Cruel Chapter 1
By Firey Femme
Indifference, the human emotion which is emotionless.
Elena stood just outside Costa del Sol. Where is she? She pondered her unspoken question meticulously. The letter had said to meet right here. She absentmindedly gripped her gun hanging inside her wrinkleless jacket, the cold metal warming under her constant grasp. She looked to the west, watching the mountains that arched high up above the abandoned reactor, peaking at the soft clouds. Reactors. That word rang in her mind like an echoing dream. Just a year ago.....
Only one year?
......Avalanche had defeated the despot of the Shinra and taken the building by storm. The Planet had taken its long awaited revenge and created a huge demon called WEAPON, as it moved on to obliterate the corporation from its hierarchy of existence. She shook her head at the old memories. Rufus' face was still fresh in her mind. Those cold, arrogant blue eyes, the unruly blond hair that fell unkempt into his face, ruling the incubus of Shinra. His features were a perfect clone of his greedy father, as was his highfalutin personality. She remembered how trivial the Turks had been treated after the original President's death. At least the older President Shinra had used them for some kind of importance, and their reputation sustained as they plumaged and murdered at a mere wave of his hand. Rufus considered them his lowly bodyguards - nothing more, their work a frivolousity to him. Their purpose was simple - to delete Avalanche from their petty existence and make sure Rufus stayed alive; the utter abasement.
How naive he had been. Avalanche had decimated Shinra, Hojo, Heidegger, Scarlet; even the mighty Sepiroth. Rufus had perished within their and WEAPON's midst, and it was his own indecisive actions that had caused destruction. Her thoughts turned to that cold evening in the subway. Cloud and his companions had chosen not to battle with them, and for some unknown reason Rude and Reno had simply shut up for once in their lives, salvaging whatever pride they still secreted and stored it in the deepest places of their cold hearts.
"Shinra is dead," they had told her.
Always treated like a child, her opinion being constantly ignored. It infuriated her when she bothered to look back on it with the ire of the whole situation and the coming of events that had happened a year ago. At this point however, that fact was irrelevant. Elena had become cold. Hard. She had a heart of stone and an icy, inquisitive mind. She had been around people with those very characteristics so long she had developed into an almost colder blooded murderer than the rest, conforming to match her background. She still had a heart though, and she always thought of that as her highest weakness. That odd background of frost from Reno, Rude and their image was gone however. She hadn't seen either of them for a long year. After Shinra's demise, they had all gone their own separate ways. They had no place in the world any longer. Neither a cold, calculating mercenary nor a group of secret police such as themselves was required in a world with no vengeful people left to hire them. That haughty pride she had once felt was gone; lost in the fold of oblivion. It had been almost wholly extinguished from her soul, to which she assumed it would never return.
She remembered when Rude had first decided to leave. He had simply come to the quick decision that he was done with something that was powerless, and had gone to join the ranks of the newly emerging corporation in Corel. Rumors had floated around that it was going to require someone to protect its resources, so Rude had taken up the tip. He hurried off, silently stricken with the grief of loss that plagued all of them. They all felt it, they knew they all shared the same feeling of alienation, but they never showed it. No grimacing look appeared on anyone's face. Rude had become disoriented, but not to an extreme point. Though he desired to regain his former status, he still managed to keep his indifferent exterior very well.
Reno's departure was very different to Rude's abrupt one. No one knew where he had gone. He had marched off one day, giving no explanation. After Tseng's tragic death, the unification they had felt gradually deteriorated and they had felt the grief it brought as a whole. Rude went off to claim some kind of reputation back for himself, leaving Reno and Elena with broken pride. Shortly thereafter, Reno had also abandoned her. No one knew where he had gone though. Some said he had become some kind of mercenary, but how could he do that in a world needless of mercenaries? Her mind wandered the likelihood of this possibility curiously. Some even said he had met his death on another's sword, spear or piercing bullet, and yet she refused to believe this. Reno's marksmanship was even more accurate than hers among other things. Other talk circulated he had broken down, lost his calm that had been used to hide the cold, heartless soul that lurked behind those brilliant blue eyes, and let all of his angst gush out after years of hiding it.
How ridiculous. She almost giggled in spite of herself at the suggestion of Reno caring about anything.
"Hmm...Reno showing emotion," she muttered, though quite to her bittersweet amusement.
No, it could not be done. Then to her disdain, her thoughts turned to her own pathetic situation. Since the demise of the Turks and the loss of their grip over the people of the Planet, she had taken on what you could almost call a newly acquired identity. She had dyed her once silky, blond hair a dark brown. It hung at her neck, annoyingly falling into her face every now and again. Her eyes still remained the radiant chestnut color they had always been, but they had taken on a new light. Anyone that accidentally caught her look quickly glanced away. Her eyes were emotionless, yet they retained a scorching stare. Her appearance in general had changed. No one would think her a former member of the Turks, yet no one would also care to contemplate who she as at all. No individual would even recognize her, even if they had ever known her. She had changed a great deal. The day that Shinra had died, the day their pride had died - that was the day her own will died. She had made a promise to herself that day. She would never be gullible again. Never.
"Never," she thought savagely to herself.
She almost laughed as she remembered her first day, that first day she had done her so-called job. She had felt so proud, so important in her impeccable blue suit. The pride and reputation of the Turks surpassed almost anything that the common people knew of in the masses. Back then the Turks were feared. She had felt powerful, and not so insignificant for the first time in her life. She laughed cynically, her dark brown hair falling in streams around her face. How wrong she was, and how wrong they had all been. Yet as her face changed expression in sarcastic laughter, her eyes stayed focused and alert around her, not heeding in their cold, unflinching gaze. She abruptly stopped her fits of laughter as she spotted a figure in the distance, walking slowly from Costa del Sol.
Elena warily inspected this oncoming stranger. Her heart began to beat faster in her chest as she crouched lower to the ground around her. The grasses concealed her presence, flapping around her in a sudden breeze. As the figure came closer, apparent was a built, attractive man. His face bore no resemblance to any she knew, and yet . . . his casual way of walking was so familiar. As he drew closer, Elena forgot her sudden curiosity and crouched lower in the grasses that swept the field. It was as if an ocean of greens and browns had erupted all around her, waving and crashing once they hit the mountains. The wind had picked up quite a bit, yet it was still a comforting breeze to the sweltering day.
Just as the lone traveler passed, Elena sprung up behind him, grabbing him around the neck and in one fluid motion brought her gun up to his head. She cocked it, the click making a metallic noise disturbing the peace around them. A few stray animals scattered out amongst the prairie grasses, and the silent calm that Elena had just been a part of was destroyed. She was an anomaly now compared to the still of the field that she had just shaken the serenity out of. As her feet were placed on the ground so quickly, any time she moved the distinct crunch of dead dry grass could be heard.
She growled at the stranger.
"What's yer name?"
The stranger didn't reply. The unsettling part of it was how calm and bored he seemed by the whole process. She calmed herself carefully, subsiding her anxious anger which had surfaced due to the nervous feeling she had received upon this strange person's arrival.
"I'll ask you again," she said carefully, repeating each word clearly. "What is your name?"
This time however, it was a menacing tone, low and collected. Any premonition this individual had of the way to Corel being boring had vanished. The stranger bore a hood so his face was shadowed, yet the attractive features could still be detected as she had quickly studied them upon his coming. The odd coat he wore looked somehow out of place on him however, just as this strange hood that overshadowed any visible expression did. The long black trenchcoat he wore flapped around him as the breezes died down and picked up - the only thing that made a motion at all on him. Underneath the wisping garment the outline of a heavy object could be seen, weighing down that area of his attire. Elena guessed this accurately to be a gun. Suddenly she was interrupted in her analysis as her arms were wrenched swiftly away from the figure and he whirled around. It all happened in a flash, and in such surprise Elena had dropped her weapon. For a split second, she gazed into the eyes of her prey that had become her hunter, though her only reaction was surprise. She looked for any hidden fear that dwelled in this stranger to be betrayed by his eyes, but there were no eyes to look into.
What, where are his eyes? she thought abruptly. Two black circles loomed out of this frightening stranger's head. Then she realized a pair of black sunglasses shadowed the upper half of his roguish face.
"What's your name?" the being hissed sarcastically as he brought his hand up in one smooth circular motion to grasp a gun and bring it to face her right between two widened brown eyes. Elena involuntarily jumped back, causing the towering dark man to take a few steps forward.
"What is your business here?" he whispered, his voice raspy as if it wasn't used very often.
"It's none of your damn concern you monstrosity," Elena replied indignantly, a bit of mocking resounding in her voice.
Who was this idiotic vampire to tell her where she could go and know what her business was? Elena suddenly had an idea. She could easily play down this image instantly attained by grabbing the stranger, for she had made it clear by that time that she was dangerous. She could feel a little grin almost unstraighten her lips, but to an onlooker one would simply see a straight motionless face.
"Please, sir, I'm so sorry. I thought you were someone else. I'm just on my way to Wutai and I'm passing through here. Please don't hurt me," she whimpered in surreal fear, pushing her pleading tone up a few octaves away from her usual rich voice that had grown with a sultry accent to it over the years. "I'll give you all my gil if you'll just let me pass..."
The stranger looked at her, debating what to do. It was obvious he wasn't going to settle for any gil, but he wasn't sure how to handle this split personality. While he was occupied with thought and momentarily lost his full concentration, she reached slowly down into her boot as if to pull out her money, with her other hand up signifying she was now unarmed. Instead, a small pistol was brought up and aimed swiftly with an unnatural calm at the stranger's head.
"Wha...?" the stranger almost stuttered, but regained his composure as quickly as he had lost it.
"Put the gun down, or else I'll have to destroy that pretty face," the stranger said in a tone that could have shattered ice.
"No," Elena stated simply.
The stranger gazed upon this woman, almost awestruck. No one had ever had the nerve to face him down, let alone jump and attack him from the grass. It was obvious she was skilled with her aim as well as hiding her true intentions. "Where are you going?"
Elena stood unmoving, but half-heartedly pursed her lips. She looked for the sarcasm in the question, but finding none, she decided she'd better start to end this ridiculous sherade that was developing.
"Actually, no where," she stated, "I was waiting for someone. What business is it of yours anyway?" she asked without a hint of interest in her voice, though her mind was burning to know why this person was so intent on finding out who she was and why she was there.
"I can simply say I am employed by a nearby town. There is no further information you need to know."
She almost laughed again as she heard this. That sounded exactly like something the Turks would've told someone when they asked them the same question. No one ever needed to know more than they had to. It was however much Elena, Rude, Reno or Tseng decided to convey to them.
"What is so funny?" the stranger added, picking up on the air of humor that had risen.
"Am I laughing?"
"No, but it's obvious you find me amusing."
Elena decided to confuse this idiotic employee or whatever he was even more. Though he was skilled in the ways of aiming a weapon, he didn't seem to grasp things easily, making her little bit of humor play right into an escape.
"Oh, nothing," she replied nonchalantly.
The stranger's curiosity into the slightest thing would be his downfall. Though the Turks' reputation was dead, it still carried a little weight if referred to in the days of its former glory.
"I just think you would've made a decent Turk when they existed a year ago, what with the way you phrase things..."
Hah, that should throw him off guard. He probably wondered why she would bring something like that up. The truth was, she might as well use her thoughts to her advantage since that was all she had been thinking about that day.
"What would a common wretch like you know about the Turks?" the stranger demanded.
Elena was taken aback; why would he ask something like that? But that wasn't all.
"You know nothing of the Turks you naive bitch," his voice had deepened with the malice that consumed it, but his face still did not heed for any look to be displayed upon it.
He didn't shout, but the irate tone in his speech was enough to make even the most battle savvy warrior recoil. Although he had kept control of his voice level, it was obvious he was losing a little reign over his temper since she had hit a weak spot. It may have been in the slightest degree, but it was enough to agitate them both.
Elena's anger was once again aroused. This time it was not from being nervous however. She was almost to the point of infuriation. The pride that she felt so long ago had flared up, maybe one last time. Why protect an image that had been destroyed with Shinra? She didn't know. But that was all she had left to protect.
Since the stranger's irritation had been stirred up a little, Elena took advantage of it. Her aim hadn't moved all that time, but the stranger's had faltered the tiniest bit. Elena could see it the minute it happened and noted it quickly. As he spoke, he absentmindedly lowered his gun the slightest degree, but he was caught off guard enough for Elena to take advantage of his miscalculation. Trying to avoid killing him and have to go through the annoying process of some kind of back woods trial, she pulled the trigger, aiming to the side of his head and down.
A huge explosion issued out of her gun as the bullet hit its mark - the stranger's shoulder. Blood spewed forth and stained his immaculate suit he wore underneath his trenchcoat. He took his hand attached to his decent shoulder and tried to put pressure on the bleeding to stop it. The blood refused to yield. It spurted out even faster and more gruesomely. A large puddle of crimson stained the innocence of the prairie all in a matter of seconds. Blood trickled from his injured shoulder down his hand, dripping off his fingers and landing with a soft plop in the developing pool of red he stood in. He shielded his eyes cloaked in the dark glass from the sun that had newly emerged, smearing blood down the side of his face. She must have hit an artery.
His gun fell along with his muscular frame, landing with a thud to the blood soaked ground. Elena quickly dropped her small pistol and retrieved her former weapon which had been carelessly discarded and swiftly aimed it at the stranger's head, kicking his gun to the side. "If you move, I'll kill you," she informed her target as his sunglasses slipped off the bridge of his nose to rest where they only halfway covered his closing eyes. His blood loss was getting more and more rapid.
"What's your name?" she asked again in a horrible, murderous tone.
"I'll never tell you wench," he whispered as the strength drained from his body.
Elena blew another hole in his leg. Blood poured from the gaping wound once again, and he writhed in agony. His muscle could be clearly seen through the hole that had penetrated his leg.
"I'll keep filling you with holes if you don't answer me. I really don't care if you live or die."
The stranger now lay openly disadvantaged. His hand flailed pathetically to the side as he tried to get his gun, but dropped uselessly, falling softly onto the sweet grasses.
"Who are you?" he whispered helplessly, yet still refusing to give into defeat.
"Well, since you'll either rot in the sun here or die by my hand, I guess even scum deserve a last wish. My name is Elena, not that it will be of any use to you," she said icily.
The almost fully closed eyes of the stranger shot open. His jaw fell open, flabbergasted.
"No, it can't be..." he whispered as his body went into uncontrollable spasms with that last show of strength, until all in one motion he fell unconscious.
Elena wondered why her name had caused such a reaction from a moribund man lying bleeding in the heat.
She pulled back his hood and opened his coat to see if she could find out who he was, maybe a wallet or some such. She was rewarded with the sight of a nametag that glared in the sunlight. It read, "Head Security Manager."
"Hmph. Not much help," she mumbled to herself in curiosity. Why would the mention of the Turks cause such an outburst?
Then her blood ran cold; her eyes opened wide with horror. She gazed upon the dying security guard's face again, removing his sunglasses.
She was staring into the unconscious face of Rude.
"No, no no no," she repeated over and over as she scrambled up. Checking the materia slots in her gun, only a few had accompanied her that day. No restore - of course she had forgotten it. She looked down in grief, unbelieving that she had just caused the destruction of Rude, lying on the grass, blood flowing steadily out of the holes instead of to his heart. Her former comrade lay dying out in the open shamefully, and she had been the root of it.
She bent down and took off his trench coat that was soaked with blood. Kneeling on one knee, she took the small but deadly knife she always carried with her for last resorts out from where it was discretely tied around her leg. Cutting the coat in two strips, she knotted one around his shoulder and the other around his thigh where she had shot him. "Think if you wrap him up tight enough that you can force the life from escaping?" her mind laughed at her quick reaction to the situation which might have caused the death of Rude.
The bleeding faltered a little, but not enough to sustain life. "Rude, I'm so sorry," she muttered as she fumbled with her gun to put it away.
She ran back towards Costa del Sol to get a Restore materia.
By the time she had gotten to the coast, she had run the entire way. The torrid heat had almost overcome her, ripping at her lungs, and she was on the verge of collapse. She had run across an endless collection of grass fields, waded a shallow river and continued on to the town. Quickly hurrying to the materia shop in her soaking and sweaty clothes, she struggled to get a breath of oxygen.
"Shit, if Rude dies, it will be all my fault..."
Elena scolded herself mercilessly. As she arrived at the shop, she heaved herself to rest against the counter for a minute. The seedy man at the register stood eyeing her.
"Hey, you wouldn't be interested in a job selling materia, that is, if a pretty little thing like you can sell it the right way...." the greasy materia shop owner grinned pervertedly, "looks like you could use the extra money."
Elena looked calmly at the shopkeeper, her exhaustion neglected for the moment.
"You know what? I completely agree with you about one thing. I do look bedraggled and dirty at this point, but I'm afraid I'll have to decline on the rest."
"Suit yourself, by the way..." the shopkeeper shrugged, but was interrupted by Elena.
"That's not all. I'll take a restore materia too...," she said, waving her gun without any precision threateningly in his face.
"I really don't care if degrading garbage like you gets rubbed off the face of the Planet, so hurry up or else I'll kill you," she informed the terrified shopkeeper, indifferently shrugging her shoulders.
"Al...Alright...h, here. Take it."
He tossed her a green globe, which she caught in the air as she was already beginning to run back to Rude.
"Hey, thanks!!" she yelled back at the red faced shopkeeper, flipping her brown hair over her shoulder in a mock gesture.
As she approached the mountains, she could see where she had shot Rude. She still ran, as fast as she could muster in the hellish heat. It felt as if her skin was being incinerated in her suffocating clothing.
She came upon the scene; there was the blood, the gore and her pistol still lying on the ground. The only thing missing was Rude. "Uh oh," she said inaudibly to herself. How could she be so stupid?! Leave him lying here alone and dying?? "What an idiot I am!" she yelled aloud to the silence surrounding her. Some animal had probably done away with him.
"Thought you could fool me, bitch," Elena eyed around wildly at the voice that disturbed the gory scene.
A hand tapped her on the shoulder, and everything spun as she fell to the ground, a hard fist shattering her fragile jaw.
As she plummeted down, the green orb still stayed securely in tact within her hand.
A blurry face cautiously looked over hers, and she sat up, clawing at it. She could feel the butt of a gun smash down on her forehead as she fell again. She opened one of her eyes, as the other had become swollen shut.
"Rude?" she whispered as her voice cracked in pain.
"How did you know my name?" Rude demanded as he held his gun at the same level as her head.
"It's me, Elena."
"Wha... I thought I was hallucinating after the second shot..."
"I didn't know it was you Rude." Elena could barely manage to speak since her jaw was about three inches out of place. "Sorry...I..." as she fainted from the pain in her face, her voice slipped off, and her hand fell open to reveal something glinting in the sun.
Rude bent down to retrieve it, favoring his battered leg. "Restore materia. We've both had a bashing today Elena," he said to the still figure.
"Cure," Rude concentrated quietly on the spell as the magic worked their way into Elena's cuts and broken jaw, healing the skin and mending the bone.
He then did the same to himself, and after feeling he had managed to get some of his strength back, he hoisted up Elena and headed towards Corel. As he walked off, a small grin was tugging at his tightly clenched features.
As Elena came back into consciousness, she fingered her jaw lightly. It was set back into place and felt as if it had never been touched. She looked around at her dirty surroundings, the spotless white bed sheets and covers spiting everything around them that had not been purged with the same cleanliness. She heard a train or some other large vehicle pull up as everything rumbled, the building's frail structure shuddering with the vibration.
Elena looked around like a startled bear and reached instinctively for her gun.
"Looking for this?" A man in a white coat held up her weapon dangling carelessly from his fingers.
Quickly, feeling as if her life was in the balance, she reached for her knife which she pulled out, holding it in front of her and just daring this stranger to come out and show himself from the shadows.
"You won't be needing that," Rude's voice said as he jumped from the behind the bed and snatched away the knife from a startled Elena. "Before you get your weapons back, I need to explain a little to you so we don't keep getting confused and trying to kill each other," Rude told Elena forcefully but with an almost untraceable hint of humor at their former confused 'reunion'.
"Elena, it's Rude. This is Corel where I work, and you're at the hospital. I have become an elite security guard for the coal mine workers, so I am not some mysterious stranger. Though I'm not a Turk anymore either. Understand?"
Yes, this was definitely Rude. Hardly any greeting, quick, cold and to the point. She understood perfectly.
"I understand. I haven't seen you in almost a year. Did you feel a need to break my jaw? And why the hell were you out in the middle of nowhere almost victim to my gun?"
"I didn't recognize you with your new...uh, look. I'm not much of a chatter anyway, Elena," he said as he easily dismissed her array of questions.
Rude motioned the doctor out, who handed the gun back to Elena. She took it back protectively and put it away. She and Rude had never been close, or at least not in speech. There was always the unity of the Turks however, though any kind of attachment they had to eachother was obviously gone now, judging from his way of speaking to her and his incurious actions.
Rude studied Elena. She had changed so much. Brown hues had replaced the formerly blond hair, and her appearance in general had changed. No, not her appearance, but rather her disposition he redecided. She used to have a kind of charming naive quality to her, but now it was obvious she had grown extremely cold in her demeanor. Of course, a cold blooded ex-Turk such as himself would never admit that he thought innocence was a kind of quietly charming trait, but he sometimes visited that weak spot in his mind that wasn't overtaken by chilled indifference, though it was not very often.
"I should go," Elena looked straight at Rude with an unflinching, cold gaze. "I've interrupted your work. I'm sorry to have disturbed you as I've obviously caused a problem here. My sincere apologies," she said almost a little too professionally, with no trace of a personal sincerity. Elena tucked her gun into her jacket. It was then that she noticed she lacked most of her clothing. Trying to salvage what was left of her dwindling dignity, she kept her cool exterior up, and glanced casually around the room. Inside, she was desperately hoping to find her clothing so she would not make a fool of herself in front of Rude. Funny how that old inadequacy always surfaced.
Rude knew what she was looking for as soon as her eyes began to rove the room. "The doctor had to remove your garments since they became covered with my blood, your blood and were soaked." He handed her a pile of clothing. "These are mine. They're my old Turk's uniform, but they're a little small. They should fit you better than anything else I own." His face revealed no anger or joy as to seeing her after a year. He really didn't care, at least from Elena's point of view.
Rude turned around as Elena changed quickly into the attire, eager to leave his hurting indifference there along with her past. "Thank you, Rude. I'll leave you to your work." Her way of speaking was so monotonous, no tone whatsoever. Rude glanced icily at Elena, and stood facing her.
She shrugged her shoulders and began to walk towards the doorway. Rude's face fell as her back was turned. Being a very uncommon gesture for him to make, he did it in secrecy. Elena turned abruptly, and looked Rude straight in the face. What she saw there astounded her. One thing, filling every crease and every look in his eyes. One thing, that went unheard of. Emotion. Rude looked away, regaining his composure more quickly than Elena could blink. Had she been imagining things?
"I need my knife back."
Rude almost wanted to strangle her. Why was anything he'd ever been in contact with incapable of showing any recognition of anything? "Of course," he said almost wearily as he handed her the knife back, but he was still frozen.
As Elena brushed out the door, Rude had the strong urge to stop her. He ignored it. He ignored everything; no need to let this little tiny encounter change his way of living. As any familiar element exited his life once again, he could not stifle the urge to sigh.
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