By Cloud B.
"Restless nights, tired days . . . " That is how Cloud had become to describe his life lately. He and Tifa had been married for five years. Meteor and Sephiroth were destroyed six years ago. The two of them had two children, a son and daughter. Their son's name was Kyle. He had the same hair as Cloud and Tifa's deep, brown eyes. They named their daughter Skye. She had Tifa's long, dark hair and Cloud's Mako-blue eyes. Kyle was four and Skye was two. The small family had been living in the rebuilt Nibelheim. Cloud and Tifa didn't want to be living in the slums anymore. Cloud though, was an important person in the new Midgar government. He was vice president. This meant he had to be there every day for meetings that would draw on for hours and sometimes, late nights. Often he'd come home and found his children already asleep. Tifa though, was always there to greet him.
"Hi, Cloud. How was work today?" Tifa asked as Cloud stepped in from a pitch-black night. He had gotten home late again.
"Fine, another boring meeting and a few papers to push around . . . " Cloud said as he collapsed into a chair. Tifa came and sat in his lap, running her fingers through his hair. Cloud closed his eyes and opened them again a few seconds later. He saw Tifa's beautiful face smiling at him. He felt really lucky to have her. She was always there for him and would always be.
"You know what? Maybe you should put in for some vacation time. Then you could spend sometime with us and get away from your desk for a few days. Kyle and Skye would really like to see you more than twenty minutes each day." Tifa suggested. Cloud shifted a bit and looked at her.
"Hey, maybe that wouldn't be so bad actually. I would enjoy getting away from those fossils in Midgar. I swear that I must be the youngest one in the entire government!" Cloud said. Tifa smiled and nodded.
"So, is it a 'yes' then? Will you take sometime off? I heard Costa Del Sol is great this time of year." Tifa said.
"Sure, why not! I can call in tomorrow and see what I can do. It's been a while since we visited my villa there in Costa Del Sol." Cloud said as he got up and carried Tifa to bed in his arms. Every day he felt more in love with her, that's why he didn't want to tell her the real reason he'd been so weary lately.
Cloud walked outside his house and picked up a newspaper. "Just more bad news . . . " Cloud muttered to himself as he walked back inside. He tossed the paper onto the dining room table and went on to make his call for taking some time off. Tifa, Kyle, and Skye weren't up yet and he didn't want to tell them anything just yet.
"Hello. This is Cloud Strife. Can I please have attendance?" Cloud asked the person who picked up.
"Sure Mr. Strife, one moment." Cloud looked outside and saw the sun beginning to rise. Tifa and the others would be up soon . . .
"Hello? Attendance, how may I help you?" The person there asked. Cloud turned from the window.
"Yes, this is Cloud Strife. I'd like to put in some vacation time for the coming week." Cloud said. A few seconds later, the person talked again.
"Sure thing, Sir. Just so happens that you actually have about two months worth of vacation." The person told him. Cloud seemed a bit shocked.
"Really? Then I guess put me down for two weeks then." Cloud said after thinking for a second.
"Ok . . . Done, enjoy your time off, Mr. Strife."
"Thank you." Cloud said and hung up the phone. He did a small victory dance and went upstairs to wake the others.
"Tifa! C'mon, get up!" Cloud told Tifa, shaking her a bit.
"Aww Cloud, can't I have a few more minutes . . . " Tifa said, barely awake, her eyes weren't even open.
"Ok," Cloud said "I'll get the others up and come back in a few." Cloud jogged to the kid's room and walked in. Both were still sleeping. Skye was clutching a toy bear. Cloud looked at them and smiled, he loved his kids and wouldn't want anything to ever happen to them. Nothing.
"Skye, Kyle! Get up! We're going to Costa Del Sol for two weeks!" Cloud told them excitedly.
"Really, Daddy?" Skye asked, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Cloud went and picked her up from her bed.
"You bet! We're gonna go swimming and playing in the sand all day and all night! Now get your brother up and tell him what's happening, I have to wake your mother." Cloud said, exiting the room.
"Kay Daddy! Kyle wake up!" Skye answered. Cloud was back in his room again.
"Okay, Tifa. Time to get up now. We're leaving to Costa Del Sol at noon." Cloud said as he pulled the covers off the bed.
"You got the time off? That's wonderful! How long are we staying?" Tifa asked as she stood up and went to find some clothes to wear.
"I was able to get two weeks off. Turns out I had two months of vacation time!" Cloud answered. Tifa smiled. "I guess being vice president has its perks, doesn't it?"
"Yeah. What about President Reeve? I wonder what type of vacations he gets." Tifa said. Cloud though for a moment and answered.
"Reeve, probably not as much actually. I mean, he is the PRESIDENT of Midgar you know. He has to run things and make all the decisions, I just sit in at meetings and occasionally sign a form or two. But I don't care, it pays well and I can always come home to you and the kids." Tifa looked at Cloud, he looked at her. And then they kissed.
"Mr. President, how are things going?" A man asked at a meeting one day. Cloud and his family had already been on vacation for a few days now and things were normal in Midgar.
"Fine, thank you," Reeve answered. "Is there something I can help you with?" The man got up from his chair and walked over to Reeve, he stood over him and looked at him with cold eyes.
"Yes Mr. President, there actually is something with which you can help us. Your vice president is Cloud Strife right?" The man asked. Reeve shifted a bit in his leather chair, the springs whined in protest. The man put his hand on the back and pushed the chair to the wall.
"Y-yes. That's correct. Why?" Reeve asked nervously. He could feel something sharp in his back and squirmed some. The man now was only inches away from his face now. Reeve could smell tobacco on his breath.
"Well," The man began "We'd like to use him some. You know how they actually created him to be a clone of the great Sephiroth right? We'd like to continue the experiments that Hojo was never able to complete. We want to inject him with more Jenova cells, we believe that Sephiroth is alive. And Mr. Strife can lead us to him." He finished. Reeve sat still for a second and then anger overtook him.
"No! I won't allow that! Cloud is my friend and Sephiroth is dead, Cloud killed him himself and that was it. Sephiroth is dead and so is Hojo. There'll be NO experimenting on anyone! Do you understand me?" Reeve was now standing and had a hand around the other man's neck.
"And this is the end of this conversation, no more will be said about this and no one will know about it. Got it?" Reeve was now very angry. The other man though seemed calm. Reeve removed his hand from the man's neck and shoved him toward the door.
"Get out, and I NEVER want to see you in this city again. If you are seen here, you will be killed. Now leave." The man walked to the door and adjusted his collar. He turned to Reeve and shook his head.
"Hear me now Reeve, you will be sorry you didn't concede in this. You will be sorry . . . " Reeve picked up a letter opener and flung it in the man's direction. It stabbed into the wall just inches away from the man's face.
"Fuck you, get out of my goddamned office!" Reeve said. And with that, the man went out the door. Reeve waited until he heard it click and slumped into his chair.
"Oh my god, what have I done?!" Reeve cried out. He slammed his fist on the large table, a cup tipped and spilled its contents out over some papers lying there. The sky grew dark, and Reeve sat there still.
"Daddy! Look at my sandcastle! Daddy! Look at it!" Skye shouted to Cloud.
"Very good Skye, maybe someday you could build one for us all to live in?" Cloud said smiling at his daughter's achievement. Skye gasped.
"Eeee!! Yeah, I wanna do that!" Sky shouted as she began digging more sand. Cloud looked out into the water where Kyle was swimming. He stood up and waved to his son. Kyle waved back and made a big splash in the water.
"Hey!!," Cloud shouted. "Find any neat fish?" Kyle dove and popped up again.
"Nope, but I found some cool shells from snails or something. And a few clam shells!" Kyle shouted back. Cloud walked to the water and looked in the directions to his side. More and more water lay before him. He remembered his battle with Emerald WEAPON in these waters.
"Ok, Kyle! Just be careful out there!" Cloud shouted to his son.
"Don't worry. I'm fine!" Kyle shouted back. Cloud walked back to where Tifa was sunning herself.
"Having a good time?" she asked when she saw the sun glowing behind his spiky hair. Cloud say down next to her.
"You bet, it's pleasant actually to get out and just relax." He answered. The sun was getting lower in the sky and they'd have to return to his Villa soon. He opened their cooler and took out a drink. He opened the can and set it in the sand next to him. The water lapped lightly at the shores and he could see the sea foam disappearing into the sand. Skye was still busy with her deluxe sandcastle and was furiously filling up bucket after bucket of sand.
That night, Cloud had unusual dream, even for him. He found himself in an open field. The sky was black and he couldn't see more than three feet in any direction. Suddenly, Cloud felt a drop of rain land on his arm, and then another, and another. He now felt it pouring all around him, soaking him completely. Huge forks of lightning cut paths across the dark sky. Thunder followed immediately and made Cloud flinch with the first crash. Cloud's spiky hair had now become limp and hung over his eyes, obscuring his vision. He brushed it back and looked around, trying to see just where in the hell he was now. Just as suddenly as the storm had come, it ended. Cloud looked around some more and walked a bit. Just as he began to turn back around, a flash of light filled the area and Cloud rushed to shade his eyes from it. A person was now coming from the light. Cloud squinted and tried to see who it was. The light pulsated a bit and dimmed to a level where Cloud could see everything around him now. The person walked up to Cloud and stopped about ten feet away. Cloud could tell the person was female, she had long brown hair that was put into a braid. She also had a pink ribbon in it. Cloud now knew who this person was. It was Aerith! Cloud ran up to her.
"Aerith! Aerith it's me, Cloud! Aerith!" Cloud shouted to her. Aerith slowly raised her head, her eyes looked weird. They were still their beautiful shade of green. Only now, they didn't have the usual kindness and happiness that Cloud had known when she was alive.
"Cloud," she began. "You let this happen to me . . . Why didn't you do anything . . . I died because of you . . . Cloud . . . " Aerith was looking right into Cloud's eyes when she said it. She spoke again slowly.
"You let Sephiroth control you . . . He's right . . . You are just a puppet . . . A weak pathetic puppet who can't even protect a person's life . . . I thought that I loved you, Cloud . . . But how could I love a person who didn't even know who he was . . . " Aerith said to Cloud. When Cloud heard this, he was filled with rage.
"No, the Aerith I knew would never say something like that. She knew the truth about me and what as happening. You're not Aerith!! You're just some memory in my mind that is trying to make me feel like a failure!! Well I know I can just wake up and things will be better again! You'll see! I'm the master of my own illusionary world!" Cloud shouted. He was feeling a bit weird and ran around laughing aloud.
"You! This entire place! It's not real! None of it, ha ha ha! I'm just dreaming and soon I'll wake up and I can forget all of this ever happened. Besides I know I will because dreams are easy to forget! Ha ha ha!" Cloud said as he ran up to Aerith and pointed a finger at her. When he was done, something weird began happening to 'Aerith'. She began to glow and change. When done, Sephiroth stood before him. More flashes of light followed his appearance. Everyone from Nibelheim appeared in a circle. But that wasn't the end. Everyone who died in the crash of the Sector 7 plate in Midgar also appeared. Cloud stood his ground and unsheathed his trusty Ultima Weapon. Sephiroth then stepped up to him.
"Well Cloud, how have you been. Not feeling any guilt I hope, even though all of the people you see before you are only here because of you. Cloud, it is you who killed the people around you. Each and every one of them. And now they want to let you know how they feel about since then." With that, Cloud's mother came forward from the crowd. Her eyes were like Aerith's, cold and dark. Cloud looked at her, and after some time spoke.
"Mom . . . I miss you . . . I wish that you didn't have to die, Mom . . . " Cloud said as he felt his eyes well with tears. Here before him was his mom, the person who had raised him and died in the fire in Nibelheim. She didn't look at him, but through him. Cloud wanted to hug her, to let her know that he loved her. She only stood still and did nothing. Cloud backed away.
"Wait! This is just another trick! My mom may be dead, but I know she'd never blame me for it! Never!" Cloud shouted. Sephiroth now appeared just feet from Cloud. Cloud held out his huge sword and made a small thrust at Sephiroth, trying to keep him away, But Sephiroth just came closer. The blade missed him by a hair each time. Now he was inches from Cloud.
"So Cloud, you don't think this is real, do you? Well, if it's not then you could surely just wake up now and disregard all of this couldn't you? Do it, wake up and none of this will have ever happened. Do it." Sephiroth said to Cloud. Cloud swallowed and looked at the people around him. Ll of them had the same cold, dark eyes. He wanted to wake up so much, but he wasn't sure how to. Then he remembered hearing that if you can pinch yourself in a dream, then you can wake up. He sheathed his sword and pinched his arm as hard as he could. Nothing, not even pain. Cloud felt nervousness hit him like a ton of bricks. He looked around him again at the people. They were coming toward him. Each one was talking, blaming HIM for their demises. Cloud felt scared, he had no idea what they would try to do to him. In desperation, he took out a small dagger he had. He cut him arm with it and watched the blood fall to the ground.
"Wake!" Sephiroth cried, and Cloud did.
President Reeve stood in his office and looked out over the city. People below ran about and did their own things while he sat there. He so much wanted to be a part of that life, but instead was confined to this building and this office, only able to look out and wish. Being in government wasn't the greatest thing, but it was better than what he had before. Now his mind was filled with thoughts about what that man who had confronted him had planned for Cloud. He wanted to find him again and kill him. But that was probably unlikely now, he'd just have to warn Cloud somehow. He didn't much like the idea of having to call him during his vacation and telling him that his life may be in danger, he'd just wait until Cloud returned. That would be in a week. And he didn't even tell the man where Cloud had gone to, or why he was gone even. That gave Reeve some comfort.
"Cloud, what should we do tonight? I was thinking about going to the restaurant and then maybe a stroll along the beach." Tifa asked Cloud on the tenth night of their vacation. Cloud shrugged.
"Sure, we could do that." He answered. This whole vacation had been great for him so far, he didn't want to go back. He had everything he needed right there with him. Peace, his family, a nice place to live. Things were great. He still had memories of his dream though,he couldn't shake the thought of it. He hadn't told Tifa because he was afraid she would worry and want to go back early. He'd just have to deal with it until he found the right time to tell her, and he hoped it'd be soon.
That night . . .
"Cloud, I think there's something bothering you lately." Tifa said during their dinner that night. He looked up at her and just froze in that position. He didn't want to tell her what happened, not just yet.
"What do you mean, Tifa? I'm feeling great, especially now." Cloud said. Tifa was still looking at him. "Listen, I'll tell you what happened after we get back to Nibelheim. I'll tell you everything then." Cloud offered.
"Ok, I guess it's not that bad." Tifa said. After that they left for the beach.
It was the last day of vacation now for the Strife family. Cloud was helping the kids pack and load things into the buggy. Tifa was making sure they didn't leave anything in the Villa that they didn't want to leave. When they weren't staying there, Cloud would rent it out to people who visited Costa Del Sol. Everything was ready to go now and everyone was in the buggy. Cloud knew it would take some time before they made it back so he made sure they left early. They rode along the plains and made their way across rivers, sometimes seeing a group of chocobos or a pack of Vlackrados roaming the area. The kids were fascinated in seeing all of these new things, even though Cloud owned a gold chocobo and told them stories about how he had gotten to this point.
After about seven hours of driving, they came to an Inn to stay the night. Cloud got rooms for everyone as the others took out their suitcases. Tifa helped the kids carry their things to the room where Cloud was waiting. They set their items out and prepared to sleep. The kids weren't very tired so Cloud let them watch some TV to make them sleepy. Cloud turned on the television set to see something terrible. News cameras were outside of the Midgar Central Government Building in Midgar. Cloud turned the TV up to hear. "Following a heated argument with a seemingly disgruntled employee just yesterday, Midgar President Reeve was found dead in his office. The only witness was the President's secretary who heard gunshots from the outside." The reporter said. Cloud could hardly believe what he was hearing. Reeve had been killed, and here he was. Cloud got up and slammed his fist into the TV's power button. He had to get back, now.
"Tifa, we're not staying. I have to get back there." Cloud said as he hastily threw his belongings back into a suitcase.
"Ok, Cloud. Kids, get your things together." Tifa said quietly. She looked at Cloud and saw the anger, and sadness on his face. She knew that he didn't want to have to see that. After a few minutes more, everyone was set to go. They packed everything back into the buggy and set off. Cloud drove fast and dangerously.
"Cloud, please settle down. You're scaring the kids. Please?" Tifa asked, putting her hand on Cloud's arm. Cloud accelerated a bit more, but then slowed down. He wanted to get back as fast as he could, but with as little trouble as possible.
They drove on for hours, Tifa and the kids had fallen asleep but Cloud didn't feel sleepy in the least bit. He drove for hours more and could now see the huge lights of Midgar in the far distance. Cloud accelerated and made the buggy shudder with the high speed. The city grew bigger as he sped along, each second going faster and faster. Soon enough, Cloud was at one of the gates. He was waved through and drove right up to the Midgar Central Government Building. Police cars and media vans were all over. Red and blue flashing lights illuminated the area and voices filled the air. He parked the buggy and got out, as soon as he did though he was swamped by reporters who wanted to ask him questions. Cloud pushed past them and made it to the police chief. He could see people rushing in and out of the large building. The chief was telling reporters to leave and stop their cameras seeing as this was a government ordeal. The chief paused when he saw Cloud standing there. Barret Wallace was the police chief. He had been hired by Cloud. Barret asked Cloud to step to another area so he could ask a few questions.
"Hey, Cloud. Where ya been lately?" Barret asked. Cloud looked toward the buggy.
"On vacation, we went to my villa in Costa Del Sol." Cloud answered.
"Well, I have to ask you a few questions about all this. You been on a vacation so that pretty much makes you innocent. You think anyone had some beef wit' Reeve?" Barret asked, he had begun a small interrogation now.
"No, as far as I knew he had no enemies." Cloud answered, he didn't like this much but knew he had to do it.
"Ok, you know what he's been up to lately? Somethin' like a bad business deal or some crap like that?" Barret asked.
"No, I just found out about this last night on the news. I left as soon as I saw it." Cloud answered.
"Well, I guess you need some time to everthin' back in order. I'll call you down to HQ later to finish this up. Take it easy Cloud." Barret said as he went back to talk to a few more people. Rain had begun to fall and many people were leaving to seek dryer ground. Cloud stood there still, looking at the building before him. He wanted to go inside. He made his way to the front doors where he was stopped by two officers.
"Sorry, you can't go in here sir. This area is closed off to the public now." One said.
"No, I'm the Vice President. I need to get in." Cloud told him. Barret heard this and told the officers to let Cloud go inside. The place was filled with more uniformed officers. They scurried around dusting the place for prints and examining everything they saw. Cloud walked past them and went to the elevators. He pressed the UP button and waited for it to arrive. A few officers looked toward him, some recognized him. One shook his head and went back to work. The elevator made a 'ding' noise and the doors opened. Cloud entered and pushed the button for the 69th floor. He looked out the window and saw the world before him shrink and get farther away. He could now see more of the city and some of the homes. A few lights were on, some people must have been awakened by the commotion. The elevator continued it's climb and the world grew even smaller.
Finally, the elevator arrived at the 69th floor and Cloud stepped off. More officers were here doing the same things as the ones from the first floor. Cloud walked toward the President's office. The cops saw him and formed a path as he went. Cloud looked at a few of them as he went. They nodded and let him pass. Now Cloud was at the doors leading to the office. He stepped in and found a few officers dusting the area. One was at the desk, where Reeve's body lay slumped over. Cloud walked up to him and looked at the officer standing there.
"Who did this?" Cloud asked.
"Wish I knew, nobody saw the shooting and it was during the night when very few people are in the building. I'm not even sure yet why the president was still here. Have you talked to Chief Wallace yet?" The officer told him. Cloud nodded. "Yeah, he should have more of this figured out by tomorrow. I don't really think you should stay here though, who knows where the assassin is now. I suggest you go home now and we'll contact you there, sir." The officer continued. Cloud nodded again and left.
Cloud and his family were now back in Nibelheim. Nothing about the mysterious murderer had been found yet and he was still at large. Cloud had been advised to stay home until everything was solved, but he refused. He wasn't scared of anything before and surely wouldn't be scared now. No stupid-shit murderer could ever get to him. He was Cloud Strife, the man who beat Sephiroth and destroyed Meteor. What was he afraid of? One thing, himself. His mind was the most terrifying thing he had known. He had told Tifa about the dream, she tried to interpret it for him. Cloud figured she was just telling him what he wanted to hear, that it was nothing but a memory that had been pushed and held back and finally burst forth. But Cloud had his own interpretation, he came to the conclusion that Sephiroth was indeed still alive. He had to find the truth. If Sephiroth was alive, where was he and what did he have planned. Cloud had to find out, he'd put everything aside until he knew he truth.
"Morning Cloud!" Tifa said smiling one morning. Cloud came down the stairs in his usual manner. One hand on the rail, the other trying to spike his hair.
"Morning Tifa. What're you doing today?" He asked as he sat at the table. Tifa set some breakfast before him and got some for herself.
"Nothin' much, just take the kids out for a while and then get some work done around here." She answered.
"Sounds good, I'm planning to do some stuff also today. Just go out and do some examining of an area that the Midgar Government wants to purchase." Cloud said. Cloud was lying.
"Ok, when do you think you'll be done? I was thinking we could also go out tonight and grab a bite somewhere." Tifa offered.
"Um, I'm not sure how long it will take. Shouldn't take more then nine hours though I hope. If anything comes up, I'll call you as soon as possible." Cloud said. He hated having to lie to the woman he loved, every time he looked into her eyes he felt more and more guilty. But he knew that she couldn't know what he really wanted to do.
Cloud left a bit later. He had with him some surveying supplies and other equipment to make the impression that he had some work to do. The night before, he put his armor, materia, and Ultima Weapon into the buggy. He sped across the plains and finally came to a stop out in the middle of a huge field. Something told him to stop here and Cloud didn't want to ignore the feeling. He got out and equipped himself with his best armor and mastered materias. He opened the case that held the huge Ultima Weapon. He walked away from the buggy when the sky grew dark. The wind began to blow violently and Cloud struggled not to be blown over by its force. A few seconds later, the sky went black and lightning flashed across the sky, just like in his dream. Soon the rain began to fall. Cloud pushed his wet hair back and stood in a defensive stance. Suddenly an enormous flash of lighting immediately occurred. Cloud kneeled some but then got back into his stance. Lightning began striking the ground all around him now. Chunks of earth flew around him, some pieces hitting him and some he slashed at. Then the lightning focused on one area of the ground. No dirt flew from it though. The light intensified and Cloud was forced to close his eyes. Then there came a voice.
"Cloud, open your eyes." It said. Cloud recognized the voice. It was Sephiroth!
"What the hell do you want??!!" Cloud shouted. He had opened his eyes now. There before him was the Great Sephiroth. Cloud readied his weapon and prepared to fight. Sephiroth did nothing.
"What it is, puppet? Are you afraid this isn't real? Come on, try hitting me." Sephiroth said.
And Cloud did. He lunged at him and did a swirl slash against him. But Sephiroth wasn't there! Cloud turned around to see Sephiroth draw his Masamune and slice him across the stomach. Cloud could feel the warmth of his blood going down him. He quickly drank an X-Potion. The wound healed and Cloud was ready to fight again. He attacked again but hit nothing but air. Sephiroth was now behind him again. Cloud sun around and blocked Sephiroth's blow with Ultima. Sparks flew as the two adversaries parried. Cloud pressed firmly on his brand as Sephiroth shoved back. Cloud then jumped back and used his Cross Slash limit break. Sephiroth deflected the attack and made an attack of his own, Cloud blocked it. Sephiroth raised his Masamune into the air and prepared to bring it down on Cloud's head. But Cloud saw this and raised his weapon just in time to block it.
"How did you survive?! I thought . . . I though I killed you!" Cloud said through clenched teeth. Sephiroth pushed down hard and answered.
"You fool, haven't you figured out that it was just an illusion!? You CANNOT defeat me! I am an heir to the planet, and I plan to make you a sacrifice to it." Sephiroth answered.
"You will never kill me, Sephiroth. I will instead kill you!" Cloud said as he jumped up into the air and brought his sword down on Sephiroth. Sephiroth looked up and grinned. The next second, Cloud's sword smashed into the ground. Sephiroth was now about fifteen feet away. He raised his hand into the air and placed the other on his temple. "Quake 3 . . . " he muttered. Suddenly, Cloud could feel the land below him shake violently. Then the earth rose and came crashing down back on top of him. Cloud stood back up and cast Cure 2 on himself. He looked around again, but couldn't see Sephiroth. Then, another flash of light filled the area and Sephiroth was back. Only this time he brought Tifa, Skye and Kyle. Sephiroth had Tifa's hair in his hand and the tip of Masamune to her neck. Sky and Kyle tried to run to Cloud, but Sephiroth used Fire 2 to stop them. The kids fell back, injured badly.
"Tifa, Skye, Kyle!!" Cloud shouted. He ran toward them and then stopped. Sephiroth slowly slid the edge of Masamune across Tifa's neck. Blood spilled out and Sephiroth let her body drop to the ground. Kyle got up and ran at Sephiroth. Then the Masamune claimed him as well. Skye was still on the ground, she had been caught in the middle of Sephiroth's fire attack. Cloud fell to the ground. Sephiroth had just killed his wife and son and Skye was probably dead as well. Cloud looked up at Sephiroth who as grinning. Cloud stood up and picked up his Ultima Weapon. Sephiroth stood on the other side of his diminishing wall of fire. He then turned and walked away, just like in Nibelheim. Cloud saw his chance and ran at Sephiroth, his sword before him. Sephiroth stopped waling and turned around. He held Masamune in front of him and grinned as Cloud became impaled upon it. He pulled the mighty sword out, enjoying the sound of metal grinding against bone. Cloud lay on the ground now, he looked at Tifa and a tear rolled out from his eye. He then turned and looked at his two children, whom he had sworn to protect. But now lay dead. Cloud then looked into the sky, a few more tears rolled from his eyes and then he too died.
Cloud opened his eyes and was almost blinded by the light around him. He rubbed his eyes and felt the area around him, his hands touched nothing. He quickly got up and looked around. The whole area was a soft green color. He could hear voices and see people walking, one of them came up to him.
"Hello, Cloud. You're probably wondering where you are, aren't you." It was Aerith!
"Oh man, not again! Who are you really? And what is this place?" Cloud asked.
"It's me Cloud, Aerith. Don't you remember me?" Aerith asked.
"Yes, it's just that I had this dream a while ago. You were there, and everyone else I had ever known, even my own mother. You said it was my fault that you died . . . " Cloud said to her. Aeris looked down, and then back up into his eyes.
"Oh, well this time it's real not a dream. I'm really Aerith. And I don't blame you for what you did, Sephiroth was controlling you at the time. Touch my hand, see for yourself." Aerith extended her hand to Cloud. He touched it. She was real all right, but he still didn't know where in the hell he was yet.
"Oh . . . Oh man, Aerith . . . You're alive!" Cloud said joyfully and hugged Aerith.
"Yes Cloud, I'm alive and so are you. This is the lifestream, it's where everyone goes when they pass on." Aerith told him. Cloud backed away.
"You mean, I'm dead? Is that why I'm here? Did Sephiroth really kill me?" Cloud asked.
"Yes. You fought bravely, but you let emotions get the best of you." Aerith answered. Cloud began to look around and run a bit.
"Where, where's Tifa and Skye and Kyle?" he asked anxiously. Aerith nodded and answered.
"Oh they're here. They knew you'd come as well. But there is not much time, if you want to see them, come with me." Aerith said and clasped Cloud's hand in her own. They then disappeared in a flash of light. A few seconds later they reappeared. Tifa and the kids were standing before them. Skye ran up to Cloud and hugged him. Kyle also ran up to hug his father. Tears began to roll from Cloud's eyes, he was so happy to see his children again. He stood up and walked to Tifa. He looked at her for a second, and then grabbed her and they shared the most passionate kiss they had ever experienced. Aerith stood by with the kids. When Tifa and Cloud had finished, which they hadn't wanted to, Cloud went back to Aerith.
"Listen, I have to go back. I need to destroy Sephiroth before he destroys everything." Cloud said.
"I know you have to, there is another thing I must show you." She told him. And with that a window opened in the green surroundings. They all looked in. It showed people laying dead on the ground, children and women slaughtered mercilessly. It changed to show another area, Nibelheim. More people lay dead across the streets, blood pools covered the now blood soaked ground. It changed again. More images of the dead were shown to them, Tifa looked away and covered the eyes of the Children. Then the window closed. Cloud looked at Tifa, then at Aerith.
"Oh no. . . . I have to leave now. You gotta send me back, Sephiroth is killing everyone and soon there won't be a soul on the planet." Cloud said to Aerith.
"I understand, it wasn't even your time. Nor was it time for your family. You will be allowed to leave first, and then when all is well again, Tifa and you children will be with you again." Aerith said.
"Good, when can I leave?" Cloud asked.
"Any time you want, just close your eyes and think about where you want to be and you'll be there." Aerith told him. With that Cloud gave Tifa another kiss and hugged both of his children. He then hugged Aerith and was gone.
Cloud reappeared where he had been thinking about. He took out his Ultima weapon, ready to defend or attack anything. He walked along for a long time and came upon Gongaga Village. He walked in and found more dead. He entered a shop and looked around hoping he'd find a person still alive. He was right. Small, muffled cries could be heard coming from a closet. Cloud ran over to it and opened the door. A small girl was huddled in the corner. Cloud asked her what happened.
"A man came and he killed my mommy and daddy, then he killed everyone else." She said quietly, probably afraid Sephiroth was still around. Cloud looked around and asked her to come, he told her it was safe and that Sephiroth was gone. She timidly put her hand out and Cloud helped her stand. She seemed to be about Kyle's age. She had in her other hand a toy moogle, probably from a trip to Gold Saucer. Cloud picked her up and they left the house he found her in. They walked out and started towards Nibelheim. After a few hours it began to get dark and the girl was sleepy. Cloud decided they could stop and rest for the night. She had told him her name as they walked to the spot they were now at, it was Raynia. She and her parent's had been living in Gongaga since before she was born. He parent's had been through the mako reactor explosion but weren't hurt by it. Her mother was also pregnant with another child, but now that child was gone. They talked for a while more before the girl finally fell asleep. Cloud though didn't fall asleep just yet. He was wondering how Tifa and the kids were down in the lifestream. Could they see him through that window they were looking through before, he had no idea. He lay and stared at the bright stars for a few minutes more before he too fell asleep.
Morning came and Cloud was awake first. He looked around and toward the sky. Clouds covered the sky and only a small shaft of sunlight shone through a hole in them. Cloud woke the girl and they left. Along the way they began to talk.
"You know what? I haven't told you my name yet!" The girl said. Cloud nodded.
"You're right. So, what's your name?" Cloud asked.
"Raina, my name's Raina." She answered.
"That's nice, my name's Cloud Strife. I'm from Nibelheim." Cloud told her.
"Wait, isn't Cloud Strife the vice president of Midgar?" She asked.
"Yeah, that's me." Cloud answered, frowning.
"What's wrong? You got all sad when you said that." Raina asked.
"Nothing... I'm fine." Cloud answered, he didn't want to tell her what he was doing now. They continued farther until they arrived in Cosmo Canyon. Nanaki was there and invited them to his home. Cloud introduced Raina to Nanaki and they all had something to eat. The sun was now setting and Raina was asleep in the Inn. Cloud and Nanaki were still awake. Cloud thought he should tell Nanaki about the situation, he could use the help if needed.
"Nanaki, this may sound a bit weird to you and you may think I've gone nuts, but it's all true. A few days ago I discovered that Sephiroth wasn't really dead. He's very much alive and wants to destroy humanity. I battled him and he ended up killing Tifa and my children. He also killed me. I found Aerith in the Lifestream and she was able to send me back so that I could stop Sephiroth before he could do something terrible. And that is how it is." Cloud said. Nanaki nodded.
"No, I don't think you're crazy at all. I believe what you say is true and I will help you to bring an end to Sephiroth no matter what the cost." Nanaki said.
"Thank you, Nanaki. I appreciate it. I guess you also heard about Gongaga Village as well?" Cloud asked.
"Some, but not very much. What happened there?" Nanaki asked.
"Well," Cloud began. "Sephiroth destroyed Gongaga and everyone there, except Raina. I found her in the rubble. Sephiroth is trying to finish what he started and nothing will stand in the way of his terrible plan."
"Oh my, I didn't know it was that bad. What else has he done?" Nanaki asked.
"I don't know, I just came here from Gongaga, I haven't stopped anywhere else yet. But I'm sure Sephiroth is out doing something horrible as we speak." Cloud answered. Just as he said that screams could be heard from outside. Cloud and Nanaki rushed to the window and looked out over the canyon. Sephiroth. He was going through and killing people. Blood soaked the streets and poured from under the entrances of the homes there. People tried to run but Sephiroth was faster than they were, he killed them with one slice of his mighty sword. He turned and continued his massacre. Cloud and Nanaki ran from the room.
"I'm gonna get Raina, you try and get everyone out of here fast!" Cloud shouted. Nanaki nodded and ran to Cosmo Candle. Sephiroth saw him and smiled slyly. He disappeared in a flash and reappeared just as fast behind Nanaki. He brought down his sword but only struck rocks. Nanaki pounced fiercely from the back and slashed his claws across Sephiroth's face. Nothing happened! Nanaki jumped back and watched in terror as Sephiroth stood again, no damage taken from his attack. Sephiroth smirked and made a swipe at Nanaki. Nanaki tried to dodge but the speed that the blade came at his with was to much. The brand slit Nanaki's side and blood began to pour from the wound. Nanaki collapsed and began to pant heavily as blood began to pool around him. Sephiroth raised his Masamune above him and prepared to bring it down on Nanaki and kill him. But he couldn't, Cloud was behind him holding the other end of the blade. Sephiroth spun around and saw him.
"What, I thought I killed you! How could you be here now?!" Sephiroth asked angrily. Cloud let the sword go and took out his own. The two faced each other with anger in their eyes. Like before, the sky grew dark and wind began to blow fiercely. Cloud stood his ground, as did Sephiroth.
"You did. You also killed Aerith, Tifa, my kids, the people here and in Gongaga. And now I'm gonna kill you, Sephiroth.
Chapter VII: Absolution
The wind blew harder as the foes stood there, staring into each others eyes. Sephiroth showed no emotions on his face. Cloud gritted his teeth with anger. How could Sephiroth be so cold. What did he expect to get in killing others? Cloud didn't care, all he knew is that this had to end here and now. Cloud stepped forward a bit and tapped the end of Masamune. Sephiroth frowned.
"I guess I just have to kill you again. And this time, no one can bring you back from where you will be sent. Prepare for your absolution, Cloud." Sephiroth said and attacked swiftly, but missed! He swung again and still missed.
"What's wrong, Sephy? Can't seem to hit me can you?!" Cloud said. Sephiroth attacked again and cut Cloud's arm. A bit of blood trickled from the wound, nothing serious, Cloud could still fight perfectly. He then made his attack on Sephiroth, but only managed to cut Sephiroth's cape. The ripped cloth fluttered away in the wind. Lighting was now flashing, like before. Soon the rain would begin to fall. Cloud made another attempt and this time his Sephiroth in the stomach. Blood gushed and Sephiroth fell to the ground. Then the Restore materia he had on his Masamune began to glow. The gaping wound closed up, but Sephiroth still wasn't fully ready to fight. Cloud saw this and smashed Sephiroth down with the flat side of his Ultima Weapon. Sephiroth fell to the ground.
"That... That was a cheap shot, Cloud" Sephiroth coughed.
"Oh, and all of those innocent people really had a chance against you!!?? Damn you, Sephiroth!! Damn you to hell!!" Cloud shouted and tried to hit Sephiroth again. But lighting shot down and struck Cloud to the ground. The Lightning materia on Sephiroth's armor began to fade as the bolts disappeared. Cloud tried to stand, but couldn't. The lightning hit him dead on and had paralyzed him for the time being. Sephiroth's FullCure materia was now glowing and Sephiroth stood up, good as new. He walked over and kicked Cloud in the chest. Cloud rolled across the ground and Ultima slipped from his grasp. Cloud looked up and saw Sephiroth standing over him, lighting in the background created silhouettes. Sephiroth raised his sword over Cloud's crippled body and prepared to slice Cloud's body clean in half. But this time it wasn't Cloud who stopped him. No one did. Sephiroth stood there, trying to move his arms forward, but to no avail. Then the ground began to split. The Lifestream burst forth and swirled around them. Many gathered around Cloud and began to pick him up and heal him. The rest went to Sephiroth and wrapped around his arms, holding him in place. Sephiroth struggled against it but couldn't free himself from the grasps. Cloud stood and picked up his Ultima Weapon.
"Now it's your turn, Sephiroth. Your turn to die, but you won't be back, ever. This is YOUR absolution." Cloud said as he approached Sephiroth. He made a slash across Sephiroth's abdomen and blood poured out.
"That was for Tifa." Cloud said through gritted teeth. He attacked again hitting Sephiroth in the chest, more blood spilled from the gash.
"That was for Skye." He attacked again and hit him in the face, knocking teeth and bones out.
"For Kyle..." Cloud muttered and attacked again and cut Sephiroth's arms clean off.
"For Aerith... You filthy bastard..." Cloud then cut straight down, slicing Sephiroth into two bloody pieces.
"And that, that was for me." Cloud said and stepped back. The ground below Sephiroth opened up and fire shot out. Wisps of it grabbed Sephiroth's broken body and pulled them in. The fire shot up in a huge plume and the hole closed. The sky became light again and Cloud collapsed, breathing heavily. Nanaki came up and sat down next to him.
"Are you ok, Cloud?" He asked.
"Nanaki, I though you were dead." Cloud said.
"So did I, but something kept me here, something let me survive." Nanaki told him. Cloud sat up.
"Sephiroth is dead, everything is ok now. But... that doesn't bring back Tifa and my kids. They're still down in the Lifestream. But I feel good knowing I avenged them, as well as everyone else who died." Cloud said. He stood up and sheathed his sword.
"Might as well head back to Midgar and set things straight there. See you later, Nanaki." Cloud said and left. He had almost made it to the bottom when he heard a voice that sounded like Tifa, calling to him. He ignored it and figured it was just in his head. He walked a bit further and heard it again, this time it was louder. He stopped and spun around to see who it was. He looked up the stairs leading to Cosmo Canyon and saw a person standing in the light of the setting sun. Two more people came up to the person, but were shorter. Cloud recognized them now! It was Tifa, Skye and Kyle! Cloud ran up to meet them.
"Tifa, you're alive!" Cloud said and hugged her tightly. He looked down and saw his two children smiling up at him. He picked them up and hugged the tightly. He could feel tears rolling down his face, he was so happy to see them again. He set them down and kissed Tifa passionately. He picked Skye up and set her on his shoulders. He waved to Nanaki and the four of them left.