Chapter Four: Field Test To Remember
By: Nadir and Blue Wings
It's been about two months now since Sir Valentine assigned me to be Cloud's partner. I'm telling you, I thought that was a good thing because he was HOT and I, sort of, like him... BUT! It turned out to be really stressful. (T-T)!! I didn't know that he was some kind of prodigy with a sword, while here I am, still unable to hit that bullseye with my gun (even though Sir Wallace keeps telling me that I have a pretty good aim... Oh well).
Okay, so I have been ranting... That's not the point why I'm writing here anyway. The point is... TOMORROW, WE'LL BE HAVING A FIELD TEST!! A F-I-E-L-D TEST:gasp:shock:gasp:
So if ever that I die and this is to be my last entry, I want my dad to know that I really love him and that I'm so sorry for causing this scandal. I also want you to be burned, Diary, and all my stuff to be given away to charity. )
Is a total whack right now,
I want Cloud to be racked by his conscience: Why did he let me die? Why!
He never liked me. (T-T)
Shooting Range, Midgar Academy. 8:26 PM.
"What are you doing?" A strict voice behind her said, it was Cloud, "We're supposed to be training!"
"I-I wanted to humor myself a bit," Tifa replied, immediately closing her diary and stuffing it in her bag, afraid that Cloud might want to look at it and worse, read it, "So I-"
"We have no time for that," he snapped, rudely interrupting her, "I have to train you because there's a chance of failing tomorrow's field test because of your inability to shoot a simple, fixed target."
"You don't have to rub it in that hard, you know," Tifa replied, layering her voice with sarcasm, then picked up her gun and got ready to try again, "It's not like I'm not trying, I am."
'Man, why are you the type to hold grudges?' Tifa complained to herself, remembering the day when they got scolded by Sir Valentine. It seems that Cloud wasn't joking when he told her that she'd regret being partners with him.
"I have the right to hold a grudge," he slowly said in his usual low voice, but this time, even if I did say 'usual', it was still... different. Somehow, it I felt like he said it with feeling, "We... never got to play soccer. I was really looking forward to it."
Gymnasium, Midgar Academy. 5:12 AM.
Tifa was still replaying last night's events in her mind. It seemed so... unreal. It was just like every other day, nothing special happened. They were having their usual bickering, she said nothing special, did nothing out of the ordinary. But somehow... there was something that happened that made Cloud say that.
"I have the right to hold a grudge... We never got to play soccer. I was really looking forward to it."
She formed this habit of waking up early to train about a month ago because she felt that she was too weak, too unworthy of being Cloud's partner. She didn't want to wait for Cloud to tell her that though, so she decided that she had to do something before that happened.
Lately though, there were mornings when she would leave her gun in her room and practice her martial arts instead. She did like gunning, not as much as taekwondo though. But if she wanted to remain partners with Cloud, she has to stick to gunning. After all, we can't be both front-attackers, right? That would obviously be inconvenient, since it's a well-known fact that some enemies can only be attacked from afar.
"I want him to see that I am not as pathetic as he probably think I am now," she said to herself, somewhat disappointed, "But... how?"
Sometimes, she wondered if Cloud would have treated her differently had he knwn that was a girl, 'As Tifa Lockheart, nonetheless!' she thought to herself, all the while trying to suppress her giggles.
Gate A (front gate), Midgar Academy. 9:58 AM.
- Stock up on Basic Elemental Magic (minimum of 30 each)
- Get Odin materia - Get Cosmo Memory (Item)
- Kill Dual Horn, bring back his Pepio Nut here as proof
All units must be back here, at Gate A, before 3 PM. You'll be given five points deduction for every minute that you are late.
Anyone who is forced to go to the Infirmary (KO'ed, etc.,) BEFORE completing the objectives will automatically receive a failing grade, along with his partner.
"...Understood?" Sir Valentine asked, his loud voice distracting the students from the paper.
The students answered a weak "Yes Sir!", proof that after knowing about the objectives, the desire to chicken out grew stronger.
"Have fun everyone!" Sir Wallace exclaimed happily, hoping to cheer them up by making the ordeal that they were about to go through sound like it was just a game, something to be enjoyed and not to be afraid of.
It didn't work, it seems.
The whole class were in their battle outfits, each one different to suit every students' unique needs, taking also into consideration the type of weapon that they're using. It definitely added the "feel" in this sort of situations, that feeling being fear. It looked as though they were about to go into a war or something.
From this, we can deduce that a field test is no game. It wasn't included in the curicculum for enjoyment (Unless you are morbid/suicidal then you'll definitely find this fun!).
Tifa wore a Protect Vest because she needed an extra boost in Vitality, given her position as a gunner. Her weapon was a Canon Ball, the very best that a neophyte like her can handle for the time being. Although her weapon is not that great, yet, her Tetra Elemental, is awesome. This is to make up for what her second-rate (need I say, for now) gun lacked in. Completing her get-up was a Crystal Bangle, that not only boosts her Defense and Magic Defense but has also six slots for equipping materia. And because Cloud assigned her to be the Medic, she's equipped with the following materia: Restore, Heal, and Revive. She brought along Ice, Poison, and Gravity materia too, just in case. (and she couldn't help but feel that it was such a waste that she still had three empty slots)
Cloud, on the other hand, is a natural swordsman, who's had a lot of training, so he's already using an intermediate-class sword like Yoshiyuki. His other equipments are not really great, since he's already limited to choosing the lighter, if not the lightest ones, because of his sword's great weight.
The main gate slowly closed, leaving the students alone in the wilderness. Most of them were being cautious ("or being chicken," as Cloud would have said it), just wandering on the areas near the school.
But Cloud was getting bored, "Let's go," he told Tifa as he held her by the wrist, dragging her further away from the school and towards a hill, which is 'about a few hundred kilometers away,' Tifa estimated.
"S-Shouldn't we just stay near the school?" Tifa told him, after some time, anxious of the possible consequences of their, rather, Cloud's rash actions.
It was a well-known fact that the areas near civilization are perfectly safe, since the humans drive the monsters away. As you go further away though, it becomes more and more dangerous, since monsters are likely to be here, without humans to disturb or harm them.
"Why are we going up that hill?" Tifa said suddenly, after allowing more time to pass, clearly expressing her alarm. She was getting more frightened with every step they took, moreso because Cloud wasn't talking to her, making her feel alone... and helpless.
"All the monsters we need to complete our objectives are there, in the cavern," Cloud told her, sounding the least concerned, "The sooner we finish this, the better."
"Why are you in such a rush anyway?" Tifa exclaimed, her irritation becoming obvious as she shook Cloud's hand off her wrist forcefully, "You dragged me to this hill, not even caring about MY opinions! What if I was against this?"
"If you're afraid then you can just wait outside and let me do this," Cloud told her coolly, preparing to go inside the dark, eerie, entrance of the cavern.
"If we get killed here, no one will find our corpses," Tifa held his wrist, making him pause and getting his attention for a while. She sounded serious, using a monotone voice like he usually did.
"I have no intention of dying here," Cloud laughed a little as he shook his wrist out of her grasp, shortly vanishing into the darkness.
"Fine, I'll stay here," Tifa exclaimed, hoping that Cloud will hear it... through echoes, maybe, "Don't think that I'll be doing nothing though, I'll be killing monsters too."
Tifa wandered around the foot of the hill, growing extremely nervous by the second. It wasn't because she was anxious of her safety though, rather, Cloud's, 'Did I do the right thing in letting him go there alone?' she asked herself, the answer was obviously no, but still... Cloud didn't want her to go, right? If there were two "correct" actions and you can only do one, completely disregarding the other, which would you do?
"This is so confusing!" Tifa exclaimed, if only to break the silence. Because in the silence, she's free to worry like nuts, with what, nothing to disturb her thoughts. Not even the monsters that she's searching for, 'Why are there no monsters anyway? Am I that lucky?'
'Did I do the right thing...'
'What if he gets cornered?'
'What if he runs out of potions?'
Dozens of what ifs going through her mind, adding to her confusion.
'Should I follow him? But... what about me? Can I defend myself?'
'Cloud treats this as though it was a game,' she thought bitterly to herself, 'Like his life didn't matter.'
"Shimata..." Tifa sighed, exasperated, "Oh yeah, I'm going to get a good grade when all I did was stand here and worry."
A long time passed, at least for the ever-worrying Tifa, and still, she hadn't made up her mind, nor encountered any monsters.
Suddenly, a thought entered her head amidst all of her confusion, "This is... the Forbidden Cavern!" she gasped. "Why hadn't I recognized it before? On a hill... near the school... no monsters around... this IS the Forbidden Cavern!"
At that very moment, a blast shook the ground for a second, its noise being echoed from the cave. Wasting no time to think, Tifa rushed inside to find Cloud.
"... that was a close one," Cloud told himself, sighing in relief, "Oh well, there goes my last bomb."
Goiing deeper and deeper into the cavern, Tifa's words flashed in his mind, "If we get killed here, no one will find our corpses,"
"Yeah, but it's not like we'll pass if we wait for some monster to miraculously appear near the school," he said absent-mindedly, continuing his way around the caverns, "Besides, here, I have completed all the objectives except..."
"... Odin materia!" Tifa ran inside the cavern blindly, suddenly, remembering all of their lessons, "Only monsters that are 39 and above carry those kinds of materia! What if Cloud can't handle that alone?"
Powered by her adrenaline rush, it seems like she was accompanied with extreme luck too, as she hadn't encountered any monsters yet. "Cloud..." she whispered, and immediately, it felt like she wasn't afraid anymore, just really angry, 'Kuso, the things I do for that idiot!'
Cloud was exercising extreme care as he wandered around the cavern, 'I can't rush into just any battle now,' he reminded himself, 'I have to conserve my energy and my supply of potions...'
'Now's probably a good time to have Johnny around,' he sighed, "I didn't want to be that cold to him earlier, well yeah,"
"But, I don't want him to go inside the cavern and get hurt. After all, I was the one who wanted to go here... I don't want another person to get hurt because of my actions,"
"This is for the best," Cloud added, moments later, hoping to convince himself.
Sensing movement by the rock just ahead of him, Cloud paused his thoughts for a while, clenching his sword tighter, ready for battle.
"Stupid Cloud!" Tifa came out from behind the rock, complaining about Cloud and his crazy decisions.
Cloud let out a tiny sigh of relief before going near her, "Stupid, eh? Why are you here?"
Tifa punched his face, eyes ablaze with anger, "Were you about to commit suicide? I followed you here because I just realized that you went ALONE into the Forbidden Cavern! How could you be so stupid?!"
Surprised, though he didn't let Tifa see that, he faced another direction, anywhere but at her, slowly saying, "I-I'm sorry."
"And now you apologize?" she snapped, sounding flabbergasted.
Silence. Noting that her last action was a bit unnecessary, it was now Tifa's turn to apologize, "Sorry," she muttered, softly this time, "Are you hurt?"
"Johnny," Cloud began in a mock-serious voice, "You're like a girl sometimes," letting out a little chuckle afterwards.
Tifa laughed along, happy that the darkness of the cavern hid her face from him, because it gradually turned into a shade of red.
"You do know that it was dangerous for you to follow me here, right?" Cloud said out of the blue as they went deeper still into the cavern, hoping to see a Lost Number soon.
Cloud was leading the way, with Tifa tailing him from behind. They stuck close together as they slowly and silently walked, being at their most sensitive lest any monsters creep near them and make the mistake of making their presences felt through the sound they make.
"Yeah, but you know what they say, two heads are better than one," Tifa replied, laughing a bit, "In our case though, two people attacking a monster is better than just one,"
"I suppose you're right-"
Cloud was cut short in replying as he noticed Ark Dragon behind Tifa, ready to attack the unwary one by surprise.
They were both distracted as they talked, a few seconds ago, and during this time, the monster knew that they had let their defenses down and took this opportunity to attack them.
"UWAAAA!!" The monster cried as Cloud finished it off with a single slice, cutting it into two. Disappearing into the darkness, it left behind a Phoenix Down.
Cloud handed it over to Tifa before falling to his knees, a result of being poisoned.
"Cloud?" Tifa dragged him to lean on the cavern wall, making him drink an Antidote, then slapping his face gently afterwards to awaken him.
"Cloud! You were amazing!" She cried, happy that his eyelids were now beginning to flutter themselves awake.
"We shouldn't talk too much," he muttered as he got up, as though nothing happened.
"Right, gomen," Tifa weakly replied as they continued, "Shouldn't you rest for a while though...?"
"I'm fine now, there's no need," Cloud said, looking at his watch, "It's already 12:47 PM, we should hurry..."
This wasn't entirely true albeit Cloud has already been cured from poisoning, there was something, although he just couldn't put what it is right now... something was weakening him, "This is what you get for zoning out of Basic Dark Magic Class," he scolded himself, voice toned down for fear of his companion hearing him, 'I don't want to worry him, it's not like he could help anyway,' he thought.
"Cloud," Tifa nudged him, her voice bordering on apprehension, "Did you hear that?"
Startled by her question, Cloud quckly replied, "Hear what?"
"I-It's Lost Number, I think," Tifa stammered, somewhat anxious of the danger ahead of them, "I mean, judging by the sounds that it made."
"You remember Battle Plan A, right?" Cloud told her as he readied his sword, "I'd rather that you'll just let me handle this though-"
"Well, yeah, I know you won't," Cloud continued, smirking a little, "So we'll do Plan A, ok?"
"Yeah," Tifa simply replied as she immediately went away from Cloud, a safe distance of about five meters, where she could easily shoot the monster and use her materia.
Lost Number appeared, and Cloud, with the help of Initiative materia, managed to get the first chance for attack. Landing firmly on his feet, he smiled as he thought of how much damage he dealt, 'A few more of these and that materia will be ours!' he thought triumphantly, losing his focus on the monster if only for just a second.
But in that one second, he had let his guard down and immediately, the monster was able to deal some damage onto him.
"What? How?" Cloud thought, alarmed as he clutched his right shoulder, it was bleeding, "I-It should be in a daze because of my attack-"
Then, the answer came to him, "I... I missed?"
Of all the times that he went into a battle, he never missed. He trained hard to get a near perfect accuracy and yes, it was possible that he might still miss, seeing as he is only human. But, Cloud never thought that he'd miss hitting such a low-leveled monster. (yes, he is very arrogant, no?)
'Something is definitely wrong,' he thought, remembering the sensation that he felt earlier, 'Is this the status ailment known as Blind?'
"Heal!" his thoughts were interrupted as he felt a bright, green light surround him. In an instant, the wound on his right shoulder closed.
"Tifa, do you have some Eye Drops with you?"
"No," Tifa immediately answered, only realizing the situation a second later, added, "You... You're suffering from Blind?"
"Yeah." Cloud replied flatly.
"You don't even have any offensive materia equipped right now!" Tifa exclaimed, panicking, "You should rest... let me handle this."
"You can't!" Cloud hastily replied, shocking Tifa with his declaration of his complete lack of trust in her... it hurt.
"Let's just escape!"
"Then go," Tifa snapped, "I'm staying here."
"What?" Cloud said, surprised that Johnny, who was always obedient to him ('if only because I am a bit scary,' he mused, smirking inwardly), just opposed him, 'Why now?' he thought, fearing for their safety... more importantly, Johnny's safety.
Tifa didn't get a chance to reply though, for the monster began to attack them again, with a blast that pinned Cloud to the cavern's wall.
"Ugh..." Cloud uttered, clutching his shoulder. There was an abrupt jolt as he made contact with the rough, mossy wall. He felt his shoulder go numb, along with his right arm. He couldn't stand up.
"Ice!" He could hear Johnny casting the spell, he wanted to help... but how? He hated this feeling, the feeling of helplessness... being forced to rely on someone else because you couldn't do what was assigned to you.
'Like that feeling five years ago,' were his last thoughts as his eyelids slowly closed and his shoulders relaxed; as his body gave in and let his subconsciousness take over.
Cloud grunted as he weakly opened his eyes, then quickly closed them as the intense light around him irritated them, a result of staying for a prolonged time inside the cave.
"Thank goodness you're up! I was really worried, thinking that I might not be able to revive you," Tifa sighed happily, wiping off the sweat on her forehead.
"W-we're outside?" Cloud asked, weakly lifting an arm up to shield his eyes from the light of the sun, "You got the...?"
"Yeah," Tifa hastily replied then proceeded to help Cloud stand, "We've got to hurry back now, or we'll be late. Are you okay now?"