On this day, the tragedy fell, and two seeds were planted in the earth.

- Episode Zero: Tomorrow

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Odds and Ends
War Blossoms, Part 1
By: E.G. Szyslak [01/03/11-01/07/11]



Vanille doesn't listen to her mother – she never does when it comes to some things because she thinks she knows better – and she takes a chocobo chick with her when they go to the market. She hides it in the pouch she likes to wear around her waist. Her mother thinks she only has coins and beads inside that pouch. The chocobo chick is smart and keeps quiet.

There's a lot of new people in the streets today. It's not unusual; they always have visitors from other clans and villages. Her father tells her it's because their farms are the best in all of Gran Pulse.

"And that is because of our clan, Vanille," he would remind her, always with a smile, always so proud. "We Dias have been blessed with hands that can create life and nurture it. This is what we're meant to do in this world. One day, you'll understand, and you'll embrace this gift as we all have."

But these strangers don't look like they care about growing plants or raising animals.

They don't carry their weapons the way she's seen others do; they walk around like it's part of them. On their left shoulders are marks that look like animals: bear, wyvern and behemoth are among what she sees. Some of them look at her as they pass by. Their eyes are strange: gray, almost colorless, so unlike their darker hair and skin.

"Don't stare, sweetie," her mother says, and though her tone is gentle, Vanille knows she's done something wrong.

"I'm sorry," she quickly says back, turning her eyes away from the strangers.

Her mother smiles at her and takes her hand, a sign that she's forgiven.

"Who are they, Mommy? Why are they here?" she asks, whispering because she doesn't want them to hear her.

"They're of the Yun clan," her mother answers, speaking, not whispering, so Vanille figures it's okay to talk about them like this. "They're hunters who travel around the world. Sometimes, they go to villages like ours and stay for a little while. They come here every few years, usually before winter."

"Hunters?" Vanille echoes, and it makes her think of the animal marks she's seen on the strangers.

She thinks of fierce beasts, of deadly predators and monsters, and she suddenly wants to check on the chocobo chick, to make sure it's okay. She discreetly reaches into her pouch, not wanting to be scolded twice, but all she feels are the coins and the beads that are supposed to be the only things there. She yanks her hand away, then she tries again, and again.

She finds nothing, not even a feather.

"What's wrong, sweetie?"

Her other hand is being squeezed. She looks up and sees that her mother's frowning at her. She touches the bottom of the pouch one more time.

"I-I..." she stutters, and she's staring at the ground now because she's ashamed of what she's about to say. "I b-brought a cho-chocobo chick with me- I know you said not to, Mommy, b-but I-I've done it before and it was okay because nothing bad happened but now..." she whimpers, "but now..."

"Oh, Vanille," her mother sighs, kneeling down and hugging her. "It ran off, didn't it?"

She sobs what barely sounds like a yes.

Her mother holds her chin up and wipes her tears.

"This is why you shouldn't take hatchlings outside so soon. Do you understand now?"

Vanille nods, sniffling.

"I'm sorry. I won't do it again."

Her mother smiles at her and gives her a kiss on the head.

"I know, sweetie. Now, come, we have a chocobo chick to find."

They search the streets, the stores and the stands, but the marketplace is just too big. With every shake of the head or shrug from a store owner or a passerby, Vanille feels worse and worse. She wishes that admitting she's wrong would bring the chocobo chick back.

They keep searching, she doesn't know for how long, but then her mother stops and looks at her.


Now she feels like crying.

She knows what her mother's going to say. She doesn't care if there will be other chocobo chicks; she wants this one back.

"Excuse us."

Two people approach them: a woman and a girl who looks to be around Vanille's age.

"Does this little fellow belong with you?" the woman asks, her speech strange, one Vanille has never heard before, but the woman sounds kind, like her mother.

The girl holds out her hands and there's the chocobo chick Vanille thinks she has lost, feasting on a large piece of gysahl green.

"You found him!" she squeals happily, running over and leaning close so she could coo at the chocobo chick.

The girl grins at her.

"He found us," she corrects, and Vanille notices that the girl sounds a little different from the woman. "I caught him trying to get into a sack of greens."

The woman gives the girl an approving nod, then she turns to them and smiles.

"A merchant told us a darling little Dia girl was looking for a chocobo chick," she explains, and Vanille feels a little shy because now everyone's looking at her.

"Thank you," Vanille hears her mother say. "I'll pay you for the greens he ate."

"That won't be necessary," the woman tells them. "He didn't steal from us. My daughter insisted he be fed."

The girl frowns.

"He's really thin, Mother."

"He'll be fine," the woman murmurs affectionately, stroking her daughter's hair.

The girl holds her hands out a little more.

"Here. Take him."

Vanille puts her own hands together and the girl carefully places the chocobo chick and the gysahl green on her palms. The bird chirps, and she's not sure if it's angry or surprised, but it just goes right back to eating. She giggles, and she would have pet the chocobo chick again if she could.

"What's your name?" she asks the girl, hoping she's not being rude.

"Oh!" her mother gasps. "I'm so sorry, where are my manners? Cheis Dia Lavena," she introduces herself. "This is my daughter Vanille."

"Yun Eilith," the woman responds.

"Yun Fang," the girl follows.

Vanille stares at them. The woman, even though her hair is black, doesn't look like any of the Yuns she's seen: her skin is pale and her eyes are green. She has a weapon, too – a lance – but instead of a mark on her body, she has earrings and a necklace. The girl, however, looks just like a Yun, except her eyes are green.

As their mothers talk, Vanille notices that Fang is taller than her, and instantly, she is curious.

"How old are you?" she asks, then she quickly follows it up with, "I'm six."

Fang blinks, surprised at first, and then she grins.

"I'm going to be eight really soon."



It's three, almost four years later when they see each other again.

"Where's your mom?" is the first thing Vanille asks.

Fang doesn't answer because she's holding her breath and she's trying so hard not to shake. She doesn't say that her mother, that both her parents have been dead for over a year now, but then Vanille pulls her close and holds her, and for a moment, it hurts a little less.

When Vanille lets her go and steps back, she asks her own question.

"What was that for?"

It's a stupid thing to say, but she really wants to know what Vanille has seen, what Vanille still sees.

"You looked..." there's a pause and she wonders why, "you looked like you needed a hug."

Fang frowns. She's not sure if she should thank Vanille; she's not even sure if she wants to.

The next day, they're out in the field owned by Vanille's family, where there's a herd of sheep grazing and a flock of chocobos basking in the afternoon sun. Vanille just finishes showing Fang around the farm and now they're taking a stroll. Vanille is walking ahead, sometimes stopping to check on the animals they come across, and Fang is following quietly.

"You know," Vanille chimes, "this can be your home, if you want."

"Gran Pulse is my home," Fang retorts, and it's with a startling, powerful conviction that would do her clan proud.

Vanille throws a ball of wool in the air and catches it, something she's been doing for a while now.

"Yeah, but it's so big," she argues, and she even spins twice, her arms stretched out. "Don't you get tired of moving all the time, even just a little?"

Fang shakes her head, not because she's disagreeing but because she thinks Vanille is being ridiculous.

"When I'm older," Vanille goes on, unfazed, maybe even amused, "I'm going to see the rest of the world. I'll jump in the hot springs in Sulyya, take pictures of the tall buildings in Paddra, attend the festival in Oerba... I'll go everywhere, anywhere I want! Then I'm going to come back here, get married, and have a family of my own. And when my kids see a Yun for the first time, you know what I'll do? I'll tell them there's nothing to be scared of."

Fang is shaking her head again. She doesn't think like that. She doesn't dream like that.

Vanille spins one more time and clings to her left arm, leaning in like she's about to reveal a secret.

"I know what your favorite village is."

"Oh, yeah?" Fang challenges.

"Mmm-hmm," Vanille hums happily. "This one! Know why?"

"No, why?" Fang quips, deciding to keep humoring Vanille.

Vanille smiles.

"Because I'm here."

Fang is supposed to say something clever but she laughs instead.

"I'm right!" Vanille gloats, looking very happy with herself. "Cheis Yun Fang. Like it?"

Fang stops, blinks, then laughs even harder.

"It's not that bad," Vanille tries to protest, but she's already grinning.

The Yuns are leaving Cheis in five days; they'll be heading south of the village, to the Steppe. Vanille abandons her friends again – that's what Fang calls it, while Vanille reasons that she has the next few years to make it up to them and she only has a few days left with Fang – and she joins Fang by the river.

"You sure you want to stay?" Fang asks, rubbing the back of her neck.

"Sure am," Vanille chirps, sitting down and getting comfortable.

"You'll get bored."

"Not with the way you fish!"

Fang doesn't really believe Vanille but she goes ahead, picking up a spear on her way back to the river. She's here because one of the store owners in the village says he'll provide the clan with supplies in exchange for fish. Fang has agreed to do it, but only because there are no hunts planned for today.

"Wow, another one already? You're really good," Vanille remarks after a few catches.

Fang smirks.

"I'm a Yun. I've been fishing since I learned how to walk."

When she's done, Fang goes to deliver the fish to the store. Vanille comes with her. The owner thanks her and promises to have the goods delivered to the Yuns. Once they're out of the store, Fang notices Vanille staring at her and it makes her tilt her head.

"What is it?"

Vanille's the one shaking her head this time.

"Are you always doing chores when I'm not around?"

Fang scoffs.

"They're not chores."

"They're not fun."

"Fishing is fun."

"You said it was boring."

"It is if all you do is sit on your butt and watch."

"Hmph," Vanille huffs, "then maybe you should teach me how to fish."

Fang chuckles.

"Next time we come here, maybe."

They meet up with Lavena for a late lunch. While Vanille and her mother talk about where they could eat, Fang marvels – still – at how similar they look, and sometimes, how similar they act. One difference between mother and daughter is how they wear their hair: Vanille still has her pigtails while Lavena's hair is braided.

The wind picks up. Fang sees Lavena brush hair away from Vanille's face, and she thinks, before she can stop, that her own mother would have done the same thing for her.

Lavena looks at her, smiles at her.

"Fang, do you-"

Then the smile is gone, and the horror and fear in Lavena's eyes is something Fang has seen once before. She turns around and looks up, and something comes down from the sky, from Cocoon. The creature – the monster – casts a shadow that's bigger than the entire village. It moves: raises one hand, then the other, and Fang thinks she hears it laughing.

The hands come down, and she can't hear anything else anymore because there's suddenly so much noise, people are screaming, children are crying and they're all so loud. They're running and bumping into her, into each other, and they're pushing and shoving and there's just so many of them.

There's so many people.

Lavena's holding her wrist in one hand, Vanille's in the other, and she's tugging, pulling them away. They're squeezing through the streets that are suddenly too small, too crowded. It's getting darker, getting harder to see, and Fang doesn't know where they're going.

Something hits her – or someone, or maybe it's one, two, three people, but she doesn't really know, can't really tell – and the grip on her wrist slips away and she's knocked into a wall.

"Vanille! Fang!"

Lavena's voice sounds so far away.

Fang tries to stand. Her head hurts. She's a little dizzy.

Lavena's all the way back there. She's trying to get through, but she can't because everyone's going the other way and they're dragging her along.

"Vanille! Vanille, run!"

Fang gets up and looks around.

Vanille's standing there. She's just standing there, staring at her mother.

Fang runs to her and grabs her arm.

"Come on!"

The hands come down again, along with the buildings and the mountains, and the ground is torn and ripped open. The farmlands are taken away, up to Coocon. The rivers come up, swallowing the streets and the fields. People are being crushed, being washed away, but Fang and Vanille find a place to hide. They're lucky they're just children, that they're small enough to fit.

The screams are louder now, louder than the falling buildings and the crashing waves.

"Cover your ears," Fang tells Vanille, repeating the exact words spoken to her before, the night her parents died. "Don't look. Don't look."

But, like, before, Fang doesn't heed those words and she looks. She sees a face. It's smiling.

When it's over, when it's quiet, they're both shaking. Vanille is whimpering about her mother, her father, her clan, her village, her family, and she's asking why. Why, why, why, over and over. The creature, the monster – the fal'Cie – is leaving, is going back to Cocoon, and Fang is glaring at it, growling at it.

She can hear it now, when the only other sound is Vanille crying.

It's laughing.



Episode Zero: dilly-shilly . blogspot 2009 / 10 / final-fantasy-xiii-episode-zero . html