Title: Hunting Party 1/?
Fandom: FF7 AU (Mercverse)
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, and all related prequels and sequels belong to Square-Enix.
Summary: Some old acquaintances drop in for a visit.
As the argument outside the bar continued to escalate, Zack elbowed his way to the rear of the crowd. Once free of the growing mob, he headed for the nearest alleyway and concentrated on getting as far away from the two arguing idiots as he could. From the corner of his eye, he saw a few of the wiser bystanders doing the same thing. The rest of the crowd was either too drunk or too stupid to recognize the danger.
It wasn't uncommon to see a pack of rich lordlings slumming in the area. And given the way they had been chugging down the booze, it was no surprise to see them start a fight among themselves over some bargirl.
A more experienced woman would've know how to defuse the situation, but the bargirl was clearly clueless. Zack would've enjoyed watching the two idiots prance around trying to prove their manhood with either sword or fists. Instead, each young men had pulled out what appeared to some sort of talisman or totem. And they were getting ready to use them.
He didn't know exactly what those objects were, but Zack instinctively knew one thing -- they were powerful, much too powerful to be safely wielded by two lordlings who probably couldn't manage the simplest of protective spells on their own.
It was hazardous enough being around a mage who knew exactly what he was doing -- namely, Sephiroth -- but lingering near two clueless amateurs brandishing major objects of power was downright suicidal.
And despite numerous complaints to the contrary, Cloud Strife didn't raise a suicidal fool.
Zack did not want to be anywhere in the vicinity when those talismens or whatever went off. Just as he wondered whether he was far enough away, there was a tremendous bellowing roar behind him, followed almost immediately by panicked screaming. Naturally, he turned to look instead of watching where he was going and promptly crashed into a person who was running in the opposite direction.
They landed in a tangled heap even as two large shadows soared off toward the west, spewing sparks and fireballs at each other. He rolled off to the side and found himself staring at a slender blond teenager who looked to be about 16 or 17. But as Zack well knew, looks were no indicator of age or power.
"Damn, I'm sorry about that," the teenager said, bouncing agilely to his feet and holding out his hand apologetically.
Zack took the guy up on his offer, allowing the teen to pull him up off the ground, and noted that the blond was much stronger than he looked.
"No big deal. It was my fault. Wasn't looking where I was going," Zack said cheerfully as he tried to brush the dirt off his pants.
At first glance, the guy appeared like your average good-looking cheerful teenager. Zack then noticed the tail -- a long, smooth and unfurred tail that waved leisurely from side to side rather like a cat's. Zack took a closer look at the teenager's face, but saw no other sides of any nonhuman traits.
"I don't blame you. You were smart to get out of the way of that mess," the teenager said, cocking his head westward.
Loud roars and explosions from that direction told Zack that the two summons -- at least he assumed they were summons of some sort -- were still going at it. The teenager clearly heard the noise as well, but seemed more exasperated than worried about it. Zack then remember that the teen had been running -toward- the location of the two arguing lordlings who were undoubtedly responsible for what had to now be a hefty amount of property damage.
But before he could ask any questions, there was a brilliant purple flash in the sky, followed almost immediately by the crack of thunder. The sound of fighting abruptly stopped, leaving behind only a ringing silence.
Zack glanced back at the teenager, who looked mildly satisfied. The soft whoosh of wings directly overhead caused Zack to duck and reach for his sword. But when he straightened, he saw a great white eagle with violet-tipped plumage perched on the teenager's shoulder. It stared imperiously at him, the cascade of long, brilliant white crest feathers fluttering in the chilly evening breeze.
"Excuse me, but are you familiar with this area?" the teenager asked Zack.
"Reasonably so," he replied with a grin, even as he kept a wary eye on the eagle's decidedly lethal-looking beak.
"Then maybe you could help me locate someone. In the commotion, I've gotten myself all turned around." The eagle clicked its beak and uttered what was unmistakably a disapproving snort.
The teenager shrugged, then said, "Yeah, yeah. Chill out, okay?" to the bird. Turning back to Zack, he said, "I'm looking for someone. Maybe you could point me in the right direction?"
"I'll give it a shot. Who are you looking for?"
"A guy called Cloud Strife."
Zack continued smiling amiably, even as he took a closer look at the teenager. The teen's clothes were casual, but clearly expensive, comprising of well-tailored blue pants and a matching blue brocade jacket over a white silk shirt. Instead of a sword, he wore paired daggers with a quiet air of confidence.
"Why are you looking for him?"
The teenager scratched his head and said, "Well, I guess you could call him a very old friend."
Considering that Cloud was immortal, THAT statment made Zack wonder just how old this apparent teenager was.
When they arrived at the house, Zack flung open the door and opened his mouth to call out. But before he could say anything, the teenager stepped past him and yelled, "Yo! Cloud!"
There was a brief pause, then the sound of a door slamming open and rapid footsteps came from the second floor. A few seconds later, Cloud appeared on the stairs, gazing down at the impudently grinning stranger waving at him. The two blonds stared at each other for a long moment, then Cloud's tense expression relaxed into a somewhat rueful smile.
"It's been a long time, Zidane Tribal."
Cloud's sharp gaze shifted to the eagle perched on Zidane's shoulder. With a graceful stroke of its wings, it leapt into the air and in a swirl of white feathers, transformed in a young, white-haired man dressed similarly to Zidane, except instead of blue pants and jacket, he wore purple.
The shapeshifter nodded in graceful acknowledgment.
Cloud folded his arms and propped his hip against the stair railing.
"So tell me. What are the Angels of Death doing in this fair city?"