Episode Zero -Friends- Chapter 3

This is the third chapter of Part Two: Friends of Episode Zero -Promise- written by Jun Eishima.
The translation below is by Lissar. Because official romanizations of the names have not yet been released, they might be off.

Inside the airship everyone raised their voices in excitement. Below them shards of light scattered across the surface of the lake, glittering. Everything was colored in various shades of green. They had just passed over the residential area of Sanles, which was next to the largest natural forest in all of Cocoon.
“Is that Lake Shela?”
“Hey, what’s that big tree over there?”
“Is that a mountain?”
The voices of the children were so loud it almost seemed they would break the windows of the airship.
“Alright, would everyone please be quiet!”
Their teachers voice echoed across theirs. After ten years of doing this the teacher didn’t blink an eye, but the airship staff were looking askance at the children. This airship usually only took on passengers that could pay their high price. Which means usually they would only see members of Sanctum on important business. Watching over children was out of their area of expertise.
The nature preserve was in an area that could only be reached by a special access point, for which they hired the latest civilian vessels. The result of which was that the the staff of the airship only had to deal with it a couple times a year, and were unused to it.
The airship gradually dropped altitude, and Lake Shela grew closer. The surface of the lake filled the view from the windows, and the children started talking excitedly again. Their teacher clapped her hands and raised her voice “Pay attention!” and everyone quieted.
“The airship will be landing soon. We will not be landing beside the lake, and there is only a temporary landing facility set up. Please take care not to run about. If you understand please raise your hand.”
Okay! Everyone said, raising their hands as one. Hope heard a voice beside him say “Oh wow…” It was Kai. Hope kept his hand raised and asked him quietly:
“What is it?”
“It’s really hard to land somewhere that doesn’t have a landing strip.”
“And this airship is huge, only a specialist pilot could land this here.”
Hope didn’t really know what he was talking about. Kai wanted to be an army pilot when he grew up, so he knew all about that sort of thing, but Hope knew nothing. But if Kai said the pilot was amazing, it must be true.
“What are you two talking about?” Elida said. She was standing beside Kai, leaning over him.
“You’re being loud.” Kai frowned at her. Elida was the best singer in the class, but she also had the loudest voice.
They had met during the opening ceremonies when they had first entered elementary school. The teachers had sat them together. They sat together in class as well, and the three of them became close. They were always doing stuff together.
Their interests, likes and personalities were completely different, but sometimes a external closeness matters more than an internal one. They lived close by each other, and often went home from school together. Both Hope and Elida were the only children in their family, but Kai had a little brother who was three years younger. His name was Hal, and the four of them often played together. Year after year, they always ended up in the same class. Though they weren’t always seated together, during trips and events like this one they always got together.
“He says the airship’s pilot is really amazing.” Hope leaned on Elida to whisper in her ear.
“Amazing? What is?” Elida tilted her head. Kai was about to give a detailed explanation, when the teacher ran over.
“Hey, you over there! Stop talking and lower your hands.”
Only the three of them still had their hands raised in the air. They quickly dropped their hands in embarrassment and everyone laughed.
“It’s all your fault you know!” Elida said, pouting. That’s when the scenery outside suddenly stopped. He hadn’t even felt the slightest tremor as the ship landed. Hope didn’t know anything about airships, but even he could tell that the pilot was good.
“See, pretty good huh?” Kai said, as if he were the one who landed the ship.

The first place the children looked at as they got off the airship was what was beneath their feet. They had never felt anything like it before. In Palumpolum there were streets everywhere. Even in parks there were few places where the earth was exposed. They were surprised at the strange feeling underneath their feet, but when they got a good look around they became more surprised at what they saw. Grass and trees weren’t usual, but they were always in planters or surrounded by rocks. They had never really seen so many green things like they could here.
“Alright, pay attention everyone! Does anyone remember the field trip rules we learned yesterday?”
Everyone raised their hands.
“Okay, then what are the three “don’ts”, let’s everyone say it together!”
“Don’t run, don’t play around, don’t push.”
“Very good! It’s different here than it is in the city. It’s easy to slip so you shouldn’t run. The monsters here are usually quiet, but if you yell or make loud noises it will surprise them and they might attack you. So let’s be very quiet, okay?”
They had gone over this several times since they found out they had been chosen to go. They all knew just telling people to be quiet probably wouldn’t do anything, so they drummed it into their heads. Soldiers had already driven the most dangerous monsters away from the path they would be taking. The only ones left were the quietest and gentlest monsters, and even they were gently dissuaded from coming near the visitors.
Doing this took a lot more time than simply killing all the monsters. But in Sanles they were studying the monsters, so they couldn’t kill them. Hope had heard about it from his father.
“And there is one more important thing you must remember. There are a lot of ravines and cliffs here, and it is very dangerous. Today they have platforms and ropes set up for us, but only in certain areas. Never go outside of the observation area! These researchers will be guiding us, so please listen to everything they say. Everyone understand?”
Everyone raised their hand, and Hope looked over to the path they would be taking. Through the dense trees he could see steep craggy cliffs and sharp rocks. He felt a bit nervous about walking in a place that was “very dangerous.”
According to the plan, they would go from Lake Shela on through Rainbow Pass, and walk along the forest trail before turning back. Once they returned to the lakeside they would eat lunch and have some free time. Hope thought that only people that wanted to walk on the path should have to. If they didn’t want to they should be able to stay there.
The edge of Lake Shela was beautiful. Flowers of various colors grew all around. Close by there were huge trees, the shade beneath them looked cool and quiet.
Hope preferred playing indoors than being outside. He liked playing games at home, or going over to Kai’s house to look at pictures of army weapons and machinery. But since both Kai and Elida liked playing outdoors, they only played inside on rainy days, or when Hal was feeling too sick to go outside.
“Alright, now we’ll be dividing you up by class. The path is narrow, so please form a single file line!”
Every class had a researcher to guide them. Unlike the teachers, the researchers were not used to raising their voices. They each carried a small megaphone with them.
The line of children moved slowly along. At just a bit less than a hundred people, the line was fairly long.
“These flowers are so beautiful.” Elida reached her hand out to a pale red flower, but Hope stopped her.
“You can’t. It says we aren’t supposed to touch or pick any of the plants. They said there are even some that can give you a rash.”
“I know that. I was just going to take a picture.” Elida said as she took out a toy camera from her pocket.
“I wonder if mom would like a picture of a flower….”
Hope took out his own toy camera. The cameras would send data automatically, and were an absolute must for events like these. Compared to normal cameras, the toy camera only had a little bit of space for data. Once you’ve filled up all of the memory on the camera, the data would be sent automatically to the nearest computer terminal. Then, within the same day the paper photos are sent to your house. The camera itself is cheap and meant to be used and thrown away, so it’s perfect for children who might drop it or break it. And being able to use up all the space on the camera in a day makes it even better.
Hope aimed his camera at the pale red flower. He also took a picture of the white flower next to it. It’s thin petals scattered in the breeze. He took a picture of that too. I hope the pictures come out, he thought. There were flowers here that you’d never see in the city. And not just flowers. The monster he could see in the distance just added to Sanles’ charm.
Hope was in a trance, clicking picture after picture. He hardly even noticed climbing up the hill.
“Hey, don’t you think the wind here has a sort of… strange smell?” Elida said to him. Hope had been noticing it too. Once they left the lakeside and started walking through the pass. He had smelled it then.
“It smells like, ick, medicine.” Kai sniffed the air and grimaced.
“No, not like medicine. More like herbs?”
“Yeah, it’s kind of like the stuff gramps drinks.”
Probably hearing their conversation, the female researcher in front of them turned and and smiled.
“That’s the smell of green stuff. Of dirt and grass.”
All the children in the area exchanged glances. They had dirt in the city. They had flower pots, and other plants that grew out of the ground. But they had never smelled anything like this.
“Untreated and unpurified dirt smells like this. And the plants that grow in it.”
Come to think of it, Hope thought, the flowers smelled different too. Not really different, just stronger. He had gotten just close enough to take a picture of them, but the sweet smell of the flowers had reached him. It had surprised him. He wondered if that was because of the dirt here.
“Look! A monster!” Someone yelled. When he looked, he saw something crawling along the edge of a ravine. It was translucent, and squishy looking. What a strange monster.
“That’s a Vegetapudding. The improved breed is edible you know.”
Everyone raised their voices in shock and disbelief.
“I don’t think I’ll tell you what it gets processed into. It would be so much trouble if some kids got disgusted and wouldn’t eat it anymore.” She winked jokingly.
Their field trip was about to degrade into a discussion on what kind of food a Vegetapudding could possibly be, when they reached Rainbow Pass. The researcher probably had that planned from the beginning when she started talking about edible Vegetapuddings.
When they reached the top of the pass, the view there erased all thoughts of monsters. A rainbow arched in the sky, and light shone down through cracks in the clouds. He heard the click of someone’s camera. They must have just remembered they had one. That was the signal. Everyone grabbed their cameras and hurried to take a picture of the scene before them.
“There are lots of beautiful places, so remember to save so space on your cameras.”
On those words the sound of clicking stopped. Hope just barely managed to stop himself. He had almost used all of his space up.
“If only I could have brought another camera.” Elida said sadly. Probably everyone was thinking the same thing. But the rule was that they could have only one camera per person.
“Alright everyone, look over here please.” The researcher was speaking through her megaphone. She must have waited until everyone was finished taking pictures to start her speech.
“As everyone already knows, the weather in Cocoon is controlled by the fal’Cie. As a general rule, the fal’Cie do not tell humans what the weather schedule is going to be.”
But there are exceptions. For storms, lightning, strong wind and other bad weather the fal’Cie send notices to the Sanctum, and the Sanctum warns the citizens so they can prepare. The announcements from the fal’Cie are always correct, they never miss.
Compare this to the so-called “weather forecast”, where humans gather data on weather climate changes. They are usually quite accurate, but are still nothing but predictions and can occasionally be wrong.
“Unlike the rest of Cocoon, the weather in Sanles is controlled by it’s own fal’Cie. This is because we are studying the effect rain, wind and other weather have on the plants and monsters.”
Elida raised her hand, wanting to ask a question.
“Are there any monsters that dislike rain?”
Elida hates rain. That’s probably why she thought of that question.
“Of course there are. But also, there are monsters that love the rain too.”
Elida made a face. She looked as though she wished she hadn’t asked. Hope and Kai both had to stifle a laugh.
“It’s not on our tour today, but beyond that cliff there is a valley where we are keeping monsters that love rain and monsters that hate it. We are controlling the rain in that area and checking to see how the monsters react. That is also why you will often see a rainbow from this pass.”
Didn’t dad say that it was light refracting off of water particles in the air that made rainbows? Hope thought to himself. I should ask him about the edible Vegetapuddings. He’d know.
“Alright, let’s head off to the next area. Up ahead is a place called “The Tree Shaded Path”. There are a lot of unusual sunlight hating plants growing there. But it’s very slippery, so be careful when you take pictures.” That is all, the researcher said, flipping the switch on her microphone.
They formed a line again and continued on down the path. The road from the lakeside to the top of Rainbow Pass had been a hill, but now it was a gentle slope downward. Despite that, it was more difficult to walk on. Hope had never known how slippery wet grass and dirt could be. The path was flat, with no rocks, but he nearly fell many times. When he did fall he became all covered in dirt. The information he had received about the field trip had said, “Bring shoes that are easy to walk in, and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.” Now he knew what that meant.
Looking around, he was glad that he still had some space left on his toy camera. He forgot his fatigue as he snapped pictures of the soft light hitting the rocks, of the grass transparent as crystal.
When they came to the end of the path, Hope took one last picture. The light indicating that the data was being sent blinked and then switched off. Now it was nothing but an empty box. As he stuffed it in his pocket, he felt insecure. Now he had nothing to do.
Though it was the same path back, it seemed to become more difficult to walk on. His footsteps felt heavy.
“Ugh, can’t we go home now?” Hope said, complaining a little.
“Seriously.” Elida said, out of breath.
“But once we get back to Lake Shela we’ll have free time!”
Kai was the only one who seemed full of energy. Apparently falling down didn’t bother him. His hands and clothes were covered in dirt.
“Kai you need to be more careful. What if you hurt yourself?”
He said he was fine, but quickly fell on his backside. Unfazed, he jumped up and continued walking.
“If he says he’s fine, then he’s fine.” Elida said, sighing.

After eating lunch and resting a bit, Hope felt his fatigue completely disappear. When he had returned to the lake shore he had thought he would never want to move again.
“What should we do? We still have lots of time.”
Here they could run and yell all they wanted, they wouldn’t get in trouble for it.
"Let’s climb that big tree over there. I want to take a picture from the top.”
“You haven’t finished taking all of your pictures yet Kai? You usually take them all at once.” Elida said, surprised. Hope could sense something bad happening, he tried to come between them before something happened.
“We can’t climb the trees or rocks. If you climbed that tree and fell, you’d die.”
Neither Kai nor Elida would be able to think about other things when they were excited about something. It was always up to Hope to try and stop them.
“So how would you climb it? I don’t think you can.”
“But I promise Hal. I told him I would take a really cool picture for him.”
Oh yeah, that’s right, Hope thought, Hal had wanted to come on this trip. But Hal wasn’t even in school yet. Kai had spent a long time trying to calm him down, trying to think of something to make up for him not being able to go. That’s probably why he had promised he’d take a cool picture.
“Then why didn’t you take one on top of Rainbow Pass….”
“I did. But it didn’t seem enough. I took pictures of monsters too, but it didn’t seem quite cool enough you know? So for my last picture I want to take it from the top of that tree.”
“But you can’t. Not that tree.”
“You never know until you try.” Kai said, putting his hand in his pocket. He frowned.
“What’s wrong?”
Kai said nothing, checking his pocket on the other side. Hope felt relieved.
“What? You didn’t drop your camera did you?”
He looked in his coat pocket, and in his bag. After looking everywhere he could, he finally gave up. Hope and Elida could tell what had happened just by looking at his face.
“Well I’m sure it fell around here somewhere.” Hope said.
It has to be, everyone agreed. So they looked around they area, but came up with nothing.
“Did you drop it on the path? You did keep falling over.” Elida pointed to his dirty knees.
“No, I had it with me when we came back. I was trying to decide whether or not to take a picture on the pass. I know I had it with me then.”
So it had to be somewhere between Rainbow Pass and the lakeside. But they couldn’t get there anymore. When they came back the path was closed off again. The researchers wanted to keep outside interference to a minimum.
“Hey Hope, does your camera have any space left on it?”
Usually Hope would end up lending him his camera. Kai and Elida would always take pictures twice as fast as Hope would, and use up all their space. Hope thought that they should think a little bit more about the pictures they take, but when he told them that they just said that he thought too much. In the end his camera would end up having pictures from all three of them.
But today was different.
“Sorry, the data already sent.”
It was impossible to think too much about taking pictures here. The scenery in Sanles was so beautiful. That made it even more strange that Kai wouldn’t have finished taking pictures.
“Me too. I used it all on Rainbow Pass.” Elida said.
Kai sighed.
“Guess that’s that then.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll show Hal my pictures too.” Elida tried to make him feel better. “Hope will show him his pictures too. That should be okay, right? He’ll see double the pictures. I’m sure he’ll be happy with that.”
But the pictures would be arriving at their houses tonight. Hal would only get to see them tomorrow, after school. Hope thought of Hal. The four of them usually played together after school. It upset him that he would be the only one not going. He kept saying, “Why can’t I go?”
Hal would be so disappointed…
No, they had to do it. They had to do it for Hal.
“Let’s go look for it.”
Kai and Elida both looked surprised.
“It’s not that far to Rainbow Pass. We’ll just look around until free time is over.”
“But we’re not supposed to go on the path.”
“It’s okay, we’ll just have to sneak in.”
They glanced at each other. They never thought Hope would say anything like this.
“My dad said you should never break a promise, no matter how small.”

He had also said that even if you’ve forgotten a promise, the other person will remember it. Kai could just say that it couldn’t be helped and be done with it. But Hal would have been waiting excitedly all day for those pictures.
“Let’s go look for it.” He said again. Even though Hal wasn’t his age, he was a friend. Elida seemed to feel the same.
“Yeah, we don’t want Hal to be disappointed.”
It was decided.

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