Reno touched his face in horror, feeling the open wounds under his eyes that bled sluggishly. His eight-year-old mind couldn't comprehend what had happened, and as he lay on the cold, hard floor, tears began to spill down his cheeks.
The salt water made the two cuts on his face sting, which only made him sob harder. He felt cold and dead inside as he sat up with a wince of pain, noticing how his tears were mixed with the blood on his face, diluting it to a rich shade of pink. Reno looked around for his pants, spotting them a few feet away and crawling over so he could pull them on. His lower body ached and he could feel something that he knew was blood trickling down the backs of his legs. Slowly, painfully, Reno began to dress, ceasing his crying and feeling his heart harden and sink in his chest.
At thirteen, Reno was the terror of the slums. His bright red hair always stirred fear in observers, for they knew his reputation as one of the best, cold-hearted killers around.
Reno's size was misleading. He wasn't short for his age, but he was thin due to lack of nutrition that was always present in the slums. His body was wiry and strong, but he looked as though he'd snap if someone pushed him.
Everyone who inhabited the slums knew better than to approach him aggressively. Reno was known for flying into rages and killing just for the sake of killing. His knife, Shiva, was feared almost as much as he was; a knife in Reno's hand was like food for a starving man. He was expert at wielding it, even at thirteen, and didn't care who he hurt with it.
No one dared to say it out loud, but Reno had, in fact, gone slightly mad.
Now he sauntered through the dirty streets, his long red ponytail blowing in the wind and whipping him in the face where two bright red tattoos under his eyes stood stark against his pale skin. Only those who got close enough to see them clearly knew they were really scars outlined in ink, but everyone who'd been lucky—or unlucky—enough to realize that fact were now food for the worms.
Reno looked relaxed, but his thin body was tensed under his clothing. He knew better than to let his guard down, especially out in public. There were constantly gangs roaming the streets, looking to eliminate the threat he posed to their doctrine. As a one-man clan, Reno defied all the laws of the Brotherhood that governed the gangs in the area. One was not supposed to kill without reason. One was not supposed to rely only on himself. One was not supposed to make reckless decisions that could endanger theirs and anyone else's life. Reno did all of these, and more. When he'd left home at the age of eleven, he'd stopped caring about anything but surviving, and even that sometimes was forgotten.
He would leap into fights that he had slim chances of winning with no regard for his own life. He smoked countless cigarettes and everything else he could get his hands on, and he delighted in thieving from harder and harder places to escape from, just for the adrenaline rush.
Yes, Reno had gone a bit off his rocker, but his blue-green eyes were still bright with intelligence and he moved with a cat-like grace that could put a dancer to shame. His senses were abnormally sharp from living in the danger of the slums all his life. Now, as he strolled through the streets, hands in his pockets, he kept an eye out for potential threats.
A threat did eventually show itself in the form of a gang of four boys, all about seventeen or eighteen. They fanned out and cut Reno off in an alleyway. Reno stood with his back pressed against the brick wall behind him and pulled Shiva out of his pocket, flipping the butterfly knife open. He had a crazy grin on his face, made even more disturbing by the tattoos framing his bright eyes.
The four boys all drew knives as well, and before any of them could make a move, Reno was on them like a wild animal, kicking, punching, biting, and stabbing. He gave a howl of dominance and rammed his knife into the throat of the tallest boy, a blonde. The other three, one brunet and two with blue-black hair, backed off a little, nursing bruises and cuts. Reno refused to let them surrender and leapt upon one of the black-haired men and bit down on the muscle of his shoulder. The boy screamed and tried to pull Reno off him, but the redhead was clinging like a monkey to his back, digging his teeth in deeper. With one hand, Reno brought up Shiva and slit his captive's throat neatly. He jumped nimbly off the boy's back as the body fell, dead. The last two stared at Reno in horror, cringing away from the sight of his snarl, which was coated with their companion's blood.
The two turned and ran, but no one ran from a fight with Reno and lived to tell about it. Like a madman, he took off after them, sliding on his back between their pumping legs and slicing their Achilles tendons with four swift slashes. When they cried out and dropped, he knifed them in the throats, watching their life bubble up in a red fountain before spreading out in a grisly crimson circle.
Reno looked down at his victims, his eyes completely dead. He felt nothing for the lives he had just taken, because no one else showed him any type of sympathy. Why should he try to live decently when no one else did? No, the best way was to continue as the terror of the slums, killing when necessary and even when not. It was a dog-eat-dog world, and Reno would be damned if he'd let anyone take away his independence.
The boy walked away from the fight scene, his clothes soaked in his opponents' blood. He himself was bleeding from a shallow forehead wound and his ribs were bruised, but he ignored the pain, continuing the walk the streets until dark, when he retired to the empty, run-down building he called home. If he was lucky, he'd be able to lift a meal from some innocent bystander, and if he was unlucky, well, he'd gone without food for longer before.
In the shadows of the alley where the fight had taken place, a tall Wutaiian man surveyed the bodies. He was dressed in a sharply cut navy blue suit and had long dark hair tied back in a ponytail with a black dot in the middle of his forehead. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone, punching numbers rapidly. When someone picked up on the other end, the man began to speak.
"He just took out four men all bigger and heavier than him while barely receiving a scratch." The man paused, listening to the other end. "I'd guess anywhere from twelve to fourteen or fifteen. Yes sir." He snapped the phone shut and proceeded to follow Reno down the street, his steps quick and clipped.
Reno sighed when he relaxed onto his leather coat which served as a bed, blanket, and pillow all at once. His stomach growled irritably, but he ignored it and turned to go to sleep, Shiva clutched unsheathed in one hand. He knew he slept lightly, but there was no point risking it when he could have his knife with him, so Shiva became his permanent bed partner.
When Reno turned fifteen, he celebrated the day with a binge-kill, taking out two gangs totaling up to twelve members that had tried to subdue him. For his troubles he received a fractured collarbone and several cuts and bruises. Like an injured animal, he fled back to the place he called home so he could lick his wounds.
The cuts and bruises didn't bother him, but Reno worried about the cracked collarbone. If he couldn't fight, he was as good as dead. He crafted a makeshift sling out of some scrap cloth and switched Shiva to his left hand until the bone had fused back together.
After a few weeks, the spot was still sore, but he could operate well with his right hand. Fate decided to piss on him a few days shy of Christmas, however. He'd always hated the damn holiday, but it meant people were generous and so he had to grudgingly accept that it was a good way to get food in his stomach.
As it would happen, he was in the middle of pinching a roasted chicken from a vendor on the streets when a pair of arms seized him and dragged him back into a deserted alley. He was faced with fifteen men, all enormous, all armed with knives, and all with grim expressions that spelled either death or a serious fucking up.
Reno glared at his would-be assailants, eyes narrowing as he drew Shiva. "The fuck do ya want, yo?" he snapped, temper made even shorter with hunger.
"Ya offed a couple o' our buddies a few weeks ago, brat," one of them said. "It's time we got rid o' ya."
Reno smiled lazily, though he knew the fight was going to be a vicious and bloody one. "Ya mean the shit-faced twats with pea-sized balls? Yeah, I offed 'em. They fuckin' begged for mercy, the bastards." He smirked. "If they was your friends, ya can't be much better. I'll fuck ya up so hard your mama won't recognize ya." He launched himself at the one who had spoken, knife raised.
The fight was brutal. Reno was ridiculously outnumbered, and though his smaller frame enhanced his speed greatly, there were just too many bodies crushing him down. He caught one man in the chest with two feet and flipped back into a standing position after being sent sprawling, only to have a knife dig into his hip and scraping the bone viciously. Reno yelled and thrust an elbow back into his attacker's face, breaking the man's nose and knocking his head back.
A crowd of thugs jumped him then, stabbing and slashing with their blades as Reno went down, struggling like a madman. The gang's confidence lay in their sheer numbers, and they pummeled him nonstop until the redhead was almost at death's door.
Reno's fogged mind picked up gunshots and yells, and two new sets of footsteps approached rapidly. Reno caught a glimpse of four shiny, fancy boots before his mind faded into darkness. He thought he heard someone say, "Pick him up, Rude," but he wasn't sure. He slipped into the dark oblivion that awaited him, sighing with relief.
The Wutaiian man with the dot on his forehead strode down the alley, leaving bleeding corpses in his wake. His companion, a dark complexioned man with a shaven head, lifted Reno's body in his arms easily and followed.
The Wutaiian, Tseng, led the way to a sleek black car that was parked in the main street. He opened the back door and motioned for the other man to get inside. "Rude, sit in back and make sure he doesn't die. I'll drive back to headquarters." Rude seemed reluctant to hand over his car keys, but he did so without complaint, sliding into the backseat and laying his burden down on the leather beside him. With a frown, he saw how Reno's blood was soaking into the material, and dragged the boy half into his lap in an attempt to save his car's appearance.
Tseng drove the same way he did everything else: clipped, and with purpose. Within minutes they had arrived back at their headquarters, Shinra, and he escorted Rude to the infirmary with his sad bundle of pale skin and blood red.