Final Fantasy VII: Another Side
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VII.
A/N: Somehow Nunchuck became British. Don't ask me why, I just ended up writing him that way. Blame Cloud Atlas. Anyway, here's the chapter! And the review responses. :)
Roza Anne, my pleasure. A lot of my motivation for starting this in the first place was to keep Zack and Aerith alive, so I'm glad you enjoy them!
Jazz Queen, hmm...we'll see about that. Still, yeah, Cissnei can never really escape from them.
Riku Uzumaki, yet! In all seriousness, though, Sephy would make a horrible girl XD.
Furionknight, thanks for the review!
Gohan Roxas, yep. :) Nunchaku (Male).
Irish-Brigid, yeah. Well, Cloud gets to relive being an infantryman for this sequence. Poor guy.
DJ Meltdown of Ground Xero, oh, you'll see! Mwahahahaha!
Blinded in a bolthole, could be, and nope, she's definitely NOT amused.
Draconic, he is a nice guy, but he's still a Turk. And remember, this is set years after Before Crisis, so he's a little bitter over some story things that have happened to him. I've always kind of wanted to use Nunchaku as a character because his background makes things interesting, plus he's in a picture with Cissnei.
K, well, we'll see what happens. I might end up closing the poll early, so I can plan in advance, but I'll give a week's notice before I do so.
File 018: Whispers of Rebirth
Cissnei sucked in a breath as the nunchuck whistled over her head, raising her arms up to protect herself from the splinters that followed in its wake. She jumped back, wincing as her landing sent a shock of pain racing through her left shoulder. Her opponent didn't even give her time to catch her breath, stepping forward. He lifted his hand, twirling the nunchuck end over his head and bringing one of the ends down in a powerful sweep. She cursed herself for her lack of weapon—Rekka had been too cumbersome without a magnetic sheath and too noticeable for her to bring into the city—and twisted around, ducking under his blow and stepping in. Cissnei swept out with her hand, pushing his weapon arm away from herself.
She glared at him, looking up and meeting her opponent's eyes. They looked back at her, completely flat and devoid of emotion, the expression of a Turk that had committed himself to a job, regardless of how he actually felt about it.
"Hello, Ivan," she said. With her free hand, she fished a knife out of her boot, gripping its hilt tightly in her hand as she spun around, slashing at his face. "Good to see you."
He took a step back and to the side, lashing out with his nunchuck and swatting the knife aside. His eyes met hers, and a hint of a smile appeared on his face. "Good to see you too, Cissnei," he said. The smile faded. "No hard feelings."
He reached out with his right hand, his palm landing just over her left shoulder. He shoved, hard, and she gasped as her shoulder exploded in pain. Cissnei jumped back just as Ivan's nunchuck came sweeping through, slamming into the ground at her feet. She looked up as she landed, grimacing in pain as she clamped one hand over her heart, but no one in the crowd was watching. They were standing in an alley far enough away from the festivities, and with the noise the crowd was making, it was unlikely that they would be heard. Ivan took a step forward, bearing his nunchuck down again.
"Turkey, heads up!"
Cissnei grit her teeth at the shout, ducking her head to the side as a shuriken whizzed over her shoulder. Yuffie's weapon clipped the nunchuck in the side, driving it off-course. Cissnei didn't wait, running forward and raising her own knife. His eyes narrowed as she approached, and he twisted around, sweeping his arm in front of her to protect his torso. The knife cut a long gash down the outside of his arm, blood seeping through the fabric of his suit, but he managed to knock it out of her hand, protecting his torso. At the same time, he raised his nunchuck, swinging it down. Cissnei felt the breath leave her lungs as the weapon clipped her in the side of the head, the force of it sending her stumbling back before she even felt the pain. Yuffie immediatelly ran forward, throwing his shoulder into his.
"Hey!" she shouted, as Ivan stumbled back. "You back off!"
Ivan looked up, his eyes landing on Yuffie. He took a step forward, swinging his nunchuck at her skillfully. "Oh crap," Cissnei heard Yuffie swear, the ninja jumping back to avoid the blow.
Cissnei saw stars, her head throbbing painfully in time to her shoulder. She felt around, but didn't feel any blood. There wasn't any time to worry about it beyond then. Yuffie and Ivan were fighting, and Ivan had her on the ropes. She had to do something. The ex-Turk looked around quickly, searching for something she could use as a weapon. She looked around for something she could use as a weapon.
Her eyes landed on Yuffie's discarded shuriken, and she ran for it, picking it up underhandedly and flinging it at him. The shuriken spun end over end in the air, and she saw Ivan's eyes widen as he spotted it. He ducked, the shuriken point embedding itself in the opposite wall as he sprang away from Yuffie. Cissnei ran towards Yuffie—she was clutching her arm where she had been struck, but from the looks of it, it was only a glancing blow.
She reached the ninja and looked up, but Ivan had taken advantage of the confusion to retreat. They were alone.
The march drew to a close, the infantrymen forming two lines in front of the new company President. Cloud remained in the back row, his back straight and his rifle propped up neatly on one shoulder. The Shinra army helmet hid his face from the president, and he kept a smooth expression, but inside his mind was racing. What would he do if Rufus recognized him? There were no SOLDIERs in the immediate vicinity, and he had managed to fool the other infantrymen easily enough, but he didn't have his sword either. All he had was a rifle. Thankfully, Rufus's eyes passed coolly over him, seeing him as though he was just another recruit.
Rufus turned away from them to face Heidegger, and Cloud strained to hear their conversation.
"How's the airship?" asked the company President.
Heidegger grumbled something under his breath that Cloud couldn't hear, folding his arms. Cloud frowned, trying to edge closer to hear the rest of the conversation. A loud 'hey!' from the captain behind him made him freeze out of reflex, shrinking back into line. Rufus and Heidegger looked up out of mild curiosity, but quickly turned back towards their conversation.
Cloud paused where he stood, his heart racing. The superior's voice brought back memories of his own infantry training. He took a deep breath, relaxing his grip on his rifle as he tried to regain his composure, watching the two men. I need to stop worrying about things like that...he reminded himself.
"The long range airship is still being prepared," answered Heidegger. "It should be ready in about three days." He let out one of his trademark 'gya ha ha' laughs, something Rufus seemed less than amused by. Something about their conversation struck Cloud. Airship? He remembered the large ship he had seen anchored at the top of the voltage tower he had climbed to get into Junon. Could that be what Rufus was asking about?
"Even the airship's Gelnika?" asked Rufus.
Heidegger laughed again. Cloud missed the change in Rufus's expression as the captain issued another reprimand, this time to the young recruit standing next to Cloud. Cloud spared the boy a sympathetic glance, he couldn't be any older than thirteen, and looked like he was both sweltering in the heat and struggling to raise his rifle. The heat was a little uncomfortable—they were standing in between two of Junon's biggest metal buildings, and even this early in the year, the sun turned the city into a glorified oven, but he barely noticed the rifle's weight now. Had it really been that heavy once?
He spared the boy a quick glance of pity—he'd been that kid once—and looked back at Rufus, his nerves calmed by the momentary interlude. The company president was now standing directly in front of Heidegger, his arms folded and a frown on his face.
"Stop that stupid horse laugh," he said. "Things are different from when Father was in charge."
Heidegger didn't stop laughing. Cloud grimaced, finding himself wishing that someone would follow Rufus's orders for once. He remained still even as the fidgety recruit next to him endured another scolding from the captain, his own experience in the infantry forcing him to remain in formation.
"Is the ship ready?" asked Rufus.
This, Heidegger had an answer for. He straightened up immediately. "Yes, sir!" he said. "We'll get it ready right away." Heidegger's posture was sloppy. When Cloud had been in the infantry, he would never have noticed, so awed was he by the board of directors, but now he could be more critical. The man had obviously never been in active duty in his life. At that thought, he snorted softly to himself, feeling the corner of his mouth turn up slightly. Starting to sound like Sephiroth...
The president left, and Heidegger turned around to face them. Cloud had a moment to recognize the look of rage on Heidegger's face, and quickly scattered with the rest of the infantry as he plowed through the group, rushing towards the back. At the sound of shouting, he looked back, a frown on his face. Heidegger had cornered the boy, and was yelling at him about his formation and calling him an embarrassment to the military. All the while, the captain hovered in his orange uniform, looking awkwardly for a way to jump into the conversation, and although Cloud couldn't see the boy's face from underneath his helmet, he looked like he might be on the verge of tears, his lip quivering.
Cloud looked around, but the rest of the infantrymen looked on with mixtures of pity, anger, shock, and amusement on what he could see of their faces. They'd all looked at him like that, when he was a new recruit. They'd laughed when he told them about his dreams of being in SOLDIER. Now they barely spared him a second glance. He looked back at the boy as Heidegger continued to berate him. Cloud stared at him, torn.
It's none of your business, he reminded himself. You don't owe them anything anyway. Keep your head down.
And yet, on the other hand...
...But you were this kid.
Heidegger raised his hand as the boy cowered, as if to strike him. The fist came down, towards the boy's face. The boy shrank back.
The fist never reached him. Before Cloud could process what he had done, he was standing next to Heidegger, the board member's wrist in his hand. He felt himself gripping it a little too tight and quickly relaxed his grip, hoping Heidegger wouldn't notice he was stronger than he was supposed to be. The boy looked up at him in disbelief. Cloud looked back, seeing himself in the boy's face. The other infantrymen stared at him openly, and the captain looked taken aback for a moment.
Heidegger wouldn't be so quiet. Cloud quickly released the board member's wrist, turning to face him.
"What's the meaning of this?" demanded Heidegger.
Cloud squared his shoulders, raising his hand in a salute. "Sir, I claim responsibility for this recruit, sir," he said. "It was my recommendation that he join the President's march. Clearly he wasn't ready. Please accept my apology, sir."
He was half-afraid someone would contradict him, but no one in the crowd did, they just continued to stare. Especially the boy. Heidegger squinted at him for a moment, and Cloud did his best not to shift underneath the director's beady gaze. He snorted, looking from the boy to Cloud.
"You brought him out here?" demanded Heidegger.
"Sir, yes, sir!"
Heidegger looked like he might say something more, but from the way he looked at his watch, Cloud guessed that had somewhere else to be. He scowled, giving Cloud and the new recruit one last piercing glare. "Well, don't let it happen again," he said, storming off angrily.
Cloud waited until the door had closed behind him, then let out a sigh of relief. The other recruits swarmed around them, all talking among themselves.
"What a disaster," one of them said to him.
"Heidegger was really irritated."
"It's bad enough about those murders," grumbled one of the infantrymen, folding his arms.
Cloud looked up, frowning. "Murders?" he asked.
Another infantrymen nodded. "Two or three days ago," he said. "Someone killed a few of our soldiers in their bunks. High security, no entrance or exit. We think it might be those terrorists, but we've got no clue how they got in there."
"Terrorists?" repeated Cloud. He frowned, shaking his head. "Nah, it can't be. They've been in Junon Harbor this whole time."
"And how do you know that, hmm?" asked the captain, squinting at him.
Cloud's heart jumped into his throat, but he managed to keep his composure as he looked back at the man. "Overheard some of the higher-ups talking about it when I was coming in," he said, surprised at how calm his voice sounded. The captain glared at him for a moment, before nodding.
"That's enough of that!" he said. "Dismissed!"
Cloud saluted crisply, nudging the recruit next to him to do the same. He walked away, following the rest of the infantrymen into the building. As he walked, he paused, looking behind him.
The recruit was following him, an awed expression on his face. "Um..." he began. "Um...I...well...I..."
Cloud took in his expression, and the slump of his shoulders, the way his helmet almost seemed too big for his head. He took a deep breath, wondering what he was getting into as he walked back to the recruit, patting him on the back. "Come on," he said, leading him away. "Let's get some water."
"Here you go," said Yuffie, handing her a bag of ice wrapped in cloth. Cissnei nodded her thanks from the bench she was sitting on, reaching up and placing it on her head. She winced as the coolness of the ice came into contact with the bump Ivan had left there. A wry smile came onto her face. Just another injury to walk back with. She could already picture Sephiroth's expression.
"Thanks, Yuffie," she said.
"Hey, don't mention it," said Yuffie, grinning. "That's what I'm for—all helpful and stuff!" Cissnei returned the small smile, adjusting her grip on the bag of ice and looking up and down the streets. The celebration had already faded, most of the people either returning to their homes or to work. It would still be about two hours before President Shinra's ship was ready to leave, but already Junon looked like a completely different place. Her companion watched her for a moment, before clasping her hands behind her back, plopping down into the seat next to her.
"So, that guy," she said, looking curious. "What was his deal? Spill."
"He was a colleague of mine," replied Cissnei, looking back at Yuffie. "A Turk. He joined about the same time as I did."
"You guys were close?" asked Yuffie, folding her arms.
Cissnei smiled in response, setting down the ice pack long enough to unscrew the bottle of water in her hand. She took a small sip. "We're all close, Yuffie," she said. "It's kind of a Turk thing."
"You guys didn't seem all that close," said Yuffie in disbelief. She looked over at Cissnei, wide-eyed. "He looked like he was really trying to kill you or something."
"He probably was," agreed Cissnei, taking another sip. "That's also kind of a Turk thing."
Yuffie frowned at her, confusion evident on her face. "I don't get it," she said.
"You wouldn't," said Cissnei. "It's one of those weird situations you just have to experience to understand. Ivan's probably under orders to kill me if he finds me. I have a pretty good idea who those orders are from. It's nothing personal." She shrugged, then winced as pain lanced out from her abused shoulder. "I have to stop doing that," she added with a grimace.
She could tell Yuffie wasn't completely convinced, but after a while, the ninja simply sighed, stretching her arms out before clasping her fingers together behind her head and leaning back in her seat. "Well, if that rich kid thing was an act, it was a pretty good one," she commented. "He had me fooled, and I've met rich kids. Of course, I'd've seen through it eventually, you know."
Cissnei lowered her eyes to the pavement, hiding her amused smile. She studied the bottle of water in her hand. "It wasn't an act," she said. "Ivan's family is from Bone Village. They were probably the richest ones there. Mansion, servants, the whole nine yards. His father owned a smaller company that eventually folded and sold out to the old President Shinra. As a trade-off, the President took him on as a manager. It's possible that that whole businessman front wasn't an act either, although Ivan never had any interest in entering the business world."
"What makes a kid like that decide to be a Turk?" asked Yuffie, looking up at the sky.
"What makes a princess decide to be a ninja?" asked Cissnei, looking over at her.
"Ha. Good point," admitted Yuffie. She sprang up in her seat, leaning forward. "So, like, this Ivan guy. You said he used to be a Turk."
"He retired," said Cissnei. "It's complicated."
"But he's working for Shinra now."
"Well, you can't ever really retire," added Cissnei. "That's another thing that's complicated."
"You're retired," commented Yuffie.
Cissnei snorted, a rueful smile appearing on her face. "Yeah," she said. "It's been working out great for me so far."
Yuffie let out an exaggerated sigh, leaning back again. "I don't get it at all," she said.
Cissnei smiled slightly, leaning back in her seat and capping the bottle of water. "We're meant to be complicated. Otherwise it wouldn't work."
"Yeah, sure," said Yuffie, rolling her eyes. She perked up, looking down the road as a figure ran towards them. "Hey, it's Tifa!" she said.
Cissnei looked up as well. Sure enough, it was Tifa. The martial artist was running full tilt in their direction, looking breathless. She drew herself up in front of them. "You'll never guess what I saw," she said. Tifa froze, glancing at Cissnei. Her eyes traveled to her injury, becoming significantly rounder. "What happened to you?"
Cissnei waved a hand dismissively. "Ran into an old friend," she said.
Tifa frowned. "Sephiroth isn't going to be happy."
"I'll handle Sephiroth," promised Cissnei, folding her arms. "You were saying?"
"Oh, yeah," said Tifa, looking back at them. "I saw Cloud. He was dressed as an infantryman, and following Rufus's entourage."
"Cloud?" repeated Yuffie, incredulously.
Cissnei's eyes widened. "Tifa, are you sure?" she asked.
"Positive," said Tifa, nodding. "It was definitely him."
"What's he doing there?" asked Yuffie. "We need to get him out!"
"No..." Cissnei trailed off, looking down at the ground as she imagined the possibilities. She shook her head, getting to her feet. "No, this is brilliant. I've got an idea."
The other two turned towards her, looking suddenly concerned.
His condo in Junon was in one of the most upscale buildings. The only way it could get any better would have been if he were living in the same building as President Shinra himself. Ivan snorted at the thought, stepping into his entryway. He'd rather be run a night mission—three nights, without sleep in the Gongagan jungle...with Reno as a partner than sleep in the same building as Rufus Shinra. He cradled his injured arm with one hand, his nunchucks dangling by their chain from around his wrist as he kicked the door closed behind him. The sound echoed in the cavernous living room, announcing his arrival.
He looked around the room for a place to deposit his weapon, and finally decided on the kitchen sink. Easy to wash away any evidence before he finished cleaning up. Not that there was much evidence to wash away—Cissnei had definitely walked away from that fight, but he had hit her once, so at the very least, he might have to worry about a trace hair or some other such thing lying around his apartment. With as much white furniture as he had, a wavy strand of red hair would stick out like a sore thumb. Ivan stripped himself of his suit jacket, leaving that on the counter as well, and winced, peeling off his shirt. The cut on his arm was a good one and it stung. He wouldn't expect less from Cissnei. With a groan, he peeled the cloth off of his skin. He crumpled up his bloodied shirt and left it in the sink. He'd have to burn that later. Too bad, it was silk too.
I should torch the whole place...he thought to himself, walking away from the sink and grabbing his first aid kit from its hiding place. He looked around the condo with a frown, setting the kit on the kitchen counter and opening it. Start a fire in that corner, there, the wind'll carry it, burn down the whole bloody affair.
And then what? Join Cissnei and her band of rebels? Plead to Nico for a place in his glorified mafia? Rejoin the Turks—like that was possible? Run off into the wild, or was all your disguise training a waste of time? Reappear in Corel as a chocobo farmer. Well, that would firmly cement his status as a persona non grata in high society. Serves the old man right, he thought angrily, hissing in pain as he pressed a disenfectant sheet to his wound.
His eyes trailed up to the picture fastened to his wall, that showing all of the old Turks, Cissnei included, posing for a shot at the office. His father had asked him multiple times to take it down, or at least to not display it so prominently. His stint as a Turk was considered something of a social embarrassment. But he couldn't quite take it down. They were happier then, all of them together under Veld. Even Tseng was smiling, however slight. He sighed, wrapping the bandages around his arm tightly and turning away.
Well, those days were over. Now it was the age of Tseng and the department in disgrace, and of the perpetual shorthandedness. Now it was the age, apparently, of turning against each other to fulfill one's loyalties to the highest bidder. And unfortunately, he was to blame for that. He ran a hand through his hair, not caring about the fact that he was trailing blood, and looked away from the picture. Ivan's eyes drifted to the kitchen counter. On it were two things, his phone, and an invitation he had picked up earlier that day. The invitation looked as official as could be, with the Shinra Company's seal on the front. He knew what it was—an invitation to Rufus's inauguration party whenever the newly appointed chief thought would be best to return. Every socialite in Junon would get one.
For a moment, he was tempted to pick it up and write back what he really wanted to say. But what he would end up saying at the end, would be something like this, edited, of course. Why Rufus, thank you very much for your invitation. Why, yes, I forget how much of an arse you were in grade school, and I don't believe at all that the only reason you're inviting me is so that you can show me off to the public as your friend so no one will bat an eye to your presence the next time one of your high-born enemies has his brains bashed in by a blunt-force weapon during your next little soiree. Would you like me to wear a suit and tie? Not black, of course, we can't out me as a Turk, now can we?
He ignored the invitation for now. He didn't have the time or energy to deal with Rufus. Instead, he scooped up the phone, scrolling down the list before finding a number he was pleased with. He turned around, leaning against the counter and raising the phone to his ear.
"Hi, Shion," he said, smiling. "...Yes, I ran into Cissnei." He laughed. "No, not too badly...a little cut up, but none the worse for wear..."
TO BE CONTINUED