[03.28.02] » by Kahr606
The crimson skies above Bone Village lit the icy terrain, tinting it a deep red. A cool wind blew in from the north. It whistled through the trees of the Forgotten Forest, and stirred the dust that settled in the City of the Ancients.
Cloud Strife sat atop a large boulder deep within the city, looking up towards the heavens. He sat alone, his companions abandoned. He reflected silently upon the events that had unfolded since the coming of Meteor. The planet had been in it's darkest hour of need and he and his comrades had released it from the deathly grip of Sephiroth and his “Cataclysm from the Skies”.
They had paid their debt to the Ancient that had sacrificed herself for their cause. They all convinced themselves that her death had been a gift upon the planet, that she was their true savior.
But Cloud could not simply leave it at that. He held his head up high and walked into the mouth of darkness. That was his role, his friends needed him. They believed in him, feeding off his strength to build their own. But inside, he was nothing without her.
Aeris Gainsborough was a memory to the rest of the world, a savior that now belonged in the history books. But to Cloud, her touch was still warm on his hands, her voice still sweet and soft in his ear, her face still shining and radiant. She still remained his beacon of hope. But Aeris Gainsborough was gone, and Cloud had to live with that.
And thus was the dilemma. What more was left to him? Barret had his daughter, Marlene. Cid had his dreams of space. Tifa had her bar and her own dreams to follow. Nanaki had his village. Yuffie had hers. Vincent had his sleep. Cloud had nothing. Not anymore. He could think of no reason to go on.
Cloud lowered his head to his hands. He felt his eyes close and the soft warmth of tears on his cheek. The streamed down and collected on his chin, then silently dropped to his white shirt. He'd given up his old Shinra uniform and donned the clothes of a normal person. For that was what he was now. Alone, normal and frightened.
He sat atop the rock until the heavenly red sky fell away to be replaced by the myriad of stars. When the sky finally became void of it's color, Cloud decided that it was time he left. Jumping down from the rock, he turned towards the Crystal Lake where his love lay rest. He walked in silence, trying not to look forward to his destination. He did not want to go there, nor had he meant to. He did not know why he had begun down this direction, but his feet refused to deviate from the path.
He arrived at the crystal staircase that lead down into the underground lake. He stood at the top, looking down. His tears still felt wet around his eyes, and he brushed at his cheek. Cloud took a his first step down those stairs and felt the pain that he had felt when he'd previously walked up them. Yet, he had to continue. A soundless voice was calling to him, beckoning him to continue. As he descended, he saw the warm, unmoving water that spread like a blanket in the subterranean world.
Cloud reached the bottom of the stairs and took a deep breath as he stared forward to the platform where his life had lost it's meaning. He took slow and painful steps towards it, his mind wanting to run, but his heart refusing to leave. Reaching the edge of the stone floor, Cloud hopped softly up onto the platform. His footfall was a singular clap on the stone floor.
Lifting his head, Cloud set his gaze to the center of the stone platform. It was not as he had remembered it. Instead of the deep crimson blood stain, there lay a single flower. He looked at it as if it were a ghost, something not really there. But when his hand felt the silky softness of it's petals, he knew it was real. He picked it up and held it gently in front of him.
All of a sudden, the flower burst into light. Streams of blinding white lot shot out of it's petals, and Cloud was forced to look away. The flower dropped from his hand and floated down to softly lay upon the platform. And then it disappeared. The light faded, and Cloud slowly opened his eyes. Nothing could prepare him for the vision that was brought forth to him.
Aeris' angellic face looked back at him with warm and caring eyes. She stood in front of him, the flower in her hand and a soft smile on her lips. Cloud stared at her for long moments before he spoke. “Is this real…?” He asked, his voice barely audible. The flower girl made no reply, only took his hand in hers and pressed it to her cheek. Cloud's eyes closed and streamed once more with tears as he felt the warmth of her smooth skin.
Aeris carressed his hand and she too began to weep tears of joy.
Cloud pulled her close and held on to her as if she might slip away again. He touched her silky hair, and felt her breathing against his chest…
The two walked from the City of the Ancients hand in hand. They'd been granted life. Both of them. They'd both reunited with their lost love…