[info]stopthatgirl7 wrote
on March 15th, 2009 at 09:55 pm

[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.


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?"


"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.


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