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A soft tug on her skirt. "What'cha lookin' at, mama?"
"Hmm?" Marlene looked at the ten-year old boy staring at her intently. He shared her brown hair and eyes, but his personality was clearly derived from his father, honest and kind, though a bit overly insistent.
"What'cha lookin' at, mama?"
Marlene took a breath and casually brushed a few tendrils of auburn hair away from her face. "Oh, nothing. I was just thinking."
"What about?" the boy pressed.
"Just a story I remembered. Why don't you sit down? Want me to tell it to you?" Her hands unconsciously began fingering the jeweled heart-shaped pendant she always wore around her neck.
The boy took his mother's suggestion and frowned. "Is it another stupid super-happy love-everybody fairy tale? With lessons and stuff at the end? Those are for babies!"
Marlene let the pendant fall and laughed at his reaction. "What, Dyne? And you're not a baby?" she teased.
He looked up at her sternly. "No!"
She nodded. "All right. But, no, not a kiddy story." She shrugged. It would probably entertain some adults that were into this kind of story."
Dyne looked downward indignantly. "Okay, then."
I speak of the man named Cloud Strife, the greatest warrior this world has ever had the honor to have. His eyes were a cold blue fire and his stare inspired fear and respect to those that regarded him. His form was slim yet surprisingly supple and muscular at the same time. He was a magical adept, able to channel the powers locked in materia with great ease and force, and also a swordsman without equal.
He bore on his back an enormous blade, his fallen friend's blade, at first unnamed, but what others would later label as Ultima Weapon, in honor of he who wielded it and of the WEAPON that presented its life force to him. Its edges were as pure glass, crystalline yet tangible. This sacred weapon was an extension of his being: when Cloud was without injury, it was infinitely sharp and reflected his power; and it weakened with him, its edges becoming a deep violet when its user's stamina was at a low ebb. Not surprisingly, it was almost always transparent. Only Cloud could heft Ultima Weapon's weight, and he did it without effort; observers noted that it was impossible to life when held by any other hand, as if the blade itself knew the touch of its owner.
The hero's technique was unparalleled. Woe to the foes present when Cloud's anger reached its peak. Born of a childhood full of trial and isolation and tempered in the heat of hate and love alike, Cloud's fury is as potent a tool as his Ultima Weapon. His legendary, but rarely seen anger lent his blows added speed, power, and continuity. His traveling companions often shied from the battle when they witnessed his entering this battle trance. They called it Omnislash, in reference to the seemingly infinite volley of sword strokes that engulfed all of his enemies.
His hate made him a tragic figure. His name reflects the constant turmoil he endured, almost like a cruel form of prophecy. Sephiroth, he who believed himself to be God, repeatedly hurled at him failures, anguish, and the weight of departed souls he couldn't save. Among the last of these was his mother, the only one who loved him during childhood, and the Ancient, Aeris Gainsborough, the last of her kind, savior of the Earth with Cloud at her side, her hero and protector. She awakened his passion, and it is her loss that makes his story a remembered one. Her prayer saved our world, and his will carried her wishes through. He was not the planet's guardian; he has already attested to that. His global-impacting actions were only side effects of his vengeance. Rather, he insists that it is she who saved the world.
He was last seen riding off into the sunset, as per the hero's dramatic departure, on the rarest chocobo in the world. Like his other jewel, she was also the only one of her kind. On her back, Cloud could literally travel to the ends of the Earth, and some speculate that he has done so. Mountain peaks, desert, rivers, and ocean could not obstruct the passage of his special chocobo with the golden feathers.
"And it is here that we end the story," Marlene finished.
Dyne stared at her with an amazed and inquisitive look on his face. "But that wasn't really a story, mama. Nothing, like, happened."
His mother nodded in understanding. "Well, this is a different type of story. If you don't appreciate it now, you'll understand its value after thinking about it for a while."
Dyne shrugged. "I still don't think it's a story, but it was still nice anyway." He rose from his chair to leave. "Thank you, mama."
Marlene responded with a simple "mmm hmm" and went back to staring out of the window. Outside to Kalm. Toward Midgar.
Dyne wandered to the rocky shores just outside the town of his birth. Kalm was a simple place, and was boring for it. He fingered a piece of driftwood and pantomimed a sword fight, all the time wondering about the story his mother just told him and what importance it held to her.
His mother was creepy that way; zoning out and always staring into nothing. Grandpa Barret would let Dyne sit on his knee and tell him that she was always like that, ever since she was a little kid. He would then go on about the Meteor crisis, and Shinra, and of the legend. Aunt Tifa and uncle Cid and everyone else would also mention Cloud, though Tifa would usually fall silent and excuse herself from the room when he came up in conversation.
Dyne didn't notice silent footfalls behind him until he heard a voice addressing him.
"What are you doing, young man?"
Dyne turned with a start. Behind him, at a reasonable distance, was a man in a drab cloak, hood drawn over but not completely hiding his streaks of graying hair. His blue eyes measured the boy intently.
"I'm not supposed to be talking to strangers," Dyne said simply, and made himself as to leave.
The stranger's lips curled into an amused smile. "Your parents taught you well." He shrugged and seated himself on a rock. "But humor an old man. It's been a while since I've talked to a young person."
Dyne looked him over. He sat in a relaxed but disciplined posture, and possessed a strange quality that made him hard not to trust.
"I was just thinking about some story my mom told me."
The man folded his hands excitedly. "Well! A story! I haven't heard one in years. Pray tell."
Dyne sat on another nearby rock and began relating, while not as skillfully as his mother, the heart of the legend that he had been told a few hours before. After a while, he took a battle stance and waved his "sword" with a great confidence and energy, to accentuate the tale. The whole time, the man's attention did not waver once from the storyteller.
"So what do you think?" Dyne asked. "I don't really think it was a story, 'cause nothing really happened. It was just a lot of talking about some guy."
The stranger nodded slowly to himself. "I always wondered what other people were thinking." He then addressed the question, "Well, it was a story, just probably not in the way you know it."
"My mom said something like that too." He didn't mention her saying that other adults might find it interesting. "I want to be like Cloud and be strong too."
The man chuckled. "I'm pretty sure legends are just that... legends. They're only exaggerations meant to occupy people's time."
"Yeah, but still...." Dyne swiped at an imaginary foe. "Some of it's true, right?"
The man shrugged and stood up. "Maybe. But I must be going now. It was nice talking to you, young man. Be good to your mother; you never know when she may not be around anymore." He continued, more to himself, "Time goes by too fast." He turned and started walking toward a large pile of coastal rock.
Dyne called out, "Hey! Where're ya goin'?"
The stranger turned and pointed toward the sea. "North. I got something I have to do up there."
Dyne hesitated for a moment. "North? But no ships go there."
"Ships?" He looked as if the thought had never occurred to him.
The boy began getting a little annoyed. "Yeah, ships. You know, they travel on the ocean and a few can fly? My uncle Cid owns the airship business and I know he doesn't go north."
The stranger bit his lip. "I have my ways. See you around, young man. Thank you for taking the time to tell me your story."
If the man knew he was being followed, he made no show of it. Behind the rocks was a chocobo, and it was special. Its feathers reflected the sunlight fabulously, even through a thin coat of dirt. And the chocobo itself seemed of the older variety as its movements were slow, though still graceful, as it must have been in its prime.
The stranger approached the bird with silent, long strides. He removed the hood, probably because of the heat, and Dyne saw that his hair was quite unusual. While graying in some areas, there was little doubt that his hair used to be blonde, and it clumped in spikes in a very unnatural manner.
"C'mon, girl. Just one more trip. You feel up to it?" He patted the chocobo affectionately on her crest and neck and eased himself on her back. "One last trip. Thirty years... I haven't seen that place in thirty years. I guess I was just waiting for the right time for a visit, then, huh? WEAPON's don't live forever." The chocobo cooed softly in response.
The stranger nodded. "Right. Okay, let's go!" He smiled a little before continuing. "Move out!" He gently tugged on the reins and the chocobo aligned itself against the ocean. Dyne gasped in amazement as the bird took to the waves and crossed, without effort, the incoming waves and headed towards the horizon.
As he stared at the stranger's back, his eyes caught the glimmer of a large and ornate hilt and blade. The latter blushed a pale purple.
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