Something was wrong.
Cloud knew that something was different as soon as consiousness reached him, the ground beneath him was definitely not the harsh desert sands surrounding Midgar, instead there was soft soil underneath his body, the feel and smell of plants surrounding him.
Working to open his eyes, Cloud found the usually simple task extremely difficult as his eyes burned and the eye-lids felt extremely heavy. Taking a mental assessment of his body he found that it was just as hard to move; his limbs felt awkward and out of shape, almost as though he hadn't moved in months.
Trying to think through the confused haze of his mind, Cloud attempted to remember how he had gotten here... He had been with Tiffa, Yuffie, Vincent, Cid, Nanaki and a small group of resistance members as they worked to fight through masses of monsters to get to Midgar. They had been fighting for days on end to reach that destination, it was there that the Darkness had taken root, rendering the area uninhabitable and spreading further out into the surrounding lands. They had gone to end it. Gone to either stop the Darkness or die trying.
Yet Cloud could only vaguely remember getting within the ruins of the Midgar boundries before something had gone wrong, the last thing he remembered was darkness and then the black of unconsiousness.
Once again trying to open his eyes and finally succeeding Cloud looked blearily up into the foliage above him; for unknown reasons the surrounding growth was familiar, yet Cloud could not place where from. Prehaps from an old memory?.
To right the wrongs of the future... The past must first be altered...
The soft voice abruptly floated through Cloud's mind, consfusing and without immediate explanation, leaving him to wonder if he had truly heard it at all.
"Wh-what do y-you mean?" Cloud questioned the air above him, his own voice sounding odd and strained, as though, much like his limbs, it had not been used in a long period of time. Any attempt to look around failed when a stiff pain shot through his body.
You will understand soon enough, help is coming. You must change what you were once to weak to challenge.
Cloud realized that the voice was indeed inside his mind, and also undoubtedly belonged to the Life Stream, once the realization passed the feeling of connetion to the Life Stream faded leaving only a wearly tiredness in its place. Cloud found that he could no longer continue the fight to keep his eyes open, and let them close once more so that blackness once again took over.
As Cloud slowly slipped back into a blissful unawareness, many questions swirled through his mind, none of which he had the slightest clue on how to answer...
"You alright Buddy?"
The strangely familiar voice floated to Cloud through a distant haze of sleepiness and confusion. He wondered how long he had been asleep, or if maybe his earlier wake up in a forest had been a dream and the person now talking to him had been sent by Tifa to wake him up for the next part of their struggle to Midgar.
"How long do you think he's be here?" He heard the same voice speak again, and wondered why someone would say something like that.
"A day or so at least... He looks thin and very pale." A second deeper and very unfamiliar voice answered.
As Cloud finally found it within himself to push through the heavy layers of darkness and wariness the voices came into a sharper focus, once more striking him with a familiarity towards the first voice that was beyond just one of the resistance members, it was more like a distant friend, a lot like...
Zack?... The thought came unbidden to his mind and the first reaction was for Cloud to instantly shove the errant thought down, but at the same time a part of him admitted that the voice was indeed just like that of his past friend. Deciding that he had had enough of mysteries and confusion, Cloud forced himself to fully awaken.
"I think he's waking up..."
"Give him room Puppy."
This time when Cloud attempted to open his eyes the action was much easier, even if still slightly stiff, any attempt at actual movement was quickly stilled though as his body was still as heavy feeling and paralysed as before. At first all he could see was the faint outline of two figures hovering above him and a blur of dark hair and two pairs of bright blue eyes.
As his vision cleared further Cloud began thinking that maybe he was still asleep; what he saw was too impossible for him to believe. A young man with spikey raven hair, soft features, lightly tanned skin and bright mako blue eyes full of expression hovered the closest above him.
Cloud knew who the man was, he had no doubt in his mind, yet he couldn't bring himself to accept what he saw.
"You ok man?" Even the voice was the same, maybe younger and more carefree than Cloud remembered, if that was even possible.
Cloud felt a strange panic setting in as he looked up at the impossible; he wanted to wake up, he wanted to stop the pain he knew he would feel for letting his friend down so long ago. He wanted to stop the pain he knew he would feel all too soon just from the sharp reminder of his friend.
"Zack, give him some room." The second voice from before spoke, this voice was deep and held a calming qaulity.
Cloud flicked his eyes over to the tall man. He was sure that he had never seen this man before and that concerned Cloud; it wouldn't be the first time Cloud had dreampt of Zack from their Shinra days, but why would he be dreaming of someone that he didn't even know?
"Angeal?" Zack asked, looking up at the man in confusion.
"He's panicked." Came the short reply.
It was only at those words that Cloud realized how erratic his own breathing was, he could only picture the look on his usually well masked face. Even with his practice and habbits, this was to much.
"We should get him back camp and make sure he's ok." The man; Angeal, said softly to the young Zack.
"Yeah, alright." Zack said nodding, "I wonder... How do you think he got out here?"
Cloud stopped listening after that, instead turning his thoughts inwards to where his mind was now working in over drive. What was happening? This had to be a dream right? So why wasn't he waking up?
You need to relax Cloud, It's confusing I know, but answers will come in time. The Planet needs this of you. This time the voice that spoke to Cloud was the calming voice of Aerith.
The effect was instantanious as it calmed Cloud and consequensly wiped away all doubt of whether he was dreaming or not. Cloud was still confused and wanting answers, in reaction those questions pulsed forward towards the mental contact that was the young flower girl.
I can't answer all your questions now Cloud. I'm sorry and I know it will be hard but please hang in there. After that the voice faded from Cloud's mind, leaving more questions than before, but also leaving a sense of reality and relief.
How could this have happened though? Cloud had watched Zack die on the cliffs so close to Midgar, there had been Zack's blood on his hands... What had The Planet pushed him into now?
Suddenly a bolt of pain ran through his body, snapping Cloud back to his surroundings. He held back a cry through sheer will, determination and habbit.
"Be careful Zack..." The deep voice of Angeal broke through the haze of pain first, Cloud realized that Zack had picked him up and was holding him close to his chest in an attempt to lessen the pain.
For just a moment the pain receeded enough for Cloud to take in his situation and for a moment he felt like a cadet again, looking up to and depending on his one true friend within SOLDIER... His one true friend in the whole of Shinra.
Cloud vaguely noticed that something was off with his body; he shouldn't have been able to fit so well in Zacks hold, he should have been to tall for Zack to carry him, cradled as he was. All to soon though the pain was back and Cloud could no longer think straight as darkness encroached on his vision...
When Cloud awoke next the first thing he was aware of was the softness of the bedroll beneath him and the warmth of the blankets over him. It had been too long since he had had a good night sleep on fresh gear.
When Cloud moved to stretch he realized just how sore he was, and slowly memories of waking up previously in the under brush and seeing the face of a friend he had long thought dead came forth in his mind. Freezing mid-stretch Cloud bolted upright, only to be greeted with a severe pounding in his head accompanied by the world revolving before his eyes.
With a groan Cloud brought a hand to his head, closing his eyes in an attempt to lessen the spinning and pain. Cloud jumped when a firm hand was placed on his shoulder, jerking away on reflex, having spent too long fighting to be comfortable in a foreign presence.
"Easy there. You still need rest." A deep voice sounded quietly from Cloud's left.
Forcing his vision to steady Cloud looked to the source of the voice and saw the man that had been with Zack before; Angeal. Despite the gentle push on his shoulder to lay back Cloud stayed up-right, not willing to rest without some answers.
"Where am I and who are you?" Cloud asked, voice raw and grating. He may know the man's name, but he knew nothing about him.
"You're in the forest lands near Wutai." Came the simple, honest answer. "We found you while searching for a group of insergeants from the Wutai forces. My name is Angeal Hewley, first class SOLDIER. "
Cloud frowned faintly at that, confused that Wutai forces would be fighting with Shinra; the war with Wutai had ended years ago...
"What's your name cadet?" The question threw Cloud off even more and when he answered it was more on reflex than consious thought.
"Cloud Strife..." But... How was he a cadet though?
Cloud looked down then at himself and barly contained his shock and confusion when he saw himself; his body was smaller, much like he had been around 15 or 16, and instead of his usual attire Cloud now wore the standard issue attire of a cadet. Cloud's head spun, but this time the world was still steady. The memory of the Life Stream's voice when he had first awakened slowly floated through his mind; telling him that to right the future he had to change the past... Is this what it had meant? Literally sending him back to the past?
There was a difference with his body this time though; Cloud could still feel the mako and Jenova cells running through his veins, giving him strength he had long ago grown used to.
"Strife... I don't recall hearing that name, let alone being informed of a cadet being sent to Wutai... How did you end up here?"
It took Cloud a moment to realize that Angeal had actually spoken to him, and when he did a stab of panic ran through his mind; how could he ever hope to explain that?
"I... Uh... I'm not to sure... Sir." Cloud said, deciding to be as honest as he could without the time to think of an appropriate story and adding 'sir' more as an after thought as it was obvious that Angeal ranked well higher than him in this society, and therefore would be expected.
Looking up Cloud found Angeal studying him intensely, mako blue eyes looking for anything out of the ordinary, causing Cloud to quickly lower his eyes once more in hopes of avoiding more questions.
"That-" Angeal started before being interrupted by the flap of the tent bursing open and an energetic Zack bounding in.
"Angeal! I found some food." The young man said excitedly before he even noticed the situation he had walked in on. "Oh. Your awake!" His eyes focused on Cloud with a large grin plastered on his face.
Cloud couldn't quite hold in the gasp that escaped him at the sight of Zack alive and more than healthy, and for a moment Cloud felt his chest tighten in pain as images of Zack dying to protect him threatened to overwhelm him.
"You must be hungry," Zack continued, completely oblivious to the inner turmoil his presence had stired. "I managed to catch some of the local wildlife and I bet it will taste nice once its cooked."
Cloud found that any reply was beyond him as all words had suddely left him as he watched the young raven-haired man talk animatedly about his hunt for food.
Angeal on the other hand was rather intreagued by the strange blond's reaction to his student, and watched carefully as barely restrained emotions passed through the boy's strangely bringht blue eyes. He knew that a level of emotional restraint like that came with years of practice and usually plenty of hardship; and this simply brought the question of who the boy was to the front of his mind once more. Angeal knew that something was off about the quiet cadet, yet he couldn't find any reason to view him as a threat.
"Well, I'll go start getting the fire ready to cook, but you might want to actually do the cooking Angeal." Zack said happily, smiling at his mentor and getting a small, distracted nod in answer as he turned to leave.
"I'm sorry..." The voice was faint and even with both the SOLDIER's advanced hearing it was nearly missed. Two pairs of confused eyes turned to the blond who was now looking down at the blanket clutched in a white-knuckled fist.
"I... I'm so sorry..." Cloud vaguely wondered if it was a good idea to actually speak the words aloud, but a part of him just had to... He couldn't miss his chance to apologize for the pain he had been to weak to prevent.
"Sorry for what?" Zack asked, moving down to squat next to the young cadet, his expression serious for the moment. He was surprised to see a look of intense pain in the boy's eyes; it was a look that seemed much to old for the teen to have.
"I..." Cloud couldn't bring himself to speak anymore, his chest hurt with a pain he had long thought to have hidden away.
Zack carefully laid a hand on the boys shoulder deciding that he wanted to see a smile on that face and not the pained expression it now held.
"Hey, whatever it's for, don't stress. Angeal and I will watch out for you ok? So don't worry about anything and just keep your head held high."
Cloud looked up at Zack's words, and through his pain he found himself smiling a little. It was just like Zack to be like that; only Zack could want to make eveyone feel better, even if they were complete strangers to him.
"But hey, the name's Zack. Zack fair; second class SOLIDER."
Cloud looked down at the hand held out to him, tentatively taking it.
"Cloud Strife." He replied watching as Zack's face lit up with one of his trademark grins.
"Well Cloud, you just rest up while we get the food ready then we can talk some more." Cloud felt some of the pain in his chest lighten at the promise and nodded to Zack as he stood up and left the tent.
The tent was silent as Cloud sat there looking down at his own hands lost in thought. Maybe, just maybe he would be able to make up for some of the mistakes he had made...
"You are quite the mystery, Cloud Strife." Cloud looked up to see Angeal studying him once more.
"What do you mean?" Cloud asked, frowing slightly. He hoped there were no more questions coming.
"You are a cadet that appears out of no where with no idea how he got there, you seem to carry a burden that somehow involves my student, you carry a sword longer that yourself," As he spoke he motioned to where First Sword was lain on the far side of the tent, "and your eyes suggest a maturity and wariness that someone your age should not yet know, as well as they fact that they seem to shine with mako; something a cadet would not have yet been exposed to."
While there was curiosity, Cloud could find no condemnation or suspision in the large mans voice, and while he wasn't sure how to reply to the mans observations, he was glad to see that his sword was still with him.
"It doesn't matter though. You should rest." Angeal said softly as he stood and moved to the opening in the tent.
Cloud nodded in silent agreement, his sore body reminding him once again that he was not at top game right now.
"Thank you." He said softly as he gingerly lowered himself back down onto the bedroll and allowed the wariness he felt to drag him into sleep once again.
The landscape around him was a familiar grass land, scattered with brilliant flowers that seemed to shine with an inner light, that went on until a ghostly whiteness took over in the distance . Cloud walked through the bloming flowers slowly, taking comfort in the lack of pain and knowledge that all was well and safe here.
"Hello Cloud." A soft voice spoke from behind him.
"Hello Aerith." Cloud greeted back, turning his head to catch a glimps of the flower girl.
"I know you're confused right now, but the answers will come in time. You must understand that the future was looking bad for The Planet... Despite your efforts the Darkness was winning and The Planet couldn't risk losing you to that Darkness, nor could it risk to attempt to rise against the Darkness itself. So it sent you back to before it all began Cloud. You must change things..."
Cloud thought for a moment about what had been said, it answered some of the questions for him at least, but not all.
"But... How am I meant to do this?" Cloud asked, "How can I change enough that it will change that outcome?"
"It will not be easy Cloud. You will have to adjust to the time again, as your older body would not have been able to move around freely without attracting attention. You have retained your strength, but you will have to re-train your body to use it. It will be so hard, but we all have faith in you Cloud. We all know that you can do this..."
Even as she finished speaking the last sentence, the world around them began to fade.
"Wait, where do I go from here? What do I do first?" Cloud asked, wanting more answers.
"You will have to achieve the success you once failed to obtain..." Was the cryptic reply.
Those were the last words Cloud heard before the scene before him dissolved completely, and he fell back into the black embrace of sleep.
"Hey Cloud! Foods ready!"
Cloud woke to see Zack standing above him with a grin and the smells of cooked meat floating through the open tent flap.
"Can you sit up? I'll bring some food in." Zack said, his energy nearly substansial to Cloud, bringing forth a soft smile as some of the more pleasant memories from his past came to mind.
"It's ok. I'd like to get up and walk around." Cloud replied, sitting up carefully; wary of the effects of fast movements from earlier.
Zack looked on in approval at the blonds will to get up and about despite having only had minimal healing time from whatever strange illness had befallen him. With another wide grin Zack held out a hand to Cloud, who only hesitated a second before reaching for it.
With Zack's help Cloud was soon standing, albeit a bit shakily. Cloud walked slowly from the tent with Zack close behind, out into a small forest clearing where the smell of food was originating from. It was night but the well stoked fire in the center of the clearing provided plenty of light to see by.
Ignoring the ache in his muscles Cloud made his way over to a spot near the fire where Angeal was carving up the meat.
Looking up from his carving at the sound of an approach Angeal was surprised to see Cloud heading over, walking on his own with a grinning Zack behind him ready to help if needed. However, it seemed that the small blonde was stubborn as he moved over and sat down, the only signs of discomfort being in the stiff movements themselves as his face seemed relaxed and free of pain.
"You should still be resting." Angeal said reprovingly to Cloud before fixing his gaze on his student, "And you should not be helping."
Zack just shrugged in response and sat down next to his new friend, Cloud looked almost surprised for a second when Angeal reprimanded him, but the tall First Class was unable to figure the reason why.
"It's fine; I'm feeling better now." Cloud answered, slightly surprised at the reprimand, he was accustomed to people depending on him to be up and around to fight and not resting up for more than absolutely necessary.
Angeal shook his head and wondered at the amazing healing rate of the odd cadet, adding that to the growing list of mysteries about the boy as he finished carving the meat and gave some to his two companions, watching as Zack grinned at Cloud; earning a small smile in return.
Some how Angeal knew that he would be seeing a lot of the blond boy from now on, as Zack had taken a quick liking to him and it seemed that Zack had already managed to worm his way under the boy's natural guard.
Cloud ate the meat slowly, enjoying the flavour and taste of a well cooked meal over the usual dry rations that had been most common when fighting with no animals or game in the areas so polluted by monsters.
"So Cloud, where you from?" Zack asked after a while, having finished his meat and swooped in for seconds.
"Nibelheim." Cloud answered with a sense of deja vu, only this time instead of walking over a snowy mountain pass after a crash, he was sitting comfortably next to a fire eating food. "You?" even though he already knew the answer, it would seem strange not to ask.
"Im from Gongaga! So where's Nibelheim? It sounds like a backwater place to me." Zack said, pride for his home and curiosity at Cloud's showing in both his voice and facial expressions as he spoke.
"Well, its a country town in the mountains." Cloud answered softly, remembering the small town he had wanted so badly to leave in what felt like a whole different life time. "It's not much, but it's home... What about Gongaga? That sounds just as backwater as Nibelheim."
"It's the opposite of yours then; its hot, sandy and in the middle of the forest." Zack replied fondly. "Wait, Nibelheim...Dont they have a reactor there?"
Cloud smiled slightly, already knowing where this was leading.
"Yeah, it does."
"Same, and we all know that a reactor outside Migar usually means-" Zack began.
"-Nothing else out there!" They both finished, laughing together at the small joke.
It felt like it had been centuries since Cloud had last laughed with Zack; since he had been carefree enough to even open up to those around him.
"Well, guess what Angeal? Cloud and me are both backwater experts!" Zack said, turning to his mentor and pulling Cloud close with an arm around the blonds' shoulders.
Angeal shook his head at the display, his earlier assumptions seeming to become more certain, and a small smile found its way to his lips. It was nice to see Zack so happy.
Zack and Cloud spent a good while talking about whatever came to mind after that, and as the night wore on Cloud found himself wishing that he could stay like this forever with his friend. Wishing that he could forget ever watching Zack die. Wishing that it didn't need to be a second time round for there to be a chance at saving Zack.
When Cloud finally yawned after hours of listening to Zack he got a stern look from Angeal.
"Ok you two. Time to turn in." He said, acting every bit the mentor he was. He then focused his gaze on Zack, "I'll take first watch, get some sleep and I'll wake you later."
Zack nodded his thanks and helped a tired Cloud to his feet.
"Come on Spikey, off we go!"
Cloud paused for a moment before looking to Zack in shock, it had been so long since he had heard that nickname from Zack that it surprised him, causing another smile to make its way to Cloud's face as Zack helped him to the tent and they both settled on their bedrolls.
For some reason Cloud felt that tonight he may just sleep well for the first time in years...
Waking to the bright light of morning shining through the fabric of the tent, Cloud stretched contentedly and noticed that all the aches and stiffness from the previous day was now gone. He still needed answers, but at least he felt equiped enough now to deal with whatever came his way.
Looking over to the side Cloud noticed Angeal sitting up on his bedroll carefully cleaning his signature Buster sword.
"Sleep well?" The larger man asked without so much as a glance in Cloud's direction.
"Yeah, thanks." Came the soft reply.
With a nod Angeal went back to focusing on his sword and a comfortable silence filled the tent. After a while Cloud stood up with another stretch and headed outside into the sunshine that made its way through the branches above, with a sigh he headed over towards one of the larger trees in the clearing. Cloud wanted some answers and maybe now he would be able to sort through some.
Sitting down comfortably between the large roots that broke the surface of the ground Cloud turned his attention inwards towards the mess of questions and confusion that had been bothering him for the past day.
From what Aerith had told him, Cloud could be pretty sure that The Planet had literally sent him back in time to when he was still a cadet at Shinra, how far he had been sent back exactly was still unknown. The fact that Zack was alive, and looking younger as well, now also made more sense, as did the fact that they were in Wutai and the war was still dragging on.
What was he expected to do next though? It had been a multitude of things that had determined the future of The Planet; so what was so important about this time period that it could act as a pivot point for the future?
Prehaps he needed to just destroy Jenova before all the comotion that happened last time; it had been Jenova that had caused the change that occurred in Sephiroth while at the Nibelheim reactor, so prehaps preventing that would be a good start.
What of Shinra? They had also been damaging The Planet through the draining of mako to create power, but it had been slow, and ultimately in the end it had been Sephiroth that had brought about the end of Shinra's power.
Cloud sighed and scratched the back of his head. So much had depended on so many different things occuring to either end or begin, and Cloud's mind spun with the enormity of the task before him.
With a second sigh Cloud relaxed back to lean on the bark of the tree behind him and gazed upwards to the blue sky through the trees. He wondered what Tifa would do in his place, or if he would even meet her in this time period, maybe if he could he would make a trip up to Nibelheim to visit her and his Mother; to fix the mistake he had made last time when he neglected to visit out of shame.
Cloud wondered what Barret, Yuffie, Cid and Nanaki were doing now at this time; had they already joined the fight against Shinra. Cloud guessed that they hadn't, it just seemed to early. Vincent was probably the only one that he knew where he was and what he was doing; he would be sleeping in that coffin under the Nibelheim Mansion as he would have been doing for years already. It seemed strange that all his former friends and allies wouldn't be there to help him if needed; he had grown used to having that extra backup...
Cloud jumped when someone flicked his nose and focused his eyes on a grinning Zack that stood before him.
"You looked kind of distracted." Zack commented, amusement lacing his words.
"Yeah, well..." Cloud said, running out of things to say the moment he started speaking. How was one even suppose to answer to that? Zack laughed at his obvious loss of words.
"Well, I kinda got bored of watching you stare upwards, figured you needed some entertainment." The young raven haired man said.
Cloud looked behind him then and realized that while he had been sitting there thinking, Zack had no only come back from where ever he had been, but Angeal had exited the tent and was packing away items from around the now cleaned clearing. There was no longer a tent standing, nor was any of the cook ware out, leaving the area looking almost untouched besides eveyone's weapons and pouches resting on the grass next to two back packs that would have held the camping gear.
How long had he been lost in thought? How could he be so unaware of what was happening around him? Cloud shook his head in wonder, being unable to even remember letting himself fall into such a state for many years.
"What's going on?" Cloud asked.
"We're heading back to Shinra today, it seems that most of the Wutai forces in the area have either withdrawn or have been dealt with." Zack answered happily.
Cloud nodded in way of response and stood up, heading over to where First Sword was laying on the grass, and picking it up and strapping the sheath over his shoulder, frowning when he had to adjust the straps so that it fit his smaller frame. Over all though the weight was comfortable and familiar on his back.
"You know, I'm surprised you can lift that thing." Zack said having followed Cloud over.
"It's not that heavy." Cloud stated, not for the first time, "And I guess I'm just used to it."
Zack laughed at the modest way Cloud had answered, "Yeah, like-"
Whatever Zack had been going to say was abruptly cut off when a large throwing star burst through the folliage behind Cloud, who as soon as he heard the sound of the threat had dived to the side with Zack following milliseconds later.
Angeal was standing seconds later with his sword in hand, ready for the danger, Zack moved to grab his sword as well, while Cloud drew his and stood ready.
"Wutai forces." Angeal said quietly as he moved over to stand by Zack and Cloud.
As if in answer, several dozen Wutai warriors stepped out from the bushes around the clearing. Cloud figured that these were the remaining forces from the area, and that they had banded together for a last stand.
"You have slaughtered our people!" One of the warriors yelled, stepping out of the group. He was dressed in a manner that identified him as the leader of his unit. "For this you will die!" With a vicious snarl the leader launched himself forward, aiming for Cloud who no doubt seemed to be the weakest of the three.
Cloud reacted easily and without fear, bringing First Sword up to easily block the attack. This was something that he could do; fighting required no thought, it held no lies, and it was simple to fall back into a frame of mind that needed no thought, only action. Cloud was aware of the fact that he was not as physically strong as he was used to, but it made little difference as he adjusted to the change quickly, sending blow after blow towards the Wutai warrior until he eventually broke through the defences to drive his blade through the side of the mans armour.
The whole clearing was a blur of activity, the remaining forces having jumped into the fight soon after their leader to engage Zack and Angeal, who were cutting them down with ease. Once the leader was dead Cloud moved on to the next threat, dispatching this one even quicker than before, once again moving on.
The ring of tempered steel clashing and grunts of excertion soon faded until only the two SOLDERs and Cloud remained standing, Cloud was breathing a bit harder than he would have liked, and knew that he had a long road of retraining his body ahead but was glad that he still had the basic strength needed. Silence was now the only sound around them, seeming to have its own distinct ring through the air as the three waited to see if anymore attacks were coming.
"Well, that was unexpected..." Zack said cheerfully, shattering the silence and casing both Angeal and Cloud to relax slightly, though both still stayed alert.
"It also answers the question as to where the remaining forces were." Angeal commented.
Zack walked over to where Cloud was now using the grass to wipe the blood off his blade and patted his back in comradeship.
"And here I was thinking we would have to watch out for you!" He said grinning, impressed by Cloud's abilities. "But you were beating them down faster than they could blink, where did you learn to fight like that and how are you not already in SOLDIER?"
"Uh..." Cloud stalled, not quite sure how he was going to answer the question, he also felt, more than saw the intense look Angeal was giving him and wondered if maybe he should have held back a bit. "I was taught by someone who used to live in Nibelheim..." Cloud answered softly, keeping his eyes on the blade in his hands.
"Used to?" Zack asked.
"Yeah... He left after... After an accident." Cloud replied, realizing that he was more reffering to his old self than to a different person.
"Huh. Well, he must have been awesome!"
Cloud looked up and smiled at Zack, glad that he had been believed so easily but also slightly guilty at the lie. A quick glance in Angeal's direction told him that not everyone had believed him though, and Angeal's stare sent him a silent promise that there would be questions later.
This... Could be difficult... He thought, avoiding Angeal's eyes as he stood up, sheathing First Sword, then helping an animatedly talking Zack finish clearing the camp.