Premonitions II-C: Crisis Core

BY : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Dragon prints: 702
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, it any characters therin. I am not making any money here.

Chapter 36: Xing: Year One

August 31, 0003

Xing was located in the mountains on the Western Peninsula, a reasonable distance south of Wutai. Xing and Wutai were ancient enemies; it was rumored that the Wutai War started because the Shinra was making business deals with Xing.

In any event, all buildings looked similar to Wutai's, except for one: the cabin we were staying at. This cabin was on the top of one of the smaller mountains. It was a modest adobe with a lounge and kitchen, and a training room in the basement. The top floor had five bedrooms: one for Zangan, one for myself, one for my cousin, and one for the two other trainees who were due to arrive later that day.

"I never thought I'd ever be in a place like this," Tifa said as she gazed at the landscaping from outside.

She had recently turned sixteen, but didn't really celebrate, other than Cissnei and I treating her to the diner.

"Neither have I," I admitted.

"It feels so...isolated," she continued.

"Is that a bad thing?" I asked.

"I don't think so," Tifa replied. "Not to mention, there's a nearby town with everything we need."

"But," I added.

I knew there was a but.

"I miss Midgar," she said. "And I really miss Nibelheim."

"I'm sure they'll rebuild it eventually," I assured her.

"It wouldn't be the same," she dismissed. "But, you know what? It doesn't matter."

"Come again?" I asked.

"After all this training is over," Tifa continued, "we'll be rebuilt. And we won't ever be the same again."

THAT NIGHT...

Tifa was helping me set up my room when there was suddenly a knock on my door.

"That would be Zangan," she said.

"I'll get it," I announced as I answered the door.

And, I'll be damned, it wasn't Zangan.

"Hey!" exclaimed Cissnei as she hugged me.

"Cissnei!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"Training!" she replied with a smile.

EVEN LATER...

I sat alone on the mountain top, listening to the crickets chirping. I realized this would be a difference I would need to get used to. Instead of buildings, I was surrounded by pine trees. All of the stars were visible, something I hadn't seen since I lived at home.

Suddenly I heard footsteps, but I knew right away that they could only belong to someone I knew.

I turned my head to see Cissnei approaching from behind. She seemed quiet and solemn. I could tell there was something she hadn't told me.

"Don't tell me you came out here to sleep?" I asked.

"Actually," Cissnei replied as she sat down next to me, "I came here to check on you."

"I'm fine," I assured her.

"Don't lie to your bestie," she warned as she poked me. "You seem off. More so than you usually do."

Cissnei, mind you, was probably the smartest woman in my life. There was no fooling her.

"It just feels so...different," I said. "I grew up in the middle of nowhere, then I spend four years in Midgar, then I'm nowhere again."

"I hear," Cissnei said. "I've never really been nowhere."

"I miss my life in Midgar, and all the misadventures," I continued. "I guess I just grew up."

"We all have to, sometime," she said.

And then, she hung her head.

"Something must be eating you, too," I observed.

Cissnei sighed.

"I've been let go by the Shinra," she said.

I almost wanted to gasp.

"You were fired?!"

"Not exactly," she replied. "I'm furloughed for half salary."

FLASHBACK...

Cissnei stared blankly at the short straw she had just drawn.

"Cissnei's going to cry!" sang Palmer. "Cissnei's going to cry!"

"Palmer!" President Shinra reprimanded.

...END FLASHBACK

"But I didn't cry," Cissnei finished. "I never have."

"Never, ever?" I asked.

"Can you believe it?" she laughed. "I'm twenty years old, and I've never cried in my life."

It was amazing. You think you know everything about someone, and then they say something that blows it all out of proportion.

So Cissnei never shed a tear in her life.

"Cissnei," I began, "why did you come here to train? I mean, you didn't look for another job closer to home or anything?"

"Because I wanted to keep what I had left," Cissnei replied as she put her hand on my shoulder.

And she smiled.

So Cissnei basically took up the training to keep her bestie.

That really meant a lot.

September 1, 0003

The next day, the four of us stood in line at attention as Zangan paced back and forth.

"This is it, ladies and gentlemen," he began. "Now begins four years of training. When those four years are over, you will all be dead. In your place will be the most elite martial artists known to man." He paused, and scanned us four. "I need the names of the future deceased."

"Tobin," I responded.

"Tifa," responded my cousin.

"Cissnei," responded my best friend.

"Karnak," responded the blue-hair fourth trainee.

"Last name?" asked Zangan.

"Just Karnak," he replied.

I know you started reading this journal to find the coordinates of the Island Gulag. No worries, we're getting to that. So I won't waste time giving you a martial arts lesson.

Instead, I'll tell you what you've probably expected. Cissnei, Karnak, Tifa, and I spent six hours a day kicking each other's asses. Zangan instructed us to show no mercy, and we followed that command faithfully.

On the first day, Tifa gave me a bloody nose.

On the second day, Cissnei gave Tifa a bloody nose.

Karnak was the nastiest of us all. On the third day, he gave all of us bloody noses, including Zangan.

This was one hell of an internship.

December 15, 0003

Weeks and then months dragged along. I ended up with more aches and bruises than I can humanly recall.

One night, I forgot to check my mail, so I went and got it kind of late. It was a letter from my parents.

On the way back to my room, I encountered Cissnei in the lounge.

"Hey there!" she greeted.

"Hey," I replied back.

"Getting the mail this late?" she asked.

"I kind of forgot," I replied.

"Tobin, Tobin, Tobin," Cissnei playfully reprimanded as she shook her head. "You got to get your mail on time. What if you had a check waiting for you?"

"I noticed you never check the mail," I playfully retorted as I sat down on the couch.

"I never get any mail," she replied as she sat down next to me.

"You never got anything from your family?"

She was silent.

And suddenly, I wanted to hit myself. I knew that was something I shouldn't have asked.

"I don't have a family," Cissnei finally answered sadly.

I didn't see Cissnei with a sad face that often, but that was the second saddest look I had ever seen her have. I'll tell you about the saddest later.

"Look, Cissnei," I said, "I'm really sorry. That was rude of me."

"No it wasn't," she insisted. "I've never really told anyone of my background."

It was true; I knew her since we became roommates, but I had no idea what her life was like before that. I had a feeling I was about to find out.

"I was born November 30, 1982," Cissnei began.

That would make her twenty-one years old, two and a half years older than me. It also meant that I had just missed her birthday. Damn.

"How come you never told me that was your birthday?" I asked. "We could have celebrated."

Cissnei closed her eyes.

"Because that was also the day..."

Shit, I thought. I really keep running my mouth, don't I?

"That was also the day my mom died," she finished.

She must have died giving birth to her, I realized.

Cissnei didn't cry, of course. She never did.

"She was on the run, and went into labor," she continued. "She was tracked down in the middle of nowhere."

"Who tracked her down?" I asked. "If you don't mind me asking."

I did realize that asking would show I cared.

"Wutai," I replied. "My mom was a private investigator. Someone had hired her to prove her husband was cheating on her. Well, she had the proof, but the husband had connections. So he sent them after her. He didn't care that she was nine months pregnant. He just wanted his secret safe."

"And that's when you were born?" I asked.

Cissnei nodded.

"My mom collapsed on the run while in labor," she replied. "And she passed out, so she couldn't push. They had to cut me out with a shuriken, and it killed her."

I was silent. It was something else about my best friend that I never knew. I put my hand on her shoulder for support.

"I used to call myself Shuriken, sometimes," Cissnei continued. "To honor my mother."

"I heard that was your nickname once," I mentioned.

"So I lived in an orphanage until I was six, when the Shinra discovered me," she said. "They found me fighting with a flock of swans," she continued. "That's how I got my other nickname."

"Other nickname?" I asked.

"Cissnei," she replied. "It means 'swan' in an old language."

"Wait a minute," I began. "You're saying Cissnei isn't your real name?"

"Not my legal name," she replied. "But it's identified me for all these years, so it's as real as it can get."

I understood where she was coming from.

But, as a result, I've spent the last four years wondering what her real name is.

May 3, 0004

Tifa's seventeenth birthday came along, and Cissnei, Karnak, and I celebrated by taking her to an age restricted movie without an adult. If I didn't mention it earlier, Tifa hated chick flicks; she preferred action and horror, which would make any guy want to go to a movie with her.

Tifa gave me a big hug when we got to the cabin.

"Thanks for everything!" she said.

"No prob," I assured her.

She then took a look at her phone; the four of us had taken a selfie outside the theater.

"You know what's funny?" she continued. "This is only my third birthday with pictures?"

"Really?" I asked.

Tifa nodded.

She showed me a picture of her thirteenth birthday of herself at the bowling alley in skinny jeans and a green crop top. Next to her was Cloud. This must of been the time he got into a fight with Rufus.

The next picture she showed me was when she was ten. Again, Cloud was there.

I looked at Tifa, and noticed her smile was gone. No need to ask why; she was still longing to be reunited with her old friend. And it almost happened. But now, I didn't even know whether he was alive.

"What was your first memory of him?" I asked.

I don't know why I asked that; I thought it might help her to talk it off, I guess.

"My first memory of him?" Tifa asked. "I was a baby sitting on my mom's lap. I can't believe I can even remember that long ago."

"You do have a good memory," I pointed out. "Better than mine, anyway."

"It's funny," she continued. "Because we both have the same first memory of each other."

You know, if I believed in soulmates, I would have thought Cloud and Tifa might be it.

THAT NIGHT...

I had trouble sleeping that night, so I dressed and went outside.

The crickets were chirping loudly as always, and a gentle breeze flowed through the evergreens. It really seemed like the opposite of Midgar, even though the town of Xing was less than a mile away.

As I turned a corner of the cabin, I saw a girl in a tee shirt and jeans on her knees. At first, I thought it was Tifa. But, instead, on closer inspection, I realized that it was Cissnei. I also realized that her hands were locked together.

Is she praying? I asked myself.

"Dear God," she began.

She is! I realized. Cissnei didn't seem like the religious type, and she always slept in on Sunday, so this looked like something serious.

"I know we haven't talked in a while," she continued, "but if you are there...can I have a family?"

I'll admit that part of my heart stung when I heard that.

"I know that was asking too much," Cissnei said. "I already have Tobin as my best friend, and I can't be happier to call him mine. I guess I should count my blessings. Sorry to bother you."

She then stood up.

I realized then that I needed to get out of there before she noticed me, she would flip out if she had known I was eavesdropping.

So I ran across to the other side of the cabin, and, low and behold...

There was Tifa, staring at the stars, just like that other time.

"Hi mom," she began.

And I felt a sting again. I knew exactly what she wanted to talk to poor Aunt Clare about.

"Well," Tifa continued, "I'm seventeen today. It's been...nearly four years since I've seen Cloud last."

Just like last time, the stars didn't respond.

"I don't like this life without him, mom," she continued, as tears began to fall. "Is he still here, or is he there with you?"

I wish I knew the answer to that question myself.

"If he's still here," Tifa requested at last, "can you somehow send him back?"

And so it was, at the age of seventeen, that Tifa realized what she truly wanted in life.



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