[Warning: This chapter contains spoilers for the game.]
They needed time. Time to understand where they where were, and what sort of situation that had been thrust into. Just after she awoke, Fang was somewhere between dreams and reality. Vanille herself could felt a little hazy, and wasn’t good for much of anything. But eventually they managed to shake off the fog that clung to them.
Looking around them, they saw they were in the temple. It was the Chamber of the l’Cie, where crystalized l’Cie are enshrined. It was then they realized what had happened. They had completed their Focus, and gone to their final rest. But now a new Focus had come down to them, and they had been woken up once more. It was easy to figure out that much. But...
“Hey, just what happened before we turned into crystal?” Fang said.
“You don’t remember!?”
“Yeah... my head’s all messed up. I feel like I’m forgetting something important.” Fang’s voice was shaking. She was looking at the l’Cie mark on her arm, it was scorched a livid white. It was only later that Vanille realized Fang had been trying to smile.
“I’m... broken.” Fang was nearly in tears. This was a Fang that Vanille had never seen before. Vanille reached out her arms, enfolding her into them. “Me too.” she whispered, but her voice was like a stranger’s. When her shaking finally subsided, they stood, and Vanille smiled.
“Why don’t we go home?”
One Focus had already been completed, surely they would be welcomed back with open arms? Their new Focus could be completed later... even if they didn’t know what that Focus was.
“And if everyone we knew back home are already old fogeys?” Fang said, and smiled. It was a true smile, this time.
“Do you think so? But maybe not that much time has passed, and they’ll all say ‘Oh, are you two back already?’”
“I wonder how many years have passed.”
“It could only be days you know.”
“Then they’d be working us too hard. I mean, at least give us a half a years rest.” Joking together, they made their way outside, expecting to see their home once more.
“This can’t be!”
It was night. But it was so bright they could see the buildings that made up the city surrounding them. There were lights in every nook and cranny, and an ocean reflecting it all back to them. It was a strange ocean, with no horizon. Looking up, they saw an even stranger sky. At first they thought it was a sky with many stars, but then they realized it was not stars at all, but the lights of a far away city. Could something like this truly be called a sky?
“We’re not in Gran Pulse.” Fang said.
Vanille closed her eyes for a moment. I’ll just look, one more time, she thought. Maybe it will be different. When she opened them again, nothing had changed.
They looked at the ocean and sky, but didn’t speak. There was nothing to say. In silence they returned to the temple. They were hungry. Cocoon--and they knew it was Cocoon--was no place for them to be wandering around, hungry and unarmed. In the place where the l’Cie were enshrined offerings were always brought. There was food that would not rot no matter how long it was left unattended, as well as weapons and accouterments that the l’Cie left here had used. Vanille had heard that offerings were made daily so that the crystalized l’Cie could sleep soundly, but it was probably done in case they awoke once more.
“What the hell is this?”
The food that had been left in offering had deteriorated so badly that it was nothing anyone would be able to eat. They searched the rest of the temple for signs of anything edible, but it was a wasted effort. Food offerings had only been left in the Chamber of the l’Cie.
“Is someone playing tricks on us?”
“Surely not... but it is strange.”
The offerings should have lasted at least ten years. Both Fang and Vanille knew that quite well. It was tradition to bring new food stuffs to the temple every ten years. There would be a festival, and everyone would partake of the food. It was so they could share their joy of the festival with the sleeping l’Cie.
The food wasn’t something a child would find delicious, but it wasn’t inedible. The food they had before them both looked and smelled terrible, never mind the taste. It looked dangerous to eat.
“It’s not just the food, look at that.” Vanille said. There were festival garments, and a box to hold them in. Both had a faded, worn look about them.
“This too...” Fang held up her favorite spear and twisted it’s head. Vanille didn’t know what was wrong with it, but perhaps some part of it had decayed.
“It looks as thought everything had been exposed to the wind outside.”
The air inside the temple was still. This shouldn’t have happened. Not just to the food, but the metal and cloth shouldn’t have decayed so easily.
“So the only things in this room that didn’t change were us, as crystals.” Fang said. Just how many years had they slept. From the looks of things, it wasn’t only in tens of years, but perhaps hundreds of years.
“Forget everyone being old. By now everyone will be dead.”
“No...” Vanille looked down, biting her lip, trying to get herself under control.
“Don’t make that face.” Fang said, slapping her on the back, and stood up. “First, we’ve got to eat.”
“But we can’t eat this...” Vanille looked down at the offerings. The rotten food, the faded festival garments. She had loved wearing these for the festival...
“There was an ocean, right? There was even a forest. It was a little far, but... We’ll find food. It’ll work out.” Fang grabbed her spear and smiled. How strange, Vanille thought. When Fang says “It’ll work out.” I really think it will.
“You’re right.” Vanille took her own weapon, and stood up.
It was already dawn, the perfect time for hunting in enemy territory. Unlike midday, there wouldn’t be many people about, but it was still light enough to see. First they tried the ocean. In the forest they ran the chance of getting lost, and in any case, it was closer to the temple. They might not find anything in time for breakfast, but they would be able to have lunch at least, or so they thought...
“Looks like we’ll be having breakfast after all!” Vanille looked down in amazement at the fish wriggling in her arms. It wasn’t unusual that Fang would be able to catch fish with a flash of her spear, but it was very strange that Vanille would have no trouble.
“Are these fish wrong in the head?”
It didn’t seem as though these fish had no predators, so didn’t realize there was any danger. When Fang or Vanille would move towards them, they would try to escape. But they moved far too slowly.
“Are these even okay to eat?”
Game that is too easily caught could be poisonous, or have a bad taste, and be unfit to eat. They both started thinking that perhaps these fish wouldn’t be any use to them at all.
“My, you young ladies are quite good at that aren’t you?” A voice called them from the beach. They stiffened, instantly regretting their lack of vigilance, and turned around. But what they found was an elderly couple, smiling and clapping.
“How funny, to see people catching fish in Bodhum this way.”
“.... never take the bait. But I see now, it’s better to use a harpoon rather than a fishing pole.”
Vanille didn’t catch what the name of the fish was, but it seemed it was a common one in Cocoon.
“Oh sorry, we’re probably bothering you.”
“Didn’t mean to be rude and all.” They looked sad for a moment, but their smile returned quickly and the took each others hand, moving off down the beach.
“What... was that.” Fang had waited until the couple had moved out of sight before speaking.
“They were from Cocoon... right?” They had thought if they were found they would be attacked immediately, no questions asked. This was, after all, “The Devil’s Nest in the Sky”. The clothing they wore was much different from anything seen on Gran Pulse. If that was the dress of Cocoon, then they should have been spotted as enemies in an instant.
“But they didn’t seem to be on guard.”
“So you think maybe they’re as stupid as the fish? Well, they were old you know. They get that way.”
“You’re probably right...” Vanille said. But she thought of another possibility.
“Maybe they’re trying to catch us off guard.”
“You mean they were just buying time until they could bring their friends? Oh yeah, I can see that happening.”
“Then it might be dangerous to go back right away.”
“Yeah, we should look around first.”
They got out of the ocean and walked back in the direction of the temple. It was better to gather information rather than try to conceal themselves. If they met face to face with the enemy a second time, they would just have to figure out what to do then. It wasn’t as though they were unarmed. They had enough training that they would be able to put up a fight even if they were attacked from behind.
In the end all their training was useless. It wasn’t that they weren’t able to fight back, but the enemy never attacked. They had seen them, had watched them from far away. But they were unarmed, and stood unguarded, so there was no reason to attack from their end. They didn’t want to give the enemy any incentive to attack, so they only kept watch. They had expected to be attacked at any moment, and kept their guard up. They were prepared.
“What the hell is wrong with these guys?” Fang whispered, watching the people who had their unguarded backs facing them. Vanille was in agreement. These people were strangely unwary.
“Maybe they don’t know that we’re the enemy?”
“Even though we’re armed? You must be joking.”
But maybe that’s why they haven’t realized we’re the enemy, Vanille thought. If not, that first elderly couple we met, and that group of boys who just passed by us, would have never ignored us like this.
A sudden flapping of bird’s wings interrupted her thoughts. Fang drew her spear from her back and held it at the ready. Winged creatures gave you no chances, your only options are fight or flight. The sound it made was not that of a large creature, so fighting was the best course of action. Vanille readied her weapon and jumped in beside her.
They both froze in mid-swing.
The white bird had been taken out with a single stroke. The bird was far larger than any of the fish they had caught.
“How could a monster bird be this weak?”
A bird this size should be a meat eater, and strong. It wasn’t the kind of creature that should have been brought down so easily.
“Do you think maybe it eats nuts and fruits? I mean, it’s beak and claws aren’t even sharp.” After checking it over to make sure it was dead, Vanille grabbed it by the legs.
“But how could it have been this stupid? If this was Gran Pulse it would have been dead in an instant.”
“Yeah, if something like this was down there, it would have been on the dinner table within a day.”
“As much fish and meat as you can eat? Nice place.”
The vegetables were in abundance as well. Further along the path there was a field, but no fences or wires were set up to keep out the birds and beasts. It was if they were telling them they could take as much as they liked.
And so their first meal on enemy territory was more luxurious than they would have ever dreamed. While it was unfortunately they were unable to find any cookware or spices, that was just asking for too much.
Since they couldn’t start a fire in the temple, they cooked their fish and meat outside. For kindling they used a priest’s ceremonial garb and staff.
“The priests would die if they could see this.”
“Do you think we might get in trouble?”
“This is an emergency, it’s alright.”
“Yeah I suppose. Right now our survival is more important. Mmm, this looks good.” They both bite into the freshly cooked meat.
“What the hell is this?”
They stared at the meat they had just bit into. It wasn’t inedible, it didn’t even really taste bad. In fact, it hardly had any taste at all. The meat was watery, and stringy. They could hardly believe it, so just to make sure they tried the fish and vegetables. But the taste was the same.
“This taste bad even for wild creatures...”
Different fish taste differently, so it was possible they had just chosen a bad kind. And wild game usually doesn’t taste nearly as good as domestically bred animals. And yet...
“But we found the vegetables in a field, right?”
Vanille nodded. She had thought the soil looked bad, what with it being unguarded and all. But it had been well watered and weeded. There was no question about it being a tended field.
“How could these Cocoon guys eat this crap?” Fang grumbled, but continued to eat the meat anyway. Vanille followed her example, and bit into a vegetable. At least it seemed it was okay to eat.
When they were finished eating they buried the remains of their fire, and returned inside the temple. This place just grew stranger and stranger. Slow moving fish, idiot birds, and people who could clearly see they are different but are not suspicious of them. Somehow it was hard to accept, even given the excuse that this was a different world.
“Hey, want to go see the city tomorrow?”
“We won’t get anything done by just sitting here.”
It was true, they needed to find out more information. How long they had been in Cocoon, why the temple had been brought here... there were so many questions.
“We’ll have to cross that bridge eventually anyway.”
“Our Focus...” Fang said, holding onto the arm with her scorched white mark. “I might be able to remember something if we go straight into enemy territory.”
What would Fang do once she remembered? No, there was only one thing she would do. Fight.
“We don’t have to hurry. I mean we only just woke up, right?”
“It’s already the second day. Tomorrow will be the third.”
“Are you scared?” Fang’s eyes grew soft, and she patted Vanille on the back to soothe her. “Come on, you saw those guys today. The two of us are stronger than all of them together.”
No, I can’t tell Fang yet, Vanille thought. Not yet.
“I’m not worried. I have you with me.” The things I want to drive from my thoughts, can I make them no longer be real? Can I make them have never happened? Vanille was suddenly struck with an idea. It grew brighter in her mind, and her heart felt light as air.
“Okay, let’s go. It’ll be alright, I’m sure of it.” Vanille smiled brightly. All she had to think about was tomorrow. It had to go well tomorrow, nothing else matter.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
[Warning: This chapter contains spoilers for the game.]