Sorry that it's been so long since the first chapter, I needed to do some research. Now, some of the facts that are in here aren't exact. I've modified some of them so that everyone can understand. Is that okay? Cool. Let's go!
When Tifa came to, she was tied to a bed in a decrepit room. Great, she lamented. Beaten in a fight by some guy with blonde hair… Now I'm gonna get sexually abused in some shithouse! What a day…
The door opened. Let's see the ugly lech who beat me, Tifa snarled in her head.
She was right on the 'who beat me' part, because the guy who walked in, though Tifa would never admit it, was…damn, he was good-looking.
His blonde hair was spiky and short-cropped, and he had haunting blue eyes. His arms were muscular, poking out from his black T-shirt. He was carrying a tray covered in food. With some effort, Tifa tried to look angry and disinterested.
"I brought you some breakfast," her kidnapper said mildly, brandishing the tray. "I figured that you'd need something to help you get your energy back after last night."
Tifa's amber eyes widened. "Did we…?"
The man laughed, a deep sound that almost made her blush. "No. I was talking about the little...sparring session we had at the Smithsonian."
Tifa would have rubbed the bruise on her neck if her hands were free. Which reminded her… "Are you gonna untie me?"
He looked at her, amused.
"I mean, I can't eat without my hands, can I?" she continued.
The man's only response was to pick up a fork full of mashed potatoes and put it in her mouth, feeding her.
She chewed and swallowed, her eyes never leaving his. "Well?"
"Only if you promise not to hit me."
"I can't promise that," she replied, playing along.
"Well then, you're not getting untied."
Her eyes flashed with fury, and she started struggling against her bonds.
He chuckled again and put the tray down. "Fine. But if you hit me again I'm tying you back up." Without another word, he untied her hands from the bedposts. Immediately Tifa lashed out with her right hand, which was caught in his firm grip.
Oh crap, she thought, he's gonna tie me up again.
But he didn't. He instead let her arm go and pointed to the tray. "Eat. Jessie would kill me if you starved to death."
"But you said…"
"…if you hit me again, I'll tie you back up, I know. But you didn't hit me. You tried, but you didn't actually do it."
Tifa did not respond. Sighing, her kidnapper picked the tray back up and handed it to her. "Eat," he repeated.
Wordlessly, Tifa started eating. The food was surprisingly good.
"So, I think it's time I introduced myself. My name is Cloud Strife. A pleasure to meet you, Dr Lockhart."
"You were wearing a nametag," he reminded her. Without another word, he suddenly pulled off his shirt.
"Oh, relax. This is where I keep my clothes. Though I'm gonna have to move them somewhere else." He moved towards the small wardrobe.
"But why keep your clothes here?" Tifa demanded.
"There isn't enough room in the apartment I share with Biggs," Cloud explained.
Tifa huffed, but did not reply. For no reason she couldn't comprehend, her eyes started scanning his shirtless form. He was amazingly muscular, presumably from constant rigorous training. What really caught her eye, though, was the large black 'S' that was tattooed on his right arm. She'd seen that mark before…on the news or something… Something about 'illegal human experiments' being conducted by some company… What was the name again? SOLDIER? SHIELD? SWORD? No…
"You're Shinra?" she whispered hoarsely.
He looked at her, pain flashing in his eyes. "I was," he replied in a small voice. "I guess you recognised the mark, huh?"
Wordlessly, Tifa nodded.
"Well, I was part of Project S…one of its test subjects. Project S was designed by one of Shinra's top scientists, Hojo. Its aim was to create the ultimate super-soldiers, and they came close to succeeding. From what I can remember of the procedure they used a rare chemical called Mako, and injected it into our bodies. The Mako increased our strength, speed, eyesight, stamina… You name it, it perfected it."
"How am I here now?" he finished her sentence. "Before Project S was found out, I escaped… Left behind my best friend to do it, too. I hated myself for that for a long time. After I left, I became a mercenary. You know, a hired gun, willing to do pretty much anything to get the job done. That's how I wound up here…" He gestured around him, clutching a dark blue shirt in one hand. There was a small scar on his stomach, nestled within his abs. Dammit Tifa! Stop checking him out! He kidnapped you, for God's sake! "…working for AVALANCHE," Cloud continued.
"AVALANCHE?" Tifa asked.
"We're 'procurers of ancient artefacts'," he explained lamely.
"Treasure hunters, you mean?"
Cloud winced. "That is such a harsh term. No. Treasure hunters sell the things they find – most of the time – whereas we give them to the museums."
"You give to museums?" Tifa blurted incredulously. "You stole from the Smithsonian!"
"Yeah, well…" Cloud wasn't even slightly embarrassed. "You remember, right? 'Willing to do pretty much anything to get the job done'? I already explained this, Doctor."
Tifa's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
He rolled his own eyes. "Fine, be that way." He pulled on the shirt and walked to the door. "I'm coming to see you again later, by the way. We have some business to attend to." Smiling in a friendly manner, he walked out the door, closing it quietly behind him.
I hate that guy, Tifa growled internally.
The Smithsonian was full of noise as the workers, police and spectators milled around, amazed by the theft of what was being called 'The Foot of Achilles', and the kidnapping of Doctor Tifa Lockhart. Police officers took photos of the crime scene and interviewed workers and guards. Aerith Gainsborough was overcome with worry as she looked at the scene. Tifa was her best friend, and now she was gone.
Behind her, a tall man in a long overcoat took in the scene. His dark hair was spiky, and there was a scar on his left cheek. His blue eyes shone even in the light. "Sloppy, Cloud," he murmured to himself. "You've gotten soft over the years." Calmly, he walked off, pulling his phone out of his pocket as he walked. As soon as the person on the other side of the line picked up, the man started talking. "Sir. The Foot is gone, and a museum worker was taken as well. Yes, sir. It was Strife, sir. I'm sure of it. This has practically got his name all over it." He glanced back at the worried form of Aerith, and his eyes glinted. She was a looker, that's for sure. "I'll take care of it, don't worry."
He resumed walking towards his black convertible. "Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr Shinra." He hung up and climbed into the car. He sped off, and no one took any notice of him.
Eventually Cloud returned, as promised, clutching that damned stone foot in one hand. The foot was plain, apart from a golden anklet and some obscure markings on the heel.
"The foot?" Tifa asked, confused. "You took the stupid foot?! Of all the things you could steal…"
"This was the only thing I wanted," Cloud deadpanned. He placed it on the small wooden table near the bed, pointing the heel towards her. "You know your Ancient Greek, Doc?"
Tifa scowled. "Why do you want to know?"
"1) Because I don't know Ancient Greek. 2) You don't know what this is, do you?"
Tifa glared at him.
He smirked. "You don't!" He chuckled. "Alright, I'll tell you. This…is the Foot of Achilles. Part of a lost statue of Achilles, the Greek hero from the siege of Troy. It was created by a Trojan who escaped the fall of the city on Aeneas' ship."
Tifa tilted her head. Greek mythology wasn't her strongpoint.
"Aeneas was one of the men who founded Rome, along with Romulus and Latinus," Cloud explained as if he was talking to a child.
Cloud rolled his eyes. "The inscription on the ankle is supposed to contain a clue to Aeneas' most prized possession…the Royal Sword of Troy…given to him by Paris as Troy fell."
Tifa's eyes widened. That was a rare item indeed.
"So, can you help me?"
Tifa sighed. "I don't really have much choice here, do I?"
She sighed again. "Fine." She picked up the foot and peered at its description. "Ancient Greek isn't my strongpoint, but I can try."
Cloud crossed his arms, waiting.
Tifa peered at the inscription, translating it in her head as she read. "The Blade is much sought, and will not be found with speed. If you be worthy, read these words, and the Blade shall be freed. At the grave of the Lover in Karkhēdōn shall the next strand be found, but beware the traps that we have placed, far below the ground." She raised her head. "Well, that sounds like complete bullshit to me."
Cloud smirked. "Oh no. Now I know exactly where to go. Carthage."
"Hello? 'Karkhēdōn' is the Ancient Greek name for Carthage, which is in Tunisia. And 'the Lover' is probably Dido."
"No! How the hell did you get to be a doctor? The Queen of Carthage! Aeneas passed through Carthage as he fled Troy, and he and Dido fell in love. After a while though, Aeneas was forced to leave, and Dido committed suicide out of sorrow."
"Damn… She must've really loved him."
Cloud nodded. "That's beside the point, though. My guess is that 'the next strand' is the next clue to the Sword's whereabouts. So we'll find the next clue in Tunisia."
"Wait a sec, did you just say 'we'?" Tifa demanded.
"Oh, did I forget to mention?" He smirked. "You're coming too."
Yep, I definitely hate him.
Just to clear up, these are the things that I modified:
- Aeneas wasn't given the Sword of Troy by Paris. It was King Priam that did it. I borrowed the whole 'Paris-giving-him-the-sword' from the movie 'Troy'
- Aeneas didn't found Rome with Romulus and Latinus. That's a fusion of two of the founding myths. One has Romulus killing his twin Remus and founding Rome on his own. The other has Aeneas, Latinus and a son of Odysseus found it. I just did it this was to cover all bases.
Well, that's that. PLEASE REVIEW.