Adversary Chapter 5
Midgar, sector 7, 0004 N.C.E. (New Common Era)
She was quiet on the ride home, her mind off in another place, drifting further and further away as she gazed out the window, the gold lights sweeping by the car in their preset line. Perhaps she was drunk, she wondered to herself. No, no she hadn't been drinking anything intoxicating, that was for sure, but something had clouded her judgement to the point where she'd gotten very personal with someone she'd never even seen before. It wasn't like she remembered nothing, in fact, she was well aware of what had happened, but she couldn't remember just what possessed her to touch him. She tried to picture what he looked like in her mind's eye.
She could remember his hair, sweeping up and out in bright red spikes that bounced when he walked. She also could remember his eyes, bright green gems that looked wearily into her's. And...yes, she remembered his chisled arms and the feel of his lips and tongue against her own. Coming to think of it, she remembered absolutely everything about him...except his name. Did he even tell her his name? She distinctly remembered not revealing her name, but had he chosen to do the same? How she now wished that she'd just had one more moment to ask him it...find out where she might see him again. A voice pulled her out of her pensive daze and back into the carseat where she still sat.
"So, did you enjoy your evening?" Cloud asked her from over his shoulder in the driver's seat. She noticed Tifa give her a sly look, and then turn back to her husband, answering the question directed at another.
"Oh yeah, she had quite a good time. She, eh, hit the jackpot, ya might say." Cloud raised an eyebrow, still concentrating on the road.
"Hmm...and when I might say it, what might I mean?" He interrogated. Yuffie squirmed in her seat, dreading what might come of this repartee. Tifa giggled.
"Well, she caught some guy's eye. He was a real looker, too, and new in town. Ah,Yuffie, you lucky girl, you!" She said with pretend jealousy. She was met with a nervous smile from the back seat, and an unintelligible grumble from her husband. "What?" She asked, defensively. Cloud looked at her breifly.
"Great...this is just what she needs..." He whispered with a definite note of irritation in his voice as he guided the vehicle back into the driveway, and removed his key. Before everyone was out of the car, a figure came towards them from the house.
"Hey! Where have you all been? I've been trying to get in touch with you for a while. Something really huge came up, and we gotta talk about it. The city's going crazy, and they wanna hear from you especially." Cid Highwind babbled to Cloud.
"Alright then, everyone inside. Let's sort this thing out, whatever it is." Cloud said in his usual commanding tone of voice that he aquired in stressful moments. Both Yuffie and Tifa smiled and shook their heads. Some things about a person never change.
"So, anyway, it looks like this world...and another one...were just, kinda, slapped together in that huge bitch of a storm we had last night. No one knows why or how anything like that could've happened, but it does explain the sudden rush of new faces into Midgar and the surrounding areas. And, might I mention that a whole buncha wierd buildings and landscapes have been found by reconnasciance agents to the east. Everything has a kind of medieval undertone to it, but they don't appear to be too primitive. They just, as far as we know, live in castles with electric light and running water, but don't have cars or helicopters and so on and so forth." Cid explained, summarizing the reports that the Midgar town council had given him. He paused to rub his left eye. Although the corneal injury was for the most part healed, he still felt a slight imparation of his vision from time to time. Cloud spoke up, puzzled and seemingly nervous.
"Has anyone attempted to politically communicate with the people of this foreign land?" Cid shook his head.
"Nope, all of this information is brand new, right outta the printing press. I came right over when I found out, but you guys weren't here, so I read it a couple times, not sure if I was really seeing what I was seeing, ya know?" They nodded, slowly.
"Does anyone at all have any idea how this happened? Was it like a natural disaster or what?" Tifa inquired from her seat at the wooden kitchen table. Cid sighed, and skimmed the papers once again.
"Well, like I said, no one knows anything conclusive, but some theories have been formed, most of 'em probably by conspiracy nuts." Cloud pressed him for information.
"Well, any kind of clue or lead we can get is helpful at this point. What are they?" Cid forced a laugh, but then began to explain.
"Well, most of the 'thinkers' believe that this is some kinda freak incident involving materia or reactor meltdowns or some crap like that. But a small group or others are suspicious that this is no accident." The little council fell silent. "They think someone...someone really powerful, is behind all of this..." His voice trailed off for a moment, everyone wondering if in fact such a thing was actually possible. "But, of course, these people are all off their rockers, and so are you if ya actually believe it." He laughed, making light of what he'd just said. Meanwhile, Yuffie was deep in thought.
So that's what he meant when they said he was from out of town...
The phone rang, and both men jumped up to answer it, Cid reaching it first.
"Yeah?" He asked. Cloud looked at him, frustrated.
Sure, just come into my house and answer my phone any time you like. He mouthed the words. Cid smiled, but focused on the conversation present in the telephone he held to his ear.
"You want him to what?!" He exclaimed, right as Cloud pryed his fingers from the reciever and took the phone.
"Hello? Yes, this is he...you want me to what?!" He shouted, almost jumping into the air.
"Told you so." Cid remarked.
"Well...um...I suppose I could...yes...tomorrow? Alright then...I'll be there then. Goodbye..." He gently laid the phone back into its silver cradle, and turned back to his wife and friends. "They want me to address the city tomorrow morning!" He said, still in shock. Tifa's eyes widened.
"Hey! That's great! I'm sure you'll do fine." Cloud nodded slowly.
"That's not all. Tonight, our officials are going to meet with whatever authorities exist in the other land, which is called 'Gardea' or something like that. They hope to be able to establish some kind of mutual agreement or peace treaty or something like that. They have officially made contact with that castle, and the residents are eager to meet us."
"Well, if anyone in this place can give a security speech, it's you, pal. You're the man for the job." Cid said, patting him on the shoulder.
"Thanks." Cloud assured him, but on the inside, he worried intensly. This was a situation he'd never been faced with before. Could he actually go through with it?
Their feet touched the concrete and pushed back, picked up, swung forward, and touched the ground again in almost perfect unison as the two men casually walked down the city sidewalks. A great commotion had risen in the public square, and being intrepid young adults, Leon and Crono had decided to investigate. A huge crowd hampered their progression forward, but they were able to push a few people aside, insisting that they were undercover officials, and meant business. What they saw confused them slightly.
At the head of the crowd stood a makeshift stage, and a podium with large black framed speakers and microphone cables tangling around this and that. At the podium stood a man in his mid twenties, of a smaller build, with stiff blonde spikes of hair protruding up from his head. An long weapon handle was visible over his right shoulder, and his right hand was clad in a thick steel armlet that made it appear much larger than it actually was. He looked very impressive to both of them, and had a commanding air of confidence about him, that almost seemed to glow...
"That's Cloud Strife. The big hero around these parts. Him and his friends led this huge fight against ShinRa and Sephiroth back like four years ago. He can be okay, I guess. He's a little rough around the edges, but we owe the guy our lives, so I can forgive him." Leon explained as Crono studied the man. Before too much longer, the man resumed speaking, as he had been for quite some time previously, when Crono and Leon had not been there.
"May I have your attention once again, please. Thank you. As you know, last night, Midgar officials met with the Royal Council of Guardia, composed of King Guardia, his daughter Nadia, and a few of his chief knights. They apparently are greatly interested in a peaceful alliance with our cities, under these strange circumstances that no concrete cause has been found to at this moment. However, they have issued a request to our council. Their kingdom's champion has mysteriously disappeared, and they believe that he may be located in our world. Therefore, they ask that anyone who has seen him tell the authorities, and address him personally. His kingdom is in great need of his power, as it had proved to be a valuable asset to them in previous times of danger. This is his description..." He began. Crono started to sweat. He knew that this was some kind of trap, designed to lure him back into the confining walls of the castle where the guards would ambush him. He had to get out of here, fast, before anyone could see him. He looked around frantically for an exit, but he was encased in people no matter which way he turned. Perhaps no one would notice him...yeah, right.
"He is around the age of twenty, goes by the name of 'Crono', is muscular, tall, and has a very noticable feature. His..."
"Dude! That's you! Cloud! Cloud!! Here he is, right here! This is Crono! Hey!" Leon shouted. Crono tried to stop him, but it was too late. Strife turned his head down toward them, looked at Leon, and then wide-eyed at Crono, and his spiky red hair.
"Oh! Great...will you come up here, please, Mr. Crono." A space in the crowd around him cleared, and he uneasily made his way to the stage, and up the steps. Not visible to him from the crowd, he now noticed the people sitting in chairs behing the podium. Before he had a chance to look at their faces, the one known as Cloud looked him up and down. While doing this, he heard his wife and friend exclaim from behind him.
"Look! Yuffie! That's the guy you met at my bar! He must be the champion of that castle! Hey, he looks even better in the sun..." She whispered not-so-quietly. Cloud's eyes narrowed in anger.
"So you're the good-looking guy everyone's going giggly over, eh?" He said, gruffly, bringing a laugh from the crowd. Crono's cheeks flushed and he looked down at the stage, wishing he could hide in its rough brown surface.
"Am I?" He asked, meekly. Cloud tried to brush his irritations aside, and continue on with his business.
"Anyway, King Guardia and the Princess have requested that you return ASAP, alright? I look forward to doing business with you, Mr. Crono." He stated, although he certainly didn't mean it. He began to speak again, but Crono's voice intercepted his on the way to the microphone.
"Excuse me, but I don't think that's possible for me to do...I am in a bit of a...dispute with the members of the castle. I think it's for the best that I remain here." He said, trying to sound as calm and official as possible. Cloud shook his head.
"I have direct orders to see that you arrive at the castle, and I am not the type to disobey my direct orders, Crono." He remarked, arrogantly. "But, if you feel that your personal safety is at risk, I'd be happy to escort you there." He said with a smile, as Crono raised one eyebrow.
"Yeah, whatever. Get lost somewhere." Crono muttered, turning his back. Cloud was furious, and he said, deliberately close to the microphone,
"What was that, little boy?" Crono stopped in his tracks, and turned around slowly, an "ooh" rising from the crowd as he sauntered forward.
"Oh no..." Tifa said, turning the other way. She'd hoped Cloud would never lock horns with another "hero"...
"Personally, I think the only 'little' person here is you." He retorted, the crowd rising to full attention. Cloud stepped into fighting range, and brandished the handle of his huge sheathed sword over his shoulder. He wasn't going to let this young punk break his rules anyday. He looked dead at him.
Don't make me use this, pal...
Crono looked down his nose at the sword, mockingly. "Well, thats a pretty big sword ya got there. You wouldn't happen to be compensating for something with it, would you?" At this point, Strife could no longer let this boy make a fool of him in front of his city, his followers. He slipped his weapon out of it's scabbard in a dangerously smooth motion, and brought it before him, menacingly. Crono jumped back, but drew his own weapon at the same time. Then he stepped forward again, waving his katana in the blonde's face.
"Yeah! Ooh, look Mr. tough guy! I gotta sword too, only it's able to be weilded by normal humans, not Storm Giants. See? See? Wooo!" Cloud grimaced at the challenge, and with a heft, he swung his blade clear through where Crono's katana was, knocking it far off the stage, and into the street behind it. In the split second between the time the katana left his loose grip, and the time he had to react, Cloud slashed out in a short arch, catching Crono in the chest, and knocking him back in shock.
The crowd gasped as Crono blinked his eyes, and brought a hand to the shallow, yet symbolic wound. The blood soaked through the fabric of his shirt, and he sat, under the furious gaze of this world's hero, and the startled crowd, that was probably just itching to see their hero cream this loser from out of town. He ground his teeth, and rolled backward onto his feet, rising up, knees bent, and his hands open and out at both sides. Cloud smiled, visciously. Was this unarmed kid going to step up?
"Teach him a lesson, Crono." A girl stood up behind Cloud. She was obscured, but Crono recognized her voice right away. She was the mysterious young woman he'd met the other night. A comfort filled him when he realized that she was near, but his designated "opponent" only smirked wider.
"Yeah, teach me a lesson, Crono."
"Oh, Cloud...what the hell are you doing?!" Another familiar female voice rose from behind him. Cloud's hand's tightened around his weapon, and he waited for Crono to strike, which was a huge mistake. Crono relaxed his body, giving the impression that he was not ready to attack, which caused Cloud to loosen his guard somewhat. The instant he saw Cloud relax in a similar fashion, his arm whipped out, knuckes cracking sharply against the blonde's face. Crono grinned triumphantly.
"You gotta watch that, man." He advised his flustered "enemy." Cloud refocused, and swung hard in rage, hard enough to cleave Crono in half, had he not dropped straight down to evade it. Barely cutting into Crono's back, it skimmed over him, and straight into one of the huge speakers that stood near the far corners of the stage. Deafening feedback came from what was left of the Public Address system, and Cloud's weapon was lodged deep in the side of it. Now unarmed as well, Strife turned back to face Crono, who was laughing his head off, and not at all looking foolish like he'd intended.
Cloud tightened his armlet, and then swung it backhand, slamming straight into the side of Crono's laughing face. Although not a felling blow, it made him stagger, and turn the other way, bracing against a chair for support. This had gone too far, and Cloud was out of his mind to think Crono was going to obey his loud commands. Whirling around, he sprang into the air, his left leg outstretched and stiff. In a perfect spin, his heel collided with Cloud's temple, sending him down to the stage.
When Crono landed, three others were on the stage with them, trying to stop Cloud from attacking as he rose to his feet once again. Their efforts were foiled when he pushed through them, and Crono ran forward at the same time. They slammed into each other, gripping the others' shirt with one hand, and punching furiously with the other. Battering each other like mortal enemies, they caused everyone else to stop and think about what exactly was going on. These two men were fighting over pride, and nothing more. In a time of great importance, their ego's took control, clouding the bigger issues.
"STOP IT!!" Tifa shouted, at the top of her lungs. The two combatatants froze in mid-strike. "You two are up here beating the life out of each other over some stupid egotistical garbage! Cloud! You're supposed to be giving a confidence speech to your people, not slugging it out over some bitter words! And you, Crono! You're supposed to be representing your homeland, not fighting with the representative of ours!" She ranted, making them feel like a couple of idiots, which was understandable. They released each other, and stepped back, forming a somewhat comfortable distance between them. She sighed, rolling her eyes. "Alright, lets get some doctors up here, take care of these 'manly' inuries."
Crono looked down and wandered over toward one of the empty chairs at the end of the stage. The crowd was now beginning to leave, at Tifa's demand. They had already had their show, and it was about as comforting to them as barbed wire. On his way over, the blonde man in the leather jacket with the flight visor stopped to talk with Crono.
"Hey, that was a helluva fight. You've got some pretty wicked moves on ya." He said, dragging on his cigar.
"Thanks." Crono muttered. He sat down in the chair, and tried to ignore the pain in his chest. It was only the other day that he'd had half of the flesh on his upper body scraped off by a collision with a tree, and the pain still remained, only more intense now. He closed his eyes tightly, hoping he could meditate and bring himself some relief. Before he quieted his mind completely, he felt someone touch his shoulder. His eyes snapped open to find the familiar girl in the chair next to him. Her hair was not done up quite as perfectly, and she only wore a simple black outfit, but he still thought she was beautiful. Her big amber eyes brought a tired smile to his lips.
"I'm Yuffie Kisaragi." She stated, like he'd asked her the question. Logically the correct response was:
"I know!" She replied, and then burst into laughter. Crono was puzzled...he didn't know why this was so funny to her, but soon found himself laughing too. Perhaps he was just glad to be with her.
Either this is all a sick joke, or I'm in love with this girl...
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