"Everywhere I go I'm second to arrive. My reputation precedes me, and sometimes it skips out on the bill." ― Jarod Kintz
The moment Jude arrives at the village gate, he's surprised by how small it actually is. People always talked about the legendary Figera village that lost least of their Shifters during the 'Big Rift' and, in present day, is still known as one of the most important villages of the defence line of this land. But now, standing in front of the gate, the village looked really ordinary somehow.
As he walks past the big entrance gate, the young Shifter takes a moment to observe this new scenery. It's sunny day and the citizens are walking around town, following their own daily routines. In the middle there is a small village square with a shrine, a merchant behind a stand, a blacksmith, a little waterfall that ends in a pond with unnatural, clean blue water, a notice board and a little abandoned house in the distance. Walking further he notices several little furry creatures walking around town. Even though he's awed by the little creatures' composure, grace and understanding of body language he decides to leave them alone for now. Passing the friendly merchant, he quickly spots more little houses, a playground and two schools at the edge of town. And in the northern part of the village lays the Shifter base. It's an impressive building that lies on top of a huge hill; the outer walls of the building are engraved with the Shifter's emblem and the architecture has the characteristics of ancient Japan (this goes for the whole town actually).
"Hello, you must be the new recruit." An enthusiastic voice suddenly sounds from behind him. Knocked out of his thoughts, Jude slowly turns around to see a girl around his age standing behind him, smiling at him with a bright white smile that could light up any of your darkest days.
She has long black hair, in which she wears a red hair band, a black and red dress with some small white flower patterns, long dark brown boots and she also seems to carry a little red notebook with her.
"Hello, I'm Yuki! You must be Jude." She says while shaking his hand. Her smile seems to never disappear, even while talking.
"Yeah, I just arrived and…" Jude starts to answer but is quickly cut off by the jubilant girl.
"Oh, how fascinating! I can't believe we've got someone from the Floating City in our midst. Could you tell me what it's like?"
"Right, Midgar is famous for its modern technology." Jude mutters under his breath. "W-Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you but I do not know all that much about the technological background of the city."
"Oh, that's too bad. But I'm sure their Shifter base is just amazing!"
"Yeah… Figera is a real example to the new recruits there."
He isn't exactly lying. Figera really is well known for it's outstanding Shifters. Still, people like to exaggerate their tales, so he never knew how much of it was true. In Midgar, opinions about the Shifter villages vary a lot. Some think they are above 'those low life Shifters who can't do anything but fight' and others think of them as heroes who fight to keep humanity save. Jude always thought the second one was more accurate.
"Really?" Well I'm sure the Shifters here will be honoured to hear about that!"
"Wait… you just arrived and there's not even one Shifter to welcome you. How horrible!"
"Oh no, that's not a problem, I'll just-
"No! I will bring you straight to the Shifter base. I was already on my way there. Let's go!"
The moment Yuki starts walking away Jude understands she will not be changing her decision any time soon and follows her to the hill.
When they arrive at the base Jude is immediately greeted by Dyne, the technical analyst of the village. Dyne is a young man with messy dark brown hair and glasses, who seems to be about two years older than Jude. He wears a dark blue cap and trousers, a white and blue robe for his upper body, dark brown boots and, lastly, a silver glove with red patterns and the Shifter's emblem, which he wears on his left hand.
After a short greeting he instantaneously starts with a long, detailed explanation about his work. This, apparently, includes: making plans to strengthen the magic barriers, studying about as many shadows and large scale attacks as possible and keeping both their shadow encyclopaedias and descriptions of the hunting grounds up-to-date. Yuki, leaving Jude to listen to an enthusiastic Dyne, walks over to her desk, which resides in the left corner of the building.
"Oh, Dyne. Give the new recruit a break, he just got here." Captain Grant says after he, too, walks into the base.
"O-Oh I know that Captain, b-but he just arrived from Midgar! Think about how much we can learn from just-
While Dyne goes to sit behind his own desk again, Jude walks towards the Captain. He's a tall man whose stance and strict look alone demand respect. His Shifter uniform consists out of wide black trousers with the Shifter's emblem on them, a black and red jacket and he keeps his impressive sword in its case on his left hip. He also has short black hair and a long scar on his left eye, which is covered by an eye patch.
"Good morning, sir." Jude says, while saluting. Up until now he had not really noticed how nervous he actually was. Now his hands are shaking, almost uncontrollably.
"Good morning. We are glad that Midgar has been able to send you. Perhaps you already know, but we are a little short on enforcements at the moment."
"I'll help out as much as I can, sir."
"Good. I hope your journey to the village wasn't too difficult. Groups of shadows tend to appear and attack travellers or other busy routes."
"No difficulties. There was only one minor hindrance."
"Glad to hear… It seems all the Shifters are on missions now, so introductions will have to take place later today. Then again, you must have had a long journey. Yuki, can you show him his place to stay?"
"Yes, sir. Come on Jude, your house is in the village square." She says, while standing up and walking towards the exit of the building.
After a walk down the hill they soon arrive at a little house. Entering his new home, Jude decides to take a quick look around. In those few seconds he can already spot a large fireplace, a wardrobe, a really big closet, a small desk and a little part that is separated from his living room where his bed and bathroom are. The interior reminds him of his old house in the outer parts of Midgar, and even the smell seems to bring back memories.
He could see his mother standing over the fire place, cooking diner, his father reading some scrolls in the living room and is cousins running around outside, calling out his name. He wanted to go and play outside, but his mother called him back. Dinner would be ready soon. His father noticed he was disappointed and asked if he wanted to train with him. Jude had always greatly admired his parents. Both his parents were Shifters and his father would often take his young son out for a bit of training. And of course the young boy was always excited to join his father's training sessions.
"This house was abandoned for some time but we managed to clean it up." Yuki says with a bright smile, interrupting Jude's thoughts. "It turned out really nice. And it's close to everything in town."
"Yeah, it looks great." Jude nods, still looking around.
"I know it's probably nothing compared to your living conditions from Midgar but-
"Oh no, no. This actually is a lot better! Really, don't worry I love it."
"Thank goodness. Then I'll be going now. You can always find me at the base if you need anything."
"Okay. Thank you, Yuki."
After Yuki leaves, Jude begins to unpack his stuff. Even though he doesn't own a lot, there are still some nice things from home he doesn't want to throw away. Placing the pictures of his family and friends on one of the little tables in the house, he decides to take another look around. He discovers a little kitchen, supplies to write and the fact that his closet has a lot of secret compartments. The backdoor leads to some kind of big courtyard with training supplies and big cherry blossom trees surrounding it. The sight is truly astonishing.
The Shifter emblem is carved into the centre of the courtyard and the exquisite smell of the blooming trees reminds him of home. Sadly, the moment he steps inside again to take a look at the rest of his house, a loud bell interrupts the silence. And even Jude, with his lack of experience, knows from his training that this bell only meant one thing… a shadow attack.