A Warrior's Redemption
Chapter 12LAST MEMORY, PART ONE: BEYOND ALL FORGIVENESS
To the woman that I love:
You know I've never been any good at writing letters, so I don't quite know what words I should use. It'd be better if I make this short, though, so I'll get straight to the point.
If you're reading this, then that means I'm dead by now.
I'm sorry. Deeply sorry. Let me assure you: I fought with loyalty, with valor, with courage. I never backed out from the face of death, even when it was painfully obvious it will take me with her. Even when I knew she'd take me far away from you.
Still, don't think I didn't want to get back home. Oh, how many nights have I dreamt about you, how many fantasies did I have about laying in bed next to you peacefully instead of waging war in this distant and foreign land.
I know this will make you cry and feel terribly sad. It'd be stupid of me to try and tell you not to be. But, at least, remember the day when we first met.
You remember? I sure do. Remember I told you I'd love you for all eternity, even after death had taken me?
Well, I think it's high time I live up to my promise.
I ask only one thing from you: keep living. No matter what happens. Find another husband, have the children I couldn't gave you... get a headstart. A headstart on your new life.
I remember now that beautiful song you used to sing... Remember the lyrics?
"Move on, be brave, don't weep in my grave
Because I am no longer here;
But please never let
Your memory of me disappear..."
Don't throw away your life for me. Be strong, as I have been... and be happy. Live, Elmyra... Promise me you'll keep living. Do it for me, my love.
I'll always watch over you from above. Always.
Be happy, Elmyra. For me.
Your husband always,
Junon's coast was growing close. Varlus could see the town's huge cannon in plain sight.
He steered the ship slightly, heading left, towards the lower town's docks.
He was lonely. More lonely than he'd ever been in his life. His mind was completely blank, refusing to work, and Varlus was glad about it. Should it start thinking, he'd surely end up mad with grief.
For Krianna was dead. Roland was dead. And now Jack was dead. Every single one of them were dead.
And he'd failed. He knew he'd failed miserably. For he'd promised Jack he'd bring him back home safely...
But, alas, he didn't. Now the poor private was rotting deep in the sea, along with the Shinra soldiers' corpses.
And Roland was piled up as garbage in that pile of bodies, back in Costa Del Sol.
And God knew what became of Krianna's body...
More than once, Varlus thought it'd be better to get his sword and shove it deep in his chest, sending all the pain and grief to hell. But every single time he thought about it, Ifalna and Aeris' faces showed up in his mind, and he dropped his sword crying silently.
His eyes were dry and reddened.
"I'm getting home" he thought. Had this moment happened only a day before, he'd have been bursting with happiness, but now, he felt hollow, empty... defeated.
As far as he was concerned, he was a corpse still walking. He wished to throw everything to hell and just die, but he'd made his promise to his family, and he wasn't going to fail.
"Damn right I'm not."
He pocketed the fresh, white, blood-less envelope in his vest pocket. Another promise he had to fulfill.
"You died, Jack, and I couldn't fulfill my promise... but I won't fail you this time."
A single tear dropped from his left eye.
"I swear I won't."
Getting out of town without being spotted was an easy task. Docking the ship in a completely awful way, he managed to distract the local sentries long enough to slip in unnoticed. After that, he had some help from some local friends, and before he realized, he was out of Junon in a borrowed car, heading home at last.
He had changed a lot. The whole ordeal he'd passed through had taught him a lot about his own life. Now he knew a warrior's redemption was possible... for he had already earned it.
Or weren't those deaths, those sacrifices made by his friends and allies, the holiest of redemptions? He thought about it: should he had returned home unharmed and with no betrayals on his way, he'd just stay for a couple of weeks, a month if lucky, before being called back to action and leaving his family all alone again.
Now he knew he wasn't walking the correct path. A warrior, he realized, must not fight for himself, or his employer. A warrior's first priority (and he felt a great sadness in his heart when he discovered this) was to his family. Always.
So that meant he'd lived for so long neglecting what he shouldn't have. Ignoring what couldn't have been ignored. Living away from those whom he should've stayed all the time available.
Little did he know the worst lesson was about to arrive.
"Oh, no. No, no, no!"
Varlus had no time to think. For he had arrived home finally... and it wasn't a pretty sight at all. The small cottage engulfed in flames... and next to it...
His wife was being held hostage by Shinra troops. She was thrashing around, trying to release herself... but the men were far more stronger than she was, and held her tightly in their grip.
"GET AWAY FROM HER, SONS OF BITCHES!" he screamed from the car. The Shinra spotted him, got on their knees, and fired their weapons. Bullets tore through the car's windshield, barely missing Varlus. He lowered his head slightly for cover, and floored the gas pedal. Surprisingly enough, the Shinra didn't move; they held their ground, firing madly at his car.
One of those bullets popped the right front tire, and Varlus was forced to strengthen his grip on the wheel to maintain control. He turned it slightly, aiming for the group of men, and they finally began to clear out of the rampaging car's way. But it was too late for them: Varlus turned the wheel towards the left group, who were thrown to the air violently. Many lost their legs in the vicious attack. Varlus jumped out of the car, which crashed headlong into a nearby tree, and took out his sword. The remaining Shinra aimed at him, but Varlus, fueled with rage, moved faster and slaughtered the Shinra one by one, tearing them to pieces. One of them tried to run away, but Varlus was determined to show no mercy: he chased him down, kicked him hard in his back, knocking him to the ground, and once there he stabbed him ferociously on the back, again and again and again, until his face was covered in blood and the man's back completely torn apart, the spine clearly in sight.
Panting, Varlus turned and looked at Ifalna, who was running at him. He caught her in his arms.
"Varlus! Oh, Varlus!" she cried.
"It's alright... I'm here, my love" he said, patting her on the back. "I'm home."
But something was wrong. Ifalna faced him, and Varlus saw his eyes were deeply watered. Why was she crying?
Then he sighed. His poor wife got scared to death, that was all. Nothing to worry about.
"It's okay... I've saved you. Don't cry... It's all over."
Ifalna was gasping, wordess, trying to say something. Varlus thought that was a bit more than fear. It looked more like... terror. Horror. But why?
"Hey, what's wrong?"
"A.... A...." was all Ifalna managed to say. Varlus frowned. Was he missing something? He couldn't believe his wife would be so terrorized just because their house was destroyed.
He gazed around. There was the car, now smashed, completely useless. And there was his house, slowly burning away.
And then it hit him. A huge, gigantic rock fell on top of his heart.
"Where's Aeris?" he asked.
Ifalna burst into tears, sinking her head in his bloodied vest.
"Ifalna, where's Aeris?" he asked, now slightly scared.
Reluctantly, Ifalna raised her left arm... and pointed a very shaky index finger towards the burning house.
No. It couldn't be. It wasn't true.
"Of course it isn't true!" he thought. "She's just cowering under a table of something, scared like hell, but fine. Totally fine. No doubt."
He walked away from his wife, kicked down the entrance door, and entered his house. Fire raged around him.
"Aeris?" he asked.
There was no reply. Poor daughter of his... she was too scared to talk. He walked around a burning table, jumped over some debris, and scanned the now ruined living room.
"Aeris, it's Daddy! Daddy's here! Where are you?" he asked again, and just like before, silence was his only answer.
His heartbeat increased.
Varlus shoved away a destroyed chair, moved a partially ruined cupboard out his way... and there she was.
His heart stopped.
Aeris, his daughter, was lying on the floor, completely motionless. She wasn't breathing. There was a nasty blood spot on her tiny chest.
Her hair was no longer the clean, blonde cloak: it was now rather an ugly, mustard-colored rag lying around her head.
She didn't answer.
"Aeris, answer me. Please. It's Daddy... I'm here to save you" he said softly. For all the response he got, he might as well talk to the burning counter nearby.
Then he realized what was going on. She was asleep from the hot air near her, that was all. Varlus took her in her arms.
"Aeris, wake up... We've got to go. Come on."
He patted her left cheek calmly. Her head tilted nastily towards the right.
"C'mon... this is no time to play games, Princess" he said, almost grinning. "We must leave... This place is a little bit dangerous."
Aeris did not reply. Varlus shook her a bit. Her limbs moved around freely, as if they were no longer being in her daughter's control. Strange... Aeris never slept so deeply. As far as he remember, she always had light sleep, and was woken up by the faintest sound.
He laughed slowly.
"Wake up, we're going to Junon's playground! Lots of fun, come on!" Aeris loved that. She'd surely drop her joke and wake up now.
"Aeris, wake up or else Daddy will be angry" he said. Amazing she had will enough to joke at a moment like that.
She was still silent. Not even her eyes twitched.
"Aeris, I'm serious now, wake up."
"Come on, wake up!" he said, now loudly. She always obeyed when he shouted, and joke or not, that never changed.
Or so he thought. Aeris didn't move a muscle.
"Wake up, Aeris! Now!"
Still no reply.
Out of ideas, Varlus finally felt a presence behind him. He turned around, only to see Ifalna standing there, crying silently but heavily.
"She's asleep" he said. "I can't wake her up. Why don't you try?"
Ifalna stood silent.
"I... I dunno why, she's just playing with me, but I'm telling her the joke's over, and we've got to leave now, but she just won't quit it... Why... Why don't you try?"
His wife sank his face on her hands, now wailing loudly.
"Why do you cry? She's just asleep..."
Varlus looked at her daughter. She was so beautiful, save for her now messy hair, and that blood mark on her chest.
"Hey, why does she have blood on her chest?"
Blood on her chest... and also a deep cut...
"She's asleep... just asleep..."
Blood... a cut... the blood looked like it flowed from it...
Varlus hugged her strongly. He broke into tears. Her head dropped backwards.
Ifalna hugged him from behind, head in his back.
Now it was Varlus' time to stay silent. There were no words that could explain what he felt.
Or maybe there was one. Revenge.
LAST MEMORY, PART TWO: VARLUS' NEW PATH
I write this letter to you as my heart cries non-stop. I am deeply saddened, for a terrible event had just transpired, and I need your help.
You are the only one left alive that I can trust.
The Shinra had made progress with their Jenova Project. They found out Ifalna was the last living Cetra, and as such, they tried to get her for their experiments.
Facing uncountable dangers, I managed to return back home before they took her. But Aeris, my only daughter, was killed.
The pain I feel is unbearable, and I don't know whether I'll be able to stand it.
This is why I need your help. By the time you read this, Ifalna will be with you. Go to Icicle Inn, to your old hideaway, and keep her safe. That's all I ask.
I know you've quit the Jenova Project by now. But I ask you to research as much you can about the Ancients and Jenova herself. Ifalna will prove to be of great help in this.
Just find out the truth about all this, and expose it to the world. Bring Shinra's mad experiments down for good. You do the research part, I'll do the physical part.
Farewell, my good friend. I entrust you my most precious possession. Take good care of it. And good luck.
P.S.: I need to ask you another favor. If you ever have a daughter, please... name he r Aeris. It'd be a beautiful thing in her memory. I trust you'll understand.
Varlus closed the envelope and gave it to Ifalna.
"When you contact Professor Gast, give him this note. And remember: don't open it before he reads it. These are special instructions for him, meant to guarantee your safety."
Ifalna nodded and stashed it in her bag. Her eyes were still red.
"What... what will you do?"
"I told you. I have unfinished business with the Shinra. I'll get my revenge... on Hojo... on the President... on everyone."
His wife shook her head. "I don't approve, Varlus."
Varlus shook his head in response. "Varlus Jenneson died. He's right over there" he said, pointing at his daughter's tombstone. "Entombed within her heart."
Ifalna began to cry again. Varlus held her face.
"Go to Kalm... meet Professor Gast... and leave here. He'll take you to the north, to a safe place, where you'll be able to continue your life protected from these guys."
She took his hand.
"I want to be with you, my love."
"I can't" he said. He'd have liked to take her with him, but he had to do what he had to, alone. "My path now will be paved with the corpses of the Shinra. I'll take my revenge, and I must take it alone."
She hugged him once more.
"Will I ever see you again?"
It was a tough question. But Varlus knew what the answer was.
"Yes. Whether in this world, or in the Lifestream... I'll seek you out, and I'll find you. I promise."
Ifalna stared him closely.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Ifalna." He then kissed her for the last time, tasting her mouth once more, feeling her tears run through both of their faces as she cried. After some brief moments, they separated.
"There's the car I managed to get for you" he said, pointing at a small, rusty car. "It's not fancy, but it runs."
"It'll be enough" Ifalna said. She kissed him once more, and got into the car.
"Until we see each other again, my love" said Varlus. "Be happy, no matter what you do. And don't look back."
Ifalna nodded, smiled, dried her eyes, and started up the engine. A few minutes later, she was just a smoke cloud drifting away in the horizon.
Varlus stood all alone next to his daughter's grave. He removed Krianna's pendant from his neck, and buried it in the dirt next to the grave.
"Thank you, my friend."
He stood up, picked up his helmet from the ground, put it on, and walked away, as a gentle rain began to fall over Aeris Jenneson's grave.
It was time for vengeance.
Late that night, a man wearing a black cloak dashed quickly through Sector Five slums. His footsteps echoed as they hit the numerous puddles. The gentle rain from before had turned into a massive storm.
The man stopped near a fairly big house, surrounded by a well maintained garden. He knocked heavily on the door. After some seconds, a woman opened.
"Who is it?" she asked.
"Elmyra Gainsborough?" the man asked in reply. Elmyra nodded. "I've got a letter from you, from your husband."
"Jack!" she gasped. "What is it? What happened?"
"You'd better read the letter, ma'am" the man said. Elmyra took the wet envelope and stared at it.
TO: Elmyra Gainsborough
Sector Five Slums
FROM: Jack Gainsborough
Shinra Army Department
She raised her head and saw the man had turned away and was leaving.
The man turned around. He had a helmet which covered his face.
"Are you from Shinra?" she asked. The man shook his head slowly. "Then... who are you?"
"Just a messenger" he replied. "Call me... Black Wolf."
"Black Wolf?" Elmyra looked at the envelope again. "But here says Shinra Army Department... what--" She looked up again, but the man was no longer there. He had vanished.
Elmyra frowned, and closed the door.
"You are once again surrounded by a brilliant white light."
"Allow the light to lead you away from the past, and into this lifetime."
"When I tell you to open your eyes, you will return to the present, remembering all you have learnt."
"Open your eyes."
The patient, still lying in the couch, opened his eyes. He was sweating. Slowly, he incorporated.
"Is that it?" he asked.
"Yes" answered the hypnotherapist near him. "I trust these sessions were enough to calm your dreams and give you peace."
"Oh, sure" said the patient, standing. "But, tell me Doctor... is this man... is Varlus alive?"
The hypnotherapist sighed. "That, I do not know. I guess that you will have to find out yourself. At the very least, you now know the truth, and you will be no longer haunted by these memories."
The patient rubbed his forehead. "I don't think they were hauntings... I think they were trying to tell me the truth, so I could tell her..." He sighed. "Too bad she's no longer around to tell her, though."
The hypnotherapist nodded. "I think this man, if he is alive, will be proud to know she saved the Planet."
The patient nodded. "I'll go to his daughter's tomb... I'll pay my respects. He deserves it... and she deserves it."
The doctor stood up. "I guess this is it, then."
"It is." The patient smiled and headed for the door. "Goodbye, Doctor... and thanks for the help."
"It is my job" the doctor replied, grinning. "Goodbye, Cloud."
Cloud opened the door and left the doctor's office.
Caves of Narshe
: Final Fantasy VII
©1997–2020 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)
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