[Warning: This chapter contains spoilers for the game.]
“We’ll be together forever... no matter what happens, we’ll never be apart.”
That’s what I promised so long ago, Vanille whispered as she walked along the promenade, looking out towards the ocean. In the distance you could see the temple. Fal’Cie Anima was still inside there.
“I’m sorry I have to break that promise...” She apologized to Fang, wherever Fang might be. Perhaps she was at the temple, even now. Surrounded by Cocoon soldiers, no one would be able to get in or out.
Yesterday she saw it on the news. A Pulse fal’Cie was found in the Bodhum Vestige. She had stopped at a rest area in the shopping mall. A screen was on the wall, and on it the temple could be clearly seen. Surrounding the temple were army vehicles and armed soldiers.
During the middle of the report, the people around her began to panic. Knowing that she must get to the temple, Vanille ran toward it, only to look up and see airships above them.
The news ran on every screen and blared from every speaker. Bodhum would now be barricaded for the protection of Cocoon’s citizens. Their worry turned to anger, then the soldiers began making threats against the civilians.
This so frightened Vanille that she fled the shopping mall, running along the promenade, returning to a place where she could see the temple. But what she found there...
All the roads leading to the temple were blocked off. This was something that hadn’t been shown on the news. Military vehicles surrounded the place, there was no way to even get close to it anymore.
No, she didn’t even think she would be able to stay here for very long, even to look at it. Soldiers were coming closer, had they seen her? Not taking any chances, Vanille turned right around and ran back to the shopping mall.
They hadn’t followed her. That must mean they hadn’t planned on capturing her. Perhaps they had just wanted to tell her that the area was off limits.
It was too late now, but she wished she hadn’t left her weapon behind in the temple. Now she was all alone in a city she didn’t know, unable to protect herself. She felt like crying.
Fang... where are you?
At the energy plant Fang had acted as a decoy to allow Vanille to escape. She had run straight at the soldiers, all alone. Vanille had managed to escape, but ever since then she had seen no sign of Fang.
I want Fang...
Vanille walked, hardly realizing where she was going, that thought circling her mind. When she looked up, she found she was now at Bodhum Station. Then Vanille thought, perhaps Fang hadn’t returned to Bodhum after all? She could still be somewhere in Euride Gorge!
I’ll be able to find her if I go to Euride!
Vanille ran towards the station, but again was surprised by what she found. The walkway was completely blocked off. Then she remembered hearing on the news that the whole city had been barricaded. There were people in front of the station, they looked like tourists, arguing with the soldiers.
“We aren’t Bodhum citizens!”
“I have to return to Eden tomorrow! I have an important meeting.”
“We’re from Palumpolum! At least let my son return home.”
Everyone was trying their best to make themselves heard. I’ve seen something like this before, Vanille thought. But then they knew if they waited they would be able to return home. But they still had looked worried...
It was eight days ago. After the accident both Euride Station and the airship landing strip had been closed off. Armed soldiers had come, and the people there had argued with them, demanding to be freed. Though they had complained that they needed to get to work, or that they were going to miss their airship flight home, they still followed the soldiers’ directions. Because the soldiers told them that once they had gone through an ID check, they would be put on the next train to Bodhum. So they gathered at the plaza in front of the energy plant, and waited in the tents that had been set up for them.
Of course, since Vanille is not from Cocoon, she didn’t have ID. When she searched around for a chance to escape, her eyes fell on soldiers placing cards on a machines. ID must mean those cards they had picked up earlier, she realized. They had stolen them from those two boys they had met in town. Because of these cards they had been able to get food and ride on the train to Euride.
Vanille took out the stolen card and looked at it. She wasn’t sure if she could even use it. They had only figured out how to use Fang’s card by accident, and had yet to try this one. What would she do if she couldn’t use it? Even worse, what if they found out she had stolen it...
“Come on, give me your card already.”
Vanille looked up quickly, and found a soldier holding a slim machine standing right in front of her. Hoping it would work, but not feeling too confident, Vanille held out her card.
She wondered if they would drag her into a different room for questioning. Or perhaps they would tie her up immediately. Or maybe... maybe they would shoot her where she stood. She squeezed her eyes shut.
“Would you hurry up?”
I knew it, Vanille thought. She slumped. It would be so pathetic to be captured now, but there were so many soldiers surrounding her, and then there were all these people...
“What the hell are you doing? I need to get on to the next one.”
Vanille looked up in surprise. The soldier returned the card to her.
“Once you’ve checked out, go stand in the line over there.”
Before she could ask what he meant, the soldier turned to the next person and took their card. It seemed the stolen card had been accepted as her ID. Vanille lined up with the others who had been checked out, and boarded the next train to Bodhum. She waited on the station platform, hoping that Fang would arrive, but saw no sign of her.
She returned to the temple, but there was no food, and she couldn’t sleep. It was her first night alone, ever, she realized. Fang had always been by her side. At their village, the other children had been there too. Once they became l’Cie, the two of them had been alone again, but she always had Fang to sleep next to. She had never slept alone.
Looking for food, Vanille went to the shopping mall. But she had never used this card before, and she wasn’t sure she could do it. While she had been able to use it as ID in Euride, she didn’t know if she could use it for shopping. Vanille spent a few minutes standing in front of the shop, nervously clutching the card in her hands.
It was seeing that white bird again that made her pluck up her courage and finally enter the store. It was the same strange looking bird they had seen when they had stolen these cards. It stood perched on the far side roof, staring down at her. It scared Vanille so much that she ran into the shop just to get away from it. Now in the shop, the only thing she could do was follow the other customers example. She made her purchases, and used the card to check out. It was easier than she thought it would be.
Now she could see what their life was like. Cocoon was like a peaceful paradise. Perhaps because they lived such quiet lives, the people here were peaceful, and that was why she never felt in danger as long as she was within the city.
Despite being alone, without Fang, she didn’t feel nervous here anymore. But she couldn’t forget the girl and young boy that had gotten mixed up in their problems. The guilt she felt towards them was like a thorn sticking in her chest.
And then Vanille met that girl on the beach...
“What are you doing over there?”
She felt a gun at her back. Vanille came back from her musings with a start. It was a soldier. PSICOM. Whenever that name was mentioned, the expression on peoples’ faces turned stony and cold.
Until a few days ago, no soldiers had been here. Everyone had looked calm and peaceful. She had allowed herself to feel that way too...
“I’m sorry!” Vanille said. Perhaps it was the tearful sound in her voice, but he lowered his gun and spoke in a softer voice.
“They’re starting check in at the station. You’d better hurry.”
Vanille ran without turning back. She wouldn’t be coming here again. From the moment they announced it on the news yesterday, this paradise had disappeared.
A Pulse fal’Cie had been found. The whole of Bodhum was being barricaded. That alone was already the worst possible news for the people who lived there. Just those two announcements, and the city was in an uproar. Was there anyone who imagined it could become worse?
It had been in the afternoon when the news had broke. Vanille had been unable to return to the temple or find Fang, and so she was walking along the shopping mall. She tried to stay in well populated places, away from soldiers.
A Purge to Pulse. At first Vanille didn’t know what that meant. She might not have been the only one. When the news was broadcast, everyone grew quiet.
Then she realized they were afraid. People were running around, screaming and crying. Maybe they thought they could run away from their fate.
Vanille could only watch them in amazement She had known that the people on Cocoon hated Pulse, but she realized that she hadn’t really understood. They were so scared of Pulse that they lost all reason.
Where they were running to, she didn’t know. Perhaps they were running to the station, or their home. Everywhere small fights broke out. Women spoke in shrill voices, and children fell and broke into tears.
Vanille stood close to the building, and watch them. She shivered, and couldn’t move a step from where she stood.
Are these the same people who had watched the fireworks the night before? she thought. Those people had fun, laughing and talking with each other. Those people had been happy. Their faces had been filled with hope as they prayed for their dreams to come true. Not even one day had passed since then, and now...
She was scared, and sad, and felt like crying. A fiery pain burned behind her eyes, and she looked down at her feet. Then, out of the noise, words reached her ears. Vanille looked up in surprise. She thought she’d heard someone say “The Pulse fal’Cie will be sent along with the Purge train to be returned to Pulse.” She would have to listen to the news program one more time, just to make sure.
Fal’Cie Anima would be sent to Pulse, it would be returned to Gran Pulse...
Was it true? But then, what about their Focus? No, even if fal’Cie Anima weren’t in Cocoon, their Focus wouldn’t change. It was both she and Fang who would complete their Focus, not the fal’Cie...
Then she realized, if she remained in Bodhum she would be Purged along with everyone else. Not that she had much of a choice, since all ways in and out of Bodhum were closed off. But if she returned to Gran Pulse, she wouldn’t be able to complete her Focus.
Her legs grew weak, and she slumped onto the ground. How could she have not realized this before? She held her knees, and stayed that way until night fell.
When she finally stood up, she was surprised to see it was night. There was no one left in the shopping mall. Vanille slipped past the soldiers, and walked down to the beach. This was where everyone had stood to watch the fireworks. Of course no one was here, at this time. The cafe was closed. Even though it had only been one day, it seemed as though a completely different place from the night before. All was quiet, the only sound was of the waves rolling in and out.
Unlike Gran Pulse, this ocean didn’t smell of salt. But Vanille had liked it here. “Goodbye...” she whispered, and turned back the way she had came. She walked a little further, and came upon a field. It was the field they had stolen vegetables from that first day they had woken up. The smell of earth and growing things overwhelmed her. Perhaps Fang will come here, she thought, and tears ran down her cheeks. I know, she thought, Fang won’t come. I’ll never see her again, never again...
Vanille cried. As a small child cries, yelling and screaming. And then, she slept.
The shopping mall, as always, was filled with people. But unlike yesterday, no one was running around. As one, they all moved in the same direction. The expression on their faces was dark, and they looked down at their feet as they walked. They were heading towards the station to board the Purge train.
The people of Cocoon thought that “Pulse is hell”. Vanille had realized watching everyone yesterday that they equate being sent to Pulse as a death sentence. But it’s not like that, Vanille couldn’t help but think. Sure the climate is harsh, and there are many vicious monsters there. You wouldn’t be able to walk around there weaponless like you can on Cocoon. But Fang and herself were born and raised on Gran Pulse. You could live there as long as everyone worked together.
On Gran Pulse there was a wide open fields and an endless sky. There was sunlight, and greenery. Vanille wanted to show all this to the people of Cocoon. Even though she knew it was impossible.
It was quiet. Too quiet for how many people were here. When she had first arrived here, it had been so loud and noisy she had thought it was a festival. And after the uproar from yesterday...
Had they calmed down after a nights sleep? Or had they given up already? Not one single person looked angry, their faces were expressionless.
“I’m sorry...” Vanille apologized again. She had already apologized so many times she had lost count. It was their fault this was happening to these people. Their fault and no one else's.
Because we woke up, she thought.
And the girl who was made into a l’Cie by fal’Cie Anima. And the little boy who was made into a l’Cie by the Cocoon fal’Cie. How could she ever atone for the crimes she committed against them?
She couldn’t turn them back to normal. She wouldn’t be able to change their fate. At least, she thought, I can bring no harm to their world, to their loved ones. I can do that much for them.
At some point she realized the number of people had grown. Everyone was so quiet she hadn’t noticed. Now there were as many people as there had been at the fireworks festival, slowly walking towards the station.
Finally the station building came within sight. A soldier could be heard, yelling “Would anyone who has not checked in their baggage please come this way?” There had been baggage check-in the day before, so the line by the counter was short.
Once she entered inside the building, she saw soldiers with megaphones calling out instructions. Their uniforms were different from the other soldiers she had seen, so Vanille thought they must have a higher rank.
“Everyone! Please follow directions and do not step out of line! Your baggage will be returned to you once you’ve arrived on Pulse.”
The gun he held in his hands made Vanille a little uncomfortable. He’s just giving directions, why does he need to be armed? Vanille thought. All the people here are calm and peaceful, why does he need a weapon? The other soldiers also held guns. Even though they kept saying these people were being “transferred” it was far more like the were being escorted out of the city by force. But, perhaps because the people on Cocoon are so peaceful, no one fought back. They all lined up quietly, without a word.
Or perhaps not quite. Somewhere she heard someone yelling.
“Hey you! Don’t get out of line!”
Perhaps someone had tried to run. The crowd of people moved slightly. They were restless, perhaps hoping that at least one of them had found a means of escape.
A gun shot sounded. From the screams you could tell it was no idle blast. The line of people shook, breaking into panic. The soldiers pointed their guns at the people, and everything grew still and quiet.
“Please do not move from the line. This is for your own safety.”
Of course, no one actually believed that. They only kept quiet because they didn’t wish to die here. Even though what waited for them, beyond this world, was hell.
The line once again flowed smoothly. Vanille spied a woman talking with a soldier. She noticed the woman because she looked exactly like Serah, the girl who turned into a Pulse l’Cie.
The woman handed her weapon to the soldier, and stood in line. My guilt is making me imagine things, Vanille thought. Just because she has the same hair color, it makes her face look just like Serah’s...
A middle-aged man stood behind the woman. His hair looked just like a birds nest, or so Vanille thought, but then a real bird actually popped out of it.
It was a baby chocobo.
“Why does that guy have a chocobo living on his head?” It was so funny, Vanille began to giggle. Then that someone ran into her from behind. Or rather, she ran into someone, since she wasn’t looking where she was going. She tried to catch her balance, but it was too late.
“Oops!” She slipped and tumbled down onto the ground. Fortunately she didn’t hurt herself, except for perhaps her pride.
“Are you okay?” Someone asked. Just as she heard the voice, she felt a hand grab hers and pull her upright.
“Did you get hurt?” A kind looking woman was looking her over. Vanille nodded, and the woman smiled.
“Oh, what a relief.”
She looks like a mother, Vanille whispered quietly. Then she saw a boy standing beside her that looked like he could be her son. She really was a mother.
“Are you from here?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Oh, you too? We’re from Palumpolum.”
A place Vanille had heard of before.
“And where did you come from?”
Vanille nodded. The woman didn’t ask any more questions, probably thinking Vanille had a reason for not saying where she was from. In fact, she probably had other things to worry about. Her son was shaking, and wouldn’t look up.
Vanille couldn’t decided whether she should line up behind these two, or the woman who looks like Serah. But she didn’t take too long to decide, standing behind the kind woman and her son. If she was going to be treated like a prisoner, she at least wanted to be with people who were kind.
The soldiers explained that in the best case scenario they would arrive at Pulse sometime today. At worst it would be tomorrow.
Once we’ve arrived in Gran Pulse I hope I can help them a little bit, Vanille thought. I’m sorry Fang, but I’m going back to Gran Pulse with the fal’Cie. I’m sorry I broke our promise. I’m sorry I have to leave you on Cocoon all alone...
Once she left Cocoon, she wouldn’t be able to complete her Focus. She realized this yesterday, when she heard that fal’Cie Anima would be sent back to Pulse. Once she realized there was still something she could do, she felt relieved.
“If reality is too painful, you can just run away.”
Serah had said that four days ago, when they had met on the beach. Those words had saved her, and pushed her into action. Because of those words she was here now.
Once I get on that train, she thought, I’ll be running away from my Focus. Then I won’t have to hurt anyone. I’ll probably become a Cieth, but there will still be some time left before that happens.
”If you look at anything from a distance, you can see a way through it.”
Just as Serah had said, once she looked at her problem from a distance, she could see a different path. It just might work. If she just runs away, it might all work out...
She only worried about leaving Fang behind, but she knew she would be alright. Her mark was burned, so she probably wouldn’t turn into a Cieth, and Fang would be able to live on her own. The only thing was, she knew Fang would be angry. I’m sorry, she whispered one more time.
She put her fingers together and prayed. For a friend she wouldn’t see again. For a promise she couldn’t keep.
The soldiers began directing people into the train. At the latest they would arrive tomorrow, Vanille remembered them saying.
For a moment, Vanille felt her footsteps tremble. She suddenly felt as though the day they became l’Cie was only yesterday, and that tomorrow was so far away she could hardly reach it. But why? She couldn’t be worried. She was finally returning to Gran Pulse, she told herself. She loved the smell of the wind, the flowers shimmering in the breeze, running out under an open sky. There were all the stars at night, and of course the people waiting back home. They were all her family, so she was sure they would be happy to see her.
Tomorrow I’ll be returning home... Vanille thought to herself. The line moved forward.
Monday, July 26, 2010
[Warning: This chapter contains spoilers for the game.]