[Warning: This chapter contains spoilers for the game.]
“What... is all this?”
“Do you think... it might be a festival?”
Being surrounded by the people of Cocoon was no longer as surprising as it first was. When groups of people passed by, they didn’t tense up as they first had. Many people had walked passed them on their way from the temple to where they were now, but none of them had tried to attack, and none of them had looked at Fang or Vanille oddly.
Walking along the beach, they had seen girls in similar clothing to their own swimming in the water. It was a relief to see them. Apparently the people around here had mistaken them for one of their own. It was easy then, to slip by them unnoticed.
There were so many people. Many more than they ever would have thought to see in one place. Especially in such a narrow, cramped space between buildings. Both Vanille and Fang stood in the crowd, their jaws hanging open as they stared at the sight.
“Let’s go already.” Fang said, shaking her head, and setting off. Vanille followed. It had been only the two of them standing in the middle of the path, while people rushed passed them on all sides.
Walking along the road, they came to the realization that all of these people were shopping. Upon closer inspection, they found that all the buildings set up on either side of the street were stores.
“Are all of these buildings shops?”
Just how many were there? More than Vanille had ever seen before. There were even several shops that specialized in clothing, each bursting with a variety of color and design. No wonder their clothing was not thought odd, with such an abundance of different styles.
There were many different shops. Vanille saw a shop that had accessories, another that had what looked like paper and pens, there was a furniture shop on that side of the street, and on the other there was even one that had what she thought were some sort of vehicles lined up outside.
Looking at the people, she saw a girl happily picking through racks of clothing. Over there, a small child who was pouting, maybe trying to get his parents to buy him something. A happy couple was leaving a jewelry shop. Every single one of them had a joyful look on their face.
“I feel a little dizzy...” Vanille was tired, even though she hadn’t even walked very far. Trying to take everything in on both sides of the street had done her in.
“Hey, Fang...” she almost said, but stopped herself just in time. Fang looked grim. “Thieves...” she whispered.
Vanille grabbed onto Fang’s hand before she could act. She understood what Fang was feeling, understood it better than anyone. Vanille felt the same way. But right now they were right in the middle of enemy territory, and they only carried small, concealed weapons with them.
“Fang, you can’t...”
“I know. I know, but...” Her fists clenched as she tried to suppress her anger. “All of this was stolen from us. But still they...”
It was well known that Cocoon was a den of demons. The fal’Cie of Cocoon would come to Gran Pulse, to take as much material as they wanted. Once they even took a whole town. They would steal farmland just before harvest, and tear rare metals straight from the earth. That’s why they had thought the people from Cocoon were their enemies.
But, after seeing that elderly couple yesterday, and all the people who passed by them, she had started to think it was odd. And today, seeing people shopping, doubts started to grow in her mind. Did these people truly wish to destroy Gran Pulse, and take everything from it?
Vanille had started to think, from what she had seen, they weren’t so different from her own people. Their clothes were different, their houses were different, the taste of their vegetables and meat were different, but perhaps on the inside they were the same.
“Today we’re gathering information. Right?” She whispered in her ear. Vanille didn’t want her to do anything rash.
“... right.” Fan said in a clipped tone. Vanille opened her mouth to say something, but she heard a voice behind her calling to them.
“Hey there ladies, you all alone? Going shopping? You don’t look like you’re from around here.”
At the sound of their voices Fang stiffened. Turning around, they found two young men, smiling. Vanille looked at them cautiously. Their faces were open and friendly, but these men were far different from the elderly couple they had met the day before. Surely this time they were just trying to catch them off guard so they could capture them.
“You aren’t scared of us are you?”
“Don’t worry, we aren’t some weirdoes.”
The look on their face and their body language gave lie to the truth behind their words. They must be planning something. Vanille stepped back, and Fang took her concealed weapon in hand.
“Hey, want to go have something drink? Or maybe we could go out for lunch?”
At the word “lunch” Fang and Vanille turned to look at each other. They could not be enemies if they offered to sit across from each other at the table, and partake in food and drink.
“Really? You’d eat with us?” Vanille never thought that an enemy would say such a thing.
“There’s a really good restaurant nearby. Come on, we’ll show you.”
“Yeah, it’s a little early, but it can get pretty crowded when lunch time hits.”
Vanille glanced at Fang. She looked a bit at a loss, and was still on guard, ready to pull out her weapon at any moment. Vanille shook her head slightly, to tell Fang to let it go for now.
“Alright fine. Let’s eat.” Fang turned back around and nodded to the two men. Both of them smiled. They were real smiles this time, not fake like before. Vanille thought that maybe she had only been imagining that they had been hiding something.
Fang grimaced, as usual, but she couldn’t refuse them. Refusing to sit at the table with another was the same as declaring war. It was too dangerous to start a war against this many people, and if she did then she might never find a way to get her memory back.
So they followed the two men, not speaking to them or to each other, as they showed them to a bustling restaurant filled with people.
“So what do you want to eat?” One of the men asked once they reached the table. How odd, Vanille thought. If they’re the ones who are making the offering, why must we choose what to eat? We are supposed to eat what they give us. That’s how it always is.
“The menu is over there.” The other one smiled, and pointed to the wall. Vanille grew even more confused. Just what do they want us to do?
What was written there, that is to say, the markings on the wall were in the writing of Cocoon. It probably explained everything that they had to do. But unfortunately, neither Vanille nor Fang could read any of it.
Vanille motioned with her eyes, trying to ask Fang what they should do. Fang nodded, and went for her weapon.
“Not that!” Vanille yelled, and rushed to stop her before it was too late. The two men looked at her questioningly.
“Er... it’s nothing. I mean really, it’s nothing. Don’t worry, it’s....” She forced the muscles of her mouth into a smile. Fortunately, it seemed to fool them.
“If you can’t decide, what about the special?”
“Okay! We’ll take that.” Vanille nodded. Whatever they had to do to get out of this without looking too odd. One of them ordered, and Vanille breathed a sigh of relief.
“So, where are you girls from?”
From one problem to another. This wasn’t a question so easily answered. She’d just have to try to smile and fool them once more.
“Yeah, really far.” Just in case they decided to ask for the city name, Vanille quickly asked them a question instead.
“So where are you from?”
“We’re from Eden. That’s where our University is.”
“Eh-din.... You-knee-verse City?”
“Yeah... Eden University.”
It look like repeating the question was the wrong thing to do. Vanille whispered in Fang’s ear.
“Have you ever heard of Eh-din? Or You-knee-verse City?”
“Don’t ask me.”
Fang put a finger to her forehead as though she were thinking. Then her face cleared.
“If You-knee-verse is the name of their city... then maybe Eh-din is the name of the mountain or valley it’s in?”
Vanille slapped her knee, of course. That must be it.
“Excuse me? Is... something wrong?”
Whispering among themselves, they had completely forgotten about the two men. Fortunately it didn’t seem they could hear what they were talking about, but it had been very rude of them.
“Sorry, it’s nothing. So what is this.... You-knee-verse City place like?”
Vanille didn’t know why he had repeated it back to her, but she nodded. The two men started talking excitedly about “You-knee-verse City”. It was obvious they were proud of their city, and loved it very much. Vanille wondered if it was an easy place to live, or if just these two in particular had a lot of hometown pride. Perhaps it was both. In any case, it meant they wouldn’t have to talk anymore about themselves. Even though she could barely understand any of what they were saying, she listened and nodded along, smiling.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.” The waitress said, interrupting them in the middle of their story. She laid out their dishes along the table.
“What? Why is the food already here?” Vanille said, surprised. She had thought it would take much longer for the food to arrive. That’s why she had tried so hard to get them to talk about themselves.
“What do you mean ‘why’?” He looked at her strangely. Apparently she shouldn’t have been so surprised.
“It’s... it’s nothing. Oh look at this! Everything looks so delicious, and I’m so hungry right now.” Then they made another mistake. Joining their fingers together to say grace was a normal thing for her and Fang, but the two sitting across from them did nothing but stare.
“What’s that? Some sort of spell?”
“Huh? Ah, y-yes of course!”
“You girls are so funny.”
“D-do you think so?”
Well, so long as the only thought of them as funny they would be safe. As long as they don’t start to think we’re odd, Vanille told herself. She took a bite of the food.
It didn’t have a very strong flavor, but it wasn’t bad. It was a proper meal this time, not like what they had eaten on the previous day. It was food that someone had made them, and for that they would be thankful. Even if it wasn’t to their own taste.
“Is this the salt? It better not be sugar.” Fang said.
“Oh! Good thinking, we can just put salt on it. Pass me...”
"What are you doing? You can't put that much on!"
Another mistake. How many times has it been? She felt like crying. Fang, being Fang, didn’t seem to care much.
“Really? I always eat it like this.” Fang dumped salt onto her meal, and popped it into her mouth. The other two stared in shocked silence.
“Um, well... she just... really likes salty things!”
It was completely true. Fang did love salty food. But apparently “salty food” in Cocoon didn’t go to quite this extent.
“Oh yeah. So what’s that?” Ignoring their reactions to her food preference, Fang pointed out the window. You could see the top of the temple from here.
“Huh? Oh, you mean the Pulse Vestige?”
He seemed relieved to have found a change of subject. Neither of them looked at Fang’s plate again. They probably were trying not to think about the salt.
“Yeah, how long as this... 'vestige', been there?”
They gave her an odd look. Maybe this was something that even children on Cocoon knew about. The hole they were digging for themselves kept growing deeper. Vanille tried to make excuses for their obvious lack of knowledge.
“Well... you guys just look so smart. Yeah, I bet you’re really really smart.” While that compliment was as see-through as a summer’s day, it was worth a shot. Even if it didn’t make them happy, no one got mad about compliments. “I just thought, you know, you guys might know more about things then we do. Like... in more detail?”
The suspicious look fell from their faces, and they grew more cheerful.
“Well, according to one theory it has been there since six hundred and sixty-six years ago. Though some sources say since six hundred, and others six hundred and fifty years ago.”
Vanille’s eyes opened wide. They had thought that perhaps it had been a couple hundred years, but to hear the actual date was shocking.
“But the textbooks have it written as, ‘Several hundred years ago, after the War of Revelations, the fal’Cie brought it up from Pulse.’ Of course, the theory that it was six hundred and sixty-six years ago is quite popular, but there is no actual proof. There will always be different opinions.”
Several hundred years ago, six hundred and sixty six years ago... those words kept echoing in her mind. None of the rest of what they said registered.
“So that... vestige or whatever. What about now? Did it cause problems for the guys on Pulse when it was taken?”
The two men glanced at each other. Vanille worried that they had said something wrong again. But no, this time they laughed.
“Cause problems for them? Are you joking? It’s not like there are any people on Pulse.”
“There... aren’t?” Even Fang was struck dumb.
“Pulse is hell, no one can live there. Everyone knows that. Did you girls not pay attention in history class?” He was just making fun of them, but words were caught in her throat. She knew she had to say something so they wouldn’t become suspicious of them again, but she only managed a weak laugh.
“Well, they say that there are barbarians down there that are no better than animals, but...”
“Yeah. They can hardly speak, and wear animal skins. During the War of Revelations the fal’Cie tried to put them to work, but they say that they weren’t much good for anything.”
A bloody red haze clouded Vanille’s vision. Those “useless barbarians” were her people.
“Since those are the only things living down there, it hardly matters what we take does it? Since we’re putting it to good use up here, they should be thanking us.”
She had heard of a town that lived in poverty after their farmland had been ripped from the ground before it could be harvested. They railroad was stopped, they couldn’t get any fuel or food, and they all froze to death. Thankful? He says they should be thankful?
They know nothing, Vanille thought. They don’t have to get their own hands dirty, they don’t even realize what horrible things they’re doing, they just live off what their fal’Cie took from us.
Beneath the table her fists shook. She could only think of breaking the plate that sat in front of her. It wasn’t self-control that was on her mind. But waiting. Fang would take the lead, she would know what to do.
“I need to see you outside for a minute.” Fang stopped eating and stood up.
“What? But we’re in the middle of eating...”
“It doesn’t matter. Come with me. Now.” Fang’s voice was quiet. A small smile hung about her lips. It wasn’t a real smile, but they were easily fooled. Vanille saw beneath that smile, but said nothing.
Intelligence must not have been one of their better qualities. When Fang called them out in the middle of a meal, they should have know what was coming. They should have known that there was to be a fight. It was a breaking of truce, a declaration of war. Or maybe this was something that the people of Cocoon just did not understand.
Even so, they came along quietly, so they couldn’t have been very bright. Even when it became obvious they were being taken to a place that was away from prying eyes, they didn’t seem wary or even question it.
It only took two or three of Fang’s punches to knock them out. Pathetic, just as weak as the bird and the fish from yesterday.
“So sorry for being a Barbarian. That’s the last thing I need bastards like you to tell me. You’re even worse than the worms crawling through the dirt.”
Of course, they couldn’t hear a word she was saying. They were probably happier not knowing. Fang kicked them for awhile, but then seemed to think of something and knelt down.
“Their stuff...” Fang muttered, and began rifling through their clothing.
They might be able to find out something. Weapons could be taken, and used for their benefit. Vanille decided to help, and leaned over the second man.
“He doesn’t have any money on him. What about that one?”
“Let’s see... no, nothing.” In fact, he didn’t have much of anything. They hadn’t been carrying any bags with them either.
“Then how did they pay at the restaurant?”
When they had left the restaurant, one of them had gone over to the cashier to pay. If he wasn’t carrying any money, how could he have paid? Vanille turned him over and searched his pants pocket.
“What’s this?” Vanille said, pulling out a thin board about the size of her hand. It looked like it was made of metal. It was colored light grey, but had a black circle near the center.
“Fang, look at this. Is it a... card of some kind?”
“This guy has one too.”
I wonder what they use it for? Vanille thought, and pressed the black circle. The grey part lit up.
“Ahhhhhh, no! What’s it doing?” Surprised, Vanille threw the card away from her. She knelt on the ground, watching it, and saw the color leech away until the card became clear enough to see through. She wondered what sort of device it could be. How could such a thin device pull off such a trick? There was no where to hide the wires or innards.
Vanille continued staring as a three-dimensional image began to form above the card. It was a person’s face.
“To identify the owner of the card.”
Vanille picked it up, and tried pressing the black circle again. But there was no change in the image. She pressed it in various other places, but nothing happened.
“I think only the owner can use it. It probably won’t do anything else.”
Fang nodded, and looked over the other card, checking to see if there was anything else they could do with the card. Suddenly she looked up, surprised.
The sound of flapping could be heard close-by. Jumping up, they hid in the shadows of the wall. A white bird, much bigger and dangerous looking than the water bird they had seen yesterday, swooped down. Though it was a bird, it’s eyes were positioned on the front of it’s face, rather than on the side. It almost looked human.
As suddenly as it arrived, it flew off. In the shadow of it’s wings they could see the sharp claws of a bird of prey. It didn’t seem inclined to attack, circling once above their heads before vanishing into the sky.
“Did that bird see what we were doing? It looked so odd...”
“Of course not, there is no way it could have...”
“Yes, you’re right...”
Vanille thought she was just jumpy from being so deep in enemy territory.
“Oh yeah, forgot about this.”
Fang was still holding onto the card. She pressed the black circle, and it lit up even brighter than it had before. There was a short electrical crackle, before the light went off and grew quiet.
“Did you break it!?”
“Probably.” Fang clicked her tongue, and pressed even the black circle even harder. It lit up again and the color drained and grew clear.
“Oh good! I guess it’s not broken after all.” Vanille said in relief. She leaned over to get a closer look. Though the other card had shown the face of it’s owner, this one showed nothing at all. No, writing on the card, but the place where the face should have been was blank. It looked as though the owner had been erased.
“Oh, maybe it is broken?”
“Maybe.” Fang poked at the black part again. The screen changed and words formed. But unfortunately the words were written in the writing of Cocoon, which neither of them could read.
“Do you think that we’d be able to use it now?”
They had written over the original owner’s information, but there was no telling what would happen if they used it themselves. They had been lucky to get this far.
“Probably. But what will we do with it?”
“I don’t know...” Vanille lifted her hands in defeat. If they didn’t know how it worked, they wouldn’t be able to use it.
“Well, we should take them.”
“We might as well.” We’re becoming thieves, Vanille thought. There was a sound. Voices! And coming closer fast. Without a sound they stood up, and ran.
“They really are our enemies...” Vanille whispered.
“Did you say something?”
“No, nothing.” Her heart felt heavy, but she forced a smile. Right now she had to concentrate on running. But there were so many things Vanille wished she could forget...
Once they returned to the temple, not all was as they had left it. There were signs that someone had used the elevator. An intruder.
“Someone from Cocoon is here.” Fang whispered, and readied her spear. They listened, but all was quiet. Vanille looked up to the vaulted ceiling.
This temple was originally meant to test those who would become l’Cie. In the deepest part of the temple they would face fal’Cie Anima to be both tried... and selected. Those who harbored wicked thoughts, or those unfit to become l’Cie, would be unable to open the holy gates. It was told in the teachings of the priests.
“I know.” They looked at each other and nodded, continuing down the path. Walking up the stairs, they tried to not let their footsteps be heard, and listened for any sounds of the intruder. Soon they reached the first door. If it was someone from Cocoon, they would not be able to open it, and would still be there, walking aimlessly in front of it.
“Well, they say that there are barbarians down there that are no better than animals, but...”
That is what the people of Cocoon thought of them. People who thought that would never be able to open the door. They weren’t even fit set foot inside this temple.
But there was no one in front of the door. The intruder must have opened the door and continued on.
“But this isn’t...” Vanille was at a loss for words. There were signs that someone had passed by here, but there was no time to stop and think The intruder could be nearing the center, they had to hurry.
The sound of their footsteps no longer concerned them. They rushed up the stairs, and then onto the elevator. But there was no one at the next door, nor the next. That should have been proof that the intruder wasn’t evil, but how could that be? The only way this could have happened would be if the people of Cocoon found a way to trick to holy gates.
“This can’t be happening...”
They had reached the deepest part of the temple. In the room beyond was the fal’Cie. Even they had only been there once. It wasn’t a place you could enter lightly.
The door swung open, and they found the intruder lying on the ground. Unconscious. It was a girl.
“She must have gotten lost.” Fang lowered her spear. The girl looked like she was the same age as Vanille, and held no weapons. “She’s all alone.” Fang looked at her with cold eyes. Vanille could tell what she was thinking. She was wondering whether or not she should be killed, so that she wouldn’t be able to speak of coming here to anyone. If they let her live, she would most likely bring people back here. Vanille looked over the fallen girl, and that’s when...
“Wait!” She knelt at the girl’s side, and grabbed her arm. “Look! This mark on her arm...”
It was the exact same mark as their own.
“She’s been made into a... l’Cie.”
She had the mark of a l’Cie chosen by fal’Cie Anima, one who would be given a Focus.
“Why....” Fang’s voice was shaking. “Why did you choose someone from Cocoon?” Her spear echoed through the chamber as it fell to the floor. “Why would the fal’Cie do this?”
There was no answer. The fal’Cie weren’t beings that could be questioned by humans.
“How could she be a l’Cie of Gran Pulse? Are you trying to say we’re the same as them?”
“But it’s someone from Cocoon. They can’t just be given a Focus...”
A Focus. When Vanille said the word, Fang touched her own arm. Below her hand Vanille could see her white, burnt-out l’Cie mark that no longer retained it’s original shape. Fang had lost her memory, she could no longer remember her own Focus. Oh, Vanille thought, so that’s why. She knew why the fal’Cie had chosen a new l’Cie.
“Well... let’s at least get her out of here.” Fang picked up the girl. She didn’t meet Vanille’s eyes, but Vanille knew that they had shared the same thoughts.
Fang left through the door. Picking up the spear from the floor, Vanille followed. She glanced back at fal’Cie Anima, but it remained silent.
Outside the temple, they laid the girl on the ground. But she still didn’t wake up.
“She’s our replacement...”
Of course Fang knew, had known since seeing the girl’s mark. Fang kept her head turned away, but Vanille could see that her face was sad.
“We’re pathetic l’Cie aren’t we? We can’t even remember our Focus. So the fal’Cie chose someone else.”
That’s not the only reason, Vanille whispered deep within her heart. It’s my fault. It’s all my fault because I... ran. The fal’Cie saw straight through me. Now it’s all my fault that this girl has been involved in our problems.
The girl’s eyelids fluttered. She was about to wake up. They couldn’t let her see them, so they hid in the shadows of the temple to watch her.
The girl sat up. She must have been dizzy, because she put her head between her knees and sat still for a moment. The mark on her arm had yet to catch her notice. Finally, she used the wall of the temple to drag herself on her feet. Then her eyes stopped, and stared at her arm. She had noticed the mark. The girl rubbed at it, as if doing so would make it disappear.
“Doesn’t she know about l’Cie? No... there are fal’Cie in Cocoon.”
“Maybe she just doesn’t know what it is because the shape is different?”
But then, what should they do? If she didn’t even realize she had to find her Focus, then she would turn into a Cie’th. But, unless they told her who they truly were, they would be unable to explain anything to her.
“Looks like she knows...”
She suddenly fell apart. They could hear her screaming that it was just something someone had scribbled on her arm. Even from there Vanille and Fang could see her mark evolve. The girl’s fear had effected it.
Now she must know. That she was chosen as a fal’Cie of Gran Pulse... no, of the “hell where barbarians live”.
The girl was crying. Even from far away they could see her thin shoulders trembling. Finally, pushed herself off from the wall, and walked on her trembling legs. She looked so small and sad.
This was something they would never be able to take back. The girl had nothing to do with anything, but she got caught up in their problems solely by the fact of her being there.
“Don’t make that face.”
Once you were a l’Cie there was no going back. Her fate had been changed forever. And it was all their fault.
“The only thing we can do is find our Focus, and complete it. Finish it for good. Then we can go back to Gran Pulse.”
If the girl was meant to be their replacement, then their Focus would have to be the same. If they completed it, then she wouldn’t have to become a Cie’th. That must have been what Fang was thinking. But even if they completed their Focus, the girl was from Cocoon... Vanille stopped. The truth was too cruel.
“Fang, let’s forget about our Focus.”
Fang’s mark was dead. Even if she didn’t complete her Focus, she might not become a Cie’th. If that was true, then they didn’t need to think about their Focus anymore.
“We won’t.” She tapped Vanille on the leg. “Your mark is still alive. If we don’t complete our Focus, you’ll become a Cie’th.”
“It’s alright, I don’t...”
“You’re the one who said we’d always be together, forever!” Fang cupped Vanille’s face in her hands.
“We’ll always be together...”
“And we will go home together...”
“That’s what we promised, remember?”
Vanille placed her hands against Fang’s, and nodded.
“No, you’re right... I...”
They had promised so long ago. They would be alright as long as they were together. They would never be parted. It was a promise she never wished to break.
Friday, February 5, 2010
[Warning: This chapter contains spoilers for the game.]