Plotting an Escape
Hana couldn’t believe a lot of things. She couldn’t believe that her brother’s beliefs had turned so radical. She couldn’t believe he would stoop so low and do something so flagrantly stupid. Most of all, she couldn’t believe she’d fallen right into it.
Regardless of what she believed, the truth of the matter was staring her in the face: she was tied hand and foot, stuffed in the backseat of a car, and looking out her window to see the lights of Midgar growing smaller and fainter in the distance as she was carried away into the night.
“I hate you,” she spat, not for the first time. “You really are just like Father.”
“That’s not the sister I know talking,” her brother said, barely sparing her a glance in the rearview mirror, the dashboard lights eerily illuminating his face. Underneath the cool exterior, she knew that was the lowest blow she could deal, and she knew it had struck a chord.
“Then you don’t know me at all!” she screamed, swinging her bound hands into the back of his seat. It was pitiful vengeance. All she could do now was be a nuisance, and it was infuriating. “You show up claiming to save me, but all you’re doing is ripping away what little freedom I’ve finally been able to get!”
“Freedom?” he asked, laughing bitterly. “As a slave to that monster? What freedom is that?”
Hana opened her mouth to retort but shut it again. She couldn’t say anything she hadn’t already said. It was a circle that always ended up with her lost for words.
She looked out the window again. Midgar was now almost swallowed by the night. At first, she had expected Sephiroth to come after her, but had given up the thought. He probably thought she had made up her mind and left him.
Her brother couldn’t have known that it had been the best time to kidnap her, the only time that Sephiroth wouldn’t suspect anything wrong and start a search. Sheer, dumb luck she thought bitterly.
So Sephiroth wasn’t coming. She’d just have to get herself out of this mess.
She had already tested the ropes binding her – too strong to break. Even if she could, she couldn’t jump from the car at these speeds and she doubted she could wrestle control of the vehicle from her brother either. She had no choice but to sit and wait for a different opportunity.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked. She made her voice hard, angry. In truth, she wanted to know as much about her destination as she could. She had seen a great deal of the Continent, maybe she knew a thing or two that could be of use.
They were headed south. To Junon, maybe?
“Somewhere safe,” was all he provided.
Junon was her best bet, she decided, if only because it was a port city where they could board a ship to somewhere else. Maybe even to Wutai.
“You know, Father used to tell me that too.” She didn’t know or care about the wisdom of making him so angry. Helpless as she was to do anything else, it was all she could do to exact retribution.
“I won’t beat you,” he said, and it sounded like the words were being forced through grit teeth. “I won’t make you cry. I’m protecting you.”
“Well you’ve already got me tied up! If I’m making you so angry, why don’t you show me who’s in charge, Vance. Maybe I’ll even choke up some tears for you!”
“Don’t call me that!” he said. “What is wrong with you? You’ve never called me that…not even once!”
“Well you promised over and over never to hurt me and look where I am now!”
“You’re not hurt, Hana.”
“I’m your prisoner! I’m tied up and completely at your mercy! How is that any different than what Father did?”
Vance had no more words, but his face was red from more than just the dashboard lights, and a corner of his mouth was twitching.
“You call Sephiroth a monster,” Hana said, “but he never laid so much as a hand on me. Not once.”
“He never laid a hand on you?” Vance asked. “That is half of what I’m afraid of, sister.”
“Well I’ve told you a million times that he never, ever—“
“Did he ever lay a hand on you in kindness?”
Hana choked on her own rebuttal. The question cut her to the core.
“Does he know that spot behind your ear that I used to scratch and it would completely calm you, or that when you get worked up all you need is a firm, hard squeeze? Does he know that you start to get antsy if you haven’t had a good backrub in a while? Has he ever even taken your hand, Hana?”
Yes! A part of her wanted to shout. But deeper inside, behind her instincts to defy her brother, she knew the truth.
Only for show.
Only to put on their act for the press.
The truth spoke for itself, and they both heard it.
“I know you married him so you could survive, Hana,” he said. “But…don’t you want to do more than that? Why not really live?
“He may give you care, Hana, but he can never care for you. You’d give up all your dreams of happily ever after for someone like that?”
“Fairytales are for children,” she said. She didn’t even know how white her knuckles were in the darkness. “Children who have no idea how the real world works.”
“Hana,” her brother sighed.
“I hate you.” It was the last thing she said as she slunk down into the seat.
I already made this choice, she thought as she closed her eyes and sank into herself. It’s not fair that I have to make it again.
“There’s a prisoner that wants to see the General immediately.”
“A prisoner?” Angeal asked, stifling a yawn. At some point Genesis and Sephiroth had conked out right where they sat out on the couch, Genesis with his goodies still in hand, both of them uncomfortably slouched over the couch’s arms. Angeal had been zoning out himself when the knock on the door had come. The other two men had only groaned in response, Genesis lazing flicking his hand toward the door in a command for Angeal to take care of it.
“Do you know a Matsuko
Takahashi? An older Wutaian woman, runs a pub in town.”
Sephiroth perked up only enough to crack open an eye. “Wutaian…?”
“Yes, sir,” the cadet said, talking past Angeal. “She said she saw your wife and has an urgent message for you.”
“I don’t want to hear it.” Sephiroth shut his eye again and went back to sleep.
“Sir, she insists that it is vital, and she’s waiting for you in the holding cells.”
“You put an old lady in prison for wanting to talk to him?” Angeal asked, crossing his arms over his chest and staring down at the young cadet.
The man gulped. “She said she’d do whatever it took to reach him.”
“And you took that as a threat?”
“I’m just following orders, sir. If she’s bound she’s no threat to the General.”
Genesis snorted. “Hear that, Sephiroth?” he said with a sleepy slur. “The old lady’s all tied up so she can’t rough you up any. Good to know that ShinRa’s got your back.” Sephiroth gave a brief grunt in response.
“Please, sir,” the cadet said, and Angeal could see beads of sweat roll down his face from pleading with the Silver General. “The incident has caught the attention of the President, and he is anxious to see what this is about.”
“Do you think she’ll talk to me?” Angeal asked. “Sephiroth is…indisposed.” The choice of words caused Genesis to snort again.
“You can try, sir,” the cadet said, nodding too quickly and too many times. The boy was all too excited to get out of Sephiroth’s presence, and you couldn’t blame him. Few assignments were worse than to wake the legendary SOLDIER, already greatly feared in the daytime, from his slumber. “I’m sure the President won’t mind as long as the matter is resolved.”
“Well then, my friend, you owe me. Big time,” Angeal turned to Sephiroth, who stayed as still and silent as if he really was sleeping, but he knew his friend was too light a sleeper not to have heard.
“Let’s go,” Angeal said to the cadet. “Let’s not keep her waiting any longer.”
It was Junon. As dawn was breaking she saw the iconic Sister Ray extending over the ocean. She had not slept; she was not tired.
With only the hum of the old car to accompany her thoughts, she had formulated something of a strategy – hardly a plan. Her brother was confident in his strength. Too confident. And in that confidence came blindness.
She’d also bet he was willing to trust her again if she gave him reason to.
She knew she was playing him, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
“See?” her brother said. “You’re doing better already, sis.”
“Yes,” Hana said. Let him think he’s won. Drop his guard…surely something will happen that I can use! “…Niichan,” she added, not without effort, for extra effect.
“That’s more like it,” her brother sighed. “I knew you’d see reason once we got out of that filthy city.”
Hana didn’t trust herself to reply to that so she didn’t.
“I’ll get us a ship in no time, and we can forget this ever happened.”
“Hey,” he said. “Sorry about the way I treated you. But you can see now, can’t you? It was the only way. No hard feelings, okay?”
With that, he tossed a small pocket knife behind him into her lap. With a little awkward maneuvering with her fingers, she was able to open it. She clenched the blade tip-up between her knees, and sawed the ropes off her hands, sighing in relief when she was free. With her hands liberated, it was easier to free her feet as well. She sat herself properly in the seat, straightening her yukata, and rubbing her sore wrists to ease the sting.
She hadn’t expected it to be that easy.
Though if it came down to it, she still couldn’t outrun him, and she knew better than to expect a second shot if she didn’t do it right the first time.
Please let something happen in Junon…something that will help me get away….
“What do you want to eat when we get to town?” her brother asked. “You must be hungry.”
“Something they don’t have in Junon,” she said.
“Ah,” her brother said, smiling. “No worries. One last meal on the Continent and we’ll be back home. I know you want korokke. I promise that’s the first thing we’ll eat once we land.”
So he is taking me to Wutai. Ultimately it didn’t make much difference, but it did feel good to know.
“I want…bean soup.”
“Bean soup?” Her brother shrugged. “Okay. That’s breakfast, then.”
Bean soup…really? She didn’t even particularly like the taste and it brought back bad memories to boot. Still, it was strange enough of a food that the search for it might give her more time in Junon.
Her answer came then, as a small, black dot rose straight up into the sky.
“What’s that?” she asked. She knew what it was; she just wanted her brother to say it to make sure it was actually real.
“Feh. ShinRa helicopters. There’s a big airbase there, I swear there’s always something coming or going. Really suspicious if you ask me.”
Big, noisy, easy to get lost in. Always something coming or going. Run by ShinRa, who would know who she was and maybe even have infantrymen stationed there.
She couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect.
It was very hard to keep the smile off her face for the rest of the ride. All she had to do was make it to the airbase while her brother was searching the city for her bean soup.
“The helicopter leaves now,” Angeal said, taking Sephiroth’s shoulders and dragging him off the couch. “Up,” he commanded. “You too, Genesis. Don’t make me drag both of you.”
“What time is it?” Genesis groaned. “The sun’s not even up.”
“Hana didn’t leave. Her brother took her.”
Sephiroth blinked several times, face emotionless. Angeal couldn’t tell if that was his disbelieving face or if he was still struggling to wake up.
“Ma saw everything. Her brother betrayed her – drugged her and then kidnapped her. She got his license plate info and border patrol says they headed south.”
“Junon,” Sephiroth said. “Probably to catch a ship to Wutai.”
“Which is why we are leaving now. The ShinRa branch has been warned and they are sending word to the ports, but we are to sort this out in person.”
“We?” Genesis asked, looking sideways at Sephiroth, who was standing now, at least.
“Yes, we. Non-negotiable.”
“Unnecessary,” Sephiroth said.
“President’s orders,” Angeal said. “Take it up with him.”
“You’re lying. He wouldn’t send three Firsts for such a simple mission. Especially so soon after the security breach.”
“You can talk to him about it.”
“I think you are bluffing, Angeal,” Genesis said. He shrugged. “Whatever. The wandering soul knows no rest,” Genesis said with a flourish, theatrically staggering to his feet. “But leave it to Sephiroth to botch things…again. We may yet be of use in bringing her back.”
“We still don’t know that she doesn’t want to leave,” Sephiroth said, with no hint of how he felt about it in his voice.
“I know,” Angeal said. “Our job is just to make sure she makes the choice of her own will.”
“We really can’t leave this to the infantrymen in Junon?” Genesis asked. “It’s not even dawn yet.”
“It’s just as well,” Sephiroth said, gripping his Masamune tightly and giving it a graceful but savage swing. “Either way, I have some words for that miscreant brother of hers.”
“Hn,” Genesis said with a dark smirk. “Perhaps this will be an amusing task after all.”