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|Cloud Strife/Aerith Gainsborough
|Cloud x Aerith, Clerith, Cleris, CxA
|Final Fantasy VII
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Final Fantasy VII (1997)
At the opening of the game, Cloud is a cold-hearted mercenary who only accepts missions for money. 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 Shin-Ra her entire youth. When ShinRa forces 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. 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 become close quickly.
Later Cait Sith, a fortune-telling robot, joins the party. He predicts Cloud will gain what he seeks but will lose something dear to him. The 'something dear' is Aerith  On the surface Cait Sith's fortunes appear unreliable but he actually has an innate ability and predicts many things within the game  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 
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 and the date is referenced in the game Itadaki Street Special and during the BRA BRA concert, as well as other sources.
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 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. 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.
In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005), 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. 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: Final Fantasy VII (2006), 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'.
Final Fantasy VII Remake (2020)
In Reunion Files, a companion guide to Advent Children, Cloud's guilt for failing to save Aerith is compared to Vincent's guilt for failing to save the woman he loved, Lucrecia.
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 perhaps this indicates equal validity. Cloud expresses attraction to Aerith in Dismantled's 'diary' passages 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', literally translated as 'Cloud was her friend, her lover', which some Japanese fans believe confirmed Clerith as canon. 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'.
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 
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 . The novel further states, just as the Anniversary Museum did, that Cloud was heartbroken when Aerith died . The novella Maiden of the Planet has Aerith explicitly reject Zack in favour of Cloud .
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).
Alternate continuity versions of 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. 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 .
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'.
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.
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. The game script also shows what Cloud had adopted were stories from Zack about 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 Fair. However, the game's script has Aerith state multiple times that she and Zack are the past and were never serious, and in the Japanese version they weren't even properly dating. 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 several 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.
|Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.
- Future (1999)
- Comparisons with FFXV: http://aerithflowermaiden.tumblr.com/post/162060357506/why-noctis-x-iris-is-actually-comparable-to-cloud
Flowers for you by hatakeflor – Aerith placing a flower crown on a sleeping Cloud.
Happily Married by hatakeflor – Aerith and Cloud getting married.
Sites & Communities
- Cloud x Aerith forum on Tapatalk
Other Links & Resources
- How FFVII defied character archetypes: https://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/1292321
- The FFVII museum scan showing Cloud felt true deep sorrow at Aerith's death: https://www.reddit.com/r/cloudxaerith/comments/8jymid/true_words_revealing_clouds_deep_sorrow_ff_30th/
- Case of Lifestream White Japanese, French and German: http://astoryofalove.tumblr.com/confirmed
- Aerith and Zack are no longer together: https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/cloud_x_aerith/zerith-is-not-canon-anymore-t4081.html
- General points: http://dansantcaparet.tumblr.com/post/51686005576/50-epic-reasons-to-support-cloud-x-aerith
- About Kingdom Hearts 2: http://clerith.heliohost.org/Inner%20Light.htm
- Cloud's separate room in 7th Heaven, visible in Advent Children (image): https://66.media.tumblr.com/af2c4052cb9501d75caba541c1a80015/tumblr_inline_oso741C1Qx1qh4qwy_500.png
- Cloud's separate room (link): https://twitter.com/CloudxAerith/status/882952289610334208
- Labels of the date in the park on the FF7 debug room: https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/cloud_x_aerith/the-debug-room-clerith-t3143.html
- Tokyo Tower celebration: http://astoryofalove.tumblr.com/post/160052739365/these-images-come-from-famitsucoms-coverage-of
- An anniversary museum contains the quote 'It is the heroine, Aerith, that melts Cloud's icy heart'
- Link to an Ultimania quote: https://twitter.com/cloudxaerith/status/1007285305580380160
- 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
- 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
- Cait Sith’s lines which seem to expect Cloud and Aerith’s wedding now makes it more painful.
- 'In Aerith’s case, if you play the game normally, the partner that generally comes will be Aerith.' -Final Fantasy VII Dismantled, Square Enix
- When we were riding on the Gondola I'm sure Aerith was aware of the real me, whom I looked away from.
- Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0FUhtlseGc
- Discussion: https://www.reddit.com/r/cloudxaerith/comments/8jyhz5/ffvii_bra_bra_brass_de_bravo_orchestra/
- #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
- 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
- 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
- Refers to Aerith's smile if you buy a flower as a 'good purchase'
- 'She's a girl with impressive eyes' - Dismantled
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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."
- A French trailer calls Aerith and Cloud 'an impossible love story' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdTKgJSoclE&feature=youtu.be
- A European commerical describing Aerith and Cloud against the word 'love': http://astoryofalove.tumblr.com/post/115197999110/official-european-commercial-for-final-fantasy
- A Japanese wedding ritual featuring Cloud and Aerith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zibQyzQoQlw
- Further times Aerith and Cloud have been shown as a married couple: http://astoryofalove.tumblr.com/weddingcomestrue
- 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 dont really want to decide myself, yes he is like this. Because players make strong conclusions by themselves, I want to leave room for everyones line of thought. - Kingdom Hearts Ultimania Guide Translations
- At 3:32 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9YpdXDrqz4
- 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
- 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
- A video series examining the original translation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCS7HQOs1mU
- 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 werent similar and he also made her think of him as a mysterious person But it soon didnt matter. She loved him much more than her first love. Cloud was her hero and he couldnt 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
- "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
- 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