[fic] The Things You Never Knew About People - Roadtrip (9/12) pt 2

Title: The Things You Never Knew About People - Roadtrip, pt 2
Status: 9/12 (plus two epilogues)
Fandom: FF7
Rating: PG
Summary: Oh, I just told them to fuck their moms.
A/N: This was too long to be one post, oh man.

Part One

--

While Elena didn't kill Reno, it was a near thing.

Elena was fuming as she gestured at the dress. It fit her well, and Rude was proud his eye had been right, but knew better than to say anything. "I don't fucking believe you're making me wear this," she said, sounding mildly disgusted. "Would it have killed you to find something with sleeves?! I'm going to fucking freeze--"

"Hey, I got you a coat, too, yo!"

"--and if this slit went any higher, I might as well not be wearing this!" she yelled, ignoring Reno's defensive interjection.

"Not wearing it works for me. Body like that, naked will work," Reno said with a cheerful leer.

Elena was fast, Rude would give her that. But Reno was faster, so the leftover chopstick she ran over and snatched off the table then tried to stab through Reno's hand only ended up embedded in the table where his hand had been.

At this rate, Rude thought approvingly, one of these days she might actually manage to get out of trainee hell.

--

The Yang residence was the largest compound in all of Taoyuan, one that didn't surprise them at all. It was a large, sprawling area, clearly the residence of the rulers of the city. The Yang ruled Taoyuan completely, that much had become very obvious quickly. This was a mafioso city, and everyone there knew it.

"Anyone screw up, an' we ain't fucked, we're dead," Reno said flatly, before they entered, and Rude and Elena nodded. Rude wondered, then, if it was the pressure of the Yang residency that made Reno act as he did whenever he came from meeting with the higher-level Yang family members. It had, he thought, to be more than the slightest bit nerve wracking. Reno was a good fighter, but he had to know when even he was meeting impossible odds, and being found out in the Yang family compound--a slipped word, something going wrong with the wire, his makeup wiping off--would have meant his death. Anyone would be jumpy and on edge in and immediately after that kind of situation. "So just smile, eat, an' don't say nothin', you got me?" he said, looking straight at Elena.

"Yeah, I got you," she said, narrowing her eyes. "Dumb, blonde bimbo, remember? No one's going to talk to me anyway, just ogle me in this," she said, looking at her dress in disgust.

"Why d'you think I picked it?" Reno said with a grin, and buzzed the gate for entrance.

--

Rude had gotten used to having to stand for a long time and being ignored--it was his role as bodyguard. However, standing and watching as everyone else ate sucked pretty hard.

Reno owed him a pizza and a round for this.

Elena gave him a sympathetic look, but that didn't stop her eyes from nearly falling out at the first round of food placed before her. "Oh, I barely know where to start!" she let out, and the sheer joy in her voice really made Rude hope she was stuck in Trainee Hell for a few more years. She dug right into the food, probably figuring it was safer than trying to make small-talk and that this way, she wouldn't risk letting anything slip.

That, and the food looked amazing. The joyful sound Elena made when she took a bite didn't help Rude's bad mood.

"Like it that much, babe?" Reno said with a leer. "Usually I don't hear that noise from you at a banquet."

"Oh, Lee, stop embarrassing me!" she said with a pout, but Rude didn't miss the way her hands tightened on the chopsticks. "This food is so wonderful!" she said to Hu, one of the men Reno had met with several times over the course of the month, who was sitting next to Reno. "I've never had Wutai food this good in Midgar!"

Hu scoffed. "Oh course not. It's Midgar. They can only manage pale imitations of Wutai's glory, after all," he said, a smug smile on his face. "Midgar is still a place trying to be Wutai. Why else would you still use the number wuzi that were used by the Imperial Court of Wutai and brought over when Wutai ruled that continent long ago?"

Reno grinned. "I figure they're just kind of stuck. Don't use 'em that much, other than for sectors and trains."

"Ah, but what of the ShinRa company, which even now proclaims its name in Wutai in its very logo? ShinRa wants nothing more than an empire as vast as Wutai's once was, which is why Wutai was so important for that company to subjugate. When you can not properly emulate, all that is left is to destroy that which taunts you, like a child breaking its toys."

Reno said something in Wutai and raised his glass, as did Hu. "But," he said, switching back into Standard, "it is ShinRa's world now. Which is why we gotta play nice with what's beyond just Wutai."

"For now, perhaps. But all empires fall. And when they fall...we will still be here," Hu said with a faint smile. "But no unpleasantness. I know your home is Midgar and your mother...well. We must adapt," Hu said, and Reno gave him a tight smile, but nodded.

Hu raised his voice slightly, leaning over towards Elena. "Tell me, Miss Erdmann, what have you thought of our Taoyuan? Very few outsiders come here."

"It's lovely," she said, giving Hu a plastic smile. "I did so much shopping. My friends will be so jealous. And I saw so many cute little places! I just wish I could have seen more, but Lee was busy and didn't like me traveling alone," she said with a pout. "Most of my trip here was spent cramped up in a hotel room."

"Oh, now that's a pity. The forests are truly beautiful. You leave the day after tomorrow, correct?"

Elena nodded.

"If you have a chance before you leave, might I suggest visiting one of our...special temples?"

Hu gave Reno a sideways glance, then smiled slightly and continued. "It's called the Yin Long Temple. It's one of the holiest places in Wutai, and so hidden that even when ShinRa destroyed our country, it was left standing. Yin Long guards his home and the secrets within it still, after all," Hu said, a secretive little smile on his face. "It's not far from here, in the forests between here and Jiuyuan."

"Jiuyuan?" Elena said, blinking. "I...I don't remember seeing that name in my guidebooks, other than something about the Quanlu road. Or anything about the Yin Long Temple...."

Hu smiled. "That is because it is a holy place, Ms. Erdmann. It is a treasure of Wutai, and we have kept it hidden well, lest ShinRa destroy one of the few things we have left to feel pride in."

Rude blinked, something clicking into place. Suddenly, things made sense; why this whole region was shrouded in such bland mediocrity in the East, and why everyone had glared so strongly at he and Elena. This place was protected by the Wutai; they were a threat simply by being there.

It made him wonder what other places the Wutai hid, and how they managed it, after ten years of warfare and five years of occupation. And why it was that ShinRa had been determined to take over Wutai, and yet had left it so undeveloped and backwater. It made no sense at all; nothing about Wutai had ever made sense, but Rude knew better than to ever ask questions. Information may have been his job, and because of that he knew that sometimes, there was information it was better not to have because of the consequences of the seeking or the having.

Hu turned and said something suddenly to Reno in Wutai. He could pick out a few words, but he wasn't entirely sure of them as it was, just because there were so many tones. Words that sounded the exact same to him were, according to Reno, completely different because of their intonation, and it was utterly beyond him. Reno nodded and soon enough paper and pencil were produced and Hu was drawing something out for Reno, directions maybe, and Rude couldn't wait until they were back home.

--

"What are we doing today?" Elena asked, poking at her breakfast.

"No plans. Just waitin' to hear from Lao Hu, then gettin' ready to leave tomorrow morning," Reno said, pausing briefly in his all-out attack on his own food. "An' if you ain't gonna eat that, pass it over."

"We should go to that temple," Elena said suddenly as she handed Reno the bowl.

"The temple?" Rude said, sounding surprised. "The one Mr. Hu mentioned last night? Yin Long Temple?"

She nodded. "Yeah. They...That Hu guy said it's something the Wutai have been hiding from ShinRa, and..." She trailed off, sounding slightly embarrassed, her cheeks pinking faintly. "It seemed like a good idea."

"It is," Rude said softly. "I noticed in the guidebooks that this area is...bare. There's nothing here, but to an extent that's unusual. A city this size should not be one barely anyone on the other continents know."

Reno grow slightly serious. "Yeah. That's weird, eh? I figured we had, like, every inch of this place mapped up, what with the way the SOLDIERs all practically firebombed the whole continent."

"And it's also unusual for a mafia to spring up in an area like this," Rude said, frowning slightly. "There's nothing here to cause a mafia. Mafias only spring up when there is something underground that needs governance of some sort, such as illegal trade. That's why most spring up originally in port cities. Which Taoyuan is most definitely not."

Reno frowned as well, and Elena blinked several times, her eyes wide as she began processing it.

"So they gotta be hidin' something," Reno said, and stuck a full spoon in his mouth.

"Right."

Reno's frown got deeper. "Lao Hu said somethin' 'bout it, too," he said from around the spoon, then took it out and swallowed. "Said if I was a Yang then I needed to go to the temple. I dunno what he could mean by that, but it's gotta have somethin' to do with the Yang syndicate. Weird runnin' it out a temple, but seein' as don't nobody know about, it could be a good cover."

"So we should investigate," Rude said softly. "Good call, Elena," he said with a nod, and Elena looked oddly proud of herself.

Reno couldn't let that one stand, it seemed. "Hope you got sturdy shoes," he said, giving Elena a grin. "'Cause looks like we got some hikin' in the middle of the forest with no clear paths to do."

--

Elena didn't have good hiking shoes, so she made them wait in a shoe store as she tried to find herself a pair of boots. Reno got fidgety and bored after ten minutes, and Rude found his attention wandering after twenty, and they went into another store to buy food for the trek.

"What's that?" Rude said as something caught his eye, and pointed to a bin full of something small and individually wrapped.

Reno picked out out and frowned at the writing, and then snickered. "Man, how do you do that? You got some weird kind of Candy-Find Materia or somethin'?" he said with grin. "White Chocobo Creamy Candy." He rolled his eyes good-naturedly, then added a couple of pieces to their bag.

"I didn't say I wanted it," Rude said, somewhat defensively.

"Right, sure you don't," Reno said, and rolled his eyes again. Rude was trying to figure out how to respond to that, when Elena bounded in in sturdy climbing boots.

"Ready when you guys are," she said.

"We ready, or you gonna go Lure out more chocobo candy?" Reno said with a grin, and then laughed until he was holding his stomach at what Rude just assumed was the confused look on Elena's face, because he couldn't figure out what else could have set the man off like that.

--

The path leading up to the temple was more of a hike than any of them were expecting. After the third time, Reno was snarling that if he got one more tree branch in the face, he was setting the whole forest on fire, and Rude was beginning to wonder if it was all just a gold chocobo chase when Elena let out a breathless, "Freya bless!"

The temple seemed to come out of nowhere, arising out from the wilderness of the mountainous forest, almost jarringly neat and well-ordered. Rude had been expecting something closer to temple ruins than to what this was. It was like stepping into a different world, once they passed the temple gates, stepping onto the temple grounds. The place was somehow even stiller than the forest, and their breathing seemed loud as they headed into the actual Yin Long Temple.

They only saw one temple attendant, who took one look at them, grew wide-eyed, and then vanished, leaving the three of them alone in a temple.

"Well, shit," Reno let out in an impressed voice as he looked around.

"Oh, wow, look!" Elena let out, staring wide-eyed at the large statue of the god inside the temple. It was pretty damned impressive, Rude had to admit. The level of detail to the statue was stunning, down to the long hair in the style of a Wutai soldier from the Warring Era to the drape of sculpted cloth to the armor covering the statue's stomach, forearms, and shins. In his right hand, the statue held a shining black globe of what almost looked like an oversized materia and in his left a sword; his expression was wild and terrible, looking every bit the god of war. But the weird thing was that at his feet were flowers, sculpted to look as if they were springing up from his steps.

The Wutai, Rude thought, and not for the first time, were strange.

"So what's that say?" Elena said, staring at a plaque in front of the statue.

Reno frowned, and began trying to read it aloud, struggling over a few places when he tried to remember the character and outright skipping some with a "dunno that one," or "dunno that one, neither," but, Rude thought with something vaguely akin to pride, Reno could actually read a fair amount of it now, a far cry from the man who had been slumped at his desk, surrounded by books and looking lost.

"Somethin' about this guy, the Silver Dragon, Yin Long," he said, and the way he said "Yin Long" bore no relation to the way it sounded coming out of Rude's mouth. "Yin Long is, like, the Wutai war god. War and Harvest, what the fuck, like those two make sense together. Anyway he was born around here, or somethin' like that."

There was another statue, impressive in an entirely different way--it was the same Wutai god, but with two faces. "The double-headed Yin Long," Reno said, peering at the plaque. One side was making the same terrifying face as the first statue, but the second face was serene, eyes half closed and a faint smile on its face.

"I've never seen a statue like that before," Elena said, staring at it wide-eyed. "I mean...I've seen pictures of Wutai art, and saw statues in museums, on school trips, but...nothing like this."

"Nor I," Rude said. "I've never even heard of the double-headed Yin Long. Or seen a statue of the Silver Dragon like either of these."

Elena nodded. "The...the clothes are different from the statue of the Silver Dragon at the Midgar Museum of Art. He was never holding anything but a sword and you could never see his hair because of the armor. This is...this is so different, both of these."

"I've seen it before," Reno said suddenly, then clinched his jaw shut.

"When?" Elena asked, looking surprised.

"When I was kid," he said. "Nothin', I'm prolly rememberin' wrong or somethin'," he said, and shrugged. "You 'bout ready to go? That walk back ain't gonna walk itself, an' if we don't go soon, we'll get completely assbackwards lost in the forest in the dark, yo."

Rude nodded. "He's right. And there doesn't seem to be anything here but these statues."

Elena frowned. "Why would they hide statues? There has to be something else."

"Not necessarily," Rude said, pushing up his sunglasses. "You mentioned the Midgar Museum of Art...most, if not all, of its Wutai collection was taken during the war."

Elena stared at him blankly.

"This place seems to be holy, and these statues are rare. They would be worth a lot to a museum or an art collector," Rude said softly. "Most temples here have had their holy relics taken. I can see why they would want to avoid that fate here," he said, and looked back at the main statue. "That one is probably worth a sum that only President ShinRa could afford."

"...oh," Elena said, and swallowed. "Yeah...yeah, I guess I can see why they'd keep it secret, then."

"Are you done yet? I think I just grew twenty years or somethin'," Reno whined, rolling his eyes. "I slept through most of school for a reason."

"You're such a baby," Elena muttered. "And yes, we can go." She took one last look at the statues, then they headed outside. They had only just passed through the temple gates when Elena let out a sudden, "Oh shit!"

"Oh, fuck!" Reno said, and grinned. "See, I can cuss, too!"

"Oh, shut up," Elena said. "I...I, uh, just remembered. I wanted to see if I can find a good luck charm. It's a temple, they're bound to sell them. Do you mind waiting?"

Her eyes darted off to the side and back again. Rude looked over quickly, surreptitiously, but only saw a group of men, likely tourists themselves, coming up the path.

"Souvenirs, eh?" Reno said blithely, a grin on his face. "It ain't like they don't sell 'em in Midgar or nothin'..."

"Bite me," Elena shot back.

Reno grinned. "OK. Where?"

Elena tried to kick Reno in the shins, but he wasn't known as the quickest of the Turks for nothing. He grinned at her and Elena let out an annoyed sound and stomped back into the temple.

"You know, I'm waiting for her to just pull out a gun and shoot you one day," Rude said conversationally.

"Even if she does, her aim still sucks," Reno said with a grin.

A tentative voice interrupted them. "Excuse me, are you Master Luo Li Hong?"

Reno turned, looking surprised. "Who are you?" he said in Wutai to the men who had come up to them, three of the four Elena had looked over at, and Rude was mildly proud of himself for having understood that short conversation. He didn't understand a single word of the rest that came out of Reno's mouth, but he did understand that they were quite fucked when the men who had approached them pulled out guns.

--

There were some things that Rude hated very much.

He hated being abducted at gunpoint. He hated not knowing where he was, and 'featureless room in Wutai' wasn't enough. He hated being tied up and being outnumbered by people who looked like they knew what those weapons they had were used for. And he really, really hated that he had no idea what exactly was being said. There were, of course, fragments he could understand--he had long since learned "Where is" and "I don't know," and he was hearing enough of both to make him not like the way this was heading.

All in all, it was adding up to be a very bad day.

Rude was trying to follow what was going on, for all he didn't understand what Hu was yelling at Reno over and over again. He'd picked up just enough Wutai to understand one part: Where is yang zhao xi. He had no idea what they were talking about, but the more he heard, the more it sounded like a person.

Reno wasn't helping. He was yelling back, saying over and over again that he didn't know along with a lot of other things Rude couldn't begin to figure out. Then came a full sentence Rude did understand.

"We didn't know he was in Midgar, either!"

He. Or she. Or it. All of them were the same word in spoken Wutai, and Rude wondered how anyone actually managed to communicate in the blasted language. The only thing coming through loud and clear was that Hu had set them up for a trap; the questions now were why and who was he working for.

"Since you are being so obdurate," the man said, narrowing his eyes, and switching into Visgradian, "Perhaps you will be of more use," he said, and turned to Rude. "So I ask you. Where is Shi De Ting?"

Rude stared at him, no expression on his face even though he flinched inside--Shi had come back to haunt them, it looked like, and that name gave him a pretty good idea just who was behind this. "I have no idea who he or she is."

"I'm sure," he said, his voice all but dripping with contempt. "Well then, how about Yang Zhao Xi? Where is Yang Zhao Xi?"

The blank expression was easier this time, because he well and truly had no idea who that was. "I have no idea who that person might be, either," Rude said, not even knowing if "Yang Zhao Xi" was male or female.

"Really," the man said, and something shifted over Reno's face, something quicksilver and warning Rude to be careful. "I find it hard that anyone in any way connected to the Yang clan would not know Yang Zhao Xi."

"I am a bodyguard, nothing more," he said flatly. "My concern is not the intricacies of the Yang clan, but protecting Young Master Luo."

"An' I already told you, last we heard, Yang Zhao Xi was dead!" Reno yelled angrily. "D-E-A-D, dead!" He yelled something in Wutai, and Rude took a wild guess as to assume it was the same statement.

Something was off in Reno's voice, so faint that if Rude hadn't known Reno so well he would have missed it. But now was not the time, and it gave Rude enough information to know that Yang Zhao Xi person was dead as far as Hu was supposed to know. He wished Reno had filled him in on whoever this Yang Zhao Xi was beforehand--the name had never come up in any of their intel, as far as Rude knew--but it was too late now.

Reno was saying something again in Wutai, and there was suspicion so thick in his voice that even though Rude didn't understand the words, sentiment came through. And then Reno got the "I'm already fucked, might as well go for broke" look on his face, and Rude really wished he understood what it was Reno had just spat out at Hu, because it was always better to be forewarned.

Especially given the sharp, insulting laugh Hu just gave. "You're one to talk, about someone being a double-crosser and not who they say they are. You asked far too many questions to too many people about the Wu, 'Xiao Luo,'" he said, and contempt dripped from his voice. "I don't know who you really are, but this has gone far enough," Hu said, and there was something dangerous in his voice and in how he didn't use Wutai. "You are not a Yang, and you obviously know too much. If nothing else, you have violated an inviolable law of Jiuquan," he said with a dark smile, and looked straight at Rude. "You have brought outsiders to the Temple of the Silver Dragon. If you were truly a Yang, you would have known your companions would be killed for that, since it is the charge of the Yang to guard it."

It was rather disconcerting to realize how easily the three of them had walked into a trap.

While Hu had been talking, Reno's PHS buzzed. It buzzed three rings, then cut off, then buzzed again for two.

Elena was definitely getting recommended to advance beyond 'trainee' for this one. There had been four men at the temple; three of them had gone for Rude and Reno and one of them had gone after Elena, and she had definitely been able to take care of herself and arrange for a rescue. This was definitely going in her file, because that was the signal that backup was on the way and it was time to get out of there to meet it.

And it could not have come soon enough.

"Kill them both," Hu said with a disgusted look on his face, then repeated the order in Wutai.

There hadn't yet been made a pair of handcuffs or set of ropes that Reno couldn't get out of--it wasn't even a matter of strength or needing to pick the locks, it was that Reno was so insanely flexible that he could contort his hands enough to make them small enough to slip out of them and he had a less-than-healthy hatred of being tied down, figuratively and literally, and would do whatever it took to get loose. His hands might be bloody and raw afterwards and he might need a Cure to fix the fingers that would sprain or break to do it, but he could get himself free, and while he'd been yelling at Hu, Rude had recognized the tell-tale signs of Reno slowly wriggling one hand free.

And once that had was free, that was pretty much the end of things.

"Yeah, well, about that," Reno sneered, and jumped for the closest man's gun. He got it before they could even realize what had happened, and he pointed it at them and snapped something that sounded like 'shabby danny loud moo" to Rude's ears.

That was when everyone started shooting.

--

Later, when everyone that was supposed to be dead was in fact dead and they were thankfully on their way back to Midgar, Rude turned to Reno and said, "Reno, what the fuck did you say to them?"

"Which time?" Reno said, looking over at him lazily. Unlike Elena, who occasionally looked over at Reno's demeanor and twitched, Rude was used to Reno's more...relaxed way of piloting a helicopter, sprawled out in the pilot's seat like he was on the world's most comfortable sofa, but Rude still preferred when the other man kept his eyes focused firmly on the way.

"The time that got them shooting at us," Rude said flatly as he dug out a Potion from the helicopter's emergency supplies. He'd taken some damage, and it was not feeling good. The only thing that had kept him from getting shot was his diving for the floor while still tied down in the chair, and even then he'd gotten grazed before Reno shot everyone. "Shabby danny loud moo?"

Reno gave him a blank look before he suddenly grinned, then adjusted their direction slightly, indicating that, despite appearances he was completely aware of his surroundings and was in fact actually piloting. "Oh, that? Heh. Nothing major. I just called 'em assholes and told 'em to go fuck their moms."

--

Once they got back and got all the paperwork done--although oddly, Reno had volunteered to do the paperwork, something he never did, but Rude wasn't one to question it, if for no other reason than so much had been said in Northern that Rude had no idea of anything that had gone on--they headed straight to Rufus' office.

"Here's all the information we now have on the Wu clan to date," Reno said, dropping a file on Rufus' desk. "Current head, Wu Ting Liang. Took over after the old head, Wu Shan Wen, got hurt real bad the last time they tried to move in to Midgar."

Rufus frowned slightly. "Last time?"

"Yeah," Reno said, looking antsy. "They tried to move in, they all got killed. Crossed the wrong people here, ya know? Anyway. They went back to Wutai and regrouped. There was a big brouhaha over who was gonna take over next."

Rufus nodded slightly. "From what I heard, the Wu clan had been one of the most powerful mafia families in northern Wutai."

Reno nodded. "Yeah. There had been a big feud between the Wu clan and the other big northern mafia family, the Li clan, and that resulted in..." Reno faltered slightly and a look Rude couldn't begin to place crossed his face as he picked up the files and rummaged quickly through them in a way that caused Rude to frown faintly, because there was something off, before Reno kept going, "...in the murder of the then next head of the Wu clan, Wu Gao Lun, and the kidnapping and assumed murder since ain't nobody found 'em of his family. And after that the Wu clan went after the Li clan hard and had more or less stomped 'em flat. But problem was, the son kicked it and the grandson was MIA, so after the old guy drinkin' his meals through a straw, there wasn't a clear line of...whachamacallit, Rude, who the next guy's gonna be?"

"Succession."

"Yeah, that," he said, looking more comfortable, and Rude wondered what in Hel's realm was really going on. "Anyway. Looks like the Wu clan more or less fell to shit after the top guy got taken down, and the Li family rose back up. But then the Wu clan got itself back together and seems like that they and the Li family made a truce or something, 'cause what with both big mafia families being out for the count, some of the Yamatan clans, especially the Shan Yuan-zu...whoops, sorry, no, the Yamamoto-gumi, my bad, been sayin' it too much in Northern, were startin' power grabs. Plus, they, y'know, hate us more than each other," Reno finished. He flipped through to another page. "In fact, looks like there was a kinda friendly take-over, what with the new head bein' a Li an' all."

"What?" Rufus said, blinking slightly. "I thought you said the head was....Wooting Leeang?" he finished, stumbling slightly over the name.

Reno nodded. "He is now. He was Li Ting Liang. He married Shan Wen's granddaughter Mei Tao, and took that name. Making peace and all that, y'know?"

"Did they ever figure out what happened to the family of the murdered heir, then?"

That strange look crossed his face briefly for a second and was gone, so fast Rude wondered if anyone else had even noticed. "...Nothin' official," he said, shrugging. "All signs point to 'dead,' though," and his voice was curiously flat to Rude's ears.

"Anyway," Reno said, going on. "Thanks to the big brouhaha a couple years back, when the Wu clan tried to come into Midgar, they decided to do everything under the umbrella of the Li clan, lookin' like they were hopin' it'd take ShinRa longer to step in--long enough for them to get entrenched. But in Wutai, they're still the Wu clan, since that name has a hellova lot more name-brand recognition. But now the Wu clan is as big as the Yamamoto-gumi in the Yamato Province, and if they're thinking about seriously expanding over here, which it looks like they are, we are gonna have some problems. The Yamatan yakuza doesn't mind playing nice-nice with ShinRa an' our folks--you know Don Corneo, he's all big with them now, even got himself a place in Sector Six's Little Yamato that's built like somethin' right out of Nankyo gone skank--but the Wu clan does."

"Well, there's our answer, then," Rufus said, raising one eyebrow gracefully. "I believe your job is to eliminate problems for ShinRa, correct?"

Reno smiled, and it was a smile of malice and expectation. "Damn right it is, boss," he said, and Reno's eyes glittered.

--

"Aiight," Reno said, as soon as the door shut behind him. "It is now officially time for me and a bottle of hair dye to make nice-nice until I'm a redhead again," he said poking at his hair.

"Aww, and I had just gotten used to it like this," Rude deadpanned. "Xiao Luo."

Reno's eye twitched. "Man, didn't I tell you never to talk Wutai? I coulda sworn I did," he said, and grinned.

"Next road trip, you're going to dress up again, right? We should go skiing up in Modeoheim; I've always wondered what you would look like blond. Or maybe my home town. Bald might be a good look on you."

Reno, Rude knew, was very quick, very agile, very good at climbing large things, and very unpredictable. So he really wasn't that surprised when Reno, with a cry of, "Oh, now you fuckin' grow a sense of humor!" jumped on his back, legs wrapped tight around Rude's waist to keep him in place, and started hitting.

Reno's PHS rang then, so with one last hit, he slid off of Rude's back and answered it, sounding like he was about to start laughing at any moment.

He didn't sound like that for long, his face going serious and professional, and his side of the conversation mainly "Yeah"s and "OK"s.

"That was Tseng," he said, as soon as he hung up. "He's getting back from wherever the fuck he is tonight, and he wants us in his office first thing tomorrow, an' didn't sound like my idea of 'first thing'," Reno said, frowning slightly.

"Perhaps because your idea of 'first thing' is noon?"

"Hey, I ain't that bad. Noon is fuckin' off for lunch, an' you can't fuck off unless you came in already, y'know? Eleven."

"I stand corrected. Did Tseng say why he wants to see us?"

Reno gave him a look. "This is Tseng, yo. That bastard ever tell nothin' he don't need to?"

"You have a point," Rude said wryly.

Reno groaned. "That don't bode well."

"But it's tomorrow."

Reno grinned. "And not today, that what you saying?"

Rude let a small smile touch his face before he nodded, and Reno grinned. "I like the way you think, partner. C'mon, it's beer time."

He stopped and plucked at his hair. "But first, me, makeup remover, an' a bottle of hair dye have a date. I ain't dyein' my hair after, 'cause even I know drunken hair dyein' ain't the best of ideas."

"...I'll pick up the dye," Rude offered, and Reno just laughed at him.

--

Comments

In one hand, the statue held a shining black globe of what almost looked like an oversized materia in his right hand and in his left a sword; his expression was wild and terrible, looking every bit the god of war.
'Scuse me, dying now, BRB...

WONDERFUL. I'm totally feeling Rude... I wish I knew what all was going on. ;-)
*evil, evil laughter* I'm leaving hints all OVER the place in here with what I have planned for "Unparalleled Under Heaven," I really, really am. That right there with the statue was a BIG one. >:D

And hee hee hee--it's actually hard writing this from Rude's POV because he's so clueless about what's going on, just because I know what's going on, including the things getting said in Wutai. I'm surprised people aren't ready to strangle me yet because they, like Rude, have no idea what's going on (but hey, when Rude finds out, everyone will find out. XD )
*has suspicions she's not going to share until the reveal*
Mine is an evil little smile. And yes, I have a lot written and plotted out for Unparalleled Under Heaven...just not linearly written. ^^;;
And hee hee hee with everything happening here. Chapter 10 and 11 (but especially 10) are the big reveals. XD

And again with the non-linear; chapter twelve and the first epilogue are already finished. XD;;
I don't let myself write non-linear-- I hate rewriting stuff, and nothing ever finishes like I expect it to. Xp.

*wants chapter ten*

I was going to ask you if I could do podfic of either this or AHIH, but the I remembered the languages I don't speak and my horrible mangling of names even vaguely Asian.
heh--I can't write linearly. It just doesn't happen. But because I jump around so much, it means I can do lots and lots of foreshadowing! >XD

...Chapter 10, alas, will be a long wait, because that chapter is gonna hurt. ;_;

The names and languages are HARD. I'm kinda scared myself to record those like I did for 'Busadou,' and I speak Chinese well enough that the handheld translator we have at work can recognize what I say, which means I got the tones right--that thing is unforgiving. If you ever want to give it a shot, hey, go for it, though!
Ohh, foreshadowing is fun!

Aw. (this entire fic makes me sniff and go 'poor Reno.')

I am not touching those names without talking to a native speaker. Noooo.
... Possibly the Vincent-and-his-chocobo fic, though.
hee hee, I love foreshadowing. XD I'm glad my brain works by deconstructing rather than constructing some times (that's why I like writing backstory fic so much)--I tend to start from an end point and work my way backwards, which is why I'll have an ending done before I have the beginning. XD

Chapter Ten is the big "Poor Reno" chapter, it really is. ;_;

Native-speaker check FTW.
My fic-brain constructs the whole story, but my writing brain only gets to hear part of it at a time. It's pleasantly surprised when something earlier written ties in with what it just wrote.

Waaah, Reno~~ *hands Reno The Giant Bear*

I know two, but one is really quite and the other is an upperclassman. Ach, J will probably do it. Stare at me strangely, but do it.

.. How do you say allemagnes? Google is giving me gibberish about Germany and France.
Hee--it's always fun when something ties in with something later and you weren't expecting it, or something you mentioned randomly turns out to be a major plot point or something. XD

Reno is going to need that teddy bear. Like I told someone else, the title for the next chapter is "失去 Shi qu [Losing It All]," and I took the title from the song "Ye Qu" by Jay Chou. Therefore, the next chapter just cannot be good.

I'm not entirely sure how the game wants them pronounced; I just looked at it funny when I saw it in English, because "allemagnes" is the French word for "Germany." WTF. So if you use the French pronunciation, it's something like "a la man nya."
Reeno~~

*is sad because she can't find her phone, and therefor cannot take music with her*

Yabagawhat? Ack. But it's french, so I can ask a different person. *pauses* Huh. I know a lot of people who speak different languages. Never realized that before. (in my head it's 'al-en-mage-es' which I know isn't right. The N is in the wrong spot. I do the same thing with aibou. XP)
Firstly, wonderful chapter.

Secondly, you've inspired a wonderful bit of overthinking on my part, which is going to show up in [info]overthinkers fairly soon. Your fic always seems to do this for me...

Thirdly, I love the way you have Reno, Rude and Elena interacting. I particularly like the way Reno and Elena bounce off one another, with Reno irritating the hells out of Elena, and Rude basically doing double duty as a buffer. I also love the way you're giving Elena a chance to show what she's made of, even though she remains in the background the whole time.

I find myself waiting with bated breath for chapter ten.
First: Thanks!

Second: I did some work on my author's notes Ultimania on the names and will be revising the History of Wutai I did before, and will stick those up on overthinkers. I'm looking forward to having free time again so I can be a nerd again. XD Oh god, all the research I've done...

Third: Thanks again! I was trying to show that even though Elena is green and too know-it-all loudmouth for her own good right now, she's got potential and that when she knows what she's doing, she knows what she's doing. Her Trainee Hell won't last too much longer.

...Chapter Ten is still LALALA I CANT HEAR YOU LALALA because I look at what has to happen that chapter and kinda whimper.
*makes happy squealing noises* This fic returns! ♥

*whines* I re-read chapter 7 like you reccomended and started thinking about Chinese food, and over my spring break I went to a really, really good Chinese restaurant and got dumplings and now I’m absolutely craving them. ;-; I think I’m going to have to get myself some Chinese food tonight. Mmm, dumplings or lo mein...

Anyway, to this fic. The whole confusion from Rude's POV is confusing...but it also works. You provided enough hints for me to feel like I was getting a good part of the story, and combined with the flashback chapters I've got...theories. Let's call them that. *grin*

I loved how Rude and Elena integrated into the trip. I think one of the things that's most striking to me is Elena's characterization: you don't make her perfect. That's something that I could see becoming awfully tempting - have her finally learn her lessons completely. But, as we see in the game itself, she, ah, hasn't. You do a great job of keeping her balanced between a complete loudmouth of a rookie and someone who has what it takes to be a full-fledged Turk. She's not one anymore, but she's not the other yet either.

And Rude's calm professionalism always makes me grin. ^_^

Ooh, lovely symbolism at the temple! It's all over the freaking place, but in a rather believable way! *grin* Let me see...long hair, forboding expression, black materia-esque rock in the right hand, sword in the left hand...golly gee willikers, I wonder what that means? Also, flowers growing out of the ground. ^^

Again, I've got theories about what's going on with the whole mafia thing - and that something else that worked: I understood all of the interconnections despite having a memory for names about as good as Elena's (probably worse, actually). I'm looking forward to where this is going! =D


Quick note:

Something was getting to Reno more than an assignment normally did, but since Reno wasn't the "open up and talk about it" kind of guy and Rude wasn't the "poor out your emotions to me" kind of guy,
pour
Writing Rude's POV is hard because he's going into this completely blind. The reader has the background chapters, I have 'I know what happened, what will happen, and WHAT EVERYONE I SAYING IN WUTAI', but Rude has pretty much nothing aside from "Reno had a Wutai friend when he was a kid. Asking about the friend is a Bad Idea." In some ways, even Tseng knows more than Rude, even though he technically knows less--he knows more about something that relates to this fic (...what Tseng knows comes out much, much later.)

*g* Yes, theories. I'm hoping people are trying to piece everything together. :D

And thank you on the characterizations! Elena's in the middle of not-Turk and Turk, and she's fumbling her way through. This takes only a few months before the game, so I'm trying to make her close to that, but still too green for her (and Reno's) own good.

The mafia stuff will get a little clearer (I hope) in the next 'present' chapter.

As for the temple...mine is a shiteating an evil, satisfied little smile.

And thanks for the edit; fixed!

Also, I want lo mein. Blargh.
*nods* You did a really good job of portraying that, I think. Not only that, but Rude didn't let that stop him. It was an "I really have no clue what's going on, but I'm also not going to let Reno get his ass shot to pieces," while still knowing that Reno's strong enough to protect the both of them as well. You've got their partnership down pat, what with the complete trust they've got in each other. Maybe they don't spill out every single little emotional detail, but that isn't necessary for trust. Reno gave Rude a premise: "You're my bodyguard." Rude took it and ran with it. Perfect acting trick. *grins*

Oh, and Rude's candy-radar? Is fantastic. ^_^ Especially because he isn't conscious of it, it just happens.

I haven't come up with a single, specific idea of what's going to happen. Instead I've figured out multiple options and outcomes, and with each chapter/fact that goes by, the extra possibilities are eliminated. New information can either bring in new options, or tie previously unrelated pieces together. It's a fun game to play. ^_^ Especially in a fic like this where there are hints here and there all throughout, and there's obviously a whole story going on that nobody quite knows about yet, but all of the new information that shows up comes in believably. It isn't that the reader is going along, and then suddenly "HO SHIT, WHERE THE HELL DID THE MAFIA COME FROM?!"

*nodnods* I couldn't remember how close to the game this took place, so that explains it. I was slightly worried that she'd be a bit too practiced if she continued at this rate and it was, say, even a year or two before the game; but with only a few months? It works.

Your smile should be very satisfied. ^_^ I know mine is. And amused and pleased too.

I like lo mein. *grin* I'll admit to being a weirdo who doesn't like most vegetables, but I love the noodles. ♥
Thanks! I stated out writing Reno and Rude, so it's good to know that even though they've kinda gotten pushed into the background with Angeal and Gen (all Angeal's fault, because I fucking love Angeal, and writing Angeal means I have to write the Cockroach of ShinRa, too), that I can still write them OK. :D

I am also very, very, very glad that all the new elements getting introduced work--I admit it, I was worried that people would have that "HO SHIT, WHERE THE HELL DID THE MAFIA COME FROM?!" reaction. So, phew! I was also kinda worried I was giving everything away, but I think it's just that since I definitely know the significance of everything, I read too much into it. :D

And yeah, this is the winter before the game starts--I kinda get the feeling that the simple assignment of "pick up Aeris" was something of a "cool down after all that shit" assignment. All this resolves by the time the game starts, but it's close.

I miss Americanized Chinese food so bad. It's so greasy. >XD
You write them perfectly. ♥ And yeah, I know how much Angeal just sort of settles into the brain to stay, and then Genesis walks in with all of his stuff as well and says, "What? You thought I wasn't coming with?"

Well, it helps that you introduced the concepts of underground organizations previously, and that Reno grew up with the slums with various contacts here and there. It blended in quite neatly.

"Pick up Aeris" as a cool down...and what does he get but an escaped experiment ex-SOLDIER First who she promptly hires as a bodyguard? *headdesks* Poor Reno.

It is greasy, but it's so good because of that. ♥ Lovelovelove.

As for Rude and his candy-sense, I promptly proved myself a geek: "So it's like he's got a permanent Detect Candy spell on him! Or Locate Candy."

Most entertaining spell from a D&D game: Locate Self. It helps you find yourself in relation to yourself.[/random]
Angeal is love, but Genesis is the annoying SO of your friend that you have to put up with even though you honestly just can't see what on earth your friend sees in them. Although the cockroach is growing on me, if for no other reason than I have a grudging sort of respect for people that unabashedly egotistical AND bitchass. >XD Although it's never good when I get my grubby mitts on a character, because I tend to put them through the emotional ringer. *cue Evil Laugh*

And yeah, Reno just doesn't get a break with these jobs--they keep turning out to be bigger than anyone thought they would be. XD

It's the greasiness that makes it so good. Mmm, greasy. And yes, I am a Southerner--if it ain't greasy, it ain't good (and, of course, in the Southern kitchen, Everything Can Be Fried. And now I want yakisoba.)

And lol, I'm afraid I'm just a nerd, not a geek, so I know nothing of D&D, other than "tabletop game." I fail at geekdom. XD
Oh, and Rude's candy-find ability KILLS ME. >XDDD

And a tang hu lu? AIN'T SMALL. >XDD
GLEEEEEE~! ^______^ Long long ficbits with all kinds of world details, and I'm torn between ROFLing at Rude's sweets-homing instincts and going 'oh man yeah' at the cultural detailing and the what-it's-like-being-a-gaijin-on-vacation parts, and then there's the 'OMG Jie's Life Is Going to Be Full of Suck I Just Know It' impending with all those 'dead heir's supposedly dead family' references. And the *cough*Sephiroth*cough* Silver Dragon statues. Oh man.

(And the theater techie in me hopes that makeup on guys is part of the then-fashionable trend in Wutai, because otherwise the Yangs would've had every reason to suspect him from the minute he walked in the door, and if he has to go back he'll be stuck in the same boat, because I am totally with Reno on the 'no Shinra-produced chemical-slathering all over every inch of one's largest organ' because you don't even wanna know what Hojo might've thought was a fun experiment to add...)

(and like the posters above, I now want good Chinese food! XD)
Hee hee--Rude and his sweet tooth; he can find any candy within a 100-foot radius. >XD (And a tang hu lu ain't small. XD I just wish I still had the link to some of the bigger ones I saw pics of; those bookmarks were lost in the Great Computer Crash. ...and speaking of computers, I got your e-mail but spend all this weekend not hooked up to the internet, finishing off a big side job for my contract company, and this. I'm going to ask one of my coworkers if she knows anything. :D )

The cultural detailing was fun; I think it helps to a) live in Japan, b) have been to China, and c) have met a LOT of Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, people from other parts of Asia. It really does help a lot.

And oh, yeah. Sucks a lot for Jie and his mom. Like, a lot. And *giggle* at the Silver Dragon statues. Hee hee hee.

(And I'm pretty sure the Yangs were like "...uh" from the get-go, but couldn't be sure, since ShinRa had been putting info down for a long time. And Reno's no fool--he knows if he tries to tan the right color he'll turn into a lobster, because skin his color just doesn't respond well to the sun; no WAY is he letting anything the ShinRa scientists have come up with near his face...so make-up it is, and lots of "Yeah, I'm wearing makeup. SUCK IT" if anyone seems like they're noticing.)
I saw this pop up in my feed list, and practically squealed. Forget re-reading chapter 7, now I think I'll go back and re-read the whole thing again (which would make it the 6th or 7th time, if you need any encouragement).

I kept waiting for something to go wrong in Wutai, and the temple statues sounded amazing. Rude's candy addiction makes me laugh. I think I've picked up some hints of what was going on (might be clearer to me once I have re-read) but I'm still really looking for to the next part.

And wasn't that nice and subtle? ;D
Someone on my lj said they actually did squeal out loud when they saw I had finally updated this. Methinks I let a little too much time pass in between updates... ^^;;;

And one of the statues is based on a statue I saw at Toudai-ji in Nara. One of these days, now that I have my art supplies again, I want to do a real sketch of what those two statues look like. :)

As for the next part...well, it's definitely not going to be a year in between updates this time. I hope... ^^;;
Oh man. I see so many bad things happening to Jie and Auntie Qian. I have a feeling that one of them (at least) is going to end up dead. I'll guess I'll find out one way or the other when the rest gets posted. (no rush or anything)

*snickers* Rude so has some sort of 'candy find' Materia. He just doesn't know it. *more snickering*

I keep meaning to ask, what time frame is this set in?
Things just don't end well for the Qian family. There's a reason I'm not looking forward to chapter ten--the title is "失去 Shi qu [Losing It All]" for a reason (and the title comes from the Jay Chou song "Ye Qu", so yeah). Not gonna be a happy chapter. ;_;

And everyone has to have a superpower; Rude's is finding sweets. XD

And this is set right before the game begins--this is the winter before. I'd say the whole thing in the 'present' spans about six to nine months.
Oh, God. That song made my heart hurt. But it's so beautiful. Chapter 10 is going to be a tear jerker isn't it?

Okay, does that mean before or after the cruelty that is Zack dying? (I think it means before, but wants to be sure)
That song is gorgeous; it's one of Jay's best. But oh, god yeah, it's a tear-jerker song. As for Chapter ten...well, this icon now is the one I made just for that chapter, so. ;_;

And this is before--this chapter takes place in winter, and I'd put Zack dying in early to mid spring, and the game happening in summer (based on how Tifa, Yuffie, and Aerith are dressed--short sleeves and daisy dukes=hot weather).
Wah! Age 15 is a really shitty age for Reno isn't it? *huggles him* I'm blaming you in advance for the headache that I will have after I read Chpt. 10. Crying always gives me headaches.

Yeah, haven't played the original FFVII. Played Crisis Core, watched AC and Last Order, and played part of Dirge of Cerberus (which is completely irrelevant to this story). Everything else I've learned from FanFic. Wants the original like whoa, but it is next to impossible to find. I've heard rumors of a FFVII for PS3, maybe I'll get lucky and it will turn out to be fact.
Yeah, 15 is going to be the shit age for Reno--his mom dying is going to take place in Chapter 10, too. It's gonna be the bad chapter, and I've already resigned myself to people hating me for it. ^^

I haven't played the original yet, either, as embarrassing as that is to admit. Is it really that hard to find the original? I bought it in Japanese from a regular electronics store over here--but then, they have the "Greatest Hits" thing, where they rerelease titles that sell over a certain number of copies at a reduced price. So I picked up a new "International" version (meaning it's in Japanese, but it uses the US version of the game, which had additions in animation) for dirt cheap. I just need to sit down and, y'know, play it.

And the rumors of a remake for PS3 came because they redid the opening animations for a game show to show what the PS3 could do, and scenes from the end scene of CC with Cloud came out, and people thought it was for a remake of FF7. I really WISH they would remake it; I would totally, totally place it then. Or at least do a PSP version. ;_;
Oh, and the Chinese in the icon is:


失去你
還有什麼事好關心
愛恨開始分明

shi qu ni
hai you shenme shi hao guanxi
ai hen kaishi fenming

Losing you
What else is there to care about?
Love and hate start to become clear


Slightly reordered from the order in the song, but yeah.
And everyone has to have a superpower; Rude's is finding sweets. XD

Well, that explains how the Turks keep finding Cloud and Co in the game. Rude's tracking Tifa! (having mentally defined her as a sweet thing).

*goes off in giggles*
*dies* That would explain it, wouldn't it? >XD
Your Turks scare me, and I mean that as a compliment.
hee. If the Turks aren't kinda scary when they're working, then something's wrong. >XD

...or kinda scary when they aren't working, but for different reasons.
Oops, yeah, they walked into that one a bit. Tense situation, though, and quite well portrayed-- kudos! Loved Reno's "yeah, about that. *WHAM*"

... also, quite curious now as to what actually happened in Days Gone By. And how you'll ever get Reno to actually talk about it. ;)
Yup. They walked riiiiiiiight into it. Or rather, hiked through the woods right into it. Oh, guys. XD;;; But they're all so used to getting into trouble that they've learned how to get out of it with flair. hee.

And all will (or at least most) will be revealed in the next chapter. Which will get written...eventually. ^^;;;; And probably match this one for length, since the stories keep getting longer, and what I have so far is already 8 pages. As for Reno talking...ahahaha ha ha hoooo....
Pardon me, I have to sell my soul to you now. There is so much love in this; although I dread what's probably going to happen to poor Jie. And then there's all the other love that everyone else has mentioned to infinity. So I'll skip all that and say: See above for opinion.

Any hope I can somehow kick chap 10 out of being LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!! and into written? g_g
heh, a soul? W00t, go me. >XD

I swear, I think this fic would have gone faster if my iPod hadn't kept crapping out--I had a special "TTYNKAP" playlist, and listening to it always got me in the mood to write...and then my iPod kept wiping out and taking my playlists with it. Also, I was distracted by other shiny things. ^^;;; As for the next chapter, it's already got 8 pages written. It's just one I drag my feet on because, well, yeah. Not gonna be happy for me. Chapter 11 is also going to be a rough time, but for different reasons than Chapter 10. But hey, after that? Pretty much smooth sailing. Namely because the end has been written for a long, long time. >XD;;;; But Chapter 10 is on my "work on" list, mainly because I've decided now is time to Get Shit Finished so I can work on my new series/multichapter fic gearing up (Puppyverse, Harrow Children, In This Together, Unparallelled Under Heaven). No new shit until my old shit is done...or something.
I totally know what you mean with the iPod thing. Whenever I watch/hear music from LOTR I get the urge to write my O-fic.

This next chapter is going to have people die/go mad/go away for eva and eva isn't it? *note to self: have tissues handy*
Probably nothing really I could do to help, but if you want/need someone to bounce ideas off of, I'm game. Especially if it's world-building stuff. I didn't mention it earlier, but all your world-building made me have a Geek-gasm. Was a happy, happy geek, and I usually enjoy the discussions you have in the comments as much as I enjoy your fics. ^_^