Catching Glimpses Chapter 20
The End of a Confrontation
"Amaani seems to have a great fondness for kicking and stabbing."-Rude Texihera
Cloud grunted and swung the giant sword again, in a slice that would have
cleaved Amaani in two if the woman hadnt leapt back and countered with
a sword that Cloud had immediately recognized as the Masamune.
Numerous emotions raced through his mind almost too quickly for him to recognize.
Fear, anger, hatred, confusion, curiosity. But he knew one thing for certain.
He wanted this woman dead. He wanted to see her on the ground with either
a large gaping hole somewhere or with no head.
Amaanis sword flashed as it flew toward Clouds own head. He cursed
in dismay, barely ducking to the side in time to escape the deadly blade.
That swift move saved his life in more ways than one. Sharp pain registered
as something plunged into his shoulder.
"Aah," he gasped, turning from Amaani for a split second to find a short
sword sticking out of his arm.
Thinking him to be distracted, she moved forward, confident she had him this
time. Her cockiness left her open to attack. Cloud whirled back around and
reached through her guard with the Ragnarok. A deep slash was carved through
her arm. Throwing him an outraged and incredulous look, she backed off to
let some of her men attend to her wound.
Cloud found himself back to back with Elena as the blonde woman wrenched
the sword out of his shoulder and stabbed a soldier through the heart with
the other. The immediate threat gone, she turned her attention to his
He winced as her deft hands probed the bleeding hole in his arm. "Sorry
bout that," she said as she managed to rip a strip from her jacket.
"One got past me." She wrapped the makeshift bandage around his arm tightly.
Too tightly, in Clouds opinion.
"I cant feel my arm," Cloud complained, moving the limb in experimental
"Deal with it," Elena replied coldly. "Youre just lucky that you moved
at the last second. Otherwise this sword would be in your back and you
wouldnt be here to whine to me right now." She glanced over his shoulder.
"Hey, looks like recess is over, Spike. Your playmate is back."
"Someones been hanging around Reno too much
" Cloud muttered under
his breath as he spun to find that Amaani was close. Very close. He threw
the Ragnarok up at the last minute, stopping the stroke of the Masamune inches
from his head. Amaani pressed down on the blade, bringing the Ragnarok closer
and closer to his head as he struggled. Her eerie silvery eyes glittered
Kellers voice rang out. "Milady! Milady! Its an emergency!" Amaani
sighed in exasperation. Interesting how Kellers stutter always
disappears in the face of an emergency. Throwing her entire weight against
the sword, she flung Cloud to the ground. Then she spun to walk airily away,
tossing out a backward kick when Cloud jumped up and came running after her.
Her foot connected with his temple, and he lay still.
The report of a gunshot rang out far too close to her, and she whirled to
find a bullet coming at her head. Without thinking, she held up the Masamune
in the way that she had been taught, willing the ancient power to come to
the blade. The bullet bounced off the sword with a metallic clang.
Dammit! She cursed mentally. Father told me not to reveal my true
powers quite yet! Her head came up dangerously, eyes raking the chaos
for the owner of the bullet. The white orbs met with a familiar pair of widened
brown ones. Several yards away, hands fumbled hastily to reload the
Amaani gave a surprised grin. Its the pilot, Maiden. The one who
was flying the plane that took away the little bitch who caused all of
this. She shrugged, eyes still locked with his. Ah well. Hes
already seen my powers. Perhaps I will give him a more
One strong hand came up and closed into a fist. Maidens head shot up
as he dropped the shotgun and his hands flew to his neck to find nothing
there. Yet Azrael knew he felt the dark pervasion of his senses, and he struggled
to run. Hell, he struggled to move anything besides his head.
Amaani chuckled wickedly. Try to fly away now, little man.
The laughter and words echoed through Azs head, and he looked around
wildly, feeling the cold tendrils of fear begin to creep into his brain.
Amaani was far, far more powerful than they had realized.
Raising the Masamune, she held it toward him, point first. He gave a small
spasm of pain as something that felt like a sword plunged into his shoulder.
When he turned to look, there was no blade, yet the bleeding wound was there.
His gaze went to Amaani who was standing, grinning wildly, still holding
the Masamune out. She twisted the blade and the fire raking its way up and
down his arm grew worse as more warm blood flowed down the limb.
"Oh Christ," he whispered, his face screwed up into a grimace of pain. He
fought to pull his arm away from the invisible marauder, but it wouldnt
obey him. Instead, he watched in shock as his arm twitched and trembled under
the force of what Amaani was doing to him.
Oh, have no fear, human. The carnivorous smile on the white-haired
womans face widened. It only gets better from here.
Her arm holding the sword dropped gradually, and the cold, sharp bite of
steel slid down deeply through his arm, leaving burning pain and bubbling
blood in its wake.
Azrael lost the ability to think coherently as the fiery touch dominated
everything. Cold stabbing blade; agonized moans that he didnt realize
were coming from himself at first. Dropping to his knees, he couldnt
hold it back any more as the brutal invisible weapon ripped through muscles,
skin, bone. He threw back his head and screamed.
Amaani was so caught up in toying with the pilot that she didnt notice
what was going on around her. Something crashed into her from behind, shouting
angrily, "Let him go!" Amaani went down, nearly on top of her assailant.
Her sword waved wildly as she fell, and Azrael cried out again as it slashed
across his face, leaving a line from the outer tip of one eyebrow across
his nose to the jawbone on the other side of his face. It was a distinguishable
line for just a moment, then it began to bleed, curtains of crimson liquid
washing down his face, into his eyes; the coppery taste in his mouth. But
as Amaanis concentration was broken, her hold on him broke as well,
and he crumpled to the icy ground.
Rolling to one side swiftly, Amaani was almost immediately back on her feet
and standing over a slight blonde woman. One of the several people that she
had chased out of Costa del Sol, if she remembered correctly.
"You dare to defy me?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
Elena growled deep in her throat and began to stand, but Amaanis boot
caught her flat in the face, knocking her back down. Trickles of blood started
from her nose and the corners of her mouth as she lay still. Amaani raised
the Masamune high, over the unconscious form--
"MILADY!" Kellers urgent shout came.
Sighing in annoyance, Amaani left Elena in a heap on the ground and moved
to where Keller was waiting on the fringe of the battle.
"What, Keller?!" Her voice whipped and cracked in fury.
Keller winced, but pushed ahead. "Milady, you had better hear this." He motioned
to a soldier who had been standing safely behind him.
The soldier--obviously the radio operator of one of the squads--came forward
and held the small, high-tech radio out to her.
Frowning, she listened to the tinny female voice. "This is Rocket Town calling
anyone who will assist. We are under attack by a large hostile force. Help
is urgently needed and requested, over."
She turned to Keller as the message began to replay, one eyebrow raised in
repeating-" He looked pleased that he had gotten the word
out, but continued hurriedly at a look from Amaani. "like th
Amaani glared. Keller forced the word out, gulping. "that f
far there h
Suddenly, another voice, now male, came through. "This is Shinra HQ at Midgar
calling Rocket Town. Rocket Town, come in, over."
"This is Rocket Town, over!" was the immediate response.
"Rocket Town, help is on the way. Several flying transports are going to
be there within several minutes, over."
The woman sounded ecstatic. "Roger that, Shinra HQ!"
"Hold on there, Rocket Town. Hold on. This is Shinra HQ at Midgar, over and
out." Amaani was still for a moment, head bowed, and Keller and the soldier
wisely retreated several steps. Then she looked up, expression enraged. "Damn
it!" Then, to Keller: "Where the hell did they get a radio powerful enough
to break through the jamming!?"
She held up a hand to forestall an answer. "Rhetorical question. All right,
were moving out. Order the retreat. Then find me someone who is a member
of the Highwind crew. Were going to bring them along with us and get
our answers on the airship."
Keller nodded, then began to shout instructions.
Amaani began to stalk off toward the airship, but stopped in puzzlement.
The leader of her Tanduri troops--Rahilah--was standing over beside Highwind,
the man that she had been ordered to destroy. And she--and she-- Amaanis
mouth dropped open. She was tearing the throat out of one of Amaanis
"RAHILAH!" Her infuriated screech carried, and the gray-furred beast looked
her way for about an instant before leaping at another soldier, claws
Amaani stormed toward Rahilah, eyes flashing and Masamune held in her grip
tightly. Suddenly, a crowd of her own men was there, engulfing her, carrying
her along with them. "Let me go!" she screamed. "I order you! This is your
lady! Let me GO!" But the soldiers, joined by another group, just became
more tightly packed as they marched down the path and across the fields.
The last glimpse she caught of her enemies was of Highwind leaning casually
on his spear, his wife standing beside him, Rahilah calmly cleaning her claws,
another of the humans that she had chased out of Costa del Sol coming to
speak to them.
"Damn you!" she shrieked, losing all semblance of self-control. "You mortals
are going to lose next time! Youll wish youd never been born
by the time Im through with you!" And her soldiers inadvertently carried
* * * * *
Note-I am following the lead that Frank Verderosa and several other
prestigious writers have set and am pretending that there is no such thing
as Full Cure, Regan, Cure 3, and even Cure 2. They just make things too easy.
Keep that in mind as you read this chapter (and the rest of em too).
Cid vaguely thought he heard Amaani yelling something, but he couldnt
be certain. Suddenly aware of a presence behind him, he whirled to find Rude
He stared the other man down for a moment, then nodded to him in respect
and said gruffly, "Rude."
He received a nod in return. "Highwind."
"Was it my imagination or did I really talk to Az?" Cid asked the bald man.
A faint smile appeared. "No, not your imagination. Maidens here."
Cid blinked, turning to look all the way around them. "Where, is the
Shera frowned. "This doesnt seem right. Why are they leaving?"
A voice from behind them made them all jump. "I know why!" They turned to
find a flushed and grinning Faye.
Cid blinked again. "Youre not from Rocket Town, so I hope you dont
mind if I ask. Who the hell are you and what is going on?!"
She laughed and proffered her hand. "Faye Texihera."
After a brief hesitation, Cid took it and shook it. "Cid Highwind."
"Cid, Faye is the friend that I left the kids with," offered Shera.
Cid looked at the short woman in a new light. "Thanks. But if youre
here, where are they now?"
"I left them with-" She stopped suddenly, her gaze alighting on Rahilah,
who had been sitting quietly beside Shera this whole time. "What
did you realize that one of those lion things is standing right there?"
Shera gave a small smile. "Yes, I did. Her name is Rahilah."
"Pleased to meet you," rumbled Rahilah.
Faye jumped, while Rude looked mildly surprised.
uh, you talk?" asked Faye.
Rahilahs mouth opened in a grin, sun glinting off of the sharp, serrated
teeth. "Yes, I do."
"Back to where you took the kids?" asked Shera.
Looking slightly rattled, Faye elaborated on what she had begun to say. "I
left them with the group of young kids and older people that you sent off
to hide. I figured you wouldnt want them to see this." This
was demonstrated with a wide sweep of her hand, pointing to the town square,
overrun with bodies, gore, and blood. Then the woman mystified Cid even more
by turning to Rude and asking, "Where are Elena, Azrael, and Strife?" She
Rude gave a small shrug. "I dont know. I last saw Elena pulling a sword
out of Strifes arm." He frowned. "And that was the last I saw of Strife
"What about Azrael?" pressed Faye.
Rude shook his head. "I havent seen him since Strife challenged
"Actually, we saw him not all that long ago," Cid broke in, still puzzled
about what was going on and how these people knew Az.
"Good. Hes probably all right then," Faye said. Then she turned back
to Rude. "Could you show me where you saw Elena and Strife last?" Her expression
was oddly intent. He gave her an odd look. "Why are you freaking out about
"Because I could have sworn that I saw a blonde woman tackle Amaani
Faye trailed off.
Rudes eyes widened. "Shit." He moved across the square, long legs striding
quickly, stepping over bodies in various grotesque positions. Moans and cried
for help greeted them, and Cid, Shera, and Rahilah stopped following after
a moment, sidetracked. Faye trotted after him.
Rude stopped, and Faye nearly crashed into his back. "I saw them here." Eyes
roving, Faye stared at the piles of bodies, looking for their friend.
She was so intent on her task that she didnt notice for a moment that
Rude had moved, and was crouching down. Faye hurriedly scrambled to his side,
suppressing outcries of disgust at the corpses. Im only a secretary,
dammit! I shouldnt have to deal with this shit!
He was bent over the still form of Elena, fingers held to her neck. He looked
up as Faye approached. "She has a pulse."
Faye closed her eyes in relief and she leaned down next to Rude.
A footstep from behind made them both whirl, Rudes gun out and pointed
at the threat without conscious thought.
Cloud swayed unsteadily on his feet, holding one hand up in defense as he
used to other to sheath the Ragnarok on his back. "Mighty quick to point
that thing, arent you?"
Rude replaced the gun and turned back to Elena, ignoring the swordsman. Faye
slapped the unconscious womans cheek gently. "Hey Elena, wake up!"
"Thats not going to wo-" Rude began, then stopped as the blonde woman
gave a faint groan and her blue eyes opened slowly.
She stared up at them, looking puzzled. "Am I dead?" was the first thing
out of her mouth.
"Hey, the sleeping beauty awakes," came Clouds voice from behind
Elena rolled her still slightly unfocused eyes. "I cant be. Hes
here." The two had discovered a mutual dislike for each other in the helicopter
on the way to Rocket Town.
"Why would you think youre dead?" asked Faye, brushing a lock of curly
brown hair out of her face.
"Because when the last thing you remember seeing is Amaanis boot and
her raising the Masamune, you wouldnt expect to be alive," replied
Elena wryly, pushing herself up to a sitting position and wincing at the
stabbing pain that went through her head.
"Sfunny, thats one of the last things I remember too," said Cloud,
hand going to the bump on his head as the sun came out from behind the clouds
and a shaft of light hit his Mako blue eyes.
Rude hauled Elena up to a standing position. "Amaani seems to have a great
fondness for kicking and stabbing."
Elenas hands went out as she fought for balance, and for a minute it
looked like she would fall, but she stayed on her feet. She looked around,
frowning. "Did we beat them?"
"They ran!" replied Faye jubilantly.
Rude frowned. "You still havent shared with the rest of us why they
Elena broke in. "Did you guys get Azrael yet?"
The other three exchanged glances. " Get Azrael?" asked Rude.
"Yeah. Amaani was doing this really weird thing with her sword and her hand,
and she was slicing him up really bad," came the answer. "I thought that
you guys wouldve already found him.
"What do you mean by really bad and really weird?"
asked Faye guardedly.
"Uh, I hate to be the one to point it out, but if he was hurt badly, then
you could be standing here wasting a lot of time as he bleeds to death,"
"Hes right. Lead us to Azrael," Rude said to Elena.
"I saw him right-Whoop!" After taking about three uncertain steps, the blonde
Turks legs buckled under her.
Cloud, being the closest, grabbed her, setting her back on her feet.
Elena had the grace to look abashed. "Oops. B-" She fell again, and Cloud
"Youre just going to fall again," he told her. Before she had time
to protest, he swept her up and into his arms. "Now where was he when you
"That way, faithful steed!" she said, pointing.
Shooting her a dour look, Cloud went off in the direction that she indicated,
Rude and Faye following.
The two former enemies carried on a running argument as they went.
"Dont expect me to carry you everywhere now," said Cloud, grinning
at her. Apparently, the battle had brought him out of the sullen mood that
he had been in since they had met up with him.
Eyes crackling angrily, she snapped, "I wouldnt want you to. I can
take care of myself, thank you very much! Im not the kind of woman
who needs to be protected, you know!"
Cloud retorted, "Ive never thought you were, but I do think that
youre the kind of woman who wou-" He stopped suddenly as he stumbled
over something, nearly dropping Elena.
"Hey, watch it!" she yelped. But he was bending down, paying no attention
"Since my hands are kindve full, mind picking that up?" he asked, pointing
to the long gun that he had tripped on.
"Why would you want a ri--Oh." Elena snatched up the weapon, stating the
obvious. "Its Azraels shotgun." Rude and Faye came up behind
them, and Elena passed the gun off to Faye, who examined it along with
Cloud nodded. "Exactly. Which means he should be right around here
Elena, eyes scanning the various corpses, suddenly caught sight of a familiar
shock of brown hair. "There! There! There!" she exclaimed, pointing.
Rude and Faye dashed ahead of them, and by the time that Cloud and Elena
got there, had already shifted the soldiers that had fallen on him to reveal
that it was indeed Azrael. Brown eyes were closed, normally tan skin was
gray, and his breath was coming in short, rapid gasps.
"Set Elena down, Strife," ordered Rude.
To Elenas surprise, Cloud obeyed instantly, placing her gently beside
the pilots still body.
Rude looked to her. "Elena, youre the resident medical expert." She
found that they were all looking at her to do something.
Her brain worked furiously for a moment, then she went into action. Pulling
her jacket off, she handed it to Faye. "Find some water and soak it." Faye
nodded and took off running.
Turning her attention back to Azrael, she shook her head. "Id say
hes suffering from loss of blood and shock, but the face wound isnt
quite bad enough to cause either of those effects
" Rude pointed to one sleeve. Scrutinizing it, Elena nodded grimly.
The entire jacket sleeve was saturated in blood, fresh blood by the look
"Help me," she said to the two men. Catching her meaning, they lifted the
unresponsive pilot up as she tugged off the jacket, folding it, and placing
it behind his head as a makeshift pillow as they set him back down.
He was wearing short sleeves underneath, so the ugly wound was there for
all to see. Elena winced. "Looks like she stabbed him right
Her fingers rolled back a sleeve to expose the large bleeding hole in his
shoulder. "And twisted the blade. Then she went right down his arm to his
"Ouch," Cloud murmured from behind her as Rude muttered, "Christ
"Do either of you have any Restore materia?" she asked, grimacing as she
looked at the extent of the damage in his arm.
Rude looked to Cloud, who shook his head. "Nope."
"I need it. Bad. Or hes gonna die right here and now," was Elenas
"Elena! Heres your jacket!" Faye shouted, running to them, waving the
wet article of clothing. She tossed it to Elena, who began wiping at
Azraels face with it. The blood that had been caked there came off,
and the line of where the Masamune had struck was visible.
"There. I can at least see the injury now
" muttered Elena. She looked
up to Rude and Cloud. "Find Highwind. Weve fought him before; I know
for a fact that he has Restore materia." The two men were gone almost
Faye, looking between their retreating figures and the bodies heaped around
Elena and her charge, made a gagging noise. "Umm, Elena? I think Im
gonna go with Rude and Cloud
" She began moving off in the direction
that they had taken.
"Hold up!" was the response that she got from the blonde woman.
Faye, features tightening in dismay, stopped. "What is it, Elena?"
"Can I have your coat?" she asked.
Faye yanked it off and threw it at Elena. "Here. Its yours!" Looking
decidedly green, she ran after Rude and Cloud.
Elena returned her attention to Azrael, noting with concern that his skin
had gone from the unhealthy gray pallor to a dead-white tinge. "Dont
die on me now," she muttered, tying the coat that Faye had tossed her tightly
around his arm to help staunch the blood flow.
"I have no intention of doing so," came the weak answer, a smile forming
on dry, cracked lips.
Uttering a vicious oath, she fell backward in surprise. "Youre
"Im talking to you," he said as if that explained it. "So, and tell
me the truth here, how bad is it, doc?" He affected a teasing air, but she
could sense the serious question behind it.
"Well, if your friend Highwind would hurry up with that Restore materia,
and we can get some real medical supplies, youll be good to go within
a few days. Thats taking for granted that you dont overexert
yourself and get plenty of rest."
His jovial, sunken-in face held dismay. "A few days?!"
She grinned. "Yup."
He took on a whining tone. "But doc-"
"Is that my new nickname?" she asked, one eyebrow raised.
The mischievous smirk reappeared. "It seems so. Now, about those few days,
Elena cut him off, for one thing not wanting to argue, and for another, was
insanely curious. "How did Amaani do this to you?" she asked, wiping at his
face again to clear it of blood.
He shuddered, and his face turned dark. "I dont really know. I shot
at her, she looked at me, raised that giant meat cleaver, and before I knew
it, she was stabbing me without actually stabbing me."
"Shes way more powerful than we thought," Elena responded, biting on
For once in a bad mood, Azrael snapped at her. "No shit."
She just grinned at him infuriatingly. "Down boy."
He looked away for a moment, then mumbled, "Sorry."
Elena shrugged. "Sokay."
His voice returned to its bantering tone. "Now, about those few days of rest
an whatnot, I-" A cough cut off whatever he was going to say, and tiny
flecks of blood appeared on his hand, testament to when his face had bleed
heavily and it had seeped into his mouth.
This small reminder of how injured he was galvanized Elena. "No," she said
strongly. "Now I know how you love to talk, but it wastes energy, something
that you need badly. So lie back and shut up!"
The corners of his mouth crinkled in amusement. "Bossy, arent we?"
"I prefer to think of myself as forceful," was her answer.
Brown eyes sparkled with mischief. "I like forceful women." Then he pretended
to cringe as Elena raised a fist threateningly. "Okay, okay, I get the point.
Ill shut up now."
He went silent as she mopped at his face with the wet jacket again to clear
away the blood still coursing its way down his cheeks.
Shouts and footsteps broke the calm solitude that had come between them,
and Elena looked up to find Rude, Faye, Cloud, Cid, Shera, and a big
furball running toward them.
She poked the pilot. "Hey Azrael." There was no response. "Azrael?!" Alarmed,
she shook him. He groaned slightly but didnt answer. Relieved, she
saw that he was still breathing. "Gone again
" she murmured.
The six newcomers halted, unconsciously forming in a circle around the fallen
man and the woman crouched by his side. "How is he? "Is he still alive?"
"He looks dead to me." "What was he doing here in the first place?" A barrage
of questions came, words tumbling out and voices warring.
"SHUT UP!" Elena shouted, blue eyes flashing furiously. They all went quiet,
staring at her. She smiled briefly. "Ah, much better. Yes, hes alive,
hes out cold from shock and loss of blood, and therell be a time
for explanations later!" she snapped. "Now, would whoever has the Restore
materia please heal him?"
Cid stepped forward, the Venus Gospel held loosely in one hand. You saved
my kids, Az. Now lemme do the same for you. "Cure."
They all observed eagerly as the emerald light died away, fading into
nothingness. Elena did as well, watching for the reassuring rise and fall
of his chest, and after a moment, her head came up quickly. There was no
reassuring rise and fall of his chest. Scrambling closer to him, she placed
several delicate-looking fingers on the side of his neck, inwardly worrying
at how icy cold his skin was. To her relief, she felt a pulse, but it was
weak and erratic. He was breathing so shallowly that she wasnt even
seeing him move.
Her face came up to Cids, her expression alarmed. "Again." The blond
man caught her meaning immediately, and the familiar green light surrounded
Azrael once more. Feeling for a pulse again, Elenas face curved into
a smile. It was stronger, and his flesh wasnt nearly as cold. The blonde
ex-Turk finished examining his wounds, and they all crowded in close, waiting
for a verdict. She looked up to their expectant faces. Interesting how this
one man had brought them all together. "His wounds have closed a tiny bit
and stopped bleeding heavily, and hes also breathing more regularly.
I think we can risk moving him."
"Bring him to our house," Shera said immediately. "Its closer."
Cid bent to help pick Azrael up, but at a sudden surge of pain from his ribs,
decided that maybe it wasnt such a great idea after all and to let
someone else do the heavy lifting.
Not surprisingly, Rude stepped forward to grab Azraels head and shoulders.
But Elena was very surprised to see Cloud step forward and take the brown-haired
mans feet. Besides fighting with her, Cloud had been very quiet and
sullen for the entire day that they had been together, and she had expected
him to just stand by and watch.
"Damn, hes heavy for such a skinny guy," complained Rude.
Cloud grunted in agreement.
"This way," Shera told them, leading the way with Rahilah--who hadnt
said a word throughout the entire thing--at her heels.
Elena walked between Rude and Cloud, making sure that they didnt jostle
and bump Azrael too much.
Faye trailed the strange procession at the rear, face turning a greenish
hue and hand clapped over her mouth. Highwind trudged along beside her.
Elena had to pity Faye; she had never been exposed to anything like this
before. Even with that indomitable spirit that the brunette possessed, it
had to be taking all of her determination and self-control not to break down.
But as Elena looked back, Faye began to look a little bit better as she and
Highwind struck up a conversation and it preoccupied her. As Elena caught
snatches of their voices, she figured out that Faye was filling Highwind
in on what was going on.
Suddenly, she walked into something hard and was knocked to the ground. Rubbing
her head and looking up, she saw that she had run into the wall of the house.
"You coming in, Elena?" Rude called out from the doorway.
Glaring, she stormed into the house, the wind doing what she longed to and slamming the door shut.
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