"Why?"

It wasn't the first time that Cloud Strife had asked himself this. Why, out of all the places in the world, would Tifa return to Midgar? Why was he spending his days seeking her out in a place where, if she was at all sane, she would have left long ago?

Cloud sighed resignedly, dropping his buster sword next to him with a dull clatter and slumping onto a nearby wall, lowering himself to the floor with a grunt. The answer was the same as always. Midgar was part of Cloud now. Cloud felt as if as much he wanted to see Tifa, as much as he felt for her, he couldn't face living or associating with other people again. The life of a slum loner, vagrant warrior...it was all he knew now. Maybe he deluded himself in to thinking that he was looking for Tifa, but really, Cloud wondered if he cared any more. He still felt... something for Tifa, but he was wondering if it was just a trick, an illusion his mind had created to try to protest against what he was rapidly accepting
as the truth...

Cloud was pulled from his thoughts by soft, menacing laughter from above him.

"Heh heh...what've we got here?"

Cloud did not bother looking up at the two shapes above him. He already knew from the tone of voice and the sharp *click* of a switchblade that their intentions were not friendly. They had obviously not seen the massive, legendary sword lying next to him in the dark of the alley however, or Cloud's next move would not have surprised them so.

Cloud simply looked up, locking eyes with his assailants and watched with faint amusement as, even in the gloom, their faces obviously blanched with horror.

"Y-you...tha-that glow..."

Cloud's eyes gleamed in the darkness like twin blue flames These were one of the three marks of the slum's most feared warrior. There was the wild, unkempt, spikey blonde hair, there was the massive sword that had killed countless numbers of the slum's oppurtunists who had been brave or foolish enough to challenge him and there the burning gleam his azure eyes, the supernatural glow of mako. Cloud wore these traits like medals. A tiny scar on his left cheek was the only
sign that he was human enough to sustain wounds.

Cloud watched the men with interest. The tables had turned. He was the one in control now,
he was the hunter. And they were the prey, transfixed by the gaze of his unblinking blue eyes
like rabbits in headlights. Cloud knew that they were weighing up their options. Would they run or fight? Cloud had slaughtered countless men, he reminded himself with slight unease. Death was inevitable for those who tried their luck, but with stakes this high, there were those who found a battle with Cloud Strife impossible to resist. They were blinded by visions of the glory they'd recieve if they returned home with Cloud's spikey blonde head to mount on their wall. 'Which are these?' Cloud wondered to himself, 'Runners or fighters?'

The man with the switchblade staggered backwards, not daring to take his eyes from Cloud's until he was at a safe distance. *Then* he ran. His comrade sneered.

"Hunh." He grunted. "Jackass," though Cloud could tell it was false bravado, sensing the fear in his voice.

There was a taut moment of silence as the man gazed down at Cloud, who matched his glare unfazed. Cloud couldn't make out many details in the dark, but the smell of stale whisky and tobacco hung in the air around his opponent. It was therefore no surprise to Cloud when he swung viciously downwards at Cloud's head with a bottle.

The sound of glass shattering against brick was soon followed by the tinkling of the shards on the alley floor. The swing, though powerful, was sluggish and Cloud had easily rolled to one side, closing his hand around the hilt of his sword on the way up. Cloud now stood before his assailant in his usual stance. The man's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. He had evidently forgotten about the sword.

Not a wise move at the best of times, to forget about a foot wide, sharpened chunk of steel death. Too late now. The confident sneer disappeared instantly as Cloud's eyes burned a hole in his mind, terrifying the man more than he thought he had capacity for. With his final ounce of courage, the man gave a blood curdling yell and dashed at Cloud head-on, broken bottle poised.

No mercy.

Cloud stepped backwards too, slashing upwards twice in quick succesion. The man staggered backwards, screaming from the sudden agony of the cross shaped scar carved into his chest. As the world swam and faded, and the blood loss began to weaken his body, the man lunged one last time with the bottle in a desperate, last-ditch attempt for glory. Cloud didn't have to move a muscle as the attacker impaled himself on Cloud's outstretched sword.

Even though Cloud told himself that the death was inevitable, he couldn't stop the guilt that flooded over him. He sank to the ground again, allowing his conflicting emotions to battle it out in his head. Cloud was...a clone. Nothing but a poor imitation of Sephiroth who
had been created for the lone purpose of destruction. Cloud convinced himself of this periodically, and then felt it crumble. Once the rush of the battle had worn off, Cloud was left guilty and confused again, non the wiser of what he was, the murder only adding to his conscience and Midgar's (admittedly high) body count. He wondered if he really wanted to be alone. He knew that he wouldn't know how to react to other people any more, but...

Midgar's most feared man curled up in the corner of an alley, frightened and confused.

~FIN~