THE KEY TO FREEDOM
K, I wrote this quite a few months ago. I was wondering what had happened to Tifa after her hometown was burnt. Where was she from that time to the time she met up with Barret?
I stepped out into the artificial light and pulled my jacket closer together as I walked through he streets of sector 5. Because we couldn't see the sun with the plate overhead, the street lamps' brightness helped us through the day. I huddled up in my jacket again. The weather was extremely cold, but I wasn't done my schedule yet.
It seems so strange for a fifteen year old girl like me to have such a busy schedule, but it was the only way I could survive in these slums.
Though I knew I shouldn't be out this late, I always had my fire materia with me. I used it to keep me warm, to provide more light, and most important, to keep away from all those freaks out there. I've had more than enough memories of those people.
"Hey Mystria." greeted Dublon, the shopkeeper as I walked in his pawn shop. I smiled and walked up to the desk. "Wha’cha got for me today?" he asked but before he could finish his sentence I had already laid out my materia on the desktop. Although materia is usually something you need to protect yourself with, I was content with my fire materia and sold any materia that I find laying around to Dublon. He usually likes what I bring in and gives me a fair price.
After Dublon gave me my gill, I said thanks and headed out. This was more than enough to buy a few days worth of food. I guess I had found a really good materia this time. I fished my materia out of my pocket and concentrated on it until I felt the familiar warmth. Most people use them with their weapons, but I just held it in my hand since I didn't carry a weapon.
As I was walking past the playground and the way into Wall Market, I heard crying and turned back to the entrance of the dreaded place. There I saw some of those freaks dragging along a few upset children on chains. I recognized them as slave sellers.
The one I noticed first was a young brunette, maybe a year younger than me, that one of them was carrying. She apparently was in a coma, which looked like she had been in a serious fight. I could see burn marks, cuts and bruises all over her skin, and blood over the front of her shirt, which was sliced and you could see her frontside.
Unaware of my stupidity, I walked up to who had seemed like the leader of them.
"What are you doing with those children?" I asked in what I hoped was my most mature voice.
"We're slave drivers." he replied, looking down at me as if he should add me to his collection of slaves "We found a bunch of these kids just outside Nibleheim all alone."
"They've all got burn scares!" I said. "They need to be taken to a medical place, not sold for profit."
I could feel the anger rising as some memories were brought into focus again, but I ignored them.
"Listen girlie," he said to me "Now unless you plannin' on buying one of them, I ain't got time for you."
I glanced at the unconscious girl, still sleep and unaware of her conditions. My mind was racing. If I buy this one, would I be able to heal her? I still have a healing materia at home, maybe...
He interrupted my thoughts. "Well?"
"How much is the unconscious one?" I asked, gill ready in my hand.
He looked at her for a second. "20 gill. She's going cheap jus' 'cause she ain't gonna last long."
I paid him the money and the one holding the girl set her on the ground and started unlocking the chains, mumbling something about how stupid he was about locking up one whom he didn't need to. While I watched him fight with the chains, my mind was racing with about a hundred questions. Where did she come from? Is she alright, and what happened to her? I paused at the last thought. How can I get her home?
Before I could think of answering myself, the leader motioned to an old wheelbarrow. "If you want, you can have that old rotting 'barrel over there, no charge." I look over at it. It was probably what they carried her over on with. One wheel looked like it would fall off any instant and it in general was a piece of crap, but it would help me get her home.
I thank him and they lift the girl onto the wheelbarrow for me and so I head home. I looked down at her. I had just bought a young girl, determined to heal her back to health and to save her. I shuddered as I wondered about who could've bought her if I didn't. Oh well, I made a goal and I'm going to achieve it, no matter what.
I hungrily dug into my apple. After I dropped the girl off in my room, where she still slept, I went out and bought plenty of food. It only cost 20 gill top get her away from those freaks so I had plenty money left over.
I heard her move the blanket in my room and guessed she was up. Before I had a chance to see if she was alright, she was peering out of my room, which wasn't very big. All the place consisted off was the room I was in, a smaller room just big enough for the two beds, and an even smaller washroom. But it was my home.
"Hello." I said as I smiled "Do you want to eat something? Come sit down."
She slumped down in the other chair at the table and looked down into her lap. Realizing she wasn't wearing her own clothing, but a long T-shirt, she looked up at me, confused.
I nodded to her shredded, blood-covered outfit hanging in the doorway of the washroom. The top was sliced all the way down in the front. "I thought you'd want better clothing after whatever had happened." She looked at her clothing again.
"Sephiroth.." she said and I understood all too well. I heard many times about all his great journeys and his amazing fighting skill.
"So you do talk." I said. "What's your name?"
"I'm Tifa." she said. "I'm from Nibleheim."
"I heard that from those slave sellers last night." When she gave me a puzzled look, I continued. "Some people sell kids they find on their own. Apparently they'd found you and a few others just outside your town."
"You had to buy me?" asked Tifa timidly.
"You looked like you were near death. You were covered in blood and burn marks and those guys weren't interested in healing you, just making a profit off ya."
"Well, thank you," she said.
"Mystria." I said.
"Mystria. Thank you for saving my life, thought you shouldn't have."
I froze at her comment. "What had happened to you girl?" I asked. Maybe this girl had gone through much more than I expected.
"Sephiroth...he burned my home.....killed my friends, my daddy...I'm alone"
She looked down, then back up.
"what am I wearing?" she asked.
"That was more than a simple cut." I said "Luckily I cast a cure materia before I went out to get some food. It didn't help fully, but you're in better condition than when I found you .Speaking of food, have some."
Tifa shook her head. "Don't feel like eating."
I shrugged. "Alright, but feel free to eat if you want to. There's more than enough. I got more gill than I expected yesterday."
"Do you work?" she asked.
"I have no one else to take care of me. I've been living by myself for about four years."
"Four years? How old are you?"
"Fifteen. I was once sold by a slave seller when I was about nine years old, and just like you I was sold to somebody who wasn't looking for a slave, but paid for me to save my life. She took really good care of me."
"Where is she?"
I lowered my head. No more memories, please. "She left. That's all I know."
Tifa nodded her head and I checked my watch. "I have to go to my job."
"You're leaving me?"
"You can come, if you want, but if you want to stay you can do that. Nobody knows where this place is. It's actually underground. But if you do want to come, I am a cook in a bar. What do you want to do?" I was right. This place was part of the sewers, though this part was abandoned but cleaner than all of Midgar. The only thing that flowed through there was actual fresh water.
Tifa looked around. "I think I'll come. Is there anything I can wear other than this shirt?"
I frowned. The only clothes I had were the ones I wore. Wait, I remember where there's other clothes. "My friend left some clothing before she left. It should still be here." I dragged a box out from the bedroom and we looked in the box. "I'm sorry," I said "She left only her party clothes."
"It's alright." said Tifa as she pulled a tank top and a black skirt out the box, which I noticed were the most mature clothing out of the bunch. "I don't care anymore."
"Are you sure?" I asked "That'd be dangerous clothing to wear at a bar, even if we'll be only in the kitchen.
"I don't care." repeated Tifa "Besides, my dad put me in a martial arts class. I can defend myself if anything happens"
I frowned as she closed the bathroom door behind her to change. She's so upset that when it comes down to it, she may not care if she lives or dies. Tifa emerged from the bathroom in the new clothes.
"Let's go." I said. "Maybe we can get you a job cooking there if you're planning on staying in Midgar."
"Is that where we are?" asked Tifa. I told her about the basics of Midgar. It wasn't anything like what she'd heard. She'd heard before that it was a beautiful, pro-business place, not even close to the slums. She'd also asked if I had heard about a SOLDIER named Cloud Strife, which I told her the name was familiar but you hear so many stories about the SOLDIERS of Shinra.
We walked into the bar of the sector seven slums an hour before it opens.
"Hey Mystria." smiled Rian "Who's your friend?"
I introduce him to Tifa and everyone else suddenly has an interest in her. I asked my boss, Fralin, if Tifa could maybe stay while I work and she agreed. The doors eventually opened and Tifa and I were hurried into the kitchen. This wasn't any place for girls of our age but it was the only way I could make a living, other than finding and selling materia, but materia's not that easy to find.
I received the orders and began cooking. Tifa looked over my shoulder with great interest.
"Can I cook a bit?" she asked.
"You can cook?" I asked and she nodded.
"My mom died a few years ago so I had to learn to cook for my dad and I...."
So I gave her the orders and stepped back. When she mentioned her father I noticed that the light went out of her eyes.
"What's going on?" asked Fralin as he came in the room. "Hey, you can cook just as good as Mystria, and that's a compliment if ever I heard one."
I blushed as Tifa thanked him. I didn't know my cooking was that well liked.
"Y'know," said Fralin "We could use the extra help around here. What do you think?"
"I'd love to..." said Tifa but she glanced at me "That is, if Mystria is alright with sharing the kitchen..."
"I'd love it!" I said. I was until then the youngest one there and I felt all alone. Now I was going to have a friend with me.
That night as we walked home, Tifa noticed a large building looming in the distance and asked me about it.
"That's a mako reactor." I explained. "To keep this city running, they put those large reactors in each sector that suck up all the mako. It's slowly killing the planet."
"Why doesn't anybody do anything about it?"
"Many people have tried, but they've all failed. Actually some people have been close, but they've never been able to get past the guards. What we need is a good strong warrior to get past them, but I'm not sure if that'll ever happen. The SOLDIERS have all had mako infusion, which enhances all their senses and strength. You could see it in their eyes."
We snuck around some of the poorly built homes in the slums where there was no more artificial lighting. I used my fire materia slightly to light the way for Tifa but I didn't need it because I knew the entire place off by heart. Under the old lamp post that had been knocked down who knows how many years ago, around the rotting chocobo carriage, and then down the sewage pothole.
"This is what my friend used to call: 'Let you go'," I laughed. "She had called it that because often we'd need to escape someone or something but you couldn't just say it in the open, so she made up a new way of saying it, like: 'I'm sorry, but I'll have to LET YOU GO'. Then we'd run at the next chance we got. It always worked." I stopped laughing as I thought of her again. Tifa smiled at the story as we went down the pothole.
"It's so clean in here." said Tifa. I agreed. For some reason that I've never been able for figure out, no sewage ever came through, not that I wanted it to. I guess that it had been shut down or something. Where I lived, must have been a place built for an operator. There was controls but I never dared touch them. If Shinra still had a connection with them they would come down here if something was going on. That was a risk I wouldn't ever think of doing.
We didn't eat much, but that was because we get to eat all the leftover meat from the bar that was going to spoil if no one would order it. Tifa sat at the table fiddling around with her food. I knew what was on her mind. I was able to keep her mind off of the incident today by keeping her busy, but now there was nothing to hold her thoughts.
"Well, I've got to get to bed." I said as I put my dishes in the big box which I later take into the washroom and wash them there. "When you're ready to sleep you can use that big shirt you were wearing earlier."
We said goodnight and I headed to my room but I found it hard to sleep. About a half hour later Tifa crawled into the bed across from mine, but I stayed quiet. Suddenly she started crying. The crying didn't last too long because she fell asleep within a few minutes. I turned to my side and found myself crying too. Not again. I thought I was done crying. No more, please. Seeing this little girl in her condition reminded me of when I went through it all.
I closed my eyes and began dreaming about it once more. I was nine again, running away from SOLDIERS. I cried out as I stumbled, scratched my knees, but jumped up and kept running.
"Don't let her get away!" shouted one of the guards. I found my way to the playground and hid in the cool sand under the slide. The guards ran by and I could hear their talking.
"Man, where did she go?" asked one.
"Aww *%@# the boss won't be happy that we lost track of her again." said the other.
"He can't get mad if we don't tell him that we found her."
"Hey you're right. Are you up for a beer?"
"That would hit the spot right about now. Let's go!"
They ran off and I let my head fall into the sand as my breathing went back to normal, but it came back in gasps as I saw feet right beside me and then they knelt down.
That's when I woke up screaming. Tifa ran into the room to see if I was alright.
"You ok Mystria?" she asked. I nodded and held my head in my hands. A nightmare, it was just a nightmare. It was all in the past, it's not happening again.
Within a few minutes I was at the table sharing fried chocobo with her.
"Are we going to the bar today?" she asked.
"No, it's not open on Tuesdays until Thursdays. We have today to do anything we want."
Tifa looked pleased. I knew she'd want to tour the city.
"What's that place?" asked Tifa as we passed the place with all the flashing lights.
"That's Wall Market." I said "That's a dangerous place for women to be."
"Yep. It's alright if you have protection. I don't like going there. There's a man there called Don Corneo with a real sick mind. He loves women and spends his time looking for his future wife, but he knows everything that goes on with Shinra."
Tifa nodded and we kept walking. Eventually we found ourselves outside the bar, The Seventh Heaven.
"I thought it was closed." said Tifa. Inside we could see Rian sweeping.
"It is, but Tuesday's for cleaning it and preparing for when it's open again. Do you want to come inside? I never was able to give you a tour anywhere except for the kitchen."
Tifa said yeah and so we headed inside.
"Hey Mystria." said Rian "We had a bit of a busy night last night, hadn't we?"
I agreed. There was broken beer bottles all over the floor from the barfight that sprung up last night. I grabbed an extra broom and began sweeping up in one area. Tifa sat in the front hugging her knees watching the street.
"Hey when are them Turks gonna show up to collect the taxes?" asked Rian and my head shot up.
"They're coming here?" I asked, trying to hide the hesitation in my voice.
"Mysty," said Fralin "You know they always come here on the first Tuesday of the month."
I nodded, ignoring the nickname that I hate because it sounds like a ditzy charactor in another game. I had forgotten that they come on this day, but I had always stayed away.
"Well," I said as I finished up the spot I was cleaning, "I think I'll check out the stove in the kitchen. It's been acting up lately."
"They should be here any minute." I heard Fralin say as I sped into the kitchen and put the cleaning hat and gloves on and got into the stove. As if on cue the Turks show up and I hear them talking to Fralin.
"Oh yes. Come into my office in the back and I'll get the money." said Fralin.
My heart froze. They'd have to walk through the kitchen to get to the office. I hoped my plan would work. Fralin led them through the kitchen and I made eye contact with the one named Reno.
"Wait a minute." said Reno as he turned back to look at me again. "You look familiar..."
"C'mon Reno lets hurry up and get out of this dump." complained the blonde woman.
"No.." said Reno who still hadn't taken his eyes off me. "I've met this girl before."
I couldn't even think. I was too scared to do anything.
"She works in a bar." suggested Rude "That's probably how you met her before."
"Yeah, you've gotten plastered in this bar who knows how many times. C'mon." muttered the girl as she walked into Fralin's office with the three men following, but Reno took a few more seconds trying to figure out who I am. He obviously hadn't forgotten everything yet.
I take off the hat and gloves and put them back in their drawer and bolt out of the bar. Tifa follows me and we don't stop until we were in the playground. I sat on the slide hugging my knees and Tifa sat beside me.
"Who were those men?" she asked softly.
"They are people you don't want to mess with." I said "I've had a bad history with two of them in that group."
Tifa understood my fear and didn't say anything. She looked up and puzzlment fell upon her face.
"Where's the sky?" she asked and I glanced upwards, thankful the topic's been changed.
"Shinra built a higher level above this part called the plate. It blocks us from the sun. That's why there's artificial light posts here and so much pollution." I explained. "Everyone here hates it. It's too expensive to move up there and it's so cold."
"Then why doesn't anyone move away?"
"They're either too poor or they love their land. I don't know why I'm not out of here yet." I muttered. "I guess it's just easier to hide here."
I slapped my hand over my mouth and Tifa looked at me "You're hiding? From those people we just saw?" I nodded.
"I'm hiding from a lot of people."
"Because they want something from me, but they're not going to get it." I muttered through my teeth as I threw a rock against the edge of a slide as hard as I could. "We better head home."
(To be continued)
Note: I know Elana wasn't part of the Turks at this time, but *tries to look as big as possible* IT'S MY STORY AND I CAN WRITE WHATEVER I WANT! (no flames please)
Have a heart, send a review!!