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Pairing: Cloud Strife/Aerith Gainsborough
Alternative name(s): Cloud x Aerith, Clerith, Cleris
Gender category: het
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Prevalence: popular
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Cloud/Aerith is a Final Fantasy VII pairing involving characters Cloud Strife and Aerith Gainsborough.


Cloud and Aerith are the main hero and heroine of the video game Final Fantasy VII. At the opening of the game, Cloud is a cold-hearted mercenary who only accepts missions to help save the planet from the group AVALANCHE for money. This coldness towards all the members of AVALANCHE is not part of his false memories borrowed from Zack but is part of the real Cloud[1].

During one mission, he falls into Aerith's church in the slums and the two strike up a conversation. Aerith is a Cetra/Ancient, the last in a race of planet protectors and had been pursued by megacorporation ShinRA her entire youth. When they appear at the church to try to capture her again, Aerith recruits Cloud to help her escape. Instead of the usual gil, Cloud accepts Aerith's offer of the payment of one date for his help and forms an agreement to be her bodyguard.

After meeting Aerith, Cloud's cold outlook begins to change[2]. He escorts her home and consistently expresses concern for keeping her out of dangerous situations such as going into the Wall Street market. The player can also choose to tell Aerith that Tifa is not Cloud's girlfriend and opt to take her along to Sector 7.

Cloud and Aerith have a first date in the park[3], where they talk about Cloud's SOLDIER status and Aerith's first love, who was also in SOLDIER. Cloud remarks that he might have known him and asks Aerith his name, but Aerith responds that it doesn't matter as she was never in a serious relationship with him. During the scene where they escape the church, Cloud and Aerith laugh together. This is the only time Cloud laughs in the game[4]

Cloud and Aerith become close quickly[5]. When Aerith is agrees to go with ShinRA so that Barret's daughter Marlene can escape, Cloud decides to rescue her with or without the assistance of AVALANCHE. When talking to Marlene about Aerith before leaving on the rescue mission, Marlene has already noticed Aerith's attraction to Cloud. When she says to Cloud that she thinks Aerith likes him, Cloud can say 'Let's hope so'. Supplementary materials have shown this is the response canon to the storyline[6].

No matter what route the player takes into the building, Barret is impressed that Cloud will fight for someone else and Tifa becomes jealous.

The rescue attempt results in Cloud and the others getting captured. When the group are in cells next to Aerith's, the player can talk to Aerith. Cloud reminds Aerith about his promise to protect her as her bodyguard, which causes Tifa to become jealous again. After escaping from ShinRA and discovering Sephiroth is still alive, the group all leave Midgar to begin the quest.

When in Cosmo Canyon, the group all gathers around a campfire. When Cloud speaks to Aerith, she comments how she is alone as a Cetra. Cloud comments 'But I'm...we're here for you, right?' There are several times during the game when Cloud expresses the desire to do something or be with Aerith in an individual way, excluding the rest of the group.

When crossing the ocean Aerith mentions wanting to go on an airship like she saw in Midgar and the player can promise to take her on one someday. This is referenced in Aerith's 'Change Disc' image, where she is standing before an airship.

Later Cait Sith, a fortune telling robot controlled by Reeve, joins the party. He predicts Cloud will gain what he seeks but will lose something dear to him. The 'something dear' is Aerith [7] On the surface Cait Sith's fortunes appear unreliable but he actually has an innate ability and predicts many things within the game [8] Later on Cait Sith predicts that Cloud and Aerith's 'star show a great future' when Aerith asks how compatible they are. Ultimania quotes state that Cait Sith is not only predicting the future of a relationship but a marriage, so the prediction becomes sadder once Aerith is killed [9]

Within the game there is a Dating Mechanic which determines who Cloud goes on a date with when the group returns to the Gold Saucer theme park. The game begins with Tifa with 30 points and Aerith on 50. Aerith has the extra points due to being introduced later, but the date with Aerith is still considered the normal outcome[10] and the date is referenced in the game Itadaki Street Special[11][12] and during the BRA BRA concert[13][14], as well as other sources[15], canonising it.

During the date scene, Aerith tells Cloud that it bothered her that he had similarities to her first love, but that she realises he is different and wants to get to know the real him. Supplementary material[16] and Itadaki Street confirm that this means she has seen that Cloud is confusing his identity but has also seen through to the real him.

Cloud suffers mental manipulation from Sephiroth and almost hurts Aerith when Sephiroth tries to take the Black Materia. Aerith visits Cloud in a dream to let him know that he should look after himself and let her handle saving the Planet[17]. He tries to go after her and wakes in Gongaga.

Cloud fears hurting Aerith again but the group persuades him to settle up with Sephiroth so they pursue Aerith to the Forgotten City. When Sephiroth kills Aerith before Cloud's eyes, Cloud's heart breaks and he tells Sephiroth that his plan to destroy the Planet means nothing now that Aerith is gone.

Cloud later promises Aerith that he alone will take care of the rest when he discovers she was trying to save the Planet using a spell called Holy, and Tifa interrupts that they all will help finish the job.

At the end of the game, Cloud realises he can find Aerith in the Promised Land and resolves to see her again after reaching for her hand during the fight with Sephiroth.

Other games

In the Advent Children movie, Cloud is afflicted with geostigma. He goes to stay in Aerith's church partly out of guilt for being unable to save Denzel but also because of his self-loathing over failing to save Aerith. Seeing Cloud is living in the church provokes more jealousy from Tifa, which becomes a lecture when Cloud wants to avoid the Forgotten City (because of memories of Aerith) about being lost in his memories rather than living his life. However, it is only when Aerith uses her Cetra powers to let Cloud know she never blamed him for not being able to save her that he is able to move on, and Cloud smiles genuinely when he sees her at the end of the film.

In the manual to Dirge of Cerberus, Cloud's allies are listed. Aerith is described as 'A girl with the blood of the Ancients flowing through her veins who is engraved in Cloud’s heart for the rest of his life' (Japanese literal translation) and 'A girl with the blood of the Ancients who Cloud would never forget'. Tifa is listed as Cloud's friend despite the game being set after Final Fantasy VII.

Cloud and Aerith both appear in the Kingdom Hearts series. Cloud appears to be looking for Aerith in Kingdom Hearts as they are reunited in the credits and Nomura states that the ending was made so that players could interpret it that way[18]. An optional route in Kingdom Hearts 2 has Cloud looking for Sephiroth and Tifa looking for Cloud. The canon storyline features Cloud promising to return to Aerith once he has settled his business with Sephiroth. In the Kingdom Hearts 2.8 credits there is a romance section featuring Disney couples, and Cloud and Aerith appear in the middle of the credits, showing they are the primary couple of Final Fantasy VII [19].

In World of Final Fantasy, Terra chastises Cloud for chasing Sephiroth. Cloud remarks that Sephiroth 'took someone away from me forever', and Terra responds 'this isn't any way to honour your love for her'[20].

In the spin off compilation game Crisis Core, the player controls Zack, who has a romantic relationship with Aerith. However at the end of the game Aerith's last letter implies she is moving on and won't wait for Zack any longer.

In a crossover event, only the item 'Aerith's ribbon' gives Cloud a limit break[21].

Supplementary Material

A companion guife to the movie Advent Children, called Reunion Files, was published. In it Cloud's guilt for failing to save Aerith is compared to Vincent's guilt for failing to save the woman he loved, Lucrecia [22]

An early guide to Final Fantasy VII was Kaito Shinso, known as Dismantled. In Dismantled, there are journal excerpts from the perspectives of different characters. Both Dismantled and the Ultimania Omegas were written by Studio BentStuff, so both are sources of equal validity. Cloud expresses attraction to Aerith in Dismantled's 'diary' passages[23][24] and shows complete commitment to rescuing her from ShinRa.

A later prequel novella to Advent Children, On the Way To A Smile, was written by scenario writer Nojima and contains the line 'クラウドは女の友人であり、恋人であり——大切なものの象徴であり、守るべき存在だった', romanised as 'Cloud wa onna no yuujin deari, koibito deari —— taisetsu na mono no shouchou deari, mamoru beki sonzai datta'. This was literally translated as 'Cloud was her friend, her lover', which some Japanese fans believe confirmed Clerith as canon[25]. The German translation was 'Cloud war ihr Freund, ihr Geliebter', which can again mean mutual lover, and the French was 'Cloud avait été son ami, et son amant', with amant being an even stronger translation. The mildest translation is the English, which translated the sentence as 'Cloud was her friend. More than her friend, for she had loved him'. A Spanish translation is to follow.

It has been argued Tifa has also been called koibito or lover, however the quote in question doesn't contain Cloud's name, was officially translated as sweetheart and is listing her attributes/characteristics, not what she is to someone else[26].

Various quotes indicate both Cloud and Aerith have feelings for one another. A common argument is that Aerith loved Cloud because he resembled Zack. However, quotes from Ultimanias show that Aerith saw through to the real Cloud [27][28][29]

Other materials have outlined the strength of feeling Cloud and Aerith had for one another. Maiden of the Planet shows part of Aerith's reason and ability to go through with putting herself in danger (and ultimately being killed by Sephiroth) was wanting to do it to save not just the Planet but also Cloud [30]. The novel further states, just as the Anniversary Museum did, that Cloud was heartbroken when Aerith died [31].

As a result of these feelings, Tifa becomes jealous several times: on first meeting Aerith, on seeing Cloud's determination to rescue her, on overhearing them talk in the Shinra jail cells about their planned date[32] and even after Aerith's death[33][34][35]. Aerith becoming jealous of Tifa is optional to the story as it is dependent on the player's choices (saying Tifa is Cloud's girlfriend in an early dialogue choice, for example), but Tifa's jealous is both canon to the storyline and referenced several times in supplementary materials.

A quote in the Final Fantasy Ultimania Omega refers to Cloud and Tifa confirming feelings under the Highwind, which has been taken to be romantic. However, the Ultimania then references another page and advises the reader that the nature of those feelings is dependent on the player's affection points. If they are low then the scene ends short[36]. Further quotes say Cloud and Tifa confirmed/clarified their feelings, but not what the nature of those feelings are, leaving the outcome of the scene optional to the player [37].

Interviews with the creators have also suggested that Cloud and Tifa are not a couple after the end of FFVII. One interview about Case of Tifa states that 'there's the premise that things won't go well between Tifa and Cloud, and that even without Geostigma or Sephiroth this might be the same' [38]. Nomura also refuted the idea - when asked how many girls Sephiroth had ever loved he replied he hadn't thought much of it and added that he was often asked if Tifa and Cloud had become a couple after FF7 but that he had no clue about it [39]


Cloud/Aerith and Cloud/Tifa are two sides of a long-standing ship war in FFVII fandom commonly known as the Love Triangle Debate (LTD). Debates about which of the two ships can be considered canon are common.

Fans consider Cloud and Aerith to be canon due to the Aerith being presented as the intended love interest in various media[40][41][42][43], and scenes with Tifa being optional. While the player can get the High Affection Highwind scene with Tifa if their affection points for her are high enough, this route has never been confirmed as canon and it is commonly argued that Cloud and Tifa not sharing a room[44] and not being married[45] in Advent Children is a sign that they have not become a couple post Final Fantasy VII. In addition, Case of Tifa shows Tifa having to ask Cloud if he loves her and getting no response, and then later asking 'What about you and me?' and also getting no response. In the novella Tifa receives no positive responses from Cloud about the nature of their relationship and he ultimately leaves 7th Heaven at the end. While it is also argued that the High Affection scene implies Cloud and Tifa were intimate that night, interviews in the 10th anniversary ultimania omega suggests the scene was toned down explicitly to remove that implication [46]

A common fan theory is that any of Cloud's interest in Aerith came from his belief that he was Zack early on in the game. However, this is inaccurate. Cloud does not believe he is Zack, rather he took stories from Zack and mixed them up with his own life due to the confusion and trauma of his mako poisoning. If he believed he was Zack or literally had Zack's memories he would either introduce himself as Zack, believe he was from Gongaga, recognise Aerith or Zack's parents or believe he had a girlfriend waiting in the Midgar slums, but Cloud does not believe any of these things. The game script also shows what Cloud had adopted were stories from Zack about SOLDIER[47] and that he was there for much of the Nibelheim incident, just in the capacity of a guard not a member of SOLDIER. Ultimanias also show that aspects of Cloud's personality - his coldness and cockiness - are not from Zack, who is happy go lucky, but rather are part of Cloud's playacting as a member of SOLDIER.

A second theory is that Aerith only loves Cloud because he reminds her of Zack. However, the game's script has Aerith state multiple times that she and Zack are the past and were never serious[48], and in the Japanese version they weren't even properly dating[49]. The original script also refutes this idea in English and Japanese - if you get the date with Aerith, which is the normal outcome, she states that it bothered her they were alike but that things are different now and it is the real Cloud she wants to spend time with. Supplementary materials like guidebooks have also reinforced this notion[50] several[51] times. The Crisis Core Ultimania and other supplementary material also speak of Aerith and Zack as being a 'young' or 'juvenile' love, just like Cloud's crush on Tifa, and that it was a sudden crush[52].

Aerith also states being unhappy with aspects of her relationship with Zack, both in the original game script where she just assumes he moved on and never called her again since he was a ladies' man, and in supplementary materials [53]. Other supplementary material shows Aerith was right to think this way - it shows she recognised Zack did not want to make their relationship exclusive and that he wasn't planning to stay with her when on the run from Shinra in the original game's dialogue. The novella Maiden of the Planet has Aerith explicitly reject Zack in favour of Cloud [54].

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  1. If we consider this, the part of his coolness that keeps him away from the surroundings and the part of his asserting "not interested" all have nothing to do with the influence of Jenova cells, they belong to the real Cloud's personality - FFVII Ultimania Omega, pg.180
  2. An anniversary museum contains the quote 'It is the heroine, Aerith, that melts Cloud's icy heart'
  3. Date in the Park: In Scene 04-10, Zack and Aerith have a date in Green Park in the sector 6 slum. An identical situation is seen in "FFVII" as well, which features a scene of Cloud and Aerith on a date in the same park. -Crisis Core Ultimania
  4. There’s a scene where Cloud and Aerith laugh together. This is the only time that he laughs during the entire story. Even though they just met, they’re becoming so close, are they becoming special to each other? - FFVII Ultimania Omega.
  5. Link to an Ultimania quote:
  6. Marlene is a sharp girl — Even though she’s only 4 years old, Marlene is perceptive and well attuned to the woman mind. The scene where she ascertains that Aerith has favor for Cloud and tells him so, then says “I won’t tell Tifa!” demonstrates this grownup behavior -Final Fantasy VII 25th Anniversary Ultimania
  7. The fortune telling with deep meaning. Cait Sith’s divination about the direction toward Sephiroth turns out three consequences. Disregarding the previous two, the noticeable one is the third result which becomes the chance for him to follow the party— “What you’re looking for will be yours, but you’ll lose something very dear.” As the storyline moves on to the event at the Forgotten City, the “something very dear” can be read as losing Aerith, and it also hints at the event of Cloud’s reaching his self-breakdown when the story goes to the Northern Crater. - Ultimania Omega
  8. The name of my divination machine is not Dotty! The collection of Cait Sith’s fortunetelling. Cait Sith ambushed in Gold Saucer and waited for Cloud’s gang. He introduced himself that “I’m a fortuneteller here.” But this is never an absolute lie, fortunetelling is Cait Sith’s innate specialty. His extraordinary ability is shown as “tickets” in FF7, and is also revealed as surmises of destination in BC. The list of Cait Sith’s fortunetelling: [Predictions In FF7] 1. The location of Sephiroth: “What you pursue will be yours. But you will lose something dear" 2. The development from now on: “Ordinary luck. It will be an active fortune" 3. The affinity between Cloud and Aerith: “You are perfect for each other! Aerith’s star and Cloud’s star! They show a great future!“ [Predictions In BC] 4. The place to find “Support materia” 5. The direction to every door in the Reactor - Ultimania Omega
  9. Cait Sith’s lines which seem to expect Cloud and Aerith’s wedding now makes it more painful.
  10. 'In Aerith’s case, if you play the game normally, the partner that generally comes will be Aerith.' -Final Fantasy VII Dismantled, Square Enix
  11. When we were riding on the Gondola I'm sure Aerith was aware of the real me, whom I looked away from.
  12. Link:
  13. Discussion:
  15. #111 The Planet's largest amusement park is run by Dio. Cloud and company visit this place many times in their battle. They meet Cait Sith here. A promised date [only Aerith promises Cloud a date] that ends in a magical night. In the city of desire that floats above the sands, the light memory of the two people is asleep even now...I think I must have seen him again, in you... But you're different. Things are different... No, Cloud... I'm searching for you... - Final Fantasy Art Collection
  16. She was happy. She was happy that she now knew the real Cloud and was able to watch over him, even though it was just for a short while - Maiden of the Planet
  18. Question: Okay then, so the person who Cloud is searching for is Aeris, right? Nomura: Well, what do you think? If indeed it was Aeris, then the bit in the ending was the answer. You might say it was made so that you can take it that way. Cloud is a popular character, and I don’t really want to decide myself, yes he is like this. Because players make strong conclusions by themselves, I want to leave room for everyone’s line of thought. - Kingdom Hearts Ultimania Guide Translations
  19. At 3:32
  22. Cloud tried to protect Marlene, who had escaped from Kadaj, but she refused because she knew Cloud was led by the purpose of fearing he’ll fail the battle. Then Cloud recalled Tifa’s words before he moved off: “Which is it? A memory or us?” Is there a way to forgive the sin?…..Cloud searched for help from Vincent by such question, and Vincent, who carried the heavy past in the same way, said that he had never tried -Reunion Files
  23. Refers to Aerith's smile if you buy a flower as a 'good purchase'
  24. 'She's a girl with impressive eyes' - Dismantled
  26. There are many aspects to Tifa's character. She's like a sweetheart(koibito), a mother and an ally in battle - Reunion Files
  27. Although in the beginning, Aerith felt close to Cloud because he behaved like Zack, her interest in Cloud himself grows and she is attracted to him. -FF7 Ultimania Omega
  28. When Aerith thinks of Cloud and Zack’s similarities, she sees that the present Cloud is not the real Cloud. Her meaningful lines like, “I’m searching for you” and “I want to meet you” all mean that she has discovered the existence of the real Cloud, although he’s not aware of it himself
  29. I’m looking for you.“…"So you won’t have a breakdown.” - what Aerith told Cloud reveals many deep meanings. Aerith detected that the present Cloud is not the real him during their encounters. She knows it because of her mysterious, inherent ability.
  30. That was where Aerith hesitated. Will she let all humans die or was she going to avoid such a disaster in exchange for her life... But she never did think about it and was already prepared. When she did hesitate about leaving Cloud in sorrow, she would think about how it wouldn't save her companions or the people of the world. She had already made up her mind. There was no other choice. It was all for Cloud too - Maiden of the Plane
  31. But a cry came through to her. It wasn't the sound of her cry. If it was then she would have felt the blood gushing up through her throat and the fury that forced its way out from the depths of her soul-- It was the sound of Cloud's heart cracking. It was the cry of his heart that could never be healed of the grief he had towards Aerith's death, the blame towards himself and the hatred he had for Sephiroth. She was surprised at the great sorrow he had for her. She was a little happy that he thought so much of her but she also felt the pain that was many times greater. There was nothing she could do about Cloud's suffering and the pain ached in her heart. The pain continued even though she was in the Lifestream - Maiden of the Planet
  32. Seeing Cloud and Aerith developing their world together before her eyes, she [Tifa] inadvertently lets slip her peevish feelings - Tifa's profile FFVII Anniversary Omega
  33. The thing which she is unable to hide in her irritation towards Cloud is the fact that he isn't merely dragging the past around, but because that reason might perhaps be related to Aerith - Reunion Files
  34. Upon knowing that Cloud had been residing in Aerith’s church after leaving the place they had been living in together, her expression becomes complex - Reunion Files
  35. Tifa's complicated feelings continue even in AC, two years after Aerith had departed the world. -Tifa's profile, FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania, pg. 42-47
  36. After stopping Hojo’s recklessness and before heading to the Northern Crater, the conversation scene with Tifa can diverge drastically depending on Tifa’s affection rating. When the affection rating is low, the conversation of the scene where the two spend the evening is candid/apathetic and rather short - Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega
  38. "Episode Tifa" [Case of Tifa] - first off, there's the premise that things won't go well between Tifa and Cloud, and that even without Geostigma or Sephiroth this might be the same. I don't really intend to go about my views on love or marriage or family (laughs). After ACC, I guess Denzel and Marlene could help them work it out. Maybe things would have gone well with Aerith, but I think there is a great burden from Aerith. Oh, I just remembered. I wanted to write Cloud as a person, seen through Tifa's eyes. But he really isn't the type to open up (laughs). - Kazushije Nojima interview
  39. Tetsuya Nomura: What kind of question is that? I’ve never thought about it. Honestly, I don’t care who loves whom. I think you could imagine the scenerios that we don’t mention however you want to. You could enjoy talking about that with friends. For example, I was frequently asked if there had been romantic relationship between Tifa and Cloud for two years, after FF7 ended, but I don’t have any clue. - Dorimaga magazine interview with Nomura; November, 2005
  40. A French trailer calls Aerith and Cloud 'an impossible love story'
  41. A European commerical describing Aerith and Cloud against the word 'love':
  42. A Japanese wedding ritual featuring Cloud and Aerith:
  43. Further times Aerith and Cloud have been shown as a married couple:
  44. "Shall I join you?" There was something she wanted to talk to him about. Cloud said, "I want to drink alone." Hearing that, Tifa lost control and said, "Then drink in your room." - Case of Tifa
  45. It is sometimes believed Cloud and Tifa are wearing matching rings in Advent Children, but in actuality Cloud has given his ring to Denzel who wears it on a chain and both Tifa and Barret have wolf rings. The wolf in AC symbolises guilt so the rings most likely represent the guilt the members of AVALANCHE carry. Cid and Shera, however, are explicitly stated to be married.
  46. Kitase: “But I remember having to get another version that was too intense toned down.” Nojima: “The original idea was more extreme. The plan was to have Cloud walk out of the Chocobo stable on board the Highwind, followed by Tifa leaving while checking around, but Kitase turned it down." - FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania Omega
  47. I was so ashamed of being so weak; then I heard this story from my friend Zack...And I created an illusion of myself made up of what I had seen in my life... -FF7 script
  48. Cloud: "You were...serious?" Aerith: "No. But I liked him for awhile. "Cloud: "I probably knew him. What was his name?" Aerith: "It doesn't really matter." -FF7 Script, Cloud and Aerith's date in the park
  49. A video series examining the original translation:
  50. Aerith was in even greater pain when she thought about Cloud. She also had good feelings towards him. At first, she thought he somehow had some similarities to her first love. Even so, his looks, voice and personality weren’t similar and he also made her think of him as a mysterious person… But it soon didn’t matter. She loved him much more than her first love. Cloud was her hero and he couldn’t get away from danger. She saw him as someone full of confidence, cool and had the impression that he would disappear in an instant if she took her eyes off him. She wanted to stay by his side forever if she could. She really wanted to -Maiden of the Planet
  51. "At first when I met Cloud, I believed he was similar to Zack. Little actions, the way he spoke… his kindness. But Cloud is Cloud. I, now undoubtedly, love Cloud much more than Zack." Aerith’s monologue in Gongaga, page 159, Final Fantasy VII Dismantled, Square Enix
  52. Nojima: The setting that “falling from the roof of the Church” repeats Aerith’s encounter with Cloud was decided in the beginning. Though we’re talking about love, they are still young back then and there’s no time to describe “how they become fond of each other” in the game. So I made it like “falling into a sudden crush.” -Crisis Core Ultimania, the interview, Page 579
  53. Although called my first love, that doesn’t mean that we became particularly intimate. I encountered him by chance as a flower vendor in Midgar. It was good for a little while, so I thought -FF7 Dismantled
  54. Zack: "Man, you know Aerith. Out of all the girls I've gotten along with, you truly are the best. After that mission, we could've stayed the way we were and might have been able to continue to go out with each other after I returned home. I hate Sephiroth. And I hate Shinra who's been hiding all the stuff they've been doing." Aerith: "Someone who's gotten along with so many girls can never become a lover." Zack: "How mean. I'm nice to everyone." Aerith: "And that's your bad point. You're not simplistic and awkward like Cloud."