Author’s Note: I know it’s been a long time since I posted the blurb/teaser (over two years), but in my infinite foolishness I decided to make it not only an audio project, but an audio/visual one. That…took a lot of time, and I went through numerous growing pains with the procedure I hope will facilitate faster turnaround in the future (the story has 25 chapters. If each takes two years, well, you can do the math lol). I am hoping to have a way for you to view the visual part of it soon, but I’m still figuring out the intricacies of that as so much of the work is not mine and I don’t have the legal acumen to fully comprehend fair use. I have trepidation just posting the audio portion of it due to the music I use even with credit. It’s all…very frightening.
So because I am how I am, I may drastically change the format of how I do this, but right now the way I want it to work is to have the written chapter here for anyone who requires text in which to follow along. If I were posting on YouTube, I’d add subtitles as I had with the blurb as well as all of the music and art credits.
What I’m hoping I can do in the near future is find a place to upload the video that goes with the audio and then figure out a way to give people access. I’m still working on this aspect. I just downloaded Dropbox though so things look promising.
Anyway…you don’t need to know my problems lol. Onward to the actual content, though I need to apologize in advance. The sound quality is…not great in some places. The beginning sounds a little weird, and there are definitely parts where you can hear some odd stuff because I’m neither talented nor a movie maker lol. Like that’s the only excuse I can give. This chapter is so full of growing pains, and I learned a lot while working on it, which I’ll use in the future.
I also have to apologize for any place where my accent is just terrible. My “formal” speaking voice sounds a particular way and I really, really try to practice my RP so it sounds legit, and I looked up a tutorial on the other accent, but…yeah I just apologize. It’s my favorite accent and I hope I did it some justice. When I used to sing we were taught to modify our vowels to sound less nasal because the part of the states I live in has that issue, and let me tell you, singing with that accent sounds awful. I realized it makes a nice reading voice, too, so yeah…I guess that’s really all I can say.
- David Celeste: Forensic – “A Fond Farewell” (Epidemic Sound)
- David Celeste: Shooting Pictures – “Gift of a Pen” (Epidemic Sound”
- Jon Björk: Her Lament – “The Light Fades” (Epidemic Sound)
- Nobuo Uematsu: Final Fantasy VII Remake OST – Aerith’s Theme Piano Version Performed by Grim Cat Piano (YouTube)
- Indigo Days: Suite Dispositions – “Lingering Teardrops” (Epidemic Music)
- Nobuo Uematsu: Final Fantasy VII Advent Children OST – “Opening”
- Claude-Michel Schönberg: Les Miserable OST – “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” Piano Version Performed by PeterFullerMusic (YouTube)
- James Newton Howard: The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 OST – “The Hanging Tree” Performed by Jennifer Lawrence
- Nobuo Uematsu: Final Fantasy VII OST – “Shinra Mansion”
- Zedd & Kesha: True Colors – “True Colors”
Author’s Note: There may be some minor differences between the text below and the audio recording, as I might have made alterations while reading for clarity and/or aesthetic. I apologize if this causes any confusion.
The cats were always hungry, but they were ever wary, too. Steeped in shadow like a second skin, they clung to fear over bleak starvation until necessity drove them out. Aeris always made sure she had something for them, knowing how desperate it was to starve. People were not kind to cats in Midgar. Their slit eyes condemned them to pain. The bandy-legged tom with only ear was always the last to approach. The other hadn’t been lost in some back-alley scuffle. The edges were far too clean. Then there was a calico who was almost friendly, though her eyes had been dug out of her skull. She would often approach albeit slowly to bump a flat head against Aeris’s shin. Though if the Cetra reached down for her, the cat would hiss and withdraw. The fat white one was noticeably smaller and attended by kittens today. Even at their brief age, they stayed wary and close, making no babyish mews.
Aeris set down the two soup bowls and tried to rub cold from her upper arms. There was never any wind this far below, just an ever-present chill. She never remembered it being this frigid in the sector of her mother’s house. Dearest Elmyra…she’d been a true mother, though she hadn’t given her birth. Like everyone Aeris had ever loved, she dwelled amongst her dead. Of the other…the Cetra only recalled a hazy shade of green and a whispered plea on dying lips.
A hundred years have come and passed, my friends are dead and gone. Yet I linger…I remain in this miserable hole that was once the ‘greatest city.’ So called only by those who lived above. The flower girl shook her head dispelling memories. From her birth mother she might have Ancient blood, but from Elmyra she had a house. It stood still in Sector 5 not nearly as decrepit as the rest, and in a hidden space in the basement, Aeris had found a stockpile of gil. The sight tinged summer eyes with dew for her once home had been ransacked, flowers all trampled to dust. Though her mother’s hope had never once withered…she’d believed her daughter would return. She wasn’t wrong, but now she’s long dead, and never saw the promise fulfilled. The basement not only yielded such treasure, but was the safest place in the house. Within a ringfort of blankets and pillows, Aeris didn’t care she slept on the floor. Better that than fall prey to the raiders that scoffed at locked doors and pleading cries.
A skirmish at the feast made her clap thin hands, causing furry bodies to scatter. She sighed more in pity than any frustration. There were never more than five or six cats, but they were hungrier every day. When she didn’t see one for a while, Aeris couldn’t help but worry. She’d found quite a few far from her door…but she didn’t like thinking of that.
One playful kitten too young to be cautious had once followed her from her house to her church. Pouncing at rats and cockroaches artfully hidden in the endless debris. A quick shout had Aeris crouched in an alley, her basket tucked against her chest. She didn’t dare call aloud and could only pray he’d be smart enough to hide, but either the kitten’s mother had been lacking, or she’d died before teaching him that. The flower girl could shut her eyes, but ears aren’t so easily quelled. Nor could tears wash away the visuals forced through her head.
She pulled the hood of her cloak up tight to hide the chestnut spill. The garment was a dark almost ash grey, as drab as a withered rose. It wasn’t so much to shield her hair, but rather her summer green eyes. Of all the colors to have here in Midgar, green was the worst of them all. Aeris suspected the eyeless cat had once borne orbs of that hue, doubly cursed to both be feline and also bear that burden.
The feasters were gone now, but Aeris knew they’d return. None of the meal would be wasted. Hunger was as thick as shadows beneath the rusting plate. Shifting the flowerless basket, she crept down the empty street. In her previous life there’d been neighbors and children to romp in the less decayed playground. Neither they nor Elmyra had been rich or important (you lived above if you were), but they were far better off than the wretches stacked in the poorer sectors of the slums. It was quiet as their grieving ghosts, and no wind stirred the broken swings.
From here she would pass through the train yard, the moldering hulks like dying beasts. Aeris called on her only friend to shield her from foes both human and not. The former scared her far worse than any creature ever could. Monsters would only kill her. The men would make her plead for death again. Rot had eaten holes in twisted iron to look like screaming mouths, but the metal and debris offered cover as the Planet murmured solace within. Behind a once state of the art train door the flower girl hid as ragged men tumbled out. They were as hungry as the cats, but she’d nothing to offer which they would not forcefully take. Healthy fear kept her sharp even though she knew their pattern. She’d walked this hard path every day and had for nearly a year.
The next corridor housed the most destitute, far too broken to be a danger to her. Huddled in shacks beneath loose rubble, most didn’t look up when she passed. One old man would mutter only two words, over and over, “Get out.” But whether he meant that sector, the city or the whole wide world, Aeris could never know. She would so carelessly drop a few gil without stopping as she slipped quickly through. Peril was always imminent, less here than amongst the trains, but it made no sense to take a chance when she’d survived far worse.
When her sanctuary lay before her, the Cetra remembered to breathe. It was surely a silly girl’s fantasy that she was safe even here, but maybe soft song from the world beneath deemed such a dream be true. Though as bleak as the rest of the city, the spires and steeple seemed less weighted by the dust of a hundred years. The paint was chipped and faded on the half-crooked doors, and most of the pews were gone, but light still spilled through the old stained glass and flowers still bloomed in the church. From vestibule to broken altar, lilies white as ice breathed cloying perfume. The flower maid hummed the Planet’s own tune to greet her soft-petaled friends. She remembered again her other life when blooms of all hues had grown. It had all depended on the whim of the world to decide what colors would sprout. Yellow had been the last she’d plucked before her dying day. A buttery almost sunlit splash not a color usually found in Midgar.
Aeris squeezed a hand to the place in her chest where there was no wound but memory. The pain drove her to her knees, but she forced selfishness aside to say a prayer for the weary world. Bathed in light that came through the glass, she felt the hum of her oldest friend. Please…the Cetra found herself thinking, I don’t want to be alone anymore. Catching the sob, she opened her eyes and pursed her lips in annoyance. A swift hand brushed her reddened cheeks as the flower girl examined her blooms.
The little ones in the corner didn’t get enough light and wouldn’t be ready for several weeks. Whispered words and softest touch kept even the frailest alive, but Aeris would ask no more from the Planet then what she already did. Besides the ones in the upper nave more than made up for their lack. The flowers were larger than both of her hands though that wasn’t saying much. She recalled just last week the buds barely opened, bursting now with a scent that would cling. Plucking the first with apology to which she was instantly forgiven, Aeris thumbed the smooth exterior, while the dying flower’s scent flavored the air.
Gathering enough to fill her basket, the Cetra stood brushing her knees. The church was empty this morning, but now and then others shared the quiet space. No words were ever exchanged between nor were her flowers ever disturbed. For whatever reason either magic or mundane no threat ever entered here. Those who caused trouble were never drawn in, and the troubled only came there to pray.
Outside, the sweet miasma halted as if cut by a heavy knife. The vestigial light from the church faded, as Aeris hurried along with hood raised. Midgar’s center teemed only with ghosts to shiver what warm skin they found. The living were only here to pass through from one desolate place to the next. She slipped up the alley besides once bright marquee that held no “love” only “less.” While thrust through the plate still stood that great tower, raping the sky as they’d once raped the Planet. In that monolith’s sight, Aeris squeezed her basket, lilies shushing as they shook.
She startled and quickly chided herself. You can’t be taken unawares! There was no safety in Midgar for one such as her whose main weapons were hide and run.
“A gil,” she said to the man greyer in skin then his drab hued clothes. He handed her a coin and she gave him a bloom, which twirled slowly in dusty fingers.
“My daughter…has never seen a flower.” He watched the petals spin. “They’re like pieces of light down here…and you’re giving them away.” His gaze quick flicked towards her, and Aeris lowered her head. A patron could turn into a predator fast. It had happened too often before, but his eyes soon dulled and turned back to the bloom, clutching it tight to walk away.
When he was gone, she found the tower again, and the Planet pulsed drab rhythm slow. Logic dictated someone dwelled within for the city had power still. The thought hurt her sad, unbroken heart. How much worse would it be if not? Utter darkness would fall beneath, and the slum-born would only die blind.
She forced herself away from such thoughts, circling the central point. Round and round she went in silence having no need to cry her wares. If someone wanted a flower, they would offer and she would give. One dark dressed matron bought ten for ten gil not bothering to hide her tears. Her child was dead and soon to be buried. “No sun…” was the reason she said. Aeris prayed for the soul, asking silent query, and the Planet was not remiss. Smiling sadly, she handed ten lilies and gave back five gil in return.
To children she would charge nothing to twine smaller blossoms softly in their hair. Boy or girl it did not matter and most of them urchins at that. As they wove laughing between hollow buildings, Aeris prayed the flowers would wither long before their hopes and dreams ever could. Surely my purpose will help them, she thought, as they were sucked into shadow and steel.
The Cetra would always save a few flowers as the changing lights told her of eve. Yellow-tinged orbs on top of black poles that slowly faded to blue. Those were certainly new and she wondered who’d built them and more so if they still lived. Before they changed red to herald the night, that was the time to be gone. As before the only law sought in the slums was that of strength and power. Rapists and killers ruled the hours in red, though blue and yellow were truly theirs, too. Time down here didn’t matter. The city was always dark. There wasn’t a day the Cetra didn’t expect to be brutally raped or murdered. It was a terrible, omnipresent fact, but one can grow used to any chain. She lived her life in that reality’s shadow and ordered her days by its grasp.
Aeris hitched up her basket, patted her pocket, and let the Planet’s song fill her mind. The note was urging, and she smiled thinking, Alright dear friend if you insist…the dead must have their due. It was the sector that no longer existed, crushed by the plate from above. On the very edge of the central hub with its herald of twisted metal and dust. Barricaded by train scraps and rusted cars, it was impossible to ignore what had happened. A hundred years murdered the dead still hungered. The remnants swirled through the Lifestream’s swell. A memory the maid had made herself take, though it pained her to near nausea. Once her friends had gathered beneath this rotting piece of steel, dropped from the sky by those who played god. Was it equal that they, too, were long dead or reborn? Caught in the tide that filled them all? Tears had soaked the ends of her hood. Aeris pushed it back with lowered head. Her friends had not died from this act of evil, but had been stolen from her by time. The world’s mournful trill burrowed through bone as the flower maid laid her offering. Dust and numerous trampling feet would quickly take the blooms, and she thought it was fitting that way.
A clarion shrill from the earth below nearly shook her from her feet, and the Cetra whirled around. Her uncovered hair had tumbled forth and she pushed it aside to search. With a gentle chide for her dear friend’s alarm, Aeris let her pulse slow its quiver until muted colors coalesced into three men leering there.
You stupid, stupid child! Calmly she thumbed her basket to hide the quake in her hands. The tangled wood creaked releasing both musk and the sweetness of the flowers so borne. She forced her gaze to pass through the shapes, quickly scanning the central square. All those of honest repute were long gone to huddle in sectors drear, and the light from the lamps was jaundiced and sickly knowing it must soon bleed.
Aeris walked quickly, but did not run, for running just goads dogs on. The earth beneath concrete was fouled and tired, but it still guided her feet. Not through the corridor she’d come through earlier. She would not lead them to her church or house. Sliding between dark hovels and shacks, past numerous watching eyes. Her lips parted once to call for help ‘til she remembered there was none. A trash can darted in front of her feet before the Cetra realized she was running. With hard, tight breaths she stuffed her hair back before the flying locks gave them their prize. Chancing only one look, Aeris saw the faint glint of a smile smeared in the gloom. This was a game and she was losing, but that was no reason to give in. A hum from beneath filled her legs lightly and made them stumble down unknown grade.
A ragged once red curtain allowed her passage to bump bodies with no breath to beg grace. Though it hardly mattered. The crowd was so great her rudeness went wholly unnoticed. Shock widened her eyes before she remembered the need to hide and threat apparent. Her pursuers pointed with grins as soiled as the air, and she ducked to slip through the throng. No one noticed the small maid in their midst, while in her head the Planet sang joy.
Here, dear friend? She questioned, remembering finally where she was. It was the place in Sector 6 once known as Wall Market. It wasn’t called anything in now darker days, but the brothel was still there. The workers as wretched as everyone else, though they never lacked for jobs. Aeris recalled as she brushed through the crowd that she’d once peddled her flowers down here. One of the girls had noticed her and asked if she’d sell something more. Then another had appeared behind and dragged back the hood of her cloak. “No,” she’d told them standing firm, “this ‘flower’ will never be sold.” The Planet had lent her authority then, and they’d melted back into the dim. The Cetra, though, never forgot their eyes, hollow as the heart of a storm.
Even they were still in this lie of an eve with no moon or star to show truth. Everyone was looking in just one direction as the grade of the ground pulled descent. Aeris was too short to see what enraptured even high on her toes, but the rumble of taut emotions frightened her and yet fed the maid’s need to know. Nudging her closer, the pull lifted her feet as voices crescendo drowned out all thought. The front row stood as rigid as though in vigil to the damned, while obscenities burned her ears bright pink, hunching her shoulders high. She was half tempted to cut their curses with a question, when the line shifted and Aeris saw.
A figure was kneeling behind bars so cold their frost chilled her where she stood. His wrists were bound before him upon the hard ground with chains thicker than her waist. Behind his ankles encased in black boots were shackled just as tight. An iron collar clutched his neck, chains sprouting in all directions. Some connected to his wrists and some to his ankles, while the rest bound him to his cell. Over his collar and over the black and over his lowered face, hair silver as the stolen moon spilled like liquid light. It wove through the chains and pooled on the floor, lightning wed to fire. He could have been a statue so bound for resemblance for that was as much as he moved.
Aeris’s heart squeezed around her fear as her basket cut groves in her palm, but her feet rode the Planet to carry her forward despite the maid’s desperate pleas. Her dearest friend skirled light through her soul, near painting it before her eyes. Around her the angry and hateful mob spat and seethed and swore, but not a single one of them dared to draw too close. It can’t be him, Aeris thought, he’s been dead as long as me. It’s just some poor unfortunate who looks close enough to paint this lie. She’d seen such cruelty in the slums and not just with the cats. There were mothers with eyeless children whom they’d blinded themselves. Hair too blonde would surely be dyed. But his could never have been called blonde…
The cell was right before her, dark to his winter white. She placed a slim hand around the black bars, and he slowly lifted his head. The crowd became a distant dream as frost cut emerald demolished all doubts. She wanted to scream for the incongruent horror of slit pupils in angelic face. The very corruption she’d sworn to fight was leaking from his eyes, but as he found her his lips split in part, and Aeris pressed her face against cold iron. Her breath was the only sound in the world as she met that unholy stare, but quick as a blink he turned away, bowing his head ever low.
A man stepped through a door in the back, his face a jackal’s grin. He held some object in his hand she couldn’t quite make out. The wretched figure bound in chains neither stirred nor made sound at his presence, but the row of the crowd more than made up, and Aeris trembled at hideous triumph.
“There are some here who still don’t believe what’s before your eyes.” His voice bested a bullhorn as if it had been created for just such work. “Some who think I’m a charlatan and that I’ve found some poor, white-haired wretch.” A portion of the crowd on the other side of the cage repeated “charlatan, liar and fraud.” The jailer grinned and his front tooth was gold as if proving his words were, too. He lunged for his prize and gripped shining silver, pulling his head high and back. Bathed in the light of a thousand emeralds, the closest stepped back as they hissed. The jailer twisted his hand within the bright strands, but nothing could break stone silence. Letting go with a shove, the man rubbed his fingers as if to brush off the taint of moon locks. “As you can see, I’m not a liar. Here kneels before you the one-winged angel, the one who thought to be a god.” He laughed and the mob shared his dark mirth, but Aeris only had eyes for the fallen. His face was lowered again surely in pain, but no expression did he bear. Behind her grew the hateful chant “torture, torment, give him our pain,” and she thought, What else could he possibly do? The maid’s innocence and ignorance were both revealed when the jailer squeezed what he held.
The prisoner’s head jerked back and up as light arcs doused each chain like white blood. They wrapped around both wrists and collar, striving to unleash screams. But it was well known that he was made better, and she saw only clenched teeth behind lips. Aeris gaped as breath cut her teeth and something burned behind her eyes. They were using the Planet’s precious lifeblood to torture the already damned. The souls of the ages, the souls yet to live…corrupted for this torment.
When the power ceased coursing, he returned once more to his first and final pose. The crowd was ecstatic, and she questioned her purpose to save fiends such as this. When the jailer ignited the pain once again, the throng swayed in grim satisfaction. The Cetra wished the sky was truly above so she could blame her wet cheeks on the rain. She had the greatest cause to hate him, yet the sight before brought only grief.
How long torture’s play gladdened the masses Aeris did not know. The lights were always red down here. It was the district for such, but even the vengeful have other tasks and the crowd began to disperse. The jailer watched them pass to the shiver of gil that twinkled his yellow smile. One final shock appeased him and the rest, sweeter for the take of dim evening.
Aeris could not leave the silent figure as the once market emptied around. There was a stoicism in his stillness that mocked the pain, and the flower girl did not know if her heart hurt to this or the memory of what had been.
An iron vice gripped her upper arm, hauling the Cetra around, and she was sore ashamed of her whimper as a man threw her against the wall.
“You come to the right place for what we want.” He leered as the other two smiled in grime, closing off any hope of egress.
“A f-flower?” She scrabbled for her basket and the remnants of petals there. He smacked them from her hand and pulled Aeris closer with lean and hungry strength.
“Oh, we’ll take a ‘flower’ alright.” His eyes skittered over her like rats amongst grain. “Might be we’ll even pay you afterwards.” A full-throated laugh sliced her ears.
“We already decided the order.” The second one stepped from the gloom. His hair was lank and fell over one ear, and his face was so pinched it must hurt. “We was only going to take you once each, but you made us chase you, so that earns us a few more rounds.”
“Please…” she begged as the first man grabbed her wrists. “Please don’t do this. I’m nobody.”
“Oh, we know you’re nobody,” her captor tittered. “Just another slum girl, though prettier’n most, and there’s a host of buyers who’d pay some nice gil for that shade of green in your eyes. Dangerous, don’t you think, boys?” He threw the grin over his shoulder as his companions caught it to return.
The third laughed so loud it echoed. “Dangerous isn’t the word.” He spun a short knife. “Downright deadly I’d say. If we hadn’t come along this little flower could’ve ended up like that wretch chained in there.” He tilted his chin with a smirk toward the dark.
“You should be thanking us.” Her captor squeezed her arm and Aeris forced the cry back down. “Such a waste to have you caged…” He pressed her hard against the wall, leaving soft flesh no respite from his hands.
The Cetra lost all hope in prayer for help that would never come. She tried to wrench free, but he was too strong and twisted her wrist ‘til she screamed. Her nails were quite roughed from digging in dirt so she raked them down his arm. He smacked her hard as the other two chuckled letting their partner have his` fun. Holding her bruising wrist, the man gripped her cloak, ripping down hard and swift. A brown, modest dress swam into view, but it still tore lust from his eyes.
Aeris was begging and crying for mercy as he threw her to the ground. Through smeared vision and throbbing cheek, she cast her mind out for her friend, but the Planet must have forsaken her for no pulse lay beneath her prone form.
“Now.” Her soon to be rapist made some motion around his belt. She struggled to stand until he kicked her ankles, casual as skimming a stone. “You be a good girl and we’ll leave your face pretty, let you keep your eyes, and maybe even pay you, but…be a little bitch and I swear you’ll look worse than your c-” (Literally SAY “cunt.”)
Confusion knit his brows together and dropped his hands to his sides. Aeris clutched her wrist with tight teeth, sobbing pleas to his better nature.
The two so waiting called out, “Worse than what?” and “Come on, we want our turn!” when their comrade fell backwards, his head striking his knees before bouncing wetly on blood slickened ground. Mirth turned to madness spinning to flee, but their shrieks and hands met solid wall.
Aeris scrambled backwards and covered her mouth to keep the bile from burning her lips. Her assaulter’s confusion still etched on his face tilted slightly on shorn neck below. The death that’d claimed him stood so tall behind never to be known. Gone was the grovel of wretched captive though the collar still ringed his neck. Silver hair flowed over black garb, and Aeris forgot how to breathe. The very sword that had taken her life shimmered now in his left hand. Weeping hot blood, she swore she heard whisper, the only sound save the rats in the walls.
The eyes of the dead man stared slackly at her as though even now he still lusted. His cronies, now as tongueless as he, scrabbled at the wall til their nails cracked like eggs and blood seeped through the fissures. There was nowhere to run but towards certain death as it stood silent and still in their way.
The third who’d loved laughing could not even weep, but his footfalls proved he could run. The maid barely saw the brief flash of steel, but her gaze locked on clawed hands clutching entrails with no room in his throat for a scream. The concrete took his guts without any question, but the earth was still silent below. Why dear friend?! She wanted to scream. Why have you forsaken me?! But even had she spoken, her pleas would not match the sobs of the second and last.
The great sword unshaken drew a line to his heart, and begging would gain him no mercy. His dead partner had been failed by his feet, but perhaps he would succeed. He made it past with belly intact, leaping over his friend who had not, but when his feet found the ground behind him was the shadow, and a portion of steel bloomed heart’s blood.
What escaped the maid’s lips was a noise none should make, but it could not be helped. How cold that sword was as it slid through her spine…washed in sacrificed blood. The scrape of steel over living bone was a new sound to her ears, but the silence that followed as death cries drowned was all too deeply known. Her hands folded in remembrance of unfinished prayer. Then her murderer turned towards her. The dark of the slums only existed to radiate Mako, pitiless, cold, gleaming like poisoned fire. Sword newly ripped from his victim it found her, and no expression dared touch that face. Boots as silent as silver ghosts carried him swiftly forward, and before darkness claimed her, Aeris remembered she was his alone to kill.
Author’s Note: I’m working on The Broken Rose’s Chapter 1 right now, as well, but that will be 90% audio with very little visual, so it shouldn’t take nearly as long. I’m debating whether or not I’ll do a blurb video. It might be fun, but of course time consuming. I hope to have NL Chapter 2 out before the end of the year. I don’t know if I will continue to do it as fully visual or cut back and be primarily audio. Only time will tell.
Thank you so much for listening ♥