Adversary Chapter 18
Midgar, Sector 7, 0005 N.C.E.
Clouds night was relatively sleepless. Just a few hours before, his house had been the victim of attack, and his life was almost lost under a barrage of screaming bullets. On top of it all, his wife and child were now missing, taken hostage while he lay, feigning death, in the basement.
He tried to tell himself that he did the best he could, and that hed get them back, without a hair on either of their heads having been harmed, but he still felt anxiety. Even though he fully trusted his wifes ability to handle dangerous situations, she was in a compromising position. She was also the victim of deadly and ruthless assassins.
Which brought more thoughts into his head. If Yuffie was alive, then why had she not made contact with them? What had her cryptic comments meant? Why was she working against her former friends, if not downright trying to dispose of them? If Yuffie was alive, was he then to believe that Crono was among that group that attacked his mansion?
He wanted to pursue them, god, how he wanted to strap his blade across his back and tear out of the house at full speed and hunt down and destroy the terrorists, yet such an action would have been downright foolish of him. He knew quite well that the dark, desolate night was the home turf of the ninja, and that he wouldnt last long before firearm nozzles blasted steel into his heart. Besides, hed stalled to long waiting for them to leave and stop shooting at him. Wherever theyd fled to most likely was nowhere that he would find them, especially in the dead of night.
The sun was coming up over the horizon, golden streaks pouring in through the Venetian blinds, when, all of a sudden, the telephone rang. He blinked his bloodshot eyes a few times, and then hurled the blankets aside, stumbling out of bed. Hed been wearing the same paint-stained clothing the whole time. He checked the call ID. The number was blocked. He hesitated.
Could be a trap
But the ringing persisted. So much so that he finally caved it and picked up the receiver.
Hello. He said, dryly.
Oh, thank god The tired voice whispered on the other end. His eyes widened in shock.
Tifa?! Where are you? Are you hurt? He shouted, question-form.
Im with Truss. Were both okay. Were just trapped. She continued to whisper, barely detectably.
Trapped? Trapped where? Cloud questioned.
I I think its in Corneos mansion it looks like one of the rooms, but
You mean City Hall? They refinished his place after he was killed. Its City Hall now, is that where you are?
I guess so. Please come get us, Cloud. Im scared, I
Dont be afraid. Youre strong. One of the strongest people I know. Ill be there soon, dont you worry. Tell Truss the cavalrys coming. He said, psyching himself up.
No, Cloud, wait. You dont understand Crono and Yuffie, theyre theyre alive! Theyre here! I dont know whats wrong with them, but Cloud, please, dont hurt them; theyre not themselves. They walk around like theyre dreaming, and when I He interrupted her whisper, which grew more and more distressed as she continued speaking.
Listen. Ill be there in no time. Tell me on the way home, okay? I love you, Tifa. Ill be right there. He hung up the phone, and opened his closet, switching into his dark blue, sleeveless battle clothes and combat boots. In the closet, below folded clothes and blankets, was a long, metal case. He dragged it out of the closet, and blew the dust off the top. Inside were the armlets and sword hed brought to battle the day he invaded the North Cave. Rarely had he removed them from their case, but he wasnt much of a showoff when it came to equipment. Besides, the ninja would have hunted the stuff down and stolen it if it was public knowledge that he owned them.
He strapped the sword christened the Ultima Weapon over his shoulder, and tightened the Ziedrich armlets around his wrists. The Materia was still in the blade; right where hed last left it, in case he ever needed the sword in a hurry.
Five minutes after he ended the phone conversation, he was out of the house, and opening the drivers side door to his car. He put the sword on the seat next to him, and kicked the car into first gear, tearing out of the circular driveway.
It didnt come as much of a surprise to Cloud that the Sector Six City Hall parking lot was empty. Hed suspected that it might have been seized by the assassins, but wasnt letting the details of the situation bother him. He had a goal, and it required his full concentration. Anything else was secondary. He backed the vehicle into a parking space, and got out, pulling his weapon with him, ready for action.
He marched up the steps, observing the scene. The front doors were open, unusually, and the interior lights were dim, even more unusually.
This place usually a beacon this seems odd better be careful
He activated a barrier of magical reflection using the Materia in his sword, the faint green arch of light appearing in front of him for just a moment, and then dissipating into the air. He suspected some magic-induced foul play within
Carefully he approached, no signs of activity in the building as of yet. He looked around. The center of the room was large and open the only object on the floor a high-walled front desk. Two curved staircases led up toward three rooms at the top on an elevated second level. The false candles on the chandeliers created star like patterns, that danced around the floors and walls as the draft from the open door blew them back and forth. There were no windows to let the daylight in, and thick curtains hung over the doorway, dampening the light.
Strange atmosphere for City Hall
Then he saw them: the tips of red spiky hair protruding beyond the headrest of the leather computer chair at the front desk. It was facing the rear hall of the room, so that only the back of the leather computer chair was visible from Clouds vantage point.
Crono youre still hanging around after all hell, might as well say hi
He casually strolled up to the desk, and grabbed the chair, spinning it around with some force. Crono, or at least someone that looked like Crono almost jumped out of his skin in surprise. His hair was much shorter, and his face looked a lot harder and colder than its usual smiley, curious look. He was dressed like a Yakuza street fighter. He even had the infamous dragon tattoos.
Well look who it is. Put it here, pal. Cloud said with a forced grin, extending his hand toward Crono. Crono looked at him in sheer astonishment and confusion. Come on. Lets let bygones be bygones. He offered, trying to avoid a fight like his wife requested.
You! Crono shouted, snapping his fist into Clouds face and standing up. Cloud winced in pain, but punched Crono back, reflexively, dropping him back down into the chair.
Way to say hello, jerk. Strife grimaced. Crono snarled at him, and shoved him out of the cubicle with a kick. The blonde swordsman maintained his footing, and unleashed his weapon into the forefront. He was about to slash at Crono, keeping him pinned in a corner, but halted, as the Kensais cocked hand blazed with blue electricity. Cloud backed up, bracing himself for the inevitable magical blast headed his way. His teeth ground together as the bolt seared through the air, the electricity in the air making his blade buzz slightly.
Only the pain never came, the faint green barrier appeared once again, absorbing the bolt, and hurling it straight back at his opponent. Crono flew backward, slamming against the reception counter, his body jittering with the current.
I knew that spell would come in handy
As Crono cursed and stifled a painful scream that wanted to pass through his lips, Cloud rushed forward, plastering him up onto the counter. Paperweights and office supplies flew off the countertop and clattered to the floor in a heap. Cloud executed a quick maneuver, practiced many times in the military. He laid the blade of his sword across his opponents throat, leaning it towards the hilt. A bit of pressure on the opposite end of the weapon would cut deep into the victims neck almost instantly. Crono stared up at him furiously, hate and fear burning in his eyes. He could feel the blood pounding in the crucial arteries of his neck. Cloud spoke.
Listen Crono, youre not yourself. Someones been messing with your mind. I want to help you but you have to cooperate. The fiery-haired Kensai struggled with the sword, futilely.
Never! He hissed, trying to kick Cloud, who was too close for a kick to hit.
Youre not supposed to be here Crono. Youre not a Yakuza. Youre not an assassin. Youre with us, remember? Crono tried to slip his legs around Clouds to find someway to offset his balance.
My name is Epsilon, and you are the oppressors! It is my duty, my giri to destroy you! He roared, and he wedged his feet between Clouds knees, and raked Clouds legs out from under him. The soldier dropped down and landed flat on his back with a thump.
Shit, get up! Get up!
He scrambled back, and turned instinctively with the Ultima Weapon ready to parry the incoming. He was up just in time to see Crono draw not one, but two katanas, and lash them down at him, the metals collision filling the air with a sharp crack. Both sets of blades were locked in a power struggle against each other. Cloud rose up, and gave way to the push slightly, taking a few steps back.
As Strife backed up, Crono released his press, and dodged the thrust he expected would follow. He let out a whoop of adrenaline, and spun like a blender, attacking slash after slash in a spiral of katanas. Cloud strained and swerved to keep up with the onslaught. He stayed calm within, concentrating only on the movements, yet he started to sweat, maintaining his jerky defense.
This little bastards having fun, isnt he Ill give him something to smile about
Cloud blocked high, and stomped down on Cronos foot, unchaining a powerful horizontal slice across his adversarys upper chest. Crono howled in fury, his clothing torn and staining. Cloud almost felt a little sorry for him.
Crono threw a terrifying combination of hacking strikes Clouds way, trying to break through his tough defense. The cuts came tearing in from all directions, some lightly breaking the soldiers flesh, others beating down his guard. Unable to hold his position much longer without being cut up like meat, Strife backed the fight up the left staircase. Carefully he walked backward, one step up at a time, Crono slowing his advance. The kensai sheathed one sword.
Whats he up to ?
Crono came in again, swinging rather obviously with his one katana and grabbing the ball at the end of the banister with his open hand. Cloud effortlessly overpowered the weak attack, but was caught completely by surprise by the follow-up.
He did his best to get out of the way as Crono leapt up off the stairs and looped his body over the railing. The Yakuzas foot came hurtling in from the right, hitting Cloud squarely in the side of the neck. The soldier saw bright colors before his eyes as he stumbled flat across the stairwell. He heard his opponent draw the other katana again, and spring off the rail.
Rrrgh! Cloud grimaced, forcing his aching shoulder muscles to roll him downward a few steps. The bumps from level to level hurt his sore neck almost as much as the kick did. As he resurfaced, he heard both blades slice into the carpet, leaving long slits in the fabric. Crono was significantly above him now, bouncing his body weight from leg to leg, ready to continue the fight. Cloud stared at him, taking a few deep breaths.
Too much for you, big man? Come on! Show me what you got. Crono taunted, a twisted grin on his face.
Ive come for my wife and son. I dont want to kill you. Get out of my way. Cloud commanded. Crono shook his head, spinning his swords, expertly.
Sure. Id be happy to let you join them. He said, laughing at himself as he continued to throw sword jabs and swipes into the air.
He leads with his left
Cloud observed as Crono kept up the display, trying to antagonize him. Trying to act like the serious wound on his chest wasnt bothering him.
Once again, Strife raised his sword. Crono snapped back into his fighting stance.
Get. Out. Of. The. Way. Cloud spelt it out. Crono raised an eyebrow.
Fucking make me, then.
Cloud sent the blade screaming down at the kensais left arm. He felt the somewhat sickening futile resistance of flesh versus steel, as he once again, severely penetrated the others flesh. The katana went flying from Cronos grip, as his face paled and his mouth dropped open.
Aahhh!! He screamed, blood spilling down his arm. Cloud paused again, momentarily.
Get out of here, you fucking idiot! He shouted, swinging full force and slapping the other sword out of the redheads weaker hand. Now both of his weapons lay on the floor, far below them. Crono retreated slowly, looking panicked. There wasnt much else he could do at this point.
Now the kensai stood at the top of the stairs, his right hand clutching the bleeding gash on his left forearm. The soldier kept approaching.
Whats it going to be, Crono? Dont be stupid, this time. Swallow your damn pride. Clouds body and weapon radiated a luminous energy. Crono seemed to vacillate. His face went from hopeless to furious, back and forth, yet he took no action.
Even the strongest fighters know when to lay down their weapons. Cloud said, now standing next to him, somewhat proud of his opponents decision to cease the fight. The Yakuzas mouth opened to speak, but no words came out. His eyebrows rose, and then lowered. Then his eyes narrowed. That was when Cloud saw it.
In the darkness of the stairwell, Cronos eyes glowed.
Just like Cloud Strifes.
Y you Cloud stammered, feeling his skin crawl. He was in shock. Crono jammed his elbow into the same spot in the blondes neck, and ran past. Cloud couldnt even feel it, as he watched Crono charge down the stairs, jumping down two or three at a time, and make a dash for his weapons.
This has got to end
Cloud followed, a few seconds later, stopping in the middle of the staircase. Soon after, the kensai came running back at him, and he jumped up the first several steps, and pushed off the next one, somersaulting through the air, both swords wailing at Strife, who refocused his energy into the Ultima Weapon.
He slashed; a white crescent zoomed from the sword, smashing straight into Crono as he whirled around. The kensais knees buckled as he jerked back and upward into the most impressive flip Cloud had ever seen him execute. He soared through the air, end over end until at last, he slammed into the wall behind him, and slid down its clothed surface, into dull unconsciousness.
Cloud stood, partly amazed by his handiwork, but mostly relieved that the battle was finally over. He hadnt fought that hard in years, but it felt somewhat satisfying to perform like he had, even though his muscles felt like gelatin.
He turned away from his crumpled, motionless opponent, and headed back up to the second level.
Tifa! He called out between panting gasps. Where are you two?
In here! She called, through the thick central door. He came barreling toward it, splitting the wooden plank with ease. After that fight, a locked door was nothing. He stepped through.
They were sitting in a large office, firmly tied at the hand and foot to the legs of the desk. An old corded phone hung off the edge of the tabletop near Tifa, and a great length of the similar rope lay in a spiral next to it. Cloud smiled, meagerly at their weary faces.
The cavalry has arrived. He knelt down beside her, and kissed her, holding it for a good while. He turned to his son, and ruffled his hair. Nobody messes with us, kid. He grinned. His son was amazed.
You beat um, Dad? Really?
You bet. Lets get you all out of this. He crudely but effectively cut the ropes from them. Then he stood up, taking the rest of the cord from the desk, and walking out with it. Come on, lets get going. He said, and he headed down to Crono, who messily lay at the foot of the stairs. You jackass. Why cant you just give up sometimes, dammit? He cursed under his breath, while tying him up in several yards of cord, and taking his weapons from him. He wasnt going to take the risk of a similar occurrence happening again.
Once Crono was secure, Cloud headed to the reception desk, and searched its contents. He was determined to find out what was going on, and why.
Wait, all the information is probably computer-documented
He noted, looking down at the CPU.
Probably should just take the stupid thing with me
He disconnected all the wires, unplugged the hard drive, and tucked it under his arm. He held the unit out to Tifa, whom was descending the staircase, gawking at Crono.
Carry this, honey? Ive got bigger things to worry about. He said, handing it off, and pulling the large, limp body over his shoulder. They were out of there, seconds later.
He felt kind of funny stuffing an unconscious body into the trunk of his car, but he had little other options. What was he supposed to do, put the guy that was trying to kill him minutes ago in the back seat with his son?
He said little to the others, as he was deep in thought, driving back home. His mind was racing, wondering about all of the possibilities, some things finally making sense to him, a tiny fire in the distance, shedding light on the darkness of the situation.
I have to find that woman the violet-haired woman she might be the only one that can help me
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