Adversary Chapter 8
Midgar, Sector Seven, 0004 N.C.E.
"Melanie! Table four! Get a move on!" The agitated voice of the restaurant manager called for the fifth time.
"Okay! I heard you the first time!" Came her curt reply. She flipped through her notepad as she strolled down the brick steps, recalling mentally where table four was. Just as she reached into her pocket for the ever-elusive pen that was essential for taking orders, a shout startled her out of her preprogrammed movements.
"Yo, Mel! Hey, where ya been?" The familiar voice and dialect of her friend Leon drew her attention away from her waitress shorthand, and down to the men seated at her assigned table. Sure enough, Leon and his newly-aquainted best friend Crono stared up at her, with faces scarred by fatigue and hunger.
"Hey, guys! I was just, y'know, making sure some folks got their orders right, sorry 'bout the wait. Woah, you guys sure look hungry! What'll it be?" Leon chuckled, cracking his knuckles.
"Geeze, I could eat a freakin' chocobo, I'm so hungry!" He blurted. Melanie chortled, trying to hide the fact that she was laughing by covering her face with the green notepad (which actually only made it more obvious that she in fact was laughing at Leon's boisterous behavior.)
"Leon! People are staring!" She whispered. He made a face and waved his hand, dismissively.
"Ah, let 'em stare. Anyways, babe, me and the dude here will split two large pizzas, with...damn...everything. And a few sodas would be sweet, too." He grinned. She scribbled furiously, translating his order into three-letter words such as, "2 piz w/ all top".
"Okay, guys, I'll have your drinks out in a sec." She hurried back into the kitchen, doing her best to avoid her disgruntled boss. Meanwhile, back at the table, Leon and Crono were still boasting to each other about the day's exploits.
"Yeah, so that's when I was like, surrounded by four guys, and I just step back, real cool and all, and I just punched out the first knucklehead, picked his ass up, and threw him at the other three. They were total wusses, man. Total wusses." Leon raved. Crono smiled, munching on the complementary breadsticks in the basket at the corner of the table.
"Dude, you never told me what was up with the blood on your clothes. What in the hell happened? You looked like you shoulda been dead? And then, when you just walked right up and ripped the bars off their hinges. I was like, so shocked I couldn't believe it. What's the deal with you, man?" His friend looked down at the table, uncomfortably.
"Could we talk about it later, bro? I don't feel like getting into it now, I just wanna eat." Crono shrugged.
"Suits me fine. That was amazing though, you gotta admit." Leon was unable to reply, as their waitress arrived on the scene, setting down to huge glasses of clear soda. She stepped back, looking proud of her work.
"Those should keep ya busy for a while. Or at least 'till your pizzas're done." She remarked, jokingly.
"Heh, I doubt it. You know me." The blonde said, winking at her with a smile. It almost appeared that she would faint for a moment, until she regained her bearings, and left the table, grinning from ear to ear.
Leon didn't waste any time, diving straight into his enormous amount of soda, gulping it down like some long-needed oxygen. However, Crono didn't touch his beverage, as he was smirking at his friend from across the table. Eventually, one of Leon's eyes caught Crono's expression, and he swallowed the huge amount of drink in his mouth, wiping his face with his sleeve.
"Whassup?" He inquired, informally. Crono sighed.
"You know what's up. I saw the look, the wink, the half-swoon, everything. You two are so goofy for each other, you don't even notice it." Leon let out an exasperated groan.
"Oh, no. Not this again. Look, man, there's nothing between me and our waitress. You think a little flirting means something, well it doesn't. We're just friends, that's all." Crono shook his head.
"Quit kidding yourself, dude. You're totally for her, and you know it!" At this point, Leon's face was beat red, his normally calm disposition growing more and more irritated by the minute.
"Look, step off, alright?" Leon advised, harshly.
"Oh, and I suppose it's okay that you bug me non-stop about Yuffie when you feel like it, but I can't talk to you about Melanie."
"Look, man. I don't suck on this girl's face for two freakin' hours in the back of the restaurant while everybody stares at us! It's a little different here!" Crono was slightly put down by this, but he retaliated with:
"Ah, you're just scared to ask her out...that's all." His comment very clearly hit home, as Leon almost pounded through the table with his fist, getting up out of his seat, and throwing twenty Gil on his placemat, as he stormed toward the door, not saying a word.
"Hey! Dude, come back! I didn't mean it seriously!" Crono protested.
"Yeah, whatever." He slammed the doors open, disappearing into the city outside. Crono groaned. This what not what he though would happen. Leon never acted out like this before, and he sure didn't think that a little teasing would set him off. Telling Melanie to wait until he came back to bring the pizzas to the table, he assured her he'd only be a minute. Rushing to make up for lost time, he ran out the doors, trying to catch up to his friend.
The night air was warm and damp, and a thick steam was visible around the various sources of light in the city. The avenue right outside the pizza parlor was not particularly busy, an occasional car passing through, and the sounds of the highway uptown were audible in the semi-silence. Crono surveyed the entire street, from lanes to sidewalks, and even the rooftops, yet he saw no trace of Leon, who'd left the restaurant about fifteen seconds before him.
He couldn't have gotten that far ahead of me...hell, he wasn't even running...
"Hey! Leon! Dude, where'dya go? Hello? Leon!" He called, cupping his hands over his mouth to amplify his already loud voice. No answer.
This is weird...he just like...disappeared...or he's hiding from me...
He was contemplating what to say next, believing Leon had decided not to answer him, when he thought he heard something. It came from up ahead, and it sounded like a metallic bang. Then there was a voice, only it was a hushed voice, one very strained, yet muffled at the same time. Crono cautiously moved toward the direction the noise came from, hearing more and more sounds as he approached. Some were loud, some were subtle, but all of them seemed like likely sounds of a struggle. Tiptoing as effectively as possible, he narrowed the source of the sounds down to a secluded alleyway between an old apartment building, and an abandoned convinience store. Without making a sound, he leaned his ear close to the mouth of the alleyway, listening carefully.
There was a shuffling sound, and a bit of loud "clanking", and then...as faint as a whisper, there was a slight moan, and then more of the same shuffling and clanking. Painfully slow were Crono's movements as he peered with one eye around the corner of the wall. All that lay in the alleyway were scattered papers, a sideways garbage can who's contents had been spilled all over the concrete, and a rusty green dumpster in the corner, that had been shut tight, with several black and orange crates atop it. Yet amidst all this junk, there was no sign of a struggle, or even a person at that. He was about to turn around, when he heard another noise. It came from the back of the alley, puzzling Crono as to its source.
Unable to restrain his curiosity, he proceeded to walk further into the large alcove, making sure no one was around to see him enter the alley. Once inside, the single flickering lightbulb perched about fifteen feet above the ground provided sufficient light to make Crono's search possible. He examined everything he could find in a circumspect manner, trying to figure out what was making those noises, until he heard yet another sound, this time a very weak human sigh, and it came directly from the vicinity of the large green dumpster.
Trying not to be nervous, Crono walked up to the metal bin, jumping as something inside it bumped against the roof, feebly. With a heft, he began sliding the heavy crates off the roof of the dumpster, setting them down on the ground beside it. He also noticed that once he began moving the crates, the noises had stopped completely, almost as if he had frightened their source away. As he threw the final box aside, he unsheathed his katana, using it to pry open the rusty roof of the dumpster. Eventually, with a little effort, the door opened with a sickening creak, revealing the still body inside.
Leon was slumped against the left wall of the container, his face beaten and bloody, and a huge section of the fabric in his shirt missing, having been violently torn away.
"Leon!" Crono whispered, "Leon, man, can you hear me? Are you awake? It's me, Crono." The young man's head turned toward him, his eyes slowly opening, with a definite hazy look in them.
"Unnh...Crono...get outta here...it's gonna come back..." He muttered, shaking his head slowly.
"What? What's gonna come back?" Crono asked, concerned.
"I dont know...I just don't know..." Leon's voice cracked, and tears began to run down his swelling face.
"Calm down, man. What happened to you? You've only been out here like, a few minutes."
"I...I was just walkin'...and...somethin' just hit me...in the head...and...it just...kept hittin' me...and I tried to hit it back...but it was so damn huge...I don't know what the fuck it was...it was so strong...it just threw me around, and stuffed me in here. I got some kinda cut...I don't know...but I can't move my leg..." He babbled, sadly.
"Alright, I'm gonna get you outta here. Grab my hand." Leon shook his head again.
"No...I can't move...I feel so sick...when I try to move...you, you gotta get help...I think I might be poisoned or somethin'..." Crono sighed. This was not good.
"I can't leave you here...you said whatever it was would-" He stopped talking, and froze his entire body. He heard the sound of breaking glass, and the dim light in the alley vanished. Someone had smashed the bulb on the wall.
"Would what? Go get help...I'll be alright for a few minutes...just go get help..." Leon breathed.
"Shh..." Crono hissed, "don't say a word...I think there's somone here..."
"Oh shit...run! Run!! Get the hell out of here!" He shouted, in his drugged slur of words. Crono gulped, taking slow, deep breaths.
"Okay...calm down...shh..." he ordered, turning back toward the entranceway. Using the scarce light from the street ahead, he searched for a visitor, knowing that by Leon's description of it, it would be relatively easy to spot. Throughout all of this, Crono was not particularly intimidated, as he'd stood up to the likes of Lavos, which surely was an unmatchable evil to be faced by anyone. Nevertheless he doubted that whatever person had attacked Leon, although it must be crafty and formidable, would not stand a chance against such a master as himself.
There was no sign of the eavesdropper anywhere in the alley, or in any of the visible area up ahead, however, Crono assumed, anyone with half a brain would be waiting at the corner to jump out when he "unsuspectingly" passed by. Assured that he'd beaten them at their own game, he calmly unsheathed his sword, as he catfooted to the entranceway, keeping the blade in front of him.
I've dealt with your type...you pick on those weaker than you, then you think you're hot stuff...and then one day, just one day...you get what's coming to you...
"Tonight's your night, pal." He whispered, under his breath. In tense times such as this, he needed to psyche himself up, to make sure he believed he was going to win, so he stayed calm, and relaxed, able to execute the necessary actions to win the fight.
The building corners were approaching, as was the moment of attack. Unsure of which exact corner the assailant would emerge from, he did his best to stay in the dead center of the two, with his weight evenly distributed between both feet. He estimated that the onslaught would come from the left side, where the bulb once was, but he knew it could go either way as well.
It was time.
Uncoiling like a human spring, he lept out, spinning completely around with his katana extended, sure to clear out the initial assault.
Yet it touched nothing...
He heard his feet hit the ground, creating a dull, lifeless sound, as gratifying as the drop of a pebble into a great wooden keg. Whirling around again, he saw that no enemy stood by the corners of the alley, which struck a damaging blow to his tactical confidence. About to run back into the alley in confusion, his eyes barely caught the shape that was leaning against a lightpost, about thirty feet away, to the left. It was tall and thin, and it leaned against the post casually, almost arrogantly, with it's head was turned directly toward Crono.
The Kensai tightened his grip on the strapping of his sword, sizing up his
opponent. It was a younger man, perhaps even younger than Crono, with strangely
beautiful locks of silver hair draping down to his shoulders. His emerald
eyes seemed to blaze with an excited anticipation, as he too, appeared to
be appraising Crono as well. A wicked grin was present on his face, as he
waved "hello", calmly, not moving away from the lightpost. This had to be
Remembering Marle's similar attempted trick, he whipped his head around the other way, and sure enough, found another young man, slightly younger than the one by the lightpost, standing in the shadows against the broken glass of the abandoned grocery store. Brown hair grew from this one's scalp, and he was shorter and more muscular, yet his eyes were almost identical to the other's. It was odd at first, yet after a few glances back and forth, he saw a sharp resemblance between the two, almost as if they might be relatives of one another. The odds had shifted slightly, but Crono still kept a cool head.
Alright...it's a little tricky now...but I can handle two of 'em. They don't even look like they're old enough to drink, let alone fight...
The adrenaline pumped through his body as he stood between a rock and a hard place, ready for anything. Waiting anxiously for the first move, he decided to play this fight defensively, and to "feel out" his opponents' fighting styles before getting too fancy. Yet however long he waited, neither of them moved from their original position, both sets of eyes still glued to him. He wondered how long it would be before someone made a move...
"So." Crono said, breaking the ice that froze the entire street. "Are we gonna fight, or are you gonna tell me what this is about?" The older snickered, and then spoke.
"Us? Fight? Are you kidding? Who could fight on a night like this? Why it's just so nice and...calm..." he remarked, putting an edge in his voice at the appropriate time.
"Then what in the hell is going on here? What did you do to Leon?"
"What's going on here? Why, we're just waiting for the...uh...bus, that's all! And I certainly don't know anyone named Lee-on, as you say (what a pitiful name). Do you, o' brother of mine whom standeth in the shadows?" he inquired. The younger brother shook his head, not saying a word. "There, you see? We're just standing around, minding our own business, when you jump out and start swinging that overgrown kitchen knife around like it's the end of the world. We don't have any idea what you're talking about, pinapple-head, and we'd appreciate it if you'd stop harrasing us. Good night." Crono was puzzled, but pretty sure that these idiots weren't a threat. Still deciding to be on the safe side, he retreated defensively, keeping his sword out and his guard up. Backstepping all the way across the street, he neared the lightpost on the opposite side, still keeping an eye on the brothers.
That's when he felt it.
It was a cool breath on the back of his neck, one that ran eerie tingles down his spine and into his queasy stomach.
Damn... he thought, it's really getting cold out here... and he went to tuck his arms into his body, to let his clothed back absorb the chill.
Only he couldn't move...
He was stuck, trapped in place, with the inability to move his hands, feet, head, neck, shoulers, or anything besides his eyes and lungs. For the first few seconds he believed that an odd fear had claimed his body temporarily, but after frantic attempts to move just a single muscle, he soon realized that this was no spell of fear. He barely recalled Magus and his many spells, that would do all sorts of torturous things to an enemy...
It's like putting them in a foolproof prison...they're very much aware of what's going on, but can't do a thing about it...it's called a "paralysis" spell...
Now he knew what had been happening all along. The whole thing was a set-up, and someone had Crono right where they wanted him. If they'd been out to get Leon, he would've been dead already, but it was clear that they were much more interested in the fish that was dangling breathless from their steel hook. Nodding in Crono's general direction, the two began to advance, walking nonchalantly across the street, the eldest making smug faces at the paralyzed Kensai. The two brothers looked him up and down at short range, examining his blade, and his physical condition.
"I'll just take this, thank you..." The silver-haired brother effortlessly plucked the sword from Crono's still hands, admiring it subtley. He stepped back, and swept it back and forth around his prisoner's head, tormenting him. "My, it's got a nice feel to it. It looks almost clear too...quite impressive, fellow Kensai." Crono was shocked. Was this fiend really a Kensai? The code did say nothing of moral alignment or good versus evil...but how could one so devious be a man of honor as well? It seemed impossible, but there were far more important issues at hand than an ethical debate.
His thoughts raced as their visual examination of him appeared to be nearing it's end. He knew it wouldn't be long before they beat him unconscious or dragged his limp body out of sight, and he knew that he couldn't bear submitting to the enemy, even if the struggle against them was futile. Such was the nature of the Kensai. Doing the only thing he could, he tried to calm himself, and mentally break the effect of the spell. His eyes fluttered closed...
Calm down...okay...easy, man...just relax...you're not trapped, you're not gonna die...you've just had a trick played on you...mind over matter...it's just mind over matter...
"Hmm...he looks like he's trying to meditate or something..." Silver-hair said. For the first time this night, his brother actually responded.
"We shouldn't let him...the spell has been known to be thwarted by metaphysical power." He stated. His sibling was furious with him.
"Idiot! Don't you realize he can still hear you!?"
"Well...I said we shouldn't let him..." Brown-hair looked at his feet, meekly. And then, above their bickering...there was another voice behind Crono, one stolid and commanding, with the fury of a storm, and the authority of a warlord.
"Put him on his back." The two brothers looked at each other uneasily, but the younger obeyed. He kicked Crono's legs out from under him, and shoved him hard in the chest, knocking him flat backward. He still could feel the discomfort just as well as when he was able to move his limbs, yet he remained bound in place. Now he began to lose his cool conscience, well aware that the end was near if he didn't get out of here very soon.
I have to move...I can't stay like this...I'm going to die...
His mind was screaming, writhing, crying out for help...only his body wouldn't respond.
Please...Gods...let me out...give me a fighting chance...
The fingers on his right hand began to twitch, spasmodically.
I'm going to die, Gods, LET ME OUT OF HERE!!!
"AAAAAAHHHH!!!" Crono screamed, shattering the silence that covered the city like thin glass. His arms flailed and his legs kicked, the spell finally broken. Both visible captors were stunned.
"What the hell is going on?" The older cried.
"Alex! It really is possible!" The younger answered, almost gleefully at this visible proof.
"Not so fast, Crono..." The voice of the hidden one advised, drearily. Crono winced as a blinding silver streak flashed over his face, singing faintly as it passed through the air. Instantly, the streetlight behind him stopped illuminating the area, and he heard the pole wobble, and begin to fall from its foundation. A new kind of paralysis overcame him, as he tensed his muscles, and closed his eyes, exhaling nearly all the breath in his body as the metal post landed heavily on his stomach, pinning him down. As Crono struggled both to force the heavy object off of him and to breathe comfortably, the hidden one finally stepped forward.
In the darkness, all Crono saw was black. Black as death, and just as cold and unforgiving. His face was invisible, but his hair shone a similar silver to the one called Alex's. His shape was immense, so frighteningly immense that Crono swore he could feel himself shrinking right then and their.
Now he knew what Leon was talking about.
"...who are you...?" He whispered, shakily, afraid his heart may burst against his ribs. He'd stopped fighting to liberate himself, and now he simply stared up at the dark shapes, wondering almost vicariously what might happen to him. Crono couldn't see any of their faces in the pitch dark, but he knew they had to be smiling.
"I am the murderer...the savior...the angel...the devil...the butcher...and the lamb...I am all that is, and all that will be..." the odd riddle made no sense to Crono, although he increasingly became more frightened.
"Look...just let me go...whatever you are, I'm not getting involved...I'm just going to be on my way, and staying out of yours." Alex laughed, mockingly, at the Kensai.
"You are young and foolish, Crono...I almost find it insulting to have been pitted against you...but I'm afraid the contest is over...and you have lost..." The Dark One said, cryptically.
This is it...I'm really going to die after all...and I don't even know why...
And then...out of the darkness, filling the air with a golden stream of light, was a miracle...a four-wheeled miracle. A van honked its horn furiously, as it barreled down the street toward them.
"What the devil...?" Alex said, dumbfounded. Crono had the chance to get a good look at all of them now, but he sacrificed it for more important matters. He knew what he had to do, his only option. His only chance at survival.
Squirming out from under it and shoving it aside with every ounce of his strength, he lunged forward onto his feet, shoving through the two brothers, who were still staring into the headlights, unsure of what to do. Someone had found them out, and what would they do now?
Crono bolted straight toward the van that was still moving, waving his arms, and shouting at the top of his lungs. He jumped back a step as the vehicle slammed on its breaks, screeching to a halt mere feet in front of him. The Kensai then ran to the passenger's side door, punching straight through the glass, reaching in, and pulling up the button lock. The panicked van driver began to pull away, but not before Crono flung the door open, scrambling to get inside the vehicle. However, just as he was about to pull his last leg through the doorway, he felt the cold kiss of the Dark One's blade on his left leg, instantly numbing it from the ankle down. But it wasn't a fatal blow, and Crono was bent on getting out of this place at all costs, so he grimaced, and slammed the door shut, hearing a sickening screech as the blade ground against the side of the van.
"Go! Go! Go!!" he screamed to the man in the driver's seat, who was in shock, unable to get a word out of his mouth. Unable to hesitate, Crono seized the wheel, and stomped on the gas pedal, the car rocketing forward, making the three attackers dive and roll out of the way. He kept the pedal floored until he was well down the street, and encountering other cars that he may run off the road if he didn't slow it down a bit. A huge sigh escaped his lungs, as he knew he was finally safe, for now.
Far back behind them, the Dark One rose to his feet, glaring at the retreating vehicle in the distance.
Do not celebrate, Crono...the night is younger than you think...
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