Red Revolution: Metamorphosis

Chapter Six - One Step Closer

Somehow, when I can see the light again, I know that I’m “daydreaming” again. It’s quiet. It’s too quiet. I’m lying on something hard.

I don’t like it when things start out that way.

Where exactly am I ? I thought I was in the car.

I was, wasn’t I?

I sit up and stretch myself. My back hurts a little. The ceiling is several feet above me, laced with bars and neon lights. I must be in a factory of some sort.

I crane my neck, and I notice that I’m lying down on a wooden crate. I turn my head from side to side, to gain my bearings. There are wooden crates everywhere. Many are stacked on top of each other, forming walls and alleys. It reminds me of a maze.

I slide off the box, and I accidentally shift the top. I smell something strange inside. My curiosity peeks, so I lift the top a little bit and reach inside. I end up pulling out a cigarette case. A harmless looking cigarette case.

I open it up and pull one out. I put it to my nose and sniff. It’s not tobacco. The smell is familiar… dreadfully familiar. It smells like… like... some sort of drug… it’s cannabis!

Marijuana!

But… I’ve never smelled a drug in my entire life. Haven’t I?

“Narcotics,” I whisper to myself. “Why the bloody hell am I in a narcotics factory!?”

Though to be quite honest, I could care less where I am!

I put the “cigarettes” back, and I throw the case back into the wooden box. I shove the top back in place for good measure. Then, I quickly move away and wander through a forest of cargo, trying to find a way out of this factory of death. The whole place suddenly reeks of marijuana and some other forms of drugs that I don’t want to identify.

I hear a loud noise that sounds much like a bursting tire. My eyes dart from side to side, and I duck cautiously behind the closest tower of death cargo. From a good distance, I can hear the panicked voices of several people.

“Over here!” a voice calls out.

Men are shouting and running towards some spot that’s far away. I scoot near the edge of the crate and try to take a sneaking peek around the corner. From here, it’s easy to discover what kind of people are in the factory; most of them are tall, stocky, suit-clad men who look like bouncers at nightclubs. Seven of them are dark-skinned, two are Spaniards… and then there’s a small, dapper looking man who should be at a cocktail party. Most likely the boss…

“Well, what are you standing here for?!” he shouts. “Fan out and find him!”

His accent sounds smooth yet thuggish, right out of a Godfather movie. The Mafia.

Royally buggered.

I slide away from the edge and take a deep breath, just like mother told me. There has to be some way out of here. There just has to be.

A hand clamps over my mouth. My heart skips a beat.

“Stay calm,” a voice whispers. “It’s just me.”

I roll my eyes as far as they can go, and Nicky is sitting right behind be. He puts a gloved finger to his lips and urges me to stay quiet. He takes his hand away from me and scoots back into the wooden boxes behind us. I do the same.

“How many did you see back there?” he whispers.

I surprisingly have the answer. “Twenty-one.”

Nicky pulls a small remote out of his jacket pocket. It only has one button… a large, red one.

“Stand up,” he commands hastily.

I scramble to my feet, and he gets up as well. He rubs his thumb over the remote.

“Five questions, my friend,” he says. “Five.”

“I beg your pardon?” I respond.

“Five questions, and you will know what everyone is hiding from you.”

Upon hearing this, I perk up my ears. Nicky peaks around the corner of the tower and slips back into hiding. He reaches over and clutches my wrist. He places his thumb on the red button of the remote. The voices are coming a little closer.

He squeezes my wrist and leans close. I hear someone shouting incoherently.

“When I count to five,” he says. “I’m going to push this button, and we’re going to run like hell.”

I nod reluctantly, and I feel my heart pounding in my throat. Nicky takes a deep breath and counts.

“One… two…”

The voices are coming a bit closer by now, but they’re far enough away. Nicky holds up the remote with his eye on the button. He grins devilishly, and my hair stands on end. I gulp almost audibly and start thinking of Psalms 23. Some of the voices have gone off into different directions, but others are moving ever closer.

“Three… four…”

“The bastard’s still here!” the boss shouts again. “Come on! Move it! He can’t be that hard to find.”

“Five!” Nicky sings and pushed the red button. The factory shakes with a violent explosion; the men scream and yell in surprise. Nicky jerks me forward, nearly dislocating my arm, and leads me into a crazed dash. My adrenaline helps me to keep up. The smell of drugs is overpowered by smoke and possibly C4 powder.

C4 powder!?

Nicky makes very sharp turns, strategically weaving his way through the boxes, and I hold on tight to his hand. Another explosion (much closer this time) almost knocks me face first onto the floor; it’s a miracle that I keep my balance. A wooden box falls in front of us and busts all over the floor, but by now, we’re in hyper drive, and I find myself leaping over it without a thought.

Finally, I can see a window up ahead and a large, wooden crate underneath it. Nicky speeds up all the more, and then, I know what’s coming.

This is going to suck…

“Brace yourself and hold your breath!” he shouts.

“Eeep!” I squeak out.

At that moment, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Nicky’s grip tightens on my hand. A third explosion shakes the ground. We jump onto the top of the box and leap. I close my eyes, and we crash right through the window and to the outside.

I expect to be stopped by the ground, but instead, I keep falling. I open my eyes to find out why, and I stifle a scream. There would be no earth to break this fall … only water. Lots and lots of water...

I remember to hold my breath, and we drop into the water together with a gaudy splash.

It’s cold! It’s really, really cold!

Nicky lets go of my hand and swims up to the surface. I’m a superb swimmer (thanks to Daddy), so I don’t have to follow my “friend” immediately (not that I want to). From underneath the water, I can still see the building going up in smoke. Debris is falling into the water, all around me. I watch a piece of wood float to the bottom, and I can see some fish swimming away out of the way.

Finally, I swim up to the surface and gasp. Nicky is laughing in mirth and amusement. I am angry. I am bloody angry...

“And that’s why you should just say ‘no’ to drugs!” he quotes.

I scowl and let my mouth sink under the water. I suck some of it into my mouth, and it tastes very salty; I must be in some ocean or sea. I look around, and I see a large boulder in the distance, protruding out of the water.

“What’s the matter?” Nicky asks cluelessly.

I raise my head and spit water into his face. I turn around and swim for the rock by myself.


A few minutes later, Nicky and I are sitting comfortably on the rock. I’ve refused to look at him for the whole time. A sailboat is floating towards us in the distance. As a result of being in so much water, my hair has lost all of its spikiness and it’s practically covering my face. I had no idea it was so long.

“Ah, come on,” he pouts. “Don’t tell me you’re still mad. I just wanted to get your heart pumping…”

“Well excuse me if I want my heart beating at a normal pace!” I retort.

Nicky chuckles and snakes an arm around me. I flinch.

“I like you,” he murmurs. “So simple …”

I stick up my nose and huff in reply. He simpers on.

“You’d better be nicer to me,” he declared. “Otherwise, I might not tell you … those five questions …”

At once, my indignation disappears. Nicky see the change in mood and grins with a set of very white teeth.

“That’s better …”

The sailboat is closer now, almost at a short swimming range. Nicky waves his arms in the air, possibly to get the pilot’s attention. The boat keeps coming, and he clears his throat. He counts on his fingers.

“One,” Nicky starts, “What kind of business does “the Madame” run and what services does it provide? Two … who are those people in that manor and from where did they all come from? Three … what is waiting for you at the Manhattan address and why? Four, how are your parents and the Madame connected?”

My parents?

The sailboat is so close that I can now see a woman and two men on the boat. They shout in victory, and Nicky blows them an exaggerated kiss.

“Burn, baby!” the woman cheers. “Burn!”

“I love you too, guys!” Nicky cries.

For some reason, I can’t help but quiver in excitement, even at the morbidness of it all. But then, I remember the subject at hand and grab at Nicky’s shirt.

“And five?” I ask.

“Five?” he replies. “Ah, five … the most important question of all. Five … five … five …”

“And?” I urge impatiently.

“Who is Nicoli?”

The last question strikes me. Nicky’s eyes travel back towards the boat, and the three people are beckoning him to come.

“But don’t I know that?” I question.

Nicky smirks unpleasantly, and I shrink away.

“Yes … that’s right,” he answers. “You already know …”


And then, the vision quickly falls away—no—it feels more like it’s being ripped away. Gradually, the air becomes warmer and warmer, and I’m bone dry again. The rock isn’t under me anymore, and it feels as if I’m not sitting on anything … as if… I’m being carried.

Yes, yes... someone is carrying me. A pair of very, strong arms is carrying me. I relax and enjoy the ride. The side of my face is resting in something smooth and silky. It smells… like Mum.

It calms me down right away.

Yes, just like Mum. It reminds me of the times that she would carry me piggyback in Cape Town, not far from the vineyards I grew up next to. We always went through the same path in the woods. When we reached our destination, the housemaid would have gone ahead of us and prepared a fancy picnic.

I can taste the grapes already...

But during that walk, my only concern would be Mum’s impressively strong arms and the scent of her hair... and occasionally, the distant smell of baboons.

I’ve been told that my hair smells exactly the same as hers. I remember that it was an unearthly scent. The aroma of a flower from heaven... that’s what Dad called it. I smile at the wonderful memory, and a good feeling washes over me. I consider going to sleep.

“Why is he riding piggyback?!” a voice grouses. “What about all the times you’ve woken me up during a trip? Why didn’t you carry me? I’ve known you longer!”

“That’s because I like him better than you,” another voice replied.

My eyes flash open, and I finally become aware of my surroundings. I smell water. I hear people chattering in the distance.

From what I can tell, my posse must have finally boarded the ferry to Manhattan. How long have I been out!

Reno is standing a few feet from me, and I appear to be elevated over him. He’s frowning at first, but when he notices that I’m out of my spell, his expression softens. In his arms, he’s cradling the long metal container that Seph-chan had brought.

And then, I turn my head and realize that the person carrying me is tall … with platinum hair … with two, green, catlike eyes ... and a Cheshire grin ...

FU—!

“So the Princess finally returns from Lala land,” he declares.

“Put me down!” I shout. “Put me down! What are you doing? Do I look like I’m five!?”

“You’re drooling like one.”

I put my hand to my mouth and find that I am indeed.

Somebody kill me, please.

“I don’t drool!” Marlene protests.

“It doesn’t apply to you,” Reno answers. “You’re not normal.”

Marlene sticks out her red lapdog’s tongue. Seph-chan caters to my demand and kneels down. I frantically climb off of his back. Reno hands him the metal tube, and he hangs it around his shoulder again.

“But I was driving a moment ago, wasn’t I?” I asked. “What happened?”

“You feel asleep as soon as you parked the car,” Reno said. “Fine time to have a mind-screw—”

“For the last time, Reno,” my companion deadpans, “please shut your mouth.”

Mind-screw?

I have a glance around, and I see that there are no chairs on the ferry. Only a few occupied benches in the middle. People are everywhere. There are no windows, only open space, and the rail is very close to us.

From a distance, Tifa and Elena are leaning against it together. Elena has a dirty look on her face and tries to speak to Tifa, who is insisting on ending their argument. However, when the girls see that I’m back to normal, Tifa pushes herself off the rail and makes her way back to the group. Elena follows, still jabbering away.

“Who knew that true friendship could be threatened in the face of Robert Cavali, Chanel, and Juicy Couture,” Seph-chan ponders in wonder.

“Don’t forget Versace, Prada, and Oscar de la Renta,” Reno adds.

“You’re fashion literate?” I ask in surprise.

Reno’s head sinks. “My mom made me go shopping with her.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Marlene replies callously. “Mummy made us shopping with her too… and Cloud says he likes it…”

Reno and Seph-chan grimace at me, making me feel quite small.

Oooooh, that sister of mine …

I feel a tug at my jacket. Tifa clears her throat and takes out a thing of Dramamine from her purse.

“You need this?” she asks.

“No,” I reply. “I have sea legs.”

Tifa nods in relief and puts it back.

Beside her, Elena is giving me a strange look. She stands akimbo before the entire group. There’s a hard, suspicious look in her eyes.

“Who are you anyway?” Elena asks.

“I-I’m nobody,” I reply firmly. “I promise.”


Two minutes later, the ferry docks at the harbor and dumps us onto the streets of Manhattan. Marlene becomes giddy and almost uncontrollable.

I didn’t know what to expect from the city, so I’m not sure whether it’s excitingly pleasing or a total letdown. This part of the borough seems to be older; the buildings are old-fashioned, and the ferry port looks like something out of a historical novel.

“So, do we take a taxi bus, the subway, or what?” Reno asks.

“Don’t we usually walk when we come here?” Elena recalls.

“I can do walking,” I hear myself say.

The Manhattan address and the key are still tucked away in my pocket. Yes, walking would be good. That way, I can sneak off when no one’s looking and make a quick getaway on a taxi…

I’d be down the block before anyone realizes I’m gone.

“Of course we should walk,” Tifa decided. “Elena needs to burn some calories so she can fit into her Cavali gown.”

Elena puts her arm around Tifa and giggles. “Too bad it won’t do anything for your boobs. Maybe you really should tell your brain to stop sending hormones before they explode …”

“You’ve been listening to Seph for too long!”

They both laugh and lead the way, and I raise an eyebrow in disbelief.

“The sanity of women is fleeting,” I declare.

“Scratch that,” Seph-chan replies. “It’s nonexistent altogether.”

“I like ‘em anyhow,” Reno leers.

And so, we venture forth.


After a long jaunt into the city and another two hours of visiting random shops, I find myself sitting in the infamous two-story boutique of Cavali on 5th Avenue.

We wait in anticipation.

On the second floor, Elena is in the dressing room, trying out the gown she’s so worked up about. When I first set my sights on the thing (which is apparently being passed off as a dress), I find it to be overly colored and gaudy. I sit at the couch and wisely make no comment.

Reno wrinkles his nose, unwisely calling Elena colorblind, and earns a sharp tap on the back of his skull.

In the far corner, Marlene is currently attempting to bond with Tifa through shopping. Tifa is eyeing the trendy blouses hanging on the racks but is making no attempt to claim them.

Such a shame too because she’d probably kill in them …

Seph-chan is currently devouring a book. Reno is leaning against a pole, sulking over the pain in the back of his head. I feel a bit sorry for him ... but he got what he deserved.

“By the way …” I ask him, “When ran into the garage … why did you say you and Elena … were ‘fugitives’?”

Reno looks at me funny, not quite remembering, until his face lights up. And then it darkens.

“They’re pissed off at us,” he said, “Because we stood up for you.”

“Oh,” I recall. “Sorry about that …”

“Forget it,” Reno says gruffly. “It’s funny … Zack’s usually down-to-earth, but he’s been teed off ever since he heard that you were coming …”

Reno looks away, and I don’t try to pry any further. I glance at the book in my companion’s hands and notice that it's a collection of short stories from Edgar Allan Poe.

Lovely.

“Your reading choice …” I begin, “is superb…”

“Thank you,” he responds.

Elena emerges from the dressing stall. The dress looks better now that it has a form, but I still think it’s gaudy. Tifa clenches her teeth.

“It looks good,” Elena said slowly, “But it’s hard to walk. And I think it makes me look fat …”

I scoff at the irony.

“You could always get a bigger size and tailor it then,” Seph-chan advises.

“Ooooo, exclusive!” Elena cooed. “I like that idea.”

Elena instructs the saleswoman to get her a bigger size. Seph-chan shakes his head and crawls back into the depths of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Marlene slips away from the racks of Technicolor nightmare and comes to me with beady eyes. She gestures for me to bend down to her level.

“I need to go to the bathroom,” she whispers sheepishly.

I nod and get up from my seat, taking her by the hand. I ask one of the saleswomen where the bathroom is, and she points me over to a corner on the first floor. While going down the steps, I notice that Reno has stolen my spot.

Cheater.

A blond salesgirl smiles at us as we pass by the cash register. Marlene sees the bathroom and lets my hand go, racing towards it with her feet kicking behind her. I follow behind as she turns the doorknob with her tiny hands and slides in through the crack. I shake my head and lean against the wall.

And then, the thought occurs to me. Everyone else is upstairs. I’m alone with Marlene. The front door is very close. I’m patting the apartment key involuntarily.

This is my chance!

I take a quick look at the stairs to see if anyone is coming down. The toilet flushes in the bathroom, and the sink turns on. The blonde is busy filing her nails.

Marlene steps out of the bathroom and holds out her hands to prove that she washed them.

“All done?” I ask.

She nods confidently, and I take her by the hand again. However, when she realizes that we’re going towards the door instead the stairs, she becomes curious.

“Aren’t we going the wrong way?” Marlene questions.

“No,” I answer. “We’re going in the way I intend to go.”

Marlene opens her mouth in a perfect O and covers it.

“Are we ditching them?” she whispers mischievously.

I turn to her, intending on softening the truth. But a disturbingly evil smile slaps itself on my face, showing my fangs.

“Yes!” I reply quietly.

Her eyes expand, but she doesn’t complain in the least. Our walking pace becomes faster, and we sneak out the door. I look behind to see if anyone has noticed. With the coast clear, I let go of the door and walked away from the boutique. Marlene squeezes my hand.

The city looks much larger than it was before I had stepped into the boutique. My heart thumps in my chest, and I wander further away from Cavali, pulling my sister with me.

It feels as if I’m defecting from the army.

“Where are we going?” she asks innocently.

“We’re going sleuthing, sweet love,” I reply, “Sleuthing.”

A taxi drives by, and I wave my arm to hail it. It stops, and we rush towards it. I open the door wide and allow Marlene get in first. Before I get in myself, I look back towards the shop again. No one is coming for me. I’m still all clear.

The confusion’s behind me, and the adventure’s just up ahead.

New Jersey is very far away.


About ten minutes later, in a section that looks plainly residential, our female taxi driver stops the cab at a neighborhood of apartments and tells us that we’ve arrived. I open my wallet and pay the lady, adding an extra tip on the end. Marlene unbuckles her seatbelt and pops the door open on her side, so I’m obliged to slide after her.

Before shutting the door, I poke my head in and say, “Thanks for the ‘quick-like-a-bunny’ drive, miss.”

“Pleasure’s all mine, cutie,” the driver replies, with a wink. “Have a good one.”

I feel a flush coming on my face. I back out of the car and shut the door... immediately. The cab takes off, joining the sea of cars, quickly and thankfully disappearing from my sight.

I take Marlene by the hand again and turn to face the building. The very tall, very large, very shiny building. It looks so much more like some swanky business condominium than some random apartment complex. I look around for a street sign, wondering if we’ve come to the right place. Just to make sure, I read the address on the paper again.

Unlike much of New York City (the few that I’ve seen) and its buildings, this particular complex has a wall built around its grounds, with a metal entrance in front of us. There’s a ceiling that resembles the side of a greenhouse; it’s built on top of the wall and into the side of the building.

“Is this it?” Marlene questions. Her head is tilted all the way back, looking straight up.

I respond with a simple shrug. Marlene repeats the action with a smile.

She somehow frees her hand from my grasp and marches onto a set of steps, heading straight for door. I try to keep up with her.

“Keep close to me, darling,” I warn her. “I hear New York City can be quite wild.”

Marlene comes to the front door and tries to pull on the handle. It appears to be locked. She pulls harder on the door, to no avail. I notice that there is a small, rectangular slot near the handle. A keyhole. I usher Marlene to step aside, and I take the key out of my pocket. The shape is just right.

I slide the key into the slot, and a green light flickers above it. I hear a click, and the door swings wide upon, nearly smacking me in the face. Marlene walks through the threshold, and I follow after, shutting the door behind us.

A concrete path leads up to the real front entrance. Flanking each side of the path and all around the building, there’s a well-manicured lawn and handful of bushes and large trees. A few stone tables are standing in strategic places, and some people are sitting at them, enjoying a snack.

“Are you sure this is it?” Marlene asks again.

“How on earth should I know?” I answer honestly.

I notice, as we go towards the door, that the people are turning to look at us... or just me. Their stares follow me all the way down the path. Maybe, I’m fresh meat…

Marlene squeezes my hand and whimpers. The door is now within my reach, so I yank it open and usher Marlene through. As I pass through the door and enter the lobby, I can still feel their eyes boring into me before the door swings shut. I breathe a heavy sigh of relief.

But as soon as I walk deeper into the lobby, I’m eyed once again by a small group of people at a sitting area. And just as quickly, they avert their eyes and go about their own business. The elevator signs are up ahead, and my sister loosens her grip on my hand. I pull out the address again to make sure I have the apartment number right.

“We’re going all the way to the eightieth floor,” I speak softly.

“That’s really far up,” Marlene whines.

“Tell me about it...”

Out of nowhere, a hand reaches out and taps me on the shoulder. I feel myself jump at the sudden contact, and the hand withdraws. A small voice squeaks, and I turn to look. The voice murmurs an apology... in Japanese.

“So sorry,” a girl coos. “Excuse my manners.”

I’m suddenly standing face to face with a tiny, Japanese girl, dressed in a purple yukata. She bowed her head low. Marlene lets go of me. The girl raises her head slightly, letting me see her eyes, and she gives me a weak smile.

“You’re the son of the late Dr. and Mrs. Strife, are you not?” she declared.

“Yes,” I reply. “And who are...”

The girl drops her head again, but this time, her smile becomes larger. With more cunning. With more confidence.

“How rude of me!” she chirps. “My family name is Kisaragi, and my given name is Yuffie. I am the daughter of Godo Kisaragi, who leads our clan. I come from Monbetsu in the Abashiri Subprefecture of island of Hokkaido... it is my humble honor to stand in your presence.”

The long introduction leaves me—for lack of a better word—flabbergasted. Not for the sheer length of it, mind you... but if I recall quite correctly, the formula of this introduction is... is...

“Ojou-sama!” another voice bellows in the distance. “What are you doing?”

I feel myself tensing once again. Yuffie rolls her eyes, does a dramatic, 180-degree turn, and prepares herself for whatever is coming our way. I train my eyes to see what exactly she’s looking at, and I see a small hoard of bodyguards. Dapper, scary looking bodyguards. A couple of them have scars on their faces.

A dead give away.

When they come close enough to be dangerous, one of them opens their mouths and scolds her.

“What do you think you are doing?” the man bellows in Japanese. “We are late for the meeting!”

“No shouting!” Yuffie snaps in a low voice. “This is a high class establishment... and do you have any idea who you are speaking in front of...”

“Ojou-sama,” he continues (completely undaunted), “We are in dangerous times, and so you must not tarry anywhere. And your father has specifically told you not to mingle with riffraff!”

...

What did he just call me?

Riffraff?

"I don't want to hear that..." I hiss, "coming from a man who's obviously some Yakuza thug..."

Yuffie steps forward and slaps him across the face. He stumbles backwards.

“As I was saying,” she interrupts. “Do you have any idea who are speaking with, you fools? This is the son of Dr. Jiro Strife! The scientist!”

Her bodyguards freeze, and some of them drop their jaws. I blink involuntarily. Marlene throws out her raspberry.

What’s the matter? Yes, my father was Dr. Jiro Strife. Yes, he was a scientist... and a genius in biotechnology, if I’m allowed to say so. So, what’s big deal?

Yuffie turns back to me and bows again. “Please forgive their rudeness. I don’t know what to do with them sometimes.”

The men join her and bow even lower.

“Why didn’t you just say so?” one of them mutters.

“So, as an apology,” Yuffie declares, “My men and I will escort and protect you as long as you stay inside this building.”

“Uh...” I reply.

The formerly outspoken bodyguard raises his head, hesitantly this time, and clears his throat.

“But Ojou-sama,” he says quietly. “The meeting.”

Yuffie’s head shoots up, and her eyes sharpen. In a flash, she puts on a dreadfall, domineering sneer and grapples the man in a half-nelson. She reaches into the folds of her yukata, whips out a concealed dagger, and points it into his face.

“We are going to escort him, are we not?” she says.

“Y-yes, Ojou-sama,” he stammers. “Of course.”

Yuffie gently lets him go, and he takes a few steps back, gasping. She slips the dagger back into her kimono and smiles sweetly.

“All settled?” she asks innocently.

“So, you really are Yakuza?!” I cry.

Yuffie shrugs. “Well, you did say it was obvious.”

My body starts to tremble, but I do my best to smile. Okay, I can do this. I can handle this—I think.

“There is no need to be afraid,” she assures me. “It’s not like we’re any different.”

What?

“I beg your pardon?” I answer.

“So, the rumors are true then,” Yuffie observes. “Dr. Strife kept you completely isolated from our world.”

What the hell?

She claps her hands together with a carefree air that leaves me speechless. “Well, it doesn’t matter, you’ll figure it out soon enough. For now, let’s help you get set up.”

Yuffie takes me by the arm, and despite my trepidation, she leads me forward. Marlene keeps close to me. The bodyguards surround us. I suppress the urge to laugh nervously.

“And who might you be?” Yuffie sings in English, looking down at my sister.

Marlene looks away shyly. “I’m Marlene.”

“You’re imouto-chan?” she asks me.

I nod briefly.

“Well, that’s alright then,” Yuffie says. “In normal circumstances, we would have to get her a pass. You can’t get past the third floor without one... except for you.”

“Me?”

“That’s because you’ve got special privileges.”

Marlene cheers up a little upon hearing the phrase. “Are we like VIP’s or something?”

“Is that because I’m Dr. Strife’s son?” I inquire.

Yuffie softens her composure a little, and she giggles.

Good. I suppose she’s somewhat normal.

“Not just that,” she answers, “It’s because you belong to Madame Luciano. Dr. Strife was her favorite scientist. That’s why.”

At her words, I realize I’m beginning to understand now.

I don’t like the fact that I’m completely surrounded by criminals. Nor do I favor the idea that it may be very a bad influence on my sister. But nevertheless, at the very least, I’m one step closer to finding out the truth. That should count for something, right?

Marlene taps my arm and hums for my attention. She simpers gruesomely and asks in simple Japanese:

“So Daddy was part of the mob?”

I wish Dad hadn’t taught us the language.

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