I Know What's Beneath the Snow Fields -Chp.1

By Zahra (mailto:Zahraali@dns.kuniv.edu.kw)

The busy cars packed the streets as the snow fell gently one cold February afternoon in Midgar. With the platforms that used to block the slums from the sky destroyed by Meteor, the people below could enjoy, or suffer, from the weather as never before. The truth was, snow wasn't the only thing new to the slums of Midgar. What with ShinRa wiped out, a new mayor was elected to start the period of "Rebuilding". Whatever was left of the ShinRa Headquarters was torn down, and new buildings began springing out of the cold ground; there was a greater emphasis on freedom of expression and choice; but probably most importantly, old, decaying slums were being exterminated while new, cleaner neighborhoods were created. As a result, Midgar rapidly transformed: from shops to TV to business organizations to economic policies, literally, everything changed.

As Tifa skipped across the street, she tightened her shawl around her neck.

Yes, it's very cold today, she remarked to herself, I hope Cloud can do without me for a while.

She made her way along the alley and emerged into a little, cobble-stoned square with a broken fountain marking its center.

"Hm..this must be it," she murmured while producing a small note from her pocket. The note simply had "Meet me at the Rosa Cafe in Tally Square at 5 o'clock. It's urgent" scribbled on it. Tifa could not guess who wrote her this message. She thought perhaps Barret sent it, but Cloud, who now lived with her, discredited that idea. Barret lived so far away. Besides, argued Cloud, since when did Barret have such nice hand-writing?

She sighed in annoyance when she found the Cafe. It was an extremely small, snug-looking place, with a fancy, green neon sign reading "Rosa Cafe". She couldn't explain why, but she had an ominous feeling about this "meeting". But she came this far, and may as well continue. So, she entered it, determined to finish quickly.

Pushing the glass door, Tifa immediately noticed that barely anyone was in the cafe. Only an old man reading his newspaper over a cup of coffee. when Tifa met his eye, the old man made no sign of recognition, but took a sip of his coffee and flipped the page. Not him, deduced Tifa. She looked around again, in case her eyes had deceived her, but nobody else was there. Hmph, just a practical joke, she frowned.

"Miss Lockhart, yes?"

Tifa jumped at the mention of her name, and turned around quickly in surprise. A man around thirty years old stood towering over her, with a polite smile to greet her.

"Y..yes. That's me," she stammered, taken aback.

"I'm glad you decided to come," commented the man, "would you like something to drink?"

He ordered a plain coffee, but Tifa declined the offer out of mistrust. As they sat in a booth at the corner of the cafe, Tifa thought there was something strangely striking about the man in front of her. He was dressed in a smart, black business suit and an obviously expensive trench coat. But Tifa didn't find that aspect too peculiar. It was probably his face, she reasoned. The man had a good-looking face with gentle, almost aristocratic, features. But he had pure, snow-white hair that struck her as almost unnatural. It was thick, soft, and some locks of hair hung graciously infront of his face, but the color wasn't right. Then she noticed the bizarre color of his eyes: they were dark pink. Tifa couldn't remember ever seeing such a unique color.

"Well then," began the man, interrupting Tifa's thoughts, "I suppose you want to know why I asked for you."

"Yes," replied Tifa, uneasily, "You send me a message, invite me to coffee, and I don't even know your name!"

"Eh well," smiled the man as he sipped some of his coffee,"I'm not worth knowing."

Tifa frowned discontently at his reply, "Very well, Sir, what do you want from me?"

"I won't waste your time, Miss Lockhart," said the man as he placed the cup in the saucer. He reached for a pocket inside his trench coat and tossed a picture in front of Tifa.

"Do you know this man, Miss Lockhart?"

Tifa picked up the picture and examined the face...it looked *so* familiar. The young man in the picture wore a navy blue suit...a Turks suit, Tifa noticed. He had thick, jet black hair cut short, and bright, blue eyes. Tifa scrutinized the face for a minute...that face..is it..

"Is it Vincent Valentine??" asked Tifa in surprise. She knew Vincent was a Turk, but she never imagined him to look like that.

"Yes, indeed. It is Vincent Valentine, confirmed the man, "I apologize..the picture is very old, but I hear he didn't change that much, so he's still recognizable."

That was true, reflected Tifa, Vincent never grew old externally. He always looked as old as he always did when Hojo..."altered" his body.

"But," began Tifa cautiously, "Why are you showing me his picture?"

"I'd like to ask you, Miss Lockhart, do you know where I could find Mr. Valentine?"

Tifa stared at him in surprise, "Excuse me..? You..you're asking me where Vincent is?"


There was something very cold in the man's curt reply, almost malicious, as his gaze pierced Tifa's eyes. It was as if he were trying to extract the information by force. Tifa fingered her shawl nervously and dodged his eyes by looking down.

"Sir, to be honest, I don't know where he is," she replied deliberately.

"Are you sure?" asked the man, as he lighted a cigarette he produced from his side pocket, " I know you made contact with him about a year ago, and that Mr. Valentine joined your Avalanche group shortly afterwards. Are you sure he didn't hint at where he was going after you all separated?"

How the Hell does this man know all this, wondered Tifa with rising suspicion.

"I'm sorry, but Mr. Valentine never mentioned where he was going. I last saw him in Midgar, but we all separated, and he went his own way."

"Not even a guess, Miss Lockhart?" asked the man, puffing his cigarette casually, "can you guess where I may find him?"

Tifa picked up the picture again, this time focusing on Vincent's eyes. They were beautiful, but expressionless, just as they always were, and betrayed nothing. That's what always struck Tifa about Vincent; he only spoke when spoken to, he avoided any type of attention, and always, always stood aloof. Tifa put down the picture, and took a deep breath.

"Listen," started Tifa resolutely, "when Avalanche disbanded, all the members took a different route. Mr. Valentine never, ever mentioned what he planned to do. In fact, he simply walked away, without a goodbye, and disappeared. That's all I know, Sir."

He looked at her quietly as she finished, and then an awkward silence ensued between them. He puffed his cigarette one last time as he languidly replied, "I see."

The man extinguished his cigarette, took some money out of his wallet to pay for the coffee, and finally retracted the picture to his pocket.

"Then, I thank you for you time, Miss Lockhart. Good day."

He rose up to leave, but Tifa halted him, "Wait! Why do you want to find Vincent so badly??"

The man, however, ignored her and hurriedly walked out of the restaurant. Tifa looked through the restaurant window as he plodded away until he disappeared from her sight.

Why Vincent, of all people? wondered Tifa. Does he know him?

Tifa walked sullenly back to her restaurant, which was also her home. The meeting had obviously no good effect on her. In fact, she felt grumpy and totally discontent with it. Nevertheless, she couldn't stop thinking about what happened between her and that strange man. By the time she reached her destination, the streets had emptied a little and the snow had ceased falling. She ascended a flight of stairs to a porch of a small, clean building, marked with a clear sign above the door reading "Tifa's Seventh Heaven".

-End of Chp.1