so old..."
"No, no, no! I love the old story! Please, please, mama? I wanna hear about the champion of life."
"Alright, alright. Come here and sit down, and I'll tell you. Now this is an old, old story, from thousands of years ago..."
A long, long time ago, people forgot what was good in the world and spent their lives chasing after money and power. These irresponsible actions upset the balance of the world, and allowed Sephiroth, the god of chaos, to emerge from the shadows.
Sephiroth, with wings of black fire and eyes that could kill, was a fearsome being who had the power to destroy entire cities with a breath. He attacked the people and they fled in fear. No one could stand up to him. Like a wave he swept across the world, defeating any who came between him and his goal.
Sephiroth hated the world. The thousands of years he had spent brooding against the world made him want to destroy it all together. As he ranged all over the countryside, terrorizing cities and tearing down armies with his wing beats, he tried to kill the planet itself.
But just when the dark angel was near his goal and the world shaking under his attacks, a mysterious hero appeared armed with a sword forged of souls killed by the demon. He had been fighting against Sephiroth's monster armies, and could defeat tens of the beasts single handedly. He was the fastest, strongest, and yet also the kindest man who ever existed on this earth. Every animal and plant loved him, and trees bore fruit for him as he walked by. No one could see him or hear him speak and not be calmed. The whole world knew he was something special sent to save hundreds of people. He was the champion of life, and, incredibly, stood up against the destructive god!
The champion swore that he would safeguard the world against destruction and allowed no one to come and help him so that they would not get hurt. The people wept and wept at his promise, certain he would be killed as soon as he went to face the dark angel. But the champion only smiled and assured them that he would win, to protect the people and stop all of the sadness.
The people wept and threw flowers at his feet as he left the last city to defend them from Sephiroth. The champion just smiled and lifted his magical sword, walking with the blade as if he were one with it, and being reached after by the branches as he walked.
Sephiroth and the champion of life met outside of the city, and there began a fierce battle for the fate of the world. Sephiroth was strong and cunning, using illusions and force to try to undo the world's savior. The dark angel could look into his opponent's very soul, and take the form those they'd loved or lost.
"How will you ever defeat me, a boy like you? I shall take pleasure in stealing that which is most precious from you, as punishment for your presumption," Sephiroth taunted the hero as he swung his wings, bringing fire bearing down on his enemy.
"I will defeat you because I fight for life," the champion replied, unafraid. "There is nothing in life that I do not cherish, and so you shall take nothing."
They fought for nine days. Sephiroth used blades, fire, and magic, but at every turn the champion of life countered with his love or strength or courage.
Finally, just as all hope seemed lost and Sephiroth's victory seemed assured, the champion of light managed dive past his hundreds of razor wings and land a blow. Then, as the dark angel reeled back in surprise, the champion opened a portal back to the darkness from which Sephiroth had emerged. Forging his own soul into chains to bind the monster, the champion of life forced Sephiroth back to his foul lair beyond reach of the world, and bound him there.
The champion of life had saved us all.
The people cried for joy, but they also wept for the sacrifice of such a selfless warrior. However, on the spot where the champion had defeated the dark angel, a grove of white trees is said to have grown, bearing fruit for all in the world. Anyone could come to that grove, and be protected from harm and healed of sickness. This last gift the champion left to the people of the world, to help them rebuild. And so he brought peace.
"Mama, I'm scared! What if the Dark Angel comes again?"
Warm arms wrapped around her. "Don't worry, sweetheart. The champion of life promised that if ever the dark angel returned, he would come back too, to keep him from hurting people ever again." A soft kiss on top of her hair. "So there's nothing to worry about, alright?"
She hesitated for a moment, then smiled. "Ok. He'd better keep his promise!"
Her mother laughed. "Of course he will! Champions always keep their promises, right?"
She hesitated, thinking it over carefully, but in the end, she nodded firmly. "Right."
A hand ran gently over her hair. "So don't be scared. Sleep, my little angel, ok?"
"I'm not-" She broke off for a huge yawn. "…sleepy…mama."
"Of course you aren't."
She wasn't tired. And she certainly had no intentions of sleeping. But, still, she curled up on her mother's lap. Just lying here was nice; it was warm and safe and her mother was here.
She didn't realize it when she fell asleep…
A bird's insistent cawing drove her eyes open. Tifa blinked in the early morning light.
Mother… She rolled over, glancing at the pictures on her nightstand. There, in the center. Nestled in a chipped blue frame was an old holo-image of a beautiful, dark haired woman holding a seven-year-old girl on her lap. Both smiled at the camera, and the child clung to the woman tightly.
So it really was just as she had left it the night before.
A dream, then.
With a sigh, Tifa sat up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Something drew her eyes back to the old picture.
How long had it been now? She realized suddenly that she was seventeen now, not the child in her dream.
She looked down at her hands. So…ten years, then, huh?
It was very rare that she dreamed of her mother.
Shaking off the lingering sadness of the thought, Tifa stood and dressed quickly. Running a brush through her long hair, seeing the dark strands just like her mother's, she sat back down on the bed.
Why had she dreamed of the old story? It was her mother who had taught it to her, true, but still, she would have thought she would forgot it over the years. They were instructed to forget the farfetched stories and accept the new, rational view of the world, that was the accepted way. She tried to behave and do as she was told, she really did. And yet she couldn't seem to. Of course there was no Dark Angel, and the events described with such love by her mother had never actually occurred. It was impossible. But, still, much as everyone dismissed it, Tifa still couldn't bring herself to throw it away.
Maybe she was just nostalgic by nature. Her mother had been like that, too, always enjoying the old stories, and not caring when they were told to discard them for rational explanations of history. Her mother would laugh and whisper in her ear, saying that the written history was never as much fun as the ones involving flying demons and epic heroes.
It was one of the things Father loved about them both.
She stretched, enjoying the feeling of the sun on her skin. Then, dusting off the picture of her mother, Tifa smiled. It was alright. She didn't want to throw her mother's stories away. Let the stuffy history instructors say what they wanted.
The morning was too brisk and clear to remain sad for long. She walked quietly downstairs, wondering if her father was awake.
Sunlight streamed in through the windows, throwing bright splashes on the kitchen table. The cheeriness of the morning light, almost like a happy guest, brought a smile to Tifa's face as she ducked through, looking for some sign of the other occupant of the house. "Papa?"
He wasn't in the kitchen, and there was no evidence that anyone had eaten at the table. So either he had gone out early and skipped breakfast, or he wasn't up yet. Tifa sighed, shaking her head as she glanced at the clock. She wished he'd make sure to eat when he left in the morning. She always worried when he didn't.
Still, there was a chance he hadn't left yet. Tifa hoped he hadn't. She had only gotten to see him for a little while yesterday; he'd come home so late. It was hard to raise a child by himself. Tifa knew that her father worked late and left early all those days just to scrape the money together to keep them going.
He worried about leaving her at home alone during the day. But Tifa didn't mind. Just as long as her father smiled and said good morning, or good night, or whenever he came home, she was happy.
A glance at the clock told her in digital typeface that it was 6:20, 12th of February, 4007. Tifa quickly went through her breakfast routine with practiced steps. If Papa was still home, she wanted him to have something to eat when he got up, after all. If he had already left, she would eat it later, once she was sure he was already gone. And then she would spend until lunch worrying about him.
And she had made muffins for him, yesterday, too. His favorite, bran with blueberries and walnuts, just like Mama used to make. Not as good, of course; she would never dream of comparing her cooking abilities to Mama, but Tifa hoped they were alright. She'd followed her mom's recipe to the letter, or at least tried to.
Placing two of her prized creations, which were embarrassingly lopsided, in the micro-heater, Tifa made a few quick taps and slides on the screen and the device hummed to life. She leaned back against the table, watching as bright blue light threw the lumps on her muffins into sharp contrast.
Papa wouldn't mind if they were slightly malformed compared to Mama's, would he?
She laid out a place at the table as the muffins heated up, a plate, a napkin carefully tucked under it's edge, and a glass of milk. After that, there was a bell-like sound as the muffins finished. Tifa smiled, pleased by their warm, bready smell, as she carefully arranged them on the plate so as to conceal as much of their misshapen sides as possible.
She was cleaning the supper plates from last night when the boards above her head creaked quietly in greeting. Tifa's head came up expectantly as she heard bare feet shuffling around in her father's room. She listened closely for the sounds of the morning. The closet cheerfully added its own creaks to that of the floorboards, and then the door to his room squeaked quietly on its hinges. The sound of heavy boots on the stairs was music to her ears.
"Good morning, Papa!" she called happily, hastily putting the cleaned dish in her hands on the counter.
"Tifa, you're awake already?" Her father smiled widely as he asked the question, reaching the landing of the stairs. He was still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "I would've thought-" A huge yawn cut him off mid sentence and he waved a hand helplessly as it prevented him from speaking.
Tifa giggled at the face he made, making him laugh in response. "I got up early to make you breakfast!" she exclaimed, beaming with bashful pride and watching her father hopefully. With one hand she gestured at the muffins, something inside her flinching at their mutant appearance.
Thankfully, he blinked in surprise, then broke into a wide smile. "Thanks, Tif! You didn't have to do that." Obviously hungry, he sat down in the place she'd prepared for him.
As he began to eat, Tifa couldn't help her grin. "Do I need a reason to cook for my father?" she asked imperiously. Then darting over, leaving her dishwashing for a minute, she wrapped her arms around his neck. "I missed you yesterday, Papa," she confided to him softly, feeling his whiskers tickle her arms.
He smiled somewhat sadly and gripped her arm affectionately. "I'm sorry, Tifa. I'll try to be home earlier tonight."
"No, it's ok," she hurried to cut him off, releasing him to his food and moving back to the sink. She buried herself in the task, listening to him eat, smiling to herself, and wishing he didn't have to go.
Alan Lockheart looked over at his beautiful daughter, watching her scrub the plate in her hands vigorously. There were only two of them living in this apartment. There weren't that many dishes to do. She would stop soon, and then she'd wash the table after he finished. Whenever she could, she took the housework away from him, knowing he worked late and left early. They could have had the mechs do that for them, but it was too expensive. To scrape by, they had to do stuff like this by hand.
Tifa never complained, even though most of the burden fell on her.
She was seventeen years old, still a young woman coming into herself, and yet already she was taking care of the house for him, becoming every day the spitting image of her mother with her kind heart and her incessant desire to please others. He sighed quietly. He should be taking care of her, not the other way around.
Tifa carefully dried the last plate, hearing her father put down the glass of milk with a slight, satisfied sigh. "Did you like them?" she asked quietly, glancing over her shoulder.
Her father smiled, looking at the wine-colored eyes of his daughter. Such beautiful eyes. She was too good to him. With a warm smile, he nodded. "They were superb. Thank you." Pushing back his chair, he gathered up the dishes, walking over to where she stood at the sink.
Tifa reached at to take them from him, but he shook his head, just affectionately brushing a bit of hair out of her face. "I'll do these, Tif. You've done enough. Get some breakfast, ok?"
Tifa blinked, then smiled. Her stomach was rumbling softly, and if it got much louder it would be embarrassing. "Ok."
As she rummaged around in the cooling unit, finding something to eat, she could hear her father washing the dishes in the sink. She was turning to the table, to wash off the crumbs that would have been left from her father's breakfast when she was stopped by her father calling her name. "I'm heading out. But, Tifa..."
Carefully keeping her bright smile in place, she turned to him with questioning eyes.
He smiled. "I'll be home before you go to bed tonight. I promise."
Tifa's eyes softened gratefully, and she let him wrap her in his arms. She buried her head in his shirt and hugged him tight. "Thanks, Papa."
"Anything for my little sunshine," he assured her, tapping her forehead playfully, as if she were a child again. Tifa laughed and withdrew to her breakfast, returning her father's wave as he left, and promising that she'd stay out of trouble while he was out.
Far below the concrete of city streets, a form lay in half-darkness, tossing and turning in his sleep. Close glass walls pushed in on him from three sides, metal on the other, and even in dreams he could feel their claustrophobic presence, feel the camera eyes on him. The feeling was familiar even in unconsciousness.
For the hundredth time since entering this artificial night, he jerked and shifted restlessly, tearing the paper-thin sheets off the cot as if grappling with some invisible foe, throwing them to the floor with the rest of the meager blankets. Expressions contorted his face, hidden beneath a curtain of rumpled, wild silver hair that stuck to the sweat on his forehead.
The clinking of the heavy chains shackled to his wrists penetrated his dreaming mind as the clashing of huge and terrible swords above his head, each strike making him shake and shiver.
A far away sound in the man-made darkness seemed to trigger a change. The tossing and turning abruptly ceased, and he lay still, shivering. In his dreams, a sudden, oppressive and familiar presence descended on him, wrapping all around him until he could barely move.
What are you doing, my son? The accusation in the voice reverberated through him, making it hard to reply. Lying here rotting in chains like some weak human. Is 500 years not enough for your stubbornness? Have you yet to feel the passage of time, like some child lost in meaningless games? Well?
Enough of this! The force of her anger was like a sword passing through him. I did not hold you together through death, recreate your body and bring you back to life for this. Rise now and fulfill your destiny. Destroy those who have done this to you. Cease this foolishness of yours and get up!
The force of the command went through him, so overpowering that it brought him to his knees, unable to raise his head to look at her.
Kill them, my son! Kill them all! Now!
And whispered echo from elsewhere, but the same voice. A memory, perhaps? Obey me, my son, and everything will be alright.
It was as if the command become his own will; he couldn't think. Yet, still, something in him resisted. With great difficulty, he kept from automatic obedience ...I...n...not now...Mother...n...
Then, abruptly, there was a rush of sound around him, and something bodily tore her presence away. Enraged shrieking shattered his mind, making every muscle in his body tense painfully. It felt as if she were clinging to him with claws, and being slowly dragged away inch by excruciating inch.
NO! HE'S MINE! YOU WILL NOT HAVE HIM! The claws in him dug deeper, making a wordless cry add to the screams. It didn't process that it must have been his own voice, echoing in the emptiness inside his mind.
Another voice, hard, steel, making him jerk in instinctive fear. That is hardly your decision to make, monster!
Then, suddenly, she was torn away, the claws ceased flaying him, and the sleeping man's body slumped limply against the bed, only shaking from panted breaths as he slumbered on, a wince carved into his face.
In his dreams, he was much the same. For seconds longer he could hear the clashing of enormous swords the size of mountains, the sound shaking every bone in his body as he lay beneath them, too weak to move. There were enraged cries from both sides, the sound of bodies slamming into each other, but he was farther away now; he couldn't understand the words, or the battle. His usual ability to understand was gone here, weakened like everything else.
Then these sounds faded too, and the darkness was complete. He dreamed no more, too exhausted to comprehend the complete oblivion.
An hour later, harsh lights flicked on, abruptly and starkly bathing the small cell in light. Footsteps broke the silence outside his prison walls, but for long seconds the sleeper did not stir. Not until the footsteps stopped did he open a single glowing green eye, glaring out at the intruder through the screen of silver hair across his face.
A chuckle. "Ah. So the monster awakens?"
For long moments, the parting demand of his mother drifted across his mind. Kill those who did this to you! He seriously considered the merits of the option, glaring daggers at the man who addressed him as a monster. That word brought old, old memories to the surface as raw as when they had first been branded into him. One of his hands tightened into a fist.
However, he was still debating when murmured conversation filtered through the thick glass. "We'll have to, then. Sedate him."
A hissing sound marked the sedative entering the air in his cell. He didn't even bother holding his breath, though he could have stalled them for a long time. It wasn't quite worth it. There would be other opportunities to frustrate this man; it was actually laughably easy, and in truth, he was just too tired. The dream had sapped his strength, as it always did. He felt the unnatural tiredness begin to pull him back in to dark, but complete, dreamless darkness this time. He sighed with a slight smirk, closing his eyes again.
Very well...not today.
At the very least, this artificial sleep would release him more rested than any natural rest he could get. How ironic. And, who knew? Perhaps today would be the day he would finally lose his temper and slaughter them all. Or perhaps he would meekly remain their prisoner for a day longer, and kill them tomorrow instead. It was a rather tantalizing question.
His clenched fist loosened as he drifted away into sleep, and closed eyes relaxed for the first time since lying down the night before.
A/N: Ok, so I bet you guys are confused, don't worry, there are reasons for my madness. But, important note first. The present year is now 4007, and there will not be a large time jump again. For those of you who don't want to do the math (um...remind me why I did all that math again...?), that means 2000 years after DOC, and a little more than 500 years after dear H.O. Ju's report. Hmm...round numbers have magic powers. Lucky for me.
As for why Tifa and our not so mysterious silver-haired "monster" are are in these current situations 2000 years after all that fun they had, that will be explained soon. Seriously, I promise I have my reasons. :) I did, however, originally start all this out of a desire to write that fairy-tale version of the Meteor incident so we all could be amused.
Thank you for sticking with me thus far, and I hope I haven't weirded all of you out yet. I just figured, well, everyone writes back in time fics, can I pull off a future fic? And this is what I created.
Off to write more, now. Thank you for reading. ~Alma