Aerith Gainsborough (エアリス・ゲインズブール, Aerith Gainsborough; formerly translated as Aeris prior to Kingdom Hearts) is a character from the video game Final Fantasy VII.
Aerith first appears in Final Fantasy VII as a girl selling flowers in the slums of Midgar. Initially encountering Cloud after his first mission with AVALANCHE, Aerith offers him a flower before he goes on his way. Cloud next meets Aerith when he falls through the roof of the church where she gets her flowers from. When he learns that she is menaced by Reno, a Turk hired by the Shinra Electric Power Company, Cloud becomes Aerith's "bodyguard" with the offer of a date as payment. From then on, Aerith and Cloud flee Shinra's pursuit, and ultimately leave Midgar to pursue Sephiroth.
The reason that Shinra is hunting Aerith is that she is the last known descendant of the Cetra, a race of ancient humanoids that had the ability to interact directly with the planet's Lifestream. Aerith is shown "talking to the planet" like this several times. During her early childhood, Aerith and her birth mother Ifalna were subject to various experiments by Shinra to test what a Cetra was capable of. Both eventually escaped, but Ifalna did not make it far. Before her death, she asked a bystander named Elmyra Gainsborough to take care of Aerith, to which she agreed.
After a failed attempt to foil Sephiroth's theft of the Black Materia, Aerith ventures alone into the Forgotten City in order to summon Holy, the only force capable of repelling the ultimate destructive magic, Meteor, which has been summoned by Sephiroth. Cloud and his companions give chase, eventually finding her. As Aerith looks up to smile at Cloud, Sephiroth appears and kills her by impaling her through the torso. Cloud carries Aerith's body out into a lake in the Forgotten City. Although Aerith successfully cast Holy before her death, it is held back by the power of Sephiroth's will. When Sephiroth is finally defeated, Holy is released, though Meteor had fallen too close and Holy's energy was unfocused by its gravity. Within the lifestream, Aerith commanded the lifestream itself to emerge from the planet and push Meteor back, allowing Holy to focus its energy and finally destroy the meteor. Cloud pays tribute to Aerith in later installments by tying her hair ribbon around his left arm.
Aerith's role is largely the same in the remake. However, Aerith appears to have deeper knowledge of unfolding events. She was the first to see the Whispers, invisible forces which appear to influence fate to their desire, and she can pass her perception onto others through physical contact. She emphasizes a wish to live in the moment and cherish the present.
Aerith is a joyful, caring person who is quick to make friends and is naturally pacifistic. Living in the slums of Midgar her whole life, she has a stubborn, street-smart attitude and rarely shows fear. While always looking for the good in people, Aerith will still acknowledge absolute evil like Shinra and Sephiroth. She can also be flirtatious, especially around Cloud, who reminds Aerith of her previous boyfriend Zack, who coincidentally was Cloud's best friend during the events of Crisis Core.
Aerith focuses on casting magic with her high magical stats, as well as having healing abilities and buffs as her Limits. She wields various rods and staves in battle.
Aerith appears in Round 8 of DLC as a paid Mii Swordfighter costume. In said costume, she uses both her design and her weapon from Final Fantasy VII, wielding her initial weapon, the Guard Stick. She was revealed during the Mr. Sakurai Presents "Sephiroth" presentation on December 17, 2020. In the video introducing her costume, the Aerith Mii Fighter is first seen holding a Fire Flower next to a green-glowing R.O.B. in reference to the intro of Final Fantasy VII, where Aerith is seen staring into the glow of Lifestream while out selling flowers. The Mii Fighter and Cloud proceed to re-enact the escape from the Sector 5 church, with Roy standing in for Reno, Cloud dropping a Barrel from the roof, and Temple and Garreg Mach Monastery serving as the church. She was released alongside the other Round 8 Mii Fighter costumes on December 22nd, 2020.
As a spirit
Aerith acts as one of the spirits featured on Sephiroth's Spirit Board, first added in version 10.1.0. Like the other party members from Final Fantasy VII, her spirit uses the original art for that game created by Tetsuya Nomura. She is represented by a Mii Swordfighter with her costume and general appearance when the costume is purchased, with Zelda filling in instead if the costume is unavailable. In both cases, she is accompanied by Cloud acting as her bodyguard, though only the fighter representing Aerith needs to be KO'd to win. The Spirit Battle takes place on Fountain of Dreams, referencing the temple in the Forgotten City in which Aerith summons Holy before meeting her demise. Her spirit gives the player autoheal in reference to her healing magic in Final Fantasy VII.