Update: We’re treated to another comic from my illustrator for this chapter (in the same vein as Chapter 6!) and I couldn’t be more delighted ♥ You’ll find it in the appropriate spot i.e. the text the inspired it. Is this a ploy to make you reread? Mmmm, it’s a possibility 😉
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its characters, and settings are all property of Square Enix so I can take no credit nor claim any ownership of that. I do take some credit for the story’s plot.
Banner Artwork Disclaimer: The featured artwork for the banner is entitled White rose I and was created by the very talented Deviant Artist RemusSirion who was gracious enough to grant me permission to use it here. The picture has been slightly altered from the original. All rights belong to the artist, and links are included for both the artist page and the work.
*******MAJOR CONTENT WARNING*******
Consistent and sustained graphic descriptions and mentions of rape/ sexual assault, sexual slavery/bondage, slavery, human trafficking, physical abuse, graphic descriptions of violence, mental abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, body shaming, starvation, torture, forced pregnancy, forced childbirth, miscarriage, forced miscarriage, abortion, and other potential disturbing and triggering topics.
Aeris grows more comfortable with the sight of her skin and finds enjoyment in something surprising.
Aeris awoke always with the thought of how long since she’d been saved. It’s been forty-three days since I was last used. Only praying that this was no dream, the maid wiped soft tears away. She stepped in her shower, though small hands still shook running over her tableau of scars. The water was warm with no trace of sea, which helped wash her grief’s salt away. She remembered he’d told her of materia that made the waves’ bitterness sweet. Purify. Aeris squeezed her lids tight, wondering if it was white as seafoam… Afterwards robed, amidst drying chestnut, she entered her bright, walk-in closet. Ever and always the maid bled awe that this luxury was now her life. She swallowed spare tears before they could sting then climbed the ladder to reach a high shelf.
When Sephiroth had placed that first order of clothes, they’d sent her more than an abundance. Not everything fit so those he’d sent back, but for others the “fit” wasn’t size. There were skirts and dresses that laid high to thigh and blouses cut low to show skin. She’d tried on a few and her breath came in gulps to see so much exposed.
The scars from the whip had seemed to swell higher as Aeris whimpered, recalling the lash. Her left shoulder burned from the latest mark. It had taken talent to bisect her breasts. They were already burdened with thick webs and tangles, the vestiges of milk never used…
Sephiroth had found her not long after that and immediately picked the maid up. Enclosing his flower tight in his arms, wrapping her in his great coat. Afterwards, Aeris had fallen asleep exhausted from her ordeal. Her tiny hand rested upon his broad shoulder, assured by his absolute strength.
So initially she’d avoided such clothes, but this day she climbed up to consider. They were in soft piles of pastel and white, organized by length. Knee-length to mid-thigh and then even higher. Aeris held up a thin strip of cloth. The well within her roiled and churned so she put the garment down. A white, ruffled skirt caught her attention, and her little hands curled on that piece. The flounces beneath propped up the main fabric, and the Cetra pressed at springy layers. It close matched her skin and the bow at the back sent wide swaths below the skirt’s length. Aeris chewed on one lip, but the tiniest smile still tried to spread upon there.
The wide band of the hem rode low on her hips and the frills fell high on her thighs. She shivered a little unused to such air on skin that had not been exposed. Or hasn’t been in forty-three days, Aeris thought in the light of the mirror. It was a gigantic, three paneled affair that he had bought for her. As he’s bought everything. Gratitude welled, and the maid closed a hand near her heart. She did shake a little just dressed in the skirt while she tried to reclaim her reflection. That first time I tried with the shorter clothes it had only been twenty-three days. She did like the bow with its white trailing ends surpassing the bottom hem. Not long enough to reach her legs, Aeris noticed, as she turned back.
Blinking several times, the maiden breathed slow as the vision filled her eyes. She normally dressed as quick as she could amidst her shower and robe. Laying out clothes in pieces pre-planned to avoid the sight of her skin. B-But it’s my skin. That’s what my master would say. Aeris was still unsure. If he wanted to welt the flesh from her back, the Cetra couldn’t stop him. But he’ll never hurt me and other men can’t. He guards me and says laws do, too. I’m here in the Whispers within Heaven’s Gate, and there are no other men here. No one else can see me except my great master, and I don’t mind if he does. He’s seen me already, numerous times, but no other men are allowed. No other has touched me and no one has used me or beaten me bloody and sore. I’m safe here with him, so I can wear this and look at m-my own skin.
It was very pale skin, so tender and soft, covered with whip and stretch marks. Her flesh bore a war she should never have fought with only her breasts spared the lash. The tiny Cetra subdued her quake, folding her hands before. I’m safe. I’m safe here in the Whispers in my room in Heaven’s Gate. I’m protected by my master, who’s stronger than strong. He could break th-them with just one hand. Lines crossed her belly like the marks on her back, but most had been formed from within. Aeris covered her face and choked down her sobs, trembling until her legs shook. Glistening tears smeared reddened cheeks then dulled as she silenced the light.
Stumbling to the bed, she forced each leg steady to slide the white stockings up. Little bows adorned behind her knees of a slight ivory hue. She slipped a camisole over her head, pushing one strap from her scar. The tenderness was deeper in, but it had been a brutal blow. A really thick whip… Aeris shook her head, breathing hard as the sea shushed behind. The top covered her belly and gave the illusion that the skin beneath was smooth. The Cetra finished with a cream-colored shrug over her narrow frame.
The rings on her fingers were diamonds today to match the white of her clothes, two on the left and one on the right. That side was the largest. Shaped like a rose with open leaves set in bright platinum. The band was the same and smaller white stones circled her minute digit. On her left farthest finger was an oval pale pink to mimic the barest blush. Lined in white diamonds and smaller pink stones, the rest of the band was silver. Two fingers over was doubled in gold, though white and gem encrusted. In the heart was literally that, a white one as pure as her own. Right by her breasts rested an emerald she knew couldn’t match his eyes. It was edged by diamonds that made up the chain. Aeris took another deep breath. This has a clasp I can easily open, and it’s not around my throat. It’s not a collar. It’s not a shackle. I can remove it whenever I wish. Summer green vibrated in the stone, and the Cetra just thought of his eyes. In the right light the gem told an illusion that coalesced in a dark, thin line.
This tiny maid who’d been so abused was now dripping in luxury. She slipped on flat shoes the same hue as her skirt, adorned in white ribbons as well. Maybe they’d go out to greet the great sea. She wasn’t sure due to the rain. Gazing down at the two strips of cream in her hand, the Cetra’s lip trembled hard. Her fingers just fumbled among chestnut waves, binding her only with grief.
Her whisper was snatched by the sea, but then came the soft knock and, “My Aeris.” The pin of his office adorned his black coat, but that silver could not best his hair. The Great General wore it simply today, bound in a small queue at his crown. The majority was free and his forelocks still flew like the two wings he’d never have.
Approaching her, Sephiroth offered his hand, and Aeris laid hers within. He kissed the back, and then pressed his lips to her tender palm. “My little white rose…” he murmured while sliding his arms around her from behind. Gazing down so moonlight swept her skin and emerald lit her face more than day. It ignited the jewel that dwelled near her throat and proved the greater light. Her long bangs were spilling over pink cheeks as the chestnut mane pressed to his chest. Small hands on his arms spilled ribbons so pale over his night dark coat.
“Do you wish me to bind your hair with these?”
“Yes, great master. Will you?”
“You know I always will, little one.”
Sephiroth considered a moment then fetched a brush to pass it through her hair. Aeris tried to follow him in the mirror, but the sensation sealed summer eyes. He pulled the tresses up into a queue, binding them with one ribbon. The general then braided the long tail of hair, weaving the other strip through. By some foresight, he always knew how much to keep for the end. Her forelocks he left as free as his own, and Aeris turned to kiss his hands. Each and every finger she had to bless with her soft, pressed lips.
“Why, little one?” he asked in sorrow. “Why do you kiss my hands?” Do you know what they have done?
“Thank you so much,” she said staring up, and the general bowed his head. “For the hair, b-but also for never hurting me with these hands. Any other man…” Her ruffled skirt shushed as she squeezed her thighs tightly together. Sephiroth closed his arms around and narrowed glittering eyes. To any other, such sight would bring dread for his pupils could only grow sharper, but Aeris had other terrors to fight and found no horror in Mako.
“Master,” she whimpered, “I…I’m exposed.”
“Are you, Aeris?” he gently returned, tilting his head to the side. “You look quite covered to me.”
“B-Beneath my skirt.” Understanding flourished on his beautiful face. “The under things were uncomfortable.”
“You were right to not wear them then. Your comfort is paramount.”
“I sh-should’ve worn something that left me more covered. I-”
“Do you like this garb, little flower?”
Aeris gaped in surprise at the interruption. “Y-Yes, master, very much so.”
“Then you should wear it. No one will stop you from doing what you wish, and you should be comfortable doing it. Aeris, I protect you now…every fragile part.” Sephiroth stood to his full and glorious height, enclosing the Cetra completely. She stood on her toes, heels out of her shoes, but he regally towered over. “You are my little flower. No one will ever rape you again or touch you without your permission.”
Silver hair tumbled forward, caressing the maid as she buried her face in his chest. She sank back to the floor and tried to push her thoughts away from exposure below. His arms were her shield as Sephiroth murmured the sweetest words he could create.
I’m still safe. He has me. He has me. I’m not naked and cold, chained in Midgar. The Cetra whimpered at the mere thought. I’m safe in his arms. I’m in Heaven’s Gate. I won’t go outside where men are waiting. Where they can force me over and- The tiny maid wailed. “Master, please no! Don’t let them find me! Don’t make me endure that again! I don’t want it. I never did! They hurt me so very much!”
She clenched her thighs as tight as she could, though that had never been a deterrent…but then Sephiroth picked her up. With just his right arm. His ‘weaker’ arm. As if that could be. My wonderful master has more strength in his pinky than I have in my whole tiny body. He’s thousands of times more powerful than the strongest man who’s ever hurt me. Her slender arms shook to cling to his neck and she buried her face in silk hair. He could hurt them, Aeris dared herself think. E-Even if they were here. They couldn’t touch me, even though I’m uncovered beneath my ruffled skirt. I…can be uncovered. I…could be naked. She quivered still closer, and his low voice just soothed as his free hand stroked her soft bangs. Assuring his flower that those days were dead and lived only in memory. Even if they were here… She took a deep breath. They could never hurt me again. They can’t ever touch me, because I’m his now. I’m his Aeris forever…
The Great General laid his lips to her brow and held them there for long moments. He kept his eyes shut behind thin, veined lids for the wrath only wished to spill over. The light behind still soaked his lashes in brilliant emerald flame. Each and every single day they raped this innocent flower. Again and again without reprieve for over a hundred years. Tearing through her delicate petals, ripping apart her tender flesh. Brutalizing this maid as she begged and screamed over and over for mercy. His teeth were clenched tight in his jaw as Sephiroth squeezed both of his fists. He wished their bones were in his grip so that he could crush them to pulp. She who saved them all from me, then suffered beneath their abuse. I will make them beg for mercy. I’ll leave them their tongues…or enough of one that I can divine the shrieks that will bathe my ears. I will draw out their torture, playing their screams all the way up the length of my sword.
“M-Master?” She chanced to raise her head, wetting salt dried lips. He opened his eyes and Mako poured around pupils that swallowed the light. She laid her hand beside that rage, staring straight into horror’s heart.
“Yes, my Aeris?” he said never blinking, and she pulled herself even closer.
“N-No one can ever come inside here u-unless you give them permission?”
“This is your house, as well, little flower. Your permission counts just as much.”
She swallowed spare tears, blinking several times. “B-But how could that ever be? This is your house, your ‘mayor’s mansion.’ That’s what you told me before.”
He answered the hand that was laid on his cheek with a gentler one placed to hers. The Cetra’s eyes drifted almost to close as she rubbed her skin against smoothness. “This house is as much yours as it’s mine. A ‘palace’ for a little queen.” Her utter innocence drew a slight smile on his wrath worn mask.
“A-And no one can come inside without…our permission?”
“That’s right, my little rose. Not even I can enter in here without your say so. This is your room, and no one’s allowed inside unless you wish.”
Heartrending sobs contorted her face, and she buried it again in his hair. Silver was darkened by that bitter dew, but Sephiroth cared nothing for that. Aeris threw her arms around his neck, and his heart broke to the weight of her thank yous.
“I am safe, gentle master. I know that now. You reminded me again. I’m safe in your arms. You always protect me and assure me when I’m afraid.”
“I always will, Aeris,” he promised again, laying his forehead to hers. “You’re safe in my arms. You’re safe in your house. You’re safe here in the Whispers. No one will ever hurt you here. Even if they would I’d never allow it.”
“I-I’m sorry I doubted you, master.” She shuddered and grief filled those great emerald eyes.
“No, little one. You need not do that. You spent a century being hurt and abused. I will always assure you that you are safe, and I could never be angry with you.” He glanced at his watch. “Are you hungry, my flower? I made you breakfast. Shall we go?”
Downstairs was as bright as the day was grey for the great chandelier was lit. Rain still shushed upon the sands as Aeris sipped her tea. The general drank his coffee hot before telling her that he’d return. She blinked a few times as he took her small hands, rubbing them carefully.
“M-Mayoral business, master?” she asked, as he brushed a stray hair from her face.
“Something like that.” His smile was cryptic but kind, and he bent to kiss her brow.
“I love when you do that, master…” she whispered, as Sephiroth stood back up. Aeris shut her eyes to savor the moment, a little sad he was leaving now. B-But then he’ll come back and I’ll be in his arms. I can sit on his lap and be safe. It’s…worth it, the little time he’s away…
The general gazed down at this innocent rose. A tiny white flower will be waiting for me within Heaven’s Gate. She clutched at his hand and Sephiroth folded both of hers in his one. When I return, she’ll run to my arms. For moments, he could only stare. Witnessing the future happen before as if it had already come. The miracle occurred within Mako eyes where slivers bisected bright emerald. She could dwell in their centers, but never be cut, and her sigh of joy filled his dark heart. In swift afterthought, he retrieved a great coat, one that was velvet lined. Just in case the maid fell asleep and wished to remember his warmth.
Aeris stayed awake, though still wrapped in leather, as she turned her laptop on. Periodically, the Cetra glanced up, biting her lip in anticipation. When the general returned, everything dreamed became a sweeter truth. The little Cetra ran straight for his arms, which never failed to sweep her up.
“I brought you a present,” Sephiroth said, a crown of rain in his silver hair. She remained flung around his neck, held again in just one arm. His presence was the greatest gift, but curiosity still drew her gaze. The general shifted Aeris easily over and withdrew a tome to squeals of delight.
“Oh master, you bought me another book! That’s my favorite thing.” Squeezing her hands on his broad shoulder, Aeris laid a chaste kiss on his lips.
The general smiled and returned the press against her tender cheek. Several more kisses thanked him once more, as innocent as the first dawn. Sephiroth’s smile grew after each then his joy stalled in the midst. How can she do this? Honor me so? This dearest of flowers whom I cruelly slew, whom I am now blessed to protect.
“Wonderful master, thank you so much!” She cleared a long bang from his face. Too lovely for even pure silver to hide, and the Cetra glowed in Mako light.
“Aeris, this happiness you bear is more thanks than I deserve.” He placed his forehead against hers before sliding a palm to her cheek. Disbelief for utter joy passed between their skins.
Sephiroth recalled the first maiden kiss he’d ever received. She’d raced straight for him upon his return, and the general caught her in mid spring. When he lifted the Cetra up in one arm, she’d cleared his bangs and blessed him with tender lips. Over and over, as he chuckled between and smiled against the press. He wondered what she had read or seen as sadness then drowned his smile. Having this tiny flower kiss me so soft is more than a fallen deserves. Chaste, little kisses…a sweet, maiden’s gift. Nothing could be better.
As evening fell they watched the descent, though she still trembled at mere thought of outside. Her guardian squeezed her fragile waist, and Aeris rewarded him with loveliest smile. When she turned, his grip locked at her back while moonlight hair washed tender flesh.
Afterwards Sephiroth made her dinner, and the Cetra remembered his gift. Climbing onto his lap so white against black contrasted but never warred. He did clear his throat as she slowly sat down and nestled herself firmly in. But far firmer than that was the poke to her rear, and the little maid gave a sharp squeak. Aeris lifted in shock before plopping back down…to something even harder. She looked back and up to a calm face belying what went on below.
“Master?” she whispered.
“Yes, little flower?”
“You want me so badly again. You want me so much. I-I can tell…every time I sit on your lap.”
“Can you, Aeris?” Rue tinged his low voice.
“Yes, master, it’s hard to ignore.”
That made the Great General sigh. “I promise, my flower, I don’t want you like that. It’s just a base response.”
“Truly, my rose. You’re mine to guard and protect.”
Sephiroth scowled in utter annoyance, but never for his Aeris. It wasn’t her fault he had this response, involuntary and irksome. There wasn’t a shred of lust in his heart for his little rose. The Cetra maid pouted of her own accord, which Sephiroth saw from his greater height. Smiling slightly, he kissed her crown, and her hum flared a light in his heart.
“It’s odd, greatest master. You’re always ready, and you just get more so when I squirm. How are you so ready, greatest of masters? L-Less than a thrust would rip me apart. But you won’t ever do that, r-right, greatest master? Please say you won’t rip me apart!”
“No, little one. That’s an abomination. You’ll never be raped again.” Aeris swallowed as though the words were too sweet to properly imbibe, and the cold wash of emerald lit an expression benevolent and mild.
“Thank you for never using me, master.”
“I’ll never use you, my rose.”
“I know, great master.” The tiny maid’s quake was slightly soothed by a leather clad arm. “But thank you anyway. You’re…y-you’re huge. You’d rip me apart.”
Sephiroth sighed to her blinking awe as Aeris searched his face.
“You don’t like that master?” she whispered confused. “You d-don’t like that you could impale me-”
He could have drawn blood from his throat with the pain that tore its way to the surface. Eyes squeezed blind, lips twisted on teeth so tight the flat surface could cut. Aeris whimpered in terror, but his great hand found hers, so gentle she instantly stopped.
“It is not an accomplishment…hurting a maid. In…making her bleed with you cock.” Emerald flared open and Sephiroth scowled as if irked by vulgarity. It melted to rue when he turned back to Aeris who stared up with large summer eyes. “You’re fragile, my Aeris. Delicate…frail. Hurting you is an abomination…” He turned away then, shutting his eyes against past mists that swirled coldly there.
“N-No other man,” the maid breathed, “great master, has been so…prepared.”
“Truly?” he sadly replied.
“Yes…” she bare breathed, searching his face for the threat of penetration. “N-No one’s ever wanted me more…or been so able to hurt me. You want me so badly, greatest master, a-and you’d hurt me so very much.”
“I promise, I don’t, my little flower. Not like that in the least, and no man will ever hurt you like that or in any way ever again.” His arm tightened around that soft, little belly to prove his protection was true, and Aeris clutched at pure strength that couldn’t be bested by anything on the Planet. She wiggled again, and the general grimaced for he’d thought the reaction had peaked, but he’d never responded in such a way even with conscious desire.
“Oh master, please no…please don’t punish me!” The little maid froze in mid-motion.
He glanced sharply down with narrowing eyes. “Why ever would I, little rose?”
“I-I’m tempting you…tempting you wh-when I move.”
“No, you are not, my Aeris.”
“B-But you’re more ready…” she whimpered wide-eyed, quivering lips bled nearly white. “It’s b-because I wiggle, greatest of masters. Please don’t rip me apart! I won’t anymore. I’ll sit perfectly still-”
“Little flower…no.” He cupped her chin. Moonlight and ashes caressed her cheeks, and the Cetra blinked, lifting her gaze. “You’re not tempting me. You’re expressing the joy that you always deserved, little one. Though…you find it in me,” he added with awe, as color returned to her face. Both lips and cheeks flooded with rouge, and Sephiroth kissed her brow. “You will never be punished by rape, little rose.” The murmur barely hid his clenched teeth. “You’ll never be punished at all. You’re no one’s slave, and I’m no one’s master. I’m blessed to have you in my arms.”
“You’ll never use me…” She said it aloud, but the words were for herself.
“That’s right. I never will,” he answered her anyway. “You could be naked as the day I found you, and still it would never occur.”
Sephiroth sighed as she nibbled her lip. His Aeris was more than endearing. He kissed her crown and gave her the book, but it was too heavy, and frail fingers faltered so the general held it before. His other arm wrapped around her soft waist so two pairs of green eyes scanned the verse.
“Down by the…s-salley gardens
My love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
With little snow-white feet…”
The words then blurred before her eyes, and she leaned against Sephiroth’s chest. Her guardian caught both her little hands, alternating his thumb between. He still held the book before the maid for whenever she wished to go on. The Cetra cleared residual tears and sat up once again. She raised a finger to trace the next verse, pouting to concentrate. The general kissed her on the cheek and she tittered to moonlight’s brush. His arm still encircled that tender waist, and her free hand rested on his thick forearm.
“And on my leaning shoulder
She laid her snow-white hand…”
When the maid finished, she looked up with a smile so bright he could not help but mimic. He laid lips to her brow for several sweet moments before murmuring, “Another?”
Scanning the page, Aeris flipped a few, while the general held the book steady.
“Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk…”
A flower poem read by a flower, he thought with a gentle smile as she went on.
“Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake…”
Sephiroth hissed as those words sliced his soul, and Aeris twisted around.
“Master?” she whispered laying a hand to his chest over the heart that in grief was still steady.
He covered the tiny, curling fingers, and his troubled brow did smooth. Just a crease between arched silver proved what torment still dwelled. His long eyelashes wove together like hands folded gently in prayer. As if I deserved…I cannot pray and I cannot plead for mercy. I deserve grief for what I’ve done, not this tiny maid’s gentle concern.
“It’s well, little one,” he promised her, and a sliver of light did appear. He pressed his lips to her tender palm and forced a smile to form. “Go on with your poem whenever you’re ready.”
She parted her lips but thought better of it in favor of poetry.
“So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.”
As if those final words had been a command Sephiroth held Aeris close to his heart. She shuffled to swing her legs to the side and give her ear access to that assurance. Placing the tome upon the couch, he enclosed her in both of his arms. His embrace formed a shield around her soft body, while the general grimaced in grief. Silver hair shrouded and tangled with chestnut, making the Cetra sigh. The Planet had matched itself to the pulse that thrummed strongly against her ear. Wriggling now with a sweet sound of pleasure, the squirming increased with the kiss to her brow.
Dew from soft summer made her cheeks shine, and she kissed him again and again. The purest of presses so cool to his warmth that asked for nothing but her bliss.
“Thank you for letting me sit on your lap, master. Thank you for letting me kiss you.” She did so again, and he caught her small hands for the longer duration. His own lips only found paler skin: brow and temple, two smooth cheeks, her soft palms and fragile fingers, sometimes her wrists where the pulse would then hum.
“Of course, little flower. What did I promise? Anything you wish, I provide.” He pushed the forelocks from her face as one side of his mouth lifted up. His crooked half smile that was somehow more perfect than a myriad grinning full.
“I love sitting on your lap and reading poetry, master.”
“Do you prefer to read or be read to?”
“I love when you read to me,” she whispered, and he kissed her crown once more. The general laughed low, and she shut her eyes to the vibration through his chest. “Do you wish me to read a few to you?”
“Oh, master, you would do that?”
“You know I would, Aeris.” She thanked him with a kiss, shifted herself to his sigh, and let low words wash over her soul. The Cetra still assured when she started to yawn that he wasn’t angry at that, but the gentlest brush to her cheek reaffirmed he could never be.
There’s nothing that could ever hurt me now. I have the best of all guards. “You have me, master,” she said aloud, her summer eyes lightly closed.
“That’s right, little one. I always have you, and I’ll always protect you, my Aeris.”
“You’re so, so gentle and so, so strong…”
The brief smile lingered as he cocked his head, letting Mako spill on her face. “Which one am I more, gentle or strong?”
Aeris’s lids flew open. She tried to answer with eyes darting wild, but unable to escape her terror. Sephiroth crushed her carefully close, shaking his head to still her fear. She was so tiny the general could clutch both his elbows with room to spare.
“Master…you’ll always be here to protect me?” The Cetra maid reached for his cheek.
“That’s right, little flower. Always.”
“Yes, master, yes. Thank you so much. I want that. I love that. I’m safe. You’re my glorious, beautiful angel of light. No one else could ever be stronger. You’re the strongest, the greatest, the best of them all.”
“Yes, Aeris…” He bowed his head.
“You won’t…ever let anyone hurt me again,” she whispered in disbelief
“That’s right, little one,” he ever assured, bleeding grief from her prior words. He cupped her chin, thumbing her parted lips. “I protect every single part of you. This lovely face, your tiny hands, every inch of your delicate flesh.” She kissed him again in absolute joy. Sephiroth smiled still stroking the lips that had just blessed his own. That’s what I do now. This is what I am, the protector of the last Cetra. He stared in awe and there she was still, echoing such within summer.
“No one can use me anymore. N-No one can rip me apart. They can’t shove themselves deep inside me…” She covered her face. “Or…or other things.”
He just held her for several minutes, vowing again she was safe. Repeating the litany over and over as Mako seared cold through his eyes.
“A-Any man could just take me, master…take me for his use. Hold me down and just…enter me with one brutal thrust. I didn’t want it. I never did. It hurt so very much!” Her breath rushed in with piteous sob, and Sephiroth held her closer. Shielding her fully in his arms, he kissed his small charge on the brow.
“No one will ever do that again no matter how much you ‘expose.’ What am I, Aeris?”
“Y-You’re my master.” She stared up confused, while glittering emerald poured down.
“You do believe that, but what else am I?”
“You’re the…Great General?”
“That’s what I’m called, my once designation, but I’m now something much more important.”
“You’re my protector.” The quivering smile became truer when he kissed her again. Laying his perfect lips long to her skin, he gently squeezed the maid.
“Yes, my Aeris, and what does that mean?”
“No one can hurt me again.”
He smiled so gently as pure emerald light bathed her lifted face. “That’s right, little flower. Far truer than ‘master.’ Far greater than general. I am your protector.” He then turned to sorrow. “How else can the fallen be redeemed?” She pressed little kisses upon his lips, and the general shed grief’s veneer.
“You’re the best protector…” Her yawn turned to a gasp when Sephiroth stood, lifting her up. The strength beneath leather couldn’t be real, and yet there it was around her.
“My sweet, little rose.” He laid his brow to hers now untroubled as velvet caressed bared skin. He kissed her cheek, whispered, “I have you,” and the little Cetra smiled. She’s such a fair flower. He returned the expression. A tiny, living doll.
“I love your strength, master. I love it so much. I love that you’re so strong.” Her eyes were soft shut as she curled against him, burying her face in fragrant silver.
“Yes, Aeris, I am.” He would not deny as he made for the stairs. “My strength is absolute.” The night behind windows blushed with far stars, and the moon was too thin for its envy.
“What does ‘absolute’ mean, master?” Another yawn disrupted her query.
Long lashes made shadows on his cheeks as the Great General considered. “Absolute means it exists as it is and nothing can ever change it. My strength is like your innocence, Aeris. Both will always be, though they come from different sources.”
At the stair’s top, he bowed his head. Sleepy and fully confused for his sorrow, the Cetra laid palm to his face. Sephiroth turned to kiss it soft, and she stared straight to the soul of regret. He sighed and only shut his eyes to hide undeserved veneration. “Your innocence is pure, my little flower. My strength comes from corruption.”
“But you’ve only used it to protect me, and I love it so much.”
I’ve used it to protect you now within this future life.
“If you use it for good…” Her little voice was fading as slumber drew Aeris close. “What does it matter where such strength has its source?”
Unblinking and behind the mask, Sephiroth’s guilt fought to remain. He tried to respond, but words soon failed for this truth had no retort.
She roused enough to prepare for bed, and he sighed when he heard her call. Sephiroth knew what to expect, but joy still filled his heart at return. The little maid ran into his arms, and he could never deny her their shelter. It was as though she could no longer wait to be held the moment he appeared. She rested small hands upon his broad shoulders and blessed him with maiden kisses. He carried her over to her bed, sitting down with her by his side, but Aeris would have none of that and climb right into his lap. The sigh that escaped her parted lips seemed too large for her tiny body.
“Thank you, master. Thank you always for never using me.” As ever her words sealed Mako tight though light always leaked round the edges.
“I will never ever rape you, Aeris.” He played his part to respond, and she squeezed his one hand with her two.
“I…think I’m starting to believe.” His lashes slight parted, and Aeris gazed through the fringe. “B-But I just have to thank you. I can’t imagine you ever doing it now, a-and I want you to know I’m so grateful…”
“Aeris, my flower.” He raised her small hand. “I deserve no such gratitude. ‘Using’ you, beating you, all you endured was an abomination, though if such words will ease your fears, I’ll answer them every day.”
But she’d fallen asleep again in his arms again, and Sephiroth didn’t know if she’d heard.
Author’s Note: The two poems used in this chapter are (in order) “Down by the Salley Gardens” by William Butler Yeats and “from The Princess: Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I’ve used the Yeats poem in respect to Aeris and Sephiroth before in a slideshow. Both verses were introduced to me through the lovely voice of Laura Wright, which you can listen to here and here respectively.