A Stronger Loving World

Having journeyed to this point in our analysis, one may wonder why some fans cling so fervently — in defiance of the evidence — to the notion of an ongoing romance between Cloud and Aerith, or, at the very least, an ongoing rejection of Tifa by Cloud while he instead honors Aerith’s memory through loneliness. The reasons fans have debates over matters such as these are, after all, infinitely more fascinating than the debates themselves.

Arguments aside as to whether it does greater honor to the dead to live on in solitude or to find the most enjoyment possible in one’s remaining years, in this final section of our analysis, we will ponder the perspective of believing in Clerith as canon at the exclusion of also recognizing Cloti as such. We will also take into consideration the insight of a couple fans of the Clerith pairing itself, beginning with TheLifestream.net forum members Maidenofwar and JayM.

Let us begin.

A lot of it is emotional, I think, based off initial reactions. I mean, people might insist it’s not emotional and that their arguments are powered by logic and reasoning, and they might really believe that. Some explanations for scenes, quotes, etc. might even be/seem reasonable enough depending on who’s giving them, but it’s powered by emotions.

I include myself in this, as I get quite emotional at times. Not just with Aerith/Clerith, but with other pairings I like, and even with games that I play, in thinking which is the best character or team to use in a fight. Stuff like that.

Another thing; I think there’s a sort of “first love” syndrome.

Perhaps Aerith or Cloud was a person’s first love, a character they grew really attached to the first time they encountered them. They indentified with them and seeing them together with someone they cared about, they indentified with that too. It’s some sort of a beloved, special thing on a personal level, and now people don’t want to move on and/or are finding it hard to do so.

When you love something, it’s hard to hear others try to explain it might not be quite what you thought it was. Sometimes it’s hard to think about anything, really, that you might have been wrong about or that the way you saw/thought/felt about something might have been wrong. Sort of, “How could I have been so wrong about this?” or “How could I have been so wrong about that?”

Another thing factoring into that, I think, is fear of ridicule. You think are others going to think you were so stupid for thinking such and such. “Are they going to make fun of me for what I believed?” So, rather than try to think things through, try to accept things and move on, you endlessly defend yourself against others since you think you are defending yourself and your beliefs. You don’t want what you think is others thinking bad of you.

Getting back more specifically to Clerith, time could be a factor. Maybe a person played the game years ago, the “first love” sort of thing kicked in, information comes to light eventually that is different from what you believed and it doesn’t match up with your experience of playing the game. Maybe you think, “Does my experience not have as much value now or what?”

Maybe you think in accepting the new information it devalues things you really enjoyed and/or that were beloved to you. More so, I think you wonder if others didn’t see the value in scenes you enjoyed, then you don’t want to see things devalued or think of things that might not really have value at all. Then you think if people find more value in other people, things, etc., does that somehow make you and the things you saw/valued/appreciated so much less valuable somehow?

Another factor is canonicity. I think it offends people to get told to enjoy their fanon pairing and that it doesn’t matter that it isn’t canon when there are at least some official statements to back a pairing up. Again, going back to the devaluing thing, to some people, putting their pairing on the same level as something that isn’t backed up in any way makes it seem less valuable or something. More so having to think of one pairing as canon and the other as not.

For me personally, I think both girls are canon love interests. Cloud and both girls are couples officially endorsed by Square Enix, as well as Aerith/Zack, of course. Square Enix are no fools — they know where to hit a person for their money.

Speaking of Zack, I think some people just weren’t prepared for his importance in the Compilation and have a hard time accepting it.

Again, if Aerith had a thing with Zack and she ends up back with him, does that also devalue Clerith? Perhaps there’s wondering if people really care about Aerith or just want her put away in a box with Zack, wrapped up in a ribbon, all nice and tidy like for convenience’s sake. I think, for some, what Aerith does/thinks/says also carries a lot of weight, like if Aerith doesn’t say it, it’s not true.

So, since Aerith has stuff saying she really did love Cloud, and loved him for himself, not Zack; that she thought of him as her beloved; and since there isn’t anything they see that denounces Cloud being with her, acknowledging instead Zack as her one true love at the end — e,g., stuff to say she was aware Zack realized her importance to him after escaping from the Shinra Mansion or her accepting all he did for her in trying to get back to her or her showing her gratitude for this and realizing she still had strong feelings for such a man who felt so strongly about her … Well, since there wasn’t anything like that, people have a hard time seeing a Zerith ending to the Compilation.

Aerith is my favorite character and when I played FFVII years ago before Advent Children, Crisis Core and the Compilation came out, I fell in love with her and her story. How she was really into Cloud, how they seemed to grow so close in a short amount of time and everything. I was really rootin’ for her. Plus the original FFVII seemed to paint Zack as a bit of a jerk.

A relationship with which Aerith was quite unhappy at the end; Elmyra saying he broke Aerith’s heart; the “ladies’ man” stuff and Zack saying he had a girlfriend back in the city he could take Cloud to — but, no, wait, the mum was there; and really not seeming all that bothered about getting back to Aerith ASAP.

Maybe if I had played Crisis Core first I would have seen it differently, but this was already set in me and Aerith/Zack didn’t really get a satisfactory resolution in my eyes. There was no make-up scene, no discussion about what happened or whatever. They didn’t even get to hold hands in Advent Children’s ending.

You can’t blame me for being confused by an apparent music video with Cloud and Aerith afterward and also a scene in Reminiscence where Cloud is apparently off/by his bike in the flower fields … Also, if I remember right, Reminiscence featured a number of scenes with Cloud and Aerith during its story playback, ending with the hand reach/”I think I can meet her … there” stuff … So, that was happening while the bike/phonecalls/flower field thing was going on as well — quite a treat for Clerith fans, on the whole.

I don’t think it’s hard to understand why people might appreciate/wonder about that stuff anyway. Also, I saw that stuff first before playing Crisis Core and I don’t have/have never seen Advent Children Complete yet.

I accept/like both Clerith and Cloti, but Zerith just doesn’t really do it for me.

I don’t really care that Cleris only lasted 2.5 minutes or whatever. Cloud and Aerith formed a special bond with romantic undertones, grew close in a short amount of time and Cloud treasures her memory. Personally, I enjoy the build-up/the build-up scenes it had, and nobody can ever ruin that for me.


First off, regarding Aeris being dead — I actually think that’s one of the main reasons the LTD still exists. If she were alive, we could see for certain how real!Cloud interacts with both her and Tifa, and if he were still living with Tifa and raising kids with her in Advent Children, it’d pretty much answer the LTD right there (though I’m sure people would still argue it).

With her being dead, though, the LTD becomes a question of “What sort of story do you think SE is telling?” and, to an even greater extent, I think, “What sort of story do you prefer?”

Not saying that all of the LTD arguments are about personal preference, because, if nothing else, the debate forces people to dissect their feelings on the point and look for evidence instead.

But the point that I’m trying to make is that a lot of those who end up Cloud/Aeris shippers literally played different games and watched a different movie. Please, any hardcore C/A shippers who disagree with what I’m saying, please feel free to correct me. I’m going solely by observation, here.

Theirs is a tragic/triumphant love story, where the death of the hero’s True Love at first throws him into despair, and then propels him to become stronger. It’s a compelling story, and it’s one that I feel can be supported by the text. It isn’t a totally off-the-wall reading. But it’s vastly different from what I think most people who wind up Cloud/Tifa shippers experience when they go through the Compilation (I miss being able to say just “play the game” ), and it definitely relies on a completely different interpretation of Cloud.

Aeris has a significance beyond just being a girl that he may/may not be interested in. She’s also The Hero’s Girlfriend, both literally as Zack’s ex and figuratively in the way that she first appears to Cloud — a healer, a caretaker and someone to be protected.

Regardless of where you fall on the shipping line, Aeris supports the illusion of Cloud’s “hero” identity much more than Tifa, who is very physically capable and remembers Cloud when he was a weak little outcast. I think it’s easy to read Disc 1 Cloud as preferring Aeris for this reason alone, outside of any chemistry or “world of their own.”

For what it’s worth, I *do* think there’s a valid … I don’t want to say “Clerith,” in keeping with my belief that disproving one doesn’t prove the other. But there’s certainly an anti-CloTi — at least within the timeframe of Advent Children — argument to be made using cinematic intent.

Now, I’m speaking as someone who’s been in the same romantic relationship for ten years. Girlfriend and I have separate bedrooms *and* I have my own office, complete with yet another bed. In real life, offices and bedroom arrangements and the like don’t mean anything about relationship status.

However, in movies, showing the single bedroom is often shorthand for “romantically involved.” Showing anything else? Is usually the opposite.

So, I do think it’s a fair argument to say the movie keeps it ambiguous. It’s not an argument I agree with, but made from the standpoint of cinematic intent I think it’s a perfectly logical one.

Just my two cents.


If I may say something that strengthens C/A, it’s this one thing: *Aerith is dead*. So, yeah … I agree with Ms. Angry Lesbian [(JayM)] that it’s the main reason for the LTD’s continued existence.

How do I say it? I think a memory about the dead is beautiful, since when trying to remember them, we always tend to remember the good things and it becomes so bittersweet and nostalgic and painful that, for the most part, it’s just plain beautiful. Had Aerith lived, I don’t think C/A would have this compelling power to suck people in, to be honest.

Aerith’s death, while it remains its most visible weakness, is also the magic of C/A. It makes people think of “What if?” situations, and to writers, hopeless romantics, fans of tragic romances of imaginative mind — it’s an inspiration. So, yeah, I can understand people for liking it.

The reason why I am skeptical of Cloud loving Aerith romantically is because I don’t think he is capable of it on Disc 1. I am still under the impression that he wasn’t interested in either girl during the span of that disc. Sure, he flirts and gets attracted to some extent, but falling in love? Disc 1 Cloud doesn’t give me that vibe. He was more fixated on tracking down Sephiroth and ironing out the assfuckery inside his head.

But I am not saying he isn’t capable of having good relationships with them. I’m sure he wasn’t completely “out of it” during that disc. If he was, then I would also doubt the friendships he formed with AVALANCHE during that time. It’s just that he wasn’t thinking about romance.

I think Aerith, to Cloud, is a mystery. A mysterious girl he met at a mysterious time, who he has mysterious feelings for, which he is unable to explain. And she will always remain a mystery.

—Master Bates

Moving now to this author’s own thoughts on the matter, I believe all of the observations made above are accurate. I believe there’s something else at work too, though: Aerith’s legacy as someone people love.

Nomura has said that if people didn’t react strongly to Aerith’s death, then it would mean they weren’t successful with her as a character. Well, it may actually be that they were too successful with her.

Here we have a character whose father was murdered protecting her just twenty days after her birth. A character who spent the first seven years of her life imprisoned in a lab for experimentation. A character whose mother died helping her escape. A character who then grew up in a filthy, crime-ridden slum. Who spent the rest of her life avoiding being taken back by the people who had already taken so much from her. Who fell in love with a man who disappeared without a word while she clung to his memory for five years. Who then met another man very much like him, and fell for him faster and harder than she had the first.

Their friends notice their chemistry. One of them even predicts that they will be married.

And then this character who has gone through so much, who endured all of it with a smile and a willingness to help others — “She was smiling to the end” the man she loves will later note — she is callously murdered before she gets the opportunity to explore these new, wonderful possibilities. She finally got a shot at something special, only for it to be stolen from her before she could properly experience it.

It’s unfair. It’s simply too unfair.

For those fans who met this character and fell in love with her, the idea that she had been through so much yet gets *nothing* in the end is just too much. Too unfair. Too coarse. Too disrespectful. The notion ruins the rest of the story for them, smashes any value it offers, and is a betrayal of the emotions they had invested in this character.

When confronted with accepting that this is really the authorial intent at work, it’s easier to reject it. To decide instead that the proclaimed, intended theme of life’s harsh realities was not what the character’s creators actually wanted to achieve with her death. That there is, instead, a special story hidden beneath the surface just for those who love the character enough to recognize that they would never really do that to her.

So what if the new story makes the character they fell in love with into a selfish ghost who would deprive those yet living — those who loved her while she was alive — of security and a happy family? So what if it makes the man she loves into a vagabond of dubious loyalties who would take advantage of a woman’s love for him while giving her nothing in return and even betray his promises to return home to a child who adores him? So what?

The character they love has already lost all of that and so much more, while that other woman who also loves the man at least still has the luxury of getting to be alive and around him. What does it matter how unfair becomes anything else that must then be accepted as consequence?

The most unfair act has already taken place. The most egregious betrayal has long since past. All that remains is picking up the pieces and shaping them into something that can be stomached, where at least the woman had the love of the man and didn’t have to share it with anyone else.

As others have noted, in some ways, this alternate story is one of a beautiful love that can defy literally all else — even death, compassion and dignity. But it is not the story that was made for Aerith. It is not what the developers of Final Fantasy VII intended.

At least on the part of those who argue that Cloti is canon, I think this is where you see most of the animosity in the LTD come from: Those who refuse to accept the unfair hand dealt Aerith must then begin cutting out parts of the story that don’t fit the vision in which she gets Cloud’s love at the exclusion of Tifa also having it. Meanwhile, for those who point out that Cloti is canon, they begin at the official statements about Tifa and Cloud’s rapport, and it’s never in question that Tifa gets Cloud as a person or that he was happy living with her.

Some folks who see things in more Clerith-oriented ways saw Advent Children and probably read Case of Tifa, but largely overlooked interviews and Ultimanias while taking, by necessity, from what they did see a drastically different view of Tifa’s role in Cloud’s life — as well as a drastically different view of Cloud himself.

Whether the different view of Tifa leads to the different view of Cloud or if it’s the other way around is unclear and probably unimportant. But suffice to say that many who see Clerith in Advent Children see Tifa as a well-intentioned but overbearing bungler who does more harm than good.

When presented with metatextual statements to the contrary from the people who created the characters, these fans find it difficult to shake their initial reading, especially if they read somewhere how much Nomura wanted people to draw their own conclusions about a lot of things in the movie. The idea that there is an official answer to its questions is often antithetical to their understanding of the artistic objective of the film, and that notion can be doubly repulsive when presented with the evidence that the official answer contradicts their prior misconceptions and preferred interpretation.

Basically, it’s simple cognitive dissonance. Depending on the degree of attachment to the previously held interpretation (not even necessarily to the CloudxAerith pairing, but at least to the associated understanding of it), either the new information is accepted and the interpretation is adjusted, the information is retained for further consideration, or it is outright rejected with the rationale for it to follow later.

Tone of delivery also plays a role in which results emerge. People tend to be less willing to abandon prior understanding when new information is presented to them in a condescending manner. Of course, openness to new information is ultimately the receiver’s responsibility, regardless of how it’s presented to them.

In summary: People view Cloud and Tifa differently, and those different views — despite how easily some can be demonstrated as inaccurate — are one side of the coin at the core of LTD shenanigans. The other side is an unyielding demand that Aerith get her fair due — which she never did. And that was the whole point.

Continue reading for other valuable thoughts on the LTD from TheLifestream.net forum members. This author may not agree with all the opinions expressed, but they are all, nonetheless, insightful

I find it very telling that to “prove” Clerith you first have to disprove Cloti. In order for Cloud to love Aerith, you have to prove he doesn’t love Tifa. I have never, ever seen a Clerith argument that wasn’t built on a foundation of attempting to disprove CloudxTifa.

And yet, for Cloti, you just have to let it be. He loves Tifa. End of.

There is absolutely no need to disprove he loved Aerith, because, well, there’s no evidence he ever did. For Cloti to work, you just have to follow the story. No suppositions, no hidden meanings, no alternate interpretations. It’s just *there*.


That’s the problem with the Highwind scenes. Some people assume that the existence of two versions automatically means that they are the opposite of one another completely. For clarity’s sake, the Low Affection scene does not say that Cloud and Tifa 1) *hate* or are disinterested in each other because they confessed love on the other scene, or 2) decided to be *only* friends because they wanted to be much more in the other version.

Yes, those are actual arguments I’ve read from the other side, and they are not true. The Low Affection scene being apathetic is a result of the lack of points you, as Cloud, failed to accumulate in order for Tifa to be comfortable enough to show that she wants your Buster Sword. It does not change the fact that she likes Cloud romantically and vice versa.

And about Cloud and Tifa not being showy and mushy all over: I don’t think people who argue that they aren’t a couple because of such a reason don’t necessarily know what love is in real life. They just expect that, from a video game, where everybody looks insanely gorgeous and everything is fantasy, love must be this magical, eternal force that is never touched by mistakes or sadness or hurt whatsoever.

They don’t have to have twisted ideas about love in real life to come up with such conclusions. They just have a problem with the Compilation’s approach.


I do believe that Cloud showed an interest in Aerith. As Tres and so many others have pointed out with some of what Kitase and Nojima have said, there was something that Cloud must’ve felt for Aerith, although he obviously had feelings for Tifa, too. I’m not for sure how deep his affections for Aerith went romantically, but I do believe he felt some degree of affection for her.

And this may be the less analytical side of me speaking, but I genuinely want to believe that it was the Cloud-Cloud part of him and not the Zack-Cloud part that did feel something for her — but I honestly can’t determine either way, since he was so messed up on the first disc.

However, I also believe that — after the Lifestream event, as well as the High Affection Highwind scene — his feelings for Tifa were established as something a little more, especially since, if you take the High Affection Highwind scene as canon, he confirmed his feelings with her. Either way, though, I believe he will always hold Aerith close in his heart. I’m just not for sure if it’s of a romantic nature now.

If Aerith had lived, and Tifa had stayed in the background, then, yes, there could’ve been something more between them, certainly. As of now, though, I believe they have a very deep spiritual connection that transcends beyond that of romantic love. I’m not for sure if that makes any sense, but that’s how I view his relationship with Aerith. I really believe he places both Zack and Aerith on the same level now, as two people who will always have a place in his heart. And that gives me so many feels! ^.^


Another thing that’s a bit unsettling to me about the Clerith perspective is that Cloud’s heart should be solely indebted to Aerith for the rest of his life — that it has to be this romantic love beyond death despite them knowing each other for a mere few weeks and not even having an established relationship yet. I’m sorry, that shit only flies for long-time married couples. Cloud is a young guy in his early 20s, he just defeated his nemesis, and is finally living a normal life.

You want him to waste his life away moping for a dead girl he only knew for a few weeks? Not only that, it has to be this creepy soul fusion thing where she’s inside him at all times, even when he sleeps and goes to the bathroom? What. The. Fuck. I don’t think even a fanfiction romance novel can reach this level of bad.

I doubt anybody that actually likes Cloud would want this for him. Look, if Tifa was the one to be impaled instead, I’d want Cloud to move on with Aerith 110 percent, no question. SE did the right thing with the story direction.


The Cloud that Aerith meets was the same as Zack yet different. Aerith wanted to meet the real Cloud.

*But she never did*. The Cloud that Aerith grew close to was an overgrown lie that Cloud wore for *Tifa’s* sake. An idea based on his perceptions of what a SOLDIER should look like, memories extracted from Tifa’s mind of the cool loner uninterested in her that she saw Cloud as during their childhood, and Zack’s stories. He took that persona because he was at a vulnerable state and was confronted with Tifa, the person he’d promised to return to as a SOLDIER 1st Class. And he did everything he could to be the person he thought would most impress her.

That’s the tragic love story of FFVII right there.

—Minato Arisato

The moment Cloud fell into her church and they escaped Reno, there is an instant chemistry between them that I didn’t see with Tifa. It’s like Aerith, the pretty girl in pink, was the obvious love interest while Tifa is the supporting pretty, tough girl that will be friendzoned. And it is true that meeting Aerith does send Cloud and the party into a series of events that will set their path for the entire game.

Aerith — being also the flirty, very forward woman — was scoring points with Cloud while Tifa was just there trying to aid him in whatever way she can. It’s also a bonus that Aerith was the last Cetra and Cloud resembled her first love, thus setting new mysteries and plot advancement. What match can a childhood friend who has no special bloodline like Tifa be to a heroine like Aerith who has a much grander role?

Moreover, Aerith’s date was the default one.

When Tifa was just there being with Cloud, Aerith was separated from him when she went to the Forgotten Capital. This sets up a “man chasing a woman” feel to the game, especially when Cloud was running toward her in their dream.

Now, when Cloud was supposed to reunite with Aerith the next step in the formula is a love confession — but then she was murdered. To many people, this is a classic romance cut short by evil.

I saw things differently. I think Aerith’s death was part of shattering the illusion. Aerith — the girl in the dress, the healer, the destined one — was not just meant to be merely the love of the hero. She was to symbolize the harshness and realism of death and yet she would be a heroine that would triumph over evil because she was able to accomplish her mission.

Despite this, Aerith was able to see the real Cloud. She was able to love the real him under the illusion, but she did not live long enough for her to see him come out of his shell. But when she could not be with him in life, her spirit continued to watch over him. It seems that even illusions can’t get in Aerith’s way, and death can’t stop her also.

On Cloud’s part, the cocky hero was just an illusion formed from his best friend that was Aerith’s first love. I think the illusion that Aerith would be alive and together with Cloud comes with the shattering of the illusionary Cloud. He was nobody, probably just a clone, his memories of being a great SOLDIER were false and he’s lost his sense of himself.

Then Tifa comes in. True, she does not possess the appearance of a healer like Aerith and was instead a fighter, but she was the one who wanted to support Cloud and be by his side. So, again, this is another illusion shattered.

Tifa wasn’t just an action girl that is an accessory. She was to support Cloud not in combat alone, but in finding his true self. She’s not meant for something of a grand scale like Aerith’s role, but her role is a small, tender and intimate one with Cloud in the Lifestream when they bared their souls together.

Also, she was always there for Cloud from the beginning to the end, when he’s weak and when he’s strong, juxtaposing the fact that Cloud was the one who promised to help her when she’s a pinch. She wanted to be the damsel but she fought right beside him. She believed that he could be someone great way before anybody thought he could be. And she did get her wish, and Cloud was also able to fulfill his promise to her.

Also, the real Cloud was just like her: extraordinary people from a simple background. The real Cloud wasn’t an accomplished SOLDIER, but a country boy wanting to impress a girl. They were ordinary people who were victimized by Shinra and forced to fight on because of what happened to them. Yet this simple, supposedly unimpressive but real Cloud was actually stronger than his illusion, defeating Sephiroth as he is.


And, thus, ends our analysis — more than four years after this article’s original publication in September of 2009, and two years after major revisions began in October 2011.

This will be the final update.

Never again will I debate this matter. New information may yet come. The context and relevance of older information may change. My opinions may even change in light of new data as it becomes available. No matter, this article will stand for all time as it does today. Too much time and effort has already gone into it, and I have more rewarding endeavors to explore elsewhere.

I do hope that all who have taken the time to read this — bless your masochistic souls — have found some edification in it. I hope that you do not feel your time has been wasted. And most of all, I hope that there may yet be peace between fans of Final Fantasy VII. We should all enjoy it together. Life is too short and there’s too much crap to get in the way of enjoying it already. I mean, really.

It’s a great game. It has a captivating story and characters who you begin to see as family by the end of your journey with them, warts and all. Perhaps it’s those flaws that make them feel more like family.

But remember: It’s a goddamn video game. You’re supposed to enjoy it.

As a person who is, most of the time, not fully immersed in this debate, I do get periods of doubt. “Maybe TLS is looking too deep into stuff,” “maybe this quote shouldn’t be taken a certain way,” etc.

But then I see hito make clear the nuances of important Japanese quotes. I become reminded by him, Tres and other people of the relevant quotes which settle who Cloud has paired up with: Tifa. The only reason I doubt is that my disinterest in the LTD makes me forget about the existence and true meaning of certain quotes.

If it wasn’t for those few, important statements in complementary material, I would have no idea who Cloud is more romantically involved with because I’m the type of guy who needs concrete confirmation of romance in stories, either via confessions or displays of physical intimacy. The scenes between Cloud, Aerith and Tifa are just too vaguely written for me to draw any conclusions.

But the research and conclusions done by the FFVII scholars of TLS are reasonable. Only two scenarios are at this point possible:

1) Cloud loves Tifa romantically and only Tifa
2) Cloud loves Tifa romantically AND has romantic feelings for Aerith as well

To repeat myself, I find it interesting just how tough it is to interpret the love triangle dynamic. There is good reason that Tres has had to write a *book* about the matter. For those not academically invested in the discussion, the interpretation can go either way.


I think Cloud very well could or did love Aerith. The writers at least tried to portray her as the main love interest during Disc 1 while putting Tifa more into the “old friend” category, even though she had feelings for Cloud. You can get around seeing a lot of it with the dialogue choices, but there are a few scenes, such as Cait Sith’s compatibility test, that you can’t avoid. I think it was the writers’ intent that Cloud loved Aerith or at least was strongly attracted to her (because I am not sure you can say they were hopelessly in love; it doesn’t definitively show they were, but it definitely shows they cared about each other).

But, again, Cloud doesn’t remember during Disc 1 that he was in love with Tifa during his entire life before he was messed up by Hojo. This — coupled with the scenes in the Lifestream, the Highwind scene and the Compilation — all show that, despite how much he cared about Aerith, the real Cloud didn’t stop loving Tifa after he rediscovered himself. I don’t think this cheapens what he and Aerith had, but his love for Tifa is a core aspect of who he is. It molded his childhood and teenage years (pining after her and attempting to join SOLDIER because of her). Cloud obviously wanted to be with Tifa for *years*, so it would be very strange if, when she finally reciprocated, he decided against it.

But Aerith was very important to him too, don’t get me wrong. And I don’t claim he stopped caring about her when he rediscovered himself. Despite how messed up he was during Disc 1, the real Cloud was still in there. Aerith was kind of the shining light of the group, and everyone was devastated when she died, especially Cloud. Was he *deeply* in love with her? Eh, I don’t think so. But he most likely was at least in the early stages of attraction/puppy love, which only heightened how much he cared about her (and how devastating her death was). There was a lot of potential there, but Aerith was taken away before it could really develop into something akin to real, deep love.

My point in all this is to say that I think he did love both women, but to different degrees. One woman he loved his entire life and desperately desired to be good enough for her, except for a short period when his memory was incomplete. The other he only knew during the period he couldn’t remember how he felt about the first woman. However, he did have a strong bond with her and they got along extremely well and had a kind of fun, flirty dynamic. But the first woman is the one he expresses deep, tender feelings for and the one that becomes his companion for the rest of his life.


—Special Thanks—
Shademp; Quexinos; hitoshura; Ryushikaze; MakoEyes987; JayM; Maidenofwar; the staff and members of TheLifestream.net and Cloud x Aerith forums

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