"Final Fantasy VII Lateral Biography: TURKS - The Kids Are Alright"

Pixel

The Pixie King
I'm pretty sure you did. You went from 7 to the end. It was just a few years ago. :P

Google docs has the history of each chapter. I'll check it when I get home.
 

mecorx

Moonrune Archaeologist
AKA
Translator of Things
I'm pretty sure you did. You went from 7 to the end. It was just a few years ago. :P
Well, it took 30 seconds to find some errors... Also, I don't have any of the pages before 66, so I couldn't check the earlier ones, anyway... ><.
 
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Pixel

The Pixie King
Well, 1-5 were translated by hito, so I wouldn't worry about that. You definitely started at least from 7, because that was the elena chapter I think. But you must have done 6. I definitely had help. I'll check it all out when I get home.
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
Checked earlier. There are edits on chapter 7-47 dating back to 2014. I can't remember what I did with 6. I definitely consulted with you on it. Maybe I had it in a different document to begin with, because I had the Japanese transcribed on google docs somewhere.
 

mecorx

Moonrune Archaeologist
AKA
Translator of Things
I would suggest you hold off on editing until I recheck everything. Even if it makes logical sense in English, it doesn't mean it was translated correctly. Also, even if a translation was correct, you could very well be interpreting it in the wrong way. It was very hard to keep track of what I was typing because of Google Docs' Suggestion mode. I would say I had to re-translate like 70% of it, so there's quite a margin for error. I could not see the final product without you accepting my changes, so I wasn't able to proofread at all.

If you don't want me to check chapters 1-5 that's fine, but we will most certainly run into translation consistency issues. I have already seen some inconsistency between chapter 1 and 44. It is not unusual for translators to proofread other translators' work. It's standard practice in the industry.

You can just give me the scans and I'll take care of the rest. Don't really need transcriptions.
 
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Pixel

The Pixie King
Cool, I'll get the first 6 chapters scanned in the morning.

Also, if it's easier, you can just edit derectly instead of suggestion mode.
 

cun10294

Pro Adventurer
Um, hi everybody, as I'm a new member so I can't send private message to ask about this but I just done reading the novel recently, thanks to you. And now I really want to donate a little as an token for your hardworking so I wonder who I could send it to? (through paypal)
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
If you'd like to donate to the project, you can use my email josephknight84 @ hotmail .co.uk (delete spaces). Dont want to post mecorx's email in public :P

We're just going through the first few chapters fixing up a few things
 

cun10294

Pro Adventurer
Yeah, I just completed my donation, I find your guy's effort to run and complete this project is really great and need to be appreciated. The novel itself is really great too, at first I thought reading it from the view of the total new MC will not really concern with FF7 , but I was wrong, all the little details, old familiar faces and places' names does bring me back to my memories of FF7. I feel happy to be able to read it in a language I could understand. Thank you :lol:
 

Tashasaurous

Tash for Short
AKA
Sailor Moon, Mini Moon, Hotaru, Cardcaptor Sakura, Meilin, Xion, Kairi, Aqua, Tifa, Aerith, Yuffie, Elena, Misty, May, Dawn, Casey, Fiona, Ellie
Yeah, this is such a good read that it actually has potiental to be either a new game or a new CG film with the cast from Advent Children(both Japanese and English) returning, with new cast to fill in the roles of Evan and such. That's how I love it so much.
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
Awesome, thanks. I'll see if I can put together a little scene with the voice actor when I get home from work. Probably a kadaj/tseng scene.
 

mecorx

Moonrune Archaeologist
AKA
Translator of Things
Thanks for your support :). Still in the process of brushing up the translations, so keep your eyes peeled for new updates.
 
Yeah, I just completed my donation, I find your guy's effort to run and complete this project is really great and need to be appreciated. The novel itself is really great too, at first I thought reading it from the view of the total new MC will not really concern with FF7 , but I was wrong, all the little details, old familiar faces and places' names does bring me back to my memories of FF7. I feel happy to be able to read it in a language I could understand. Thank you :lol:
Ditto, I know there's a link at the beginning of the thread, but I know that was awhile ago. If that's still valid great, but I just wanted to make sure.
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
We decided to go through the first few chapters. Hito did a good job, so there wasn't a huge amount to change, mostly grammar and inconsitancies.


1. First off, a little about myself

Translated by Hitoshura and Mecorx, Proofread by Crashouch

When I was fourteen, I took in this jet black cat. I found him on the roadside making the most pathetic meow you could imagine, and brought him home. While I was busy trying to think of a cool name to give him, my mother started calling him Blackie. That was the kind of person my mother was. It’s a black cat, let’s call him Blackie. I complained, but in the end couldn’t offer up an alternative.

Blackie completely ignored the chair and cushion we prepared for him, moving to a new spot every few hours. He would go all around our cramped house―from the kitchen, to my room, to mom’s room―pondering cat stuff and sleeping. Then half a year later he must have come to the conclusion that he didn’t belong here, because Blackie disappeared somewhere. I was fifteen. I don’t know how old he was.

“Maybe he didn’t like it here?”

“That’s what boys do, they leave home,” there was a knowing look to my mother’s face when she said this one night while we were reminiscing about Blackie. I’d never even thought of leaving home and leaving my mother behind. I wanted to start earning my way so I could help her out.

My mother worked in a cafe during the day, and in a bar from the evening until late into the night. She was constantly exhausted. Nevertheless, whenever I found a job, she would make up some excuse and stop me from taking it. I think it was down to the illness I used to have. It was my heart. But I had surgery when I was five, so it should be all clear, and since then it’s been absolutely fine. I’d been the picture of health, if I do say so myself.

“Hey, I’ve been thinking, I really do want to work. That’ll make it easier for you, won’t it?”

“Thank you. But in two years. When you’re seventeen,” Mom said as she played with the waves of her hair. She had beautiful blonde hair, but it always reeked of tobacco smoke.

“Why seventeen?”

“Because I’m sure Blackie was seventeen too.”

It didn’t make any sense at all. Why would working and leaving home mean the same thing? I thought we should have talked it out, but it was painful to talk with her when she was drunk.

Half a year later, I saw Blackie in the street. Well, a cat that looked like Blackie. He had turned into a stray, missing the tip of one of his ears and covered in scars. I called out to him and he just looked at me without a hint of enthusiasm, then looked away and started walking off. I followed him and, without even turning around, he climbed up the fence of a nearby house and made his way up to the roof. He was now completely out of reach.

“I want to work”, “Wait a bit” – the same conversation played out at regular intervals. Most of my friends were working, and even if they weren’t, they must have at least been earning their own spending money. It felt like they were all up there on that roof, laughing at me.

This was in Sector Six of Midgar. At the end of a busy street lined with shops and restaurants. Our house was just down an alley, nestled between a bookshop and a weaponsmith’s, that was damp and reeked of rust. Houses with the kind of basic shapes you’d see in a kid’s drawing, made of some material that looked like brick, were bunched together. It was apparently used as a housing area for lower-level Shin-Ra Company employees for a while after Midgar was completed. Later on, company housing was moved to Sectors Seven and Five. The area was supposed to be demolished, until some rich guy who ran a couple of bars leased them from Shin-Ra for his workers to live in. The rent was dirt cheap. A lot of the people who had come to Midgar from the world below – rural areas or the slums – with dreams of making something of themselves lived there. Everyone was poor. This was the sort of place for people who didn’t make it among the relatively wealthy populace of Midgar, but everyone agreed that it beat living in the slums.

It was about one week before my seventeenth birthday. The sound of the phone woke me up. I could hear Mom talking to someone in a quiet voice. When I got up, she was cleaning the kitchen/dining room. Cleaning and tidying – in other words, maintaining order in the home – was my job. Studying at my teacher’s home, talking with my friends, wandering around town. Staring at a TV with bad reception. For someone all but devoid of actual responsibilities, cleaning and tidying was my sole contribution to our life. I’d never cut corners there. When I argued that I had done it yesterday, she told me that we had a guest coming over.

“I’d like you to meet him, so can you go get changed?” she said, without looking at me. Something felt wrong about it, and that hunch proved true.

Nick Foley was in his mid-thirties, like Mom. His tall frame was covered by a well-tailored grey suit. Above a light-pink necktie with white dots sat his little, clean-cut face. He stood in the doorway, a pleasant smile across his face as he looked down at me.

“Call me Nick. I work in the Shin-Ra Company’s business department.”

With the way he was smiling and introducing himself, it was like he was saying 'Hey, we're friends now, right?'. If I’d let my guard down, I might have actually ended up calling him Nick.

“You take after your dad, don’t you?” judging from the look on his face, Nick Foley wished he hadn’t said that.

“You knew my dad?”

My dad died in Wutai right before I was born. There wasn’t even a single picture of him, so I didn’t know what he looked like.

“What, no, I just meant that you don’t look much like your mom. I’ve heard what happened… sorry. But you’re a good-looking boy, aren’t you? I bet you do well for yourself with the girls.”

I must have been making quite a face, because Nick Foley started looking at my mother for assistance.

“Do you want some of this cake Nick brought? It’s from Mrs. Tosca’s!” she made too much of a noise as she set the plates on the table and placed a slice of that overly decorated cake on them.

Eating one of Mrs. Tosca’s insanely expensive mounds of sugar and cream was a treat my mother reserved for when she got paid. She liked to take her time to enjoy it, this little reward to herself.

“Come on you two, sit down.”

“So here it is. Been wanting to try one of these cakes ever since I heard about them. Normally I don’t care for sweet stuff at all,” Nick sat down in my seat as he rambled on about some pointless crap.

Please just die.

The smile vanished from my mother’s face.

There were three chairs around the table. Out of the remaining two, I took the seat opposite the enemy. My mother’s seat. She sat in on the chair saved for the rare visitor we had.

Nick Foley must have noticed the chill in the air too. He let out a heavy sigh and looked right at me. He put his elbows on the table and folded his hands in front of his face. “I had wanted to meet you a lot sooner, but I could just never find the time. It’s really cutting it close now. You’ve heard about me, right?” Nick Foley looked at my mother.

In a barely audible voice she said she was sorry, she couldn’t bring it up.

“—Great. But the arrangements are all set now, so we can’t move the date. We’re leaving Midgar in two days. Get your things ready.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’ve talked it over with your mother several times. You’re just going to have to come along. You are family, after all. I’ll be heading off now, but if there’s anything you want to know more about, your mother will—“

I swept the cake off the table along with the plate and slammed my foot down on the floor as I got up, then went straight out the front door.

The sound of the plate shattering rung in my ears. I felt bad about doing something so unlike me.

When I’ve calmed down, I’ll go home and talk to Mom. There seems to be a lot of stuff I don’t know. But still, leaving in two days? Leaving to where? No. It doesn’t matter where, I don’t want to go. I’m not going anywhere with him.

I decided to kill time for two days, then go home. If I did that, Nick Foley and my mother’s plans would be shot.

It’s probably going to be a little awkward for a while, but what can you do? Things will get back to normal soon enough, I kept thinking to myself as I walked through Sector Seven to the warehouse block in Sector Eight – the usual destination for teenage runaways.

And then I got caught in the infamous Sector Seven plate incident. There were a number of support struts that held the massive weight of Midgar’s giant, circular base from the ground below – one for each of the eight Sectors. This was the incident where the seventh of those struts was blown up by terrorists. Having lost that support strut, the Sector Seven plate, in its entirety, became severed from the flanking Sectors Six and Eight and fell. It flattened the slum below, obliterating it. A lot of lives were lost.

At the moment of the explosion, I was at the border between Sectors Seven and Eight. When the city shook from the blast, I instantly ran away in the direction of Sector Eight. At first I had no idea what was going on. I ran without thinking, following the droves of people. Eventually I learnt that Sector Seven had collapsed. There was news that Sector Six was safe, but nothing was certain. I was worried about my mother. I tried to go back home via Sector Zero in the center of the city, but that route was sealed off by the Shinra Army, on the lookout for the terrorists. Having no other choice, I decided to work my way backwards, going through Eight, One, Two, and so on. The people were afraid of where the next explosion would be. These deranged terrorists had only just recently blown up the Sector One Mako Reactor.

It took me three days to reach home, after having gone nearly full circle around Midgar. What would have taken one day of walking without resting, had I been able to go the shortest distance, took three days. I got lost in the unfamiliar streets of Sector Eight and got into a panic. Before long it was night. The cold breeze that came from the gaps between the warehouses mercilessly sapped the warmth from my body. First, I was hit with stomach pains. Then, it was fever and chills. Cursing my body for its weakness, I looked for a place to lie down. Finally I stumbled across an empty warehouse, and collapsed onto an abandoned mattress. Then, out of nowhere, a couple of guys appeared, looking at me with nasty glints in their eyes. They were the same age as me, but if I were a house cat, these were strays. They insisted I pay them to use this spot, claiming those were the rules around these parts. But I had no money or valuables on me. In the end, giving them someone to vent their dissatisfaction on was how I paid up. The pain where they had kicked my back and stomach was killing me.

One night’s rest didn’t do much in the way of making me feel any better, but I didn’t want to pay the charges again to stay here another night. More than worrying about my mother, I just wanted to go home. I mustered up the energy and left the strays’ den.

I staggered along, taking frequent breaks on the way, and managed to arrive home past noon on the third day. The house was okay. Mom was out, but this was usually when she would have been at work. I took some cold medicine and crawled into bed. I fell asleep, having decided to go see my mother when I got up. It was night-time when I woke. I still wasn’t feeling great, but probably good enough to make it to the pub and back. First I took a shower. I dried myself off with a towel and went back to my room, put some underwear on and some black pants. I picked an oversized sweater that hid my body to wear on top, a navy blue one. This was the most grown-up combination of clothes in my wardrobe. My tall-but-lanky build was the target of ridicule at the pub. I was certain to end up barraged with the same old remarks, telling the kid to have a glass of milk and run along to bed.

Just as I was about to head out of the door, the messy state of my bed started bothering me. When I straightened out the thin blanket and fluffed up my pillow, I noticed an envelope that had been placed under it. Inside was a large sum of money and a letter from Mom. I read the letter.

“I’m going with Nick as we planned. We will contact you to tell you where we are as soon as we have settled down. Use the money in the envelope to live on and wait for me to call. Leave half of it to pay for the trip to our new home” – the whole thing was utterly impersonal and businesslike. The Sector Seven incident had happened on the same day I ran out of the house. She must have known about it and the extent of the damages. But she left with a man without even making sure her own son was safe. And she seemed to think that I would just come running when she tells me where she is. I didn’t get it.

I went to my mother’s room and opened the closet door. On the hangers were a few outfits for her daytime job that looked a bit too youthful for her age, and several horrible ones for her night job. It looked like she’d left her work behind too. The clothes she wore off-work, which were usually strewn in a mess beneath them, were gone. I sat on my mother’s bed for a while, absent-minded. Then I suddenly remembered our family’s little secret, hidden in the ceiling.

I brought a chair in from the dining room and placed it in the middle of the room. I got up on it and stretched out my hands, removing one of the ceiling tiles. I gently threw the tile onto the bed and looked up at the square hole that had opened up in the ceiling. Mom had hidden a chest there. Inside there was money and treasures. The money was her weekly wages, and the treasures were my “first somethings” – my umbilical cord, hair from my first haircut, the first baby tooth I lost – each one creepy any way you looked at it, but to my mother I guess they were all irreplaceable treasures.

As I stuck my hand into the ceiling my fingertips hit the chest. It seemed to have been pushed back and I couldn’t reach it. I grabbed hold of the edge of the next tile with both hands and lifted my body up. I was going to stick my head in to check it out, but the tile broke. I fell downwards, losing my balance atop of the chair, and nearly tumbled over as I landed on the floor. In front of my eyes were pieces of the broken ceiling tile and the treasure chest. There were also two paper bags. When I opened the chest – an old wooden cheese box that I had drawn the purple apples I used to like on in crayon when I was little – all the treasures were still safely there. There was also what appeared to be the remainder of mom’s wages. In other words, the money under my pillow wasn’t the money that was here. Where had it come from? Nick Piece-of-Shit Foley’s wallet?

Next, I opened one of the unfamiliar paper bags. It was white and brand new. When I looked inside I couldn’t believe it. Mind-boggling would have been the perfect adjective to describe the amount of money in the bag. I could live comfortably for a whole year with it. The bound bundles of money, like the bag, were new. The wrapper on one of the stacks of bills was loose. It seemed the money under my pillow had come from here. I felt like I had gotten to the bottom of that mystery, and it started to make sense. But that was not the heart of the problem. Where did all this money come from? I could only think of one person. Nick Fucking-Loaded Foley.

The other bag was made of a thicker, pale green paper. When I took the tape off the opening, there was a dark brown coloured leather bag inside. It had a sturdy build, with a flap that had a metal fastener, and the kind of drabness you’d expect from military equipment. It had a strap you could adjust the length of. It was the kind of shoulder bag you’d think would belong to a grown man, and a hardened adventurer at that. When I opened the flap there was a small card inside the bag.

“Happy Seventeenth Birthday. I hope you become the kind of strong man worthy of this bag. From Mom.”

My mother had prepared a birthday present for me, hidden it and left. A mother who disappeared with some good-looking man. And a son left behind with a pile of money.

How did all of this fit together?

I sat on my mother’s bed and thought about it. But it didn’t seem like I was going to find the answer. My mother would contact me eventually. I guessed I would just have to wait until then. For the time being, I decided to fix the ceiling.

I picked up the broken ceiling tile and got up on the chair, and returned it to its original location. Next, I moved on to the first tile I removed. This one didn’t want to fit in place properly. My arms started getting tired while I was working on it. I started getting irritable, and had no choice but to face up to the unpleasant reality I just couldn’t shake from my mind. My mother was short, and even if she stood on a chair she couldn’t have reached the ceiling. When I had grown taller than Mom, it was my idea to use the space behind the ceiling as storage. Since then it had been my duty to put things in and out of the chest. That’s how I knew how much my mother made, how much she had left, and how poor we were.

And therein lay the question. Who put the money and the gift I just found up in the ceiling?

The tall man who looked down at me in the doorway. Nick Son-of-a-Bitch Foley. That man had been in my mother’s room while I was gone.

I abandoned what I was doing, went to front door, and yanked out the cable from the phone hanging on the wall.

They’re going to see how angry I am.

I tried to get my life back to normal. I was going to my teacher’s, talking with my friends, and even watching TV. I thought about splurging with the money, but when I thought that it might be Nick Foley’s money I decided against it. No. The truth was that I just couldn’t think of anything to do with it. In the end I put the money in the shoulder bag that I had been gifted for my birthday and decided to forget all about it.

My sleepless nights continued. One evening I struck on the idea of reading a book. Reading was my mother’s sole hobby. In her room were several books she had finished. I picked out Escape From Wutai – Part 1. Because it was the last one on the end. That’s all. It was an old novel written during the war. The beginning was filled with scenes of the Wutaians using some weird martial arts to kill the prisoners in the camps. Eventually, five of the prisoners slip past a stupid Wutaian and escape the camp. Three men, and two women. There was one man too many. I figured that someone was probably going to die. Probably this Shinra military officer jerk-off. However, the officer defied my expectations and lived, and even started pushing the other four around like he was the leader. I wished he would die soon. My wish would come true near the last page. The officer was blown to bits by one of the landmines the Wutaians had planted. The way he died shocked me.

“He was blown to bits by a Wutai landmine,” that was the only story my mother had told me about my father. Maybe she had gotten it from this novel. Did she project my father onto this man who rightfully should have died? That was probably the case. She must have really hated him. I admired how she could have raised the son of a man like that. No. Maybe it was exactly because I was the child that man had left behind that, if ever there was the need to do so, she would be able to abandon me like she had done so now. I thought I was loved, but could that have just been a mask for her hatred? I threw Escape From Wutai – Part 1 against the wall. Like I gave a damn what happened to the other four in Part 2.

I went back into my mother’s room and looked at her book collection. I could tell from the titles that they were all adventure novels. On the covers were illustrations of what looked like the main characters. They were all different sorts of characters, but all women. My mother loved those kinds of novels. She lived a real life that lacked these sorts of sights and adventures. So, though I dreaded the thought, maybe she was captivated by romance. Was life with me that boring? Was it painful?

That’s enough. My mother left, and I’m left behind. I’m just going to stop thinking about her. I need to think about living on my own.

The next day I visited the café she used to work at. The manager, a man with a square forehead and the broad shoulders of a retro robot, ranted at lengths about my mother suddenly quitting. I had kind of prepared for this, but it got to me more than I’d expected. After a stream of complaints he seemed to remember to ask what I was here for. I told him I wanted a job. From the flow of the conversation I figured I was in for rejection, but the manager called up the owner right then and there. I couldn’t understand what was going on in his mind, but then again I didn’t know how my own mother felt either – it’s no wonder I wouldn’t understand a stranger.

Surprisingly, I was able to start work immediately. There was a delivery truck that resupplied the necessary food and drinks to all of the owner’s businesses. I was given the job of being the driver’s assistant. Apparently, my predecessor had gotten a job with the Shinra Company and had just gleefully quit this job.

I had the most fulfilling of days. This was “the joy of work”. I enjoyed the total change of scenery. Of course, there was never a day I didn’t think about Mom. But still, it got me away from being affected about it 24/7. I put the phone cable back about ten days after unplugging it. Maybe my mother had tried to contact me during that time. It was also possible that the phone had rang while I was out of the house. However, the phone wasn’t the only way to get in touch. The fact there was nothing was a sign that she did abandon me after all. But, whatever. Enjoy your life, Mom. I’m enjoying mine just the way I want to.

The truck driver was a hard boss to work for, but I knew he needed me more than anyone else. I’d never had that experience before in my life. Regardless of the heavy labour, I wasn’t worried about my heart at all. I’d gotten confident about that too.

What do you think about that, Mom?

I started to think those days would last forever, but the situation quickly changed. It was as if a TV flipped itself to another channel in the middle of a show. Meteor had appeared in the sky above Midgar. This comet or falling star or whatever, which had just suddenly appeared in defiance of all astronomical knowledge, looked like a massive black void in the sky. The world was ending in seven days. That was the rumor that got spread around. Giant monsters had appeared in the north and around Junon, and even the Shinra company, with all its prized weaponry, couldn’t defeat them. The city was in chaos with dodgy rumours, like you’d be safe if you hid in the mako reactors, or there was an underground shelter Shinra had built in Kalm. The only thing anyone knew for certain was that Meteor was getting closer, day by day. The initially heated debates over the truth of the Meteor and how to avoid it soon subsided too.

The owner closed his shops and left Midgar, and the neighbourhood was filled by the din of people getting ready to evacuate. My friends, the truck driver and my other workmates asked me to flee with them somewhere far away and though I was thankful for them, I declined their offers.

Seeing Meteor caused me to consider death for the first time in my life. Then, all I could think about was my mother, and the awkward circumstances we had parted on. I felt that if I left the house, I would lost all connection to her. I passed time looking at the few pictures of me and her. They were all taken at the photographer’s on my birthdays. I was standing next to my mother, gradually growing up. After I had gotten taller than her, I started pulling a sulky face in the pictures. My mother was always smiling. I looked at that smiling face and realised how stupid I had been. Mom would never abandon me. All the things I should have done ran through my mind. If I had gone to the Shinra Company, I might have found out where Nick Foley was. I probably should have put the phone cable back right away and installed an answering machine. And then the answers to the questions I didn’t even try to think about came to me – the purpose of all the money left up in the ceiling. Wherever it had come from, the reason she’d left the money was that she’d planned on coming straight back. Or perhaps she meant for me to bring it to her. That seemed likely. Mom never even considered living away from me for a long time. And then there was my birthday present. My mom took birthdays very seriously. She would’ve made some arrangement so I’d get that shoulder bag on the right day – wrote about it in the letter, or put it somewhere easier to find. But she didn’t, because she planned on contacting me soon. I should have just shut up and waited by the phone.

The joy of work? I’m such an idiot.

And then That Day came. I survived the day the mako energy, or rather the Lifestream, burst to the surface and wiped out Meteor. For seven days after that, I waited at home for my mother. On the night of the seventh day, I stepped outside and ended up going down from Midgar to the slums.

Now I’ll tell you about something that began two years after all this. I’ll probably talk a bit about some of the stuff that I experienced over the two years in between as well. I intend to follow the correct route as best as possible so as to prevent our story from getting off topic. But as I already said, I’m not great with making choices. Hopefully you’ll bear with me.

I’ll also sometimes bring up things I shouldn’t really know about. At times likes those I’ll use the facts as the basis, and use a bit of imagination to fill in the rest. For example, something like this...
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
2. How The Trouble Began

Translated by Hitoshura and Mecorx, Proofread by Crashouch

When Elena joined Shinra, Cliff Resort was already a long-forgotten retreat. The rugged landscape, which looked as though giants had haphazardly piled up boulders, was definitely unusual. The numerous lodges built along the naturally varied elevations in the terrain might have added some flavor to the scenery, but once you got used to it, there was nothing else there. You would visit once and take a couple of souvenir photos, and that would be enough. There was little point in returning a second time. The Shinra Company had resorts all over the world, but anyone would agree this one was a non-starter.

&#8220;I mean, really...&#8221;

Just two years ago, the Shinra Company controlled most of the world. It didn&#8217;t sit well with Elena that the President, who had been at the top of that empire, should now have to spend his days in such a desolate place as this. He was undergoing medical treatment. For security reasons, it was safer to be away from the cities, however, as it was only about a two hour drive to and from the cities it made it easy for the staff to commute. There were several reasons for them to remain there, but it didn&#8217;t change the fact it was a dull place. The name had been changed from Cliff Resort to Healen at the President&#8217;s suggestion, but that didn&#8217;t mean anything had actually changed there.

&#8220;Aaarrhh.&#8221;

Nothing ever happened here. In the square there were several benches, where the people suffering from Geostigma were sitting around, talking and laughing, some of them focusing on getting better while putting up with the pain. Things were the same as they were yesterday and would likely be the same tomorrow. Even the weather mostly stayed the same.


**


&#8220;Elena&#8217;s looking bored,&#8221; said Rufus Shinra to his subordinate, Tseng, as he walked away from the window of the lodge. &#8220;I&#8217;d like get moving on the next project,&#8221; Rufus paused as he struggled to return to his wheelchair.

&#8220;Yes, Sir. I will tell Elena shortly. However, I intend to keep this from Reno and Rude for now. This new project is more exciting &#8211; I fear if they knew the details their work in the city would end up getting cast aside.&#8221;

&#8220;Very well. Have you gathered any intel on Jenova?&#8221;

&#8220;Not yet, Sir.&#8221;

Jenova &#8211; a monstrous being that arrived from outer space. Nobody knew what form it was in now &#8211; whether it be a withered remnant of flesh, or in the form of some bizarre creature. But Tseng believed that if it were somewhere nearby &#8211; dead or alive &#8211; then surely they would know about it.

&#8220;By the way, Sir, what are your plans once we locate it?&#8221;

&#8220;My father...&#8221; Rufus Shinra answered, with his eyes seemingly gazing off into the distance. &#8220;He set his sights on the Lifestream flowing within the planet, called it Mako Energy and packaged it for the masses. Mako revolutionized the industrial structure of the day from the ground up, and mankind obtained prosperity the likes of which it had never known.&#8221;

&#8220;Yes.&#8221;

&#8220;With the immense fortune and power he gained, and even if he was lining his own pockets to some degree, my father invested most of it into new fields &#8211; on a massive scale, and without ethics. And one of those was the research of, and experimentation on, Jenova. Eventually this gave birth to a monster named Sephiroth...&#8221;

Sephiroth. That monster &#8211; a hybrid of human and Jenova &#8211; possessed unfathomable prowess in battle. His show of power on the battlefield led to him becoming lauded as a hero. However, his mind was not as strong as his body. When the hero learnt of the circumstances surrounding his birth, he avowed his heritage as the son of Jenova, and as a result went mad. He revolted against the company and, what&#8217;s more, sought the extermination of humanity. During the battle against Sephiroth the Shinra Company was destroyed, and the planet was brought to the brink of returning to stardust.

&#8220;My father took his leave from this stage early on, abandoning those of us left behind to suffer the nightmares in his wake. Far from reasonable, wouldn&#8217;t you say?&#8221;

Tseng looked at Rufus, neither denying nor confirming what he had said.

&#8220;I am not my father,&#8221; Rufus said with a forcefulness in his voice, moving his wheelchair to the window. He could see the people suffering from Geostigma in the square. &#8220;I will bring it to an end, once and for all.&#8221;


**


Elena was standing at the entrance of the woods, which stretched out behind the lodge area. The wind, carrying the scent of moss as it breezed through the trees, swayed her short blonde hair.

&#8220;Will something please just happen!&#8221;

Not the most professional of thoughts, but those were her thoughts nonetheless. After checking to make sure no one had heard her, she ducked her head slightly and started walking. As she made her way along the wide, meandering path, the largest building in the retreat came into view. Although this &#8216;largest&#8217; building was still only a one-storey log cabin that could fit thirty people at the most. It had apparently been used as a recreation hall originally. She skipped for the final few steps, and stood before the door, which was securely locked from the inside. She pressed a button to the right of the door to ring the buzzer. After a full ten seconds she got an idle response from Throp,

&#8220;Miss Elena?&#8221;

He was a young man Elena&#8217;s more experienced colleague, Reno had picked up in the city.

&#8220;Making my rounds! Come on, open up!&#8221; Elena ordered, making no effort to hide her frustration.

After a brief pause, the door opened.

&#8220;All clear here, Ma&#8217;am,&#8221; Throp spoke in an unenthusiastic voice, while fussing with his shaggy, uncut hair, which didn&#8217;t seem to have seen water in a while. His massive body, towering over Elena, was as doughy as can be &#8211; his stomach made a noticeable mound under his shirt &#8211; not in the least bit cut out for guard detail, but they were short on manpower. This man symbolised the current state of the Shinra Company.

Elena weaved her way past the behemoth, stepping inside the cabin and, moving her gaze along a now-routine course, she inspected the room. From the left to the right. From the right to the left.

Yup, all clear.

Until the previous week this building had been used as a lab for developing medicines. They were developing a medication to suppress one of the symptoms of Geostigma &#8211; generalised pain. It was already known that the stimulant that the company used to issue to the members of Soldier offered some pain relief. The research team analysed that stimulant and successfully synthesised a similar ingredient. With the assistance of the patients in the retreat, they were able to perform clinical trials, and at last came up with a medicine that could be mass-produced. The manufacturing method was to be provided free of charge to small and large organizations capable of producing it, such as the World Regenesis Organization. It was Elena who proposed this project, and had travelled around to make it a reality. The staff she had cobbled together were all that was left of Shinra&#8217;s science and chemistry divisions. More than a few of the members of these two departments had traded their consciences for brilliant minds. Elena was wary of leaving them to their own devices. There was no telling what dangerous concoctions they might have turned out if left alone, so she kept a constant eye on them. But her fears turned out to be unfounded. The researchers who gathered at Healen were devoted and good-hearted. They worked practically night and day without rest, and completed the medicine in an extremely short time. Elena regretted not having trusted them, and on the day they left she expressed her respect and gratitude to each and every one of them.

The majority of the equipment, fixtures and medical apparatuses set up in the hall had been packed up, and were piled up against a wall near the entrance. They were going to be donated to those planning to continue their research on Geostigma, and to doctors in Edge and other cities who were treating patients.

On a shelf at the back of the room were airtight metal cases containing the samples of the medicine. There were two cases, one of which was for the retreat&#8217;s patients. There was a limited number of doses, so it was strictly controlled, with records kept when it was given out. The other was to be handed over, along with the research reports and manufacturing guides, as soon as the WRO was ready.

&#8220;Oh, I&#8217;ve already checked all that. It&#8217;s all fine,&#8221; Throp said to Elena as she neared the medicine shelf.

&#8220;I&#8217;ve still got to follow procedure.&#8221;

&#8220;Right, yeah&#8230;&#8221;

She picked up the distribution record without turning around for Throp&#8217;s grumbling, and opened the lid of the metal case. Handing out the medicine and recording it was Tseng, her boss&#8217;s duty. The page was lined with Tseng&#8217;s meticulous handwriting. After checking the column showing the remaining number of doses she compared it against what was in the case. All fine. Next, she checked the small thermometer inside the case. The medicine was sensitive to changes in temperature, which could alter the effects &#8211; nothing as extreme as rendering it useless or poisonous or anything, but it had been confirmed that it dulled the effectiveness. This would likely be remedied sooner or later, but for now it needed careful handling.

&#8220;You&#8217;ve been good again today. All fine,&#8221; said Elena, making sure Throp could hear her. While she spoke she looked at the other case. On the outside it looked the same, but this one was sealed up with a sticker so the two wouldn&#8217;t be mixed up.

&#8220;This one&#8217;s also fi&#8212;&#8221; there were signs that the sticker had been removed at some point. &#8220;Throp, did you touch this case?&#8221;

&#8220;Course not!&#8221; Throp denied it instantly.

Elena took the mobile phone from the holster around her waist, and called her boss, &#8220;Excuse me, Tseng, Sir? Did you take the sticker off the medicine? The batch that&#8217;s getting shipped out.&#8221; As she listened to his reply she glanced out of the corner of her eye at Throp, who was looking out of the window with a reproachful look on his face.

Why&#8217;s he looking out the window?

With an exaggerated motion, Elena turned her back to him, &#8220;Thought so. Understood, Sir!&#8221; She sensed that Throp was inching his way towards the exit.

He&#8217;s underestimated me &#8211; no, the Shinra Company as well.

&#8220;I&#8217;ll shoot,&#8221; she warned in a low voice. Throp stopped, and ducked his head down.

&#8220;Sit down there,&#8221; she motioned with her chin towards a folding chair used for breaks, and Throp sluggishly complied. Using packing rope left on the shelves, she fastened the giant&#8217;s hands and feet to the chair. &#8220;You just wait here.&#8221;

When she got outside, she started running in a different direction from the small path leading to the lodge area, heading to the boundary of the wastelands and the forest &#8211; the direction Throp had been looking at through the window. The roots of the trees were jutting out from the ground like tripwires. Dodging the roots, Elena ran through the forest like a hunting hound. When she thought about how Throp&#8217;s accomplice, or maybe even the ringleader, might be up ahead, it excited her. This was how the Turks were meant to be. The medicine development project was one dear to her heart, but it was a special assignment. It was fair enough to work for the sake of the world or for your fellow man, but first and foremost the Turks&#8217; duty was to the Shinra Company. They did whatever it took to protect the company.

As she neared the edge of the forest, she found her prey. A chubby man who was unsteady on his feet was trying to leave the forest.

&#8220;Freeze!&#8221;

The fugitive surprisingly stopped as ordered, and turned around. It was a young man dripping with sweat. His seemingly natural curly black hair stuck to his forehead, and drops of sweat were falling from the tips of his hair. His square, black-rimmed glasses looked like they were about to slide off his round face. He was wearing a green sweatshirt and dark-green trousers, which he must have thought would work well against the woodland backdrop, however, amongst the rows of pale-brown tree trunks, he couldn&#8217;t stand out more. Seeing that pathetic sight took the wind out of Elena&#8217;s sails.

&#8220;Please, just let me go!&#8221; shouted the man, bright red in the face. Then he started running again.

&#8220;You&#8217;ve gotta be kidding me,&#8221; Elena regained her composure and gave chase. I can&#8217;t let him leave the forest. He must have a vehicle waiting. Wherever he came from, there&#8217;s no way a guy like that walked it through the wastelands.

Just as she was about to catch up to him, her phone rang. When she answered it, Tseng&#8217;s voice was on the other end. She stopped running, and looked at the back of the man in green as he ran away. He ran frantically, all the while looking as if he was about to fall over.

&#8220;...Yes, Sir. I&#8217;ll return right away.&#8221; Elena sighed as she hung up the phone.


**


&#8220;Now then,&#8221; Tseng crouched down on the spot, speaking toward his feet.

Throp was lying on the floor along with the chair, his eyes darting around the room. Blood from his nose stained the floor.

&#8220;Where does this Fabio Brown live?&#8221;
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
3. Trouble Comes Knocking

Translated by Hitoshura and Mecorx, Proofread by Crashouch

I looked at my reflection in the mirror and gave my nose a pinch. If my broadly spread nose had been a little bit more pointed, maybe it would have altered my past. Actually, I wonder about that. I don&#8217;t think there has been one single time when the shape of my nose was the problem. The problem was the colour of my hair. At one point I dyed it black, but I stopped doing it when a rash broke out on my head because of the cheap dye. For now, I&#8217;m putting up with the colour I was born with, a brownish blond. It&#8217;s not a colour I&#8217;m very fond of. It just makes me think of a spoilt brat who&#8217;s had an easy ride in life. That&#8217;s how it feels to me. It&#8217;s a pain to have to explain all the time that I wasn&#8217;t brought up like that. So I think I should have had it dyed it a tough guy colour to begin with. Black was the colour I envisioned on that type of a guy. Black as the night. I think I will dye it again after all. Better remember to get a quality dye this time, though.

I was now 19. It had been two years since I left Midgar. I felt I had a meaner look in my eyes compared to when I lived there. Good, that&#8217;s perfect. Get rid of anything that makes me seem like a kid. I psyched myself up and washed my face in the water I had drawn. Then, as I dried my face with the towel draped over my shoulders, I looked around the bleak, tiny room. The bare steel plates on the walls were a stark sight. More than a year after this house was built and the interior decorating had still been neglected. There weren&#8217;t any practical issues with it, but no matter how much time passed, it still seemed like temporary accommodation. If I was planning to stay here permanently, then today was the day I ought to get started. If I let a milestone such as a birthday pass me by, I could very well end up putting it off for at least another year. I had the wallpaper and paint I needed prepared by yesterday.

Well, let&#8217;s get to it.

Firm as my resolve was, once the steel plates and plywood were hidden by the wallpaper, I didn&#8217;t care any more about what happened with the rest of it. But I couldn&#8217;t call it quits there. The can for the paint I got for the ceiling was warped and wasn&#8217;t properly sealed. I had to use it quick or it wouldn&#8217;t be any good. If I wasted this, getting another would be tricky. The paint was this phosphorescent type that had started showing up on the market lately, which I&#8217;d gotten from a tight-fisted trader. At first he was asking for 1500 gil, but after I haggled with him, given the poor state the can was in, the seedy bastard sold it to me for 100 gil in the end. It was probably stolen. But, I didn&#8217;t care so long as the paint itself was the real deal.

These days, that&#8217;s how it is when you&#8217;re doing business with others &#8211; don&#8217;t think about where the merchandise might have come from. At night, phosphorescent paint emits the light it absorbed during the daytime. Considering the energy situation nowadays &#8211; there might as well not be any &#8211; you&#8217;d be a fool to get lazy and waste the paint now. I might be lazy, but I ain&#8217;t no fool.

I took my shirt off, and just as I was about to start, there was a thud at the door. I froze and looked at the door. There was another thud from the bottom of the door. The whole of this flimsy house shook.

&#8220;Fabio Brown. We know you&#8217;re in.&#8221;

My body shrunk at the sound of that low voice, calm but with a menacing ring to it. I stuffed the rag I was using as a paint brush into the paint can, held my breath, and put on the shirt I had just taken off. My hands were trembling. I let out a burp.

&#8220;We&#8217;re gonna bust down the door, yo!&#8221; It was a different guy than before. He sounded like he was laughing.

I stayed silent and looked at my boots. I had them specially made last year, using a monster hide I found in the market. Maybe the day&#8217;s finally come when I will put these pointed, steel-toed boots to use. However, I had treated them with care, so there was barely a mark on them. I&#8217;d rather avoid getting them any more scuffed if I could help it. So that leaves me with fleeing. But through where? I didn&#8217;t even need to think about it. If I couldn&#8217;t use the door, the window was the only option. The window was next to the sink. It was made to fit the size of the glass pane, so it was pretty small, but not so small that I couldn&#8217;t get through it. I quietly moved to the window. Then, I thought to take a dinner knife out of the drawer by the kitchen sink. It had a sharpened blade, about 5 centimetres long, that could also be used for preparing food. If it came down to it, I&#8217;d stab them.

&#8220;We&#8217;ll give ya 30 seconds.&#8221;

It seemed they were going to start counting down. The window was fixed in place, so I would have to break it to get outside.

You realise how valuable glass is? No, there&#8217;s no other way. But what can I use?

As I wondered if I had something hard to break the glass with, the door came crashing down with a creaking sound.

That&#8217;s not what they said. It hasn&#8217;t even been 10 seconds yet.

Stepping on the door, which had fallen inwards, a man with a lean figure and blazing red hair entered the room and grinned. He was wearing a suit with a distinctive design. He was one half of a pair of men I&#8217;d seen around a lot in the central square. Which meant the low voice I heard first was probably the big guy with the sunglasses and bald head. They were always together. Like a knife and fork.

&#8220;Drop the fork, kid. You&#8217;re gonna hurt yourself.&#8221;

The redhead came closer without showing any sign of caution. Don&#8217;t mess with me. I stuck the fork &#8211; fork? &#8211; out and thrust it at the redhead.

&#8220;Oww.&#8221; I let out a pathetic whine. My wrist had been hit by the edge of the redhead&#8217;s hand, and I had dropped the fork on the floor. While I was thinking of how things might have turned out if I had calmly picked up a knife, the redhead&#8217;s knee sunk into my stomach. Out of reflex I slumped forward, holding my stomach.

I was grabbed by the collar of my shirt from behind and pulled back into place. Then he got me in a nelson hold. With my arms raised up, I was forcibly turned to face towards the door. My feet were nearly off the ground. I was just barely standing on the tips of my toes. The redhead was picking up the door off the floor and resting it in the doorway. Which meant that the brute behind me must have been the skinhead.

&#8220;Come on now, Fabio,&#8221; The redhead moved his face closer as he prodded my chest with his finger. &#8220;Whoaa!?&#8221;

With that he went quiet, and looked at me with his mouth still agape. Before I even had a chance to wonder what the hell was up with him, the brute behind me started pushing on my neck. I couldn&#8217;t breathe. I can&#8217;t take it. It hurts.

&#8220;Give back what you stole.&#8221;

What&#8217;s he talking about? Why would I know?

But it was hard to prove that you didn&#8217;t know something.

Find the best solution. Make your choice. What&#8217;s the answer that&#8217;ll get you out of this mess?

&#8220;Come on, say something.&#8221;

The skinhead eased his grip for a second, before moving the hands he had locked behind my neck up to the back of my head and pushed harder.

&#8220;It hurts&#8212;&#8220;

&#8220;Give it back and it&#8217;ll stop.&#8221;

Muscles moved behind me, and my feet left the ground. I could feel blood gathering at my eyes. Then finally it started flowing out.

&#8220;Don&#8217;t cry now, man. That&#8217;s lame.&#8221;

Crying? I was crying?

&#8220;Hmph, stupid kid.&#8221;

All of a sudden the grip behind me loosened. I collapsed to the ground and, without meaning to, found myself looking like I was begging for the redhead to spare my life. It was humiliating but there wasn&#8217;t much else I could do. I was going to have to ride this storm out by grovelling on the floor. Just like two years ago, when the mako swept over the planet.

&#8220;Well, they are just things. I can guess why you&#8217;d do it. If you promise not to do it ever again, we&#8217;ll let you off with a little punishment.&#8221;

My body reacted of its own accord to the word &#8220;punishment&#8221;. With a burp and trembling. I&#8217;ll admit it. I might idolise tough guys more than most would, but the reality for me is quite the opposite.

&#8220;Sorry &#8217;bout scaring you.&#8221; The way the redhead said it sounded like he was taking pity on me.

&#8220;That&#8217;s exactly what we came here to do,&#8221; the skinhead retorted.

C&#8217;mon, have a falling out and kill each other. Or if that&#8217;s asking too much, then just keep on talking. Give me time. Time to figure something out.

&#8220;Hey, Fabio. Eyes up here.&#8221;

I had to do what they said. I looked at their faces. These two men I normally saw from a distance were right in front of me. The redhead looked like a delinquent kid who&#8217;d grown up without actually growing up. The kind of guys I felt both admiration and hatred for, like the ones who had been in that warehouse in Sector 8. The perfect example of one of them was looking down at me as he smiled at the corners of his mouth. The skinhead was even larger than the redhead. Not just in height, but the sheer mass of him was something else. Even in this dim room he didn&#8217;t take off his dark sunglasses. I was sure they lived in a completely different world to me.

&#8220;We were throwing around some pretty stern looks before we got here, can&#8217;t exactly leave now without doing anything. Gotta do the job properly and show people what&#8217;ll happen if you mess with us.&#8221;

&#8220;Ar-are you going to kill me?&#8221; Those were the words my continued search for an answer dug up. And with my voice cracking at that.

&#8220;That would be the easiest thing to do. But see, what we&#8217;re after is a Shinra that&#8217;s beloved, and a little feared at the same time. We don&#8217;t want to be hated. Killing you, that&#8217;s gonna get some hate coming our way.&#8221;

&#8220;Do you know who we are?&#8221; the skinhead asked.

I gave three quick nods. The Shinra Company&#8217;s Turks. The &#8220;if you don&#8217;t behave, the Turks are going to come for you&#8221; Turks. The next generation and heir to the reins of Shinra, commonly known as the Idiot President. This was a moniker resulting from the same kind of lazy naming that lead to calling a black cat Blackie, but that was the name everyone used. The world went to hell not long after he took the position of president. Considering all that, I guess that was only appropriate. Anyway, he had been blown away along with the building, and I didn&#8217;t know what happened to the Shinra Company after that. But these two men were still calling themselves the Turks from the Shinra Company. They were using the effect that name had on regular people. The Turks were Shinra&#8217;s dark side. Whenever there was a problem that required violence to solve, they&#8217;d be there.

&#8220;Now, whooo are we?&#8221;

&#8220;The Turks... sir.&#8221;

&#8220;Cut the &#8216;sir&#8217; bit, kid.&#8221;

&#8220;...Sorry.&#8221;

&#8220;Get up.&#8221;

I staggered to my feet, as ordered. My legs were still shaking. Just as I thought the redhead had moved suddenly, and I felt an impact on my face and flew into the corner of the room. My back hit the three-legged stool, one of the few pieces of furniture I had, and I fell on the floor along with it. My right eye hurt. He&#8217;d punched me in the eye. When I touched it, it was wet. Blood? I quickly looked at my hand and saw that it was the phosphorescent paint.

&#8220;Think this is enough?&#8221;

&#8220;He is getting off a bit lightly &#8211; but it&#8217;ll do.&#8221;

I rolled over on the floor and listened to their conversation with my back facing them. Soon I sensed that they were going outside. All the strength left my entire body. Strange sounds came up from the pit of my stomach, rising like bile. Was I laughing or crying? I couldn&#8217;t even tell. I pulled my knees to my chest and curled into a foetal position, and waited like that until my body and mind had settled down. Three minutes. Maybe five. And then&#8212;

&#8220;What the hell do you want!?&#8221; I shouted the words I wish I had said in the first place as I picked myself up.

&#8220;Can I ask something?&#8221;

The voice startled me. When I looked at the spot where my door had once been, I saw the redhead standing there looking at me.

&#8220;Where&#8217;s your dad, kid?&#8221;

Surprised that the redhead was still there, I couldn&#8217;t figure out why he was asking that. On top of that, I couldn&#8217;t comprehend how he was acting like nothing had happened, either.

&#8220;I&#8217;m asking you what&#8217;s going on with your dad.&#8221;

&#8220;He died. Before I was born.&#8221; I just wanted him to leave as soon as possible. Might as well just answer honestly.

&#8220;You have a photo or somethin&#8217;?&#8221;

&#8220;No.&#8221;

&#8220;What was he like? Your mom must have told you about him, right?.&#8221;

&#8220;No.&#8221;

&#8220;So you&#8217;ve obviously never met him and you don&#8217;t know what he looks like either.&#8221;

I nodded. I intended to answer honestly for as long as necessary.

&#8220;Then, what about your mom?&#8221;

&#8220;She died,&#8221; I said after a brief hesitation.

&#8220;During Meteor?&#8221;

&#8220;Yeah.&#8221;

The redhead slowly nodded at my answer. &#8220;Well, you take care of yourself. Don&#8217;t be doin&#8217; anything stupid again, Fabio.&#8221;

With that fundamental misunderstanding left unresolved, the redhead left. I rolled onto my bed and went over what had just happened.

I should have done that. If only I had said this. All these choices I hadn&#8217;t even thought of went through my mind. It was depressing. The throbbing around my right eye was informing me of the desperate state I had been in. My stomach and my neck hurt. I got off the bed and looked in the mirror. A man who had just been punched was looking back at me.

Hey, that was a bad time for you. But it&#8217;s over now. Getting hit by the Turks, now that&#8217;s something to boast about. Well, get yourself out there.

I nodded and washed the paint off my face. Then I put the broken door back into place. It was just the nails that held the hinges in place that fell out and caused the whole door to come off. Cheaply made things have their advantages. I finished the repairs without much effort. I didn&#8217;t like leaving the paint spilled on the floor or the assorted necessities strewn around, but I was going to leave those for later. I took my jacket off the hook on the wall. A light brown leather jacket. The metal studs on the collar gave off a dull glint. What I liked best was the illustration of a monster on the back of it. A Bomb just about to detonate. It was a one-of-a-kind and cost a fair bit, but I couldn&#8217;t resist. I put it on and went to the bed, pulled out the rugged shoulder bag that was hidden under it and put it over my shoulder. Recently, the leather had softened and made it easier to use. Finally, I put on my mountaineer hat. I&#8217;d gotten it from a girl recently. Ready for battle.

My house faced out into a circular courtyard garden about 15 metres in diameter. There were six similar houses around the circumference of the courtyard. In the garden were materials someone thought might come in handy &#8211; in other words, junk was piled up. The most notable item was a car from about 10 years ago. It was a roomy, old, luxury car that seated five people. The exterior was in tatters now, and of course it didn&#8217;t run. The owner said it would run if it just had a battery, but you weren&#8217;t going to get your hands on something as valuable as that around here. The owner was a muscular man named Doyle, who was also the one who started building the houses here. We all call him the &#8220;Mayor&#8221; out of respect. He was probably in his early thirties. Normally he was a cheerful man who moved his thick eyebrows about wildly as he spoke. But behind all that, he was a really lonely guy. Just about two years ago he called some friends over to the house he&#8217;d built himself and they started living together. Well, he built the house so that he could call people over. Soon his friends called their friends, and the numbers grew, and it got suffocating in the house. They all got together and agreed to build their own houses. They shared the labour out between themselves, and built their houses next to the Mayor&#8217;s, so it enclosed the storage area for the cars and building materials. In the end, this circular courtyard was formed. When I first visited my friend who lived here, there were five houses. I was introduced to the Mayor, who then asked me if I wanted to build a house and live there, since there was some land leftover and it just didn&#8217;t look right like that, so I took him up on the offer. I became a resident of this &#8220;Doyle Village&#8221; to fill in a gap.

The red door of the Mayor&#8217;s house slowly opened, and a man cautiously poked his face out. Ratface. He had a short, shabby frame. His rigid-looking hair was grown out on all sides, and just made his head look a lot bigger than the rest of him. He was maybe the same age as me. I&#8217;d started seeing him around about a week ago. He was always wearing a dark grey work outfit.

&#8220;Hey, you&#8217;re alright! That&#8217;s a relief.&#8221; He looked like he knew what had gone down.

I put my hand on the swollen, painful right half of my face, and sent him the message that it was a bit too early to give it the all-clear just yet.

&#8220;Wow, they really did a number on you, didn&#8217;t they? The Turks turned up at the door, so I ended up giving them your address without thinking. You seem like you&#8217;re used to it, so I figured you&#8217;d be fine &#8211; sorry &#8217;bout that.&#8221;

&#8220;Well, I&#8217;d say you were right in thinking that.&#8221;

For the most part, that was how I really felt inside. I liked the reason he gave for telling them my address. The fruits of my daily image-building.

&#8220;If you&#8217;re gonna go get them back, I can make you a bomb.&#8221;

&#8220;A bomb?&#8221;

&#8220;You know, the bombs they use for blowing up all the crumbling buildings and stuff. I make &#8217;em.&#8221;

I told him I&#8217;d think about it, but I had no desire to involve myself with the Turks any further. The man gave me a solemn nod and closed the door. I locked my own white door, and knocked on the green door of the neighbouring house.

Then I called out to my friend, &#8220;Fabio? It&#8217;s Evan, open up.&#8221;

My name is Evan Townshend. It&#8217;s the name I&#8217;ve had since the day I was born.

After a short wait, the door opened slightly. As I lowered my gaze, I saw a face looking up at me from waist-height.

&#8220;Hi, Evan.&#8221;

&#8220;Hey.&#8221;

Vits Brown. Fabio&#8217;s little brother. He looked like a mini carbon copy of his older brother. The brothers lived here on their own, surrounded by green stuff. Their parents had passed away two years ago. Apparently they were crushed along with their house when Sector 7 fell. The brothers were saved thanks to being in the Sector 3 slums. Apparently, there was a house there that had a garden with all these flowers everywhere, and they had both been admiring them. Of course, it wasn&#8217;t the flowers they were looking at, but the green leaves.

&#8220;Where&#8217;s Fabio?&#8221;

&#8220;He&#8217;s gone out. It&#8217;s work time now, isn&#8217;t it?&#8221;

&#8220;Oh, yeah, it is.&#8221;

&#8220;What&#8217;s wrong with your eye?&#8221;

&#8220;Oh, this? I tripped. I was on a chair painting the ceiling and lost my balance.&#8221;

&#8220;Ooh, there was a real big noise. It woke me up.&#8221;

&#8220;Sorry &#8216;bout that.&#8221;

&#8220;That&#8217;s fine. What&#8217;s the point in sleeping when it doesn&#8217;t hurt with this medicine? I wanted to go somewhere, but Fabio told me I had to stay in while he&#8217;s gone. I fell asleep reading a book.&#8221;

&#8220;Medicine?&#8221;

Obviously it was medicine for Geostigma. Vits&#8217; symptoms consisted a lesion called &#8220;Geostigma&#8221; that covered his skin from his hairline to above his eyebrows. One had been developing on his back too, apparently. Also, there was this black fluid that seeped from the lesions. The amount varied from day to day, but they say it&#8217;s quite painful.

&#8220;They&#8217;ve made a medicine for Geostigma? I hadn&#8217;t heard anything.&#8221;

&#8220;...&#8221; Vits averted his gaze like he&#8217;d done something wrong.

&#8220;Fabio told you not to talk about it? Even to me?&#8221;

&#8220;Well, I guess you&#8217;re okay. It&#8217;s actually this latest medicine they just made. It doesn&#8217;t cure it, but it makes it stop hurting. They call them a-nal-ge-sics, right? Fabio got it especially for me, from a doctor.&#8221;

His face was full of pride. I get it now. If there was a good reason for me to have to suffer the violence and humiliation, then I was fine with that.

Edge. That was the name people recently started using for this city. Up until two years ago this area was just a wasteland. A barren land that stretched out from the east side of Midgar, a city of steel and iron. Now, it had become a fine city. Construction on several larger buildings had started as well. I didn&#8217;t know why they needed so many tall buildings when there was all that empty land around, but that had nothing to do with me. They could do whatever they pleased. Edge was a city of freedom.

I walked down the main street to the central square. This main street, which extends out east from Midgar, was initially used for transporting building materials. Once the sides of the main street were filled with houses they built with the materials that were brought here, the city proceeded to expand outwards in a radial pattern. The landscape was changing with each passing day. If you stood in the same spot every day, you would see the flourishing growth of the city. I&#8217;m normally the type of person who is quick to criticize, but I couldn&#8217;t help but be speechless at that sight. You could feel the positive energy of the people. Whenever you&#8217;re feeling tired, just look at the city.
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
4. At Seventh Heaven

Translated by Hitoshura and Mecorx, Proofread by Crashouch

The quickest route from Doyle Village to Seventh Heaven, our meeting place, was to cross the central plaza. Nearly two years ago, an officer from the Shinra Army, who was said to have returned from the fortified city, Junon, declared that this spot would be the centre of the city. Since then, work got under way to turn it into a plaza. The officer’s men and volunteers took part. Shortly after, the officer disappeared, and later on there were rumours going around that he’d been killed. Guess it was some infighting between the remnants of Shinra. The project itself was taken over by sympathizers, and the plaza was basically finished. But even now, you still see about fifty volunteers working there every day. Some days there are more than a hundred. They were working to build a memorial in the plaza. Something in honour of the victims of the Meteor disaster. To bring peace to their souls, apparently. There was nothing wrong with what they were doing. But there was just something about those guys that didn’t sit well with me. I hated the atmosphere they created. It seemed like they were trying too hard to show everyone what positive and upstanding lives they were leading, for the world, for the people, for the future.

“Hey, kiddo.”

The red-haired Turk was leaning against the framework of the memorial in the centre of the plaza, looking at me. He beckoning me with his hand. Smooth move, Evan. Of course they would be here. It was the Turks who were managing the construction. What did the Shinra Company think they were doing in this day and age? All those volunteers were a pack of little animals who couldn’t live without Shinra looking over them. That was another one of the reasons I didn’t like them.

“You fancy joinin' in, Fabio?”

Things would probably get awkward if I refused them, but I didn’t want to be part of their little crew. As I walked past, trying to find the best answer, someone seemed to have called the redhead, and he went back to his work. I kept on walking, praying that the steel bars of the frame would collapse and Redhead would die.

I circled around another third of the parameter of the plaza, and entered one of the roads that radiated out from it. This street, one of the the first built in this town’s still short history, was my favourite. It had the nicest paving job of any of the other streets, and a lot of the houses that lined each side were so fancy, so refined that you’d have no idea they were made with scrap materials. You could walk the entire street in a matter of minutes, but for those few minutes it felt like you were back in the old Midgar. It felt like Sector 7. Hatred for Shinra aside, Midgar was our home.

Seventh Heaven, a diner we often used for work meetings, was located on this pleasant little street. It’s beautiful proprietress was a woman in her mid-twenties named Tifa, who was... blessed in certain areas. Helping her out around the shop was a little girl named Marlene, who despite her occasional cheekiness had a face that guaranteed she would grow up to be another beauty.

“Hi, come on in!”

Tifa greeted me with a soft smile. Most guys would probably have their eyes drawn a little further down, but for me it was her gentle smiling face that gave me comfort. She shifted her gaze, pointing me toward the table where my friends sat. I gave a silent bow in return. It was a little ritual we repeated each time. No more was sought, nor expected. This was the art of being a regular customer.

My friends were sat around the table. The one in black-rimmed glasses, with his round face pointed in my direction was Fabio Brown. Vits’ older brother. You’d usually find him wearing green. Today he was in a light green shirt. He’d probably love to wear a pair of green glasses frames if he could get his hands on some. Fabio hadn’t noticed me, and was glaring at the coffee cup in front of him. Perhaps he was worried about his brother. Or maybe he was regretting stealing the medicine from Shinra. The guy with the short grey hair sitting on Fabio’s right was Lesley Kyle. His dark, rough skin went well with his hair colour. His deep-set eyes and tightly closed mouth gave the impression of a man of few words, but the reality was a different matter. He was a font of knowledge and surprisingly outgoing, so as a result, he was the guy you went to if you needed information. He chin was propped on his hands, and his eyes were closed. For some reason he always looked sleepy lately. And then there was Kyrie Canaan, who had her back turned towards me. Her usual riders jacket in view. She had cut off the sleeves and made it into a sleeveless top. The ends of her shoulder-length hair were curled inwards today. She had both her elbows on the table, and her hands in front of her face. She was probably looking at her nails. Wiggling her slender shoulders was, ten to one, evidence that she was singing something in her head. That song was no doubt the one from the Costa del Sol commercials.

“Hey.”

I approached the three of them, who would never have noticed I was even there, and called out to them. Lesley looked at me and furrowed his brows. He probably noticed the change to my face. Fabio mumbled a reply with his eyes fixed on his coffee. Fabio, dude. Look at me. Pay attention to the tragedy that is my face.

“See, that hat does look good on you!”

Kyrie was in high spirits.

“Yeah, it’s not bad.”

I sat down in the empty seat, shifting the shoulder bag resting on my back to my front in the process.

“What happened here, Evan?” Kyrie said, bluntly pointing to my face. Her big eyes grew even wider.

“Well, actually…” I started to open my mouth, then noticed that Fabio still hadn’t lifted his head. Oh, come on, Fabio. “More importantly, Fabio, how about you give us a heads up when you go somewhere, huh?”

“Oh, sorry.” Fabio slowly lifted his face and finally looked at mine. “What happened to you?”

“Two Turks came by,” I said as if issuing a challenge.

“Does that mean—“ Fabio said anxiously.

“Vits is fine.”

Fabio was visibly relieved to hear that his brother was safe.

“Don’t just have your own private conversation here. You mean the Turks-Turks? What do you mean by, ‘Vits is fine’?”

Here we go. There’s only one reality, and as many truths as there are people. I think it’s time to tell them my truth. I started from the point where the Turks showed up at my house. I took care to make sure what I said and did didn’t sound pathetic. Plus I played up the brutality of the redhead and the skinhead, and to finish off, ordered a black tea from Marlene as she passed by.

“I’m sorry, Evan. It was all my fault, I’m real sorry.”

“It’s fine. At least nothing bad happened to Vits. They don’t go easy, even if they’re dealing with kids, you know.”

“Fabio, what did you do?” Lesley asked. I wanted to be the focus of the conversation a bit longer, but what can you do?

“I heard that some of the remaining Shinra people made a painkiller for Geostigma. That they had it stored in a retreat called Healen. I took some of it.”

“Dumb.” Kyrie pouted her lips. “Real dumb. And I’m disappointed in you.”

“A bunch of things just seemed to fall into place. I heard that a friend of Keough’s, that guy who’s been freeloading at the mayor’s, was working security where they’re storing the medicine—“

Keough must be the rat-faced explosives guy who told Redhead and his bald friend where I lived.

“Keough’s friend owed him a favour, and he owed me one. We promised to make everything square if he did this. So I went there when Keough’s friend—some guy named Throp—was on guard duty and got some medicine. That’s all, basically.”

That made me angry. That’s all? Tell that to my right eye.

“Did the medicine work? How’s Vits?”

“He’s seems to be doing pretty good. But I don’t know what’ll happen when it wears off. Maybe for the short time it makes him feels better, it makes it all that much more painful the next time.”

“So it only temporary, huh.”

“It’s better than having nothing at all.”

It didn’t sit well with me that the conversation was just going to end if it carried on like this. Time to drag up a few things.

“But everything isn’t square, is it? The Turks fricken showed up. And they were looking for you specifically. How’d they find out your name and where you live? Is it really all over?”

“I see. Throp must’ve talked. Maybe they tortured him—“ Fabio put his head in his hands and grabbed at his hair.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Kyrie said softly. “Sure, this Throp guy might have had to pay a price for this. But look, Evan is here, right? Punched up, but he’s still breathing. So that means they’ve had their fill of punishment with a couple of punches, right?” Kyrie offered Fabio a lifeboat to rescue him from his guilt.

“But the Turks are a cold-hearted band of killers,” I said, trying to sink Kyrie’s boat.

“Listen to me, Fabio,” Kyrie continued, paying no attention to me. “Don’t be thinking about going to save Throp or anything. Shinra aren’t people you wanna mess with. Besides, Healen’s a long way away, right?”

“I managed to hire a small truck through one of Keough’s contacts. They took all my savings, though.”

“There’s monsters along the way too.”

“I didn’t see any. I guess bein’ a nice guy pays off.”

Fabio, no. Now’s not the time for your little catchphrase. Kyrie seemed to be thinking the same thing, furrowing her brow.

“I think this matter’s over and done with, too,” Lesley chimed in, after having listened in silence. “From what I’ve heard, they’re getting a system together to mass produce that medicine. If they’re going to be distributing it all over, there’s no point in them fixating on the amount Fabio stole. They’ve dealt out their punishment, even if it was to the wrong guy.”

“They’re just planning on trying to make a profit from this, right?” Fabio raised his voice. “First it was energy, now it’s medicine. Shinra are nothing but scum.”

A Shinra hater through and through. There were apparently rumours that the collapse of Sector 7 was done by the Shinra Company themselves, which Fabio firmly believed.

“But Fabio, here’s the kicker.” Lesley stuck out his black gloved left hand and calmed Fabio down. “The WRO are making the medicine, and to top it off, they’re gonna be handing it out for free.”

“No way!”

“You don’t get something for nothing.” I couldn’t keep quiet. “And the leader of the WRO used to be some Shinra big shot, you know? In the end they’re both connected. They might be hiding it well, but they’ve got one goal. Welcome back to the world brought to you by Shinra!”

Maybe my voice got too loud. I could feel the customers around me staring.

“I don’t think the WRO are bad, though? Their goal is public security, right?” Kyrie shot me down. I couldn’t back off now.

“And soon that’s going to turn into maintaining order. Those guns they have pointed towards monsters now are gonna start pointing at the cities.”

I didn’t have a shred of evidence. Even I thought I had gone too far.

“What’s with you, Evan? Giving me a hard time.”

“Well, my eye hurts!”

“I don’t care if it’s Shinra or the WRO. It doesn’t matter if what turns up is one of those groups worried about tomorrow’s world that spring up everywhere and then just disappear. It’s a good thing to have lots of options. We’re in a time where we can build a life with our own hands. Let anyone who wants to do it have their way. If I think what they’re doing is good, then I’ll support it, and if I don’t like it, I’ll turn my back on it.”

Lesley put his personal mantra on full show.

“My eye hurts...”

I knew I was pushing the matter. I thought Lesley had a point, but I couldn’t stop myself any more. Someone please help me out.

“And speaking of Shinra,” Lesley looked at me for a second and then carried on. “Kyrie said before that they’ve had their fill. That’s true, but I think they’ve got a more serious problem on their hands. The reason they didn’t kill Evan was because if they start getting a bad reputation it’s going to mess things up for them. That’s the main reason. Why? Because the guys using the Shinra name don’t have the power to refute and quell that bad reputation.”

“That sounds good and all if that’s the case— but that’s just you guessing, right?” Fabio said, sounding worried.

“Think about it. They’re using a guy who’d help out a thief just to repay a debt to a friend to guard their precious medicine supply. What are they playing at? They’d let a chocobo watch their greens these days.”

“Well, when you put it like that...”

Fabio was satisfied with the answer, and Kyrie looked at Lesley like he was the most dependable man in the room.

“You sometimes see others using Shinra’s name besides the Turks at the plaza. But they don’t have a great influence. Have you ever thought about the reason why?”

Kyrie and Fabio shook their heads. I nodded. I’ve done it now. But Lesley began talking—

“When you say Shinra you end up thinking of that big massive company, so you get caught up in that idea. But remember, Shinra is someone’s name. The first and second generation. These two were at the heart of the world. Now they’re treated like total monsters, but that father and son essentially pulled the strings in the world. Setting aside the lower level employees, the higher up you go, the more they feared and adored the president. People call Rufus the ‘idiot president’, but I think he had to have been really smart. Wish I could have met him once.”

“He was pretty handsome. Come to think of it, doesn’t Even look a bit like him?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just joking. So, what’s the reason Shinra can’t grow any bigger?”

Oh, so I’m supposed to answer, now?

“Their stupid president—“ I had no option but to take what Lesley had said and take a shot in the dark. “Rufus Shinra is dead and they don’t have anyone with his charisma to take centre stage, so there’s no appeal to their organization. They can’t draw people to them.”

I was relieved when I saw Lesley nod.

“Wait, who made the Geostigma medicine, then?” Kyrie asked Fabio.

“Apparently that was some former Shinra scientists, and the Turks who had arranged a lot of it. They haven’t even seen the president.,” said Fabio. I guess he heard that from the now captive Throp.

“Hmmm. So basically, there’s nothing to fear from Shinra. That about right?”

“It wouldn’t hurt to be cautious, but it’s probably fine,” Lesley looked at me after he said that. “Even so, I’m pretty impressed, Evan. You took all that without even saying they had the wrong guy. Knew you had it in you.”

How about saying that stuff first next time.

“I’m really sorry I got you wrapped up in all this. I promise I’ll pay you back somehow. I swear my life on it.”

Fabio lowered his head.

“Don’t go swearing stuff like that away.”

I pressed on the lens of Fabio’s glasses with my finger and smudged them.

“Cut it out! You know how much I hate that!” Fabio protested as he laughed. Now we’re square.

“Well then, I call today’s meeting to a close!” declared Kyrie. The men stopped laughing and focused on her.

“What about work? The strategy meeting.” Lesley asked the natural question. “That’s what we all gathered for, right?”

“Eh, about that.” Kyrie dropped her gaze. “The client is coming by today, after this. I mixed up the dates, thought it was yesterday.”

“So, then there’s nothin’ for today?”

“I guess so.” Even though it wasn’t even cold, Kyrie rubbed her bare shoulders. “Well, let’s get going. Evan, you come with me and hear what the client has to say. It’s a man, so you know...”

“Oh, eh, sure.”

“If only we had a phone. Could get in touch in no time at all.”

Kyrie sighed. Phones were a difficult matter. Used to be that we all took them for granted and everyone had one, but with no one making them now they were in very short supply. The people who still had them from before the whole Meteor disaster would never get rid of theirs. When they do happen to show up on the market, they’re usually accompanied with a ridiculous price tag. But even so, they disappear very quickly from the shelves. Then at other times, shops will be flooded with ones found in a warehouse somewhere that are practically being given away. If you’re in the right place, you’re in luck. If you could tell just how lucky or unlucky someone was by whether or not they had a phone, then we’d be a pack of unlucky ones.

“Let’s get going, then.”

Kyrie got out of her seat, and headed to the counter. Lesley laughed about today being the boss’s treat, and Fabio gave a little clap.

After parting with Fabio, who was heading back to Doyle Village, Kyrie, Lesley, and I made our way toward the slums. The office we used for business was located there. We could have our meetings there as well, but we all like to meet up and talk in Seventh Heaven. Of course we liked the shop itself, but there might also have been a slight sense of superiority from going out of our way and paying money to eat and drink or talk about work. I don’t know about the others, but there was one for me at least. My little secret.

“You think we’ll make money on this next job?” Lesley made an effort to sound nonchalant.

“The Mrs. Rich from before introduced him, so maybe we can get our hopes up.”

All female clients who look like they have money are a Mrs. Rich.

“I hope so. I want to save up a bit of money. I started living with my woman.”

“Wow!” Kyrie made an exaggerated spin and showed her surprise. “Since when?”

“About two months ago. Truth is, she’s pregnant. Gonna give birth in seven months.”

“You don’t say—“

I was lost for words at this unexpected confession.

“That’s great, Lesley. Really great.”

As Kyrie broke the silence after walking for a while, her voice was cracking. Lesley teased her, asking what she was crying for. There’s just been so much that’s happened, and remembering all that—

“What’s she like?”

I cut in. Kyrie and Lesley had known each other for a lot longer than I had known them. I hadn’t once enjoyed their talks about the past.

“Her name’s Marle. I’ll introduce you all sometime. Eh, sorry, but I’m gonna stop by somewhere, then head home.”

Lesley cut off the conversation and hurried off. Kyrie and I followed him with our eyes from where we’d been left. The grey haired man was heading towards an old woman selling fruit from a small wagon. Probably a rip-off merchant. Since two years ago, fruit hasn’t ever been cheap. Even stuff that has almost no flavour, which wouldn’t get looked at twice in the past, would fetch a high price.

“If he keeps that up, no amount of money’s gonna be enough.”

“Yeah, maybe we oughta find more work.”

We stood side by side, watching our friend bartering with the old woman. It was a sight to see Lesley gesturing to get across the situation with his pregnant girlfriend. They seemed to reach an agreement at last. He received two red fruits and paid his money, and started to leave. Just then the woman called him back, and handed Lesley three small yellow fruits.

“Wonder if he’ll still stick with us in the future.”

“We’ll deal with that when the time comes. I’ll work twice as hard as I do now.”

Kyrie didn’t answer me, and started walking. I followed her, sensing an air of discomfort.
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
5. Elena's Frustration

Translated by Hitoshura and Mecorx, Proofread by Crashouch

&#8220;Oookay, understood.&#8221;

She spoke in a bubbly voice into the phone, but Elena neither understood nor was she convinced. Seems Reno let Fabio off with a single punch. Even if they weren&#8217;t going to take his life, Elena thought it was for the good of Shinra, and of the Turks, if they at the very least made it so he couldn&#8217;t get out of bed for a month.

&#8220;What&#8217;s gonna happen to me?&#8221; Throp, who had been tied to a chair since yesterday, said in a pitiful voice. The blood from his nose had dried into a dark stain on his cheek.

&#8220;I guess you&#8217;re going to die?&#8221;

&#8220;Please spare me. I was in the Shinra Army. We&#8217;re on the same side, aren&#8217;t we?&#8221;

He was one of the worst kinds of men. He could go and do something to sully the Shinra name again, somewhere. Elena took a pair of leather gloves out of her back pocket, put them on and stood in front of Throp.

&#8220;What are you doing?&#8221;

She hastily turned around to the voice behind her, and found Tseng standing in the doorway.

&#8220;I was&#8212;&#8220; I was so close. Elena swallowed those words, slipped past the side of her boss, and stormed outside.
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
6. Mireille Detective Agency

Translated by Mecorx, Proofread by Crashouch

Kyrie and I were walking around the end of the main avenue &#8213; people from the slums called it the start. In other words, we were walking at the border between Edge and the slums. This is where the atmosphere of the town changes completely. The slums were like a huge maze. Kyrie advanced with ease through the labyrinth. I watched her feet move as if she were walking up steps, and inched after her. I liked to walk behind Kyrie. The reason, I can&#8217;t say.

&#8220;Fabio swore he wouldn&#8217;t steal anymore.&#8221;

&#8220;But if it&#8217;s for Vits, it can&#8217;t be helped. If it were me, I&#8217;d do the same&#8212;&#8221;

I wouldn&#8217;t, probably. No, I couldn&#8217;t. Sure, I&#8217;d plan it, but at the same time, I&#8217;d likely find a reason not to go ahead with it. That&#8217;s what my gut told me, anyway.

&#8220;Well, it&#8217;s against the rules. What should we do? In reality, he&#8217;d be fired.&#8221;

&#8220;Let&#8217;s let it slide. We wouldn&#8217;t have anyone left.&#8221;

&#8220;The lifestream says&#8213;&#8221; Kyrie said suddenly. &#8220;Evan alone would stay here forever, because he knows this is the best place to be.&#8221;

Wouldn&#8217;t it be great if that prophecy were true?

&#8220;The Lifestream doesn&#8217;t do prophecies. There&#8217;s no such thing.&#8221;

&#8220;We should have said we do prophecies too. Then we&#8217;d be filthy rich, right? Livin&#8217; it up in Costa del Sol, even.&#8221;

&#8220;Nah, we&#8217;d be lynched and hung from Midgar&#8217;s pillars.&#8221;

&#8220;Scary.&#8221;

&#8211;

We&#8212; Kyrie, Lesley, Fabio and I&#8212; run a detective agency. Mireille Detective Agency. It&#8217;s got a nice ring to it. Mireille is a name we borrowed from Kyrie&#8217;s grandmother. The old lady spent her whole life as a crook. I guess it wasn&#8217;t the best name for a detective agency, but Kyrie liked it. By the way, Kyrie&#8217;s parents were skillful&#8213; not sure if that&#8217;s the right way to put it&#8213;but they were pickpockets. Before she started doing detective work, Kyrie lived a life of crime, as if it was the natural thing to do. You can imagine how we met.

Mireille Detective Agency&#8217;s main business is finding missing persons. It&#8217;s been nearly 2 years since we opened. There were many more detectives during the year after Midgar&#8217;s collapse. Seemed like half the population were our rivals. There were a lot of people with too much time on their hands, as well as a lot of people who were looking for someone or something. There aren&#8217;t many detectives these days, nor clients for that matter. It&#8217;s because the world has calmed. Most people and things are falling into place. People are finding their feet. But it&#8217;s not a complete loss. Even though demand has fallen, we still get by, thanks to some creative business practices.

&#8216;We read the Lifestream&#8217;

That&#8217;s the slogan we use for the Mireille Detective Agency. Kyrie&#8217;s use of her special ability, to access information hidden in the lifestream to find missing persons or items, is our selling point. Kyrie proposed the idea about a year ago, after 17 days without a single client. Of course, she wasn&#8217;t born with this ability. Heck, she still doesn&#8217;t have it now. Lesley found it interesting, but Fabio and I were skeptical. Who the hell would believe that? But, surprisingly, it was right on the money. As it turns out, a lot of people believe stories that the memories and knowledge of those who leave this world merge with the lifestream. It was almost as if I was simply ignorant of the fact. In reality, there was even less than a 20% chance of us finding something we were asked to. Nevertheless, stories of our few successes spread by word of mouth, and we would have one client every 2 days. We decided to get a down-payment upfront, plus contingency fees. With the down-payments alone, we were able to make enough to support the four of us. It&#8217;s not really a scam. I mean, it is real detective work, since Kyrie gathers information for the client in good faith, and she&#8217;s pretty particular about being a good detective. Sure, the ins and outs are a bit dubious, but the results are legitimate.

Many of the requests are for people or items that went missing when the lifestream surged 2 years ago. If it were limited to Midgar and Edge, the world really wasn&#8217;t that big. If a person we search for is still alive, and wants to make contact, surely they would have done so by now. In the case of an object, it has either been completely lost, or has passed through people&#8217;s hands, and will never be seen again. Two years is a long time. In other words, clients who rely on us now, are people who have half given up. People who intend to give up if this doesn&#8217;t work. Mireille Detective Agency is the last hope for them. That&#8217;s why we search in earnest. We sincerely weave events together into a story, based on the information we all gather, and throw in elements of the fairy-tale of the lifestream. Kyrie whole-heartedly tells that to the client. Of course, whether it&#8217;s a success or failure, the client is able to go home satisfied either way. What other job can provide comfort to people like this?

&#8220;What kinda person is today&#8217;s client?&#8221; I called out to Kyrie ahead of me.

&#8220;Today&#8217;s client&#8217;s name is Mr. Arde. Can&#8217;t ask for too much, but I do prefer when the client is female. Men always get the wrong idea.&#8221;

It wasn&#8217;t just once or twice that male clients have made advances on Kyrie.

&#8220;Well, you are pretty attractive, Kyrie.&#8221;

As usual, I give the most neutral of favourable responses.

&#8220;Oh, well, thanks. Although, Leslie says I leave myself too open.&#8221;

One vote for Leslie.

&#8220;Well, I&#8217;m with you today. Nothin&#8217; weird&#8217;s gonna happen.&#8221;

Here&#8217;s hoping Mr. Arde&#8217;s a frail, old guy.

&#8211;

The office is located in a secluded part of the slums. It was originally Kyrie&#8217;s family home. Well, I say family, but by the time I had got there only her grandmother, Mireille was left. Apparently, her parents had pick-pocketed a wallet from a bad guy, and were killed as a result. It&#8217;s a pretty gruesome story, but I believed it, since it was Mireille who told me. The old lady died soon after of complications from a cold. Kyrie was left all alone. She was depressed for a while, but she remodeled the house into an office to cope with the grief. I collected building materials with Fabio and a few of Leslie&#8217;s friends, and put it all together under Kyrie&#8217;s instructions.

The first thing clients see when they walk in is a big table. Its ebony top was a thing of beauty, but the legs were made out of unappealing old iron rods that I found in the slums. I wrapped them with black cloth to cover that up. On top of the table were a variety of things we thought would help create the image of a woman who has the ability to &#8216;read the lifestream&#8217;. There was an old, moth eaten book, a cane that looked like it belonged to a magician, a round hand mirror, and a few old landscape photographs. On the back wall, there was a painting of this creepy looking spiky mountain, and some fluttery, black cloth instead of curtains. It looks like a collection of junk when the room is lit up, but when the curtains are drawn and the room is dimly lit, and Kyrie sits down in her black hooded robe, our clients become enveloped in its other-worldly magic.

&#8220;I&#8217;m gonna go change.&#8221;

Kyrie went to her room at the back, and I sat down right where I was. In the three-legged chair next to the door. Before long, Kyrie came back out to the office wearing her robe. She took off her shoes, so she was barefoot. She was always barefoot when she was working, by principle, so that she could feel the Lifestream flowing within the planet.

&#8220;He should be here soon. Thanks for coming.&#8221;

I nodded, taking out a notepad from my shoulder bag preparing to take notes.

&#8220;That looks darker than before.&#8221;

Kyrie pointed her finger right at my face as she said this. There was hardly any pain, but I made a grimace. We heard the sound of someone outside the door. I stood up to welcome the visitor. The door opened, and an old man with a receding hairline entered. He must have been around seventy, I&#8217;d guess. He had pretty good posture, and was just about as tall as me. He wasn&#8217;t the feeble old man I had imagined, but I was relieved he wasn&#8217;t someone like the skinhead guy from the Turks. He was holding a dark yellow paper bag in his hand, and he wore an old, but tailored charcoal grey suit. He looked wealthy. We could expect to be rewarded.

&#8220;Mr. Arde, is it?&#8221;

&#8220;Yes, I&#8217;m Tyran Arde. You are&#8212;?&#8221;

&#8220;I&#8217;m Kyrie Canaan. Please, this way, Mr. Arde.&#8221;

Kyrie directed him toward a two-seater sofa facing the table, in a low, business-like voice.

&#8220;Oh, well pardon me, then.&#8221;

When Mr. Arde sat down, he started to look more like a frail old man. I think it was because he lowered his shoulders and hunched his back.

&#8220;Behind you is Evan, our scribe. Please don&#8217;t mind him.&#8221;

Mr. Arde turned his head around to look back at me, and nodded. Evan the scribe. I liked the rather dignified sound of that.

&#8220;Nice to meet you.&#8221;

I spoke softly. Tranquility was essential to make it feel mysterious.

&#8220;This certainly makes me a little nervous,&#8221; said Mr. Arde.

&#8220;That&#8217;s just fine. A heightened sense of anxiety calls forth the lifestream.&#8221;

It was all a lie.

&#8220;Well then, let&#8217;s begin with your story.&#8221;

At Kyrie&#8217;s urging, Mr. Arde took something out of the chest pocket of his jacket. Probably a photograph.

&#8220;Please, look at this.&#8221;

As I thought, Mr. Arde was holding out a photo. Kyrie reached across the table and took it.

&#8220;That&#8217;s my son, Gould, in the front row, on the far right.&#8221;

Gould Arde. Gould Arde. I repeated the rhythmical name in my head.

&#8220;With the longish hair?&#8221;

&#8220;Yes. Pretty scruffy, isn&#8217;t he?&#8221;

&#8220;Not at all. So, your request is for us to find your son, then?&#8221;

&#8220;Indeed,&#8221; Mr. Arde leans forward. &#8220;Do you, er&#8212; feel anything?&#8221;

Kyrie stared at the photo, and showed her palm to stop Mr. Arde.

&#8220;Could we have some time? Maybe 10 days or so?&#8221;

&#8220;Hmmm&#8212; it can take quite a while, I see.&#8221;

&#8220;As you know, the lifestream is constantly circulating within the planet. It&#8217;ll take a little time to find a memory that leads to your son. I apologize your expectations weren&#8217;t...&#8221;

&#8220;No, it&#8217;s ok. If that&#8217;s the case, I can wait. I don&#8217;t know anything about that kind of stuff, you see. Well, I&#8217;ll be honest. I don&#8217;t believe in it either.&#8221;

Well then. I was wary of this. Sometimes, we get curious window shoppers.

&#8220;Then why are you here?&#8221;

Kyrie was calm.

&#8220;I&#8217;ve tried everything I could think of. I just want to be able to settle down believing that. That&#8217;s the truth.&#8221;

&#8220;I understand, but I think you will end up believing in the power of the lifestream. Anyway, your son went missing on that day, right? That fateful evening, when the lifestream wiped out Meteor.&#8221;

Kyrie excessively emphasises the lifestream. To a person who doesn&#8217;t believe, it might be a little much.

&#8220;It was some time before that. My son was a Shinra army, SOLDIER, well, second class, so it&#8217;s no surprise. He contacted me to tell me he was going away on a special mission for a while&#8230; The photo was delivered later. And by after I meant, you know, after &#8216;that fateful day&#8217;, as you call it. I had only been able to receive it because I had stayed in Midgar. I wanted to escape as soon as possible, but I had sprained my ankle, you see. Although, thanks to that, I was still there to receive this clue to my sons whereabouts, so I, thinking it was a good omen that I had hurt my leg, have continued to search for him.&#8221;

&#8220;Where was this photograph taken?&#8221;

&#8220;Over the last 2 years, I&#8217;ve shown it to lots of people, but I still have no idea.&#8221;

Mr. Arde&#8217;s back seemed to grow even more hunched. Kyrie held out the photo to me, so I stood up and took it from across the sofa. Front row, far right. I found him right away. He was wearing a Soldier uniform. Soldier was the name given to Shinra&#8217;s elite troops. Every child looked up to the Soldiers. At one point, I did too. But, it seemed there were few who actually tried to become one. Maybe it was because of the weird rumours. People said that for them to acquire different abilities than ordinary people, their bodies were embedded with this special substance, or that they would spend days in tanks, soaking in the Mako energy, among other things.

&#8220;How did the photograph reach you? It was when everything in the world was going crazy, right?&#8221;

Kyrie asked. I was wondering that too, so I placed the photo on my lap, and concentrated on the back of Mr. Arde&#8217;s head.

&#8220;&#8212;There was someone who knocked on my door one night. My son wasn&#8217;t the kind of guy who would knock, and most of my acquaintances had left Midgar&#8212; so being cautious, I didn&#8217;t answer.&#8221;

&#8220;I know how you felt.&#8221;

&#8220;It was pretty late, so I had fallen asleep. The next morning, I was curious, so I opened the door. A man was lying on the ground. He was a tall guy dressed in motorcycle gear. A black liquid was flowing from his ears and mouth. I know now that it was the Geostigma, but that was the first time I had seen it. I was filled with terror, but the man moved ever so slightly, and he even seemed to murmur my son&#8217;s name, so I couldn&#8217;t just leave him there. I pulled him in my house.&#8221;

Mr. Arde fell silent. He must have been remembering that day.

&#8220;It wasn&#8217;t long after, barely even 30 minutes I&#8217;d say, that the man had died. Up until then, I tried several times to get information about my son, but it seemed he was already delirious, so I wasn&#8217;t able to learn anything. When I checked his clothing, thinking I might be able to identify him, I found about 10 copies of that photograph. Aside from that, there were also some personal photos. Imagine my regret when I saw those&#8212;there was no doubt, that man had come to convey news about my son. Why hadn&#8217;t I opened the door right away&#8212;&#8221;

He fell silent again. If only I had done this at that time. If only I had done that. When you think of the choices you didn&#8217;t make, you just regret all your life. I&#8217;m a mass of those kinds of regrets. I completely understood Mr. Arde&#8217;s feelings as if they were my own.

&#8220;Mr. Arde, I understand your request. But looking for a member of Soldier is more difficult than usual, so it may prove to take longer than I had originally mentioned. Will that be alright?&#8221;

&#8220;I don&#8217;t mind if it takes long, but what do you mean difficult?&#8221;

&#8220;Members of Soldier are more susceptible to the lifestream&#8217;s influence. If your son&#8217;s a Soldier, then it&#8217;s highly likely that his friends were Soldiers too, don&#8217;t you think? In other words, if the people with information about your son were Soldiers, and have also died&#8212;&#8221;

As Kyrie listed the lies, and it seemed Mr. Arde had taken to them, I returned to the photo. There was an old mansion&#8230; the kind of big stone mansion that you don&#8217;t find in Midgar. 15 men and women stood in front of it. They were all around 20 years old. Well, a few were probably middle-aged. It looked like a commemorative photo of some dispatched Soldier members and the inhabitants of some village. Almost no smiles, it seemed a bit strange for a commemorative photo. The only ones smiling were Gould Arde and&#8213;.

&#8220;Well then, I look forward to doing business with you.&#8221;

Arde got up from his seat.

&#8220;Mr. Arde!&#8221;

My voice cracked. Mr. Arde and Kyrie looked at me with surprise.

&#8220;Oh, excuse me,&#8221; said Mr. Arde, nodding his head. &#8220;Here&#8217;s the down payment.&#8221;

He handed the paper bag over to Kyrie.

&#8220;This is what my son pilfered from the company shortly after he enlisted. I realise that was a crime, but I doubt anyone&#8217;s going to complain now. I&#8217;ll be waiting to hear from you. My contact details are in the bag.&#8221;

&#8220;Wait a minute. Mr. Arde, do you know the name of the man who brought this photo?&#8221; I asked.

&#8220;Oh, look at the back of the photograph.&#8221;

When I flipped it over, a phone number and the name of a man were written on the back.

&#8220;I couldn&#8217;t get through to the number. The phones in Midgar were cut off back then, after all.&#8221;

&#8220;There were also personal photos, weren&#8217;t there?&#8221;

&#8220;Yes. There were lots of men and women of all ages&#8213;maybe the families of the people in the group photo. The same address was written on the back of all of them. This is just what I imaged, but that man may have been walking around in spite of the illness, trying to reunite families&#8213;&#8221;

&#8220;What happened to those photographs?&#8221;

I interrupted Mr. Arde and asked.

&#8220;I thought they may be useful to someone, so I put them on the bulletin board. Though that was close to two years ago, so they may not be there anymore&#8230;&#8221;

Mr. Arde shook his head regretfully and left.

&#8220;Wow, hey Evan! Guess what Mr. Arde gave us. Two materia. Does this mean we get two more if we succeed?&#8221;

&#8220;Kyrie&#8212;&#8221;

&#8220;Shops used to sell them sometimes, right? Wonder how much they went for. I should have paid closer attention.&#8221;

&#8220;Wanna go to the train station?&#8221;

&#8220;Right now?&#8221;

&#8220;Yeah, I want to check the bulletin board.&#8221;

&#8220;To find the pictures posted by Arde? They were from two years ago, right? They won&#8217;t be there anymore.&#8221;

Kyrie seemed distracted by the materia.

&#8220;I guess you&#8217;ve got a point there.&#8221;

&#8220;Hey, don&#8217;t Soldiers fight using these? They become able to use skills like magic, depending on their training, right?&#8221;

&#8220;I&#8217;m going home.&#8221;

&#8220;Huh? Let&#8217;s go get something to eat.&#8221;

Finally, she took her eyes off the materia and looked at me.

&#8220;Yeah, this is it for me, today. I&#8217;m not feeling well.&#8221;

&#8220;You alright? Is it your eye? From being punched by the Turks?&#8221;

Kyrie looked at me with a worried expression.

&#8220;I dunno. I think I&#8217;ll be fine once I get some sleep.&#8221;

I replied, making every effort not to avert my eyes.

&#8220;Wait a minute. I&#8217;ll show you out after I change my clothes.&#8221;

Saying that, Kyrie went back to the room at the back. I left a note in the pad on the desk, saying that I would see her in Seventh Heaven tomorrow, at the usual time, then left the office.

I still wasn&#8217;t used to the roads in the slums. I was sure I&#8217;d get lost if I tried taking a shortcut. Despite knowing that, I figured I&#8217;d try guessing where to turn, and sure enough, I got lost. When I arrived at the station, the hands on the clock were overlapping at the top. I ran up to the bulletin board near the platform. It was one of the bulletin boards they put up all around the city. Lots of notes were pinned in a mess all over it. They ranged from ones posted pretty recently, to ones from a while ago that were now illegible due to exposure to the wind and rain. I searched for the photos Tyran Arde said he had posted. It wasn&#8217;t as if I was expecting that things from 2 years ago would still be there. But I just had to check. Of course, they weren&#8217;t there. Though I wasn&#8217;t expecting to find them, I still felt like I had been betrayed. In a fit of anger, I kicked the struts of the bulletin board. The vibration cased one of the notes to come loose and fall to my feet. The words jumped out at me.

&#12298;Daddy, Mommy, it&#8217;s Ceddie. I&#8217;m at Aunt Liz&#8217;s house&#12299;&#8230; they were a child&#8217;s messy, scribbled words.

I quickly tried to put it back on the bulletin board, but I couldn&#8217;t find the pin. Reluctantly, I tore off what appeared to be an advertisement flyer and put it in my pocket, and used the pin from it to put Ceddie the stranger&#8217;s note back on the board.
 

Pixel

The Pixie King
From here on, any edits made will be edited into the existing chapter posts, leading up to the release of Part 2 on the main site. Hopefully Rennard will be doing the artwork for part 2. We've been bouncing ideas around with rough sketches, so fingers crossed.
 
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