Yes, I know this chapter is long overdue. O_O Good news though: I've graduated High School with flying colors! Woo!!! Anyway, enjoy this chapter!

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Tifa wasn't a pessimistic person. Sure, she was paranoid and overtly cautious, but she didn't have a "Everything-will-go-wrong" mind set.

Until now.

Tifa let out a pained breath as she used her strength to shove the rapidly nearing katana to the side, jumping backwards to avoid a fast swing of the blade as it came back. Sweat dripped down from her temples, her heart racing as she backed away from the thing.

It was unreasonable, she knew, to think that she was going to die in this test of his. But, the facts stared at her in the face, telling her that there was no humanely possible way that she'd win this fight.

One, she was fighting the Sephiroth training program. No one had ever beaten it (as far as she knew) and the only ones who probably had the chance to even almost beat it is the 1st class SOLDIERs, which, did not include her and probably won't ever include her, seeing as that she was doing to die a rather clean cut death. Maybe.

"Can you die in a training program?" Storm thought to herself distractedly, trying not to dwell on the rising hysteria and desperation in her system as she tried to out run the program who was chasing— no, stalking, chasing wasn't a graceful enough term— her.

She had the sudden urge to close her eyes and pray to whatever higher being out there to get her out of this. But, she couldn't close her eyes. She couldn't even risk blinking too much for fear that he'd suddenly appear and skewer her with that long deadly katana of his.

The computer program who bore a remarkably accurate appearance to the real Sephiroth narrowed its mako green eyes at her, making him look even more intimidating that he already was.

The hands were shaking, she could barely hold the sword upright. She was tired, sweaty, and bruised everywhere. Her arms arched from holding up the suddenly heavy weapon and she felt the urge to just hit something, preferably the Sephiroth look-a-like so that she could win this fight.

"Seventeen minutes." The electronic voice of the computer boomed through the room.

Anxiety rushed through her at the reminder. She had already wasted thirteen minutes on the defensive. Absently pushing back her pessimistic trail of thought she realized that she had to go on the offensive this time.

Storm knew she had to think of something to beat this thing. There had to be a way. Her eyes warily watching her enemy, her body moved backward as the program began its steady pace towards her, not even rushing itself, just walking with an arrogance and confidence she was almost awed by.

Even when she was being handed her own ass in a silver platter, she couldn't help but admit that he was really good— fighting wise, of course—.

Tifa resisted the urge to roll her eyes. This wasn't the time to think Sephiroth was attractive— which he was.

The 3rd class SOLDIER shook her head, clearing her thoughts. She couldn't beat him with that sword of his. She could barely even use hers except for blocking his insistent attacks. She couldn't risk throwing away her sword and relying on her fists. Her hands couldn't block steel, she'd be left with no hands. His sword kept her at a distance as well, which was bad for her. She needed…

The teen bit her lip, almost to the point where it'd bleed. "Think, Tifa! Think!" she screamed inwardly, holding her sword at the ready.

If she could get near him… if she could disarm him— or at least occupy his sword— and take advantage…

She could land a hit.

"Alright!" she told herself, preparing her body as her mind formed a plan. Her heart beat which had calmed at the short break had begun to race once more, pounding wildly in her ears. "Operation: 'Distract The Sephiroth Program', starts now!"

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Cloud knew he had been acting stupid. He knew. He should have been helping Tifa instead of giving her the cold shoulder and more importantly trying to get her to leave. The electronic door swished open in front of him, and he immediately raced inside to see how his best friend was.

He couldn't forgive himself if…

The blonde shook his head, he didn't even notice the presence of General Sephiroth behind him, or Zack and Genesis following him inside the room. His sapphire eyes were locked on the form of his best friend.

"Tifa…"

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Sephiroth watched through increasingly bored eyes as his protegee almost got his head cut off by the program, a rather often occurrence in the past thirteen minutes.

The younger teen only had about sixteen minutes left until the test would be over. He only had sixteen minutes to land a hit on the enemy.

His chances were getting progressively smaller.

The 1st class SOLDIER folded his arms, leaning back against the wall as he watched the relatively fruitless battle in front of him. There was nothing interesting to watch, after all, the red eyed boy just kept running and blocking. He was vaguely impressed by the stamina he showed, but still. In a real battle, stamina wasn't everything. It needed strength, intelligence, and at some times risks.

What was being shown in front of him was just a game of cat and mouse. And Storm was going to get caught sooner or later.

He quelled a sigh, ignoring the rising disappointment within him, and just proceeded to wait until the battle was over.

"AAAAHHH!!!" a rather feminine sounding scream reached his ears, the voice coming directly from the room he should be watching.

But before Sephiroth could fully take in the situation, a solid "thwack" was heard through out the room, echoing even in the room where he and the others were watching.

A disbelieving laugh escaped the 3rd class SOLDIER— "Strife?"— in front of him. Zack's jaw was dropped, bright eyes opened wide.

Genesis' blue eyes shone in complete incredulity.

And he couldn't help but think that he was currently experiencing the same emotion.

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Tifa let out a battle cry, sprinting towards the faintly surprised— was she imagining that?— Sephiroth program.

The ruby eyed teen jumped and swung her sword down towards the silver haired assailant, unsurprised to find it immediately blocked by the Masamune. Launching the first phase of her plan she let go of the sword with one hand, relying on gravity and her own weight to occupy the long sword, and swung her fist towards the program's face.

She only had about three seconds to land this blow. Her fist was just inches from its target— and then, everything seemed to go to hell at that point.

Her fist, which was moments from winning her the match, had been blocked, slapped away from the General hologram as if it was an annoying bug. And at the same time, the Masamune had disarmed her, sending her sword, her only shield from the cold blade, flying away and embedding itself in one of the walls.

It was then she realized.

He used one hand in using his sword, unlike her.

"Shiva!" she cursed in her mind, unbelieving at her own stupidity. "How could I have not noticed that?!"

Tears pricked her eyes, resigned to her fate.

That is, until in her mid descent towards the ground, the program's hand reached out to grab her shirt, sword poised to skewer her.

Red filled Tifa's vision as the hand unknowingly grazed her chest, and before she could even think properly of her situation, she screamed and her hand struck out, slapping the Sephiroth look-a-like cleanly on his cheek.

Storm stared at the luminescent eyes staring back at her in horrified disbelief.

Did she just… slap… it?..

"Oh Shiva," she inwardly gulped, "I slapped it. I slapped it."

And what a slap it was.

"3rd class SOLDIER Storm Lockhart has accomplished the objective. Battle ended five minutes before deadline. Congratulations, Mr. Lockhart." The drone like voice of the computer said.

Tifa found herself being slowly placed on the floor by the program, before it disappeared in a flash.

The girl stared at the spot in front of her, completely mortified at the turn of events.

The exit door slid open, revealing Zack, followed closely by Genesis and Sephiroth.

"Storm!!!" Zack grinned at her, looking a little less gobsmacked compared to how he was in the observation room. "You did it!"

Tifa opened her mouth to speak, her throat feeling exceptionally dry. "I… did…"

"Congratulations, Mr. Lockhart." Sephiroth's cool tone washed over her, making her feel increasingly embarrassed.

"You have very… fast reflexes." The smug looking red head informed her, his vivid blue eyes examining her.

Storm turned red, opening and closing her mouth a few times, not really knowing what to say to that observation.

"Your real training with me will begin tomorrow." The silver haired general informed her nonchalantly.

The red eyed teen nodded absently, still wearing an expression that clearly stated: 'is-this-really-happening-?'.

"I will not tolerate tardiness." He told her sharply, luminous green eyes boring into her distracted ones.

The girl— not that anyone in the room except her knew— nodded her head again, trying to pull her head out of the clouds. She barely paid attention to what was happening. Everything felt surreal for some reason.

There was a pause.

"Have your wounds treated." With that, her official teacher walked gracefully out of the room.

Genesis gave a small smirk, following his friend out of the room.

"Storm, are you okay?" Zack's bemused tone shook her out of her reverie.

"I really… passed?" she found herself asking, unable to banish the niggling disbelief. Nothing seemed to sink in at the time.

"You did." A very familiar, completely not Zack's voice, answered her.

Tifa let herself smile, her eyes closing before she turned towards the source.

Sapphire eyes stared at her, a bucket of guilt and embarrassment shining through them.

Zack watched the two best friends, realizing that he should leave the two alone to talk about whatever it was bothering them. "I'll see you guys later." He murmured softly, trying not to break the fragile balance in the atmosphere.

The moment Zack had left, Cloud broke the silence. "You did great." He said, a bit awkwardly.

"I slapped it." Tifa found herself saying, showing her embarrassment, as well as trying to get her best friend to smile.

Cloud grinned humorously. "You slapped it." He agreed, eyes twinkling.

Tifa smiled back, and at that moment she knew.

She had her best friend back.

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There! I apologize for the battle scene (or lack of?). I decided not to force it since it may ruin the whole thing. Anyway, Cloud and Tifa are back on speaking terms and she's passed the test (in a rather bizarre way, but what can we do? ^_^)! Anyway, please review!