Parallel World: Of Dreams, Of Wings

~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~

"We really appreciate what you've been doing to this town."

Outside of Midgar was a small quiet town of comfortable living in blue-tiled roof warm houses with joyful residents who walked at a more lax pace, the tranquil Kalm. Lately, it has been undergoing reconstruction to mitigate the damage from the previous hurricane. Our dynamic duo eventually was hired to aid in the said reform. Zack however, was at the moment inside one of the more fortunate homes, chipped roof as the only loss, where he was casually speaking with its resident, more as a friend rather than as a guest. The man had such rich combed brown hair with facial hair running from the sideburns to the beard at the edges of his chin. A white polo-shirt, grey vest, tan pants and leather shoes, he had such a refine taste for house clothes. He had that professional aura that the only thing missing was a suit which normally he would be wearing but not right now. He wasn't at work now, he was at home, he was a father.

"No problem. It's not like we're doing this for free though, we're still getting paid." Zack felt a little guilty about it and a bit so embarrassed as he unconsciously began rubbing the back of his neck.

"Well, it's still cheap labor." The man took his seat across him.

"We gotta learn when to give discounts too, right?" Zack joked which earned him a hearty chuckle, he too smiled at this. "So enjoying your vacation, Sir Verdot?"

"Please," His smile lowered a twitch but the elatedness was still there, "call me Veld. I'm off duty." Calloused fingers extended to reach for the cup of steaming coffee on the table, he sipped. "I've spent most of the time at home, my wife plans to keep me under house arrest just so I don't wander off." His face softened ever so slightly at the affectionate action. "It's really endearing I assure you."

"Can't really blame her, you're always off on missions." Zack good manneredly joked, "Makes me wonder why she didn't just go on and put you in a leash."

"You're one to talk, Zack, the puppy." There was a hint of a smirk with the address.

"H-Hey!" Zack's eyes were threatening to bulge out and fall when he sputtered at the nickname. "How d'you know that?" More importantly, who else knows about it?

"Information never escapes the Department of Administrative Research." Not even the most trivial of them. Veld went to take a rather lengthy sip, his chuckle inaudible.

"You mean everyone knew? Oh man! Talk about a bad reputation." His shoulders slumped dramatically and his palm slapped his forehead in shame. That did more for a migraine and little to ease his discomfort. "How can I ever talk to them now?"

"By using your mouth like what you're doing right now." Zack glared at him but it was weak. He was still in despair over the revelation. Veld was nonchalant to his dilemma; he thought he was just overthinking the situation. "I don't think it would change anything, they're just calling you out loud what everyone already knows."

"Great, now the whole Gaia is against me. The least Angeal could've done was give me a cooler animal like an eagle or like a bull, no wait, maybe not bull they might cuss me if paired with the right word. How about a wolf? Or a-"

"Or a puppy."

"Not helping, man."

"In any case, lunch would be served in an hour or so. Would you and Cloud care to join us?"

"Rain check on that." The offer was tempting, he was pretty starved from earlier but he had other things to do, more life or death consequences. He thought of the most rational way of breaking it down to him without sounding sceptical. "Me and Cloud are gonna chow down at a friend of ours. He's going to be really pissed if we didn't come and I just want to live another day without target practice." Zack mentally shivered. Last time he was almost close to being a kebob, too close.

"I see then would you call Cloud and my daughter as well. There's a good chance that Felicia would be with him. If I'm staying here I might as well help preparing in the kitchen." He stood, an empty cup in one hand, and then strode to the said part of the house where a delightful aroma wandered about. The smell was probably good enough to eat as Zack's stomach lurched in hunger. No, must not give in. He had to be constantly on the move if he wanted to postpone the thought of food.

"Got it. Be back in a sprint, chief!" Zack saluted the air and took off as well.

Such a beautiful weather, not a cloud in the sky, not too warm just warm enough to get by, not a gust of wind to make construction materials fly, absolutely perfect weather. So far the restoration was booming and everyone was doing his best to help around town. Cloud sighed dejectedly. Everyone but him. The young man was seated at the rim of the fountain to rest for a bit, not too far from him were the giggles and squeals of playing kids. Not too long ago he was playing with them as well. Zack had left him again. And every time he does, the bright and spirited children of Kalm would suddenly crowd to him. He couldn't say no to them even if he wanted to. What was it with kids and their fascination of him? Subconsciously, his hand went to his golden hair. That must be it. He sighed again. He gets just as much pay as Zack does but doesn't do as much, he felt so useless. They were just wasting money on him. Before he could get into any more depressing thoughts a hand went and slapped him on his back.

"Hey! Guess what, you know the scary supervisor, Verdot? He invited us to lunch at his place. But I said no, since we're going to someplace else. Man, you stick out like a sore thumb with that head. I was planning on walking around until I see it but then I got some intel that helped me cut the time." Zack spoke like a kid, saying everything he knew at once without much sentence parallelism.

"One at a time Zack." It's only been his second day in this surreal world but he felt like he's always been here; it's just that the memories were only catching up to him. Although there were information that he was sure were new like Verdot being the leader of the Turks. He doesn't remember ever meeting the man before but the familiarity was still there. It was weird; he seems to always have that feeling here but he was getting used to it. He processed the bulk of information Zack had just bluntly dropped. First things first, "You what? Zack, where are supposed to eat?"

"You forgot already?" He gave him a look of utter disbelief. "Good thing I remembered or else we'll be skinned if we miss out on it."

"Miss what exactly?" True, he had been catching up here but he couldn't recall the most recent of events especially not a thing about whatever Zack accused him he failed to remember. Really, he wished he could tell him that the problem wasn't him and forgetting, it was just that he didn't even know in the first place.

"Ain't telling." Zack chided. "You'll have to think about it until we get there. That's your punishment."

"But I didn't even do anything!"

"No buts!"

"So," There's no talking in Zack with this argument so he supposed to move on to the next. "How did you find me?"

"Oh, that!" His palm cupped with his closed fist like in any eureka moment. "I asked around. Said there were free chocobo rides by the fountain." He grinned toothily.

"Zack," Cloud growled. The planet must be against him and his head of spiky yellow hair. It seems that even in this world he couldn't escape some realities. Seriously though, the chocobo jokes were getting lamer in the long run.

"Sorry Spike, not until gravity gets to them you'll be hearing more of the stuff." He ruffled his messy hair with a smile. Then he turned around and yelled at the group of running children. "Felicia! Time to go home!"

"Felicia's a lame name." Immediately he was pounced on by a very young girl with burgundy short tresses dressed in green wanderer's clothes with a makeshift cape. She just returned from a dangerous journey, taking out an army of 100 men singlehandedly assiduously, to save the planet or so she claimed to have. She huffed, crossed her arms then tiptoed in an attempt to look taller even though that wouldn't ever happen. "I am Elfe, leader of the legendary group, AVALANCHE."

"Whatever you say, kiddo." Zack winked. "Now hop onto the friendly neighbourhood chocobo." Cloud just groaned at his comment but nevertheless went on one knee.

"We've received info of a feast in your name at your quarters, commander." Cloud assumed his role immediately. The moment he got to know her he knew the girl was special. A part may be because she keeps talking about the title of their rogue group when it seemingly didn't exist here. He wondered what role she played in his world left behind. "What are your orders?"

"Umm, take me there at once." She went on his back while Cloud adjusted to secure her more. The girl reminded him a bit of himself. She was courageous and maybe a bit loud at declaring her leadership but soft-spoken when giving out commands. Strong but also shy.

"Roger."

"No fair! How come Elfy gets to ride on him again?"

"Yeah! I want a ride on Mr. Chocobo too!"

The other kids surrounded them. Cloud looked like he was about to wallow up in despair at the nickname. Zack on the other hand, was doing his best to keep his calm composure and not let his laughter burst. Felicia just stuck her tongue out at them at their loss. They started to gang up, each complaining about something but all summarily wanting a turn with Cloud who was deadpanned at the situation. A squabble was bound to break out.

"Now now, you'll all get your turns next time but right now Elfie has a strict protocol of getting home early." Zack tried to sound as convincing as he can with two raised hands trying to calm the bunch of fuming children. It took a few more words and a well-kept grin but eventually they ran out of air much to Zack's relief and to Felicia's victory.

There was a collective groan from the youth that Zack couldn't help but smile. Cloud may not notice it but he was actually very good with children. For someone who didn't have the best of childhoods and didn't get along with the kids when he was at the age, he knew how to handle the bouncing balls of energy easily. It came natural to him. As they were walking on their way back, the air was filled with sounds; brash hammering of nails, strident sawing of wood, and the indigenous humming of Felicia's allegedly own theme song. The three of them were grinning, with the exception of Cloud, he fidgeted a little when he confessed to Zack that he felt he wasn't being much of a help around town while being with the children and pointed out that Zack did all the actual work which wasn't right. Zack chuckled, Cloud was unaware of the wonders he does. Making those kids smile while their parents were toiling at work was the most help any adult could ever ask. Cloud had a gift. Too bad he was too dense to realize it. Cloud was as dense as a cloud.

~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~

"We're lost."

This was the general assumption of Cloud as they swept through the grasslands, an earthy whiff breathing gently at them, able shoots tailing in an afterimage, low humming of mechanized engines coaxing the tranquillity. The tedious travels were boring aside from the usual puddles from time to time but they were generally peaceful, something that Cloud endeared very much as it was scarce in reality. Here, it was always like that, there were no worries, no dangers and no monsters. It made everything all the bit better although it made him wonder what did become of them. Just sauntering the lands and actually being able to admire the majestic scenery without the usual nit and grit of creatures scrumming for an opening to take a bite off you was soothing to the worn body and equally to the restless soul. Right, swords were uncalled for here wherever or whatever this world is. But on more important matters, they were lost. As they passed a hill of the greenest pasture, Cloud remembered this route with an artist's details. It would run across a humble creek, over the said hill, into the raucous prairies, exploring more of the land, further and further, until finally, it touches a dead-end. The crossed-branch tree was another landmark which proved his suspicion. They were definitely on the wrong path but his partner looked like he knew where they were going just as fine. Just where was Zack taking him? And to whom would they have an appointment with in Mideel?

Something sharper, sweeter, filled his senses and then suddenly his eyes were feasting on a sight that seemed to be picked out of books of lore. He had found a foreign land in a local continent. There was a village which he couldn't remember to come across with. Cloud skirted faster, eager like a child, his eyes fixated at it in awestruck. Immediately he got off the bike and ran straight for the welcoming orchard. Upon closer inspection, his sky-blue orbs sparkled with curiosity and fascination. It was a pathway yes, an orchard yes, of trees? His head turned to follow the other end of its roots which was in fact a branch over his head. It was an orchard of trees, white trees, a bizarre pathway of arched pale trees dotted with purple fruits. Looking up, he couldn't see the sky clearly but it was just as beautiful.

"Oh yeah, you've never been to Banora, right Cloud? Well, guess there's always a first for everything. Today's one of those days." Zack was heard from behind. Banora? It felt like he'd heard of it before long ago, before the menacing pools of green, before the burning of his home and his chest, before when he was a follower at best. Its familiarity was clawing at the back of his mind, grippingly but not painfully.

"What are they called?" Cloud stared at one of its fruits, careful not to touch it for fear it would crumble or taint at his contact.

"Dumbapples." Zack crossed his arms with a smug look, proud to be well-informed in the matter.

"You're messing with me, aren't you?" He gawked at him incredulously at the notion. How could something so remarkable be named something so stupidly?

"Nope. People here call them dumbapples 'cause they're just wonders that do wonders. That and they just randomly bear fruit."

"So they really are called dumbapples?"

"Well, yeah, sorta. Well, on paper they're called Banora White." Cloud nodded, thankful for the actual useful information. Banora White. It fit them well, they were overall a light shade of purple but it had a glorious crown of white at the bottom. After a few musings he wondered if they were edible at all. As if reading him like a book, Zack picked a random apple and tossed it at him. "Here!"

"Is it okay to pick them?" He cradled the fruit with two hands, still uncertain of what to do.

"Sure it is! Try it." Zack urged him on with a thumbs-up to which Cloud promptly did by taking the feeblest bite.

"It tastes good." No, it was better. It was unlike any apple he had ever eaten. The crunch sounded different albeit the texture was the same but the taste was ultimately disparate. It had an enigmatic flavour, sweeter as you chew, and the aftertaste was indescribable. Cloud began ravishing it like he would an apple but savour it just like a Banora White should be.

"Yup, plus it fits in the diet. Just check the table on the cans."

"Cans?"

"Canned juice version of that." Zack scratched his head while trying to come up with a better way to talk his clearly fascinated friend out of the pathway and actually into the village. He was like this his first time too so he didn't hold anything against Cloud, it's just that he didn't want to be late for lunch. He sighed. "Look, I'd love to stay here and chat about some dumbapples or you could go get your answers straight from the guy."

"Umm, sure." Cloud said with lesser confidence. He realized how childish he must have looked and how much of Zack's time he was wasting. His posture straightened but he might have as well curled a little deeper into his shell of timidity.

"Which one, me or the guy?"

"…"

"O-kay, wrong choice of words!" Zack made the most incoherent face at the epiphany of his mistake. Unscathed, he dragged his still in awkward stupor friend into the town. They would never speak of this again. Ever. "C'mon Spike, I'm starving!"

They went straight to the other end of the village, passing by a few quaint but warm houses of wood and hospitality. It was there that Cloud encountered a colossal tree that could have been a gate, it bowed dramatically until it kissed the rich soil, welcoming them in seeming respect.

"Ah, right. This here's the biggest tree in the place. Best dumbapples too." Zack said nonchalantly as they went under it and walked until into the doors of a rather larger abode. Zack kept looking forward while Cloud couldn't keep his eyes off the royal pastel tree even as the door slammed shut behind them, its wonderful fruits of divine lavender still lingered.

The cottage of a home was just like what Cloud had imagined it to be inside, just like any other cosy house albeit it was more spacious. There was currently no one in the living room but it wasn't deserted. The feeling of company dawdled and at the back of his mind, something was nagging him. It bordered that of vigilance and nostalgia. Just who lives here? Meanwhile, Zack tersely headed for another doorway from which the faintest scent of food blew. Driven by hunger, Cloud had decided to engage the premise as well with fast and light strides. It was a bit steamy at first but with a swift wave of a hand, the fog was lifted.

"It seems that we have lured a tramp." One of them remarked as he added the seasonings for the dishes. Soft short golden brown hair partially covered the right side of his face and flew at the tips, he had quite the charm and attitude that was equivalent of that of a smug smirk. Cloud remembered him, he was once a legend. He also recalled the orders given to him back then. Genesis Rhapsodos, a skilled and affluent warrior. He wasn't wearing the red leather now; rather he sported a red windbreaker with the sleeves rolled up and a black undershirt. Meeting him under this circumstance left Cloud overwhelmed like actually seeing a celebrity for the first time without the glass. "Which property shall you destroy this time?"

"Sorry 'bout that. Got a little carried away." Zack clapped his hands and tilted his head in a weak apology.

"He never did pay attention on how to control his strength. Zero attention span, as restless as a puppy." The second who spoke was on the slice and mince duty. He had ebony slick hair but whiter than Zack's with trimmed sharp sideburns and a bang on each side of his virile face. On him was a white long-sleeve unbuttoned henley shirt. He fared better in the culinary with his swift and precise cuts, working at a faster pace than the other two. Cloud recognised him vicariously from Zack. Angeal Hewley, Zack's mentor. He was the one who carved Zack, he was a respected elite with morals. Cloud couldn't help but straighten his posture a little, something he used to do as an infantryman. He had finally met the man who made Zack in all his dreams and honor.

"Hey, enough with the animal references already." Zack exasperatedly said, he already felt like he was walking as if he had the ears and tail to compliment the nickname.

"Good to see you, Cloud." The last of the three spoke with amity. He sported a clean ivory sweater with a simple ebony undershirt. With fluid motion, he stirred the stew as if he was painting a masterpiece. Recognisable long silver hair with bangs parted on each side of his face, glowing green cat-like eyes, and a glint of a grin. Sephiroth. Cloud's fingers flexed as if eager to hold a sword and defend at once. He froze in his position, sky-blue eyes neither widening from surprise nor narrowing from hatred although he felt a sort of mix of the two. He stayed like that for some time too long to go unnoticed.

"Can't believe your eyes?" Zack had his arm locked around Cloud's neck. At this Cloud panicked. Did he just read his mind? "I know you don't see them cooking everyday but don't worry pal, I trust our friends won't poison us at least." He tightened his grip a little with a grin of humor.

Cloud just let his head fall, he didn't even nod. Friends? Were they really friends at all? He barely knew one, never met the other, and the last was all too complicated. He wasn't the least bit comfortable with the perplex situation. What should he do now? He felt the sudden release of weight from his shoulders as if a burden was lifted. Zack had left him to his thoughts and joined them in preparing the meal. He wasn't much of a help though, he just kept bothering them and they just kept scolding him. Cloud heard something but he thought he was mistaken at first. But then the sound came again until a succession of it burst. He was laughing. He was genuinely laughing. He must have gone mad. Zack hauled him into helping as well to which Cloud did even with his own sense of a smile. They weren't much of a help though but if Cloud were to be asked he'd say he did better.

It was strange. Cloud couldn't even tell what he was feeling at the moment. Zack looked so happy with them and vice versa. It was unfair of Cloud to destroy this peace in this world. Maybe, this is how it should've been. If Sephiroth hadn't gone mad, if Shinra hadn't messed up everything, if everything hadn't gone wrong. This would've been the picture. The triad of best friends with a hyperactive Zack and if they would allow he'd be with them too. He's now seeing them in a different light, no, this is how they really are but they've just been shown in the darkness. They were actually wearing civilian clothes which aided him to comply with this somewhat normal setting. It was especially bizarre how the Sephiroth, the chosen one, bringer of despair, behaved in a way Cloud had never seen. He was normal, even more than that, he was actually good. He was the epitome of the very hero he imagined, he trusted, he admired. This was The Great Sephiroth. Cloud suddenly felt a pang of guilt he never thought he had. If only Sephiroth had treaded a different path then maybe they would have been better acquainted much like this. Then maybe, this world wasn't just here but back there as well.

"Infinite in mystery is the gift of the Goddess. We seek it thus, and take to the sky. Ripples form on the water's surface. The wandering soul knows no rest." Genesis recited another excerpt of his favourite literature with a skill relative to that of drama. Whether its purpose was to break the silence or simply share the thought, it achieved both, the latter solely on Cloud.

"LOVELESS ACT I." Sephiroth identified it nonchalantly.

"Not LOVELESS again! Can't you say anything else, man?" Zack complained, clearly tired of his preference on the account that he kept reiterating it ever since he remembered.

"Zack, focus." Angeal reprimanded him when smoke smelled on his side of the kitchen.

"Woah!" In seconds, what had been seasoned meat before was now charred inedible.

"You don't understand the beauty of these words. How tragic…" Genesis feigned hurt but carried on with his duty on the dish while in the corner of his eyes he saw Angeal taking over Zack's.

"Excuse me, but what is the 'gift of the Goddess'?" Cloud innocently asked, easily intrigued with his words. Perhaps everyone else was oblivious to what Genesis had said but Cloud was clearly fascinated.

"To ponder in itself is a gift." Elated to see a child in awe, he generously answered although it was cryptic. It just made Cloud all the more confused than enlightened.

"You still gonna use that?" Zack pointed to the slab of burnt meat of which he was the cause.

"I can be pretty cheap." Angeal remarked as he snatched the pan from Zack's hands and exhausted all his culinary expertise to somehow salvage the meal.

"Hmph. A common story." Sephiroth had said mostly to himself but the humor travelled across the room. It was unclear to Cloud whether he had meant Zack burning food or Angeal being frugal.

It went on like this for a little while and after finally miraculously fixing the previous mishap with the steak, courtesy of Angeal, they had a decent meal by the end of the late hour of lunch. At the table it wasn't that much less of mischief and banter though Cloud kept in the side-lines most of the time. He stayed at his part of the conversation but it was mostly to question. From what he understood, they were all soldiers working for Shinra at one time with him and Zack out of commission to date. Soldiers, they said. Somehow in some way he had fulfilled his childish dream even if it was only here. It wasn't the SOLDIER kind he wanted when he was a kid back then but it was close. So he was a soldier here along with Zack the puppy, the poetic Genesis, the honourable Angeal and the hero Sephiroth. They even went to war together, which was unexpected to have even occurred in this perfect place but nevertheless it ended in a peace treaty. It was astounding to learn about the legendary trio in a personal relationship. He wasn't anything like a best friend to them like they were to each other but it was more than that of a subordinate and of a friend. He was actually a part of the soldier life of Zack, a part of their group, he was just glad being a part of it all.

A lazy afternoon doused the crowd of friends, each indulging with their own share of dessert, Banora White. Cloud had to admit, it was better than his first but that may be due to the change of company. Reading LOVELESS, a copy Genesis had given him, under the apple tree felt like he had all the time in the world. So this was the play Cid had mentioned to him. It certainly had quite the thickness, no wonder he fell asleep. Winds of the north embraced them, silence was filtered with the occasional crunches of delighting in sweet fruits, the five of them just being themselves. Such was the serene scene. Cloud had this feeling of lightness around them. How should he put it, it was like he had wings. No, they had wings. It was as if they had this surreal aura of weightlessness, of wings, of freedom.

"Man, I'm stuffed!" Zack exclaimed as he even patted his filled stomach for emphasis. Another wave of stillness washed over them. They just felt so good, words may ruin the moment. Oddly enough, it was Cloud who first spoke after.

"Hey Zack. Do you ever miss Shinra?"

"Huh? What are you talking about? We just went there yesterday."

"No, what I meant was…" Cloud thought over how to say it without invoking any unpleasant emotions. It was an impossible feat so he just discarded the whole idea. "Never mind."

"It's just us, Cloud. Word won't get out of this star five unless," He sat up from his previous position to look at him when he smirked and hastily added, "it's got something to do with Tifa then I'm not making any promises. Aerith would so love to hear about it."

"It's just…" With a heavy sigh he thought of redirecting the topic. He wouldn't lie but he wouldn't exactly ask what he really wanted to talk about. "It's been a while since we left soldier, right? Did we ever use the Training Room?" Actually, he's never even set foot in the said room. It was for SOLDIER use only back then in his world, he never did make it to test it out.

"Umm… no. We kinda did our stuff in the field." Contritely, he scratched his head in admission.

"It's not surprising, the pup cannot be leashed nor caged." The brunet sneered in a fashion that could still be considered under the tone of courtesy.

"Not you too, Gen! C'mon Seph, help me out, man."

"We used to sneak in there for fun." The silver haired man answered calmly, more to Cloud than to Zack. He must have been talking about Angeal, Genesis, and himself.

"Aah yes, we would then play to our hearts' content." Genesis added soon after although he was a bit vague as to what he meant by play. Moreover, what was their idea of fun?

"Even so, it was always you two who always fought." Angeal gathered the seeds of the fruits into his fist while carrying the tone of that who lectured.

"The world needs a new hero." He taunted the other with superficial smugness.

"It's all yours." To which he simply shrugged off the meaningless words and conformed to the offer.

"And how does this help defend my humanity?" The issue did go astray but it didn't solve his problem at all.

"No story is not worth hearing." Angeal casually answered like an old man of words of wisdom and by then everyone joined chuckling as well, except for Zack that is.

"Wha? So that means it's not helping!" Zack comically whined. "That's not even funny, man."

They just roared louder in laughter though Zack took it that it was in his expense. The rest of the day was spent with them just loafing around under the shade of the giving pale tree, shielding them from the languid sun. It continued on like this, Zack fuelling the conversations if you could call them that, Genesis igniting the banters, Sephiroth just going along with the flow, Angeal cooling it down to a manageable level and Cloud just being Cloud.

"What's the deal with LOVELESS anyway?" After a while, they made up a game. Tossing the dumbapple. They take turns to say something just to kill time. Anyone who catches the fruit is entitled to speak.

"There are many interpretations but only mine is correct." Genesis held it as if it were more than just a Banora White and tossed it to a smirk across him.

"He will only take his inference as true, to be more precise." Sephiroth returned the apple.

"You're one to talk Shinra lapdog."

"The company pays for my salary. Until then, I'll remain loyal to Shinra." At Angeal's reprimanding look he gave him the next turn.

"Genesis, I hope you haven't forgotten that we're still working for Shinra."

"I am aware of that. However, I will not take his crude words of such."

"Chill man, you're burning up! Can't have this place scorched to ashes."

"Hmph. My friend, your desire is the bringer of life, the gift of the goddess." He saw someone's eyes lit up at this and gladly he gave the opportunity to speak to him.

"I think… the apple is the gift of the goddess."

"Why do you think so Cloud?"

"I don't know. But we're all here together, right? And we're happy. I think the apple is a symbol of the gift of the goddess because we get together just to eat some." Cloud spun the fruit with his thumb, admiring its lush purplish skin, and then threw it to whoever would catch it.

"Intriguing."

"Whatever, you guys think way too much!" It went back to Zack's carefree hands.

The haunting dusk drew nigh as everything was soon drowned in the soft yet bright orange dye. The day was falling asleep, the winds bustled softer even gentler, the leaves laid limp unlike before, the trees lovingly cradled the town, the people soon quieted down. Everything has a beginning and an inevitable end. Today had to end too. No matter how much they wanted it to stay like this forever it wouldn't work because if it did then nobody would want another tomorrow. Reluctantly, Cloud stood, his body heavy from idleness, rubbing off the sleep from his somnolent eyes. Zack took it as their cue to leave so he did as Cloud did only he was a bit faster. Everyone already understood as well.

"Even if the morrow is barren of promises. Nothing shall forestall my return." Genesis went about with another set of his favourite of lines. He had voiced this out in particular to the wind as he began walking back towards his lonely home.

"He means you come visit whenever the need or desire arises." Sephiroth translated with crossed arms and then turned to follow suit his friend who had already left. It was a cold shoulder if an outsider should interpret but it was far from that, it was just his way.

"Someone's waiting for you, no?" Angeal handed Cloud a small pouch of the seeds from earlier and nodded at him to get the message across. Giving one final stern look at Zack, he too finally went to join his companions who were already waiting for him inside.

Just like that the five of them were separate once again, the three tight friends and the two best friends. They didn't even say their goodbyes but maybe they already did. Picking one last apple to bring home, Cloud and Zack rode back, leaving the dreamlike town of Banora to slumber. Cloud was left captivated by its fruits, both physical and metaphysical. The taste of dumbapples brings shame to its name, or so he thought. Today he had found a friend in an enemy, the world's enemy, his enemy. He has seen a part of him, maybe a part of his past and even be a part of it. The seeds of friendship had been ingrained and even though he carried with him a different type of seeds in his pocket nevertheless he's more than willing to plant them just like they have planted the seeds of trust in him. Cloud had this dreamlike feeling that he had received his own wing just like he imagined them to have. He was smiling, for he felt that he'll return to this regal place even if it doesn't wait for he knew that the triad of unlikely friends would still be here.

~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~~xoxo~xoxo~

Shinra-ex-SOLDIER

You've seen your enemy with his sword through your chest, now you see him as a hero with two friends without world conquest.