Hey everyone! This is the beginning to one of my new stories. Enjoy! For a more detailed description before you start reading, check my profile.
As always, all rights go to Square Enix, and I want to thank them for creating this world and these characters that we can love so much.
the rightful owner
By Eline aka Asrialth
This story contains a box of letters, sealed and confidential. This box is a little box of horrors, because for some reason, it is not supposed to return to it's rightful owner. Bad things happen wherever the box comes. The box survives all this misery, and so it carries with it a whole lot of memories. Memories of life, of death, of tragic love…
For five years, this box, with its determined guide, is on its journey. For five years, its rightful owner is not found. For five years, the owner is oblivious to what is waiting for him.
For five years, the secrets have remained secrets. But they are about to be exposed. The recently restored peace in Midgar, is about to be broken.
Cissnei pulled the handle of the van's door. The door opened while the thing was still driving, and she jumped out of the van, onto the dry desert ground. The chauffeur of the van didn't notice. He hadn't even noticed that Cissnei had gotten into the van in the first place, something that proved her being worthy of her Turk title.
In the five years of her mission, Cissnei hadn't changed much, something that was quite strange if you think of what she had been through over the last years. She had seen the worst terrors imaginable, she had faced death many times and she had outrun it, she had seen death take her friends and her dear ones, and yet she had still remained loyal to her boss and the other turks, yet she was still determined to finish her mission, and yet she still had the power to remain herself, even after all she had been through.
Sure, her suit wasn't as perfectly cleaned and ironed as it used to be, and her hair wasn't as beautifully curled as it used to be, but she hadn't lost her talent which had made her the youngest member of the turks ever… She had become better, even.
When Cissnei reached the ground, she collapsed. A high whine escaped her lips briefly, and her hands flew to her thigh immediately. She stood up and inspected the long wound on her right leg. Her dark trousers were cut and through the long hole, you could see the deep cut, inflicted by a sword of one followers of Jenova. Cissnei had heard all the stories of the new hero that had restored the balance and peace in the world. The one who had fought former hero Sephiroth for the second time in his life, and who had won again. Cloud Strife. She had heard that he had fought with the young Kadaj and his friends and that he had won that too. He had saved his entire town Edge from its destruction.
These stories had made Cissnei even more determined to find Cloud. Cloud deserved to have the box of letters more than anyone else did. She had followed Zack after he had fled with the unconscious Cloud to give him back the box with letters from the Ancient. She had lost Reno and Rude then, and she had continued the journey on her own after Zack had died, to find Cloud and give him the box, for she knew that Zack would want Cloud to have it. After word reached her of Aerith Gainsborough's death, who had fought by Cloud's side and had died, Cissnei decided to do whatever it took to see Cloud. But the box had worked against her. Or at least some great power had. She kept being followed by people who wanted the box, or people who didn't want the box to reach Cloud, and that's where she had lost all connections with the turks. She knew that there was some sort of company after her. Some company as great as SOLDIER had once been. But that was impossible. SOLDIER was gone. And she was chasing the last SOLDIER still living right now. Then who was after her?
Cissnei shook her head lightly. Better not to keep thinking of the horrors that were after her, but to prepare for the coming meeting with celebrity Cloud Strife.
She could see the ruins of Midgar and behind that, the parts of the city that had been rebuilt, now called Edge, the hometown of the few survivors. It was only a two-mile walk from here until she would reach the city, and from there, it would be so easy to find Cloud and finally end her mission. Perhaps she could even return to the turks after that. Cloud must have a telephone she could use. It would be the first chance of contacting Tseng in three years.
Cissnei straightened up, ignoring the stabbing and throbbing pain in her leg, and started to walk.
The spiky-haired young man looked around at the sound of Marlene's voice. His hand rested lightly on the bar while his other hand was holding a glass –filled with water- to his mouth. He paused in his movement and exchanged an amused look with Tifa, who was standing on the other side of the bar.
Marlene had been looking for insects for some days now, and every hour she returned to show Tifa and Cloud what she had found. Denzel and Marlene had reached the age that they didn't want to play together anymore and so Marlene set out to play on her own every day.
"What did you find this time, Marlene?" Cloud laughed, "another three-legged dragonfly?"
"No Cloud!" Marlene said, her high-pitched voice excited, "there's someone here to see you."
"Really?" Cloud answered, his eyebrows raised, "who would be looking for me?"
"Probably one of your fans, Cloud," Tifa said, and she continued with a playful smile, "oh, Cloud Strife, would you sign my underwear please?"
Cloud frowned and answered ruefully, "that was only once, Tifa, and I kicked those girls out."
"Girls and one boy," Tifa pointed out.
"Let her in, Marlene," Cloud sighed, ignoring Tifa.
Marlene smiled the typical innocent and happy-no-matter-what smile that always reminded Cloud of Aerith, and ran out of the door again, entering with a young woman of whom he at first thought he didn't know. But then he recognized her suit. She was one of the turks! And she looked awful. It had been so long since he had seen a turk, and then especially a woman, that he was totally abashed for a moment, before he started to realize that she needed medical help, and soon too.
She looked as if she would faint any time now, her hair hung loose and greasy around her shoulders, her suit was torn on several spots and her face was pale and tired. Still, he could see what a pretty girl she was. Cloud couldn't remember any other female turk members except for the one he had met such a long time ago, but he couldn't remember her name anymore. If it was her, why had she come for him? No, that had been Elena, and this girl certainly was too young to be Elena.
"Right, so it's no great fan of yours," Tifa whispered so only Cloud could hear.
The turk's face lit when she saw Cloud and she smiled a smile as happy as someone who saw the sun for the first time.
"Cloud Strife. My name is Cissnei. I've traveled such a long way and such a long time to find you. Finally, we meet once again," the girl said, in a soft voice that was nearly a whisper. Cloud nodded but otherwise knew nothing to say. The girl said 'once again' so she must be the turk he had met such a long time ago.
"Okay," Tifa muttered under her breath, "so it ís a crazy fan. The craziest." She continued out loud: "may I ask you who you are and what you are doing here, it has been long since we've seen turks in here, especially those who were in such a bad shape as you are." Tifa ran from behind the bar with a glass of water, and offered it to the girl, who drank it thankfully and sat down. Even if this girl had bad intentions, she was harmless now.
"What are you doing here?" Cloud asked her.
"A mission," the girl answered in her soft gentle voice.
"So the turks are after me again?"
"No! Not in the bad way," Cissnei said and looked at Cloud pleadingly, "I'm here after having tried to reach you for almost five years. But dangers kept crossing my path and it took me so long to get here that I couldn't reach you before. But I'm here now, finally."
Tifa shot a concerned glance into Cloud's direction. It was long since he'd been so down and depressed, but every memory of Zack and Aerith gave him a down period again. And this girl was saying things about five years ago… Around the time when Zack had died. Indeed, Cloud's happy mood shifted.
"What are you here for, exactly?"
"I'm here to bring you something that belongs to you," Cissnei answered, "it was my mission to deliver it to its rightful owner, and so I tried. I lost contact with the turks three years ago when I lost my cell phone in a fight, and so I set out alone to accomplish my mission. I knew where to find you, especially when word spread so soon about your recent victory on Kadaj and his men. About which I, by the way, have to thank you."
"Why?" Cloud asked her.
"Because they had fought me before, but left before they had killed me. I was sure they would come back."
"That wound on you thigh," Tifa said, "did Kadaj do that?"
Cissnei nodded and Tifa hissed: "why?"
"They wanted what I was bringing to Cloud."
"And what exactly is this thing of which Cloud is the rightful owner?" Tifa asked.
"Well," Cissnei said, "he's not exactly the rightful owner… The rightful owner has passed away five years ago. But I know Zack would have wanted Cloud to have it."
"This is about Zack?" Cloud asked, a little bit louder than he had intended. Cissnei cringed at Zack's name.
"Yes it is. Five years ago, I was set out to bring this sealed and confidential box to first class SOLDIER Zack, who was on the run of the other SOLDIERS, with his friend Cloud. My boss was a friend and partner of Zack's, and he was actually supposed to go after Zack and capture him. But he couldn't. He could not kill or capture his friend, and instead he ordered us to save him and bring him this confidential box."
"What exactly is in this box?" Cloud asked.
"Letters?" Cloud asked, one eyebrow raised, "you risked your live so many times just to bring letters to a dead guy?"
"It was my mission!" Cissnei defended herself, "and Zack was my friend."
"He was your friend?" Cloud asked weakly, as if he was very tired.
"He was. He was my friend even before he met you. He was my boss' friend and partner even before he met me."
"Oh," Cloud suddenly understood, "your boss, it's Tseng."
"You know him?"
"I met him on a mission, on the day that I met Zack too. Our helicopter crashed and we had to walk further. The stupid thing is… I met him three years ago as well, at the time where I fought Kadaj and his gang."
"That's odd," she mused, "that he never mentioned these letters to you…"
"Anyway, why did Tseng want you to deliver these letters so dearly? And who sent them? His mother?" Cloud asked.
"Tseng wanted these letters to be delivered because he thought that Zack had seen enough bad things in his life. I think Tseng wanted Zack to be happy, and I think he knew that Zack would be happy to receive these letters. And Tseng had another reason I don't know. He just found the letters very important. There must be something in them that was of great value. That's why this mission was so important."
"Can I see the box?" Cloud asked. Cissnei nodded and grabbed a little square box out of a ragged bag at her hip. It looked as if it hurt to give them away. The box was brown and covered in tape that said 'confidential'. Cissnei handed the box to Cloud, whose hands were shaking. For the first time in five years, next to the buster-sword, he was holding something that was Zack's.
"How many letters are in there?" Cloud asked her.
"88, written in four years."
Cloud looked at the box for a long time. He didn't know if he wanted to open it. He didn't want to hurt the girl's feelings, but he didn't want to read the letters either. He was genuinely curious about of whom the letters were, though. And he had a vague idea. Another reason not to open the box. It would hurt too much.
"Aren't you going to open it?" Tifa asked, who had put her arm around Cloud's shoulder for support.
"I'm not sure."
"Take your time, Cloud," Cissnei said softly. She surely was good at her job. For five years, she had carried with her a highly dangerous box, containing information that was really valuable, so valuable even that someone sent his men after her and she never even thought of opening it and now she finally got the chance to see what was inside, and she didn't take it.
Cloud nodded and put the box on the table next to him. He didn't say anything for a long time, his mind wandering through all of his memories with Zack and Aerith.
Finally, Tifa broke the silence.
"Cissnei, you look awful. Let me offer you a room where you can sleep and recover."
The night passed slowly while Cloud couldn't sleep. He lay in his bed for several hours before he gave up and went downstairs again. He walked behind the bar, and grabbed some of the strongest drinks there were. It was the first time in a long, long time that he drank alcohol to forget about the things around him, but he couldn't care less right now. He just had to forget. He didn't want to think about the red-haired girl upstairs, who had gotten a fever and of whom the doctor had said she would probably not make it. She had risked her life many times to reach Cloud, and now came the backfire. Cloud did not want to think about the brown box either, even though he had carried it around all afternoon and it was lying on his lap right now. He didn't want to think about the one who had written those letters or the one who had been supposed to receive them. He didn't want to think of anything that linked to the past. Hís past.
Cloud filled his glass and sipped the cool drink. It burned in his throat, and actually, it felt good. It made him feel warm again. After his third glass, his sight started to fail and the walls started to spin around him. Cloud laughed, although there was nothing funny about the situation. Actually, it was rather sad. That thought made Cloud laugh even harder. The irony was unmistakable: the most famous guy in town, who was honored by everyone because he was such a brave person, was now alone, laughing to himself and drinking away his problems in a dark pub at night. Cloud laughed again and nearly fell of his chair. When he sat up again, the complete misery of the situation suddenly came crushing down on him, and while there was still a hint of a smile on his face, he started to cry. Hot tears welled up in his eyes and ran down his cheek. He buried his face in his arms and laid his head on the table, his shoulders shaking, and sobs rising up his throat every now and then. Right there, at the bar, he fell asleep.
"Cloud, honey, wake up!" Tifa's gentle whisper sounded in Cloud's ear. Something hot stroke his forehead and it took a minute before he understood that it was the sun shining through the window. He lifted his head and looked at Tifa. Tifa's face was looking so sweet and gentle and understanding that it made Cloud feeling ashamed even more than when she had laughed at him for being so stupid.
"I'm sorry," Cloud said in a hoarse voice. He felt horrible and he knew he looked that way too.
"Don't be sorry, Cloud, I understand you completely," Tifa answered and kindly stroke his hair. That made Cloud feel even worse. He didn't need the compassionate Tifa to be worried about him, or to care for him when the turk upstairs actually needed her.
"It was stupid," he said.
"It was logical," Tifa said in a voice that meant that she had won the argument, and her tone suddenly turned severe, "and now get up and change, because you look like crap."
Cloud laughed. Tifa would always try to be the boss of him. Something that mostly worked.
Cloud dressed properly and wanted to go downstairs again to help Tifa clean up before the bar would open, but he couldn't help peeking into the spare room where the turk was now sleeping. Cissnei's face was pale and peaceful, and a little smile played around her full lips. Cloud wanted to walk away but for some reason, he stayed there, and he watched Cissnei. She was the only link to his former life. The only way to get more information about Aerith and Zack. It was unhealthy to think of them, he knew, but he just had to.
His headache was vanishing and suddenly he remembered his plan to help Tifa downstairs. He could not spend the entire day watching a girl he did not know! He backed out of the room and walked downstairs.
The rest of the day, he spent with doing jobs for Tifa. It seemed like she was just making up all sorts of useless jobs to give Cloud something to do, for most of the time he was busy with things as filling the empty whine bottles with water and then emptying them again. He didn't ask questions, though, and just did as Tifa told him. He was grateful for her help and her tries to make him feel better. And the best thing was, that she didn't ask him about the box, that was haunting him the entire day. The box lay on his bed, still unopened and very threatening. It was burning holes in his mind and in his heart and still he could not force himself to open it. One day, he kept telling himself, one day he was going to open it. When he was ready. Not now.
In the meantime, the red-haired turk was still unconscious and no one knew what to do about it. Tifa feared for her life, but didn't dare to get a doctor because turks were treated al around Edge with suspicion and hostility.
Two days passed and nor Tifa, nor Cloud told anyone about Cissnei. As if he knew that something was happening, Vincent Valentine stepped by for the first time in three months and stayed for the night. He knew that something weird was going on, but, to Cloud's and Tifa's joy, he did not ask about it. In stead, he played with Marlene to give Tifa and Cloud some space, and they loved him for it.
On the fourth day after her arrival, Cissnei's fever went down. Cloud was sitting next to her bed, a place where he had sat a lot in the last four days, and he suddenly saw her mouth trembling. Her lips parted slightly and muttered something that he couldn't understand.
"Tifa!" he called, "She waking up!"
Tifa came running up the stairs, a towel still in her hand, and she kneeled down beside the bed and felt Cissnei's forehead.
"She's getting better!" she said startled.
Cloud and Tifa looked at each other with genuine joy in their eyes. Tifa, because she was so kindhearted that she would look after everyone and Cloud because he wanted to be able to ask her things about Zack and Aerith. No, actually he didn't want to. Yes, he did. No. He just wanted that there was a possibility to ask someone about his past and the past of his dead friends, without really having to ask.
Cissnei opened her eyes slowly and looked around the room. Then she focused her eyes on Cloud.
"Did you…?" she asked silently.
"No," Cloud answered.
Cissnei closed her eyes again and fell asleep in a peaceful slumber.
That evening, Cloud was sitting at the bar, on his own, because Tifa was cleaning up upstairs. The bar was still closed. Cloud frowned. He couldn't get his mind of the box, that was still on his bandstand, picked up a thousand times but put down every time as well. What should he do?
Suddenly, he heard slow, heavy footsteps behind him. Vincent was coming towards him.
"You're having a hard time," Vincent said, while he leaned against the bar as if he actually didn't care, as if he was musing over something. Typical Vincent Valentine.
"I am," Cloud nodded.
"Does it have anything to do with the deceased turk in room 12?"
"You noticed, huh?" Cloud said and was extremely thankful that his mysterious friend wasn't the nosy type.
"How could I not notice? She brings a lot of commotion to the house."
"And to you."
"She's awake," Vincent said in his low voice, "and she's asking for you."
"You talked to her?" Cloud asked, stunned, "without us knowing?"
"I went to my room yesterday and I heard someone mutter 'Cloud', so decided to take a look."
"I don't know if I'm ready yet to talk to her," Cloud said silently. He looked at his hands as if he could find the solution there.
"I still think you should talk to her. She sounded really urgent. I don't know what is going on here, Cloud, but my intuition says that it is something important. You have to be careful."
"Thanks, Vincent," Cloud sighed, "I'll… see what I'll do. But I'll be careful."
"Good," Vincent concluded and without saying anything else, he walked away, leaving Cloud in doubt about what to do. Cloud eventually stood up and went outside, to take Fenrir for a ride and to deliver some packages.
When he came back, Tifa was waiting for him in the door opening, while Marlene was running around her legs in an attempt to get her attention. Tifa, however was way too worried about Cloud to think of Marlene at the moment so when Cloud finally showed up, she said: "Marlene, could you please go playing somewhere inside? I have to talk to Cloud."
"It's so not fair!" Marlene whined, "you always send me away! You never play with me anymore!"
Tifa raised an eyebrow, for she had played with Marlene all afternoon. Marlene knew so she turned around and walked into the house angrily. Oh dear. She was getting her adoptive father's temper. Tifa just couldn't wait until Marlene would get into puberty.
"You wanted to speak to me?" Cloud asked while he put away his bike. Motorcycling always gave his mind some peace, so he felt better now.
"Yes," Tifa hesitated, "I just spoke to Cissnei, and she's getting better."
"Oh, that's great," Cloud said, feeling very relieved, "is she up now?"
"Yes, and she wants to speak to you."
"Yes, Vincent told me so, too," Cloud sighed, hoping that people would just let him be for a moment.
"I think you should," Tifa added softly.
"Yes, Vincent told me that too," Cloud grumbled.
"Vincent is right," Tifa said and she smiled weakly, "deal with this is your own way, Cloud, and take your time with doing what you need to do to make yourself get out of this happily. It's just that… everything that has to do with you, you can figure out for yourself at you own time. But when what you do affects others…"
"Okay, okay!" Cloud said, "I'll talk to her immediately, if it makes you all feel better." He shoved Tifa out of the way and stormed into the bar with long, hasty steps, while mumbling unintelligible things.
When he reached room twelve, he hesitated before he entered. What should he say? What could he say? He couldn't possibly begin with: "hello, thanks for risking your life for five years to reach me, but I am really being a pussy and I'm having a hard time so I'd rather not speak to you. Good bye."
He sighed at his own weakness, because yes, he Vincent and Tifa were right, he was being a pussy. He sighed one more time and entered the room.
Cissnei lay with her head in the last sunlight of the day that came through the open window. She looked better than she had before. She smiled an unsure smile. Like Cloud, she didn't know what to say either.
"Hi," she said.
"Hey," he answered and he cleared his throat, "uhm. How are you feeling?"
"Better, thank you." They avoided each other's eyes until Cissnei decided that it was ridiculous to act this way.
"I think that Tifa will adopt me very soon," she said, with the hint of a smile on her face.
"Huh? What do you mean?" Cloud asked, finding Cissnei's words extremely strange.
"She's treating me as if she's my mother," Cissnei said, and couldn't help laughing at Cloud's stupid expression, "if I ever will be able to get away from here again, I'll be so spoiled that I won't know how to tie my own shoes anymore."
"She tends to do that to a lot of people, indeed," he said, "it's a miracle that I'm still so thin… Tifa fills me with food as if I'm constantly hungered."
"Wow, the word "ungrateful" is an understatement here," Tifa's voice sounded from behind them and Cloud looked around guiltily while Tifa scowled at him.
"What? No, I didn't mean-" Cloud tried to save himself.
Tifa merely laughed and then winked.
"I know, stupid!" she said, picked up some laundry from the floor and walked away.
Cloud cleared his throat again.
"So, where were we again?" he asked. Now their conversation had become so light, it was easier to say things.
"Oh, yes, there was something I wanted to ask you," Cloud said.
"What is it?" Cissnei answered.
"Well, when you came here, you said: 'so we meet again'. What did you mean by that? I'm really sorry, but I can't remember ever having seen you before."
"No, you are right," Cissnei said, "I have seen you before, but you were unconscious, and definitely not as grown up as you are now. You were in service of SOLDIER back then."
"Oh, right, you were a friend of… Zack's, so you must have seen me when I was nearly dead."
"You know," Cissnei said, "I even was the one who saved you and Zack from Hojo's lab. The turks were the ones who got you to safety. And eventually, we got the assignment to hunt you down again, and we tried. But Tseng and I cared for you guys, so when I eventually found you, I mislead the turks and pretended not to know where you were." She sounded proud.
"So I owe you a lot, then," Cloud sighed, "it's weird to find out that someone that you have never met before has done so many things to make you survive. Thank you, Cissnei."
"You are welcome, Cloud. You saved the world two times, after all, so everything I did was for the greater good."
Cloud merely nodded.
"I'm… going downstairs," he finally said, after they were both silent for a while.
"Okay, but Cloud?"
"Can I make a phone call? I really want to call Tseng, I haven't spoken to him in three years."
"Sure!" Cloud answered, "Tifa already sent him a letter, but I don't think that one has arrived yet." He handed her the phone and then left the room.
Cissnei slowly dialed the number that she remembered. She just hoped that Tseng hadn't changed his number. The phone rang several times, before someone picked it up.
"A good afternoon, Department of Administrative Research, Tseng speaking."
Cissnei was so startled for a moment, that she nearly hung up the phone again, but she was a good turk for a reason: she didn't let her emotions take control.
"Hello?" Tseng's voice sounded impatient.
"Tseng!" Cissnei said.
"Who am I speaking to?"
"It's Cissnei, Tseng. Cissnei."
"Yes. Remember me?" she added carefully.
"You are alive!"
"Thank God! What has happened! This is a miracle! We had already given up on hope! It's been three years! Dear GOD, Cissnei!"
"You didn't think I would back out before the end of a mission, now, would you?" Cissnei teased, having found her self-control again.
"I guess not," Tseng answered, "I guess I underestimated you, Cissnei. But I should have known: you are the youngest member of the turks for a reason. I'm just very glad, I can hardly believe it. Where are you? Are you safe?"
"I'm staying with ex-SOLDIERmember Cloud Strife and his friend Tifa Lockheart."
"Oh, that means you're in good hands. I'm glad about that. When can you come here, Cissnei? We'll send a helicopter!"
"Well, I'm hoping to come as soon as I can, of course!" Cissnei said, whose main character-flaw was her integrity. She had completely forgotten about her injured leg and her fever.
"Ahem," Tifa walked into the room, "I don't want to stick my nose into your business, Cissnei, but please do me the honor of giving me your phone."
Cissnei reluctantly handed Tifa her cell.
"Tseng? It's Tifa speaking."
"Oh, hello Tifa, how are you doing?"
"I'm doing great, Tseng, but unfortunately, your workaholic colleague isn't."
"What's wrong with her?" Tseng asked, genuinely concerned.
"She's got some serious injuries and she's suffering from a fever, dehydration, and exhaustion."
"So I'm afraid that she won't be able to come to you."
"I guess not," Tseng said and sighed, "well, make her rest as much as you can, Tifa, and I'll be there as soon as possible."
"Thank you, Tseng."
"What on earth has happened to her, exactly?" he asked.
"We are all dying to know, but I'm sure she'll tell us when she's ready. You'll hear more when you get here."
"Okay, thank you for your cares, Tifa. Bye."
Tseng hung up the phone, not waiting for Tifa's response.
"Try not to overdo it with the work, will you?" Tifa asked Cissnei, and looked up. She smiled, for Cissnei had already fallen asleep.
Tifa walked downstairs again and started to mop the bar. It seemed like lately, she had nothing more to do than cleaning up and cooking. Perhaps Cissnei and Cloud were right, she was turning into a housewife, and already at this age? Man, where had the fighting-always-kicking-ass-martial-artist gone? She had to make fun more.
"Hi Vincent," she said, when he walked in with a tired looking Denzel at his arm, "and hi, Denzel."
"Hi Tifa," Denzel said, but something about the way he was talking made him sound suspicious.
"What's wrong?" Tifa asked. Gee, she even responded as a mom now.
"I found this boy here, while he was trying to steal things from the market," Vincent said, "I saved him from getting angry people after him."
"Thank you, Vincent," Tifa said, "Denzel, why did you do this?"
"Everybody does! It's fun!" Denzel defended himself.
"Wow, good reason, Denzel. Go to your room," Tifa sighed, without sounding really severe.
"It's true, Tifa," Denzel said, "everything's boring. Nothing ever happens anymore!"
"I kind of like the peace," Tifa said, "war isn't nice, Denzel. Now go to your room."
"I am sorry, Tifa," Denzel said, before he left the room, "But I don't regret it."
"Sorry. I'm gone already."
"He turned fourteen last week and he is already acting as if he owns the world," Tifa sighed, "and I turned twenty-five and I'm already acting like a mother. What has become of me? Denzel is right: everything is boring, and it's turning us into boring people."
"I like the peace it brings," Vincent answered.
"Yeah, me too, but I'm not used to it, I guess."
"I think, Tifa, that this is the silence before the storm," Vincent said, and he turned around and looked out of the window.
"What do you mean, Vincent?"
"I have this feeling, Tifa, that something is about to happen. Something bad. And the feeling started when the turk arrived."
"That's why you stepped by," Tifa concluded.
"Yeah. But what will happen? I fear that it won't be boring for much longer, Tifa."
"That scares me," Tifa said, "if only Cloud knew how to handle his pain."
"He'll find a way," Vincent said, and walked out of the bar.
Cloud was sitting in Aerith's church, close to the water surface. He was holding the box of letters in his hand and he was looking into the water as if that would come up with a solution.
"Tell me, what should I do?" Cloud mumbled to himself. He thought of the first day that he had come here, that he fell out of the sky, right into the flowers. There he had met Aerith.
Would she have wanted him to open the box? The box with private letters to Zack?
Yes, she would. He knew. She wanted him to, because she wanted him to be happy, and she knew that Cloud became happy of everything that made him find out more things about her and Zack.
Yes. He knew what to do. He was going to dig up the past again, but this time, his mind would stay in the present. He wouldn't let down Tifa this time. He was strong enough now.
He got the tape of the box, and then lifted the lid. There was a huge pile of handwritten letters, all in a handwriting he knew. His assumptions had been right, they were Aerith's.
He carefully picked up the first letter, scared to find out what was in it, but also curious. His eyes ran over the page quickly and he found himself smiling.
It's me. How are you doing? Are you somewhere on a mission, trying to save the world? It sounds pretty heroic, but it makes me scared nonetheless. There is a lot of trouble out there and, even though you're strong, you don't always know what you are up against. Be careful, please?
I think you will like to hear that the flowers are selling really well! I'm making a lot of money, which I use to help the people rebuild their houses. I feel great, because I'm actually helping people.
I miss you, Zack, when will you drop out of the sky again?
I hope this letter will reach you.
Cloud smiled again. The sweetness was so overly Aerith. Still, he couldn't help feeling a bit jealous of Zack. Yes, Aerith and himself had never really had a relationship, but still he had really liked Aerith. Even though she had expressed a lot of interest in him, Cloud knew that she had always loved Zack, the way she had never loved him. He lay the letter aside and picked up another one.
I haven't written to you for like a week, so I guess it's about time! I never received anything back from you, so I think that saving the world takes a lot of time. Please find some time to write back to me.
Today, this blond boy walked up to me and bought one of my flowers. He seemed kind of nervous. It was really sweet, actually, for he probably bought it for his girl. Nobody has ever given me a flower to show me how much he cares for me. I would like one though.
Anyway, I'm going into town, so I'll write to you soon. I'll post this letter on the way.
I will see you soon, right?
Cloud's smile turned into an awed gaze when he read the part about the boy buying a flower. Could she mean him? It was odd, almost as if she was talking to him personally. He picked one letter after the other, all containing sweet information about Aerith's life, and her pleads for Zack to return to her.
…Remember your promise, Zack? I wanted to spend more time with you, and you agreed. Now, where are you?...
…You probably don't even get these letters anymore, but I just have to have hope! I must keep writing, although I don't even know where I have to send them to anymore…
…Zack, where are you?...
…Write back to me…
…I miss you… …Come back!... where are you… I need you…
Almost all the letters contained these little sentences, and Cloud admired Aerith's willpower. She never gave up on hope. She had always trusted that Zack would somehow receive these letters.
The more Cloud read, the more he found out about the way Aerith had lived in her last months. She was protected by the turcs, mainly by some he knew as well. He read Reno's name several times. Rude's, Elana's, even Tseng's name was there from page to page. Cloud couldn't help feeling a bit angry with Reno for knowing Aerith almost better than he had known her herself. For instance
I'm sitting here next to my flower field, wondering what to write to you. With me right now are Elana, Reno and Rude. Reno is still such an ungentlemanlike person. He annoys me a lot, because he tries to read what I'm writing to you and he is such a nosy person. Plus, his flirting is not working.
Ha, he read that too. Good. Now he's sulking in a corner.
It doesn't feel nice that they –the turks I mean- are watching my every step twenty-four hours a day. On the other hand, I really like (most of) them, so it isn't such a vexation. It just bothers me that I'm not capable of telling you everything I would like. They love secrecy and they don't respect mine…
The letter continued like that for a while, with complaining about the lack of privacy and things like that, but Cloud wasn't interested in that. She did that in almost all of her letters, complaining about not being able to express what she felt in her letters because people read it and all. But mostly, he was interested in Aerith playfully pretending not to like Reno, even though it was easy to see that she was really fond of him. She just thought he was rude. Without the capital R.
Cloud had read the first eight letters now, and he felt like a weight was pushing him down. Instead of feeling better, he felt worse than before. These letters were so obviously not meant for him, these words of fondness dedicated to someone else. This world, this life that Aerith was talking about, was not one where he belonged in. It was Zack's. Cloud felt like he was intruding in his personal stuff. He knew when he began reading that it was actually wrong to read the letters, because they were not officially his, but still he couldn't not read them.
He sighed, stood up and headed back to Seventh Heaven.
"I'm back," he screamed when he entered the house.
"Are you…okay?" Tifa asked, running towards him.
"As okay as I can be right now," Cloud answered and sent her a reassuring smile.
Vincent came running into the room, looking more upset than they had ever seen him before.
"Come quickly. Denzel is gone, and there is blood everywhere..."
Hey, this was the end to part one. More will come! Please review, it makes me more eager to write more.
thank you all for reading and I hope you have enjoyed it.