Fantasies Realities

I think I need to beg everybody's apologies… I wrote the last chapter a year and a half ago. I have had multiple false starts since then, and many attempts at playing FFVII. Let's just say there were definitely reasons I didn't update…

I think I'm ready to try again. I've pretty much recovered from my depression, and my counselor suggested meetings every 3 weeks now, so I think I'm doing much better. So while Stephanie still plans on being a meatshield, I am in a slightly better place.

So, I managed to play FFVII again... and realized Seventh Heaven was nothing like how I pictured the layout in my mind. At least I got the hidden room right… sigh.

Chapter 5 – Lunch and Learning

H - :-/

Knowledge will give you power, but character respect. If one were to gain the knowledge of a thousand men, one would grow powerful indeed. But if one refused to have good character, or acts in misconduct, one gains the respect of nobody – only fear, or despise.

Yet if that one with the knowledge of a thousand were to act with a goodness of character, the one will gain respect – the awed respect of his allies, and the reluctant respect of his enemies.

If the one were to lose the knowledge, the one with respect may yet keep his power. The one who afflicted himself with an ill character, however, will quickly gain scorn and will only suffer.

-Bruce Lee

(^_^)/

I didn't notice how sore my entire body was, how heavy my mind felt until I began making my way back downstairs. I nearly missed the second step when a wave of heaviness overcame my being. With a groan, I twisted slightly so instead of falling down the stairs, I just landed on my padded posterior. I winced at the jarring landing, but most of my mind was consumed with wondering why I was so sore.

I had swung Cloud's huge blade around for quite a few minutes, but that would only explain why my arms were aching. They felt worse than the rest of me, but it was everywhere that was in this throbbing pain, not just one limited area. I wondered what my stat screen would look like right now. Level 2? HP 25/50? MP 8/52? Then would come my abominably low base stats...which would be affected by the Materia I was still holding! Could the Materia be contributing to the throbbing sensation coursing through my veins?

Now that I was thinking about it, I realized that I had not wondered exactly how the Materia lowered some stats while boosting others. I still had the Materia equipped in the bracer Cloud had lent me, so it should be affecting me right now. That meant... My magic skill went up slightly...and attack or defense or some other physical stat had gone down. Could that be why it felt like acid was running through my veins?

A hand suddenly landed on my shoulder, jerking me out of my thoughts as I twisted upright and around to see what had grabbed me. I blinked in surprise to see Cloud standing on the stairs behind me, an unreadable expression on his face. My face reddened as I realized I was blocking the stairs.

"Sorry…" I muttered, carefully not looking up as I slowly rose to my feet. Another wave of something washed over me, and I would have fallen down the stairs but for the hand that caught my arm. Biting back a grimace, I levered myself upright with Cloud's silent assistance. "Sorry…" I murmured again, my face beet red as I carefully stepped away from Cloud and down the steps. My limbs still felt horribly limp, but they managed to support my weight as I slowly clonked downstairs.

I bit my lip as I made my way over to Tifa, biting down a sigh of relief as I sat where she gestured. Something about changing worlds must have radically improved my understanding of social gestures…

I blinked when I realized that I (and now Cloud as well) was sitting across from another duo. One was a girl, with light brown hair pulled into a high ponytail. The other was a rather portly guy with a red bandanna. They paused in their conversation to greet us.

"Hi, Cloud!" The girl called. The guy just waved with one hand, still eating the sandwich in the other. "Finally decided to join us for lunch with your new friend?"

Cloud just lifted his shoulders slightly before letting them fall, clearly not really interested in talking. Not really surprising – I was much more surprised with how much he had deigned to say when he was training me earlier. I copied the other guy, silently waving with my aching hand and offering a shy smile. I paused when I realized these people were familiar. If I kinda-sorta recognized them, they were obviously character I had seen in the game. It had honestly been quite some time since I played, but some things you never forgot. Now I just had to remember who they were…

"I'm Jessie, and this guy here is Wedge. We saw you earlier with Marlene, but I don't think we were introduced." Jessie introduced herself cheerfully, obviously used to Cloud's silence. I slowly extended my hand to shake hers, and watched as my arm was visibly shaking as I shook both her and Wedge's hand over the table. I thought I caught Cloud frowning at that, but when I shifted slightly to see him better he was clearly being his stoic self. "Wedge and I were just discussing what we've got planned for Sunday. Let me tell you, it's going to be a blast!"

I brightened as I remembered who Jessie was. She was the explosion person; she created bombs by following computer instructions. She had shown Cloud (and thus, me) the map of Midgar on the train. Wedge was the shy guy who really looked up to Cloud. I bit my lip and tried to remember more about them as they turned back and started talking to each other again, grateful they wouldn't be pulling me into any social situations. Just introducing myself was hard enough. It had been much easier with Cloud and Tifa because I was exhausted to the point of not caring and verbal spewing.

I knew there was something semi-important about the two. I had just played the game fully a month ago (finally making it all the way through, for once) and I had just finished up a FFVII fanfiction marathon. Why couldn't I remember more about them?

Just then, there was a loud sound right in front of me. I startled, jerking away and flinching at the resulting pain from my sore body. When I reopened my eyes, I realized there was now a plate of food in front of me and Tifa was talking to Cloud. Nobody seemed to have noticed my odd behavior, so I quietly began scarfing down the food. I had only eaten an apple for breakfast when I was helping Marlene set up the bar, and all the exercise had worn me out. I was trying to replenish my energy as quickly as I could; spell casting really took it out of you.

I was satisfied just to watch silently as I ate and listen to the conversations around me. Jessie was still talking to Wedge about her latest batch she had made, and about how she couldn't wait until she could use it. Wedge was nodding along as he continued eating, sometimes more vigorously than others. Cloud was eating silently, his body turned towards Tifa but not otherwise suggesting he was listening to her. Tifa was almost bouncing in place as she talked to Cloud, almost bouncing out of her rather lacking shirt. Hmm…I was going to need to do something about the laundry situation… I don't remember there being any laundry machines in any game I've played, but…

Tifa was still talking. She just finished telling Cloud about one subject and had swapped to a new one. "You're feeling better, right Cloud?" A pause, and a slight nod of the head. "I managed to convince Barret to let you keep the Restore Materia we used to heal you, so long as you give it back before you go."

Cloud paused, lowering the fork and placing it back onto the table. He blinked, apparently not comprehending what Tifa had just offered momentarily. "Thank you," he said after a moment.

Tifa smiled at him, pulling something out of her pocket. "Here you go! One Restore materia, coming right up!" She handed the green gem to Cloud with a flourish. Cloud took the materia made a motion to equip it, pausing when he noted his bare arm. He instead began to pull his sword over his shoulder, before pausing once again, turning to look at me instead.

"Try this one," was all Cloud said as he held out the restore materia. I bit my lip as I silently accepted the materia, placing it on the table so I could remove thunder. I refused to look up as I tugged the jewel out of the bronze bracelet-thing so I didn't have to see if anyone was paying me any attention. I placed it next to the one Cloud had handed to me, on the side closer to Cloud so he could take it back if he wanted it, even though I was loathe to relinquish it. With both orbs lying side by side, I could see the slight differences in hues. The thunder materia had tiny, almost indistinct yellow veins running through it, while the restore materia had deep green strains, practically invisible inside the emerald green gem.

I closed my eyes as I picked up the new materia, focusing to see if I could hear the whispers again. Indistinct, quiet murmuring began to fill my mind as a soft feeling of relief slowly ebbed into my hand. I concentrated harder, trying to focus and listen to the words hovering out of earshot. After a moment of nothing happening, I slotted the new materia. The green shone palely from where it nestled in bronze metal, demonstrating the power I could draw. Just as before, the sounds hushed but the promise of ability once again grew, infusing me with new vitality. It was more muffled than the lightning, but I could still sense the promise the materia was offering.

"Cure," I whispered, directing it towards Cloud. A soft green mist spread from my palm, wrapping around the blond figure. Cloud closed his eyes and tilted his head back slightly as the energy poured into him, the summoned breeze and mist ruffling around his character. A moment later, the air was once again calm and clear. Cloud was smirking, and I looked around to see that Tifa was focused on Cloud while Wedge and Jessie were peering curiously at the materia.

Jessie was the first to speak. "So, that was cure? I didn't get to see it when Tifa healed Cloud. It's a lot more quiet than I thought magic would be. I was picturing fires, explosions, loud thunder, raucous applause – the works!"

Wedge shook his head and attention was transferred to him. "That's fire and thunder materia you're thinking of. There's several different types of materia, as indicated by their color. There's green magic materia, like these two, and those are the most commonly known. Several types of these are thunder, fire, blizzard, and restore. Then there are the rare but well-known summon materia, which are always colored red and summon an otherworldly force. These are incredibly powerful but very demanding. There are command materia, yellow materia that lend you the knowledge of different abilities. Then there are the blue support materia, which has benefits the user without being directly called upon. Finally, you have purple independent materia that can do a large variety of actions without linking to another materia, unlike support materia."

Wedge finished his lecture with a slight hand wave, before realizing that everyone was now looking at him. "I used to be really interested in materia, okay? I never had enough energy to cast a spell or enough money to buy them, but I did a lot of research on them a while ago!" Wedge's face was heating up, and he began to shovel food in his mouth in an effort to avoid further embarrassment.

Cloud eyed him, assessing him, before nodding. "You did some decent research; you've covered quite a lot about the basic types of materia. What else do you know about them?" Cloud seemed genuinely interested in what Wedge knew. I suppose teacher!Cloud in the beginning wasn't entirely for the sole purpose of informing the player about the game mechanics; it seemed Cloud actually cared that people knew things.

Wedge finished his latest bite with a loud gulp, face still read, but smiling despite himself. "I, uh, know a bit more. They're condensed pieces of the lifestream, supposedly the knowledge of the Ancients, though Shinra denies any such thing. They, um, need to be equipped in a slot to work, and most high-end weapons come with at least one materia slot. The most basic equipment that will let you use materia is a Bronze Bangle, like Stephanie has on over there. Um, some slots are connected, which materia like the support materia elemental needs in order to be useful because it won't work without a partner materia. And, um, that's about it."

Cloud favored Wedge with a small smile, and Wedge practically glowed under the positive attention. "You do know your materia." Cloud turned towards me slightly, holding out a hand. I hesitated, confused as to why I know had a scarred hand in my field of vision. I pinked slightly when I realized he must want the bronze bangle, and reluctantly slid the 'armor' off my wrist and handed it to Cloud. Cloud simply turned back to Wedge, offering him the equipment. "Try using cure on her."

Wedge stumbled a little as he grasped the bracelet, almost missing the bangle dangling from Cloud's hand in his combined nervousness and excitement. He slid it onto his own wrist, closing his eyes and obviously focusing on the materia. I waited nervously as he did so – had Cloud just told him to cast his first spell on me or on Jessie? I was decidedly nervous by the time Wedge opened his eyes a good few minutes later – had I taken that long when I took the materia? Maybe before I had equipped it, but I had thought I cast it pretty quickly after I equipped it.

Wedge slowly pointed his hand at me, a clear parallel of when I had cast cure on Cloud earlier. I guess that meant Cloud assigned me as the target after all – revenge? "Cure!" He cried, and a soft green glow poured from the materia. The green mist was thin, but no less visible than the one I had cast earlier. I tensed and braced myself for the first spell cast on me, wary of a negative reaction or a miscast spell.

I relaxed as the spell made contact. It was like a warm blanket was wrapping around me, soothing away my aches and pains. I felt my muscles loosen as the spell took away some of the stress. I breathed an audible sigh of relief as the headache that had persisted from this morning finally left, and the warm feeling disappeared with it. I reopened my mysteriously closed eyes as I felt the spell recede, sighing with regret as it disappeared.

I was shocked to see Wedge looking slightly pale, sweat dripping from his forehead, but with an enormous pleased smile spreading across his face. "I did it! I finally managed to cast a spell – and it was amazing!" He beamed at us as he slowly pulled the bangle off his arm, hesitating momentarily on who to offer it too before giving it back to Cloud. "Thank you, Cloud!"

Jessie clapped him on the shoulder as they turned back to their meal, this time with Wedge doing the talking and gesturing (albeit much slower and gentler but no less enthusiastic) while Jessie listened and ate. Cloud just looked at the bangle for a moment before slipping it back onto his wrist. He hesitated as he picked up the lightning materia.

I forced myself to turn away and finish eating. Whatever Cloud did with the materia was clearly none of my business.

(^_^)/

Cloud turned the materia over in his hand before equipping it to his sword. He wasn't so sure why he was being so accommodating and helpful, but it had warmed a part of him to see several people clearly appreciative of what he was doing. He tried to remember if he had taught before, if that was why this was actually rewarding and not a terrible hardship.

He almost snorted when he felt bad for the poor little person he may or may not have trained. He obviously wasn't a good teacher; he was fortunate that both the girl and the boy had known what to do. The boy obviously had low amounts of MP, but he had enough for one good spell, and he could probably cast two if he really pushed it or had a minute between castings. He was slightly, but not really, surprised on how his technical knowledge had translated into practical knowledge.

Yet the girl could cast just as well, if not better, with a lack of practical and theoretical knowledge. Her stores of MP were substantially larger, more similar to a younger Tifa or basic grunts, perhaps. She had also cast quicker, and seemed more in tune with the materia. Perhaps that was the reason for her aptitude – her handling and examining of the materia before attempting to use it.

Well, at least she could practice with the materia because she was not handling his sword again – not for a very long time, at the least. She lacked both the upper body strength and fortitude necessary to wield a weapon like the Buster Blade…and he honestly didn't wasn't anyone else touching it anyways. She could find a pipe or something else in these slums if she wanted sword practice.

Cloud frowned when he realized he had eaten his entire meal and Tifa was back behind the bar. Wedge and Jessie were still talking, Wedge regaining his energy and making wilder and larger hand motions as time passed and he continued talking about materia. Stephanie was tracing the grains in the wood idly as she fidgeted in her seat, clearly uncomfortable. She obviously had no idea what to do next.

Cloud frowned as he thought about that. What was the awkward stranger to do? They could do the core exercises they had agreed upon after their food settled, but that wouldn't be for some time yet. What could they do during the time, considering Cloud himself wasn't allowed to train or do anything that might stress his still-recovering body. Although his Soldier healing was speeding the healing progress exponentially, his body still was in poor shape.

Cloud still couldn't remember why he was like he was. He was forced to assume that he had been grievously injured in his defection from Shinra. All he could remember of his recent memories was escaping from…somewhere, and being hounded by Shinra. He had been somewhat malnourished, so he could conclude he had been unable to meet the high caloric intake his body required, thanks to Mako speeding up his metabolism. He wondered whether it was a blessing or a curse that he couldn't clearly recall the fight that had wounded him. He reluctantly decided that it might be a boon, based on his wounds.

Wounds that were actually feeling quite healed, thank you very much. The healing spell had worked quite well earlier. He had felt his bones shift and realign themselves from where they had been knocked askew, and the aches that had been tormenting him had faded into a rather dull –if still present and annoying- throb. Perhaps now he could convince Tifa to allow him some exercise? His muscles had clearly deteriorated a large amount in his period of extended malnourishment, so much so that he was probably back down to a Soldier Second's level of ability.

If this allowed Tifa to clear him, he would have to thank the girl. He obviously couldn't offer her lessons since Tifa had already strong-armed him into that agreement, but perhaps he could offer her a bronze bangle of her own? He couldn't remember how much they cost, but surely they couldn't have been that much?

If not, he could just slay some monsters in the area, perhaps earn a few gil. He would have to see…

(^_^)/

And….done! Wow! I actually did it! I'll be honest… I didn't expect to. So, I just wrote these 7 pages in one go. Yay. Of course…now it is 3:40 in the morning and my self-imposed hard-limit for sleep passed about an hour and a half ago…and I still need to post this.

Okay. So, If you're reading this on , you will finds there have been revisions in all the past chapters, hopefully improving the quality of my work and the enjoyment in your reading. If you're reading this on A03, I mostly just changed the sword training scene.

I just realized I haven't picked the quote yet…and I just realized that I really am tired 'cause I don't know when to shut up and let others ignore things they don't care about. Like how I've been working on the quote first, trying to match it to the chapter I have planned and then keeping the quote in mind as I type. Now, I have no freaking clue what to put as the quote, which reduces its value. So, I'll probably be up at least another half hour searching for a good quote.

…I think I'm going to end up skipping sleep tonight..

It might bounce between thunder and lightning materia in the story. I still don't remember which it is. I still haven't completed the game.

Speaking of, I'm going to try to make a play through of the game…if it's legal. Is it legal? I'm trying to download the PC version of FFVII but I'm having problems…the reCaptcha at the bottom of the page is refusing to offer a visual or auditory code. In the terms of service, section 2, subsection a, part ix) it says something about not making 'any derivative works of applications provided in the services.' Is that just saying I can't take a part of the game and do whatever, or does that restrict videos of it as well? In the same sections, it says something about not being allowed to frame the work as well…then I got frustrated and closed it.

So, if I made the aforementioned play-through, would it be better to read the dialogue aloud, respond to the dialogue, or just wait long enough for the viewer to read it and otherwise not comment on it? I'm leaning towards the first option, but I'm tempted to do the second. Input please?

Wow. Time really is relative. I checked my watch to see how long I spent on the quote, and the seconds are literally flying past. Tick-tick-tick-tickticktickticktick Oh God I;m tired

Sorry this is long. I don't really have a filter when I'm tired. Thank you for reading, and sorry for the wait.

Original Post: February 4, 2013
Last updated: February 4, 2013
Words w/o AN: 3,365
Current connection with reality: Difficulties in the infrastructure.