Tarnished Side Chapter 11

By Janet Monstwillo

Zack tapped his fingers on the tabletop, making a hollow, resounding noise. In fact, it was the only noise in the entire lobby of the inn. The owner had already turned in for the night, but the members of the group recently dubbed "Phoenix" were a little too restless to simply sleep.

"That's kinda annoying," Jessie said softly.

He continued with his nervous fidgeting, paying her no heed whatsoever.

With startling speed, Rude reached out and grabbed his hand, forcefully shoving it back into the lap of its owner. "You're irritating all of us."

"What are we doing?" The others glanced up to see Tifa looking stressed out. "We should be getting to bed soon. We have a big trip ahead of us. Junon's more than a day's walk from here, in good weather."

"You know what we're doing just as well as the rest of us do." Jessie sighed softly. "We're waiting for Reno."

"Bull..." muttered Zack.

"You're just as concerned as the rest of us whether he had the instinct to get out of Midgar, or whether he's mourning us near the holocaust that used to be our home."

Rude chose to ignore the little discussion about their missing mercenary. He glanced around the room for what seemed like the umpteenth time...however, something managed to catch his eye this go around. Collecting dust in the corner, there stood a little... "Television?" His voice was incredulous.

The others watched with interest as he walked over to a little boxy thing, brushing off the dust, then wheeling it out closer to the table. He found the cord and plugged it into the wall. After turning the dial, a very small box in the front began to glow a bit with the sparkle of digital snow.

"The storm must have screwed up the reception completely," Zack decided.

"I don't believe that's it." Rude walked back to the little corner. Sure enough, an old pair of rabbit ear antennae was there collecting cobwebs. Grabbing them, he shook as much crud off as he could before setting them on top of the television. He plugged them in. "Voila!"

Onscreen, a very blurry reporter was standing outside of a forbidding tower, known well to the group as Shinra's headquarters. Jessie reached over and turned up the volume.

"...no other information has been released at this time. President Shinra's estimated Time of Death is approximately 9p.m. this evening, Midgar Standard Time. The top suspect at this time is Sephiroth, the captain of Shinra's Soldier scouting team, the Turks. If you have seen or have any information about this man, please call your local sector police force or Soldier base."

Tifa shivered a bit at the sight of the photograph, instinctively bringing a hand up to touch the scar marring her face.

"Maryanne, has there been any word on who is to succeed the President?"

"This hasn't been confirmed, but most reports agree that his son, as Vice-President, is next in line for the position and would inherit enough shares of company stock to promote himself to the position, if need be."

"Looks like we really lucked out!" Zack laughed a little. "They don't even have time to blame Sector 7 on us, at least...they won't be hunting for us until they get their hands on that Sephiroth guy–"

A tall, commanding figure burst into the room in a stride of fury. Silver hair down to his back, and he was dressed in the uniform of the Turks.

Zack cocked his head to one side, confused as to whether Sephiroth himself was indeed standing before him...and, if so, was it because he had mentioned the guy's name? (If he's here, the Shinra have to be right behind him. This is definitely not good.)

Jessie shivered a bit. Maybe it was from the unnerving calm the man carried with him, despite the fact that he seemed perturbed at something. Either that, or it was due to the fact that he'd left the door wide open, and the harsh wind and sleet from the storm outside was beginning to blow in. (I guess a former general isn't bothered by death. He's used to killing...trained to perform the very act as quickly and as much as possible.)

Rude squinted, then removed his sunglasses. Blinking away the harsh lamplight, all he could think of were the final words said by the Turk outside Sector 7. "Next time we meet, you'll have to deal with Sephiroth." (I wonder if that's still true. He's being chased by the Shinra, too, just like we are.) His features, however, hardened with barely contained anger. (He couldn't save the slum, though. He can stick a sword in the back of the most powerful man in our half of the globe, but not in time to do much good.)

Tifa began to tremble though, quickly turning her face a bit, hiding the scar. (What are you waiting for?!) She chastised herself mentally as she debated whether or not to attack him right on the spot. Well, perhaps debate wasn't the right word for it. There was an internal struggle inside of her. (nononono...ican'tgooutthereandfight...nononono

Stop it! You're all grown up now, you can't take him on...this is what I've been training for, all my life!

he'llkillmeandhurtme...hehurtcloudandcloud'sdead...idon'twannago... iwannaseemama...) Somewhere deep down, Tifa's inner child lurked, frozen in pain and fear. Sitting nearly in the corner of the room, no one noticed her quaking. A voice inside her screamed, telling her to make her move before she lost her only chance–

Tifa did not move a muscle.

After a cool appraisal of the entourage in the lobby, the former general spoke. "I require lodging. For t–well, I suppose for four people."

Jessie peered at him with curiosity. (Why on the Planet would a wanted, hunted murderer traveling alone in the middle of a terrible storm need lodging for anyone besides himself?)

Zack shrugged a bit. "Sorry, I can't help you, man." He pointed to a little bell on the front desk. "Could try ringing that. Dunno what good it'll do, considering the owner headed to bed a couple hours ago."

One firm tap on the bell. RING. Sephiroth drummed his fingers on the tabletop impatiently. RING.

Running a hand through his black hair, he turned to the others with a look on his face. Eyebrow up, eyes rolling upwards with it. Can you believe this guy? "Hey, buddy, maybe you should think about closing the do–"

At this precise moment, a young girl stumbled in. Fairly average height, definitely not dressed for the weather. Her short pink dress was wet and plastered tight against her skin, leaving little to the imagination. A little bit fraying near the bottom was evidence that she probably wasn't showing quite that much leg before she went for her little walk in the rain. Her long, waist-length brown hair looked all limp, soggy, and tangled. She pointed to the Turk at the counter with a murderous look in her eyes.

"You! Took. The. Umbrella."

"It is raining," was his even, emotionless reply.

"You left us behind!"

She looked so upset, cold, and overall plain miserable that Zack felt his chivalry acting up a bit. "Hey. It's a bit warmer over here than in the doorway, I bet."

RING. Sephiroth turned back to the counter, obviously annoyed with her. "Tell your friends to walk faster next time." RING went the bell, yet again.

Another personage stumbled into the inn. She looked very much like the first girl, dressed a bit more sensibly though. Pulling the hood from her sweater off of her head, she shook a few drops of water from her shoulder length locks before storming right up to Sephiroth.

She had absolutely no fear or caution, giving him a little shove, right in the shoulder. "What a total, unprofessional jackass you are!" Another shove. "Who the hell decided you were fit to lead anyone, let alone the Turks? No leader leaves his companions out in bad weather, in the wild, by themselves! My dad could mop the floor with your pathetic butt. No wonder you..."

Her voice trailed off. A certain flash in his Mako eyes apparently told her she was about to cross over a very dangerous line. Sephiroth looked at the little bell with contempt. Firmly and repeatedly, he tapped it in rapid succession. RINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRING...

"Sir?" mumbled a sleepy voice.


"May I help you?"


The innkeeper reached out, snatching the bell from the reach of its overzealous ringer. "That will be quite enough, sir. What in the Planet do you need at such an hour?"

"Fool. This is the inn, is it not?"

She nodded slowly.

"The weather is foul and it is late. I am in the inn. What do you think I need, simpleton?"

The innkeeper grew indignant. "There is no need to take such a tone with me, young man. You rouse me from sleep and expect me to be completely coherent immediately?"

"If this were battle, you would be dead."

"Good thing this is an inn, then." She glanced at the amount of people gathered in the lobby. "Err...how many are staying with you? I only have two more vacant rooms. And they're doubles."

"Four." He tossed a five-hundred-gil note on the desk. "Will that be sufficient?"

"Sir, our rate is only fifty–"

He leaned in close, mesmerizing her with his fierce eyes. "After I checkout tomorrow, you never saw me."

The innkeeper gulped and nodded. Setting two room keys on the desk, she headed back towards bed.

Sephiroth glanced at the two bedraggled girls. "Aeris. You will stay in my room with me."

The girl in pink's eyes widened. "What are you saying?"

"Don't get fussy, I am not even insinuating anything inappropriate. I just do not trust the motives of these other two...companions of ours." He headed up the stairs. "I shall leave the room unlocked for you. I expect you to lock it when you come up and retire for the night."

The entire room breathed a collective sigh of relief after he made his exit. "Don't you ever, ever do something like that again, Raieyana!" admonished the girl in pink–Aeris.

The other girl shook her head. "Look, I know the type. He was never probably even spanked as a child, and now he thinks he's so great, when he didn't win a war, he was demoted to command a half-ass branch of the defense department, and he doesn't show concern for anyone."

"He broke me out of the lab..."

Raieyana snorted. "I'd just like to know his motive."

One final figure stormed into the lobby, slamming the door behind him. Removing his arm from where it lay shielding his eyes, he peered around at the room's occupants with blue-green eyes.

Jessie raised a hand to her gaping mouth. "Reno," she gasped. "You're all right!" She jumped up and wrapped her arms around her wet, half-frozen cousin.

The remainder of Phoenix continued sitting in shock at this very interesting course of events.

Chapter 12

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic