A Pain That Won't Leave
By Soul Hunter"Mistake Not the Thorns for the Roses"
Another day, another morning. Another attempt at milking Tifa's cow.
Cloud could hardly believe what he's been doing for the last week. It was only a month since he came back from Kalm after that long-overdue meeting with Reeve and the Midgar residents' coalition. Looking back at that day with much annoyance, the spiky-haired former freedom fighter of the defunct rebel group known as Avalanche can hardly accept the irony of a situation marred by some people's glaring deficiency of what he hoped would be gratitude. He did help in saving their lives in the midst of that world-rocking event involving a certain demented outcome of a forbidden experiment and the celestial hunk of rock it called forth from the heavens. Yeah, they were thankful at first. But counting out those who inhabited the city's caliginous under-portion would leave a group constituted mainly of the more affluent class who occupied the much more brightly-lit upper platform.
Those were the ones who, a year previous, had been counting their blessings and proclaiming their admiration for the heroes who saved the day. Those were the people who sung songs of praise in tribute to their saviors. And those were the same ingrates who, after a period of realization that opened their eyes to a painful truth that most of their properties had been destroyed in the otherworldly onslaught, have started pointing their blaming fingers on the same eight whom they were once declaring as their life-savers. As they had later claimed, their city would still be standing in all its industrial splendor if Cloud, Tifa, Barret, and a host of their comrades hadn't been foolish enough to stand against the grossly maltreated Sephiroth. If they had only allowed him to have his way, the people thought, things wouldn't have come to this ugly point. They would still have their houses, offices, parks, cars, casinos, nightclubs, sports clubs
Funny how fickle and utterly stupid some butter-fingered blue-blood pretenders can get. Cloud almost wished that they had allowed Meteor to crash on that city reeking with double-faced ingrates.
Nevertheless, he knew that the most prudent thing to do in a situation like that would simply be to walk away. Away from the incredibly appalling faces of foolish presumption and ignorant loftiness.
So he went back here, in Nibelheim, after disgustingly turning a disappointed look at Reeve to give him the inevitable message that he's on his own in dealing with such impossible ingrates and blame-pointers.
"Lemme out of here before I start feeding the floor to this idiots!" He had told the former Shinra executive who held the helms of a fortune-telling, stuffed Moogle. Of course, Reeve knew Cloud too well to step in his path and beg him to give the people another chance. But the Mako-infused warrior knew better.
Now, he's starting to wonder which one is more tolerable: a people who don't appreciate their life-threatening accomplishment, or a cow who believes that the feminism movement shouldn't be limited to humans alone.
Lazily rubbing his eyes, Cloud decided against a momentary urge of pleasure and lifted his half-asleep body off the uncushioned bed where Tifa had been letting him sleep for the past week. He thought, after all this time and what happened between the two of them prior to the Northern Crater assault, the woman whom everyone thought to be the right one for him would at least let him sleep beside her. Just sleep, nothing else. As Cloud can still manage to appreciate her efforts of maintaining a wholesome front before Marlene, whom Barret left in their care before he departed for a mission of mercy in his hometown of Corel six days ago. No excessive cuddling as long as the little girl is around.
It took him merely minutes to freshen up from his six-hour slumber. Pretty soon, Cloud was on his way to the newly constructed stables where the solitary cow given to Tifa as a gift from the people of Mideel was being housed. The girl with fists of steel didn't know the first thing about cattle rearing, and she was hoping a well-rounded man like Cloud would be able to help teach her the persistent error of her ways.
What does it say about one blind man leading another?
Elmyra always laughed at him whenever Mimi (the cow) moaned in pain with every wrong grip the clueless warrior slapped on her defenseless mammary glands. Tifa's face was always somber, of course, in trying to give Cloud the impression that she hoped she could do something to help him. It would then be followed by a subtle trip to the kitchen where she'd unabashedly release the frenetic laughter trapped menacingly inside her tortured gut.
Cloud now stands before what is probably one of the most challenging adversities he has ever faced. Mimi stands apprehensive, eyeing the gloved hands at the end of each of his arms. And again, the dread on the poor cow's eyes cannot be denied. Cloud had been accustomed to this scene for the last week. And though he wished he could spare Mimi the pain born of his ignorance (and himself of the humiliation), the morning gladiator could do nothing but proceed with the day's inevitable battle.
Turning into a corner to get the milking buckets, Cloud wondered briefly as he clamped his hands firmly on the loose handles. The buckets were heavy, as if someone filled it with water or something. He then lifted the lid in an effort to solve the mystery of the gravity-affectionated receptacles, only to discover them filled to the brim with warm, fresh cow's milk.
"Hey, somebody beat me here. I wonder who milked Mimi" he thought to himself. Cloud pondered for a moment, wondering about the generous soul who spared him his tedious chore at least for this morning.
Turning around to leave the barn, he was stopped abruptly by an unexpected perception.
"Wha smells like bacon and eggs" Cloud muttered. "Hey, Tifa cooked breakfast!"
Quickly dashing for the kitchen, Cloud then eagerly pushed open the swinging door to witness Marlene ebulliently devouring a portion of the sumptuous morning meal served on the table.
"Hi Marlene. Where's Tifa?"
"She's still asleep."
"What?" The blonde-locked sorry excuse for a farmer wonderingly echoed. "So she didn't make breakfast?"
"Nope." Marlene quipped prior to a mouthful of toast.
"Nope. Mommy Elmyra is also sleeping."
"Then who made breakfast, Marlene? Don't tell me it's you." Cloud retorted with a slightly raised voice brought forth by his puzzlement.
"I cannot tell a lie, uncle Cloud." Marlene unmindfully answered. "It wasn't me either. But if I tell you who did this, you might not believe me."
Growing mildly irritated by the early morning confusion, Cloud could do nothing but scratch his head. He certainly cannot raise his voice any more with the fear of Marlene misconstruing it to be born of anger. Consequently, he paused for a brief moment to breathe in a fresh batch of calming air. Feeling the annoyance subsiding, he then came back to the preoccupied Marlene with the most amiable voice he can muster.
"Of course I'll believe you, Marlene. Go ahead, tell me who cooked breakfast."
"Promise you won't yell at me?"
"Promise. Cross my heart!"
"Okay!" the child answered while turning to Cloud with a smile. "She's back! She said she wanted to surprise us so she visited without telling us."
"Who's she?" Cloud asked anew with squinting eyes. "Your Aunt Yuffie?"
"No" Marlene slowly came back.
" The flower girl"
Cloud nearly dropped the cup he was holding.End of Part One