Tarnished Side Chapter 9

By Janet Monstwillo

Ice blue eyes peered at the images broadcast over the security monitors. Glancing at the penthouse screen, he grinned, admiring his handiwork.

But that is not why you came.

He shook his head. (Of course it is. I am here to get revenge on all of them. Shinra scum. Scum needs to be wiped clean.)

Grim and dirt will float away any time you swipe at it with a sponge. Blood stains.


Whose blood do they have on their hands?

(My blood...countless others'...)

No. Whose blood do they have on their hands?

The simple insistence had slowly piqued into sheer fury. The blonde-haired man held his head in his hands, lightly swaying to and fro. His eyes opened from force of will. "Yours!" he half-screamed. A slight whimper of pain escaped from his lips. (Take away the light. I know what the important thing is now.)

So what is your next step, beloved?

The slender, graceful muscles in his back rippled as he unwittingly performed faux swipes with his sword. Suddenly he stopped, a part of his mind apparently shattering. Glowing Mako eyes fixed on one monitor, that of a stairwell. A slender, rather beautiful young woman, brown hair, green eyes of immense depth, clad in pink...was not where his attention was drawn. Next to her walked pure stoicism. Trained to kill, and not be killed, the man moved with a deadly silent grace. Silver hair cascaded down his back smoothly and cleanly, as if nothing surrounding such a man would dare to be out of order.

One hand, dressed in a fingerless glove, dared to reach up to the screen. The man's upper lip twitched as he lovingly stroked the image displayed in front of him. "Death is too quick for the likes of you," he murmured, unconsciously caressing a long purple scar on the left side of his face.

... ... ...

Suddenly, he snapped to attention, eyes blankly staring at something unseen to a normal mind.

Come my sweet. Save me from the bloodshed.

Mindlessly and soundlessly, he left the small room in half-trance, making his way to the lab. To a specimen.

The room itself bore no memory of his fleeting presence, save for the bloody handprint left on one of the monitors.

* * * * * *

He first saw blood the instant he opened the door at the top of the stairwell. It had already seeped into the carpet, leaving a red tattoo as a permanent reminder. Never giving a moment of his own to the irrational feelings of fear or squeamishness, Sephiroth reached down, baring his hand, and feeling the woven fibers. "It is still damp, but already cool," he stated, more to himself than to his companion.

"So how old would it be then?" Aeris asked, a hint of fear tainting her normally docile tones.

"At least an hour. Maybe more. Whomever set off the alarm did so after this blood was spilled." He turned and strode forcefully towards the entrance of the President's office.

"Wait..." she mumbled, as she stared wide-eyed at the crimson substance seeping below the door, already beginning to clot a bit.

"You can wait and see if you meet the cause out there." Sephiroth's voice was flat and cold.

The flower girl bit her lip and glanced around at the eerie peace of the hallway. Hopping forward a bit, she latched herself onto the arm of her distant companion. "You'll be able to protect me, right?" The fright within her eyes was only partially hidden by the reserve she'd struggled to hold onto.

"Whatever bled in here is long dead, so I think I can handle one ward." He slid a keycard through its slot and the door slid open quietly. "Come." He half-pulled his new pink-clad appendage into the room.

"What in the Planet!" Aeris exclaimed. The contents of her stomach already beginning to lurch forward, she turned her head from the gruesome scene before her. (That...that was the President.)

Sephiroth appraised the situation with a calm eye. "I saw much worse in the war," he said softly, as if words such as those could possibly comfort the reasonably sheltered girl. A large, thin sword–akin to the one he wielded himself, come to think of it–had been thrust into the former residence of Maximilian Shinra's soul. (If such scum even had a soul...but what is a soul anyway? Just a promise of eternal existence muttered by the weak-willed.)

The late president of Shinra had not left his plane of existence easily. Blood still oozed from the stiffening corpse, slowly, and dull red in color. (Not that the man had much oxygen going to the brain when he was alive.) As Sephiroth continued his perusal, he noticed many shallow, long cuts all along the body. (Hands tied behind the back...head lying in a pool of vomit...) He knew what the remnants of torture looked like, for many of his underlings had performed similar tricks. In the wild of a foreign land, half a lifetime ago...he marveled that he still could feel as if he was back there.

(The last time I saw a corpse like this...we'd just shot a prisoner. Ending his misery before the flies came to scavenge and perform the same deed, albeit much more slowly.) Slowly, though, the stench and disgusting sight eventually began to bother even the cold ex-general himself. (Oh, but look. A housefly managed to make it all the way up here despite all the health filters.) He watched the small insect dart in and out of Shinra's nostrils. (Eat up, little fella.)

"I...I feel faint." Aeris sank down to her knees.

He instantly snapped out of the macabre, slightly obsessive, observations. Eyes like Mako pools glanced over to the forgotten girl. No matter how insensitive he'd been trained to be, a slight amount of chivalry had always hung around in his soul. Perhaps just as a simple struggle to rebel from the spirit of the one who'd raised him. "I apologize. I doubt anyone is as used to bodies as I am."

She stared up at him, an expression mixed between sickness and terror. "I–I can't stay here. Take me back to the lab! Anywhere but here!"

Roughly, he grabbed her arm and wrenched her to her feet. "Can you operate a helicopter? A motorcycle? I will take you to a vehicle of your choice and give you clearance out. However, in a time such as this, my place as a member of the Turks is here. Catching whatever terrorist did such a sick deed."

However, before Aeris could manage an answer to this surprising inquiry, someone did so for her. "I feel that action may be unwise at this time."

Sephiroth looked at the source of the dark voice. The sight that greeted his eyes astonished even him.

Dark ebony hair partially hid a pale, milk white face. Sunken red eyes glowed out of seeming fury, not the Mako in them. Tall, thin, and clothed in a dark cape and tatters, if that were all, the man would have been forbidding. However, in place of a left arm, he possessed a golden limb, which ended in a sharp claw.

"You mean, you will end your crime of murdering a defenseless man by attempting to butcher a helpless woman?" He drew the Masamune. "You underestimate me, monster." The last few words were spoken in a low growl.

"You are easily deceived by appearances. Just because I look like a monster, does not mean that my every deed is that of a monster." His haunting eyes glanced to the doorway. "You found the body, I see." As the other man opened his mouth to speak, the dark one raised his hand for silence. "I've been watching recent events unfold upon the monitors in this floor's security station."

Still holding the sword on the stranger, Sephiroth scowled. "Easy enough alibi. Did you see who killed the president?"

"Of course. Blonde, spiky hair, half-crazed, very violent. I know him quite well. But not as he is now."

"How is he now? Because anyone who did that horrible, horrible thing is not friend material!" Aeris piped up.

"He had good reason." The man's somber expression was sobering.

"You're both disgusting then," she hissed.

"His experiences have been disgusting. From what I know of him, the only things he knows are desperation and revenge." His eyes glanced to the Turk in front of him. "It would not be prudent for you to remain here. I expect you saw the weapon he used as well as I did."

Sephiroth looked at his own weapon, the Masamune. "It looked like my sword."

"The Shinra will hunt you. You only make it easier for them if you do not flee while you still can." The man turned, seemingly eager to simply walk away after having been such a good information source for them.

"Who are you?" The usually unshakable man had been quite...shaken in these past few moments.

"Someone who once failed you." Never turning around, the dark haired man disappeared around the corner of the hallway.

With Aeris footsteps behind, he turned and ran after the stranger. Rushing around the bend, he collided with someone head-on.

"Geez!" screamed a light, feminine voice. "Watch where you're going."

Aeris gasped. Standing, right in front of her, was Reno. On the floor sat Sephiroth and a dark-haired girl who was rubbing her head.

"You ran into me, jerk," she said lightly, laying a playful smack on the Turk's shoulder.

"So you're all right, doll, after all." Reno smirked. "We had just gone to get you and the damn cell was empty. So did ya finish off the president or did you leave a piece for us."

"He's quite dead," Sephiroth said sternly, raising himself up to his full height. "And after seeing the incompetence the two of you have for sneaking..."

The girl also stood up. "What are you talking about? I was walking nice and quiet until you barreled into me like a pile of bricks. How'd you get past foot soldier rank with moves like that?"

Silver brows furrowed. "You did not see a man with dark hair...and a claw?"

"What, he the whodunit?" Reno leaned against the wall.

"No." He shook his head. "None of this seems to make any sense."

Aeris' eyes hadn't left the girl with Reno, though. "Who are you?" she asked softly.

"Aww don't be jealous babe." He ran a hand through his disheveled red hair.

The girl elbowed him in the ribs. "My name is Raieyana." She paused for a moment. "Raieyana Amine."

"This was the girl you were traded in for," Reno said with a hint of anger in his voice. "And we find you running around with your kidnapper? And you," he pointed at the detached man in front of him, "why are you freeing your captive the day after you got her?"

A blank look. "Why did you come to rescue the lady you abandoned?"

He fumed. His hands formed into fists. "Oh where the hell do you get off, you Shinra bastard?"

Whirling around, Sephiroth began to walk away. "I am going to go examine the security monitors and I will be escaping this building, with the ladies. If you respect my superiority, I may be persuaded to let you join us." Long hair swishing, he disappeared back around the corner.

Taken down a notch, Reno glanced at Aeris guiltily. "I didn't abandon you," he muttered before following behind.

She turned to Raieyana. "Who are you, really?"

The younger girl just smiled a bit. "When we have a moment of peace to ourselves...I'll tell you the whole story. You just have to believe me now when I say that I am a friend. We should probably catch up with the others." She began to walk after the men.

Shaking herself a bit, Aeris fell into step behind the stranger. She was a tad unsettled, however, for she had seen something very surprising–and slightly frightening. (That girl...has a tattoo on the inside of her wrist. A blue numeral, "I.")

Chapter 10

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic