The sun blazed brightly above even the great north, magnified by another, greater presence in the sky. Even the Great Glacier and the Gaia Cliffs, which remained frozen throughout the year, were beginning to melt. Winter was approaching, but there were no visible signs, and the meteor flared away in the sky, an ominous tribute to the unmatched strength of Sephiroth. It hung in the air, slowly descending, as if being forced back by an invisible wall, but in vain. Nothing would be able to stand in the way of its descent, which was about to begin. The citizens of the upper sectors of Midgar city, to which the meteor was closest, had begun to depart to Kalm, or Costa del Sol, or dozens of other locations. The poor were flocking out of the slums of Midgar, fleeing to Kalm, the closest town in the area. The Day of Judgment was at hand.
North of the town of Icicle Inn, the last bastion of civilization in the arctic lands, north of the endless snow fields and snow-covered forests of the Great Glacier, and North of the sheer frozen glaciers of the Gaia Cliffs, lay the Crater. It had been there for as long as humanity could recall, perhaps the result of the first time the Weapons were unleashed upon the world, or perhaps a scar from an earlier age, from even before the Cetra. Nevertheless, it marked the northernmost part of the planet, like an ancient, unhealed wound. The Crater ran deep down, towards the center of the planet, and from the outside, the view was soon obscured by shadows and the Lifestream, the blood and essence of the planet. Further into the planet, the crater narrowed, and the cascades and lakes of the lifestream dominated the scenery. Few mortal eyes had ever set sight on such a spectacle. And still further the Crater tore, down into the very heart of the planet, surrounded by the lifestream and pure Mako energy. Huge floating rocks spiraled downwards, serving as a crude stairway leading to the pulsating light locked away in the core of the planet. Too bright to observe without being blinded, the Materia Crystal Holy was all that could stand between Meteor and the mortal world.
And around the shinning White Materia was clustered a tiny group of eight, floating in midair, and catching their breaths. Slowly, the environment shifted around them and rock platforms materialized beneath their feet. The one standing in the front of the group, a man of 21 years, dressed in purple trousers and shirt, and with brilliant blue eyes and elaborately spiked blonde hair, slowly sheathed the giant sword gripped in his hand and hung his head. Before his hand had left the sword hilt, however, his head snapped up, cold blue eyes locked on a distant island of stone, the sword back in his hand.
"He's here. I can feel him" was all he said, before jumping down from the platform on which they stood, and heading determinedly toward the island of rock.
"Cloud, wait!" called out one of the party, a slim and beautiful young woman, with long dark hair and large brown eyes. "Cloud!" she cried again, running after him. But it was of no use. The man addressed as Cloud simply walked onwards. As he reached the ledge he had seen, he looked around, the air filled with dozens of floating bits of rock.
"Sephiroth!" he cried, cold fury burning in his eyes. Instinctively, he leaped to the side as a man jumped down from an island above his head. Cloud winced with pain as the man's blade cut into his back, then turned to face him.
Sephiroth. The man who had unleashed the Black Materia itself upon the world. The man who had burned Cloud's hometown, Nibelheim, to the ground and killed his mother. The man who had killed Aeris. The man who was standing before him now. Clothed all in black robes, with waist-length silver hair and red Mako eyes, he held his long slender sword, the Masamune, carelessly at his side. Cloud leaped forward, sword in hand, and there was a flash of light as blade met blade. Cloud drew back, and this time Sephiroth lunged, producing another shower of sparks.
Hurrying across the cliff, the beautiful young girl ran after Cloud. Clothed in a short leather skirt and white shirt, she scampered across boulders and leaped across pits, with one thing in mind: finding him. Topping a ledge, she saw him, facing Sephiroth, their swords outstretched. Their blades clashed, producing flashes and sparks of light. At that moment, the Planet gave a violent heave, and the ground beneath the girl's feet collapsed, sending her tumbling over the ledge towards Sephiroth.
Without sparing her a look, Sephiroth pulled back the Masamune and thrust it backwards, impaling the girl on the blade. Carelessly, Sephiroth tossed the girl's lifeless body aside, and turned once again to face Cloud. And Cloud saw only her. First Aeris, and now Tifa. How could it have happened like this? A roar of rage and sorrow ripped from his lungs as he drove the sword straight through Sephiroth's chest. Both men looked down at Cloud's blade in surprise, and then Sephiroth tilted back his head in what might have been a laugh, and fell backwards over the ledge and into the lifestream. Cloud watched him fall with a mixture of surprise, satisfaction, and sorrow. As Sephiroth's body began to sink further into the lifestream, it became that of a young girl, in a pink dress, with brown hair flowing down her back, her eyes closed in an eternal sleep.
"Aeris!" Cloud cried out, sobbing, "Tifa!" And he sank to his knees, wondering why.
Cloud awoke with a start, sweating uncontrollably and breathing heavily. He looked over his right shoulder and saw Tifa, lying on the bed beside him, her beautiful body silent and still, but silent with sleep, not death. Cloud's breathing relaxed, and he lay back on his bed. He had had nightmares about that fateful day, seven years ago, when the Cetra and the Lifestream decided in favor of the humans, but none so vivid or real as this one. He and Tifa had lived together, in the city of Neo-Midgar, for two years after their marriage. Built around the small town of Kalm, where the survivors of Midgar had gone after their city's destruction, it had become a metropolis to match the original city. Cloud looked at the bedside clock, and saw that it was six-thirty. Oh well, too late to return to sleep now, he thought. And John Reeve, the president of the Shin-ra electric Company, requested his presence at the unveiling of a monument to the Day of Judgment. It would be a busy day. Cloud found a clean shirt, and was in the process of putting it on, when, suddenly, he froze. In the mirror, he saw a thin, clean slash across his back that had not been there when he had gone to sleep.