Chapter 12

Sephiroth glanced down at the land passing below. Mountains shot past almost before he could make them out.

No flying machine ShinRa had ever built could move this fast, certainly.

“This is wonderful!” Aeris called back.

He could barely even hear her, though she sat directly in front of him - the wind blew her words past him almost before he could understand them.

She looked over her shoulder. Her smile, duplicated in her eyes, was perfectly audible.

Sephiroth nodded. He glanced down at the ground again. They had begun over water, passed land, and now were over water again. Yes, it was wonderful - wonderful that they were making up so much time so quickly.

Of course, he doubted that she meant it in quite that way.

Nall’s serpentine neck curled back, and he asked, “Everyone all right back there?” The booming voice of his draconic form carried well even at such speeds.

Aeris nodded vigorously. Her brief respite in the temple seemed to have rejuvenated her, though Sephiroth doubted that it would last long. She would need proper rest when the got to their destination, and he would not refuse it himself. Better to use only as much of his endurance as he needed to.

“Glad to hear it,” Nall said. “We’ll be in Burg soon. I don’t think much of anything can have followed us, either, so I’ll take you to see Althena when you’re ready.”

A part of Sephiroth wanted to press on and speak with Althena immediately. The sooner she could be taken back to the facility, the sooner he could set out after the other -Heirs-.

But if he used up too much of his strength, he might not have it when he truly needed it.

Meeting Althena could wait a day.

Aeris pointed at the ground below.

Sephiroth looked down. He could see what had drawn her attention. The ocean over which they flew had a definite boundary, and beyond it there was a lifeless mass of rock.

Nall, seeing where they were looking, said, “That’s the Frontier. The sun shines on it directly, all the time. Not much can survive out there.”

That made sense. The light which was reflected from the large moon onto this world gave it life. But direct exposure to the light of a star, without any respite, would render an area unlivable.

Aeris looked away.

“How much farther?” Sephiroth asked. He didn’t know if Nall could hear him, but it was worth trying.

“Not much,” Nall said. “Burg’s only a few minutes from anywhere on the white dragon express.”

Sephiroth disliked Nall’s carefree attitude. It made him seem careless, and that was inexcusable for one of Althena’s protectors, even a young one. A single mistake could cost worlds.

Certainly there had been no joking intended in the temple - that ice blast would have been fatal to someone untrained to deal with it. If Nall had simply been careless with that...

Perhaps, Sephiroth thought, it was just an act.

He certainly hoped so.

Before he could consider it further, they began to dive.

The flight, from teleportation on, had been very smooth. The landing was much less so - the draconic form was meant to withstand the impact of landing, but the human one was not.

“Well,” Nall said when they’d come to a stop, “we’re here.”

Sephiroth stood. The dragon’s wide, thick back did not offer any easy way to get down. He helped Aeris to her feet, then leapt to the ground with her in tow.

“Thank you,” she said quietly.

He turned away. He wasn’t about to let her fall off of Nall’s back. She slowed him down enough - a sprain or worse would incapacitate her for far too long, and they were already short of time.

He surveyed the local terrain. The only difference he could detect between this place and the larger landmass they’d previously been on was that the air was a bit cooler. No doubt the ocean breeze accounted for that. Otherwise, it was much the same - large conifers, rugged landscape, and a great deal of greenery.

“We will rest in town for a time,” Sephiroth said, “and see Althena afterwards.”

“We could go on-” Aeris began.

“We will rest,” he said again. “You can take us then?” he asked Nall.

The white dragon had already returned to his more manageable feline form. “Sure. But I have to warn you - Althena doesn’t see any visitors. Sometimes, she won’t even see me.”

“If that is the case,” Sephiroth said, “she will have to make an exception.”