Why is living so hard?
Is it because I'm useless?
Is it because I am a failure?
Does everyone know that I failed?
I want it to end!
I don't want to be a failure anymore.
In the end...
In the end I am his for Eternity.
Crowds of people filling the hall way, I try and squeeze my way to the front so I can get a better look at what has everyone's attention. This is the one advantage to being small! I can squeeze between my fellows and get to the front of crowds. I reach the front and suddenly hear a snicker from beside me, as I step forward someone trips me. I fall. I end up sprawled on my face on the tiled floor feeling my face grow hot as everyone begins to laugh. Then silence. I open my eyes after having them squeezed shut and find myself staring at a pair of heavy black boots, my eyes travel upward to see a long leather coat and bare beautifully muscled chest. My heart stops. My humiliation is at its height. I know my face must be bright red because it feels like it's on fire. Oh god! Why did he have to see me this way? Why did it have to HIM of all people! I cringe slightly and push myself up onto all fours too afraid to look into his face. Those amazing blue/green eyes that seem to steal the breath from you. I can't look! I'm so embarrassed! I lower my head. "I...I...I'm sorry! I'm sorry sir!" My voice wavers slightly and I open my eyes to see a black gloved hand reaching out. I stare at it. Is this real? My own automatically takes his hand and I am dragged to my feet, I stare up into his face unwillingly as his gloved hand catches my jaw forcing me to meet his eyes. Long, waist length silver hair surrounds a pale face. A tiny smile lifts the corners of his lips. I think I'm gaping. I can't help it. This man is everything I want to be. This man is why I wanted to join SOLDIER in the first place.
"You seem alright." He says in a deep voice.
"Oy! You! Cadet! Get out of his way!"
I feel someone grab my arm and pull me away; I'm too stunned to react. He spoke to me! His presence is inhuman! The grip tightens on my arm so it's painful. I can't look away from those eyes. Sephiroth the hero. The man everyone wants to be! I watch as he glares at the man holding my arm then turns his eyes back to me. "You, boy. What's your name?"
I open my mouth. Why can't I talk? Why am I so tongue tied? Finally I manage to say my name. "Cloud, sir. Cloud Strife." I suddenly remember to salute and do so turning my eyes away from him to stare into the wall opposite. This means some kind of disciplinary action...for falling at the feet of Sephiroth and speaking to him so casually! They're never going to forgive something like this.
"How old are you?"
I swallow trying to hide my nerves. "Six...sixteen...sir!"
I hear him chuckle, a sound that sends uncontrollable shivers through my body. Everyone is silent watching this exchange with wide, jealous eyes. I really will be in trouble.
"You are very interesting boy...I'll remember you." I feel his coat brush past me as he walks away. After he passes on I gasp and grab the wall for support. Why did I act so stupidly? I put my hand to my face and groan. He spoke to me! My hero spoke to me! He said that he would remember me! I feel almost giddy in my happiness.
I turn to see my junior officer glaring at me, he had been the one to grab me. "Yes sir." I say with a salute, everyone slowly begins to drift away with mutters and angry glances aimed my way. I inwardly sigh; the next few weeks will be harder than normal.
"What the hell was that?"
"You! What were you doing falling flat on your face in front of the general? Are you insane? Do you know what this is going to do to our squad?"
I say nothing. He was being rhetorical anyway.
"You will be punished for your insubordination! Thirty laps around the base at sunset! No dinner! Meet me outside barracks nine at 1900 hours! Understand?"
I turn away and walk off down the corridor. As I walk I hear mutters as others talk about my humiliation behind their hands. I lower my head. Suddenly a hand grabs me and throws me into the wall pinning me so my feet hover above the floor. I look down into one of my fellow trainees eyes. He smiles nastily. "Oy, lookie what we got here! It's Cloud, the boy who thinks he's special just coz he got helped up by the general!"
I stare at him. What can I say? I know he's going to beat me up. It happens more often each week. Pointless fighting back, I'll just be disciplined again. A recruit cannot complain! One of the first rules we learn. A fist connects with my face making me cry out, it happened too quickly! I wasn't expecting it. I fall to my knees as the other boy releases me, a boot connects with my ribs making me double over until he grabs a handful of my hair and lifts my face up to his. "Don't get cocky, Strife! Just because Sephiroth paid you special attention! You are still nothing more than a failure! You'll never amount to anything!"
I groan slightly squeezing my eyes shut against the throbbing pain. My head is slammed into the floor making my vision waver. Then I'm pushed back into the wall. Just as the boy raises his fist again there's a shout.
"Oy! You, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
I open my eyes to see someone step up behind my tormentor and throw him off. I fall sideways clutching my side. Someone reaches out to me and look up into a kind, smiling face. "Hey, you ok?"
I nod and pull myself to my feet ignoring the proffered hand. I look at my helper. Black hair surrounds a happy face with a big grin, his ear's are pierced and his uniform, his uniform tells me he's a second class SOLDIER. I try to raise my hand in salute but it hurts.
"Don't worry about that! I'm your superior but to be honest rank doesn't mean all that much to me." He laughs and puts his hand behind his head. "What's your name kid?"
"Cloud...Cloud Strife sir."
"Hmmm? Interesting name. I'm Zack, nice to meet ya!" He sticks out his hand and I shake it. "Come with me and we'll get you fixed up in no time!"
I follow with a nod. He takes me to the barracks and sits me on his bed, he kneels down and digs underneath it brining out a box with a red cross on it. He opens it revealing bandages, plasters and other medication. "Here, let me take a look..."
I wince as his hands inspect the bruises on my face. "Come on! Don't be a baby Cloud. They're not too bad...you got off lightly." He covered a cut with a plaster and then stood. "Take your top off."
I look up at him with wide eyes. "What?"
"I'm not a pervert! Just let me take a look at your ribs...you may've cracked some."
"Oh...ok." I lift my top over my head and look down as Zack knelt again inspecting the faint bruise. "AH!" I wince and move away.
"Get a grip!" he muttered with a frown. "Yup, you've cracked a rib. That guy must've kicked you pretty hard. What was that all about anyway?"
I sigh and hang my head. "They do it all the time." I mutter. "It's nothing...I'm already used to it."
"Wow...why don't you fight back?"
"Because I'd just be disciplined. It's not worth the hassle..." Also...I'm too weak. I keep my thoughts to myself.
Zack shook his head and sat down beside me. "You know...I know you fell over in front of Sephiroth."
I stared at the floor. My face heating up at the mere memory of it. "I...was tripped."
Zack smiled. "Well, I'm sure he didn't mind. Having a pretty thing like you fall at his feet...hey, I'm sure he's used to it."
I put a hand over my face. "Shut up." I mutter.
I hear him chuckle. "You need to lighten up a bit. I mean, so what you made a bit of a fool of yourself? Everyone'll forget in a few days, stop worrying yourself over it."
I feel his hand in my hair as he ruffles it as if I was a child. I push him away angrily. "I'm fine now...Thank you for helping me back there." I stand and grab my shirt slipping it over my head. As I go to leave I feel Zack's hand on my arm.
"Hey, you owe me for this...kay? How about we be friends?"
"Friends?" I turned to see him grinning. I had no friends...at least not at the academy.
"Yeh, why not? You look kinda lonely."
I look away. "Yeh...alright." I mutter.
"Cool! You had dinner yet? I could go for some food about now..."
I shake my head, "I've gotta run laps...sorry."
"Oh...ok. Well, how about tomorrow?"
"Sure..." I feel a small shy smile on my face. I'm not very good with people...I stutter and make a fool of myself most of the time so I tend to stay away from them. But Zack was different...he was kind.
"Meet you in the canteen then...1600?"
I nod my smile widening. Suddenly his face is inches from mine I take a step back and nearly fall over again but his hand grabs my wrist. "Wow...you should smile more often kid. You're face looks better with a smile."
I stare at him. He was really strange. I hear a bell go and he releases me. "Oh...It's time for dinner...you had better run along. Your junior officer might give you more laps if you're late."
I nod quickly and turn to the doors, after a brief pause I turn back. "Thanks...Zack." I say and walk away.
Standing out in the chill evening air I hold back my shivers, I'll warm up soon when I start running. My officer walks back and forth before me giving a long winded lecture that I'm only half listening to. I can see the other cadets sat on benches watching my punishment and laughing. Bastards. Don't they have anything better to do? Suddenly the man before me shouts, I stand upright and stare ahead of myself with my arms beside me.
"Thirty laps around the whole barracks. Go!"
I run, starting off at a slow pace ignoring the jeers from the spectators. The distance was large and I didn't want to expend energy needlessly. I keep my breathing as steady as I can as I turn a corner. Slowly I count down the laps, my limbs are burning by now, my stomach grumbles. I feel my energy levels deplete rapidly and before I know it I'm gasping for air. I stumble slightly and wince at the stitch in my side. I have to keep going. Only fifteen more to go. Keep running. Keep going. Don't let them know how weak you are. One leg in front of the other. Concentrate on your breathing. Only ten more. Five more...I fall to my knees. I can't go on. I haven't eaten all evening. Gasping desperately I try to stand but only fall sideways into the building next to me. I grab my side. It hurts so much. I can't do it! My other hand goes to my face and I begin to sob. I can't help it...this weakness...I'm useless. I'm a failure. I slide to the floor still clutching my side and crying like a girl. Why do I put myself through this? Why did I sign up?
I stifle my crying. I made a promise. I would become a first class soldier for her sake...i needed to become strong so I could protect her. I wipe my face and hear footsteps. I try to climb to my feet but I just can't. I can barely move. So I fall back and lie still gasping desperately. A shadow falls across me. I look up into a pair of glowing eyes. If I had the energy I would have been on my feet and saluting but I can't move. My body hurts. My heart hurts. My soul hurts.
Failure. Failure. Failure. Failure.
"Well, well...if it isn't Cloud Strife." Sephiroth folds his arms across his chest and smiles slightly. "Why is it you are always on the floor when we meet?"
I can't reply.
"No matter...you look as if you could use some help." He crouches and lifts me to my feet, I collapse against him without meaning to. He holds me up. I feel his heart beat and try to pull away suddenly terrified. "What's all this for? I'm only helping you...I will tell your officer that you've had enough. My orders are absolute."
I nod with a small sigh. "Th...Thank...you sir." I mutter.
He helps me out to the training yard where my officer is staring down at a stop watch with a frown. The wind blows and I shiver slightly, the sweat from my run drying and taking the heat with it. Sephiroth walks over to the man who looks up with startled eyes before saluting. "This boy has been injured and you are making him run?"
"Sir, he was being punished for insubordination, sir!"
"Ridiculous. You call tripping over someone's feet insubordination? You're the one who should be punished." I lean heavily against Sephiroth trying not to throw up, too much exercise and not enough to eat. "You'll let the boy off now, he has had enough punishment. Now, go back to your duties."
"Sir, yes sir!" He saluted again and stalked off.
"Where is your barracks?" Sephiroth asks as he helps me sit on a bench. My head falls back and my hand tightens on my side.
"...twenty..." I whisper after a moment.
"Let's get someone to take you back." He stands and waves someone over. "Take him to barracks twenty...and get him some medical help." He orders.
I can't help but stare. Why was he helping me? I was just some useless cadet with no connections from a poor country family. Why was General Sephiroth helping me? He is so tall and seems so distant, my mind shrinks from him when I think of all that he's achieved. I worship him! He's so strong! So...impressive. His strength is unrivalled. His sword Murasame can only be wielded by him. He is god like. Intense. So very intense. I can't breathe when he's this close. Sephiroth...the one and only. First class SOLDIER; the best of the best. I will never reach him! How can I ever think I'd be good enough to stand with him? Arrogance. I am just...