A Daughter's Thoughts
Ever since that day Cloud went to play with the rowdier boys of the town, he now had a white wolf who was always following him. It started about 3 years ago, right about a week after the Midwinter Festival of 1994. Most of the residents of the town tried to drive off the wolf but Cloud would always defend it. For 3 years, Tifa was pondering the reason why there was a wolf tailing Cloud like he was its mom.
She never had the chance to ask Cloud nor Mrs. Strife because Cloud wouldn't play with the other kids in the town. Especially when they left the boy alone somewhere along the trail towards Mt. Nibel, Tifa could say Cloud doesn't trust his safety with them anymore than she could trust her dad to wake up before 6 am on weekends. Which was really sad, now that she thought about it. Cloud was nice, polite, has a pleasant personality and Tifa could admit she has a tiny crush on the boy, but apparently if you don't have a dad and you live only with your mom who works as a mechanic at the only and rarely frequented repair shop of the town, you aren't acceptable and respectable to the people of Nibelheim. So for the entire duration of 3 years, Tifa would stalk the boy and his wolf whenever she had the time to do so, only to lose them after a few minutes. Then she would find them again at a distance and the cycle repeats itself.
On that day, Tifa was on her mission. It started like any usual day of following the blond and his wolf from the town's only item store when all of the sudden the boy and his wolf disappeared from her sight.
Not exactly vanishing in mid-air but more like she lost where the two went to. The two turned around the corner of a street and when she came to the corner, it was full of people coming out from the town hall. She was following the two, strangely intrigued by the strange white wolf. Tifa searched for the two for almost an hour until she had to go home. The sun was already setting and sunset always come early during those months.
It was then she finally saw Cloud as she was walking down the path towards her house. He was talking with the brand new kid she saw hanging around at the water tower. Tifa tried to approach the two but as fast as she noticed them, they quickly left the water tower and walked along the beaten path leading to the outskirts of the town. Some of the residents of Nibelheim have their homes outside the town proper so didn't paid any mind to it. Tifa couldn't even try because it was dark enough for her to stumble on her feet, blindly tripping over the small rocks to her house.
She asked her father after dinner if he knew of the new kid's identity, hair as black as night and eyes green as those emeralds her mother used to wear. That was the only description Tifa could muster due to the lack of lighting at that time and honestly, it was already too dark for her to see what the kid was wearing.
He responded her with a strange look and asked, "You noticed him too, Tifa? Honestly, I have no idea who that kid is. We are living in a small town near Mt. Nibel. I should have at least had an idea who that kid is or his parents are but honestly I really don't know." Her father made a deep sigh and pulled her closer. "We tried to approach the kid one time but he ran away from us. I even asked the council if they have seen the kid or was there a missing child from one of the families, but nothing came out."
"H-He was with Cloud dad, I think. It was already dark by the time I saw him but… I think I saw the kid talking with Cloud." Maybe that's why he wasn't trying to get her attention nowadays? He was busy playing with his new friend?
"Hmm… Well, Claudia isn't really from Nibelheim, she just married Neil and lived here for almost a year before he died in an accident at Mt. Nibel. If not for the fact she was already pregnant when Neil died, I would say her son wasn't Neil's."
Tifa had no idea what was her father was rambling now.
"Rumors were saying she ran away from outside Nibelheim and poor old Neil was the unfortunate one to be charmed by her looks. I would say she would be the most beautiful woman at that time here at Nibelheim but your mother would argue with me with that, which I would gladly surrender everytime." Her father made a wistful sigh. "If what you are saying is true then the chances are the kid and Cloud are stepbrothers."
"…Huh? Why dad?" And how did her dad arrive to that from talking about Cloud's father, Neil was it?
"They say Claudia was married before coming to Nibelheim, the new kid hangs around with Cloud and avoids us, people who lived within the town proper. Tell me Tifa, did you see the two near outside the town?" She nodded. "Just what I thought. Claudia's previous husband may had chased her down here and threw the kid at her. Maybe responsibility or something."
"B-But dad! The kid is much smaller than Cloud!"
"Oh my child," her father slowly spoke to her as he knelt and brushed her hair with his fingers. "Your mother used to be like that kid, if what I think is to be true. Your late grandparents weren't your mother's real parents. Your grandfather had a relationship outside Nibelheim before marrying your grandma so when that woman arrived at your grandparents' with your mom on her arms, she left your mom at the center of the aisle and left the town immediately."
"Your mom once did resent her true mom but she's thankful of her because she had two amazing parents and met me!" Her father smiled after that, making Tifa smile as well. "Huh, it's been one year already…" And her father frowned again.
"Anyway, if that kid is now Cloud's stepbrother, it would make sense Claudia wouldn't allow the kid to be seen by the public. Her already bad reputation in town would only be worsen if the public discovered she now had a new child with her, regardless of her explanations."
Tifa only nodded at her father. She wanted to ask more but the grandfather clock at the corner of the living room bonged. "Oh Tifa, I guess it's your bedtime already. Go upstairs, I'll follow you in a minute."
She ran upstairs after kissing her father's cheek. Tifa was then tucked in her bed a few minutes after, all dressed in her sleeping clothes. She wanted to ask if her father also knew of the reason why there was a white wolf following Cloud as well but she ran out of time. Thinking she could ask Cloud the day after when she confront him at the route from his house to the town, she closed her eyes and slept, dreaming about her future training regime under the resident martial arts expert in Nibelheim. She giggled in her sleep, dreaming of her father's expression on discovering her training, both in anger and delight.
The next day, news of Claudia Strife's death reached the town proper and hours later Cloud and his white wolf weren't seen in Nibelheim. She went to the house where Cloud was living at and found Master Zangan there. Tifa asked her teacher in martial arts if there was a black haired kid with Cloud but all she got was a swift 'no'.
She also asked when Cloud had left and where. The house was almost empty of belongings – personal belongings -, clearly showing it was emptied out. Master Zangan told her he just helped the previous occupant in burying his mother at the back and in storing any useful stuff in a big that morning.
Tifa just missed Cloud by only a few hours and she won't see her savior for the next 4 years.