Black and Blonde
Selphie ran, skidding on the rain slicked cobbles. Her heart pounding so hard that she swore it would explode out her chest.
Rain glittered in the dull yellow glow of the street lights as it fell from the night sky. Puddles splashed up her jeans, as she pounded through them, muddy water soaking into her canvas trainers.
Chic boutique mannequins in swathes of material that she could only dream of wearing stared mournfully from behind tinted windows. Rain pounded on upturned tables and chairs outside canopy covered cafes, beating on the metal like kettledrums.
Still she ran into the dark, turning down alley after alley to loose her pursuers in the maze of backstreets.
She skidded to a halt, pausing for breath next to a crumbling wall. Hiding in shadow. Clothes damp from sweat and rain, fusing to her body like a second skin. She shivered. Her fingers closed around the knife in her hand, the blade glinting under a pink neon pawn shop sign.
A Seed reaction to an unfamiliar place, but she wasn’t Seed anymore.
Her heart still beat wildly emulating the resonating puddles by her feet. From her place in the shadows she listened for footsteps, for skitting metal of a kicked can, an angry voice. Nothing.
She breathed out and slid into the neon light.
An overwhelming feeling of desperation pulsed and joined with the heaviness her stomach. A glance at her surroundings confirmed her suspicions that she was somewhere she didn’t want to be.
North Deling was a shit hole. An image that had practically rammed down her throat by staff at the Galbadia Hotel. They even had a sign in the lobby, not exactly those words, more advising you to keep valuables out of sight and to lock your car doors.
Not that she paid much attention, just wanting to have a hot shower and something to eat. Three months without luxuries was way too long. She had let the shower wash away the traces of the past and changed into a fresh set of clothes from her canvas rucksack.
The hotel restaurant was unashamedly pastel peach and reminded her of Zell’s Ma’s living room curtains. Waiters ignored her as they weaved their way potted palms to serve guests already seated.
She was seated behind a large fern and studied the leather bound menu.
The tranquil ambiance rudely interrupted by a man she had never met. He yelled at her and started to vault tables to cross the room. Sensing danger, she had palmed a steak knife from a neighbouring table.
All she could do was run until searing pain crept up her calves and she had to slow, hearing nothing but her own panting breath.
Without concealing her knife she jogged down the alley, sticking to the shadows.
One foot caught behind the other in her haste and she fell forward onto the stone, hands first, the vibrations powering up her arms as she landed. She watched in dismay as the knife left her grip and skidded away into the dark.
Out the corner of her eye she saw a light that was unlike the street lamps or the neon signs. She gingerly rose to her feet and keeping to the shadows hobbled in the direction of the light.
“Be careful” Squall’s voice hissed in her head. “Remember the Seed regulations.”
For once his voice helpful rather than a hindrance.
She had no idea how long it took to get there, just followed the deep bass beat that felt like it was coming from the centre of the earth.
Her foot slipped at the pavement fell away to her left, revealing stone steps, which lead to a heavy wooden door. A slit half way up that looked like a post box was too high for her to look into.
A high pitched squeak grabbed her attention. A wooden sign with blurred lettering was being beaten back and forth like a rubber ball. She managed to piece together the letters. The Last Resort.
The door flew open and a bearded man in a crumpled suit rushed outside. He was shaking his fist at the door and shouting in a language that was unfamiliar.
A piece of white paper fluttered to the ground as he passed her.
Her heart was back in her throat. The anticipation she used to get before a mission, when she used to get so nervous she would throw up, but was three years ago. At that second she stepped forwarded and slithered between the door and the frame. It slammed shut behind her and left her in darkness. She followed the bass beat down the slight slope of the damp corridor.
The music gathered more coherence the further she walked; reminding her of the heavy rock that Zell used to play when he was training. She smiled as she hit the dull light.
The room was virtually empty, only a few people waiting to get served at the bar by a red haired man with dreadlocks and a body to match Raijin.
Round dark wood tables placed in no particular order around the room were adorned with overflowing ashtrays and empty pint glasses. The music coming from a fully amped up juke box at the far side of the room under some scary looking gothic style lamps. They were the only light in the place, all natural light blocked out by thick black curtains.
She turned to the left, a small door catching her attention, men filtering in and out. A beat of indecision extinguished, she followed two men down the steps into the dark and realised where everyone had gone
Crowds filled out the stands surrounding a rectangular sunken pit. Two women in nothing more than bikini’s raked the sand. She couldn’t recognise a single language; they all amalgamated together into a big jumble of babbling. She didn’t recognise any nationality either. It seamed that every type of person on the planet had crammed themselves into the basement to watch whatever spectacle this was.
Flaming torches loomed at each corner of the pit, casting ugly shadows. The smell of greasy food only just overwhelmed the sweat of men in wrinkled open shirts that showed unpleasantly damp chest hair or others in business suits who looked like frequented the bar for business lunches and stayed for the entertainment.
Selphie hid in the shadows to avoid being shoved into a table occupied by bearded men in cowboy hats and to be mistaken for entertainment. She looked around the bar and observed men in sharp black suits weave their way through the audience to the punters who were waving rolls of cash in the air. They removed immaculate notebooks from their pockets, wrote the bets and placed the notes into leather wallets. So professional and organised, not a low budget outfit by all accounts.
On the wall next to the pit, white name plaques were being placed seductively on the scoreboard by the two women.
The crowd whistled and hollered, probably the only flesh that they had seen up close in years they didn’t have to pay for.
The noise slowly descended to nothing as two men stepped into the pit. They were both wearing long shorts, showing torso’s sculptured by training. They faced each other with their hands outstretched, comparing glares and poker faces. The women appeared again and started to wrap white tape slowly around their hands.
The compare lifted the men’s arm when he said their names. Selphie couldn’t catch them over the cat calling, but from her position in the shadows, she could see that one was blonde and the other has a pair of black Angel Wings tattooed on his back and towered over the other by at least a foot.
Angel Wings took first strike, a hefty right hook to the side of the blonds face.
It met its mark, forcing him to stagger backwards with pain and surprise, before smirking and wiping his split lip with the back of his hand.
She saw him mouth some words and Angel Wings jab with his right hand out of anger. The result hitting nothing but air as the blonde slipped past, using the momentum to twist his bodyweight away before pounding his opponent’s side until he buckled and fell off balance, open to a left cross to the face.
His nose shattered, blood sprayed over his chest.
Spatter landed on the sand. The crowd cheered.
They ducked and weaved, parrying the odd kick to the thigh, the blonde leaning forward to grab Angel Wings in a headlock. Angel Wings slid to avoid, landing a one, two to the gut and a hook to the eye. The force split the skin, blood cascaded down the blonde’s face temporarily blinding him.
He staggered, eye bulging, bare feet raking through the sand. The crowd collectively inhaled.
He waited in the silence, whirling around as soon as he heard a noise, kicking his opponent’s knees. As the opponent bucked, he grabbed Angel Wings in a headlock and delivered two jabs to the face before dropping him on the sand.
Angel Wings, who feigned the drop, was already winding his arm, and narrowing his eyes, his face becoming redder by the second.
A cartoon sprang to mind as Angel Wings threw an uncontrolled haymaker; it was swiftly parried by an open handed block, then an uppercut to the stomach that lifted Angel Wings at least an inch off the floor and a left hook to the temple.
Angel Wings dropped and lay still. The crown finally exhaled, but remained silent. The whole thing was over in minutes.
“That all you’ve got?”
The blonde spat blood onto the sand and kicked his opponent.
Selphie, from her corner heard the voice exuded authority and sneer at the same time. It sounded oddly familiar.
The referee walked over and look the pulse of the fallen opponent, then raised his hand. The crowd cheered.
The room had mostly cleared when Selphie crept from her hiding place. She saw the blonde in a dark corner talking to a short rotund man. She edged closer. His resemblance to a gorilla appearing to overcompensate for the lack of hair on his head. He passed over a small damp looking roll of cash. The blond practically snatched it out of his hand, undid the roll and counted it slowly. He touched every piece as if someone would dare cheat him.
“It’s all there” he simpered, his voice as slick as his hair.
“Better had be”
Again the sneer was pronounced. Selphie followed him upstairs to confirm her suspicions.
The blonde stuffed the roll roughly into the pocket of his shorts and sauntered over to one of the round tables at the edge of the room. He pulled up a chair that screeched across the floor and sat down.
He frowned and started to unwind the blood spattered tape from around his hands.
She watched at the red-haired waiter crossed the room in the blonde’s direction, holding a bottle of beer.
“I’ll take that” She said, grabbing it out of his hand “I’m an old friend.”
The waiter let it go with surprise.
The song on the juke box changed to a ballad as she weaved around the drunks and the now bored or disappointed business men.
She slid into an empty seat at the table. He didn’t look up, even when the bottle of liquid was violently placed in front of his face.
“Hello Seifer, it’s been a while”
He looked up and blinked a couple of times. She noticed the puffiness of an impending bruise around his left eye and a ragged cut. Small globules of congealed blood clung to his split lip. He looked flushed, even more so that when he fought with his precious gun blade.
His eyes were full of questions. She slowly realised that he didn’t recognise her.
It had been five years, but she was sure she hadn’t changed that much. True, she was soaking wet, her hair was longer and she must have an older looking face, but this was annoying. How could he not remember her?
She scrunched up her face.
“Quit being such a meenie”
She regretted the regression as soon as she said it.
Finally. She rolled her eyes.
“How the hell did you find me?”
Not the reaction she’d hoped for. She smiled sweetly, and took the bottle from the table. He glared with disgust as she downed it in four long gulps and put it back in front of him.
“See you around Seif”
She said, moving her chair with a screech and leaving, not looking back.
He mentally kicked himself. How could he have been so stupid. He should have ignored her. Now they’ll be back to take him in or kill him. One way or the other he would never be free again. Rage boiled under his skin. Who the hell did she think she was anyway? Turning up, ruining the semblance of normality that he’d worked so hard to build. He would have to leave and this time really he didn’t feel like it.
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