Adversary Chapter 9
Midgar, Sector 7, 0004 N.C.E.
He placed his hand on the grey leather dashboard, bracing himself with his arm. This helped to prevent him from slamming his head through the windshield as the automobile stopped short in front of its destination.
"Now get the hell outta my van and you and your friends stay the hell away from me, you freak!" The brown haired man shouted at Crono, waiting impatiently from him to get out the door. Crono shook his head a few times, rubbing his tired eyes. He'd been awake far too long, had been enduring constant physical strain, and was being deprived of much-needed nutrition. The driver was becoming less and less understanding by the second, the strange, unexpected passenger not moving from his seat.
"Look, you broke my damn window, almost got me killed, and made me drive you to this stupid bar. Now willya please just get out of here and leave me out of your plans!" He pleaded. Crono nodded.
"Okay...I'm goin'..." He fumbled with the doorknob, eventually pulling the handle out in the correct direction, and letting the hollow sheet metal door swing open. Lifting his injured leg up with both hands, and moving the other one on its own, he set his feet down on the sidewalk. No sooner did he step out of the vehicle than the man slammed the door shut again, shaking some broken shards of glass loose. As it pulled away almost violently, Crono noticed the huge, deep gouge in the side of the van, spanning from the side of the door, to the front of the cargo area.
Doing his best not to fall over, Crono tried to do most of the walking with his right leg, dragging his left leg (which was now completely numb and useless) behind him. With each movement came a nauseous sensation within him that made him want to pass out, yet he knew that if he didn't seek help, he could be in serious trouble. Luckily the distance from the curb to the familiar tinted glass doors was small, and he soon made his way inside, the blaring noises aggrivating his splitting headache.
The inside of the bar was just like he'd remembered from the week before, the neon lights flashing and the young adults dancing and partying just as rowdily as they had been when he'd come in last time. Straining his eyes, he could see some familiar faces all huddled together around the bar, laughing and drinking like it was any other night (which was understandable, because, for most people, it had been and average night.) Ironically, one of the members of the group was the usual bar hostess, who apparently hadn't noticed him arrive, and was sitting down like she was a regular customer.
Seated next to her was her husband Cloud, who at the moment, was smiling, with his arm loosely wrapped around her. Across the counter was the blonde man in the leather pilot's jacket, and next to him was Yuffie, who giddly sipped her beverage, trying not to burst out laughing while swallowing. Crono sighed. They seemed like they were all having such a great time...and he was going to come in and break it up with more bad news. He almost felt like turning around and leaving, but he doubted he would make it very far, and he knew no one else in the town that might be able to help him.
The hesistation cost him a lot of the prescious time he had, the sickness beginning to spread throughout his entire body, virtually eating away his strength. Fighting to take each step, he slowly moved forward, his right leg beginning to tingle with cold sensations. His insides were burning, and his eyes were recieving only swirled images, that had he not already known what they were, he would've never been able to tell. He was screaming out their names, crying out for help, begging just to be noticed...but all that passed through his lips were garbled whispers, inaudible in this loud environment. He wasn't going to make it...
The poison gripped his mind, and pulled it straight down, taking Crono with it. Reaching out with one hand, he thought he felt his finger touch something, but perhaps he was just hallucinating as the floor rushed up to meet him...
* * *
"Oh my God! Crono!! Are you okay? Oh...what happened? Crono? Crono!?" Her voice echoed in his ears, the words barely reaching his brain.
"Easy! Easy, kid. Calm down. Give him some room, let 'im breathe."
"Dammit, Yuffie, what the hell is going on here?"
"I don't know! He just collapsed right here!"
"Cid, help me take him into the back room. There's some couches and stuff back there."
"Okay, Teef. Cloud, get some water and towels, and hurry the hell up."
"Will somebody please explain what's going on here!"
"Your guess is as good as mine."
"Be careful with him! He's still alive you know!"
"Really now? You're a genius there, Yuffster. What tipped you off? Was it the breathing or the pulse?"
"Ah, take it easy on the kid, and get the damn water, Cloud."
"Yeah, fine. He's probably drunk."
Hey...shut up, blondie...
Too weak to open his eyes, he saw nothing but solid black as he listened to them bicker, and felt himself being moved around roughly. Moments later, the moving stopped, and he was rested down somewhere, under bright lights that penetrated the total darkness before his eyes.
"Alright, I got the water and the towels." Cloud said.
"Thanks, give 'em here." His wife replied. Crono felt her pat the cool, damp cloth on his face a few times, wiping away the sweat.
"Is he gonna be okay?" He heard Yuffie ask, concerned. There was silence for a minute. "Teef, is he gonna be okay?" She repeated.
"I dunno...he's kinda cold and he shakes a lot. He's...pretty pale too."
"Dammit, we gotta find out what happened! Give 'im somethin' to get him awake for a bit. Wait...here...use this." The shuffling of the older man's jacket was heard, and the clinking of glass as it passed from his hand to her's. She gently opened Crono's mouth, and poured the liquid into it. As an unconscious reflex, his body swallowed the fluid, and a rush of energy followed it. Enough energy for him to open his eyes, and sit up.
"Crono! Oh, you're okay!" Yuffie squeezed his hand. He smiled at her, but addressed them all.
"Listen...thank you all so much...I feel okay now." He assured them. Cloud was impatient.
"Never mind that. What the hell happened to you?" He stood with arms akimbo. Crono smirked, and yanked up the left leg of his pants, revealing the jagged wound, festering with a sickening black liquid that coated the entire cut area. "Holy shit...how'd you get that?"
"I got jumped by some freaks."
"Freaks? Whaddya mean, freaks?" Strife demanded.
"There were three of them, I think they were all brothers...or...well...I know that two of 'em were brothers, the two smaller guys, then there was the other guy...really big guy. He's the one that gave me that cut."
"How'd you get away?"
"A guy in a red van came barreling down the street, so I broke his window and got in, and made him drive me here. They cast some kinda spell on me, and I couldn't move, and then one of them took my sword, and then the big one cut a streetlight in half and..."
"Okay, stop right there. One thing at a time. I assume you were poisoned by that cut there? It sure as hell looks like it." Crono nodded.
"Yea I think so, but it's okay now. I feel fine." Cloud shook his head "no".
"This is only temporary. The poison'll keep weakening you until it's out of your body."
"Uh...well...how do we do that? Are you sure I'm not okay? I feel fine..." Crono protested.
"Yes, I'm positive you're not okay. We'll have to get you an antidote for the poison. So I'll leave now and get one from my house, you hang in there, hear?" Crono agreed, but mentioned another thing.
"There's another thing. My friend Leon got hit by the same guys, and I think he's poisoned too. He's in a dumpster on the street where Sector 7 Pizza is, in an alley between some brick apartment and an old abandoned grocery store."
"Alright, I'm on my way."
"Wait, wait, wait just a minute there, cowboy." The pilot grabbed Cloud's arm. "The guy says it's dangerous turf out there, I think it's best we come along." Cloud rolled his eyes.
"Look, it was dangerous for him. I can take care of myself, thank you." He jerked away, but the man grabbed him yet again.
"Listen to me, don't be a damn fool. The last thing we need right now is for you to turn up stiff in the morning. You always gotta bring backup with you." He insisted. Cloud sighed.
"Fine. Who's coming?"
"I wanna stay here. Crono needs help." Yuffie pleaded. Cid shook his head.
"You're right, kid. He does need help. What he doesn't need is some girl cryin' over him while he wastes away. You'll come with us, alright? Tifa, you stay with Crono, if he has a problem, you'd probably know what to do more than any of us." Tifa nodded, and kissed Cloud goodbye.
"Be careful, Cloud." Her husband nodded.
"Thanks, Teef. Will do." He tightened his armlets and made sure the strap on his sword was secure. "Alright, let's move. We need to hurry." The others agreed.
"Take care of him, Tifa." The young girl told her, earnestly. Tifa smiled and gave her a "thumbs up" in a similar respect. She watched as they hurried out the door, weapons at the ready. The woman then turned back to Crono, and said,
"Hey, I just gotta make an announcement, I'll be back in a sec, okay?"
"Sure thing, I'm fine, don't worry about me. That stuff did the trick." She laughed, and went back into the bar, grabbing the PA system at the counter.
"Hey guys, sorry about all the confusion. Everything's under control, one of our customers got hurt outside, and Cloud's going to take care of it. Just sit tight until he's back. Everything's on the house 'till then. Thanks a lot." The patrons were disturbed by the news, yet confident in Cloud's ability to handle the situation. However, a few customers decided to cash in on the hostess' offer, ordering more drinks and food, that she messily jotted down, leaving for her wait staff to tend to. As quickly as she then could, she hurried back into the taproom, checking on the patient.
"How's it going?" She asked. He sat huddled against the arm of the couch, rubbing his arm together and shivering. His eyes hung half-open.
"I'm fine, I guess. It's really cold in here, though." Tifa chuckled in disbelief.
"Are you kidding? If anything, it's a bit warm in here." Crono shook his head, violently.
"Nope...It's pretty damn cold. I'm freezin' in here." She still couldn't bring herself to believe it.
"That's impossible! The thermostat's at...oh no..." It suddenly occurred to her that the poison was taking control once again. "Crono!" She said, "You're getting faint again! You have to hold out!" He shook his head again, pushing the thought aside.
"No...I can't...I'm too tired, uh, 'teef', if that's your name. I just wanna rest here." He told her.
"It's Tifa, but 'teef' is fine. Anyway, listen, you can't give in to the poison. You've gotta fight it with all of your might, you understand? Don't go to sleep, it'll be that much easier for it to take you. I've been poisoned before, it's not easy, but the one thing ya can't do is surrender." She tried her best to explain to him, yet he still lay there in a sleepy daze, not moving an inch. "Crono! Listen to me! You have to get up, no matter how much it hurts. Just get up!"
"I...can't get up. It hurts too much to move...Tifa...I'll be okay as long as I stay here." He stated, stubbornly. She was then forced to take action. Grabbing him by the shoulders, she forced his body to stand on its feet.
"Crono, just hold on a little longer. They'll be back soon." His face had been painted chalk-white, and his skin became colder to the touch.
"I think I'm gonna be sick...Tifa...please...put me down..." She felt terrible refusing, but she had to.
"No, Crono. You've got to stay up."
"I'm...gonna throw up...I..." That was the only hint she needed, as she helped him over to the metal sink in the back of the room by the kegs of alcohol. Still supporting him by his shoulders, she squeamishely winced as Crono began to gag, the hideous black and green poison spewing forth from his mouth into the basin. Staying with him until the last drop of it had left his body, she turned the faucet on, helping to wash down the contents of the sink.
"Are you alright, now?" She asked. He took a few deep breaths, and then stood on his own.
"Yeah...thank you so much...you...you saved my life..." He told her, regretting ever having said anything negative about her. She blushed, waving her hand.
"Ah, it's nothin'. We moms know these things. Speaking of which, I'm gonna get you some water. You probably should wash your mouth out just in case there's anything still in there." Tifa spun on her heel, going out to retrieve a glass from the bar. Meanwhile, Crono let himself crash down on the couch, so thankful that this horrid night was finally almost over.
God damn...wake me up next week sometime...
He watched the road before him like a hawk as he slowly drove down it, his headlights on their brightest setting. Glancing down at the dashboard clock, he saw that it was nearing midnight, and they had been driving for about twenty minutes. Over the course of those twenty minutes, there was no sign of the "freaks" that were supposedly out wreaking havoc on innocent people, which made him even more positive that his passengers' presence was unneccesary.
"I'm telling you, there's really no need for you guys to be here. You could be back with Teef, y'know, helping Crono out, or whatever. This is kind of a one-man job, driving a car. I mean, no offense, but you're just dead weight right now. You could be helping Teef, it's a lot of responsibility for her to be in charge of...the bar and Crono. She could use your help...you're not accomplishing anything...really." He rambled in a dry voice. Yuffie rolled her eyes in the back seat, and was about to make a wisecrack about Cloud's arrogance, but Cid stopped her with a subtle gesture of his hand. If something reasonable was going to be said at the moment, Yuffie was not the one to say it.
"Listen there, tiger. We all know you're one of the baddest guys around, you don't have to prove it to us. Just cuz we've got some more people involved doesn't mean we think any less of ya. So you don't have to cross the fine line between 'brave' and 'stupid' to show us you're tough, alright? You're still our man." Cid said, as tactfully as possible. Yuffie covered her mouth, trying to hide her snickering as she waited for Cloud's response. She was sure he'd stop the car and hit the roof any minute now.
"...you mean that?" Cloud said, like he was honestly surprised.
"Of course we mean it. Ya can't replace a Cloud Strife." Cloud was silent for a while, gazing out the windsheild with a faraway look in his eyes.
"I...was afraid, y'know, that this new kid was gonna take my place...gonna push me aside like I was washed up or something. I don't want that to happen..." Citing Cloud's unexpected reaction, Yuffie spoke up.
"Hey, we like Crono, but that's got nothin' to do with you. You're not goin' anywhere, so don't worry about it."
"Thanks, Yuffie." He mused. He drove on for another while, not saying a word, and not really paying attention to the small talk Yuffie and Cid were making in the back seat. In fact, he was so zoned out, that he wouldn't have even noticed anything, had Cid not tapped him on the shoulder.
"Hey, uh, Cloud? Those two motorcycles are following us..." he said, slightly nervous. Cloud snapped to attention.
"What? What bikes? Are you sure?"
"Yeah, they've been tailing us ever since we passed City Hall. I think we might have found our 'freaks' right here." Cid informed him, putting out his cigar and flicking it out the window.
"Let us out, Cloud. We'll take these two." Yuffie asked, taking up her weapons. Cloud was hesitant to do so.
"Now wait a minute. You can't just go out by yourselves! Crono said these guys were dangerous!"
"Look, he also said there were three of them, and he also said Leon was hurt too. We can't waste time fighting if no one is going to get Leon and the antidote. Just let us out, we'll handle these two, you look for the bigger guy." She instructed, not waiting for his reply to unfasten her seatbelt, and pop her door open. Cloud slammed on the brakes, almost throwing her from the vehicle.
"Dammit, Yuffie! Wait for me to stop first!" She got out of the car, Cid accompanying her. They briefly wished Cloud luck, before slamming the doors shut, and letting him go on his way. Drawing their weapons into clear view, they turned towards the motorcyclists, who were slowing their bikes down, and preparing to dismount. Yuffie cocked her arm, shuriken in hand, ready to launch and aerial assault at a seconds notice. Looking to the bikers, she couldn't tell much about their appearances, as they were clad in dark clothing, and wore opaque black helmets upon their heads, which covered their faces completely.
"Ahoy, there! You must be Crono's friends, come out to play, I see. Well then, boys and girls, what's the name of the game?" The taller, thinner driver crowed, walking towards them, the other not far behind him.
"Don't say anything, just stay focused." Cid whispered to her. She glared at her opponents, particularly the louder one.
"Well then, if you happen to come across Crono, tell him I absolutely love his sword. I'm enjoying it as we speak." He taunted, bringing the katana with the unmistakable prismatic blade out in front of him. Yuffie decided to strike first, letting the shuriken fly towards him, flicking her wrist out as she released it. Startled as he was, he still was able to parry the incoming weapon, sending it clanking to the ground. Not waiting for his counterattack, Yuffie drew her knife, and rolled forward, rising mere feet from him, fully intending to retrieve her Conformer, and Crono's sword as well.
"Hand it over, stick." She demanded, snatching up her throwing star from the ground. The man chuckled.
"Right...and just what are you going to do to me if I don't? Bite me? Scratch me? Kick me in the shins? Throw another one of your little toys at me? Heaven forbid...I'm shaking, little girl, shaking." His total mockery of her more than burned her nerves. Shouting out a Wutaise battle cry, she lunged at him, a flurry of fists pummeling his midsection. As she began dragging him down, she saw that Cid had already engaged the other, who faught with a long staff. Their long pole arms clacked against each other rapidly, their fight just as intense as Yuffie's was.
"Not so tough are ya now, jerk?" She insulted, driving another blow into his stomach. She figured that once she'd ensured that this guy would not breathe correctly for the next month, she would then go and retrieve the katana that lay in the street beside them. However, what she wasn't figuring, was the overturn her opponent made, reaching up and grabbing her by the shoulders, and rolling completely over backwards, so that she was the one with her back to the concrete. With incredible agility he pinned his knees against her elbows, and slammed the heel of his palm against her face in one swift motion. She flinched in shock, not knowing how something like this could be happening. She had him beat just a moment ago, and was just finishing up rubbing it in his face, when know he was the one gloating.
"Ah, the little wildcat is tamed. I must admit, you fought better than others, but your stupidity makes up for that. Hey, look on the bright side, maybe next time you'll win. Of course, assuming there will be a next time. Assuming I'm nice enough not to kill you right here and now for getting in my way." He berated her, laughing as she struggled to push him away, and laughing even harder at the way she tried not to show any sign of pain or defeat as he continued to hit her.
"What'ssa matter? You're not gonna cry, girlie? I thought all little girls cried when they got hit." Her face trembled as she bit her lip and closed her eyes to prevent the tears from flowing over. Her nose was bleeding, and the side of her face stung to the point of numbness. She wasn't sure how long she could hold out before giving into the pain, until...all of a sudden, everything stopped. The hitting stopped, his taunting stopped, and even his weight seemed to have been lifted off of her. She opened her eyes, wiping away the tears with her hand.
Cid had her opponent in a stranglehold with his spear, mercilessly choking the breath out of him as he scrambled to free himself, futiley. Unusually, Cid spewed no explatives, shouted no insults, and was without his usual grimace that he wore to battle. Instead, he just continued to gag the assailant, staring blankly out into space. Yuffie stood up, brushing herself off, and walked over toward Cid.
"You gonna let him go?" She asked, observing the squirming body that seemed to be growing slower by the moment. Cid looked at her.
"Do you want me to?" He asked her.
"Let him go." She said, her voice shaking.
"Are you sure?" He asked her again, unsure why she would want this cretin to take another breath.
"Let him go!" She shouted, stamping her foot. Cid uneasily released his hold on the man's neck, letting him fall gasping downward. She watched as he crawled around, pitifully, drawing short breaths through his compressed throat. The other attacker lay motionless by his motorbike, a broken staff at his side.
"That one wasn't too much trouble. He was shy as a kitten, and not much stronger. This little bitch was a different story...sorry ya got mixed up with 'im." the pilot exlpained. She shook her head, and bent down to her enemy, lifting his torso up by the collar of his shirt, glaring into what most likely was his face.
"You listen to me, asshole. If I ever catch you around here again, I'll kill you. Understand me?" She demanded. His head nodded, and he muttered something that she couldn't make heads or tails of. "I can't hear you!" She screamed, kicking him in the stomach as hard as she could.
"Yes!" He grunted in severe pain. She let go of his shirt, kicking him one last time as he fell back down. For a moment, she stood there, unsure of what to do next.
"C'mon, kid, let's go back to the bar. Cloud'll be there soon. We'll leave these losers here, they won't bother anyone anymore." She nodded, picking up her weapons and Crono's sword as well. Throughout the walk back, he periodically asked her,
"Are you okay, kid?" and she would wait a moment and say,
"Yeah, I'm fine." and he'd say something like,
"You're a brave kid. Anyone else I know woulda been sobbing like a baby. You're made of tough stuff, kid. Be proud of that." and she would nod and smile, but deep down inside, it took all she had not to burst into tears, but she knew she had to wait. She had to wait until she was with Crono, and then she would cry. And whent she did cry, he would run his fingers through her hair and kiss her, and tell her that everything would be okay, and that she was safe with him, and that he wished he could've been there to save her...
Then she would cry...
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