A/N: Chapter 5. Clerith, mostly. Faint Cloti if you dig on it, but it's mostly friendship. Oh, and Zerith if you dig on it too.
Title: Buster Sword
Yoshiyuki firmly in his left hand and the buster sword in his right, Cloud extended his arms in front of him, looking at both swords.
The pale moonlight made the smooth blade of the katana shine brightly, making the steel look like silver.
The dirt on the broadsword made it look darker than usual, making it look almost black in the night.
As he tested the weights and sharpness of both swords, he heard some steps behind him. Without stopping, Cloud listened carefully. The footsteps were too light to be a man, but too heavy to be a child. Too slow to be Yuffie. He kept listening until a soft tinkling gave him the last clue.
"Shouldn't you be sleeping?" The blond said without turning around.
"Shouldn't you be sleeping?" Aerith replied with a teasing tone. Staying at a safe distance, the flower girl finally asked. "What are you doing?"
After one more swing, Cloud stopped and drove the buster sword into the ground, making it stay upright and took the katana in both hands. "It will be difficult to move fast while carrying two swords at the same time." He made a familiar swinging motion, testing how the change in weight felt.
The girl stiffened. "You're... I- I thought the buster sword was powerful enough."
Cloud kept doing his testing, not looking at her. "The monsters are getting tougher as we get closer to Sephiroth. Everyone has found a better weapon already, even you got a new one at Gongaga."
Aerith approached the sword stuck in the ground, placing a hand on it and nodded. It was true that they needed better equipment, but still... "We could just try to apply a 'mini' spell on the sword. That way you could still carry it."
"It would be better to just sell it." The girl's eyes widened at the blue-eyed man's comment. "We could use the money to get a bigger tent and buy more supplies." The man kept suggesting, not noticing the shocked look on the girl's emerald eyes. "It would be nice to not have to worry about the gil for some time. We all could use a decent meal instead of rations for once."
A few more slashes, and Cloud put aside the Yoshiyuki and approached the buster sword. "I guess we can't complain about the food though. Thanks to Tifa we've been able to eat decently so far." The girl nodded and lowered her face. As Cloud grabbed the hilt of the sword, Aerith grabbed onto it more tightly. He looked at her, but she kept her face lowered.
"I don't mind a small tent. And Tifa is a great cook, even if it's rations, they are still tasty." The flower girl said, her ripped dress and her hair swayed gently around her.
Cloud let out a small chuckle. "I'm sure you'll want to buy a new dress soon."
She grabbed onto the sword and didn't let go. "It's okay, it's not too ripped." Aerith replied, shaking her head even as the cold night air was making her shiver. "No one has been able to buy new clothes, and if Tifa can handle the cold I should be able too." She finished with a small chuckle.
Cloud turned around, grabbing the dark sheet that covered Yoshiyuki and offered it to Aerith. When she just stared at it, not knowing what he meant with the gesture, he approached her, wrapping the fabric over her shoulders and covering her as much as possible. "Tifa is tough. She can handle almost anything by herself." He said while adjusting the fabric. "You shouldn't be comparing yourself to her."
"You're saying that I'm not tough, hmm?" She replied with a teasing smirk, still thankful for the improvised cape that was currently keeping her warm.
Cloud shook his head. "You can rely on me to take care of you." He said before picking up the buster sword, the girl's hands finally letting go of the sword, and he sat on the ground.
Aerith looked at him, shocked by the blond's words. No playful tone, no smile, just pure honesty. He took a rag from one of his pockets and rubbed it fiercely along the blade of the sword, cleaning most of the dirt and dried blood from it. Of course, if he wanted to get some money from it, he would have to give it a tune up.
The flower girl stood by Cloud's side as he worked, watching as the sword gradually returned to its former, bright and impressive state, the one she remembered too well.
"Don't sell it." Aerith pleaded as tears formed in her eyes. The blond's head rose to look at her while she kneeled on the ground at his side, placing a hand on the now smooth blade. "If we need money I'll think of something, but please, don't sell the sword."
The simple thought of someone else but Cloud carrying the buster sword made her feel sick. It was too important, too personal to let anyone else touch it.
"I won't." Cloud answered simply, putting an arm around her and drawing the girl towards him, embracing her when the first and only tear escaped her eyes. "... I won't." He reassured her, keeping his embrace gentle, the buster sword between them.
The next day, as everyone gathered outside the inn, Cloud instructed the party to gather the things they wouldn't need for the moment. As everyone gave him the armlets, accessories and protectors they didn't have stored, Aerith took her Fairy Tale and tried to use the mini spell.
Everyone watched in awe how all the equipment shrank enough to fit in one single backpack.
"It worked!" Aerith claimed, happy that once again she had been able to help.
Tifa grabbed the backpack and tested the weigh. "It's not too heavy. I can carry it alongside my own, no problem." She stated with a smile after praising Aerith for her idea. Cloud was about to protest when the green-eyed girl's voice beat him to.
"Can I carry it?" Everyone turned to the flower girl, the unexpected comment making them stare at her. "Tifa is already carrying my things in her backpack, and she's still recovering from-"
Before she could finish explaining herself, Cloud took the bag from Tifa and threw it over his shoulder, not leaving room for anyone to argue. "I'll carry it." And with that, the group split up again, searching for a way to cross the ocean so they could continue moving north. The buster sword remained on Cloud's back, even if now it was minimized and in a backpack.
As Cloud, Aerith, and Tifa started to move again, the black-haired girl looked at the blond's back and froze. "... Cloud?" She called with a small voice. He turned around, eyes locked on hers. "Where's your sword?"
"I got this one yesterday from a villager. The buster sword is in the backpack now. Something wrong?" He asked, curious upon Tifa's question. Of course he guessed she was used to seeing him with the massive sword, but he had been changing his other battle items and she never commented upon them.
She shook her head. "... No, nothing." As she looked at the large katana again, a sick feeling ran through her. Visions of long silver hair replaced blond spikes and she shuddered again.
Aerith and Cloud approached her, worried by her strange behaviour. "Maybe you should stay in bed, you're still too pale." The green-eyed girl told her friend.
"I'm fine..." Tifa waved a hand in dismissal. "I can handle myself, don't worry." She assured her companions when Aerith frowned. "I just... didn't know you could wield a katana." Tifa told to her childhood friend.
Cloud nodded. "I tried it last night and I can use it like the buster sword. I just have to take into consideration the lighter weight and quicker swing speed."
The red-eyed girl nodded and started to walk. "So where do we go now? We still have to find a boat or something if we want to cross the ocean."
As they looked around, they spotted what seemed to be a small plane in a backyard of one of the houses in the town.
"There's a Shinra logo on it. Tiny Bronco... This is cool." Cloud commented as he approached the fence around the plane.
"Um... may I help you?" A woman dressed in a white coat appeared from the house. "...If you would like to use it, please ask the Captain. He should be in the Rocket." After presenting herself as Shera and telling them about the Space Program and Rufus' imminent visit, the team decided that their best shot was to go meet this all too famous Captain and try to convince him to let them borrow the plane. Or take it anyway if he didn't cooperate.
The higher they climbed up the rocket, the more the faint smell of rust and smoke filled Cloud's nostrils.
"What're you guys doin' here?" A gruff voice called from inside the rocket. As Cloud walked through the rocket's entrance, a man with blond, almost grey, hair and with a cigarette in his mouth stared at him.
"We heard the Captain was here." Cloud answered.
"Captain? I'm the Captain!" The man proudly claimed. "The name's Cid. Everyone calls me, 'Captain,' though." The man let out a puff from his smoke. "What d'ya want?"
A/N: Never, EVER again am I gonna say anything about Cid. In the two stories I've made him appear, in both he appears late. That man's punctuality is horrible.