Evolution of Innocence Chapter 5

By Janet Monstwillo

“I’d like to rent another room,” said Cloud.

“I’m sorry, there’s no vacancies. That’s normal when something like this convention happens in Junon.”

Cloud looked at the desk clerk at the hotel. “Convention?” he asked.

“You don’t know? I thought you were part of it,” said the clerk, eyeing him, “you’re certainly dressed for it.”

“What convention?”

“The first annual convention celebrating the battles between Shinra and Avalanche, of course. You certainly look like the leader of that Avalanche.”

Daphne looked at him. “You were part of Avalanche?”

The clerk laughed. “Yeah, sweetheart, and he was the leader.”

“Barret’s the leader,” Cloud said quietly to Daphne, “they just all look up to me.” He turned to the clerk. “So you’re telling me all the rooms in this town are booked for this convention?”

“Yep...there will be lots of folks dressed like you walking around here for about a week. And of course, some dressed like the Shinra...Rufus and Sephiroth fans...”

(People dressed like Sephiroth? That could mean…) “Where do the delegates for this convention meet?”

“The old Shinra building between Upper and Lower Junon.”

“Okay,” he said, “come on Daphne, you’ll just have to stay in my room.”


Daphne stood uneasily in the middle of Cloud’s hotel room. “I’d rather just go home, I think,” she said. “I don’t want to impose on you.”

“You’re not, really, Daphne. Besides, there are two beds in here, so I don’t have to sleep on the floor or anything. I was thinking maybe we should go to that convention tomorrow.”

“I don’t look like anyone from Avalanche,” she said quietly.

“That’s easily fixed,” said Cloud. “We’ll just dress you up like…” Then it hit him. (The only person she could imitate would be Aeris...it might insult Tifa and Yuffie if I had Daphne pretend to be a fan of theirs.)

“Like who?” asked Daphne. “No offense to your two female friends…but I like to wear a little more clothing myself.”

“Don’t worry. You just go to sleep. I’ll pick up something for you to wear at one of the shops. Trust me, you’ll be authentic.” Cloud kissed her softly. “I should be back in about an hour…”


* * * * * * * * * * * *

“I want an Aeris Gainsborough costume.”

The shopkeeper laughed. “But you have such a nice Cloud costume.”

“I have a date.”

“You’ve certainly got the act down.” She chuckled. “We only got one left…Planet Protector is a popular role among the ladies. Has a certain bit of elegance.” She went in the back room.

Cloud leaned against the counter and sighed. (It’s only been a few months… How is it that we’re already pop culture? It’s rather ridiculous. And Aeris… Perhaps I should just feel thankful that she won’t be forgotten.)

A tall, pale man with dark hair walked into the shop as Cloud was paying for the pink dress and sweater. “I’d like a Zack costume,” he said.

Cloud dropped his sword. A loud, resounding clatter echoed through the shop.

“I’m really into the minor characters,” the man added.

The shopkeeper was bewildered. “I don’t think we carry him. I’m sorry.”

“Who’s Zack?” asked Cloud lightly, trying hard to pretend he was just a fan.

“Zack is the man who made Cloud who he was.” The man smiled and held out a hand. “I’m Derin.”

Cloud shook the offered hand gingerly. “I’m Cloud.”

The woman behind the counter cracked up. “Good one! Hahaha…”

“You are quite the annoying little bitch,” shot Derin at the shopkeeper.

“Young man! We don’t need that kind of language in this shop.”

“Fine.” He looked at Cloud. “Want to go for a drink? Maybe tell me your real name...”

(There’s something odd about this guy…really odd…) “No thanks. I’ve got to get back, and give this to Aeris.”


(Dammit, I did it again! I’ll just gloss it over…) “My friend is dressing up,” he said, holding up the costume he bought.

“All right. I’m sure we’ll catch up with each other again sometime in the next couple of days.” Derin walked towards the door. “You’re going to love my costume,” he added.

Cloud slowly walked back to the hotel, lost in thought. (I think this “Derin” may be the man we’re looking for…)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

When Cloud walked into the room, he found himself in darkness and silence. (Is Daphne already asleep?) He slowly walked in and set the dress on the table.

Daphne awoke with a start and jumped up.

Almost immediately, Cloud felt a rod pressed to his neck.

“Who’s there?” she demanded, frightened.

“Just me,” he said softly. “I thought you were sleeping.”

“Oh god, Cloud,” she murmured shakily. Sinking down onto the bed, she turned on the lamp.

“What’s wrong, Daphne?”

“After you left, I felt like getting something to drink. So I took the spare key you gave me, locked up the room, and headed down to the lobby. I bought something from the vending machine and came back. I couldn’t have been gone more than five minutes, tops.”


“When I came back, everything was locked up like I left it. But there was something sitting on the table.”

Cloud suddenly noticed the other objects sitting on the table. (A basket of flowers and a pink ribbon.) “What in the world…” He started examining them.

She picked up a piece of paper from the floor and handed it to him. “This was lying next to it. I…I had a weird headache and blacked out after I read it.”

“Blacked out?”

“Yeah, like in front of the bar earlier? When I came to…I was so scared… I was just pretending to be asleep to catch the sicko that got in here.”

Cloud looked at the note.


“Flower Girl,

It seems to me, sweetheart, that you’ve forgotten just who you are. I brought you some things to stir your memory. Remember that day in the church, almost eight years ago? You made a promise to me. I will see you keep it tomorrow.

--The Black Falcon”


“I was just so terrified that whoever it was would try to come back before you got here…”

Cloud wrapped his arms around her. (At least she doesn’t know what those items mean. Thank god she doesn’t know…) “Do you want to see your costume?” he asked her.

“Of course.”

He undid the packaging and held the pink dress out for her to see.

“Who am I supposed to be?”

“I want you to dress up as Aeris.”

“Aeris? Isn’t that…” (Don’t ask him any uncomfortable questions. This must be very hard for him.)

“I figured you already had a rod...and all you need to do is braid your hair up.” He glanced over. “Unknowingly, ‘the Black Falcon’ has helped us out a little.” He handed her the pink ribbon. “Use this. You’ll look just…like her.”

“I don’t know how to do it like her…”


“Here,” he said, clumsily sweeping her long hair up with his hands. Except for the occasional wince of pain from Daphne, Cloud succeeded in entwining the fine strands into a loose braid that was remarkably similar to the one Aeris was so well known for. He tied the pink ribbon firmly at the crown of her head.

“Cloud,” she whispered.

He looked deep into her eyes. So far inside, reaching the soul. The soul that gazed back. “Aeris,” he murmured.

“No,” said Daphne firmly, “No!” She shuddered and tore the ribbon from her hair. Her hair cascaded downward in a black waterfall.

Cloud snapped back to reality with a jolt. (It happened again!) “Daphne…”

She brushed a tear from her eye.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly.

“I wasn’t comfortable doing this, and I’m definitely not now!”

“But I need you in a costume…”

Daphne looked at him. “This doesn’t bother you? I am dressed up like a dead girl you once knew and you are calling me by her name!” (And it feels completely natural…yet… Why am I so upset over this? I know. It’s because Cloud looks at me and only sees Aeris. He doesn’t see me. He is blind to the person that is Daphne. He can’t care about me.)

“You are not Aeris!”

“I know,” she said, “so why can’t you look at me, right in the eyes, and whisper ‘Daphne?’”

Cloud looked into her eyes. (I don’t know, sweetheart, I just don’t know.) “You are Daphne,” he said firmly, “but you will be wearing an Aeris costume tomorrow. We will find this ‘Black Falcon,’ and see if it’s our reincarnated bad guy.”

Daphne sighed. “I just wish we could find a reincarnated good guy.”

He kissed her softly on the cheek. “Maybe we have, and just haven’t been looking hard enough to see him.” A pause. “Or her,” he added.

“I think I’m going to go to sleep for real now,” she said.

He smiled. “I’ll put this stuff away. You go to bed. Sweet dreams…”

She looked up at him. “I know I will have sweet dreams. You’re here to make sure nothing spoils them.” They stood there for a moment, gazing at each other.

Cloud softly nudged her towards one of the beds. “It’s sleepy time now.”

“Goodnight, Cloud.” Daphne was fast asleep almost as soon as she hit the pillow.

Cloud reexamined the note left by the Black Falcon. (Into the minor characters, huh? I wonder what would give you such a case of Zack attack… Sephiroth.)


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