"Am I a butterfly dreaming I'm a poet...or a bowling ball dreaming I'm a plate of sashimi?" -Doreen, Chrono Trigger
"All life begins and ends with Nu..thats what I will believe for now..." -Book in Zeal, Chrono Trigger
The Trusty Squid was a cool, open-air bar in the lower slums of old Midgar. Sitting at almost any seat, over west you could see an extinct Mako reactor, which at the hottest times of the day was conveniently situated to shade the little bar, making it the only haunt to haunt during those hours.
If felt like an air conditioner inside it was so cool. Even on days when it was packed with bodies and the sun blazed overhead, the breeze would lose its heat over the large pond outside and filter through the sweating bodies before it left, making a day like today even chilly. Sometimes you'd go outside just to warm up in the hot weather being in there so long.
It was an unnatural, thankful kind of cool. A popular cool. And the wind always blew itself east towards them. It seemed to blow customers over as well.
But despite its errant popularity there was always one period of time during the week the bar was nearly empty and that was the same time Reno would come around and sit for a little drink. For most people, Sundays were non-working days; church days. Those who didn't go to church--and there were very few nowadays---came to the bar. Hot and sweaty like the few people around him, today was a working day, and Reno took a swig off his beer as he concluded it was not a good day to be weaing a business suit. Then he took another.
He had awoken a few hours ago and put on his business attire, wearing it today looser than he usually would, ties be damned By the time he got out of his apartment he was already sweating. Getting to the bar, he was nearly a drenched towel.
Most days he'd take the train to Shinra Tower, find out what Rufus wanted, then he'd go out and do what needed to be done for how long he needed to do it. It was a ritual of sorts. Though most of Midgar had been destroyed and a separate govenment did evolve around the new population that arose, Shinra still claimed deeds to many important pieces of real estate around the city and they were also trying to design a whole barrelful of reforms as an amends. It was his job to help manage the whole mess on any given day. It didn't revolve around the typical daily grind like most jobs did, but when a job was done the next one always began like it would. Except for the day right before Sunday. It would be a day like any other day if it weren't a Sunday.
Little girls would sing a song while playing jump rope at school. Wednesdays, mothers would go to the stores and buy the groceries for the rest of the week, then find themselves coming back on Saturdays. Office drones would take power naps on their lunch breaks to get a little extra rest. Laborers would bathe and wash their hands at home with rough soap after a long day's work was done. All their children would say their prayers at night before going to bed. Everyone had their rituals and this was one of his.
Flipping the bottle cap in his hands, he noticed a tall, buxomy, slender women with long black hair walk out of the back room and cross before him without paying him any mind. His brow furrowed: the beer bottle was empty and warm in his hands. He set the bottlecap on the table flat and flicked it across at Tifa as she walked by behind the counter.
'I see you, Reno.'
'Come on, old friend. I'm thirsty here.'
She walked over to the tiny fridge, one of many, and took out his favorite, walking back over to him and setting it on the spot in front of him. She opened it in the manner she always did, put a lime in, patted the table as if his hand were there as he reached for it, and walked away as coolly and dismissively as she had done earlier, like on any other Sunday. He knew she'd pull up a seat a while from now, ten minutes or maybe an hour, whenever she was good and ready---like she always did, as random as she always did---and they'd have that good and long conversation they always had that was never always about the same thing. That's what he always came here for. Every Sunday. To have a little conversation with Tifa.
She toyed around at the cash machine wearing gloves that looked like they'd hurt if they'd punch you. He'd had some experience with her choice in hand-wear once-upon-a-time. He knew there was no gun behind the register. She was quick enough with her own guns to knock you out good and cold and sometimes far even worse. No monsters in this area popped out of hiding since she had been living here; he believed he knew why.
She was a sassy, serious kind of woman. Perfect and beautiful and motherly to the core. Not good enough to drive you crazy, but good enough to keep you sane. They had a history together, long time ago, off to the side and behind the curtain. Often these days he wished he still had a bid at her heart. But times had changed, opportunity had knocked and he had left for what he had once thought were lovelier women once-upon-a-time. A mistake. Sitting there, looking at her hammering away at that register and knowing how smart she could knock a person right on the kisser, he began to yearn for her. Privately while sitting there, he was yearning like a puppy, yearning for a little attention.
Who had stolen her heart? She wasn't even looking in his direction.
Not anyone he could dislike anymore. Just the savior of the world who had righted the wrongs of his own company's mistakes. Twice. The quiet, self-loathing savior all real women dote on. Not the classy ignorant dim-witted women that fawn for his attention, just the real down-to-earth and beautiful women like Tifa and even that Cetra girl, Aerith. Women of substance. Women he needed now.
What a funny bar she was working in. The Trusty Squid? What kind of name was that? What ever happened to the 7th Heaven? It never dawned on him. He'd have to ask her.
Reno looked at his watch and wiped his red bangs from his eyes: cool and wet but drying up. He felt a little shiver and wondered how long he had been sitting in the Trusty Squid. This beer was almost gone as well. He needed another.
He was getting bored and tired of sitting there, though it was very pleasant. Nature had nearly taken back Midgar and Midgar was abloom; he could see it from his seat: flowers everywhere. But Tifa hadn't spoken much more than what she needed to say to a customer, and he had already forgotten that old friend gesture she gave him after she had taken off that bottle cap. Should he flick another one at her? Was she getting tired of their conversations? Should he leave? He looked a little worried and it showed now though he tried to hide it. He played with the bottle cap in his hand and wondered whatever happened to his cattle prod.
He flicked the bottle cap at Tifa.
'Are you going to talk to me today or what? I almost have to leave.'
She put the money in the cash register and closed it, walking tiredly over to Reno.
'What's with you today? You always chat with me. Is there something wrong?'
'I'm sorry, Reno. We're running low on money and we might have to close down the bar.'
'You're running low on money? How is that possible? This is the most popular bar in town!'
'I know...I'm not sure what is going on. All the money keeps disappearing.'
'Do you have a thief? Is someone stealing from you?'
'No, nobody is stealing from us. I can track every penny. It just doesn't make any sense.'
'I know what's happening. Your bar has the wrong name. The Trusty Squid doesn't make any sense. You should change it back to your old bar's name.'
A desperate attempt at conversation. Her lack of shock marked their friendship and how they had made amends with the past---for the most part.
'No. That's from a different time and place. A different world. This is today. We're no longer heroes. We have no struggle. And nobody remembers us, if they even knew us to begin with. This is just a bar and its about to close down. We're simply not making enough money.'
Reno felt the urge to throw millions of gil he didn't have at her, to even steal it from his own company. The thought crossed his mind to intimidate the mayor against his high taxes, which weren't high at all, or to hold up a bank like a cowboy and once again brandish a cattle prod to all the silly people in there, demanding jewelry and cash and the key to the vault.
'There's no other way you can keep it open?'
'People just aren't coming around as much anymore. Nobody wants to drink. I'm not sure what is going on.'
They were quiet for a moment. Reno looked around and it took a few moments as something crossed his mind. It was very beautiful outside. Very beautiful. And suddenly he understood.
Since the very beginning after Shinra and Midgar had collapsed things had become rotten and society had dredged. But as nature slowly began to take Midgar into her own once again life in Midgar started to get better as well. What was once an impoverished society struggling to get by had looked for a means of distractions here and there to deal with their lives. In time people learned to live anew and adapt to their new surroundings and Midgar began to metamorphose, if but very slowly. And now, in this time in age, society was persevering as people began to become wealthy again. The natural traits of adaption humanity had always possessed were still working their magic.
But as a result people weren't looking for a means for distraction anymore now that they could live them. Tifa had been there since the beginning in that convenient and highly magnetic spot providing escapes and distractions in alcoholic form. The bar trade was dwindling as the balance of wealth was shifting. Everyone had either moved away or no longer required her business. The world was getting better and brighter slowly day-by-day. It had been gnawing at her business since the very beginning with its natural progression of life. There was proof outside their window. That was all it was. And Tifa was losing business because of it.
Reno had just not been paying enough attention to see it himself, and Tifa had been far too busy with the bar to notice it as well. Coming only on Sundays, when no matter what time of day he would come she would barely have any customers. He could only see the job he had to do and the woman he wanted to be with, alone together in a quiet bar.
He looked at Tifa and wanted to tell her what he had just realized, but her eyes were gazing off away from him with that little glimmer of hope she always has, that something might come along and save her. He so badly wanted to be that savior. A knight in shining armor. But he knew how it was. She wouldn't take anything from friends, especially someone like him with their kind of history. He was just thankful for the relationship he managed to have fought for as it was.
'I really hope something comes along for you, Tifa. I don't like seeing you down like this.'
'I know, Reno. Thank you. Something will, I know it.'
He knew he should look at his watch but he didn't want to stop looking at her.
'You gotta go don't you.'
'I'm sorry we didn't have one of our long conversations like we usually do. I don't want you to think I didn't want to. I really do appreciate and enjoy them. They're a lot of fun. Its just I got all this on my mind lately.'
'I understand. Don't you worry. Something will come along. I'll be here next week anyways, just as always. We'll have another fun conversation, just like we always do.'
'Thank you, Reno. I feel like we did have a really good and long conversation. I haven't talked to anyone else about this yet. It feels good to talk about it, even though it doesn't solve anything. You're a really good friend for always listening to me.'
'Its what I'm here for. Each and every week.'
'You're silly. I'll see you next week.'
He put down the beer and bid her adieu, waving his hand at her while he disappeared around a building, feeling the heat beat what was exposed and making him realize how comfortable he had felt in the bar. He began cursing himself and Shinra, for all the reforms they had put together to make society better and taking all the business and happiness away from Tifa.
Taking the train to the city he looked out the windows and for the first time realized how populated it had become. So many people were living normal again, not like the old Midgar, but something new and invigorating. It was full of life down there.
He stepped off the train back into the sun but realized he was walking under the shade of trees every few blocks and the flowers that were everywhere were smiling up at everyone who seemed to be smiling as well. The sun was still hot, but he realized he was a lot cooler then he remembered many years back. The city was getting cooler.
Life was becoming more stable. Wealth had shifted but it had become better for society. He couldn't curse Shinra or himself; it would be too selfish. Whether he or Shinra had put together those reforms society would've persevered anyway. It was its nature. Something would have come along sooner or later. Society would've found a way.
Walking under the flowers and trees and feeling strangely well, he realized a cooler wind than normal was blowing through the streets, like the cool wind in Tifa's bar. That was what was happening. Society was realizing its dreams. It had been chasing it down in Tifa's bar until it was strong enough to get out there and chase it in the streets. It was thanks to Tifa this has been happening, a cool shade on a hot day in the middle of nowhere.
He felt happy now, but still sad. Tifa was a strong woman full of conviction and substance. For a moment he was going to pray that Tifa would persevere as well, but then he realized that she would. There had been so much that she had gone through that it was impossible for her to fail. She would persevere. Tifa and the Trusty Squid would find some other shape or form, just like the 7th Heaven did.
He loved a woman that didn't love him back, but at least he could be there for her during times like these and watch her persevere, just like he was seeing life persevere now. He just didn't want to see her suffer through it.
Yes, despite the feelings, Reno was feeling happy. And out of character. Joviality, if you will. What did he want a while back? A cattle prod? Who needed a cattle prod now? Surely not him.