Step 45: Rival
Step 45: Rival
The church in the Midgar ruins would be the most obvious place to search for Cloud according to Tifa, but he was not there. I did find a PHS with several missed calls, but no signs of where he could have gone. Yet the atmosphere itself gave me a clue, it somehow reminded me of the Forgotten City.
If my return is in any way linked to the arrival of the calamity, which it very likely is, then this is no time to start doubting my instincts, thus my destination is the Forgotten City. Even if Cloud is not there, maybe I can communicate with Aeries myself since it is her final resting place, though I try not to think of whose fault that is.
xoxox xox xoxox
It was Cid who took me to the Forgotten City on his airship, since the Turks are running around everywhere and getting things ready while trying to prevent a panic and a civil war, with help from the WRO and Avalanche, that how I talked them into letting me take this mission, emphasizing they were needed in Edge.
Next on my to do list after saving is learning how to pilot, then I will be able to get around just about anywhere on my own. Perhaps if I ask nicely, Cid will teach me, because I'm certainly not getting flying lessons from Reno.
I asked Cid to wait in the airship, he wasn't thrilled about it, but decided to let me go about my business by myself as requested. The Forgotten City is the perfect example of quiet and eerie, a deserted ghost city with such a strong atmosphere I almost expect a ghost to pop out any second. Hopefully it will be Aeris' ghost and she will have answers.
I made it to the exact place were Aeris was ki-where she died. I wonder if she's shaking her head in the life stream thinking 'he's got some nerve going back there'. There's no sign of Cloud anywhere.
I call out for him, "Cloud!" No one replies and I call again, as loudly as I can, but there is no response. I look at the spot where Aeris was when I attacked her and feeling regretful I go on my knees on the same place and pray in an effort to communicate with her.
I hear a murmur, but I can't understand what it is. I focus on it and block out all my other senses. Is it working? Am I really communicating with the life stream, with Aeris? 'Behind you,' the voice is blurry but I can understand it.
My eyes open immediately and my senses become alert, finally perceiving the previously hidden presence of another. I turn and block Cloud's attack with my sword. It was close, but it would be too ironic for me to die this way. "Cloud!"
"Sephiroth! You're the one who's causing all the trouble, you and Jenova," his eyes are glowing brightly but his gaze is lost.
"Snap out of it, you're being used!" It was quite a struggle for me to become resistant to the mind control, I had times when I thought I was going insane all over again, times when I banged my head against the wall and times when I passed out. The voices, the visions, the nightmares, but Cloud should have already had some time of his own and there is no more. "Wake up, Cloud!" Aren't you supposed to be the hero? What guilt do you carry that holds you down?
"Don't stop, kill him, kill him now!" I jump away from Cloud and look at the one who is speaking. "You're Rufus' secretary!"
"Amy Talic? Oh no, my name is Aeris, Avenge me Cloud! Sephiroth wants to destroy my very soul!" Amy Talic... Calamity, how could she slip by with a name like that? That time when I thought I almost killed her, she was the one who made me lose control to weaken my mind so she could use me. All those times when I lost control, it must have been her all along, hidden in the shadows, trying to break me and turn me into her puppet.
"Idiot!" I yell at Cloud as he continued slashing away with his sword. If I ever fought him again, I never thought I would only defend; it's difficult to keep reminding myself that the one I have to defeat is not him, albeit the temptation of knocking some sense into him in a none too gentle way is ever growing. I wonder if pain will wake him up. "You really are nothing but a puppet!"
"Shut up! I won't let you... I won't..." He comes at me quickly, jumping and rushing down with his sword.
I block, he jumps back and slashes left and right, I back away and touch the water of the pond; then I hear that same voice again, the voice that warned me, Aeris' voice, but it's clearer now. 'Cloud is in despair, free him from it!'
How very ironic, I would rather give him despair, but it seems I have no choice, yet I don't know what to do. "How do I make him wake up?"
'Remind him he's a hero,' Aeris, you're not making this any easier. Either way, I came to get Cloud to communicate with Aeris and now I'm talking to her.
I focus my thoughts, instead of speaking, 'tell me how to defeat the calamity.'
Aeris replies in my mind, 'the protector of the planet, the one who has been given that mission after all the others were defeated, will know.'
"Who is it?" I say the next part aloud as I attack Cloud; I'm tired of only defending. Either way it doesn't matter, I don't think anyone else can hear Aeris anyway and that one question doesn't hint at much. Even if Aeris tried to talk to Cloud, which she must have, it seems he can't hear her. Maybe he came here to seek her help, but his mind was overtaken before he could.
'You will know...' why is she being so ambiguous? How am I supposed to know?
'C'mon legendary hero, can't you save your comrade?' That voice, I've heard it before. 'I've always looked up to you, so don't let me don't. I think I managed to become a hero, how about you become a hero again?' Angeal's little friend, Zack Fair.
'Cloud is not my comrade and I can't wake him,' I mentally reply.
'So the great Sephiroth is helpless, what a pity!'
"Shut up!" The battle between Cloud and I continues, "I can win, I can beat him!"
'He's not himself... is that okay? Besides, aren't you a hero? Aren't you supposed to save your comrades?' Zack is being very irritating right now.
"Fine, I'll do this the hard way," I put away my sword and focus on dodging Cloud's attacks, which only narrowly miss me. If he cuts my hair I'm cutting his head off, no questions, no excuses, no second chances. "Cloud, I'm not attacking you anymore, are you going to listen?"
Cloud's sword coming towards me is something I can only interpret as a negative answer.
"That's not the real Aeris!" I really hate this, "the real one said you're a hero," that left a bitter taste to say. "Would Aeris tell you to seek revenge? Don't be so weak, Zack would be disappointed," I make the connection, that cadet Zack hung out was Cloud. I never really knew him; he was only the friend of a friend of a friend, but I think I'm getting to him. "That's it, stay awake, think of... Tifa, remember Tifa! She's your childhood friend, right? You protected her, like a hero," how long is it going to take him to come to his senses?
"I couldn't protect Tifa, my home town or anyone..." again with the couldn't protect guilt trips and this one affects me too.
"It's not too late, are you giving up? Is the past more important than the present?" I feel like I should have asked myself that question many times.
Cloud he yells in agony, drops his sword and holds his head, the sight is not at all unpleasant. "no... no! Get out of my head! I'm not your puppet; I won't let you use me!"
"Cloud! Are you abandoning me?" The calamity, still in the form of Amy Talic, or should I say Aeris, is desperate to regain control over Cloud.
"She's not Aeris!" I insist.
"Not Aeris..." I think Cloud is finally understanding.
Then the being changes into Tifa, "Cloud, be my hero, save me!"
"She's not the real Tifa, what kind of hero can't tell the difference?" I argue back.
"Tifa..." Cloud screams in pain, "Tifa!" He closes his eyes tightly, desperately holding on to his true self, then he finally opens his eyes, focused and determined. "Stop trying to control me!" The calamity takes this as her cue to leave and jumps away. Both Cloud and I chased after her, but she escaped and the voices from the life stream faded as if she was blocking them.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Final Fantasy VII.