Chapter 1: Where it All Begins
I sunk onto the couch and sighed deeply, waiting for my computer to boot up. How can so much shit happen in one day? Going from getting up late due to studying late the night before, failing the exam that I was studying for. Then I arrived late for work, again, and got my ass fired because of it. I really didn't want to go back to government benefits again to try and find work again. Then on the way home I remembered I needed to take back several videos that were a few days overdue, but I had spent my last few dollars on the bus ride home. Then when I get through the door I spot three bills that need to be paid by the end of the week and its Friday. Did I do something to deserve this?
I then opened my eyes. 'No, it's not the end of the road for me. Not by a longshot. I'll get my last paycheck tomorrow when it's wired to my account. Then take back the vids tomorrow, get some food before paying off at least one of those bills. Then come Monday I sign up for welfare and proceed to find work. Or maybe I'll study instead.' This inner planning made me feel much better. However I needed to do something right this moment.
At that moment my PC arrived at the login screen; my name over the password box. "Josh Kitsuné," I murmured, smiling to myself. It still sounded nice to hear my new surname. It had only been a few months after I had changed it; a few months after my 22nd birthday.
I reached for the keyboard, but halted, thinking for a moment. 'Yeah, a game sounds nice,' I thought before I turned the PC off, changed the channel on my TV and booted up my PS2 instead. It was the old launch model. I did have a PS3 but I was in the mood for something a little more nostalgic. Seeing something that I didn't want to play in the disk tray, an earlier version of Burnout, I removed the disk and fumbled in my bookshelf for the cover. Finding it I scanned the shelf on what I would start with. 'Well, there's nothing more nostalgic in video games than Final Fantasy,' I thought as I sorted through all the games to pick out all the FF games I had. There were mostly core games VII through to X-2, then XII and XIII. I also had the sequel spinoff Dirge of Cerberus. While I had the internet (barely) to use XI on the computer, I was a little uneasy about playing it. An FF game shouldn't be a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game or MMORPG for short; maybe with just another player or three, not thousands. But it sure seemed popular so maybe I was wrong. "Might give it a shot another day," I decided as I pulled VIII out.
I opened the case and popped the first disk into the drive and closed the lid. After loading I skipped the opening FMV before the New Game/Load Game screen. I chose to go with New Game. The prologue cut scene comes on, starting with the water and the beginning of one of the best songs from the whole game, Liberi Fatali. I just love choir music. If only the song was a hybrid of choir and rock, like One Winged Angel in FF7: Advent Children Complete.
I watched the beautiful scene between a few of the main characters. "Ah, the ballad of Squall Leonhart and Rinoa Heartilly. I wish I was in it. Then I'd soften up Squall and totally kick Ultimecia's ass! And Rinoa sucks." I said passionately as the sequence had almost finished. I knew I would get serious flack for hating on Rinoa, but it was true. Rinoa always seemed like a sheltered eight-year old. Though I do admit she was kinda cute.
At that point the whole place darkened. Not just the screen, but my whole room darkened to black.
"Oh come on! My electricity too?!" I yelled in despair. Was life just trying it's best to fuck me over today? Of course, when I felt myself float off my couch, my thoughts flipped like a switch from anger to confusion and fear.
"Oh shit! What the fuck is going on?!" I shouted out into the black void that was in front of me, for it looked like that. I couldn't see my couch, my table, my TV, nothing. Then I felt drained, like energy was being drawn out of me. I closed my eyes briefly, feeling really sleepy, before I suddenly felt very awake, like I was shocked awake by a bucket of cold water in my face.
"What the hell… is going on?" I questioned the darkness. And as if responding, a rectangular blue semi transparent shape formed out of the black void. I felt my feet touch ground, but looking down, there was nothing but blackness. I began to hyperventilate in fear, but then the world formed around me. First was the ground; green grass materialised under my feet, small white flowers, rolling plains of green spreading out of the void. Then trees, small woods sprouted up what felt like a few kilometres away. And then water, an ocean of deep blue. But that was it. Despite all of this new land and sea having materialised and bathed in what could only be described as the perfect sunny day, the sky was still as black as before. There was also no sound, no smell. No wind to ruffle the grass. It was a little creepy, but I certainly wasn't fearful anymore.
I returned my attention to the floating screen in front of me. It looked to be made of glass, or something like it. I reached out and tapped it. I withdrew slightly as words formed on the screen. "Physical… Clothes… What is this?" I asked before I realised exactly what it was. It was giving me customisation options. But why? It didn't seem like anything more was going to happen so I thought 'What the hell. I'm dreaming anyways.'
The first set of options delved into physical customization. Things like skin colour, height, build, hair and so on. Something that I already had I was happy with, but as I was a more than a little chubby, I decided to change my build. An image of myself popped up next to my options, showing my changes in realtime. After a few minutes of fiddling around, I now looked over my form. Light tan skin, black hair and my height of 5'11" I kept. Now though, I had decent muscle form. Not super defined though; I kept a little of my old fat to smooth it over.
My hair was now lengthened considerably. It reached to my lower back before being bound up into a ponytail with a white tie. The fringe was cut short and styled into spikes over my eyes. Finally, gold streaks were threated through the ponytail, but the rest remained pure black. I decided to change my eye colour to violet. And add a large tattoo of black tribal angel wings on my back.
Next up was clothes. This time text on the screen said to imagine what I wanted to wear before touching my avatar. So after mentally going over all the cool outfits I knew of, I settled on an outfit similar to what Ragna wore in BlazBlue. A black sleeveless vest covered my torso that could be unzipped. Over the top was a red trench coat. The coat had two black leather belts that attached to the edge of the coat and wrapped under my arms. This was to keep my coat open a set length so it didn't open all the way and fly around in a brisk wind. There were more belts in the original, but I decided to leave them alone as they were just cosmetic. Attached to the coat were a couple of silvery metal plates, big enough to be used effectively to block incoming sword strikes.
On the lower half of my body I chose a pair of slightly loose cargo pants with many pockets. A pair of black boots similar to Cloud's in FF7: AC covered my feet. My hands were wrapped in tight black leather gloves. And lastly I included a silver pendant necklace of a tribal fox with wings. I saw it as a tattoo and wanted to make a silver pendant out of the design for a while now, but never had the funds to do so.
I took a moment to admire the avatar. It sure looked great. I saw a small glowing square at the bottom of the screen. Figuring that this was a 'Next' button of sorts, I tapped it, and watched as my avatar and the words disappeared, to be replaced with a new set of options. "Ahhh, weapons! Awesome," I grinned.
From the options, I could choose a Primary and a Secondary weapon. So for my primary I chose a Zweihander. From there, instructions let me know how to edit the shape of the sword using touch on the screen. I went with a classic Buster Sword shape, but the blade itself wasn't grey steel colour but was completely ebony black. Like with the clothes, there was the option of imagining a pattern or etching on the weapon before touching the avatar. And so I took a moment before touching the sword on the screen. Now along the blade was a beautiful etching of an elegant red nine-tailed fox that almost covered the entire length. This was the same on both sides.
My Secondary weapons were two handguns that were almost exact replicas of the guns wielded by Dante in Devil May Cry except I ditched the pictures on the handles and the barrels were slightly longer. The barrel of the first gun was white, while the handle was light grey. The trigger and hammer were gold. And written on the sides of the gun, there were the words 'Ascend Into Heaven' in gold Calligraph421 BT font letters. The barrel of the second gun was black, while the handle was dark grey. The trigger and hammer were gold like the opposite gun. The text on the sides of this gun was 'Descend Into Hell' in the same style and colour as the brother gun. I was able to name my weapons as well. I smiled as I supplied the info.
Primary Weapon's Name: Ragnarok
Secondary Weapon's Name: White - Oathkeeper; Black - Oblivion
Satisfied I tapped the next button. Next were skills. For the most part the skills were listed and not changeable. However I could dictate what my Limit Break would be, as well as three Special Skills. So far, my skills were knowledge of martial arts to an intermediate level, while high advanced level of proficiency with my sword and guns. My three special skills, however, I was unsure what to choose on them. So I sat down on the grass and thought over them.
However it didn't take me as long as I thought to narrow down my choices to three. First up was the ability to understand and play any musical instrument by touch. I loved the idea of being in a band, but, predictably was too lazy to bother learning how to use a guitar or keyboard or drums. So I figured if any skill was on the table, why not choose something like that. The second skill spun directly off this. The ability to make clones similar to the Kage Bunshin technique from Naruto. This way I could play all the instruments at the same time to songs I knew. And then, since I was still thinking about Naruto, I decided to add the ability to Henge into other people. But it was a more powerful version, able to change tone of voice and be a real physical change, for the most part.
Then came the Limit Break. This one actually had me stumped. I couldn't decide what to choose. As I was trying to figure it out, a new button appeared on the screen, named 'Generate'. "Ahh, well I guess that can give me ideas," I nodded in appreciation before I began to tap away, reading the description of each one. Despite wanting a god mode Limit Break, I decided to go against my desire and choose one that was a little more grounded. And then I saw it.
The ability to take any spell or spells and merge it with your sword, transforming it into an elemental sword of the spell type. The stronger the spell, the longer the limit will last and the more powerful your attacks will be. Eg: A Blizzard spell will transform the sword into an ice sword that lasts an average of a single strike. If you wish for a stronger elemental spell, but lack the charge, you can merge two of the same type to form a stronger spell before use on the sword. Eg: Two Blizzards to make a Blizzara, and two Blizzara spells to make a Blizzaga.
"Perfect!" I grinned before settling on that.
Then where was a choice of a Special Item. And like my skills, one was already suggested, but there was the option of changing it if I wanted to. A physical projector that could create most, if not all, musical instruments ever made. This also came with a laptop so I could upload a song and the computer would list all instruments used in that song for assimilation. This would be useful for me to play songs. By now it was obvious this dream of me was going in the direction of me being inserted into the world of FF VIII. If so then I would be the band that played at the inauguration party for the new SeeD's and also for the Garden Festival. I would be sure to play better songs than that Balambfish piece of crap that just loops over and over. Ugh, just remembering the cringy tune made my head hurt. I might as well do the same for the Garden Festival. Turn it into a proper concert! The idea of that made me excited.
And lastly was the Character Background. I guessed that this was how I was going to be inserted. A description was already there. No doubt based off what I had filled in.
'You have completed your SeeD training at Galbadia Garden with high marks. With the SeeD exam taking place at Balamb Garden, you have been transferred there to undergo the final trial and subsequently enter the SeeD exam. Your musical skills have also been requested for the inauguration. You will be under the authority of Balamb Garden from now on.'
"Sounds good to me!" I said enthusiastically as I pressed the next button, only to see in big letters the word 'PROCEED?' with underneath 'YES or NO'. 'Here we go,' I thought as I firmly press 'Yes'.
As soon as I tapped yes, my surroundings came to life. First, a soft breeze brushed past my face, and with it, the scent of grass, of nature, filled my nostrils. The faint salty smell of the sea also was part of that. Birds chirping, the faint buzzing sound of bees nearby. Waves crashing in the distance. And then, the blackness overhead disappeared as the bluest sky I had ever seen exploded into existence. Since I've lived in the city most of my life I know that you only see skies this blue in the country. However this sky was even bluer than that. Soft white clouds pass overhead, lightly dancing on the wind and sunshine. I then look down to see that I was dressed now in my choices. I was willing to bet my body was now changed too.
I decide to sit for a moment, soaking up this amazing atmosphere. But I soon fall backwards, not even hurt as my back thumps against the springy green grass. This felt incredible. I looked to the side to see the white flowers that dotted the fields sway with the grass in the soft wind. I look back to the sky. "I'll just stay here a little longer," I mumbled while looking at the sky. That is, until someone's head blocked my view.
"Hello there," he said. I blink before siting up to look at him. He seemed the same age as me, in his early twenties. He wore black cargo pants and a white shirt. He had bright sky blue hair with white streaks through it. It was cut mostly around his head, except for a thin tail at the back which reached to his mid-back. Oddly enough, an old school PlayStation logo was printed on his shirt.
"Uh… hey there," I answer, realising I had been looking him over for several seconds. I stood up and regarded this newcomer with a little bit of unease. "Um… not to be rude but, who are you?" I asked. I had never seen this guy before in my life.
The blue haired kid smiled. "I guess you can call me your PS2."
I blinked, and then I blinked again. "You're my PS2?" I ask incredulously. Such a thing was mind-boggling. "Ok, I gotta ask, am I dreaming? Cause this seems very lucid for a dream. Not to mention things seem very realistic here."
"You aren't, I can assure you that," he replied.
"Whoa…" I breathe out and fall back on my bum. He, my PS2, sits down next to me. "Easy now, take a deep breath," he says in a calm voice, as if he expected me to act like this. I do as he says and start to feel better. I then turn to him and ask the loudest question that's yelling in my mind. "Why?"
"Let's just say for now, you piqued my interest. Over the years I've observed and grown quite attached to you. So I decided perhaps you'd like a change in your current life." He then looked at me, waiting for my reply.
"I see. Well, this is certainly quite the shift. Don't get me wrong, an enjoyable one, to say the least," I replied. He smiled at this. "Are there more like you?" I asked.
"Ay, there are, but only a few of us. Now while I'm glad I made the right decision in bringing you here, there is a catch. I only had enough energy to bring you here. You have to finish the story in order for me to send you back. That is, if you want to go back. For this is not a game world, but a real living world based of this game." That threw me for a loop.
"So, death is a possibility here? Well, higher risk then back home anyways," I asked seriously.
I take a deep breath and release it slowly, calming the momentary fear that set in. I looked at the human representation of my PlayStation 2. "I understand. I don't regret pressing 'Yes'."
"I'm glad," he smiled before moving his hand to the side. Two cases then materialised into existence, completely different from each other. The first was very long, about 70 inches long, and black. On the front was a red tribal fox etching with the words in red squished Times New Roman to make it look like a FF title, 'Ragnarok'. The second was quite smaller, about 18 inches. It was a stormy grey colour. In silver was an etching of a tribal eastern style dragon. Underneath in blue was the word, 'Oathkeeper' and underneath that in red was 'Oblivion'.
I looked at my PS2, as it to ask permission to open them. He nodded with a wide smile. Grinning like a kid on his birthday, I opened the big case first and gasped. The sword I designed was magnificent. Exactly as I imputed. I ran my hand over the nine-tailed fox. There wasn't even bumps, as if the etching was completely fused to the sword. I grasped the handle and lifted it out, standing up as I did so. It felt so light. Either I was super strong, or this was made out of very unique metal. I had a feeling it was both. I practiced a few swings to make sure my listed skillset was in working order. Each move was precise. I smiled before placing the sword back into the case.
I then opened the small one and whistled in appreciation. The handguns were just as beautiful, sleek and magnificent as the sword. I picked them up and twirled them in both of my hands like a veteran cowboy. I did a quick draw and fired a bullet from each one. Two streaks, one white and the other black, shot out of the barrels and streaked off into the distance. I looked at the guns again, marvelling at the way they handled. There was almost no recoil. Perfect. Checking the ammo cartridge in the handles I saw that the bullets were actually energy charges. A small display on the bottom of the cartridge showed that at full charge could shot 300 shots before empty. Looking at the side of the gun I saw a small knob attached. Taking a closer look at it I saw the words 'semi-automatic' and underneath was 'manual'. Next to that was a second nob but this one looked like it could be turned to four spots, however there was just one word next to the top spot, 'Normal'. Seemed that these guns could be upgraded for different types of shots. I wonder what new levels I would see in the future. I slid the guns back into the fitting and closed the case. I turned to the PS2.
"Holy fuckin' Kenobi! This is awesome!" I yelled out, grinning like a nerd at his first Comic-Con. "Thank you… um… what do I call you?" I ask, slightly embarrassed that I didn't ask sooner.
"You can call me, Sora," he replied. "Now a few things on the guns. The ammo charges you see on the bottom there? They'll recharge over time. And the second knob is for future upgrades."
"Gotcha," I replied. I then remembered something that Sora said. "What do you mean 'If I want to go back'?"
"Well, you're not the first this has happened to. Many people have been brought into situations like this. We give them a choice at the end, when we have the energy to send them back. Most go back, but a few have stayed. Their circumstances are varied but the core of it all is that they like their new life so much that they don't wish to return home. That or other things."
"Such as?" I asked.
"Well you know love has a way of changing the rules," Sora replied as an explanation.
"Ahh, of course," I nodded.
"Well, a few things before I let you start. You're currently the first sorcerer in this world. As you know, only sorceresses have existed in FFVIII's world and lore. As such, you have access to your set of sorcerer wings, which you can fly with."
"Wooooooooowwwww," I replied, my eyes lighting up with excitement.
"The wings are released and dismissed with mental commands. And your special item will be in your shared room when you get there. I've changed a few things so there will be surprises for you. For now, just have fun. I'll check up with you every now and then, but if you need me, just call me from within your mind and I'll answer, either in person or talk to you from inside your mind. And lastly, your transfer papers are in your pocket." And with that, Sora disappeared.
I stared at the spot where Sora was a few seconds before a grin spread across my face. At that I picked up my two cases and started walking.
Yes, this was going to be very interesting.