Chapter 3: The Flower Girl
She didn’t know what was going on. One minute, everything was normal- as normal as it could be in Midgar, at least. Then-
An explosion sounded huge metal pieces started flying around. Of course, people started screaming and running around. The explanations kept going wilder with each person she asked:
“There was a power surge and the reactor exploded!” “No, a summon went berserk!” “No, Shin Ra were testing a bomb” and even things like “The Planet’s angry because of Shin Ra’s activities with Mako!”
“Seriously…” she muttered. She picked up her flower basket. She was going home- she won’t be able to sell flowers among this confusion anyway… Then, she saw a guy who looked like he knew what was going on, walking straight ahead without any confusion in his eyes.
Mako eyes? the girl wondered.
She didn’t know what it was but there was something familiar about him. In the way he walked and the aura of safety and protection that he emitted. She almost thought it was him but there was none of that exasperatingly wonderful and playful smile in his eyes.
“Besides,” she noticed. “they look nothing alike.”
Oh well, he’d probably know something of what happened. Clearing her thoughts, she approached the guy.
Cloud was a bit shocked at the scene that met him. He knew that this’d happen but he hadn’t really thought of it before. Too many buildings were burning, innocent people wounded. Was this right?
Get a grip. He told himself. You’re from SOLDIER 1st Class. You’ve seen and done worse.
As he was surveying the scene, a girl approached him. She had light brown hair drawn back in a thick plait with a pink ribbon tied around it. Her bangs framed her face, showing her emerald-green eyes. She almost seemed mysterious.
“Excuse me, do you know what happened here?” she asked in a normal voice.
Cloud stared at her. Was she for real? Everyone else was running around, panicking, and here she was, just a girl probably around 17 or 18, asking him what was going on calmly. And politely.
“Um, staring at someone like that is a bit rude, you know!” she pouted.
“Sorry, it’s just that… you seem a bit too calm. Everyone else is panicking and a girl like you not? That’s a bit disconcerting, don’t you think?” he asked, trying to cover up his embarrassment.
Her eyes flashed. Green eyes, he noticed.
“Excuse me, I’m already 22, you know! I’m hardly a ‘young girl’!” she said testily.
“Eh,” Cloud was taken aback again. “you’re older than me!?”
“Hey! It’s rude to call a girl ‘old’ you know!” she pouted again.
What!?? She was just angry at being called ‘young’ and now she’s pouting because I called her old? Cloud wondered, confused.
“Anyway,” he said, ignoring what she just said, it seemed safest to. “It’s dangerous out here.”
Cloud knew he said the wrong thing as soon as the words were out of his mouth. He said the same thing to Tifa a few days ago and her reaction, well, best not to think about it. And Tifa was normally demure!
Cloud saw the girl’s cheeks redden.
“Oh, so you’re saying that I can’t take care of myself, huh?” She asked in a honey sweet voice. “That wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that I’m a girl, would it?” She glared at him, inching her face closer with every word.
“Uhh,” Cloud stammered. He felt rather than saw a thick metal rod press against his chest. When did she pull that out? And he called himself a first class SOLDIER… He couldn’t answer properly, those green eyes were distracting. He looked around, trying to change the topic.
“Hey, are those flowers? You don’t see much of those around here!” He noticed in a falsely bright voice.
The change in the girl’s expression was shocking. Her face suddenly brightened and then turned a little… wistful- he couldn’t think of any other word for it. Then, she smiled. It wasn’t forced but it was somehow a little sad. Surprisingly, her mood still looked cheery.
“Oh yes! Did you want one? They’re only a gil…” she asked
“Sure, I’ll have one.” Cloud tried to smile too.
“Here you go!” she beamed as she handed him a particularly bright pink flower. Then, she made a face.
“Don’t think this makes up for the things you said, though! I’m still angry about that!” she winked.
“I-“ Cloud began, taken aback for the third time in their conversation. “Wait, I gotta go!”
Putting the flower on his back pocket, Cloud ran towards the train station.
A minute later, Shin Ra soldiers followed.
Cloud was thinking hard as he ran, letting instinct move his legs to the right direction. The girl he just met seemed… familiar. He was positive he hadn’t seen her before, though. It was just that everything about her, especially those green eyes seemed… well, familiar.
I think I’ve heard about her before, Cloud thought, from someone’s story…
But that wasn’t possible. He was a first class SOLDIER. He didn’t talk to anyone below him, only in the line of work. And even, with his comrades, he hardly ever talked except when necessary.
Cloud shook his head. No matter how he turned his mind around it, he didn’t know the girl. He was sure he’d remember someone like her. Funny and witty, and also a bit childish, she was almost the opposite of Tifa who was caring and a bit motherly at times. They were both beautiful and kind of headstrong though. But yes, the flower girl was childish.
She’d probably have stuck out her tongue at me if we talked a bit more, Cloud grinned. I hope we meet again sometime though. I still wanna know why she seems so familiar..
That was unlikely, though. After this, he’d be off to find more mercenary work, just as he planned. Preferably away from Shin Ra so that’d mean away from Midgar and from AVALANCHE. Away from his childhood friend and a promise he couldn’t keep… Was he just running away from that broken promise? He was just trying to pay it off with this mission, after all. But maybe…
He stopped. No more unnecessary thoughts. The infantrymen had caught up.
An echo sounded from the moment steel meets steel. Cloud spun and blocked another tonfa from another infantryman. Five more came running and circled him, coming in only twos and threes.
These guys are experienced .Cloud thought. I could take them down but it’d take a minute and I have a schedule to keep.
Cloud faced the alley and took a step back, holding the huge sword with both hands beside his waist. He concentrated. The soldiers probably sensed it or more likely, seen his blue eyes glow a bit brighter as mako built up in specific parts of his body. They widened the circle warily.
“Braver!” Cloud shouted as he thrust into the space between two soldiers at lightning speed, knocking over those in his way.
He continued running all the way to the bridge and, in the middle, found his way blocked. More soldiers. And an officer with red uniform. These ones had rifles.
“Ranged, huh.” Cloud turned back but found that blocked as well. “Guess I have no choice, then!”
He spun the sword in his hand, flipping the blunt and sharp edges. As long as he kept close, the rifles wouldn’t be a problem. He was late though. No going around that.
“Barret’d probably freak.” Cloud sighed. The enemies cocked their rifles. Nope, couldn’t have that!
Cloud drew a smoke grenade in his pocket and threw it. Now, the soldiers can’t fire their rifles- they might hit each other.
He came at them then. Relying only on the sound of their footsteps, he tried to guess where they were.
I’m not used to this. He realized. How could that be? Did he never have to fight enemies this way before?
He put his mind in the battle and focused his mako-enhanced senses. An upward strike from behind and a downward slash from in front. He slipped sideways, letting them clash weapons and think it was him. He was winning but the smoke was dispersing… He checked his watch. I still need a few more seconds.
He returned his sword to his back and punched his way to the railing if the bridge. He seriously needed to improve hand to hand fighting. Why didn’t Shin Ra train him in this? But he reached his goal and heard his ticket out.
“Sorry guys, I’ve no more time to play with you. Maybe next time!” Cloud grinned at them and mockingly gave the infantryman’s salute with a rifle he picked up from a knocked out guy just then.
“What are you talk-?” The officer began.
The train whistle sounded.
“There’s my ride.” Cloud shouted through the noise, throwing the rifle at the officer who barely caught it.
He fell backwards, doing a somersault mid-air and landing on his toes like from a movie. Just as someone would expect from someone like him.
“Damn!” he heard the officer faintly as the train sped away. “Heidegger’s gonna kill the captain when he reports this!”
The flower girl laughed as the soldiers went past her, chasing the blue-eyed blond. If he was what she suspected, then those guys would probably be knocked out in a minute. But she was sure now- he wasn’t him reincarnated or something. He was too innocent around girls- something very ironic and amusing! He surprised her with steering the conversation with the flowers, though. Too many memories there, triggered by his familiarity as well… She hoped she could meet him again, though. He DID look a bit cute. Aerith Gainsborough laughed again at that, the wind swaying her hair sideward as she picked up her flower basket and headed home.