As everyone knows, I was born twenty-one years before my quest with AVALANCHE began. The fact that I even know my age is something that I attribute to Tifa--I didn't know it when she found me. By doing a little arithmetic, one would find that I'm thirty-six now. Although my life may be easy and relatively laid back now, when I was a kid, indeed, the moment I was born, I had a hard time. Very early in my life, my father suddenly wasn't around anymore. For the majority of my life I thought he was dead.
Within the last few years though I discovered, by pure accident really, that he actually left my mother for another woman. My mother was devastated, but she hid her pain well. In order to hide the shame and hurt she felt, she told me he was killed in a freak accident while climbing one of the many mountains near Nibelheim. Everyone in town believed her, since it's usually impossible to find a body on the mountains of Nibel. One would think that in a small town like Nibelheim, something like what my father did would've leaked out, but he kept it under very tight secrecy, my mother not even finding out until the day he left, when she found the note he left behind.
Speaking of the note, the very reason I know about it, and my father did, is because I found it. Im sure right now youre probably saying But Cloud, your house burned down. How could you have possibly found it? Well, the reason is surprisingly simple. I remembered that my mother kept everything she held dear to her, or at least things that were of importance, in a small steel safe. It measured about eight or nine inches in length and five or six inches in width, pretty small for a safe. I knew where she had kept it in her room and, knowing Shinra restored the town of every single thing after burning down, decided to look for it. The old woman who lived in the house when we went through Nibelheim died a few weeks earlier, so Tifa and I bought it. We had the gil and requested a tour of the house before the deal was final. Upon entering the old womans room, which was my mothers room, I found the safe, sitting on the dresser. I was surprised at first because of its looking new, but after a couple seconds it made sense to me. Shinra probably found the old one too damaged to use, but its contents intact, so they simply got a new one and put the contents from the old one into the new one. I guess the old woman didnt have any family to speak of, because all of her things were still in the house, which was fine with Tifa and I.
I tried the combination that I remembered my mother using, and sure enough, it worked. And lo and behold, the very first item sitting in the safe was the note my father left my mother when he walked out the door. I sat on the floor in stunned silence as I took the note out and read it again and again, not quite believing what I was reading. My mom said he was killed when I was very young, but this note said differently. Tifa entered the room and asked why I was on the floor. Getting no response, she sat down beside me and saw the note I continued to read over and over again. She gently took it from my hands and read it herself, then put it back in the safe. Closing it up, she put her arms around me and stood me up, and we walked out. We never discussed the note, never came up in any conversation. Not for a long time anyway. After almost a year she mentioned it, and I expressed my anger and sadness of what my father did. She didnt reply, just sat beside me on the couch and put an arm around my shoulders. I laid my head on her shoulder and we ended up falling asleep there, never bringing up the note and its contents again.
Like Tifa, and later I, said before, I used to get into a lot of fights when I was a kid. I wanted to get stronger, to become better than I was, to banish the weakness from me. I think in a sense, even at that young age, I hated myself; not just my weakness, but my whole person. I hated it all. I wanted so badly to impress the one I thought I would never be able to reach: Tifa. I wanted so much to impress her, but I couldnt, and that kept driving me until I made the decision to join the military and get into SOLDIER.
Before then though, I was a quiet kid for some time in my life. Up until I was about eight or so, I was such a quiet kid. I didnt have anyone to hang out with, and when I did, it was only one kid and he or she would leave after a few minutes because of my unrelenting silence. I guess you could say I was simply a spectator in and of life. And not only was I quiet, but I was picked on mercilessly, which only reinforced my silence. I remember times when, after school, three, four, sometimes as many as five kids at a time, would grab me, drag me behind our school and beat me up so badly that I could barely stand up and walk back home. My mother would nurse me back to full health and the cycle would continue all over again. I never knew why those kids would do that; I still dont to this day.
My mother, as I told the others, was a vibrant woman. She was always there when I needed her, or at least she was while she was still alive. Whenever I'd get beat up or hurt or otherwise felt down about something, she was there, there to make me feel better. She somehow knew the right things to say every time to lift my spirits back up, and I always felt confident when I was in her presence. When I'd go to bed, she'd tuck me in and kiss me on the forehead, saying, "Without you Cloud, I wouldn't be who I am now." I never really knew what she meant by that, but it made me feel important, like I was worth something and needed, and that was very special to me, because I didn't feel it anytime else. Later on, when she was killed at the hands of Sephiroth, that feeling disappeared and didn't really come back until just before we defeated Sephiroth, when Tifa and I spent the night outside the airship Highwind on that desolate rock. That was the night I told Tifa I loved her, and she told me the same.
My relationship with Tifa at first was one of, "I hope she sees me today." I didn't know much about her, except that I was stunned when I first laid eyes upon her, when I was about nine. I had just been through a particularly vicious beating, so vicious in fact that, when I went to the doctor's later that day, he had to do a full x-ray of my right arm to make sure it wasn't broken anywhere, because he couldn't tell any other way. I actually blacked out for a few minutes during and a bit after the pummeling, and when I woke up, I found myself staring into the most beautiful eyes I'd ever seen, with the exception of my mother's.
She peered down at me curiously and said, "Are you okay?" All I could do was shake my head and continue staring into her eyes, as if they were a set of magnets and I was the raw steel attracted to them. She helped me to my feet, and, after assisting me in dusting me off, aided me in walking back to my house, where my mother took over and Tifa left. I didnt even learn her name; all I knew was that she was beautiful, and in fact still is.
After that initial meeting, I decided I would never let her see me like that again. I decided I would get stronger to prevent what happened to me then from happening again in the future. But the embarrassment of her having seen me left me in a state of fear, in that I was afraid to talk to her or even look at her. But I kept the vow I made with myself, and it was tested about a week later, on a Tuesday, two days after my birthday. I was nine years old, and felt like a God because I had finally recovered from the soreness and later stiffness of what I had endured the week before.
As I walked to school, one of the kids that loved to beat me up felt like doing it again. He wasn't involved in what happened the week before, but that made no difference. I pretended not to notice him as he started walking up behind me, and this seemed to anger him. He grabbed my shoulder, and, to his apparent shock, I responded by immediately turning around and cold-cocking him right in the jaw. He fell flat on his ass and tried to get back up, but I was all over him by then. I walked over to him and shoved him back on the ground, kicking him in his side once he fell. I then planted my foot on his chest and bent over so I could whisper, "If you ever touch me again, I'll pound you so bad you'll wish you were never born." And with that, I got off him, turned back around and walked into school. There were no witnesses, but the kid didn't mind what I said.
Some time later, a few weeks to be precise, I was confronted by Liam, the kid Id beaten up, and his two buddies, Alex and David. It was after school this time and I was on my way home. I hadn't been pestered at all by anyone ever since I had dropped Liam, so I felt pretty cool. I guess word had leaked out of my accomplishment. Surely nobody would try and mess with me again right? Wrong, as I found out in a very harsh way.
Liam's two friends approached me from the front, while Liam walked up from behind. This time, I didnt see him. When his two pals stopped in front of me, I gave them a cocky look and crossed my arms over my chest. "What dya want?" I asked in a loud, challenging voice. "Wanna get your butt kicked just like your stupid friend?"
They merely smiled in a way that resembled the look I had on my face. This made me angry, and I began to draw my fist back when I suddenly felt a blinding pain smashing into my senses. My kidneys felt like someone decided to hit them with a wrecking ball. I whirled around to find myself staring at a fist coming right at my face. I tried to dodge it and barely did so. Only problem was, in the process of dodging the punch, I was caught by Liam's too friends, whom I had forgotten were now behind me. They held me by my arms, holding them out like I was some sort of human cross. There was no way I could fight back, nor dodge the punches Liam started to slam home on me. He punched me so many times in my face and gut that I lost track after getting to a couple dozen or so for each area. I blacked out, and when I came to after what may have been anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, they were gone. I lay broken and bleeding, wondering how fucked up I was and if I could get away from where I was. I tried to move, but the second I moved my arm I was jolted with unimaginable pain. Turns out, I found out later, that when I blacked out, Liam's two comrades-in-beatings had bent my arms back so much that they popped out of their sockets, dislocating them and rendering them useless. Great, I thought, just what I need at a time like this: messed up arms. I tried moving my legs, but they felt like two-ton weights were attached to them. I was so tired and in so much pain that I felt like I would die there.
After what felt like a few hours of just staring at the sky, I noticed someone approaching me. I tried to move my head to look, and was surprised when I found I could. The person was blurry in my pain-filled vision, but as they got closer, I realized it was Tifa. That's when she saw me and ran over. At first she just stood over me, her eyes filled with the curiosity all children have when they see someone so messed up lying on the ground. After a minute or two, she shook her head and bent over to look me in the face.
"What in the world happened to you?" she asked.
At first I didn't think I could speak, but I cleared my throat and was again surprised that I was in fact able to speak.
"You don't wanna know...I can't move at all, I need some help," I said. I felt like a total fool saying that, but it was true, I needed help. She simply nodded in understanding, and ran off back to town. After a few more minutes of looking back the way she had gone, I saw some more figures coming towards me. When they arrived, I saw it was some people from the town's medical office with a stretcher, as well as my mother. After spending a few minutes of trying to figure out the best method to move me into the stretcher, failed methods that involved even more pain for me, they finally figured out a working way and loaded me on the stretcher. As they marched back to the medical office, my mother's hand on my forehead for support, I stared at the sky and vowed once again that I would never, ever, let myself get into that situation again. I vowed that I would get so strong that my enemies would cower before me and I'd be able to get Tifa to notice me. At the time, though, I only knew her as "that brown-haired girl". As time passed, this would change, but for the moment, that was the status quo.
When I came to in the hospital, I was confused at first about my surroundings. I had momentarily forgotten where I was or why. I knew I was in pain, of that I knew for sure. I felt it all over my body, throbbing in some areas, dull aches in others. After a minute or two, it all came back to me. Where I was, and why I was there in the first place. As I looked around the room to take it in, I noticed someone sitting next to my bed. It was my mother, sleeping in the chair right next to me. She looked terrible, which was unlike my mother. She was always vibrant and beautiful; but now she wasnt. I didnt understand then why she looked like she did, and I wouldnt until later on. I turned my head to look back up at the ceiling and fell asleep once more. Just before I did though, I caught sight of the clock above the window opposite my bed. It read 3 AM
When I woke up again, there was not the temporary amnesia I suffered earlier. There was instead a feeling of relief, that I was safe and not dead. I still felt pain, lots of it, though. I was awake, I knew where I was and why, but that was all I knew. I didnt know how badly I was hurt, how my arms had been dislocated, how my stomach was punched so many times that emergency surgery was required to fix the severe internal bleeding that had resulted. I looked around the room once again, and still, my mother was where I saw her earlier. I glanced back up at the clock. 9:45 AM. I looked back over at my mother. She looked pretty again, not messed up like she did before. Her eyes were closed, she looked serene in her sleep. As if she was at peace with everything, despite what happened to me. I stared at her for a few moments, then looked out the window.
Sunlight poured in and signaled a bright new day for the world. The skies were the deep blue of fall and I didnt see a cloud anywhere blemishing the skys perfection. The rough peaks of the mountains that surrounded Nibelheim loomed up it the distance, tall and jagged. The Nibel Mountains are among the strangest mountains in the world. Apart from the gigantic range of uprooted, blasted mountains that surround the Northern Crater, theyre the only mountains in the world devoid of trees, or really any form of vegetation. The two are alike also in that theyre both literally saturated with Lifestream and mako energy. The Northern Crater Range, as its now known as, is full of these energies because of the crater itself and the wound it represents for the planet. However, nobody really knows why the Nibel Range is so full of Lifestream and mako; for as long as humans have known, its always been like that.
Chunks of materia in its purest form are imbedded throughout the Nibel Mountain Range. Although Ive only seen one, at the mako fountain, it is known that these materia chunks exist. They lie under thousands, even millions of tons of rocks inside natural cavities. The sheer weight is pressure enough to turn Lifestream to mako to materia. Its unknown just how many of these natural cavities exist, but it is known that most are very small, few bigger than golf balls or even marbles. I wasnt thinking about any of this while I stared at the mountains, mainly because I knew nothing about of it. The mountains themselves were and still are fascinating, even enchanting, and I soon found myself caught in a trance, unable to move my eyes from the Ranges sharp-cut beauty.
Cloud ? I heard a quiet voice say.
I snapped out of my trance and turned my eyes and ears toward the source of the voice. It was my mother. Her eyes were open, revealing eyes that were as deep and blue as the sky. They still held a bit of sparkle in them, her face as young and happy as ever.
Mom, I asked, how long have I been out for?
She stared at me, unbelieving, not quite sure what she was seeing. Her son was awake, finally. I seemed to be okay, although I knew I wasnt. She shook her head to get herself out of her own trance and said, with a voice filled with relief, Three days son Im so glad youre awake now.
Yeah, so am I Mom, I responded. How how bad was I hurt?
My mother stared at me again, but not in a trance. She broke into a small smile, the smile I recognized as the one she only used with me and nobody else. A mothers smile. She reached over and patted my arm, saying, To be perfectly honest, we werent sure youd make it through the first night. When they brought you here, you were unconscious and your vital signs started dropping like a rock. They managed to do some surgery to fix the immediate problem, but even still, they didnt know if it would be enough
Her voice broke off and almost cracked. Instead of continuing after clearing her throat, she simply smiled again in her sad-sort of way. It was then that I realized what was right there in my face the whole time: this was all my fault. My mother had gone through so much grief and sadness in the last three days, and it was all because of my own stupidity and weakness. I knew I couldnt let something like this happen again, couldnt let my weakness be so obvious. I would never show my weakness again. I would lock it away and throw away the key.
It took me a couple of months to totally recover from the full extent of my injuries, which included a concussion, two broken ribs, punctured lung, both shoulders dislocated, severe internal bleeding in my abdomen, broken jaw, fractured left femur, and split right kneecap. During my recovery, I learned about the man that would be my source of inspiration for the next six years the Great Sephiroth.