Bitter Ash: Part one: Flower girl
Shinras company helicopter flew over the slums of
Midgar. It was one of the newer models with sound-dampening, and
Tseng appreciated the almost-quiet inside the cabin. The leader
of the Turks gazed disinterestedly out of the window that had
been wiped and polished until it gleamed clean-- something that
could not be said for anything else in the slums; most everything
in the lower section of Midgar was covered in a layer of filth
that could never be removed. Even the money was dirty, gained by
drugs, sex, murder, or a combination of the three. Tseng was glad
he didnt have to live in it.
He did, however, have to work around it quite frequently. Work
was, in fact, what had brought him to this dump today (and it was
day, although you could not tell by looking in the slums; no
sunlight ever reached most areas below the plate). President
Shinra had ordered that AVALANCHE in Sector 7 be stopped, and the
President thought destroying the pillar which supported the plate
would be a most effective way to get the message across. Reno was
there now, setting up the explosives; Tseng was going to pick him
The harsh artificial lights lining the underside of the plate
cast a horrible glare on the slums, laying bare the utter
corruption-- dirt-covered men being led away by whores dressed in
glitzy, barely-there dresses; someone lying in a pile of garbage,
drunk or stoned or both. The lights, run from Mako energy, were
the only major source of illumination. Sunlight could not pass
through the plate. One effect of this was the complete lack of
vegetation. Fungus and various bacteria were about all that were
cultivated in the slums. Only in areas where the plate had
cracked and sunlight was able to seep through did anything grow.
Tseng only knew of two such places. The church in Sector 5 had a
small bed of flowers; the helicopter was flying over the other
now-- Aeriss house. In his opinion, the only decent place
in the slums, the cottage Aeris shared with her adoptive mother
Elmyra was always kept in good repair, with a lovely garden
Tseng scowled at the thought of the young flower girl he had
grown up with. Despite constantly following him around as a
child, Aeris had done nothing but spurn him as they grew older.
She flirted and teased mercilessly, but whenever he had returned
any affection, she had smiled girlishly and ignored him. She had
always come back to toy with him the next day, however.
Aeris was still the same childish brat who expected him to be
her plaything despite her constant snubs. She was always giggling
and smiling cluelessly, but Tseng couldnt help liking her
sometimes. It was a crush leftover from boyhood, he supposed, and
one he despised himself for. The feeling was remote, though, and
the Turks leader would never allow it to interfere with his
job. Being sentimental did not keep him from attempting to bring
Aeris-- the last Ancient-- in as a captive for Hojos
experiments. He took a small, petty satisfaction in being able to
repay her for her toying with him. So far the Turks had been
unable to bring her in freely; it was time to resort to more
Speaking of which...
"Pilot, set us down! Quickly!" Tseng commanded,
catching a glimpse of pink ribbons below. The helicopter
descended with as much haste as possible. Making a mental note to
commend the pilot, Tseng opened the door and jumped to the ground
as soon as it was close enough.
Dusting his expensive blue suit off, the leader of the Turks
ran in the direction where he had seen Aeris. No one paid him any
attention-- these sort of things were common in the slums--
except for some slut in far too much makeup who headed in his
direction. "Damn whores," he muttered. She changed her
mind when she caught sight of the gun he pulled from somewhere.
As he moved through a section he recognized as being near
Aeriss cottage, he caught up with the girl in pink.
Skipping with a cheerfulness that hardly seemed appropriate under
the circustances, she led a small girl by the hand. Not believing
his incredible luck, Tseng moved to stand closely behind her.
Raising his gun, he said, "Hello, Aeris."
The Ancient stopped at the sound of her name, whirled her neck
to look. At the sight of Tseng, she jumped and turned her body to
face him. Gaping for a moment, she smiled-- "Tseng"--
and moved closer to him.
"Dont move," he said, twitching the gun just
slightly. "Im glad I happened across you, Aeris; you
havent been too cooperative for my men. Lets hope you
are better for me." He smiled coolly. "The President
will be very happy to see you."
Aeris fidgeted for a moment, the giggled cutely. An act; this
was all an act. "You wouldnt really hand me over to
Shinra, would you? Tseng, youre--"
"Drop the act, Ancient. You wont toy with Shinra
any longer," he said coldly, setting up a wall of ice
between himself and the girl.
The flower girl, realizing that he was deadly serious, dropped
the "dumb" facade. She grabbed the little girls
hand and squeezed it. "Please, Tseng, let Marlene go. Let me
take her to my mother, and Ill... Ill go with you
willingly. Please," she pleaded.
He considered for a moment, never taking his eyes from her.
Aeris was hardly in a position to bargain, but her charge was
only a little child. Having no fondness for leaving children in
the Midgar streets, Tseng agreed. "Ive no use for her;
"But dont try anything, Ancient," he added as
she turned. Following Aeris and the girl-- Marlene-- closely, he
walked toward the pretty cottage. Aeris knocked on the door and
waited. Tseng saw Elmyra peek out from behind the door. As she
opened it, her eyes widened.
"Aeris, what--" she started, but Tseng shoved the
little girl through the doorway.
"Mom, watch after Marlene, all right?" Gun in hand,
Tseng pulled Aeris from the cottage. "And tell Cloud-- tell
him Im sorry."
Not wanting to waste any more time, the leader of the Turks
guided his captive back to the helicopter. She remained silent
until the copter had taken off again.
"Where are we going," she asked, sweetly, even
conversationally, peering out of the window.
Tseng smiled a slow smile. "To the Sector 7 pillar. Reno
is setting up the explosives as we speak. Your friends at
AVALANCHE wont be around much longer."
The flower girl looked at him; the consequences of Sector
7s plate being dropped did not seem to have dawned on her,
but they would. "Reno reports that Cloud Strife-- that
bodyguard of yours-- is on his way up the pillar," he told
her casually, turning to face his window.
A look of horror crossed her face. For the first time, she
appeared distraught. "No! Tseng, you cant do this!
Everything will be crushed! Can you really kill so many
innocents?" Clutching his arm, she pulled in closer to him.
"You cant, Tseng, please!"
He flung her off him. Aeris did not care about the
"innocents" that would die, just as she did not care
about him. The brat just wanted her current plaything kept alive
while he was still fun.
"Tseng--" she pleaded from the floor. He pitied her
for a moment, felt a pang of conscience for treating her so
harshly. Was she ever anything but cruel to you? he asked
Not another word, Aeris," he said. In truth, Tseng was
sorry for the people who would die in the plate crash, but he
wasnt going to let her know it. He was damned if he would
let her see any weakness on his part-- she preyed on them too
easily. The loss of life today was regrettable, but they were
only slum-trash. He would carry out his orders, regardless.
There it was-- the pillar was incredibly tall. In between the
plate and the ground was a circular platform that contained
various control panels and displays. Next to these stood a figure
in the expensive blue suit of the Turks. Tseng knew that once the
helicopter flew closer he would see that Renos suit was
characteristically wrinkled, the shirt half-unbuttoned and half
untucked; a his pair of five thousand gil-sunglasses were thrown
carelessly on top of his head. He battled the three people
opposite him with his nightstick, fighting with the nonchalance
of someone who doesnt have to be told hes good.
Tseng watched the scene with interest as they neared the
platform. Apparently Reno had already set the Emergency Plate
Release System. Reno waved to his opponents, cast one look at the
explosives panel, and ran away, laughing. So much for picking him
Ordering the pilot to bring the helicopter alongside the
platform, Tseng opened the side window and saw the three-- all
associated with AVALANCHE-- frantically examining the Release
System. Laughing, Tseng shouted over the hum of the helicopter.
"Thats right. Youll have a hard time disarming
that one. Itll blow the second some stupid jerk touches
One of the three, who Tseng recognized as that Seventh Heaven
waitress that Rude was so infatuated with, ran towards the edge
of the platform. As she moved, Tseng looked in disgust at the
skin-tight tanktop and skirt that could have hardly bared more of
her well-endowed figure. Another slum-trash whore, he
thought as she pleaded with him to stop the explosives.
He laughed. "Only a Shinra executive can set up or disarm
the Emergency Plate Release System."
A muscular black man yelled something angrily. Just what he
said was lost amidst the sound of gunfire. Some sort of gun had
been surgically attached to his wrist in place of a hand-- this
would be Barret, leader of AVALANCHE. The projectiles bounced
harmlessly off of the bulletproof helicopter, but Tseng decided
that enough was enough. He did not want to give him a chance to
get a lucky shot in through the window.
"I wouldnt try that..." he said, a slight
smile curling his lips. "You just might make me injure our
special guest." Grabbing Aeris, he thrust her head up to the
She looked at the people on the platform. "Cloud--"
Tseng halted her. "Not another word, Aeris," he
The waitress gasped below. "Aeris!" she exclaimed.
Smiling, Tseng allowed himself a little joke. "Oh, you
know each other?" he said, feigning ignorance. Of course
they did; Shinra kept its enemies under constant surveillance.
They made it their business to know. "Hoe nice you could see
each other one last time. You should thank me."
Cloud, the mercenary with the Mako eyes, walked forward.
"What are you going to do with her?" he asked.
Pushing Aeris back into the seat, Tseng brushed his hair from
his eyes and turned back to the window. He shrugged. "It
isnt my decision. Our orders were to find and catch the
last remaining Ancient. Its taken us a long time, but now I
can finally report this to the President. He will be very
Tseng was shoved aside from behind. Aeris squeezed in beside
him and leaned out over the side of the helicopter.
"Tifa," she exclaimed breathlessly, "Dont
worry! Shes all right!"
Cursing very unprofessionally, Tseng roughly pulled her into
the helicopter. "I said not another word,
Ancient!" He stretched out his arm and slung it around until
the back of his hand connected with her face. The girl fell to
"Aeris!" the scantily-clad waitress yelled.
The Ancient struggled to reach the window again. "Hurry
and get out!"
Tseng sent her forcefully back to the floor, where she
remained. Turning to the platform once again, he laughed.
"Well, it should be starting right about now. Think you can
escape in time?" Motioning to the pilot, Tseng settled back
into his seat as the helicopter flew off. There was a bright
flare as the pillar exploded, but the Turks leader did not
look back at it. Nor did he watch when the plate collapsed,
leaving Sector 7 in crushed, smoldering ruin.
Sometime on the flight back to Shinra, Aeris stirred, catching
his attention. On the unconscious womans face, a large
bruise was already forming. She hadnt really deserved it,
he knew, but so-called "justice" didnt concern
him at the moment. She never had taken him seriously, and he now
demanded that she do so. He looked away, closing the walls around
himself once again. If he could not force himself not to care, he
would find himself felling sorry for her, might even find himself
contemplating letting her go-- and he could never let that
The helicopter set down on a landing pad outside of the
company headquarters. Tseng climbed out and pulled Aeris with
him. No fight was put up, but she certainly wasnt
cooperative, either, moving slowly and glaring icily his way the
entire way. He tried to say something to her-- he could never
remember quite what-- but she ignored him, refused to answer.
Heh... ignoring me as always.
Inside, he handed her over to the closest armed personnel he
could find, telling them that she was the prisoner the President
had given orders about. They led her away, to Hojo probably. She
turned her head just long enough to shoot an accusing glare at
him before disappearing into an elevator. He had no doubt that
she took him seriously now.
Tseng stood against the wall for a long while. For the first
time in years, he really wanted a stiff drink. Not long after, he
was sitting in a bar, getting just that. He usually never
accompanied his fellow Turks on their frequent visits to local
bars, but when Rude had asked tonight, Tseng accepted. He
supposed Rude was lonely without his regular drinking partner,
Reno, who was in the infirmary with wounds. Tseng knew he
wouldnt be much better, though, as he had hardly said a
word to Rude the entire night and was unwilling to start talking
now; not the Rude talked much anyway.
The liquor putting cracks into Tsengs walls,
thoughts of Aeris were allowed to seep through. What a
bitch, he thought, downing the last contents of his glass.
Tseng set it down and stared at it, trying to convince himself
that he give a damn about her.
Author's Notes: I always got the feeling
that Tseng wasn't really all that fond of Aeris, but for personal
reasons. It seems he had a history with her. Unfortunately, the
game really doesn't develope it, like so many other things. So
here is my take on it.
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