Ch.15

Once they were out of the base, the boys all got back into the car and they were off. Promtpo was cheering happily about finally getting out to see more about the world and Ignis was explaining what other regions were out there to see. Cloud did his best to listen in, learning the way of this world and what it had to offer.

"Further west lies the Cleigne region, whererin we'll find the town of Lestallum." Ignis went on to explain.

"Oh. Isn't that where Iris is headed?" Prompto asked.

"Barring delays she should've arrived by now. Maybe even had herself a Meteor."

Cloud flinched at the mention of the word. "Couldn't be the same, could it? No, must just be another coincidence."

"The Meteor of the Six?"

"The same," Ignis answered. "It's heat is harnessed to power Lestallum."

"Whoa. That sounds way cool," Prompto replied.

"I'm actually looking forward to this," Gladio added.

Cloud let out a long breath. He couldn't really hold back his unsettling feeling, not until he got some answers. "So um, what's this Meteor you're talking about?"

"It is a meteor that is said to have come crashing down during the age of the gods, though the rock never did hit the ground. The Astral known as Titan caught the rock upon his back and it has been there ever since."

Cloud hummed softly. "Well… nice to know."

Noctis looked at him strangely. "You got something against meteors?"

Cloud shifted slightly. "Yes actually. Sephiroth tried to summon one with magic, almost destroyed Gaia."

He didn't mean to say it so bluntly, but now that it had come out there was an awkward silence in the car. His people skills really needed some work. Not wanting to wait to make it worse he sighed and quickly spoke up to try and make things a bit better.

"Of course he was stopped and everything's fine. I just… I didn't expect to hear about such a thing as a…"

"Tourist sight to see?" Prompto offered.

"Yeah. That can work."

"Sorry…" Noctis said as he rubbed the back of his neck. "I guess there are a lot more similarities or whatever between our worlds than I thought. Are you going to be okay though?"

"I'll be fine. Just some old memories that's all," Cloud answered simple.

"Well do let us know if you will need anything," Ignis said before he pulled the car into a gas station. "On a different note we should refill and restock on items we need."

"Sounds good," Noctis said before he got out of the car once it was parked.

Cloud got out to stretch his legs, while also taking in the sight of the lands around him. He could see mountains and hills off in the far distance. It was actually quite the sight, unlike anything he had seen. He may have traveled all over Gaia and seems so much of that world, but this was something fresh.

At first he had expected it to be similar. A world with rocks, trees, lakes and everything else. But there was just something unique about it compared to back home. The more he started out into this new world the more he began to wonder just what else was out there.

"Cloud! Hey Cloud!"

Cloud shook away his thoughts and saw Prompto was standing right next to him, his face glowing with excitement. "What?"

"I convinced Noct to let us go to the chocobo post! Chocobos! I literally can't wait!"

"I'm guessing they didn't really have chocobos back where you lived?"

"Nope! Insomnia was too big of a city for chocobos to actually live there. But I used to read about them all the time and looked up so many pictures and videos! But now I'll get to see them in person!"

"They are rather friendly creatures," Cloud said, recalling the memories. "Had some good fun racing them with my friends."

Prompto's eyes widened. "You got to race with them too!? That's even cooler! I hope we can get a chance to race some."

"Well if there is, you should know I already have the experience," Cloud smirked.

"Oh yeah? We'll see about that! I bet within a few minutes I could become a chocobo master!"

Noctis came up from behind and wrapped an arm around Prompto. "Is it because you are already part chocobo? They'll just accept you as one of your own?"

"Hey! Come on! I am not a chocobo!"

"Sure. But we will know the truth once we get to the chocobo post," Noctis chuckled before letting go of Prompto.

They were ready to move on presumably to the chocobo post, but somehow a woman Gladio knew had convinced the five of them to gather some special frogs for her. Cloud watched, almost amused how Nocits couldn't seem to get a word in to her to tell her no so there was no other choice but to do it. But at least it would give them a good layout of the land.

Cloud also ended up learning about the Hunters and what hunts were, which were just tasks to take out beasts to earn some gil on the side. To someone like Cloud it was basically child's play, but he knew with his help they could take on a much stronger tougher beast. But for now their task was frogs, which was a bit out of his usual field, out of all their usual fields. They were going to try though, otherwise that woman Saina would probably have their heads.

It didn't take them too long though to find the frogs that were needed, and once they returned them to Sania they were finally free to go on their way. The five of them loaded back into the car and now they drove off to their new destination; the chocobo post.

With Cloud sitting in the back with Noctis and Prompto, he could practically feel the other blond bouncing in his seat. He couldn' be annoyed though, Prompto's excitement was rather fun to watch. But when they got to the ranch they were quick to learn that there was a beast by the name of Deadeye that was causing the chocobos to be too scared to be ridden.

"So we're going to take the hunt, right, Noct?" Prompto asked after they had talked with the man who ran the Chocobo Post.

"Yeah, I don't see why not. It would be nice to help."

"But you sure we'll be able to handle it. From the way Wiz talked about this Deadeye, it sounded pretty serious."

"But you guys are forgetting! We got Cloud on our side! We were already awesome together before but now we got an extra hand!" Prompto declare.

"Well that doesn't mean you get to slack," Gladio replied gruffly as he gave Prompto a light shove.

"No way! It'll take all of us to take out a beast like that!"

"Then I say we should get to it sooner or later, especially if we want to help those poor chocobos feel safe," Ignis replied.

"Let's go then, that way chocobo butt here can get his chocobo fix," Noctis chuckled as he headed towards the forested area where they would find Deadeye.

Cloud watched Prompto chase after Nocits, nearly tackling him to the ground. Though the two of them were both laughing as they pushed and shoved each other around. "Are they always like that?" Cloud asked as he moved to follow the two in the lead.

"Unfortunately most of the time they are," Ignis replied with a sigh. "But despite Prompto's ways of bringing out the childish side of Noct, it does actually do him good."

"Oh?"

"Noctis used to be a lot more closed off as a child due to…" Ignis stopped, pressing his lips together. "Various reasons. But when he met Prompto I watched him come out of that shell he had formed. Not even Gladio or I was able to break through as easily as Prompto did."

"Almost sounds like me and Zack…"

The old memories trailed in the back of his mind. Most of them are still a bit fuzzy, but after all of this time he was able to recall his Infantryman days much better now. He could remember the day he met Zack and how being around Zack made him feel more open to goofing around. It was just the way Zack was, serious and strong but also full of energy and kindness.

"Maybe they're like me and Zack," Cloud thought to himself.

They walked for a bit, soon following a path of destroyed trees. Deadeye was no doubt ahead of them but they tried to keep back as far as they could to avoid being spotted. The deeper they got to the forest, the more creatures seemed to be roaming around. They encountered a pack of creatures that Cloud learned were called Voretooths, but they were really not much of a challenge for him. The small group of beasts was wiped out and the five of them could press on.

Mist was beginning to surround them as they headed further, but soon they came to a small pathway created by sheets of metal and plant life. Gladio stepped ahead and signaled for the group to crawl through as quietly as they could. Overhead the beast growled, walking very close to where they were, but thankfully it did not notice them.

"Whoa that thing is huge!" Prompto whispered once they were out of the tunnel.

"We still need to follow it, but we should stay in its blind spot to avoid detection," Ignis added.

Heading further they stalked behind the beast all the way until they reached the ruins of some old building. There the mist had cleared and the beast was right in the open for attacking. It let out a growl suddenly, no doubt noticing the five, and it crouched down into an offensive stance.

"Weapons ready, looks like it has found it," Ignis replied as he summoned a pair of daggers.

Cloud summoned his own sword and took the lead jumping down towards the large beast. It was in fact huge, but Cloud knew he had fought bigger. This to him was just a runt out of everything else he fought. For the others though he knew it was probably going to be a challenge for them. While he was sure he could manage this beast all on his own he recalled again how the four had relied heavily on their teamwork to get the job done. If he really wanted to be helpful to them he was going to have to start being more aware of what they were doing and working alongside them.

The roar of the beast was still loud and caused him to jump back, trying not to be too directly in range. As he stood his ground he walked Noctis run up past him and threw out a red glowing flask. He threw it not at the beast, but a red barrel that was beneath it.

Fire erupted from underneath and Deadeye let out a strangled howl. When the fire started to die down, Cloud went to strike at its left side while Gladio went to its right. The beast was unable to know which way to attack stumbled back, shrieking in pain.

From above Noctis warped in with an attack directly onto Deadeye's face, just a few inches off from his only eye. Shortly after he called out for Prompto who shot right at the remaining eye with impressive accuracy.

Deadeye was completely blinded now and was struggling to get a clear focus where to move next. Each of the guys was moving around it in different directions, throwing off its sense of direction where and who it should be attacking. Noctis took the chance to throw another fire flask, this time right at Deadeye and the beast dropped to the ground in pain.

Taking his chances Cloud moved forward and sliced his sword along Deadeye's side. It was growing weaker now and it wouldn't take much more before the beast was gone. The five of them narrowed in their attacks and continued to fight until the beast gave out one final roar before slumping over.

With the task done, Prompt cheered loudly. "Woo all right! That wasn't so hard, see?"

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Noctis admitted. "How was that for you, Cloud?"

"I'm good," he replied.

"Let me guess, you've fought bigger or something?" Gladio asked.

Cloud couldn't exactly tell if he was just asking to be curious or if he was asking to be blunt. Even if his people skills weren't great he could understand the other three a lot easier than he could with Gladio. The man was very serious and stoic, almost like how Barret was when he first met the man. But if Gladio was anything like Barret, then there was a caring side underneath all that harsh exterior.

"Yeah I have actually, but this would have gone on much longer even if I was doing it by myself."

Gladio let out a "hmph" once again making it hard to tell just what he was thinking, but Cloud decided he would deal with that later if it came up again. They had to report the beast they had taken down first before heading back, but thankfully that didn't take all too long, and by the time they got back the chocobos were in their corrals again.

Wiz thanked them for doing the job and then let them, well mainly Prompto, know that they could rent the birds any time that they wanted. Prompto was unable to contain his excitement as he ran over to one of the corrals and slowly held out his hand to one of the chocobos.

"Aw man! They are just as soft as I thought! Yeah that's right, you're a soft precious bird aren't ya?"

"What a dork," Noctis chuckled before he headed over to one of the other corrals to pet a chocobo.

Cloud knew chocobos well enough and these did look like chocobos. There may have been slight differences in their features and build, but a chocobo was a chocobo. Moving closer to one of the pens Cloud reached out his hand and started to pet the birb. It gave out a soft kweh, showing that it was clearly enjoying the affection.

Suddenly the bird leaned forward and placed its head onto Cloud's shoulder and it let out another kweh. "Well you're awfully friendly." Cloud was laughing as he continued to pet the chocobo, letting it stay snuggled up against him.

"Hey look at that, ha ha! The chocobos have claimed him as one of their own," Prompto snickered.

"Well shouldn't you join him then? You are a part of the chocobo clan," Noctis replied.

"Yeah I think we need a picture of you two with your cousins," Gladio added with a hefty chuckle.

"Nooo," Prompto pouted. "What if I don't want to?"

Cloud turned around, trying his best not to show his smile. "You still want a picture of the chocobos right?"

"Yeah but…"

"Why not a group shot then?" Ignis suggested. "That way everyone can be happy."

"Yeah! Group shot! That's what we need! Everyone get up close with the chocobos! I'll set up the camera!"

Cloud stood in the back of the group, just a little behind Ignis. Prompto had pulled out a tripod and set up everything fairly quick and ran over once the time had started. They all smiled as the camera's flash went off.

"All right, love the lighting," Prompto said once he was back at his camera looking it over. "So could we rent some chocobos now? Could we? Please?"

"We should get to Lestallum first. Perhaps after we meet up with Iris we can find some time to rent for a couple days," Ignis offered.

"Great! That sounds like a good plan!"

Now that their pitstop to the chocobos was over, they could finally head back on the path to Lestallum. Once they were back on the road, Cloud looked out at the view, they were pretty high up in altitude now, and he could see even farther than he did back at the gas station.

After a little bit of being on the road Prompto pointed across the way. "Over there! Look! That's the old Meteor!"

Cloud turned to look at the landmark that was quite far from where the road was, but with its massive size it was easy to spot. It was unlike anything he had expected it to be. There were large pieces of ice or something else that were sticking out from the impact site making it even more impressive looking.

"It is, and it's still burning to this day," Ignis said, barely even glancing to the side to look.

Cloud listened, but mainly kept his focus on the strange meteor of this world. He heard them explain how it powered the city, but that really didn't mean too much to him anyways. It was just a power source, and it had been there for many years.

After a little while they came to a tunnel that was along the cliffside. Prompto was already snapping a couple shots with his camera as they drove through. "Wow! It's like we're warping into another dimension!"

"Well this will be the second time then for Cloud," Noctis laughed.

Cloud could only roll his eyes at the joke.

"Aw come on, I thought it was funny," Prompto replied, giving Cloud a nudge.

"Sure if you say so," Cloud said.

Prompto was going to say more, but he noticed that they were coming out from the tunnel. He let out a loud gasp as the light from outside the tunnel met their eyes. "Wow!"

"Nice," Gladio said softly as he looked ahead.

Noctis hummed. "This place is pretty big."

Cloud looked around now that they had left the tunnel, the city was rather large but one thing he noticed most was the difference in temperature. It was harder to tell before but now that Ignis had slowed down the car to drive down to a parking spot, he definitely felt it. The heat was much stronger at this level and he knew once the car stopped and the air conditioning was turned off it would probably be worse.

Slowly Ignis pulled into a parking spot that was on a lower level than the main street. He backed up into the spot and finally turned off the car. Now all of the guys seemed to notice the heat as they stepped out of the car.

"Any chance of sleeping in a nice room tonight?" Prompto asked with a heavy sigh.

"Yes," Ignis answered. "I'm certain we can secure… suitable accommodations nearby."

Cloud stretched his body slightly after sitting for so long in the car. He was trying his best to ignore the heat but it was very warm, almost like when he was down in Gongaga. It was funny though since Lestallum seemed to be farther north based on where they were driving. The curiosity of why that was entered Cloud's mind and he knew he would have to ask about it later.

"Cloud!"

For a moment Cloud thought he was hearing things. That voice did not belong to any of the four that he was traveling with. That voice belonged to someone else… someone who he had not expected to hear again, not for a long while at least.

Turning slowly to look where the voice had come from, he completely froze in place. His eyes were fixating several feet in front of him, trying to make sense of what he was seeing, or actually who he was seeing. None of it was making any sense though and he wasn't sure if he was just imagining things or not.

He finally managed to take a few steps forward, wanting to prove to himself if he was crazy or not. All he could say was one single word, a single name that was hanging on the tip of his lips, just waiting to be said.

"Z-Zack?"


I got very excited and I wrote this out as best as I could to get to this moment!

How is that for a cliffhanger? :D