Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Episode Zero: Present

[Warning: This chapter contains spoilers for the game.]


“It’s so hard picking out a birthday present for her.” Serah sighed. They were standing in front of the stationary store. Looking at her face, Snow thought she looked so serious... and just like Lightning, who Snow had seen just a few days before. They really are sisters, he thought.
Antique book ends and leather pen holders filled the storefront window. Serah examined the items on display for awhile, but then shook her head, muttering “This doesn’t seem quite right either...”
Two days from now would be Serah’s older sister, Lightning’s, birthday. Snow and Serah had come to the shopping mall to look for a present for her. But for nearly an hour now Serah had just been looking around and saying everything “Wasn’t quite right.”
“Is it really that hard?”
“Yes. Every year I spend a long time searching, but I can never find just the right thing.”
“Why don’t you ask her?”
“I can’t! I’ve asked her before, and do you know what she said?”
“Whatever you choose will be fine?” Snow was only making a guess, but Serah’s eyes grew wide.
“Wow! How did you know?”
“It just seemed like something she’d say. You know, like something a parent would say to a child.”
“Yeah... I guess she’s always been like a mom to me.” Serah slowly began to smile, but then suddenly stopped. “And you shouldn’t hide things from your parents...” Serah’s eyes dropped to the bandages wrapped around her left arm. Serah still hadn’t told Lightning what was beneath them. Snow already knew: a symbol of Pulse. Serah had gone into the Vestige and been made into a l’Cie by the Pulse fal’Cie there. She was an enemy of Cocoon. That was why Serah had asked that they break up. But he had promised her he’d help her search for her Focus. They would search for it--and complete it--together. After that... he didn’t know.
He had asked the customers at the cafe if there were anyone who knew anything about Pulse or l’Cie, but had no luck. Everyone had only heard fairy tales when they were children, or read about it in school textbooks.
But he didn’t give up. He started asking friends of friends if they knew anything. Nothing. Worse than nothing in fact, as one guy tried to sell him some suspicious looking items and he hightailed it out of there.
He even thought about going straight to the fal’Cie and asking it himself. But Serah put her foot down on that idea.
”You don’t know what will happen if you make the fal’Cie mad!” She had said. ”It might make you into a l’Cie, or even worse! Who knows what would happen to the people in Bodhum...”
So he gave up the idea. If it would only make him into a l’Cie, that wouldn’t be any problem to him. But he couldn’t let anything hurt the people of Bodhum. No, he couldn’t let Serah face the wrath of the fal’Cie by herself.
And that’s how he ended up where he was now, with nothing. He had nothing to go on, but he knew it would work out somehow. He would make it work. He still hadn’t asked every person on Cocoon. Until he had done that...
He placed one hand over her bandages, and held her with the other.
“It’s alright. You won’t have to hide anything anymore two days from now, right?”
They had decided they would tell Lightning everything on her birthday. Snow had told Serah that it would be much easier to get her to talk then, besides which, he would be with her. Serah had smiled at him when he said that.
But she still seemed worried about whether or not she would be able to talk with her sister. Sometimes, though only for a moment, he would look over and see her looking sad. Like now.
“Hey, look at that! Wouldn’t that be great?” Snow pointed to a toy store, trying to get her to laugh. A large stuffed Carbuncle toy was set up in the store window. It was green with long ears and a big tail, and wore a jester’s costume. An Eidolon from fairy tales, he was made to be cute and somewhat silly. Nothing could suit Lightning less than this. Surely Serah would laugh too...
“You’re right! This would be great!”
“What?”
Serah ran towards the store.
“Um, somehow I don’t think...” Surely she didn’t think he was serious? Unless Lightning really liked toys like this...?
“Kidding!” Serah laughed. She spun around and stuck out her tongue. Snow must have had a shocked look on his face, because Serah burst out laughing. Snow smiled too, slightly sheepish. She got me, he thought. For a moment there I was imagining Lightning sleeping with a Carbuncle toy in her arms...
Laughing, they walked on by. Snow was glad that he at least got her to smile again. He didn’t want her to look sad, for even a second.
“... nk you.” He heard her whisper.
“Huh? Did you say something?”
“No no, nothing. Hey, looks go look at that store.” Serah said, pulling on his arm. He couldn’t ask her what she said now, but he didn’t need to. Her voice had been so quiet he had barely heard her, but he knew she had said, “thank you.”
He decided to pretend he hadn’t heard. Asking her would just remind her of the reality that awaited her. Snow just wanted her to forget all of that, and smile.
“Maybe instead of a Carbuncle doll, we should get her a Leviathan one.”
“Are you still talking about that?”
“Well I just thought that Leviathan would fit Lightning better.”
“They aren’t even selling one. Come on Snow.” Serah laughed at the idea, then stopped, a look of excitement on her face. “I know!” She said. “I should get her a good luck charm! I mean, she’s a soldier, right? I bet she has a lot of dangerous jobs.”
“Well she is the raid leader of the Bodhum security force.”
“She’s what?”
“That’s what her superior officer called her.”
“That seems like her.” Serah said with a smile.
“Let’s see... a good luck charm should be... something you can have on you at all times. That would be good, don’t you think? Since we’re both picking it.” Then, Snow spotted a sign for an accessory shop. What perfect timing. “Why don’t we go check out that place?”
“Really? I don’t know... She’s never really been interested in that sort of thing.” Serah said, cocking her head to the side. Then she smiled, thinking of something. “Oh hey, it’s that same store from last time. Maybe they will have something perfect for Lightning.” Serah shook her cat shaped earrings. Snow was wearing a necklace that had that same shape. It was a present she had given him. Because they are like a nora cat--a wild cat--they had named themselves NORA. That was the name of his team. As soon as they had decided that, Serah had gone to this shop and bought the earrings and necklace. But Snow had never really been into wearing jewelry, so he resisted wearing it at first. He was happy getting a present from Serah, but it was just too embarrassing to wear. He needed a lot of courage to first start wearing it, and even then he kept thinking about it being there, all the time. He only finally got used to it when he and Serah started spending every day together.
In any case, if this was that accessory shop then surely they’d find what they were looking for. A present for Lightning and... one more thing.
“Hmm? Something seems odd.” Serah looked around the shop when they went inside.
“What does?”
“It looks like there are more people here than there were before. And even more different types of people seem to be here.”
As this was Snow’s first time in the shop, he couldn’t tell one way or the other. Serah told him that when she first was here, the only customers were young women. Now there were older people, couples with children, and all sorts of people here. Snow was relieved. He wouldn’t have felt comfortable for long in a shop filled only with young women.
“Well, that’s a good thing right?”
“I guess. We will find a present for Lightning here, won’t we?”
“Sure we will.” Snow said, his eyes straying over to the corner that had rings lined up on a table. Tomorrow was the fireworks festival, the one with the fireworks that are supposed to grant you your wishes. It was on that day that he planned to ask Serah to marry him. Of course, for that he would need a ring, and this was the store where Serah had bought that cat shaped jewelry. That meant there should be something good here, or at least he thought so.
He looked at the rings that lay in the display case, and compared them with Serah’s slim fingers. They would look wonderful on her. But then he looked at his own hands...
“There is no way those would fit.” He yelled without realizing it. Serah looked at him oddly.
“Are you okay?”
“Um... no, I’m fine.” Snow said, looking back at the display case. There was no way even the largest of those rings could fit on his hands. His fingers were at least one or two times too big. They would never fit. Not to mention, fancy rings like this would break easily by just punching a couple of monsters. How unlucky would it be to break your wedding ring?
“Maybe a ring is a bad idea... it doesn’t need to be a ring.”
“That’s true, it might be a little awkward for her to wear...” Serah said.
He hadn’t meant to say that aloud, but it seems he had done it again anyway.
“During jobs where she has to get her hands dirty she’d have to take it off. It’s not a good present if it interferes with her job.”
“Uh... yeah... right!”
He had never been more annoyed with himself for his big mouth. Don’t say anything that will make her suspicious, Snow said to himself, and turned to look at the next display. Even I could wear one of these, he thought, quietly this time. The table was filled with bracelets. Most of them looked as though the size could be changed, and there were many different designs. Some had nice fretwork, others had birthstones on them, and even a few that looked like handcuffs with a lock and key. The ones with the birthstones would be good, he thought, if they were widened a bit they could even fit me. But just as he had made his decision...
“Oh, this would be perfect for my Mary-poo!” The woman reached out and took the bracelet that Snow had his eye on.
“Uh...” Mary-poo? This is why old ladies are so annoying, he thought, looking over to the woman next to him.
“Look how cute it is on her!” The woman in question was around middle age and held a tiny dog in her arms. That must be “Mary-poo”, of the ever popular “lapdog” breeds. Around it’s neck hung the huge bracelet.
“She’s using it as a collar...”
“Oh! Isn’t that cute?”
Snow looked down to see Serah standing next to him. She was petting “Mary-poo” on the head. The stone on the bracelet around her neck twinkled in the light, as the dog wagged her tail furiously.
“Oh, let’s just forget about those then...”
“Yeah... Lightning already has to wear something around her wrist. Some sort of machine. Not always though. I guess it depends on the job.”
“Then let’s go to the next one...”
They were talking about completely different things, but Snow didn’t bother to correct her. They moved on to the next table.
“Hmm... earrings?” But Serah already had her cat earrings. If he gave her new ones she wouldn’t be able to wear those anymore.
“And it’s not like she has four ears anyway...”
“Hmm? Four what?”
Nothing, nothing, Snow said, waving his hands. He had accidentally spoken aloud again.
“Wait a minute... there would be four.” If you put both him and Serah together, that would be four ears. Just buy one of them and split it between the two of them.
“Snow? Are you alright? You’ve been acting oddly...”
“Uh... really?” Oops. He was about to tell her to just forget about it and help him pick out some earrings, when a voice caught his attention.
“Heeey, look at this heart-shaped one!”
The person speaking didn’t sound very bright. Snow knew he shouldn’t turn and look, but he couldn’t help it.
“Oh don’t be so silly Meemee!”
It was a young couple who obviously didn’t much care about how they looked. Despite the fact that the store was crowded, there was a large empty space around them. They were wound so closely together that it didn’t look physically possible them to still be standing. Surely there was a limit to how close to people could stand to each other? Weren’t they breaking the laws of physics? Then Snow got a good look at their ears. They were both wearing two halves of the same set of earrings.
Snow looked around the shop and saw yet another couple wearing the same pair of earrings. Even the couple with children in tow were wearing matching ones. Apparently this was popular.
“Well then, I guess I can forget about that...”
Snow had never liked doing things that were popular. He just hated doing the same thing as everyone else. This wasn’t just a simple present he was giving her, this was for his marriage proposal. He couldn’t give her something ordinary.
“Should we go to a different store?”
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll find anything here that I can give to Lightning...”
“She is the raid leader.”
“That’s true!” Serah said, laughing.
“But you’re right, it is pretty difficult to find something...” Snow had thought this would be easy. He thought he would have no problem finding something that could show her his feelings.
“I’m sorry for dragging you along with me...”
“No, that’s not what I meant. It’s just, I’m trying to find something to show someone how I feel, you know? But nothing seems good enough. None of it seems right.”
It didn’t seem he could find anything that would be good enough to show her how he felt about her. Unless he could give her all of Cocoon.
“Yeah, that’s why I never know what to get her. I always think there must be something better out there.” Then Serah smiled. “But you know? When you see how happy they are with what you’ve given them, all those worries go away!”
“I see...”
“It’s true. Hey wait, Snow? What was that about your feelings?”
“Uh, nothing! Absolutely nothing! Alright, let’s look for another place.”
Oops, he had slipped up again. How many times was he going to have to distract her? He was beginning to lose confidence in himself. They left the store.
“After all, it’s not like there is only this one store.” There will be other accessory shops, Snow thought. Then he turned around and saw a pair of necklaces in the display window. The shop had been so crowded when they had entered it, he hadn’t seen them before.
“Sorry, can you go on ahead?”
“What’s up?”
“Bathroom.”
Serah laughed and waved her hand at him as she walked away.
“Excuse me? I’d like to take a look at that necklace in the window...” Snow called out to one of the shop attendants. He was startled to realize he knew the person. “Sonia!?”
“Snow! It’s been such a long time.”
Sonia had grown up in the same town that Snow had. She was three years older, and like a sister to him. A very scary sister.
“How long has it been?”
“Since we were kids.” She said smiling. Then she gestured to a nearby attendant and ordered them to take the necklaces out of the window. It seemed nothing had changed about her.
“Yes ma’am.” The attendant said, bowing to her. Snow was surprised. Apparently she wasn’t just being her usual bossy self, she was actually in charge around here.
“Sonia, are you actually in charge of this place?”
”Well, it hasn’t even been a month yet. This has always been a popular store, so it’s really stressful running this place.”
That must be why this store had become so popular all of a sudden, Snow thought. It was all due to Sonia’s work.
“What were you doing before you came here?”
“I was at the main store in Palumpolum. Ever since graduation.”
She hadn’t even lived in the same area as Snow for a year before she went off to a boarding school. In Cocoon, as long as you have the desire and ability you can enter into any school you want to. The Sanctum pays for all of your tuition, so it isn’t a problem for orphans or single-parent children. The fal’Cie and Sanctum provide security over Cocoon. As long as you haven’t broken any laws, you are able to live as you wish.
But Snow always felt there was something wrong with this way of life. It just didn’t sit well with him. It was because he could take anything from the Sanctum that he wished, that he took as little as possible.
So they farmed, and hunted monsters for themselves. They tried to do things in their own way. Of course, they couldn’t do everything themselves.
“Snow, don’t tell me you don’t have a job? Are you just laying around doing nothing?”
“No, that’s not...”
“Snow! You’re an adult now, you can’t keep doing this forever.”
“But that’s not...” Her lack of listening skills had remained unchanged, it seemed. She had always acted as though she was everyone’s mother.
“That girl you were with, that’s your girlfriend right?”
“Yeah...?”
“Well then, for her sake at least, get a job and do something with yourself! You don’t want her to cry, do you?”
“I would never make her cry! I’m going to make Serah the happiest woman on Cocoon!” Everyone around him looked up in surprise, and he realized he had been yelling. Even the shop attendant who was getting the necklaces had a shocked look on his face.
“You haven’t changed a bit.”
“I could say the same to you, Sonia.”
“But not as much as you.” She laughed, as she took the necklaces from the shop attendant. A small sculpture of Cocoon done in metal, along with a ring, hung from a chain.
He had liked it as soon as he saw it. He had thought he wouldn’t be able to express his feelings for Serah unless he gave her all of Cocoon. No, not even all of Cocoon would be enough. So he would give her two Cocoons, one they each could wear...
“Isn’t this nice? I’m friends with the person who made these. Doesn’t it just say ‘the happiest couple in Cocoon’?"
“The happiest couple in Cocoon...? Yeah...”
Nothing could be more perfect to give to Serah. He would make her the happiest bride on Cocoon.
“Wait a moment while I wrap these up.”
“No no, that’s okay. I don’t want to make Serah wait much longer.”
After he paid for them he left the shop, hold the necklaces in his hands.
“Hey, Snow!”
Snow burst out of the store in a hurry. He had been so happy to talk to an old friend, that he spoken with her longer than he’d meant to. If he wasted more time than it would have taken him to use the bathroom, Serah would come looking for him. He couldn’t have that happening.
He looked around him, but Serah was no where to be seen. Somehow he’d managed to avoid her seeing him come out of the store. No, he was still holding the necklace. He tucked it into his pocket. It felt warm.
“The happiest in Cocoon... alright!” He clenched both his fists, and nodded. Tomorrow he would ask Serah to marry him, then wish on the fireworks for their happiness.
Serah didn’t know what her Focus was, and her time was short. When he thought about that, he felt as though he were looking down from a cliff into a stormy ocean. Then he starts to feel that there might be no place that they will be able to run.
But he couldn’t think like that, for Serah’s sake. It would only make her worry. So he decided to believe there was a bright future ahead of them. The cliff they were standing on might be steep, but the ocean beyond was clear and beautiful.
“Snow!” He heard behind him. Turning around he saw Serah running towards him, waving her hand.
“I found a present!” She said, waving him to come closer.
“You were looking for a good luck charm, right?”
“Right. Something she could carry with her, something that she would carry with her.”
They were standing in front of a store that sold bladed weapons. Serah grinned, and pointed to something in the window.
“This?” A survival knife. It was undecorated, and actually looked functional. It didn’t look like something you would give as a birthday present. “... why?”
“Well, I thought since I want to get her a good luck charm, a blade would be perfect. They say a blade can be used to cut your connections with evil.”
“Cut connections with evil...?” He had heard of swords, but this was a survival knife. That was a little bit different.
“And I read in a book once, that with just one knife a person can survive through lots of things.” Serah said, her tone serious. Her eyes had a faraway look. “Because of her job, she has to go to lots of different places. With her job, she doesn’t ever know exactly what will happen. I want her to be able to survive whatever happens out there, and come back home safe.”
“And so you want to give her a survival knife.”
“Is that strange?”
“No, no it’s not strange.”
To survive whatever happens. That was a wish he could make for themselves.
“Alright! Let’s get it.”
Serah nodded, smiling. Snow put his arms around Serah’s slim shoulders, and opened the door of the shop.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lightning with Carbuncle doll,, LOL~
Thank you so much for the translations!

Anonymous said...

I love this one, so cute ^^ really appreciate the translations! thank you :)

Alexander said...

Good post, very interesting

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