Welcome! This is the first chapter of Midnight Messenger, a Leon/Yuffie alternate universe story with a side of Cloud/Aerith and several other pairings to be revealed at a later date! I am Eosophobia (or Jaz or Eo, take your pick) and I was formerly Atomic-Toaster. This chapter has been edited/revised/improved from its first update, but it's otherwise the same. Other chapter revisions are in progress as well as the current chapters. Chapters are supposed to be released (at least) once a month, but I often jump around – revisions will take less time, and the chapters get longer as the plot moves along…so enjoy!
Pairings: Leon/Yuffie, Cloud/Aerith (more to be revealed)
Summary: When midnight arrives, she wraps herself in the shadows and goes about her job – one of the most dangerous that exist. Her journeys take her across the land, but when she meets one person, everything she knows is turned upside down. AU, Leon/Yuffie, Cloud/Aerith.
Midnight Messenger : Chapter One
The city of Autui was and always has been a place of rich culture and tradition, children often following in their father or mother's footsteps and taking over the family name when they are of age. As my father was a business man and my mother doesn't work, I always figured that when I turned sixteen I would be shoved into a small, dimly-lit room with papers stacked everywhere. Boy, did I get a shocker. Ah, well. That was over a year ago now.
Even though my eyes were closed I could see the orange-tinted sun filtering through the windows of my bedroom. They placed my room on this side of the house on purpose – exactly ten minutes before sunset and ten minutes after sunrise (well, thereabouts, depending on the season) the sun hits my pillow. An affective alarm clock? Yes. On time? Absolutely. Correct amount of sleep? Not so much.
With a groan I sat up, running a hand through my tousled black hair as I blinked in the bright sunlight. If there weren't so many benefits of this job, I'd definitely take one with a better schedule. I know I shouldn't be complaining, but I've never been a morning person.
Well, in my case, someone-who-can-wake-up-at-any-hour-and-feel-refreshed. Because it's far from morning. Oh, no. The day was technically over, but mine was just beginning.
I pulled back my sheets and stood, stretching as I did so. As was my daily ritual, I took a shower and brushed my teeth, returning in less than ten minutes to get dressed and go to…work.
When I was fifteen and a half –I was to become a fully-fledged member of the family and begin working in six months – my father gave my some unexpected news. I was not to be a businesswoman (to my relief) and instead, I would begin training for another job that I would receive when I actually turned sixteen.
Now, I suppose it's worth mentioning that through my entire life, I have been known as the fastest runner in the entire city. It started with my tendency to not ask for items and to 'forget' to return them, and the first time I was caught – yes, I admit, it was petty thievery – I was acknowledged as very, very fleet of foot. Or at least, that's what they called it. Really they just meant I could outrun most men in the city and all of the kids in my age group.
However, the job I was supposed to receive didn't have much to do with thievery – in fact, it was the complete opposite. I was to be a sort of mail-carrier, a delivery girl between all of the different cities. After I passed the test, I was hired by one of the underground organizations that span across the entire country.
Actually, it sounds pretty fishy now that I think about it. I was given a new name to use on my missions – Osprey – to protect my family. On the job I carry packages to and from different cities to wherever I'm told, never actually opening them. Not only am I a delivery girl, but I'm hired to protect the goods inside. (Not that I ever know what is inside them anyways. Like I said, I'm a hired messenger.) The six months of training I went through helped me go from a fleet-footed thief to a highly-alert, trained messenger ready for anything. Little did I know what I was getting myself into at the time.
I dropped the towel on the floor and hastily put on my uniform – a pair of black pants and a long-sleeved black shirt, both made of very basic black fabric. (After all, in the light of the moon it isn't hard to see reflections in the dark. This cloth is both comfortable and as non-reflective as cloth can get. If you think ninjas and assassins or other night-stalking people wear silk and silver, then you're missing part of the equation.) Black gloves and simple black boots – with textured soles for a better grip – as well as a face mask and black bandana are the final pieces of my outfit. Plus, of course, the black cloak designed to hide the black pack I carry my cargo in.
The sun was just setting as I opened my window, jumping onto the tree branch not a foot away. From there I headed to the secluded alley not that far off – of course, with my training and natural speed it took almost no time at all – to meet my employer. One of them, at least. Every time it's a different person.
When I dropped into the alley, one of them is already waiting there for me, face hidden under a black hood.
"Osprey…right on time. As always. Your reliable timing and speed is getting well known through the company," he drawled – it was a he, as far as I could tell – while pulling a card out of his pocket, "This is the location you shall deliver this package to. It needs to arrive before daybreak. I trust you can get it there on time…"
I took the card with one gloved hand, glancing at only the city name and not the street address. When I looked up again the man was gone, leaving only a small wooden box and a message scroll in his place.
Lasbruck. The northern city well-known for the pompous, rich people who live there and the tall, fortified stone wall that surrounds it like a castle. They always hire bodyguards and other swordsmen to protect them, and they usually do it through the same organization that employs me. We're all on the same side, however, so I didn't think it will be a problem. Tucking the card into my pants pocket, I carefully placed the items left for me into my pack and began on my moonlit journey northward.
On my other trips to the stone-encompassed city, I've noticed its dreary skies and attitude that is just as plain and dull as the rocks all around it. The high-class nobles (I mean, well, they're nobles) don't come out of their homes. The streets, sky, plants…they're all the same gray. It bothers me to be in such a dim place. I've always been a chipper person, though I'm supposed to be relatively apathetic on the job.
Tonight, however, the ever-gray skies decided to release a downpour upon the city – and me, probably the only person not sitting by a fire and drinking a ridiculously expensive cup of tea. The rain had already soaked through my cloak, leaving me to shiver and wince with every gust of wind. What a lousy night to be out. But, again, this was work. It's not supposed to be fun all the time.
Once again I checked the address card given to me – Lasbruck, Sector Gamma, 256 Hotrae Lane…The last line was completely blotted out with rain. With a shrug I put it back into my pocket (which is probably just as wet by now) and jumped off the high wall that surrounds the city onto the rooftop below.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when thunder unexpectedly clashed overhead, causing me to slip on the slick stone roofs. Out of instinct I let out a string of curses that were quickly lost in the violently thrashing wind. At least no one else was out here that could have heard me-
The sharp sound of metal reached my ears and I squeaked as I narrowly managed to dodge a knife thrown in my direction. With water running down my face and my dark hair in my eyes, I couldn't tell which direction it was thrown from. On alert, though, I continued on my way towards the Sector Gamma part of town.
Before I even took another step I heard the thud of a knife thrown into the roof behind me. Not even bothering to turn around, I bolted for the edge of the building – only to find the knife had affectively pinned my cloak to the rooftop.
"Dammit," I hissed through my clenched teeth, shivering as I managed to pull myself free. A good chunk of the bottom of my cloak was now missing, still lodged under the knife. Though the bottom was now in tatters, it was the least of my concerns – the knife's hilt was gold.
An assassin. I had a hired assassin on my tail! Only a hired assassin – a well paid one, at that – could have such perfect aim and well-crafted knives! I clenched my chattering teeth and flipped myself down into the maze of alleys, hoping to confuse the hunter on my tail.
It wasn't long before I heard footsteps on the roofs above me, a sure sign that I was the target. Or, perhaps, the target was the package I carried. It didn't matter; whether or not I was killed has no meaning if they got the package. I'd both fail my mission and probably get killed if the package fell into the wrong hands. Well. I wouldn't let that happen.
I took a sharp turn, running through a dreary, sopping wet garden and out the other side. With the assassin hot on my tail, I headed for the most likely place I would be safe – the nobility district. Sectors Alpha through Gamma were where the high-class rich people lived, being closest to the largest castle that was the government wing in Lasbruck. The many gardens, twisting pathways, and guards stationed throughout the area would at least give me a little time. Another knife lodged into a door I had only just passed, and I sped up my pace.
Only to run directly into something.
We toppled over onto the stone pathway, a tangle of soaked arms and legs and waterlogged clothing. I found myself face to face with the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen in this gray city – as well as one of the most amazing faces. I slipped as I scrambled to my feet, stepping on the ragged edges of my cloak. The man grabbed my arm, stabilizing me and allowing me to catch my balance. Not a second later he pushed me down, a knife singing through the air to hit the crate behind me.
He whirled around at me, eyes narrow beneath the strands of dark hair falling in front of his face. I could see the faint outline of a scar running across his face when the lightning crashed again, quickly followed by a boom of thunder.
"GO!" he shouted, voice hoarse and barely audible over the howling wind and rain. I nodded numbly, both petrified by his icy eyes and by the knife that had almost impaled me. He gave me a rough shove in the opposite direction, and I started running again. When I glanced back I could see him drawing a sword against the assassin that now confronted him – the one that had been hunting me. I pulled up the hood of my cloak again, though the rain continued to stream down my face from my hair. I kept running.
Arms trembling and shoes soaked through, I knocked on the door of 256 Hotrae Lane in Sector Gamma. I didn't know how long it had been since I started to run from my strange encounter; I didn't stop until I was at the doorstep.
The woman who answered the door immediately recognized my entirely-black outfit, ushering me inside without a word. I was grateful to get out of the weather and into the warmth of a house. Although, I mused to myself with a tiny, blue-lipped smile, I was dripping all over the floor. I would have laughed if my lips weren't shaking with my chattering teeth.
I perked up at the sound of my adopted name. A man approached me – a noble, obvious from the way he dressed, even though he was in his nightclothes. I nodded, removing my cloak and taking off my pack. At least it was waterproof.
"Your recommendation was correct, I see. It's still quite early in the morning and you've arrived, even in this horrendous weather. I will tell your employers of your good service," he said, watching keenly as I gently removed the box and the scroll that accompanied it.
"Thanks," I replied, not bothering to twitch my mouth into a smile. Soaked to the bone, I watched as his eyes brightened greedily and he hastily took the package upstairs. I sighed. Another job done.
Luckily, the woman who answered me at the door – one of the hired house workers – was a bit more polite and kind. She allowed me to dry my clothes by the fire and gave me a hot meal after my long journey. It was all too soon that I was back outside in the weather, though, returning to Autui.
As the rain subsided, however, my mind didn't stop returning to the man who had defended me. Images of his face and haunting blue eyes raced through my head, as vague as they were because of the storm.
I couldn't tell anyone about this. If the organization found out that I had to be saved – that I had been noticed while on a mission – I would most likely lose my position and favor.
But I had to tell Aerith. The least I could do was tell her about what happened.
Tired as I was, I continued at a quick pace to Autui. I didn't know how long I could hold it in.