Cloud stared down at his food as he began to think. He thought at first going to take a few bites, but he still did promise that he would tell the guys some part of his story. He had to say something before the silence began too long and awkward.
"I guess the best place to start would be my world itself… Gaia. The planet has this energy in it… something that we call the Lifestream. It's pretty much what it sounds like. It's what gives life to everything."
"So like some spiritual thing?" Prompto asked. "Like is it alive if it's giving life to the entire planet?"
"I think so… I think it acts as that but also an afterlife. Depending who you ask really, everyone has a different opinion on it."
"Well all we have to go by is you," Noctis replied.
Cloud chuckled. "I guess I'm not the best person to reference then. But things can't always be peaceful. A company called Shinra tried to harness and use the Lifestream for their own means. Using it as an energy source. That's where the mako stuff comes in. But that would be another story though, it's a much longer one. But Shinra is no longer standing."
"And I am guessing one of your many battles had to do with Shirna?" Gladio asked gruffly.
Cloud nodded his head. "Yeah. With the help of my friends we managed to do it. But Shinra was not the biggest threat."
"Something bigger than a cooperation that was destroying the life source of an entire planet?" Ignis raised an eyebrow, waiting for Cloud to continue.
"Hmm yeah," Cloud answered. "But it still is connected to Shinra. There was this calamity that fell ages ago from the sky; Jenova. When I talked about SOLDIER before, I said they had mako energy, but it was more than that."
Cloud shuddered slightly as he tried his best to explain the information. Even if it had been some time since these events had happened, it didn't mean he was left without scars, both physical and mental. There were still a couple nights here and there where he would be haunted again by the past, not to the point where he felt guilty, but just enough to leave him uneasy.
"The SOLDIERs," Cloud finally continued. "They also had cells of Jenova injected in them besides the mako. One man had the most experimenting done to him, though no one knew it until long after the fact. But he nearly destroyed the planet twice. His name was Sephiroth."
"And you were the one to stop him?" Prompto asked as his eyes widened before Cloud gave a nod. "Holy shit. Like wow! I couldn't even imagine doing something like that."
"Yeah," Noctis agreed. "I'm going to assume Sephiroth was pretty tough to beat though?"
"When I said I was impaled twice… Sephiroth was the cause of it," Cloud muttered rather quickly, trying not to linger on the bad memories for too long. Even if he tried to not think about it too deeply, he still found himself scratching at his shoulder, where the more recent scar was.
"Wow, I guess you really have been through a lot more than any of us combined even though you're like the same age as us," Prompto commented.
"Yes," Igins agreed. "Though I still have to wonder, you stated before that you were not a part of SOLDIER yet you did achieve the enchantments later on. While it may just be my assumption, this Sephiroth that you speak of I assume was no easy feat, so would these enhancements that you got connect with having to defeat him?"
"Not exactly?" Cloud said, not entirely sure how to answer it. "I mean having the enhanced abilities did help when fighting him, but it was something else for the how."
"We could leave that story for another time, I think you've given enough for tonight," Gladio suggested.
"Yeah, now it can be our turn to talk about stuff!" Prompto exclaimed. "Is there anything you want to know? Cause honestly I have no idea where or what we would even start talking about."
"Maybe. I guess I was wondering about the magic that was used earlier," Cloud said before he resumed eating. Thankfully it was still warm and tasted just fine.
"Ah yes, magic, I think I could take this one," Ignis said as he adjusted his glasses. "While we do not fully understand the full powers magic can hold, in past years we have been able to store it into magic flasks. It's much more contained and refined and then anyone can use it."
"You mean to say it wouldn't be able to be used naturally?"
"Not unless you are one of royal blood," Ignis answered.
"Ah…" Cloud said as he remembered the other day how Noctis was a prince. It was a small thought in the back of his mind that the prince of a kingdom was traveling the world to stop an empire, but he knew he wasn't one to judge. Everyone always had something after all, Yuffie was technically a princess and a sneaky little ninja.
"Yeah, and there are these element rocks? Veins? They're usually around havens like this," Noctis added in. "I can draw the magic from there and then store it into a flask for the guys to use. So if you want to try using magic sometime, just let any of us know."
"So did your world not have magic or anything?" Prompto asked.
"No we had magic, just different, but in a way I guess it's similar. Mako energy from the Lifestream could be condensed into Materia. You could equip it to your weapon and channel the energy through it to cast a spell," Cloud replied as he ran a hand through his hair. "Though we don't use Materia anymore since it was still taking from the Lifestream."
"Fascinating," Ignis commented. "The parallels and differences between our worlds continue to enlighten me. I do hope that you will want to tell us more along the way."
"Sure, why not."
It really was a good feeling to talk about this. New faces to hear stories that he had though over so many times. While he still wasn't much of a storyteller he could see the appeal of doing it and the reactions of theo there was a good feeling to know that they were interested in listening. Though he had never really thought too much about his adventures being good stories to tell, it just had sort of happened at this point.
After that the guys went back to eating their food, now with Prompto talking cheerfully about the photos from the day, while also complaining how the journey underground was far from pleasant. It still impressed Cloud how well Prompto could get these shots, especially the ones in mid battle.
After a little while, once the food was done and Ignis was cleaning up, Prompto moved over to where Cloud was. "So like... why do you wear a blanket?"
This caught him off guard and now he was starting at Prompto rather confused. "What?"
"Like your outfit! You got this weird blanket cape thing going on."
Cloud was trying to understand what was so weird about his outfit. To him it was just what he wore and nothing was too weird about it. But before he could try and form an answer Noctis came over towards him and Prompto.
"I gotta admit it is pretty strange. Why only on the one side?"
Cloud glanced down to what the guys were dubbing 'a blanket' on his outfit. It was just attached with some belts, but honestly it didn't really have any meaning. He could admit that, but never before did he think it was a blanket.
"It's... just my outfit?" Cloud finally answered.
"Does it even have any functionality or is it just for show?" Gladio chuckled.
"It doesn't. It's just… just a part of my outfit," Cloud answered, not sure how else to say it.
"Oh and the belts, are you scared the blanket will fly away?" Prompto said, trying his hardest not to laugh.
"We would catch it, we can't have the other chocobo boy die of cold at night," Noctis replied slyly.
Cloud laughed, his own sly smirk crossing his face. "Well if that's the case, don't come to me when the temperature drops and you ask to share my blanket. You should have come prepared."
Noctis and the others started to laugh alongside Cloud, given a good feeling to the night. Though they all knew what tomorrow was going to bring, it still seemed like forever. But now it was time to turn in for the night. They gave Cloud the spare sleeping bag and pillow and he placed them out near the tent.
Cloud stared up at the vast night sky, taking all it's beauty once more. It had honestly been ages since he had camped under stars, far away from any city lights. Even when he had been out and avoiding his friends and family he never took enough time to sit out among the stars to admire them.
His thoughts started to drift back to home though, wondering if Tifa was looking up at the stars. He knew that she would from time to time, wondering just what else could be out there. But he also remembered how she once said she looked up at the stars when she needed to find a moment to relax, seeing the little lights scattered in every direction seemed to bring that calmness to her when she needed it most. So Cloud did just that, hoping he could see what she saw and hoped that it could help him finally relax enough to sleep.
It was only his second night in Eos and now that he had more time to think things through, he still found himself wondering so much. He knew he would have to learn in time, whatever the reason he was here for he knew he would probably discover sooner or later.
Cloud woke up early the next morning, just as the sun was rising, it was his usual routine after all. He sat up and stretched out his stiff muscles before he actually stood up.
"I see that you are an earlier riser as well."
Cloud turned around to see that Ignis was just walking out of the tent. At the current moment the man was not wearing his glasses but it did not take long for Ignis to pull out the case and place them on his face.
"Oh. Yeah. Never really been a deep sleeper," Cloud replied. He would have said his light sleeping was due to the mako in him, but that part of his story had yet to be told.
"Would you like some Ebony?"
"Ah yes forgive me. Ebony is a brand of coffee here. Surely your world must have at least that."
Cloud chucked. "Yeah we have coffee. I'll take a cup."
Ignis nodded before handing a can to Cloud. He read over the side of it, curious what it contained. It seemed to be just like any regular coffee in a can so Cloud opened it up and took a sip for the official taste. It was actually fairly good.
"Thanks," Cloud said in between sips.
"You're welcome. If I can share the great taste that is Ebony, then I am satisfied."
"Right. So will the others be up?"
"Gladio should be awake soon, most likely followed by Prompto. Noct on the other hand… it may take some persuading before he will actually get up. Unfortunately he is far from being a morning person, but perhaps the urgency of our task will help him."
Cloud went back to drinking the Ebony after he nodded. He wasn't too sure what he would say next, but he started waking up more the further he drank. Casual conversation was still hard for him, but he decided to ask probably the most mundane thing anyone could ask when meeting someone new. It would be a start anyway.
"How long have you all known each other?"
"It varies between each of us. I've known Noct since he was four, and knew of Gladio but never properly met him until two years later. Prompto on the other hand was someone Noct befriended in high school."
"Hm that's a while then."
"Well when you are the prince's advisor it's best to be around him for as long as possible."
Cloud raised an eyebrow to that. "You're his advisor?"
"Ah yes, we never properly discussed that yet. Since leaving Insomnia we have been trying to 'stay undercover' as you might say. Though outside the walls people only know the name of the Crown Prince, so it does make it easier to get around without a lot of attention. But since you have joined us, it only makes sense that you should know."
Ignis leaned forward in his chair, resting his arms on his knees. "Noct is the Crown Prince of Insomnia, though…" he paused and let out a sigh. "With the passing of his father, that makes him the current king. Gladio is the King's Shield, for his family for generations has protected the current king, and I am his advisor to help guide him through any trouble that may arise."
Cloud took in the information fairly easily. It still was new and strange how different this world was and how the different areas of the world worked, but he was taking it one step at a time still. Soon enough after Ignis finished up his explanation, Gladio and Prompto exited the tent, with Prompto dragging a rather tired looking Noctis at his side.
It didn't take long though for the group to get set up and ready for the day. Before Cloud knew it they were heading out to where they were supposed to go. They headed out towards were the barricade was and met up with Monica within a hidden passage in the rocks.
She explained they would be splitting up, Noctis would go join Cor and the others would work with diversionary efforts. With the plans set, the group split off from Noctis and now Cloud walked quietly alongside the other.
"So you ready to show what you got again?" Gladio asked as he walked up to Cloud.
"Sure thing," Cloud commented.
"You probably think it'll be a piece of cake right? Cause you've done so much before us I kind of feel intimidated," Prompto said while laughing sheepishly.
Gladio grumbled. "Just cause he has won some battles before doesn't mean he's more skilled than us. You've, what, only had about eight years of experience?"
"Something like that."
Cloud decided it was easier to say that rather than saying he was out of commission for five years. By that he really only had about three, maybe almost four years of experience, and somehow he was able to save the world twice because of that. Maybe it was impressive, but the others didn't know that yet. Though now Cloud had begun to wonder just what they would think when he got to that part of his story.
"Well I only trained for six months and I've come a long way!" Prompto proclaimed.
"Yeah but you still aren't anywhere near my level, so keep trying Blondie," Gladio laughed as he shoved Prompto a little.
"Still, progress is progress, regardless of time," Ignis added.
Up ahead were many MTs, all of them guarding the entrance, standing still waiting for anything to come their way. Cloud glanced to his side and saw the guys summon their weapons so he did the same. He breathed in deeply, preparing himself for what would happen next.
"Well the best way I see it," Gladio said as he held up his sword. "The best way to get experience is on the job. So let's get to it!"
The battle against the group of MTs didn't last all too long. Cloud did his best to focus on slashing through the various machines, while also staying clear of the other's attacks. Though as he was taking down on MT, another was coming up quickly on his side. He was ready to move out of the way, but before he could bullets pelted its body, wearing down the armor. Then one final bullet went right through its head and it dropped down to the ground.
Prompto chuckled as he gave a thumbs up to Cloud. "Gotcha covered, Cloud!"
Cloud gave him a nod before resuming his attack towards the next MT. It was still taking time but he was getting used to how this group worked together. The way their teamwork felt so smooth and fluid really was helpful. Though Cloud had yet to properly do any attack moves alongside one of the others like he had seen before, it was still nice to know he had back up when he needed it.
The MTs were wiped out soon enough, their empty metal bodies scattered on the pavement. Now that there was no more danger Prompto dismissed his gun and he cheered. "Woo! That takes care of that!"
The front gate then opened up and revealed Cor and Noctis on the other side, just like the plan was supposed to go. "Noct!" Prompto shouted as he moved on ahead.
"Marshal. It's good to see you again," Ignis commented trailing just behind Prompto.
"Alright on your end?" Noctis asked.
"Right as rain. The Niffs couldn't take their eyes off us," Gladio replied.
"Thanks to you we were spared their attention," Cor said.
Shortly after he said that though, there was a voice from somewhere above. Looking up Cloud saw that there was a large airship and whomever was speaking was most likely on that very airship. Once the person was done talking, mainly showing that they had an annoyance towards Cor, the back of the ship opened up. A large mecha robot dropped to the ground along with a few more MT.
"I guess there isn't much time to rest today," Cloud thought to himself as he jumped out of the way from a laser attack that the mecha fired.
Right away he saw Prompto and Ignis head off to take out the few lingering MTs. Gladio, Cor, and Noctis on the other hand were dodging the MT attacks while trying to deal hits to the mecha. Cloud figured that Ignis and Prompto could handle themselves with the MTs as they did not prove to be as strong of a threat as the mecha that was firing bombs and shooting lasers. So he went to help the other three with taking down the mecha, which had the one Niflheim guy who was constantly gloating every time he attacked.
Cloud didn't focus on that though, he only narrowed in on the areas he saw as weak points in the mecha. He struck with his mind narrowed down and focused, making sure to dodge at the right times. The only thing that was hard was knowing when the mecha was going to do what attack, sometimes it was hard to move out the way of the stronger explosions but Cloud did what he could manage.
By the end of it, the mecha was taken down and the man inside continued to pledge his allegiance to the empire before the machine exploded. The force of it was much greater than anyone expected and Cloud found himself knocked back to the ground. When he got up he saw that there was no sign left of the mecha or even the one who was manning it. Whether he survived or not Cloud had no idea, but he felt like it was highly unlikely.
"Hey," Noctis ran over to him holding an odd shaped bottle in his hand. "You okay?"
"I feel fine at least," Cloud replied, though he knew he probably had at least a few scraps and bruises.
Noctis held out the bottle. "Still, just use this. I realize you probably didn't have any potions on you."
"This…" Cloud started to say as he took the bottle. "Is a potion?"
"Oh, yeah I guess I sure have figured they were different in your world. Probably are used differently too. You just crush it in your hand or break it over the skin if you have any injuries."
Noctis turned his head and pointed to Prompto who also was holding a similar shaped bottle. He pressed it against his shoulder and it broke into a blue shimmering light. It covered him briefly before fading away.
"Huh, I guess that's one way to do it," Cloud muttered before he broke the purposeful flimsy bottle in his hand. He felt a light wave over magic flow over his body, and any aches or pains that he had felt before were gone now.
"Yeah, guess that's just something else you gotta get used to being here," Noctis said as he held out a hand to help Cloud up.
Now that the base was clear, Cor complemented the ground before saying that he had to head off back to doing what he planned before. That left the group to retrieve the car and start heading towards the now open pathway on the other side.
Cloud, Gladio, Prompto, and Noctis were walking ahead while Ignis chose to drive the car slowly through the area. Though it was empty now that didn't stop Cloud from keeping a sharp eye out just in case, but he felt like he could relax for the time being.
"Ain't so bad out here once you get used to it," Gladio commented as they walked.
"Still a lot we haven't seen, though," Prompto said as a response.
Ignis was the nex to add into the conversation. "And a lot for us to do."
"Yeah," Prompto replied.
"I guess it will be a new experience for all of us," Cloud thought to himself rather than interjecting himself into the conversation. He felt like just taking a step back to let the friends chat among each other. He was already trailing at the end of the group anyway.
"Buck up. We're just getting started," Gladio said.
Cloud noticed Noctis stopped walking after that. He stared briefly down at the ground then looked up to where his friends were walking. It seemed he whispered quietly to himself, Cloud couldn't help but overhear it due to his enhanced hearing. It wasn't anything too invasive though, just a soft confident sounding 'yeah' and nothing more.
Though since he was just behind Noctis, he was now just at his side. He stopped for the moment to stand next to him. "Everything good?"
"Yeah, just a lot of thoughts I guess," Noctis replied before the two of them started to walk to catch up to the other three.
"Never really been out to see the world before?" Cloud asked.
Noctis shook his head. "Nope. First time really doing any of this. Traveling outside home, fighting the Empire, and stuff."
"First time for everything I guess."
"Was it like this for you? When you first went on a journey or something to save the world?"
"Kind of?" Cloud replied softly, trying to give it some thought. "I did travel the world, encountered a lot of things for the first time. So I guess in the end it's all the same."
Noctis smiled. "Good to know. If you managed through it, I feel like the five of us can make it too."
"The five of us, huh?" Cloud mused.
He had only been in Eos just a couple days now and already Noctis and the others were very accepting of him. He wasn't sure what it was, but there was just an easy trust that had formed between them now, and Cloud found himself smiling at that aspect. It had been a long while since he reached out to make new friends, and now here he was. He knew the others back home would be proud of him at least. Now he just had to keep going and help Noctis and his friends continue on their journey.