- Zack – “Okay, I'll come visit. This is a promise.”
- Aerith – “I'll be waiting”
- — Crisis Core Chapter 013: I Promise
Both characters debuted in Final Fantasy VII. In the game, Aerith was a major character and a party member. Zack was a minor character and hidden within the game. His story has since been expanded on in sequels and prequels to FFVII.
Zack Fair grew up in a backwater town, Gongaga. At a young age, he became endeared with SOLDIER, a program hosted by Shinra Electric Power Company. He travels to the city of Midgar to apply and is accepted as SOLDIER.
Aerith was the daughter of Ifalna, the last of the Cetra, and Gast Faremis, head of the Shinra science department. However, Gast was killed by Proffesor Hojo and captured Ifalna and Aerith. Aerith grew up in the Shira headquarters, and the scientists paid no mind to her as they experimented on her mother. Eventually, Ifalna and Aerith escaped Shinra, but Iflana was mortally wounded. They were found by Elmyra Gainsborough, and Ifalna entrusted Aerith's life to her. Now living in Midgar, Aerith took a liking to a local Church and spent time growing flowers there.
In April 0001, while on a mission for Shinra, Zack falls off the upper plate of the city and crashes through the roof of the Sector 5 church, landing on Aerith's flower bed. Aerith awakens the dazed Zack, who asks Aerith if she had saved him, to which she responds "Not really.". Nontheless, Zack thanks her and offers a date as a reward; Aerith agrees to go on the date with Zack. They walk around the slums where Zack buys a perfume and a pink ribbon for her for Aerith, but their date is interrupted as he gets a call to return to headquarters. Aerith asks if she would see him again and Zack assures her positively.
The two spend a lot of time together thereafter and become intimate with each other as lovers. Many people know of their relationship, including: The Turks, who guards Aerith, Zack's best friend Kunsel, his mentor Angeal Hewley, the members of his Fanclub, and surprisingly also Sephiroth. One day in autumn, Zack seeks comfort from Aerith after the death of Angeal, in which Aerith embraces him.
From their first meeting, Zack encourages Aerith to sell flowers and promised her to build a flower wagon. But time goes on and she demands it right before he leaves for his next mission; he fulfills it, but as she isn't satisfied with the wagon. She then hands him a note of her 23 tiny wishes written on it; Zack reads the note that says, "I wanna spend more time with you". The couple sell flowers together later on at the playground in the Sector 6 slums and relish the happiness of being together despite the short time they have. Zack asks her to wear a pink dress for their next meeting when he comes back.
The mission happens on September 22, 0002 as Zack goes to Nibelheim with Sephiroth to investigate the town's Mako reactor. It's during this mission that Sephiroth learns of his origins and massacres the entire town, setting it aflame. Zack fights Sephiroth but is severly wounded. Later, he and Cloud Strife are found by Shinra scientists, who would experiment on them for the next four years.
Aerith is stuck waiting for Zack to return. Zack's Fanclub, and also Kunsel, check on her during Zack's absence. The flower wagon breaks, so Aerith continues to sell flowers with a basket. Kunsel even offers himself to fix it, but Aerith only wants Zack to do it. Aerith writes letters to Zack hopes of reaching him and delivers them through Tseng, one of The Turks who is close to both her and Zack. After writing 88 letters in four years without any reply, she loses hope of ever seeing Zack again. She writes the 89th letter as the final one and delivers it through an Angeal Copy.
Suddenly, on December 19, 0006, Zack awakens and breaks out of his cell; he also busts Cloud out of his cell, but he is now in a Mako-induced coma. Now fugitives of the company they once served, Zack and Cloud spend months on the run with the hope of reaching Midgar, with Zack wanting to fulfill Aerith’s 23 Wishes. When he finishes his confrontation against Genesis Rhapsodos in Banora, he receives her 89th letter. He screams out to the sky in realization that four years have passed and the mention that it’s her final letter; now he's determined to return to her despite the risks. A few days later, Zack and Cloud finally reach the outskirts of Midgar, but they are surrounded by Shinra troops. After hiding Cloud, Zack faces the troops alone in the fight for his freedom; he successfully fights off most of the army, but he is gunned down by the three soldiers left.
Aerith, who was tending her flowers in the church, senses Zack's dying moment due to her Cetra blood. She prays for him and looks to the sky. It also turns out despite her final letter, she’s dressed in pink for the promise of their next meeting.
Ultimately, Zack takes his last breath after passing his Buster Sword onto Cloud.
On December 9, 0007, Aerith meets Cloud as she is selling flowers in Sector 8. Cloud later falls into the church as Zack did, and Aerith asks Cloud to be her bodyguard with a date as payment, just as Zack did to her. She takes Cloud to the same playground she went to on her first date with Zack, where she then asks Cloud if he knew her first love because both were in the same rank in SOLDIER. Aerith still doesn't get closure of what happened with Zack nor been aware that his death is part of the reason behind Cloud's fake persona she could sense as Cetra.
Aerith leaves Midgar with Cloud and the others, set on a journey to pursue and stop Sephiroth. They pass across Gongaga and unintentionally meet Zack’s parents. The parents ask the group if they knew where Zack had been since the last news they heard about him is from the letter he sent to them 6-7 years ago, during the time that Aerith and Zack were dating. In the letter, Zack mentioned that he had a girlfriend, and both Aerith and Tifa are asked if they were his girlfriend. But neither of them replies to his parents as they burst out of the house, implying both shocks.
In the Gold Saucer amusement park, as Aerith goes on a date with Cloud in the gondola, and she confesses that he reminds her of Zack and that is part of the reason why she felt strongly attracted to him at first. But she also learns that things are different and wants to meet the real Cloud, indicating that she's finally ready to let go of Zack and move on with her life.
Unfortunately, Aerith is killed by Sephiroth days later in the Forgotten City while trying to summon Holy. Her death occurs in December 0007, just three months from Zack's death.
Two years after both Aerith and Zack's deaths, Cloud is still struggling to cope with the losses and distances himself from his friends; on top of that, he is also suffering from Geostigma. He spends his days in the Sector 5 church and keeps visiting Zack's grave. At this time, three remnants of Sephiroth, Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo, are luring children from Edge, including Cloud's foster child, Denzel.
During Cloud's journey to defeat the remnants, Aerith and Zack’s spirits occasionally appear through visions to aid him in fighting his enemies. After Cloud is narrowly killed by Loz and Yazoo, divine intervention from Aerith and Zack allows him to him survive. They send Cloud’s spirit back to the living world, joking that he’s too big to be adopted, meaning it isn’t his time to die yet. After waking up in the church surrounded by his family and friends, Cloud sees Aerith and Zack at the glowing entrance; they smile at him before they depart.
At some point the following year, yellow flowers are blooming on the spot where Zack died. The rusted Buster Sword, previously Zack’s grave marker, is polished and moved to the Sector 5 church, where it's surrounded by flowers, and serves as a monument to both Zack and Aerith.
The story of this game follows the events of Final Fantasy VII that take place only in Midgar with some differences, especially with the existence of Arbiter of Fate. Major changes happens in the last chapter.
In Midgar expressway where the party confronts Sephiroth, Aerith gets a vision of Zack's final battle against the Shinra army. Sephiroth opens a portal, and invite the party to follow, Aerith refers to Zack’s line about freedom that entering the portal would change many things. As the party defeats Arbiter of Fate later on inside, Zack didn't die in his last stand and continues to drag Cloud headed to Midgar, implying that his fate has changed.
When the party reaches the outskirt of the city as they leave to pursue and stop Sephiroth, Aerith and Cloud walk past Zack, most likely from another timeline. Here, Aerith stops walking for a while under the rain and gazes at the cloudy sky.
As the party arrives at Kalm, Zack (in the other timeline) arrives at the church. He opens the door expecting to find Aerith, only to see that people have taken up shelter inside instead. He has no idea of what has happened and utters Aerith's name worryingly.
What will happen to Zack after that, and whether he can reunite with Aerith, is still unknown.
During the voyage from Junon to Costa del Sol as the party infiltrate Shinra’s ship and disguise themselves as infantrymen, Aerith shares stories with Tifa about her past. She tells Tifa about times when she and her mom escaped from Shinra, continued with stories of her living with Elmyra Gainsborough in Sector 5 slum. When Aerith reaches the part of her having a first love and is about to tell Tifa, Cloud interrupts them to stop chatting since the girls are too loud. Aerith tells Tifa that she would tell her about the story of her first love next time.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
- Aerith takes interest in a pink ribbon in the market, so Zack buys her the ribbon then puts it on top of her braid.
- At on their first date, they stare at each other's eyes closely and almost kiss before Aerith backs off embarrassed.
- Aerith embraces and comforts Zack who comes to her church in sadness because of his mentor's death.
- Zack rushed to the slum church because he’s worried about Aerith and was attacked by Shinra’s mechanical weapons which should’ve been guarding the surroundings.
- Aerith gives Zack her note of 23 Tiny Wishes and they stare at each other as love birds.
- Aerith and Zack are selling flowers together.
- Zack receives a phone call from Aerith under the water tower in Nibelheim, he promises to come visit her.
- Zack reads Aerith's note of her 23 Wishes after break-free from mako tank.
- Zack receives Aerith's final letter and feels desperate to come back.
- His dying's last thought is full of memories of Aerith and ended up with her last voice when she called him in Nibelheim, "I'll be waiting."
- Aerith senses Zack's dying moment and prays.
Final Fantasy VII: Remake
- Aerith talks with Cloud about Zack in a sad expression.
- Aerith senses Zack's last stand on highway.
- Aerith walks past Zack in the ending, her expression is sad while Zack turns smiling.
- Zack tries to reintroduce himself to Aerith in the church only to be confused at seeing refugees from Sector 7, with Zack only being able to say her name.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
- Aerith and Zack joked about adopting Cloud.
- Aerith and Zack walk to the light together.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
- Zack – “Heaven?”
- Aerith – “Not quite. Church in the slum.”
- Zack – “Angel?”
- Aerith – “No. I'm Aerith. You fell from the sky, scaring me.”
- — Zack and Aerith's first meeting
- “I have 23 tiny wishes, but you probably don't remember them all. So, I put them together into one: I'd like to spend more time with you.”
- — Aerith to Zack
- “We continued running the fan club after Zack's untimely death, but we have to disband due to financial reasons. We would like to share one last quote from a woman who had a close relationship with Zack:
"My wagon broke, so I'm going to use a basket to sell the flowers. I hope you can join me when you're back from your tour."
She must not have heard what happened—making her comments all the more poignant.
Our thanks go out to all 109,348 members out there.
May Zack always live within our hearts.”
- — Email from Zack Fan Club[[src]]
This will be the 89th letter I’ve written, but I don't know where to send it anymore. I hope that this final letter gets to you.
Zack, the flowers are selling very well. It makes everyone happy. Thanks to you.”
- “Four years? What do you mean final?! Aerith, wait for me...”
- — Zack scream out, after reading Aerith's final letter
Final Fantasy VII
- “Dear Dad and Mom,
How are you guys? Sorry for leaving town so suddenly. I just really wanted to become a SOLDIER. I bet you're worried now that I've told you... But now I'm fulfilling my lifelong dream, and I'll do my best in SOLDIER.
P.S. I have a girlfriend.”
- — Zack's letter to his parents
Final Fantasy VII: Remake
- “Do you know I used to sell flowers here? Weird, you were in the same rank as the first guy I ever loved.”
- — Aerith to Cloud about Zack, Chapter 9
Long time no see.
How you've been?
Listen.... (EN) / Sorry... (JP)
I'm back! (EN) / I'm home! (JP)”
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
- Aerith – “Again? Why everyone calls me 'Mother' lately?”
- Zack – “I think they must be fond of you.”
- Aerith – “But this one is too big to adopt.”
- Zack – “Tough luck, friend. Seems you have no place here.”
- — Aerith and Zack joked about adopting Cloud
Traces of Two Pasts
- Tifa – “You can talk to me about everything, okay?”
- Aerith – “Well then, next up is a big one!”
- Tifa – “You gotta be kidding me. There’s something bigger than whatever you said?”
- Aerith – “For that, you’re right. It’s about my first love.”
- Tifa – “Oh, that’s definitely something big!”
- Aerith – “I’ll tell you next time. About the story of my first love,”
- — Aerith and Tifa talks during voyage from Junon to Costa del Sol
Zerith is a popular ship in the Final Fantasy fandom. But the number of the fans was never big until the release of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (2007), the prequel game that shows their past relationship.
Zerith fans feel Zack and Aerith's personalities complement each other. Some are drawn to the tragedy of the ship and them being together in death. Both Zack and Aerith's deaths separately are considered to be among the saddest moments in the Final Fantasy franchise. Their tragic fate is contrasted with the perky energy of pair exhibits. The two are optimists in a world of cynics.
Out of the ship's own fans, Zerith has supporters from the extremely popular Cloti ship and many Cloti fans ship Zerith since it does not conflict with Cloti. Many Clerith fans rival the Zerith pairing because Crisis Core was released 10 years after Final Fantasy VII, and it supposedly retcons what they imagine Zerith is like, as portrayed in "The Diary Entries" inserted in old guide book titled FFVII True Script Dissection The Complete (released in 1997) and in The Maiden Who Travel The Planet novella inserted in FFVII Ultimania Omega (released in 2005). The canonicity of those materials is debatable since both were written by Benny Matsuyama from Studio Benstuff who also writes several Diary Entries and novellas for other Final Fantasy franchises despite never being involved in the development team. On the contrary, many Zerith fans accept the idea of Aerith developing genuine feelings for Cloud during the time of her trying to move on from Zack's death as it's mentioned in the On The Way To A Smile novella (2009) by a line "Cloud is her friend--more than a friend, for she had loved." This novella is canon because it's written by Kazushige Nojima, the scenario writer of Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core (prequel), and Advent Children (sequel).
Since both of them have appeared in the Kingdom Hearts series, they never encounter each other. Some fans of the ship do have their KH counterparts meet one another, ship Zerith beside the KH version of Cloti or feature them in their KH/FF MMD fanwork, by using their KH, CCFFVII, or Dissidia Final Fantasy model renders for it, along with using the child renders of Sora, Riku, and Kairi to create child renders of Zack and Aerith.
On AO3, Zerith is the second most written ship for Zack and the third most written ship for Aerith. It is also the sixth most written ship in the Final Fantasy VII tag.
Zerith currently has 2468 fics on AO3.
- Zerith is listed on Square Enix website as one of Great Final Fantasy Love Stories along with Noctluna, Tiduna, and Squinoa .
- Zack's Japanese voice actor, Suzumura Kenichi, is married to Aerith's Japanese voice actor, Sakamoto Maaya, on August 8. 2011. The two had dated since 2004 after voicing the last episode of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny as Shin Asuka and Lunamaria (Shinnluna); which means they have been always voicing Zack and Aerith since FFVII Advent Children (2005) to FFVII Remake (2020-...) as a real couple. In FFVII 15th Anniversary Stage Event (held around 2012) , Cloud's Japanese voice actor, Takahiro Sakurai, teased Suzumura Kenichi that Zack and Aerith are eventually married, referencing Advent Children ending.
- In FFVII Remake ending, Aerith said "The sky, I hate it." (EN localization: "I miss it, the steel sky"). The phrase is similar to one of her lines in her farewell monologue in FF 30th Anniversary Exhibition with the full sentence is "I hate the sky because it carries away everyone I love." Tetsuya Nomura mentioned it in FFVII Remake Ultimania Book, that it refers to Zack and her mother, Ifalna, as people dear to her taken away by the sky (plausibly as a metaphor of people die and go to heaven). This matches Crisis Core ending, as Zack is showed being picked up to the sky by Angeal, his deceased mentor.
- The developers revised FFVII: Advent Children with some adjustments of Crisis Core: FFVII become FFVII: Advent Children Complete, released as Director Cut DVD in 2009. Zack's scene is added more to give Cloud's equal guilt as well as Aerith's death as described in ACC Post Card Book that both are his unforgivable sins and the people he could never forget. Aerith's appearance showing her watching Cloud riding motorbike is also removed in credit roll and two new scenes that might imply Zack and Aerith's togetherness in death are added post-credit roll.
- Aerith's dialogue that mentions she and Zack weren't serious in Final Fantasy VII (1997) is removed in FFVII: Remake (2020), being replaced by her mentioning Zack's name despite in a deep breath and wanting to stare at Cloud's mako eyes that remind her of Zack's eyes. The changes are following how Zack and Aerith's is portrayed in Crisis Core: FFVII (2007).
- Zack and Aerith were mistranslated as "Zax" and "Aeris" in early material due to the direct romanization of their Japanese name in katakana "Zakkusu" and "Earisu".
|SHIPS||het||Clerith • CloLight • Cloti • Highspecs • HopuRai • Lightis • Noctluna • Noerah • Raire • Squaerith • Squinoa • Snerah • SnowRai • Tiduna • Zerith|
|slash||Clack • Nocloud • Sefikura • Strifehart • Strifentine|
|femslash||Aerti • FLight • Lightifa • VanLight|
|CHARACTERS||m/f||Cloud Strife • Lightning Farron|