Al Bhed Indeed

Haru 93: We’re back! It’s Gildas Magnus and me again! And once more, my parts are written in italics, and his are in underline. I do so love my continuity…
Gildas Magnus: Just in case it isn’t clear, I’m “Steven” and Haru is “Charlotte”. XD

“Oi, get up Charlotte!” The voice was loud and yet kind of fuzzy, but it had sounded as though it was very nearby. I grunted indistinctly, and clutched my bedcovers more tightly. “Come on, we were meant to be going shopping! Get your lazy butt out of bed already.” Now I recognised the voice; it belonged to my brother, Steven. I groaned again, and stretched out. Steven yanked at my quilt and, catching me unawares, managed to pull it off my bed. “Ten more minutes,” I mumbled; my first understandable words of the day. “No, now! Come on, I’ve been looking forward to this all week!” I peeked blearily up at him.

Steven was tall and skinny and deathly pale with dark hair that spiked over his face, emphasising his chalky complexion. The black shirt he was wearing didn’t help much, either. “Nngh,” I grumbled, burying my face into my pillows. “Too light,” I grunted. Another sentence! I was doing well this morning. I heard Steven sigh, and then he pulled at my pillows. I grabbed hold of them, but he was stronger than me – only because I had just woken up – and yanked them away. I jumped out of bed. “Fine, I’m up. Are you happy now? You ruddy sadist.” Steven beamed at me, until I whacked him around the head with a pillow. He went to hit me back, but I ducked and ran out of the room (headed for the bathroom), pausing at the door to blow a raspberry mockingly at him.

Charlotte was always like this. I could never get her to do anything when it needed to be done, and whenever something was totally unimportant she’d jump at the opportunity. But then, she was my little sister, and I had to forgive her. Nine months can really make you mature. I laughed slightly at my own joke, and looked around her room; messy as always. Sighing slightly, I picked up a few items of clothing off of the floor and threw them into her laundry basket. Smiling a little, I walked out and passed the bathroom, into my own room.

Red and black. Best colours in the world. I jumped on my bed and gazed up at the ceiling, thinking. I thought about Charlotte, how she was already making us late. I thought about Mum, always running around, making sure everything was okay. Then I thought about Dad… he was out on business. He always went away on three-week long business trips, if not longer. Where did he go? I didn’t have a clue. Mum knew, but didn’t say. “It’s not my place,” she’d say. I never thought of asking Dad. My total opposite, Dad was stocky, strong and slightly overweight, in that “Muscle-heavy” sort of way. Me? I was lanky, thin and underweight by miles, no matter what I ate, or how much exercise I did, I never changed. Of course, I’d gotten used to it. But sometimes I wondered…Dad and I were total opposites, and Mum wasn’t tall either. So where did I get it from? “Hey, Steve, come on!” I heard Charlotte shout, and I raced downstairs to meet her.

I hollered up to Steven, and when he finally appeared I tugged on my boots and opened the door. “Bye Steven,” simpered Mum, giving him a hug. “Bye Mum,” he said obediently, rolling his eyes at me. I held in a snort of laughter and jumped out of the house happily, letting the sunlight warm my pale face. We walked to the bus stop quickly, making jokes carelessly and enjoying how warm it had turned out, even though it was already December. As the bus rattled into view, I turned to Steven again. “At least you can’t get the wrong bus if I’m here with you!” I joked, reminding him of the time he had caught a bus going in the opposite direction to the one he needed. “Yeah well,” he muttered, glaring at me mockingly and stepping onto the bus.

After paying for our tickets, we went up the stairs and went straight to the back, past the curious stares of many people. I jumped into one corner and stretched my legs over the next three seats, and at the opposite end Steven mirrored me. People were finally stopping looking at us. One old man was still staring at us, however, so I stuck my tongue out at him. He turned back to the front rather quickly then, an affronted expression on his face.

Steven and I seemed to attract a lot of funny looks. We tended to chalk it down to our fashion sense; Steven was hardcore emo, and never went anywhere unless he was wearing three different items of black. I was more indie, with the drainpipe jeans, retro slogan tees, baseball boots, and scarves. As a pair we tended to stand out a lot, hence the staring. But we definitely liked to think it was a good thing. I flicked the thumbs-up at Steven, and he laughed. Again the old man turned around. In perfect synch, we raised our eyebrows at him and narrowed our carefully eyelinered eyes. Needless to say, he didn’t look back in a hurry.

As the bus flashed through the streets and, eventually, fields, Charlotte and I talked about every possible thing. “Hey,” she began, “Did you see Jake yesterday?” I shook my head, and Charlotte’s face took on a look of sheer horror. “You have to see him! He’s dyed his hair… Orange AND Green!” I looked back incredulously, and brought my hand up to cover my gaping mouth. “No way! He looked so good blonde! I would’ve dated him!” Charlotte laughed. “Yeah, me too. But orange and green at the same time? No thanks.” I shook my head. No way was I going after a guy with clashing hair.

The bus finally rattled to a halt at the bus station of the city, and me and Charlotte leapt down the stairs to get off, thanking the driver as we left. Making a left turn, we headed through the crowd and made a right turn after, heading into the large shopping centre. We first stopped at Ben & Jerry’s (“Cookie Dough! Cookie Dough,”) and started through the town. We got some funny looks (And, I swear it, some good looks too from this pair of Goth guys, I swear on my life one was winking at me!) and paused to rest outside Gregg’s Bakery. Charlotte poked me and I looked up, noticing the confused look on her face. “Dad’s on business, right?” I nodded. “Yeah, why?” She pointed through the crowd, to a short man in a black suit, talking to a tall blonde guy. “Then, who’s that?” I squinted, and caught a glimpse of the slightly podgy face. “That’s…That’s Dad!” I said, hardly believing my eyes. For there, in his black suit, talking to an unmistakably Al Bhed male, was our father. And who was our father most racist against? The Al Bhed.

“It’s…if it’s Dad, then why is he stood talking to an Al Bhed? He hates them!” Steven shook his head, nonplussed, but I hadn’t expected an answer. The Al Bhed were a race of people who lived in our world, but most people hated them. It all began thousands of years ago, when Sin struck. He destroyed towns, cities, villages and killed countless people. And Yevon – the religion of the world at the time – taught that it was because of the machina (machines) the Al Bhed used. Then, it hadn’t only been the Al Bhed who used them; but the Al Bhed were the only ones who refused to stop using them. And so, this worldwide racism had begun. Now, however, Sin was gone – and yet people still hated the Al Bhed.

I didn’t hate the Al Bhed. I didn’t see how one religion could start pointing fingers at first, but now I understood; the Al Bhed were outsiders. They kept to themselves and spoke their own language – so it would have been easy to blame them. Eventually, the rest of the world would band together to hate this small group of outsiders. They were the weakest, so Yevon decided it could be their fault. Once I finally worked this out, I grew a fierce protection over the Al Bhed. I didn’t care what anybody thought, they weren’t bad people. However, this meant I was generally getting in a lot of fights. People despised Al Bhed sympathetics more than the Al Bhed themselves. But it didn’t matter to me; my principles had always been strong, and I always liked to stand up for what I believed in – it just meant that I had learned to punch harder and run faster.

Steven was still staring at our dad. I beckoned for him to follow me and started to walk towards them, but he grabbed my shoulder. “We can’t,” he whispered. It was weird; even though there was no way he would hear us, we were still being secretive. I shook my head. “Yes, we can. If he’s supposed to be going abroad, then why is he here? And why is he talking to an Al Bhed? Don’t we deserve to know if he’s lying to us?” Without waiting for his response, I grabbed Steven by the wrist and tugged him behind me as I threaded through the crowds. He was still hesitant, but I didn’t care.

When we were close enough to hear what they were talking about, I turned to Steven again. He looked annoyed with me. “We really shouldn’t do this,” he mumbled. I stared at him. “Fine,” I said, “fine. I’ll do it alone then. I want to know why he’s been lying to all of us. If you don’t, then it’s your choice.” I stepped closer to the odd pairing and hid around a corner, listening in. I stopped thinking about Steven as I strained my ears.

My mind was screaming for me to make her stop but my body refused. I simply couldn’t go any closer, I couldn’t risk it. I should have been there with Charlotte, but my rationality kept me back. If she was caught, I could bail her out. If we were both caught, it was a simple but unfair choice: Stay or run. And so I stayed, watching Charlotte’s bending figure, as she leaned in for a closer listen.

She motioned back to me, bidding me to come forward, but I shook my head. She then turned back, holding her hand behind her back to motion things to me. As she listened and I waited, I watched her hand forming symbols. Okay…One Three Oh…One thirty? She pointed to the left…to the food area of the shopping centre…Lunch? She turned back to me and started walking in my direction, mouthing one word over and over. “Tomorrow. Tomorrow.”