Final Fantasy Dissidia
A Thousand Points of Spite
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! Being intrigued by the Dissidia versions of Cloud and Sephiroth, I of course had to create a backstory for them. Here is my first experiment in such. It takes place following the game, and please inform me if there are any errors in the small bit of game information I have put into the plot. Many thanks to Lisa and Kaze for plot help! The final twists of Cloud's flashback would not exist if not for Kaze's ideas.
Cloud had been different ever since returning from being summoned to help fight Chaos. He knew that. His friends knew that.
But what most of them did not know was why it had happened. They did not even know much of what had taken place at all, as Cloud had not been very forthcoming with information. Still, it had only been a couple of weeks. Cloud was still recovering from the shock of not only being uprooted twice, but of what he had seen back there. He planned to tell them sometime; it would not be fair to leave them in the dark. It was just that he had not felt like talking yet.
He looked out through the goggles pulled over his eyes as he sped around another curve in the motorcycle path. The afternoon sun beat down on him, the breeze blowing his blond spikes in every possible direction.
He knew why he had changed. Earlier that day, he had had a lengthy conversation with Zack on the subject. Zack being Zack, of course he had noticed his friend's altered demeanor immediately. And somehow he had wormed at least a partial confession out of Cloud.
"So! What's up, pal?" he asked, sliding into a booth at 7th Heaven.
"Up?" Cloud repeated dumbly as he followed Zack to the booth.
Zack nodded. "You're different," he said. "That little trip across the stars left you even more quiet than usual! As if Tifa and I didn't already have a whale of a time getting you to talk." He peered at his best friend, as if he could determine the answer in Cloud's eyes. Zack and Cloud both helped Tifa run 7th Heaven, and Zack lived upstairs along with them and the kids, so when Cloud grew taciturn he always had both Tifa and Zack trying to get him to open up. But he would not have it any other way, especially after he had nearly lost them in the past.
Cloud shook his head, pouring himself a glass of water from the pitcher on the table. "Did Tifa put you up to this?" he wondered.
"Nope!" Zack said. "Well . . . she's been worried, of course. So'm I! And let's not forget the kids."
"Let's not," Cloud said.
Zack crossed his arms on the table. "All you've said about what happened is that you and a bunch of other people got summoned to fight in a battle of the gods or something," he said. "And you had to look for Crystals."
"That's pretty much it," Cloud shrugged.
"Come on!" Zack protested. "You were gone for weeks, Cloud! You've gotta have made some new friends, stuff like that!"
Cloud smirked. "Okay, sure," he said. "Yeah, I made friends with the others. One of them, Tidus, reminded me of you."
"That's a compliment, right?" Zack said with mock worry.
"Oh yeah," Cloud said, "if being compared to a hyper kid is a compliment." He was still smirking. "You two would've gotten along great."
"Awesome!" Zack punched Cloud on the arm. "We'll have to all get together sometime."
". . . I doubt I'll ever see any of them again," Cloud said. "We all have different worlds. Probably even different times." Which was creepy to think about. For all he would know, Tidus had actually lived long ago, and returning to his own time would mean that he was dead according to the here and now.
Zack frowned, sobering. "Is that why you've been so down?" he wondered, sensing some of Cloud's unspoken thoughts.
Cloud sipped his water. "Maybe," he said. "Yeah, I guess so . . . but that's not the whole reason."
"What else is there?" Zack asked, hoping they were starting to get to the core of the problem.
Cloud was silent, staring into the ice cubs floating through his glass. ". . . The bad guy summoned help, too," he said.
Understanding dawned in the lavender eyes. ". . . Seph?" Zack ventured.
"Yeah." Cloud gripped the glass, then looked up at Zack. "It seems like we never can get away from him. He always turns up somewhere." He ran his other hand into his spikes. "I don't know . . . I'm just getting tired of it. We've moved on, but he never can. And then he tells me that I can't."
Zack stared down at the table as he spun a paper napkin with his index finger. He missed Seph. Years ago, Sephiroth had been the favored general of the Shinra Electric Power Company--and Zack's best friend. But then he had begun to question his existence following fellow SOLDIER First Class Genesis Rhapsodos's breakdown. Genesis had learned that they and the deceased Angeal Hewley had all been created for the purpose of being monsters. And after going off the deep end, Genesis had embraced it.
Sephiroth, on the other hand, had been deeply disturbed and shaken, both by the revelation and by Genesis's way of dealing with it. He had rebelled against Shinra and had left, seeking out his own answers for his existence. They had not seen any further sign of him until he had returned years later, demanding to know Cloud's reason for fighting and manipulating him into a battle. He had often mentored Cloud in the past, though always with a stern, cold efficience. Cloud had believed that Sephiroth did not like him, and Sephiroth's strange reappearance had not made him think it any less.
Sephiroth had beaten him with ease, upon which he had informed Cloud that Cloud had lost because he did not have a valid reason to fight. Cloud had demanded to know what Sephiroth's reason was. Sephiroth had paused, as if mulling over the question, and then had walked on without answering. "I fight for myself," he had said at last. "I fight for power, because that is the only way you will ever get ahead in this world." Then he had glanced over his shoulder at Cloud. "And," he had added, "because I simply enjoy fighting."
Cloud had been indignant and upset over the encounter, but more than that, he had not been able to get Sephiroth's question out of his mind. That had been the beginning of his quest to find the answer.
And an opportunity to learn had presented itself soon enough. Genesis, who had vanished following the burning of Nibelheim, had returned. He was the favored of the Goddess, he had declared, and she wanted him to destroy the world and help her make another. So, of course, Cloud and the others had to set out to stop him.
Cloud had already been bitter against Genesis due to the events at Nibelheim. Sephiroth had left Shinra before then, and Zack and Cloud had been forced to face Genesis by themselves. They had failed, miserably. Genesis had vanished that night, leaving behind a burning village, many dead, and several wounded. Cloud still had no idea how he, Zack, and Tifa had escaped alive.
In the present, Zack looked up at Cloud. ". . . Do you still blame yourself, pal?" he asked.
Cloud looked over at him. ". . . For which part?" he returned.
Zack swallowed. "Aerith . . ."
Cloud looked away again. He did not want to think about that. But of course he did, every day. So did Zack.
"That stupid Black Materia," Cloud muttered.
Sephiroth had wanted it. So had Genesis. It was supposed to grant the ultimate powers of destruction. Sephiroth had determined that to stop Genesis, he had to have the Black Materia in his possession. Aerith had been alarmed. It was the White Materia that would save them, she had said, and she was the one who had it. But Sephiroth had not listened. He had mocked the White Materia as being weak. Besides, he said, he did not want to rely on the Planet for aid. He could only depend on himself. The Black Materia would strengthen him, not the Planet.
Aerith had known it would be far too risky to allow Sephiroth to take the Black Materia. So they had gone not only to stop him, but Genesis as well, from taking it.
Cloud clenched a fist on the table. He still remembered the sight of the Masamune and the Rapier both plunging into Aerith's body at the Village of the Ancients. She had stiffened in pain, her eyes widening. Then the weapons had been withdrawn and she had collapsed.
Genesis had not cared. He had smirked and recited some line of poetry about a fragile flower wilting so quickly.
Only Aerith had seen, as she had lain dying, the shock in Sephiroth's eyes. She had wanted to speak, to say something to him, and also to Zack and her horrified friends gathered around, but she had not been able to manage it.
And Sephiroth had turned away, saying nothing about the fatal accident.
Cloud had been bitter against him since that day, blaming him for Aerith's death. And yet, deep down, he had blamed himself.
"Why did she get in the way?" Cloud said aloud. "What was she thinking?"
Zack shook his head. ". . . She told me a couple of times that there had to be a sacrifice for the White Materia to work quicker," he said, emotion slipping into his voice. "I think she'd determined a long time ago that it was gonna be her. Maybe she even thought it had to be."
". . . If she hoped she could also save Genesis from the Black Materia, she was wrong," Cloud said.
Zack gave a sad nod. Genesis had gained the wretched thing in the end, escaping to the Northern Crater. And there, right before what would have been the final showdown, had come what had sealed Cloud's bitter feelings towards Sephiroth.
He had met them at a narrow pass, insisting that he would not allow them to get through. They had all been upset and angry, demanding to know what he was doing. Zack had run forward, trying to reason with him or stop him. He had thought sure he would be able to get through, somehow. . . . But Sephiroth had lashed out, wounding Zack in the leg and sending him falling backwards. Even as Zack had cried out in pain and Cloud had screamed at Sephiroth in fury, the former general had blocked their path, slashing at the rocks overhead and causing a cave-in that had prevented them from going forward. All they had been able to do was to go back, hoping for another route to the battle site. But no other path had been available.
Zack still remembered the sheer horror that had swept over him when he had seen the rest of the crater collapse. He had reached up, gripping at Cloud's arms. Seph had been in there. And it was too much to lose both Aerith and Sephiroth on this mission. As he had sprawled there, his wounded leg stretched out in front of him and the snow swirling around them, he had started to sob.
Cloud could see from the look in Zack's eyes that he was remembering again. ". . . I can't believe he did that to you," he said, clenching a fist. "You were supposed to be his best friend and he goes and plunges his sword into your leg." The injury had incapacitated him for quite some time, and when he had finally been able to walk, he had had a pronounced limp. Cloud could still notice it sometimes.
"He had a reason," Zack said. "I know that much. . . ."
"He didn't want us there because he wanted to fight Genesis himself," Cloud retorted. "All that garbage about enjoying fighting and wanting power. . . ."
"No," Zack said, shaking his head. "I don't think that was it."
". . . How can you do that?!" Cloud burst out, suddenly frustrated. "You're always sticking up for him!"
Zack gave him a sad smile. "Maybe someday you'll understand," he said. He knew it was useless to argue about it. In the past he and Cloud had gotten into some very heated discussions about Sephiroth, and while he could understand Cloud's anger, he also understood Seph. There was more to the story.
Cloud sighed, slumping back in the seat. He sipped at his water again, staring out the window.
Sometimes he wondered about the missing gaps in his memory. It was not always obvious, but Cloud did not remember everything that had transpired in his life. Most of his childhood was a blank to him, save for several memories that had withstood the powerful amnesia he was still fighting. Even some of his adult life was a blank slate. There were times when Zack or Tifa would ask if he remembered something they were talking about and he had to honestly answer that he did not. It was not only frustrating, but it was uncomfortable. He hated those occasions.
Still, he was grateful for the memories he still did have---and that he knew who his friends were. There were few things that sounded as horrifying as waking up and finding that everyone you had known had become strangers.
". . . Do you ever wonder how we escaped Nibelheim?" he spoke at last.
Zack blinked in surprise. "Sure," he said, "all the time. I know I was so out of it at the time that I thought it was Angeal." He looked down at the table. "But of course it wasn't." Sadness creeped into his voice. He had been so close to his mentor. It still haunted him, that he had been forced to kill Angeal after Angeal had succumbed to the effects of the experimentation and had lost his mind. There had been no other choice, but that had not been any kind of consolation.
Cloud gave a slow nod. "Yeah. . . ." He frowned. They and Tifa had woken up in a hospital some distance from Nibelheim, and not even the staff had been able to tell them how it had come about. They had found the trio in the back of a Jeep parked in front of the hospital, their worst wounds treated and bound. But even though they had been saved, damage had been done. Cloud had awakened with partial amnesia, while Tifa had twisted the events of Nibelheim in her mind. And Zack had continued to see hallucinations of Angeal for some time afterwards.
". . . Cloud?"
Cloud blinked, looking over to Zack. The brunet was giving him a serious, worried look.
"Why do you think Seph keeps coming back?" he asked.
Cloud shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "He only seems to come around to challenge me to fights. It's like . . . he can't rest in peace or something."
Zack lowered his gaze to the table. "We thought he died that day," he said. "But did we ever know for sure?"
". . . How could he have possibly survived?" Cloud wondered. "We saw the whole crater come down. We figured when he came back that he'd found an avatar or something. Genesis claimed that he and Sephiroth could do that because of Jenova's cells. . . ."
"Yeah . . ." Zack said slowly.
"And that's another thing," Cloud went on. "He comes back, but he doesn't want to see you. He just wants to make me fight. It's . . . it's just getting so pointless." He rubbed his eyes. "And then he says weird stuff about that he's given me direction a lot of times in my life. What's that supposed to mean?"
"I guess only Seph could answer that," Zack said with an odd smile.
And Sephiroth certainly did not seem willing to answer it. He always left Cloud with more questions than answers.
Cloud sighed, rubbing at his eyes. "Anyway . . . I guess if I'm different, Sephiroth's a big part of the reason," he said. "I don't want to pay a lot of attention to what he said, but I do anyway." He looked at Zack. "When I didn't want to fight him, saying it was meaningless, he stole Firion's rose and made it look like he'd done something to Firion and the others so I'd want to fight him."
Zack blinked. "Wait, who's Firion?" he asked.
"One of the other guys I met," Cloud said. "He always carried this rose around saying it symbolized his dream of a free world." He looked down. "I guess he inspired all of us to fight for that. . . ."
"And Seph took the rose?" Zack frowned. "Did he actually hurt Firion?"
"No, no one got hurt," Cloud said. "But I only found that out later."
He brushed the bangs out of his eyes. "Anyway . . . then Sephiroth started going on about how I was a puppet, that anyone could manipulate me into doing what they wanted, and that I wanted to find a reason for fighting so bad that I'd eat up any reason they gave me. I told him it wasn't true." He glared at the table. "The thing is, I started wondering if it really could be."
Zack was surprised. "Don't you know why you've fought, pal?" he asked.
"I thought I did." Cloud frowned. "I thought I was fighting for my friends. I thought I was fighting to make the world better for you and everyone else. And I told Sephiroth that coming to fight him was my own decision. That's when he went into saying that stuff about how he's directed my life a lot of times. And he said I couldn't have gotten the Crystal I needed if it hadn't been for him."
"And?" Zack prompted.
"And what?" Cloud raised an eyebrow.
"Could you have gotten it without Seph?" Zack leaned back.
Cloud groaned. "I don't know. I never even thought I'd be having this conversation."
"Maybe I'm not the one you need to be having it with," Zack mused.
"Well, Sephiroth's no help," Cloud returned. "And I don't want to believe it's true. I wish I could just move on, and put his ghost behind me, or something." He paused, realizing what he had said. "Oh great. Now I sound like I'm agreeing with him that I haven't moved on."
"You've come a long way," Zack said, "but you still do carry some stuff around with you. I guess I do, too . . . like Angeal's death. And Aerith's. . . ."
Cloud felt a pang at the mention of Aerith. "I guess. . . ."
"I'm not sure it'll ever completely go away, either," Zack said. "I mean . . . we'll never stop missing them and wanting them back. And . . . I don't know if either one of us will stop blaming himself."
". . . You handle it a lot better than I do," Cloud said.
Zack gave a sad smile. "On some days," he said. "Not all the time." He sighed. "Sometimes I only get by thinking of things like how I hope maybe they've met each other and are having a good time of it."
Cloud smirked a bit. Angeal and Aerith interacting. That was an odd thing to picture. He had never met Angeal---at least, not that he remembered---but Zack had spoken of him plenty of times. Zack had described him as being stern and serious, but with another, mischievous side. Maybe he and Aerith wouldn't actually get along too badly.
". . . So neither of us have moved on?" he wondered.
"I don't know. We're both trying to go on with our lives," Zack said. "We're not sitting around letting the grief eat us up. At least . . . I hope we're not." He peered at Cloud.
"I hope we're not, either," Cloud said, a bit uncomfortable. He did not like unloading his problems on Zack, especially when it seemed to him that Zack had lost the most. Aerith had been a dear friend to them both, but she and Zack had also clearly been in love with each other. It was a true, deep, enduring love---not like the mushy stuff on the TV late at night that Cloud always rolled his eyes at upon seeing.
He stood up. "I'm going to go for a ride," he said. "I'll be back in time for dinner."
Zack had started but then had looked up at him, giving a slow nod. "Okay, pal," he said, dropping the subject.
As if Cloud did not have enough to think about, the entire experience with Chaos had given him a lot more. He had made new friends while missing old friends. He had been introduced to new points of view and had shared some of his own. And he had fought new enemies, including some who were very off-the-wall and strange---but it always came back to Sephiroth and their struggles.
What was it that bound them to each other? And what was it that kept Sephiroth returning to convince Cloud to fight? Why did he want to beat a dead horse? Cloud was just so tired of their battles.
Years ago, he had wanted to be like Sephiroth. He had felt that he had received the greatest honor possible, to be mentored in swordsmanship by Shinra's general. But he had never been able to penetrate Sephiroth's tough-as-nails exterior. Cloud had worked to his strength's very limit in their training sessions, right up to the point when Sephiroth had abandoned Shinra in rebellion and disgust. It had been a move that had shocked many and had sent Shinra into a panic. Though many had been sent out to reclaim their top officer, they had never succeeded.
Until the events at Nibelheim, Cloud had never even known why Sephiroth had left. He had felt betrayed by the stern general. Then Zack had admitted that Sephiroth had confided in him, saying he needed to leave. Zack had wanted to go with him, but Sephiroth had told him No. Sephiroth had not wanted Zack to have the life of a wanderer. And so Zack had remained, looking after and teaching Cloud. He had said that his heart had been torn. While he had wanted to go with Sephiroth, he had also not wanted to leave Cloud alone at Shinra.
And no matter what Cloud thought about, it always came back to the events surrounding their battles against Genesis. Aerith had been killed. Sephiroth had not let them continue their journey through the Northern Crater. And he had wounded Zack. To Cloud, that was unforgivable.
Arrogant, cold Sephiroth---fighting for power and to bring Cloud down. Well, he could keep at it all that he wanted. Cloud would thwart him every time.
He squinted. The sun was directly in his eyes now. This was why he should not be riding around in the afternoon.
A horn blared out a warning. He gasped, swerving sharply to the left as an 18-wheeler came into view. But it was not in time to stop the collision. The heavy motorcycle was swiftly broadsided by the much heavier truck, flying off the road with Cloud still on it. In the next instant he had slammed to the ground on the hill, Fenrir pinning him down. And he had hit a rock. He groaned, consciousness slipping from his grasp.
Strong arms found their way around his limp, injured body. He was lifted up with care, his rescuer being mindful of his wounds.
"All wars are useless to the dead."
Blue eyes flew open, staring blankly at the tiled ceiling. Annoying machines beeped somewhere behind him. And that was an all-too-familiar sound. Great, he muttered to himself as he turned his head to the side. He had wound up in the hospital. How badly was he hurt? Did the others know yet?
He looked over at the sound of the welcome voice. Tifa was leaning over the railing, worry and relief evident in her brown eyes.
"Hey, you're finally awake!"
Zack was leaning on the other side of the bed, grinning widely. He poked Cloud on the arm. "You gave us a big scare there. How're you feeling?"
Cloud wanted to speak, but his throat felt like cotton. He managed to move his shoulders in a half-shrugging gesture.
"Do you remember us?" Tifa asked.
He gave a slow nod. ". . . Yeah," he finally choked out. "As good as I can."
Tifa relaxed, leaning back. She had been terrified that Cloud would regain consciousness with complete amnesia, especially after the harsh knock he had taken to his head. Though of course, even that would have been welcome compared to the worst case scenario.
"It's about time you woke up."
Cloud started, looking to the end of the bed. A woman in a white coat was writing on a clipboard, her brown hair tied in a ponytail that fell over one shoulder. He had not even noticed her presence before.
"Do you remember what happened?"
He tried to find his voice again. "Yeah," he mumbled. "The sun tried to . . . make me go blind. When that didn't work . . . some rock on the ground . . . tried to sign me out for good. I think . . . nature hates me."
She smirked. "You have your sense of humor intact," she said. "That's a good sign."
". . . How bad off am I?" he asked, raising a hand to his aching head. A strip of gauze was held firmly around his forehead.
"It could have been worse," she said. "Nothing is broken, but you are sporting some badly cracked ribs. And you do have a concussion from the fall, serious enough to have kept you unconscious for the better part of the night. It's good that your friend got you here before too much time had passed."
"'Friend'?" Cloud repeated dumbly. "Zack . . . ?" He looked to Zack, but the brunet shook his head.
"Not me," he said.
"Mr. Fair and Ms. Lockhart were notified later," was the reply.
Cloud squinted at her. "Then who . . . ?"
"A tall man with silver hair," she said.
Cloud could only give her a blank stare. Sephiroth? Sephiroth had brought him here? Why? How?
". . . Did he say anything?" Cloud asked.
She paused. "Just that you'd had a crash and needed help," she said. "When asked if he wanted to stay and wait, he declined. He said he knew you would be alright."
And how would he know that? Cloud could not help wondering.
The doctor shooed Zack and Tifa out of the room while she gave Cloud a quick examination. But then, determining that he seemed to be on the mend, she allowed his friends back inside. "Don't let him stay awake too long," she instructed as she left. "He needs to rest."
Tifa nodded, brushing her dark hair behind her ear as she sat down again.
Zack plopped in the other chair. "Man, that must've been some nasty experience," he said with a shudder. "The guy driving the truck was hysterical. He thought he'd killed you."
"I thought so too," Cloud mumbled. "Or that the rock did it."
"You're just lucky you have a hard head!" Zack said.
Cloud did not answer. He had lapsed into silence, still trying to process the information he had been given. It was not a surprise that Sephiroth had come back after Chaos's defeat; he always came back, no matter how thoroughly he had been beaten. And he always seemed to know what Cloud was up to. But . . . why had he made sure that Cloud had gotten help? Other people had surely seen the accident, too.
". . . Oh yeah," Zack said, suddenly remembering something else. "When you were brought in, you were clutching some little piece of paper."
Cloud gave him a weird look. "I didn't have any paper before the crash," he said.
Tifa reached over to the nightstand to retrieve it. "Here it is," she said, passing it to a bewildered Cloud.
The blond held the handwritten note up where he could read it without trying to move. The color drained from his face.
All wars are useless to the dead.
You have chosen your destiny.
You will live.
Cloud dropped his hand to the bed, disbelief written across his features.
"Cloud?" Zack said, worried.
"Maybe we should have waited to show it to you," Tifa said, instantly guilty.
Slowly, Cloud shook his head. "No . . ." he said. "It's alright."
But he was reeling inside. The only thing he remembered from their rescue at Nibelheim was feeling someone lifting him up, being careful of the serious wounds in his abdomen. And their savior had said that to him---"All wars are useless to the dead." He had passed out after that, probably from being moved.
He had only spoken of that experience to Zack and Tifa. No one else could know, unless . . .
". . . Zack . . . Tifa . . ." He looked from one to the other. ". . . I think I know who saved us at Nibelheim. . . ."