Adversary Chapter 10
Midgar, Sector 7, 0004 A.D.
The storefronts and other downtown buildings passed by his open window as he examined each and every one of them carefully, not wanting to pass by the right place. Although Crono's description wasn't terrible, he certainly could've been a little more specific as to the nature of the grocery store and apartment building that the alley lay between. Yet it wasn't right to blame him, for downtown Sector Seven was not high on the list of things that Crono was familiar with. However, as he was nowhere within earshot, it seemed harmless to Cloud at the moment to do so.
"Damn him...could he have been a little more vague? Doesn't he realize that there are a lot of grocery stores and apartments in this whole city? And this is main street...the longest goddamn street in this sector. Ugh...everything looks abandoned at night...this is impossible." He grumbled to the empty car. In his rant, another car almost ran into him, a wake-up call to stay on task. Yet it wasn't long before more distracting thoughts entered his head, drawing his attention elsewhere.
I wonder how Cid and Yuffie are coming along...they can probably handle themselves. It was only two guys...they've taken on a lot of tough stuff in the past...they're probably fine. I'm just worrying for no reason...
And then he began to wonder about his wife, and if she was handling Crono all right. He knew she was good with medical dillemas, but he just hoped nothing bizarre had happened. After all, there was no antidote handy, and the poison had already had enough time to fully intoxicate him, and...
There was someone standing in the middle of the road, directly in front of his car! It was almost as if they'd appeared out of nowhere by the time Cloud saw them. The tires squealed against the pavement as he swerved way to the right, the vehicle skidding to an abrupt stop, his forehead slamming into the steering wheel. As his equilibrium began to settle, he rubbed his eyes gently, trying to calm himself down enough to drive again. But then...
I'd better see if that guy is okay...just in case...I don't think I hit him...but just in case...
He unbuckled his seat belt, and opened the driver's side door, stepping out. He looked up and down the full length of the street twice, yet there was nobody around.
He'd considered furthering his search more, but he assumed that if he had infact injured anyone, they would still be lying in the street where he'd last seen them. Nevertheless, he turned back to his car and slid back into the open door, slamming it closed behind him. As he pulled the seatbelt over his chest, and took hold of the wheel once again, he noticed the absence of one essential item.
"Where the hell are my keys?" He groped the seat beside him, and felt around on the floor with his feet, and eventually finally heard their familiar jingling.
Eminating from behind him...
Cloud froze, the bizarre revalation that he was not alone in his car making the hair stand on the back of his neck. Whoever was continuously ringing the pieces of metal together, was beckoning him to turn around and face them. Nervous as he was, Cloud knew that if he did not engage his enemy, he surely would be attacked from behind, starting him off at a great disadvantage in the fight.
"Gimme back my..." His vocal chords locked as turned, looking his passenger in the face. The face he knew so well...the face that painted his dreams as they ran through his unconscious head, the face that shaped his childhood and aspirations...the face that haunted his mind every night before he slept...
A black gloved hand flicked its wrist out, sending the ring of keys to the fabric on the passenger's seat below. The hand returned back to its body, resting itself down in its lap. The colossal man reclined casually in the back seat, looking calmly back at his former arch-rival. An almost invisible smile played across his lips as he watched Cloud shake and sweat, completely speechless. He loved to see the "strong" fall weak before him.
The somewhat large luxury car seemed like a sardine can to Cloud at the moment, and the walls seemed to be closing in, suffocating him, pinning him against almost seven-and-a-half feet of pure terror.
This can't be happening...It's...not...possible!!
Cloud's dimly glowing eyes spoke his thoughts out loud, the Fallen Angel's responding in kind.
And yet it is happening, Cloud...
No...you're dead! You can't hurt anyone anymore! I slew you with my own hands!
Denying what lies in front of your very face...you haven't changed a bit, Strife...I'm afraid you're stubbornness will be the death of you yet...
"NO!!!" Cloud screamed, thrashing his way out of the front seat, and kicking his door open. He tumbled out into the street in a heap, scrambling back up with all four of his limbs propelling him. He had no direction, no destination, no plan, his only thought was to flee. To run like hell, and never stop. To run straight out to the far corners of the universe, where no one, not even Sephiroth could find him.
Well...I was wrong...you have changed. The Cloud Strife I knew was not a craven coward...
The eerie voice echoed within his brain, yet the challenge left him unfazed. His pride was the least of his worries at the moment.
You disappoint me, Strife...you really do...
As much as he hated the tormenting, he couldn't let his ego get the best of him again. It was dark, he was tired, and who knows what slew of destruction lay at the Dark One's fingertips. A fight would be a mistake, a mistake that Cloud would most likely not walk away from.
I always knew that under the "braveheart" was a weakling...I never thought you'd admit it...but that's alright. There's more than one way to destroy a man that to kill him...
He closed his eyes tightly, clenching his teeth.
There's always his family...
His heels ground into the asphalt, stopping his retreat completely, as he turned around once again, eyes ablaze. Sephiroth stood towering above the roof of the car, several hundred feet away from Cloud.
Ah...that's more like it...
His "words" hit a spot within Cloud, a spot that would always acheive the same reaction if touched, no matter what the previous events had been. Even if an army stood in his way, he would fight until the very last breath of life had left his body should those he held dear be threatened. His weapon held out to the side, he charged back at his still enemy, their eyes never breaking contact.
You are so predictable...you really are...
His lips pulled back into an expression like a grin, only one of rage, as a lion bares its fangs. His pace quickened, the gap rapidly closing between he and Sephiroth.
Come on...rid the universe of evil...take me down...destroy me...you did it before, surely you can do it again...
"You're damn right I can." Cloud growled, and with a yell, he jumped up high, bringing his blade down straight at his target. However, it was no surpirise when the shriek of the Masamune was heard, milliseconds before he felt his sword slam against a veritable wall. Cloud's feet awkwardly hit the ground, almost causing him to lose his balance, as he pulled his weapon back, defensively, twisting away from a lightning-fast kick that almost seemed to appear out of nowhere. His confidence raised, Cloud then took to the offensive.
Feinting high and ducking low, the ex-SOLDIER swung hard down at Sephiroth's legs, the edge making definite damaging contact before an evasion was made. Now Cloud was the one with the wicked smile, the fight clearly in his favor. Not wasting any time or any of his good fortune, he rose up on his legs, striking hard and repeatedly, not penetrating any flesh, but driving Sephiroth back, forcefully. Clearly unamused, the Dark One lashed back with the Masamune, with equal force and double speed. Cloud dropped and rolled sideways to attack Sephiroth's flank, keeping the Buster Sword above him, as it blocked the Masamune's snakebites.
Unfortunately, by the time Cloud was up and ready, Sephiroth was and had been waiting for several seconds. The man with the long silver hair dodged his panicked attack, relishing as the blonde stumbled to the side. Cloud stopped himself from falling down completely with his hand, still retaining his sword with the other. Taking in a deep breath, he reversed back toward the enemy, as psyched up as ever. Yet this time, it was was different...
The black leather hand was open and extended, fingers bent and loosely pointing out like artillery on a warship. His eyes shone, flashing white and green, faster and faster, mesmerizing Cloud, who stood completely prone to the magical devistation he knew was coming. As the blast of radiant light surged into him, as his body exlpoded in pain, and as he felt himself flying backwards through the air, he only thought of those flashing eyes that seemed to be laughing in his face.
The cold sensation of the ice compress stung her face as she held it there for what seemed like hours. Though she had to admit that the discomfort was worth it, as it helped to dull a pain much greater than the chill. But she wasn't complaining. She'd been through much more painful things than this, and, she thought, looking over at Crono who was asleep on the sofa, there were some that were worse off than her. At least her injuries were simple, and didn't involve infectious poisons.
"Say, where the hell is that guy? We've been here for almost and hour! I think whatever we ran into he coulda handled no sweat." Cid remarked, nervously, tapping his fingers on the table next to his chair. Yuffie glanced over at him, taking the ice off of her jaw to speak.
"He'll be fine. Don't worry 'bout it. For gawd's sake, he took on Sephiroth before! Nothin' out there is gonna, like, even come close to Sephiroth. Those geeks in the street sure didn't." Across the room, Tifa sat quietly, observing the scene.
It's funny...Cid's ususally the one talking sense into Yuffie...now it's the other way around...
She'd been forced to let the customers and wait staff leave at their own demand, for she had no actual reason to detain them, and with a smile, she wished them all a safe trip home, and thanked them for coming to the Seventh Heaven. So now, it was just her, Yuffie, Cid, and an exhausted, sleeping Crono present in the large building. The normally loud, bursting with energy, alive with people club suddenly seemed dead and desolate. It certainly didn't aid her in her attempt to keep from worrying herself sick about her husband.
"So you say the guys you tangled with weren't too much trouble for you?" Tifa asked, again.
"Yeah. Not too much trouble. We took 'em down pretty quick. Right, kid?" Cid said, as reassuring as possible. Yuffie nodded in agreement, but didn't make an effort to say anything, the uncomfortable silence ensuing again. Before it became too much to bear, Tifa tried one last time to strike up a conversation.
"So...Yuffie. Tell me some more about how these past few years have been for you." She almost begged. Yuffie subtley rolled her eyes, and threw the ice to the table, unable to talk with it covering most of her face.
"Well, y'know, I went back to Wutai after the war ended. I spent about two years there. But, well, my dad and his council and all the people who expected me to be "responsible" were really driving me crazy, so when my eighteenth birthday came, I just was like, "see you guys later! (Not!)" And I headed out with some of my friends from Wutai, Mia and Shio. So for like, from the time I left Wutai, to the week before I came back here, we were just traveling around. Goofing off and having a ton of fun. It did me a world of good, too." The words came easily after she started.
"So, why did you stop?" Tifa asked.
"Ah, they decided that they didn't wanna spend their whole lives moving from one place to the next, so they went back to Wutai."
"You didn't want to go with them?"
"I did, I just didn't really feel like going back to Wutai. That's when I just said to myself 'hey...I wonder what the old gang's up to.' So I dropped by your place, and there you all were."
"We missed you. We were always wondering where you were..." Yuffie looked down, a hint of shame in her eyes.
"Yeah...I'm sorry guys. I just kinda wanted to leave it all behind, and, well, I did. But I realized that there were a lot of things I really missed about my old life. And, well, here I am."
"Glad to have ya back, kid. Stay for a while." Cid told her. She chuckled.
"Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere." She said, looking over at Crono, who was snoring softly. "Hope he wakes up soon..." She mumbled, hopefully.
"Heh. I don't think so. Not after what he's been through."
"Yeah...I guess so..." She started, but then stopped, her head cocking sideways. "Did you hear that?"
"That! It...it sounds like a bell!"
"What the hell are you talkin' about, kid? Ain't no bells in here! Must be your head ringing." But the sound grew louder, and more definite it became that there was in fact, a bell in the vicinity. Tifa perked up.
"I recognize that! That's the service bell in the bar! Someone must be here." She sprang out of her seat, hoping desperately that it was Cloud playing a little joke on her.
"Hey! The place is closed! Dont'cha think a customer could tell that from the sign on the door?!" Cid protested.
"Relax, Cid. No evil attacker is gonna ring my service- holy shit!!!" She exclaimed. Immediately, her two companions rushed to her side, gasping at the sight before them.
Standing at the counter, was a large, menacing looking character with vampiric features and long blue hair that formed a widow's peak in the front. He was postured awkwardly, with one finger tapping the silver button on the bell repeatedly. The man seemed to take no notice to their beguiled expressions, and kept ringing the device, impatiently.
"Who the...what the hell are you!?" Yuffie stammered.
"I am Magus. I am waiting to be assisted." He replied, calmly, still clanging away.
"Whaddya mean you're Magus?! Who the...stop ringing that fuckin' bell, willya!" She commanded, through gritted teeth. Again, he refused.
"This tag instructs me to 'ring bell for assistance', which is precisely what I'm going to do until I am assisted. So you can just calm down, young lady." Magus ordered.
"Why, I oughta..." She tried to move for the visitor, but Cid held her back, struggling to keep her still. "Cid!! Lemme go! C'mon, Cid! Cut it out!"
"You'll, um, have to excuse her, she's had a rough night. Er...how may I help you, sir?" Tifa asked, stepping up to the counter. He finally stopped ringing the bell, and turned his attention toward the hostess.
"Yes, this is the Seventh Heaven bar and club, correct?" He asked, nonchalantly.
"Um...yes it is." She replied.
"And is there a...Tifa Strife present in this establishment?" He inquired, looking at a small piece of paper.
"Yes, that would be me. What's going on? Who wants to know?" At this point, she was more than a little nervous. Magus sighed. That only made things worse. "What's going on?!" She repeated, totally panicked.
"It's about your husband..." He let it hang, ominously. Her mouth opened, devoid of noise.
"Wh...what's wrong? Is he okay? Where is he!?" She spewed the questions, rapidly.
"He is...injured. Very injured..." Was all the mage could manage to say to her. Tears began to spill over her face, and her open lips shook like branches in the wind. "I found him, and I relocated his and another's body to the house I have been staying at. I've tended to there injuries as much as I can, but healing is not my skill. I know only very basic things about medicine. Your name and establishment was mentioned on Mr. Strife's identification cards, so I decided to..."
"We have to hurry then! He could be dying! Cid, Yuffie, come on! We'll use your car, Yuffie. Give Cid your keys!" Tifa instructed. Yuffie hesitated.
"What about Crono? We can't leave him here alone! I'll go get him. Here, Cid." She gave the pilot her car keys, pushing past him back into the taproom, where the redheaded Kensai slumbered. She dropped to her knees beside him, and nudged his back gently.
"Uhhh..." He protested, burying himself deeper into the cushions. Not wanting to waste any time, she pulled on his ear, forcing him instantly awake. "Ack! What? What!?" He shouted, looking this way and that, completly startled.
"Shh. Shhh...come on, we have to go somewhere. C'mon." She put her arms under his, and pulled him up off the couch, and up onto his feet. He blinked a few times, trying to wake himself up on such short notice. Holding him by the wrist, she led him out of the now empty restaurant, and into the open door of her car, which was almost full to capacity, and she slid in before him. Cid was to drive, with Magus instructing him on how to reach his destination from the passengers side, Tifa sitting between them, wanting a first hand view of everything, which made it rather crowded in the front seat.
Crono, still in a daze, sat down in the back seat next to Yuffie, blinking yet a few more times. His mind was completely incoherent, he hadn't even realized yet that Magus was around, or that this was his first time in a car, or even that just hours before, he'd been fighting for his life against mysterious enemies. Resting his head back against the leather, he closed his eyes, tried not to think about anything, and just let himself feel the ground moving under him quietly, as Magus, Cid, and Tifa conversed about what had happened to Cloud and where he was right now.
He remembered smiling as she wrapped her arms around his waist, and she kissed him lightly on the face and mumbled an apology in his ear. And he remembered how warm she was compared to the cold air, and he even remembered the way her hair fell into his as he rested his head on her shoulder, sinking back into his over-deprived sleep.
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