Vincent had seen a great number of odd and dangerous things in his lifetime--both before and after his many years of sleep within a casket in the basement of the Shinra mansion; monsters, vile criminals, dangerous experiments, megalomaniacs, sadists with god-complexes, aliens from the outer reaches of the galaxy and ancient sentinels built by a long-extinct people. He had been involved in saving the world twice, and was currently possessed by three entities that had been implanted into his body through experimentations from a mad scientist. He had seen the revival of a cruel and dangerous man through the use of the genetic materials and leftovers from yet another unholy science project. He had lived through it all, fought alongside the strongest group of fighters and friends he had ever known (though whether or not he would admit it was something else entirely). Greatest of all, he had known love, and had it stripped from him due to his own inability, and had only achieved the closest semblance of redemption he could hope for not but three months ago.
And that was when Cloud disappeared.
Perhaps that was why he was surprised, despite his long ‘illustrious’ career, to find himself returning to what he had once been--never once in his mind in the past three years and three months did he ever think that his childhood dream would become a reality now, of all times. But then, wasn’t a Turk the same thing as a private investigator? Perhaps without the kidnappings and assassinations, yes, but beyond that, it wasn’t as though any of his skills in that small but powerful group couldn’t be carried over to something a bit more morally upright and perhaps a bit less fearsome. As a child, he recalled, he had frequently watched television programs, or read books of detectives of both the normal and the paranormal. In his mind, he had seen himself in one such office, a single ceiling fan, blinds over the window, with a file cabinet, a bookshelf and a large writing desk in the center. That was what all the detectives had, regardless of what they investigated. And here he was now--sitting behind just such a desk, in just such an office. There was only one difference to his childhood fantasy; rather then a picture of his love interest on that desk, there was a picture of the group AVALANCHE, all of them standing together, looking at the camera with a large banner that read ‘Happy Birthday Vincent’ hanging over their heads. All but one was there, and Vincent felt his eye twitch slightly whenever he thought of that moment when he had seen her die. It had been painful, despite the reasoning portion of his mind telling him it was necessary. She was just another person he couldn’t save.
All of this added up to a sort of surreal picture of his life now. Lucrecia, the woman he had loved, was gone but had left him with a message that had finally allowed him to move on with his life. It had been hard, yes, but with the aid of his friends (a word that was soothing to him somehow) he had established for himself an outlet for himself, as Tifa had called it. It had been her idea to set this place up, just a block away from where she and Cloud lived. She had gone so far to comment, every now and then, that he wasn’t like he used to be--that he seemed a little more approachable, to which Vincent would always respond with a curt nod, and she, in turn, would laugh and say, “Then again, maybe not.” It was a game that he rather enjoyed, despite himself. Maybe that was why business was a little better then he had thought it would be, but even so, the only difference that he noticed beyond the small hole that had once been occupied by the entity known as Chaos, was that his nightmares had slowly been fading. It was almost bittersweet when he went a full night without one, since they had always seemed like his penance for the many sins he’d committed. He had felt as though it was just some small way to pay back the world. Now they were gone--perhaps his sins were forgiven now? Or perhaps it was because she had forgiven him? Had asked for him to forgive her as well? Either way, the nightmares were gone, he was leading a semi-normal life now, or as normal as an investigator of the paranormal could lead.
And now Cloud had vanished.
He had been gone a solid ten days now, and Vincent had no clues to say where he had gone--Cloud wasn’t one to leave notes or text messages. He had said nothing to Tifa or anyone else. His motorcycle was untouched. In fact, the only thing that was gone were the clothes he had been wearing and his sword. Nothing else was missing. No signs of a struggle, no ransoms, and the Turks had said that they had turned up no sign of the blond either--it was truly like the man had simply disappeared. Ten days without a single clue--until now.
“You’re Vincent Valentine, right?” the young man across the desk asked, leaning forward slightly. Vincent had to admit that this was possibly one of the more unique customers he’d had since he started this line of work. The young man was in his early twenties, at best, with a short crop of brown hair and youthful, cloud-gray eyes, and perhaps some of the fairest skin that Vincent had ever seen on a man. In fact, if Vincent had seen the man from behind, he would have sworn he was a young lady. But then, after his experiences with other effeminate men in the world, frankly, he wasn’t too surprised by all of that. His attire was another interesting point--it was incredibly old fashioned, looking as though he had stepped out of a fairy tale from some medieval period. Adorned in a light tunic, hose and a waist wrap decorated with beads and tassels, he was an interesting sight to behold. That, and he was, without doubt, one of the…perkiest individuals that he had ever met. “Yeah, Cloud told us all about you! You’re not that gloomy looking, like he made you out to be, but uh, then again, Cloud’s a pretty gloomy guy himself, so maybe that’s why?”
Vincent wasn’t sure whether that was a compliment or not, but given the demeanor of the one saying it, he guessed that it wasn’t in this case. “You have seen Cloud then? You speak as though you know him.”
“Heck yeah I do! Me an’ Cloud are good friends!” the young man replied with a huge grin on his face. “Me an’ him an’ Zidane and everyone else, we all did--well, we did something. I can’t really remember what it was, but I definitely know Cloud, and I definitely know about his friends. That’s why I’m here.” He was talking approximately several hundred miles an hour, but Vincent managed to glean enough information to know that there was a group of individuals. But then why couldn’t this person recall what they had been doing? Mass hypnosis perhaps?
“You say that you know him and a group of others, but you cannot recall exactly what you were all doing? Is this some manner of organization?” Vincent had had his fill of strange and mysterious groups. The last thing he needed to hear was that Cloud was wrapped up in some cult. While he felt that Cloud was indeed intelligent enough not to fall into some sort of trap like that willingly, Vincent also understood that there were incredible powers in this world, and that the mind of anyone could easily be bent given the right methods; especially Cloud’s, as AVALANCHE had learned the hard way three years ago.
“Nah, nothing like that. We were all fighting for something, you know? What it was, I couldn’t tell you, but it was pretty gosh-darn important, you know? I dunno about her name, but I bet Zidane could tell us.”
“You’re going to have to slow down if you expect me to understand the details,” Vincent reprimanded coolly, looking up from the notepad he had been writing on until this point. “To sum up all that you’ve told me up to this point, you and a group of individuals, one of them being Cloud, worked together to achieve some goal. You cannot remember what that goal was, but you are certain it was of great importance and benign. Does that sound correct?”
“That about does it, yeah,” came the cheery reply.
“And do you recall the names of these other individuals? Any sort of defining traits that would identify them perhaps?” This turned out to be a bad question on Vincent’s part, as the young man launched into a very thorough description of at least eight other people. He spoke fast, and though Vincent was able to keep up easy enough, he had a difficult time believing that Cloud worked alongside this youth without becoming vexed in some way. Then again, Cloud had seemed to stop feeling a great number of things just before he disappeared. As the young man finished his descriptions of the eight, he leaned forward on the desk, picking up the picture and looking at it quickly.
“Heh, looks like a fun bunch!” he beamed, then frowned in confusion. “Hey, you’re not in this picture.”
“I should think not. The picture was taken as a gift,” the darker man sighed, not appreciating the other pawing at things on his desk, especially the picture that was rather dear to him.
“Oh, right, the banner,” he chuckled, setting it back down again. “Man, that one gal in the black skirt’s kinda--now that I really look at her, she’s got a pretty big set of--“
“You’re name was Bartz, correct?” Vincent asked, deciding to cut off the statement where it stood. “You’re occupation outside of this project you and the others were working on that you seem unable to remember?” The detective honestly had to question if this wasn’t just a matter of this Bartz being scatter-brained and simply forgetting, rather then any form of mind-altering activity.
“Yep! That’s me!” Bartz grinned, hooking his thumb at himself. The exuberance he showed reminded Vincent distinctly of Yuffie, though Bartz was at least something to look at to help ignore the mindless buzzing that usually came from people of their sort. Even so, it was barely enough in this case to keep Vincent’s mind occupied while Bartz prattled on about himself. He sat there, staring across the desk at the young man, piecing together the possible course of action to take from here. If this was all the information he would get from Bartz, then it was to at least begin a real investigation. He had a list of names and some basic physical attributes that would aid in finding some direction for this investigation.
“And that’s when Boko got the runs and I had to--”
“I am certain it is fascinating, really,” Vincent interjected dryly, lips pursing slightly. “Do you have anything else that I may be able to use, or will you continue to enthrall me with tales of your chocobo’s digestive track?”
“Hey, Boko’s my best buddy!” Bartz replied, pouting as he fell back into the chair behind him. Folding his arms looking around a moment in though, he snapped his fingers, jumping to his feet. “Hey, yeah, there is something. Cloud had been kinda close to Terra. Like, he helped her out a couple times, and I think she kinda liked him. You know?” he asked, leaning forward again, his voice getting a bit low as if it were some big secret. “Like, ‘liked’ him, liked him.”
Now that was interesting. Cloud was close to a woman then? Perhaps then something had indeed happened during this vanishing act he had pulled that had brought him to some emotional change? Regardless, he was still missing, and Vincent had been asked by Tifa to locate him. He would do his job; plain and simple. His crimson eyes looked across at Bartz, who was fiddling with a dirty-looking feather now, humming some inane tune. “I will begin my investigation then. Where are you from? Do you require transportation back home? I could arrange for you to--”
Bartz’s face dropped, his cheerful demeanor vanishing quickly, turning into something of a sad smile instead. “Yeah, that’s the other thing. I don’t--well, ya see, I don’t really remember anything before this. Like, where my home is, or when, or whatever. I just know it’s not here. I remember Boko, an’ that’s about it.” He sat back down, looking at the feather in his hand. “It’s kinda bad, I know. I know there’s people waiting for me back home, wherever it is, but I can’t remember what they looked like, or even their names. Guess that makes me a bad friend, huh?” he asked, grinning with an amount of inner bitterness that Vincent didn’t think the young man would have been capable of showing.
With a sigh, Vincent rose from his seat. He was not the sort of be able to really give pep talks, he knew that. Still… “Let me ask you something? When Tifa directed you here, what was your thought process? You came because you wanted to seek out your companion, Cloud, correct? You wanted to aid in our search for him because, why? You wanted some sort of reward, correct?”
“No, of course not!” Bartz replied indignantly, folding his arms. “Cloud’s my friend! I don’t need a reward to--oh. I see what you did there.” His gray eyes turned to look at the window, the blinds drawn closed, as he huffed out a sigh of his own. “But that doesn’t mean anything. What kind of friend makes new friends while he forgets about old ones?”
“Did you have no one your own age when you were growing up?” the investigator asked simply, walking to the cabinet next to the window, opening a shelf as he spoke. His eyes looked through the various contents, all of them neatly arranged and organized to make them easier to locate. He pulled out a small, silver case and closed the cabinet, turning back to Bartz, who was frowning in thought.
“Well, yeah, I guess I did. There was one kid that left me on a roof one time when we were playing hide-and-seek because he couldn’t find me.”
“And you recall something like that from when you were a child?” Vincent asked, quirking a thin brow as he opened the case, removing a thin cigarette and snapping it shut again. It was a habit that he had taken up again, thanks to Cid. Still, when your body could not decay nor develop any manner of disease, what was a cigarette besides a harmless vice?
“It was kinda traumatizing,” Bartz replied with more then a little irritation. “Of course I would remember it! I mean, I’m still freaked out about heights!” He paused, surprised at how readily he admitted it. But then he’d been telling that secret to everyone else--maybe he was coming to grips with it, he decided. Lots of people were afraid of heights anyway, so it was no biggie.
“Then would not the same principle apply to these friends that you’ve forgotten about?” Vincent inquired, a clicking sound indicating he was lighting the cigarette as he turned back to Bartz, sitting down once again, eyes staring hard at Bartz. “If you berate yourself for something as simple as forgetting a name, then you are simply foolish. If these people are truly friends, then you will remember them eventually. It may take time, or some obscure reminder, but it will come to you. The people you care about can never be forgotten, at least, not completely. Until then, the best you can do is to move on with your life and focus your energies on remembering them--that is, if they are important to you. If they are not, then put it from your mind and forget about them. You’ll save yourself time and energy.”
Bartz didn’t say anything for a few seconds, as he looked down at the feather in his hands. Vincent watched as he turned to over and over, and he could almost hear the wheels in Bartz’s head turning. After a minute had passed, he finally looked up, a determined grin on his face. “You know what, you’re right! What kind of friend gives up after a little slip-up like that, right? I’ll do whatever it takes to remember the people I care about, and get back home to them!” Starting to his feet excitedly, he grabbed Vincent’s free hand and shook it. As he pulled away, he left the feather within the man’s hand. “You hold onto this, ‘kay? It’s a lucky charm from my best buddy. It’s come through for me an’ Squall, and I know it’ll help you find Cloud. I’m gonna go look for him and everyone else too! I dunno where they all wound up, but hey, what’s an adventure without a little mystery, huh?” His smile grew as he turned and rushed out the door, calling over his shoulder, “Thanks a lot, Vinny! I know we’ll run into each other again one day. Maybe next time I’ll be able to tell you all about my friends.” He turned the corner, heading down the hall, and Vincent sighed, grateful to have him out of his hair. Looking at the feather in his hand, he shook his head, the corner of his lip turning up ever so slightly. It had been doing that a little more often then it used to these days.
“A good luck charm. I suppose I shall need all the help I can get before this is over.” Standing once again, he gently mashed the cigarette into the ash tray on his desk and grabbed his coat. This wasn’t going to be easy in the slightest, that much he was certain. A group of individuals with no apparent relation to each other, placed together for some unknown reason. Cloud was one of them, and was currently missing in action. This raised a number of questions, but Vincent had learned to take things one step at a time. Questions usually solved themselves if left alone--there was no point in running after something that would answer itself eventually. Flicking off the light of the office and closing the door behind him, Vincent Valentine started down the hall, his mind set on solving the case; plain and simple.
X Accelerando X
· Sun Nov 29, 2009 @ 05:38am · 0 Comments