To Midgar and Beyond
She looked up as far as her eyes could see, shuddering as an involuntary shudder slowly found its way from the back of her neck down to the small of her back after finding she couldn't see any farther than maybe the tenth or fifteenth floor. The incredibly tall, incredibly dark building in front of her easily was as intimidating as she had heard about throughout her lifetime, or even seen from afar, never imagining it being this... this... colossal.
She closed her eyes, taking deep breaths to calm her ever-increasing nerves. This is what I've waited for, she told herself. This is what I want. This is what I deserve, more than anything else in the world. I can get everything I've ever dreamed of... All I need to do is move...
She lifted her hand from her side to brace the hilt of the sword in the sheath on her waist, tightening her grip until it almost hurt, as if that itself would fulfill her request for a grant for some sort of stilling comfort. Her nerves were continuously unwinding, and she was struggling to contain her composure. At this point, even walking forward into the overpowering building seemed too tedious a task.
Ever since she was only but a little girl, SOLDIERs had come to the small village where she grew up. They were strong, fearless men in her eyes. They had no faults. They would arrive at a drop of a hat when a terrorizing threat had appeared, one beyond what the strongest fighters or the smartest strategists in the village could handle, fixing the problem with the most incredible ease and would leave as if it hardly required a basic reserve of strength. No questions asked, no thanks necessary.
She was the only one who could see the incredulous behavior positively however. Everyone else seemed almost frightened by them, as if they would die if they looked at these wonderful men the wrong way. Well, almost everyone else.
One of the younger boys - Zack was his name - became almost famous for his admiration of the bold warriors. She could still hear the sound of her mother's voice as she gossiped with her aunts.
"How sad it is that such a wonderful boy is wasting himself on such foolish ideas as becoming a SOLDIER himself. It's bad enough that they come here with this reactor, stealing away all our more intelligent men to run it, abandoning all the jobs they had before, forcing us women to run this town ourselves, but then they put these ideas into our youth, as if becoming a SOLDIER, something so unnatural... almost as if they weren't even human anymore..."
Of course the ideas about the reactor belonged to her mother and her mother alone. Everyone else thought of it as a blessing, the very thought of a town like Gongaga being chosen for such an honor, it was beyond the townspeople's very beliefs. Yet my mother had always hated the reactor. She told everyone that her intuition told her it was wrong. And she wasn't one to disagree with her intuition. So she stuck with the idea, no matter how people pointed out to her how obviously wrong she was. So full of pride... She never would give to reason.
As her daughter, a need to protect her ideas was necessary. Whenever anyone would complain to her about her mother's stupidity, she would - of course - defend her till the grave. But she secretly always disagreed.
When her father passed away in a landslide, her mother finally lost the last firm hold she hand on her sanity. She took everything her father took pride in and threw it down the old well in her family's backyard. It disgusted her, she had said. Everything else about her father, including their very memories of him, were discarded. Her sisters almost cracked under all the pressure that enveloped their home. As the eldest, she did whatever she could to help her mother, her sisters, her aunts, her uncles, her cousins, (her family was the biggest in the entire village) but eventually, her mother gave up and fell asleep in death, leaving them all with the unpleasant memory. She was only 13 at the time.
While searching through some of her mothers items, she found a note, handwritten in her mother's writing. It was hard to read as if it was scribbled at the last-minute in a rush to get the idea down on paper before it was forgotten, water stains spotted across the page. After struggling for a couple of minutes to compile the information in her brain, she finally realized what its purpose was. It seemed to be an apology note written to her father. Near the end, her mother had written that if only she could get the nerve to throw everything she had down the well, she could be at peace...
She had actually thought about it at the time, digging everything her mother had loved and throw it down the well. But after thinking logically, she wouldn't want her family to believe that everything that had happened to her mother should happen to her as well...
Instead, she figured she'd do a reverse movement. She could lower herself down the old dry well on the vines that had grown along the inside walls. She could then collect everything that belonged to her father at the bottom, bring it back up to the surface and bury both of their most precious objects with both of her parents at the gravesite.
The very next morning, as soon as the sun had risen, she walked outside with a box to carry the items in and a rope to hoist up the box with. She made a tight knot, securing the box and rope together, and then the rope to a rusted metal bar beside the well.
After being self-assured that the box had made it to the ground, she began to make her descent. At the bottom, she collected her father's possessions. They were mostly older artifacts, as her father enjoyed to look at them as if looking into a portal to a different world itself. A pipe, a blue-green flowered vase (broken due to the fall), a small jewelry box, a rapier... She carefully examined each object as she placed it in the box, remembering her father with each one.
She climbed back out and lifted the box off of the bottom of the well, so relieved that everything had gone smoothly that she almost fainted. Smiling, she walked back to the house, deciding that she would clean each item until they were spotless, just as her father himself had kept them.
The pipe was made of wood; it only needed to soak for a while. The vase shards would just have to be satisfied with being polished, as it was too difficult to gather all the pieces in the limited light in the hole she retrieved it from, therefore she couldn't piece back together. The jewelry box could be polished as well...
The sword however was a different story. She could remember her father telling her how delicate you had to be with it or else it would chip off the blade due to how thin it was. And it was true. Being underground for five years hadn't helped its condition, and it now had several missing spots on the edges of the blade where metal had once been.
Feeling guilty, she decided to take to the local weapon store owner to see if he could fix it. And he could, doing her one better as well. He had altered the blade in a way where it looked almost exactly like it did years ago, but the physique of it had changed to one that was no long one of an artifact, but one of a weapon. And that's how she had met this boy, the one who would join SOLDIER if his dreams had its way.
He had talked to the store owner when she had walked in to pick it up. He was discussing the best weapon to bring if he was to pass his SOLDIER exam in Midgar. It seemed as if his dreams did have the upper hand.
She interrupted their conversation to ask about her order, apologizing to not make a bad impression as she had never talked around Zack before, eyeing him out of the corner of her eye to see how he took her rudeness. He didn't seem to mind the comment, but was more curious about why a girl her age was in a weapon shop. They had made some small talk for a while, answering his question in the conversation.
The man finally came back with her weapon. Zack complemented it, asked the man a few more questions and walked outside, promising to come back to buy his own weapon. She paid for her own weapon and examined it. Truthfully, she didn't really know anything about weapons, but it had looked so incredible that she gave the man a 50% tip. Her father would've been so proud of it.
Walking outside, she had found Zack leaned against the building. He looked up at her and flashed her one of those know-it-all smiles and made a couple of crack comments that pissed her off before asking, or more of telling, her about her own knowledge of sword-fighting. Before the conversation was over, he had somehow convinced her to allow him to teach her how to fight.
Over the next year, they had become quite close friends, spending most of their time together, except for the times when he would leave to pursue his SOLDIER goals. And he eventually reached them. Soon, she found herself having to wish him good-bye and good luck.
She had kept her father's sword despite burying everything else. She had always figured that he really wouldn't mind her keeping it. She also kind of liked how it was a rapier. She had a crush on Genesis ever since Zack had explained what he was like (even though what he knew was only word by mouth) and felt like wielding a rapier like he did somehow made them closer. Not that she would ever admit it to anyone. Not her family, not even Zack.
After she turned 16, she made up her mind that she was going to become a SOLDIER too. This she did share with everyone (except Zack due to him being in Midgar) and made it clear that she was going to be the first woman to join SOLDIER. She was sure of it.
She had put her sisters in the care of her family and set out to Midgar. She found a place to live, a job to work, and now here she was, standing in front of the Shinra building itself. All she needed to do at this point was just hand in her application and fill out some forms (the real test would be on a different day if her application passed through), yet it was much more difficult to do than say. The building itself was intimidating her... Who knows how difficult it would be if she actually has to meet a higher up?
She eventually found the strength to walk inside the building. A secretary looked up as soon as she walked inside.
"May I help you today, miss?" her sing-song voice chimed from behind her desk.
"Uh, yes. I was told I needed to hand in these papers," she replied back, her voice shaky as she placed the sheets on top of the desk. The woman picked them up smiling and looked down at them. Her face instantly changed to one of surprise.
"A SOLDIER audition request? Are these for you?"
"Um, yes ma'am, they are..." Her voice trailed off as the lady's face seemed to fall again.
She stood a moment in silence as the woman began to write something on a document. After a few minutes, she decided to speak up again.
"Don't I have to... fill out something else?" she said, recalling how Zack had told her how his registration had went.
"The administrative forms that needed to be filled out before by applicants can now be filled out by myself, miss," she said, putting on a smile again. She couldn't help but feel that it felt fake.
"I see... Then I guess I will leave now," she said turning. She couldn't wait to be out of this awkward atmosphere.
"Wait a moment, miss," she heard behind her. "You didn't put your name on your application."
"My name?" she repeated, looking over her shoulder. The woman nodded.
"Oh. My apologies. It's Angel. My name is Angel."