II.

Gray, monotonous light lit the alley as a young man awoke from an uncomfortably light sleep. He found himself wedged in between an old garbage bag and what he assumed to be a rotting mattress. Immediately, the stench filled his senses before he could even think to cover his nose in a futile attempt to block out the deadly aroma. The young man did the first thing that came to mind, he launched himself from where he'd been pinned and stumbled face first into a puddle of gray sludge.

Oh God...he thought, sitting back on his knees and wiping his face with the thin, stained wife beater he'd been wearing since God knew how long.

When he'd managed to remove most of the sludge from his face, feeling it drying along his jaw line and pulling the skin taut, causing it to itch, he released his shirt. It slapped against his stomach with a sickening slop, spreading a cold sensation across his abdomen. He stood up, glancing down at his sludge-covered shirt and cussed under his breath.

In the light, he stood quite tall with a messy crop of sable hair, tan skin, and bright ocean-green eyes that stood out against the darkness. If it hadn't been for the thin shirt he was wearing, a passerby wouldn't be able to tell that his awkward, wiry frame actually played host to a number of well-built muscles mainly in his arms and abdomen.

Kicking at the ground, he reached for something that was sticking to his back in an uncomfortable manner and swung it around revealing a pair of tarnished silver dog tags. The surface was worn to the point that they were thinner in the middle than they were around the edges, as if someone had run their fingers along the surface many, many times though the roughly-imprinted text was still readable:

Crossfire, Soul R.

91862 RED

The second dog tag was not identical to the first as one would think. Instead, it bore a golden crest of a ferocious looking stallion and a magnificent bird flying above it. The crest looked hand made by a talented craftsman. On the other side was written:

Crossfire, Relic M.

32356 GRN

Soul stared down at them for a few moments before wiping away the sweat collecting on his brow and scratching away a bit of the dried sludge. The sweltering heat had already begun to ruin the day and according to his watch it was only seven thirty-two in the morning.

Damnit. Two hours of sleep...He sighed, scratching the back of his head in an annoyed habitual manner, and strolled out from the alley into the busy street of the city of Queen Latany Francesca Dormirdra XII.

•°•

As soon as he left the alley, eyes drifted over to where he was standing. Business men and women, mothers taking their children to the park, men setting off to work at the factory, they all stopped to stare at him as he made his way down the scorching stretch of sidewalk; eyes pointed downwards, Soul tried to make his presence as diminutive as possible, but people just wouldn't take their eyes off of him.

"Hey mommy, is that--?" a small child tugged on her mother's skirt, and the woman silenced the girl before she could finish. When Soul finally brought his eyes up to meet their faces, they all turned away and continued on as if they hadn't been doing anything out of the ordinary. Soul sighed quietly, digging his hands into his pockets and keeping his face downwards.

It wasn't long until the scent of breakfast filled his senses and his stomach growled, moodily telling him to eat something soon. While trying to remember the last time he ate, Soul bumped into a thin girl with dark hair and dark eyes. She was carrying a guitar and looked flustered. While he barely stumbled back, she was pushed to the ground from the force of the collision and landed with a loud crunch right on top of her guitar.

"Shit! I'm sorry! Shit shit shit…" he squatted down and offered her his hand. She took it, wincing and grabbing her side. When she removed it, her palm was covered with a little blood; an injury from a shard of the guitar's body. Soul took her hand and sat her down at a bench, "Are you ok?"

The girl looked up at him with wide eyes, "Yes. I'll be alright, just a small scratch on my side." She replied in a shaky tone. He went over to grab the remains of her guitar and set it down next to the bench. Immediately, Soul pulled out a roll of bandage tape and a roll of fifty dollar bills.

"Here, you can use this to buy a new guitar." He said, handing her the roll of money. She looked at it, clearly unable what to think because the wad of money was enough to pay for the guitar ten times over. He put it in her hand and then pulled off a strip of the bandage tape. "Sorry, but I'll need you to lift up your shirt a little bit."

The girl looked at him like he was crazy, face flustering and hands shaking slightly. Soul blinked, looking from her side to her eyes repeatedly. There. Back again. There. Back Again. "God. I'm sorry. Here," he ripped a piece of the tape off with his teeth, "take this and get yourself cleaned up somewhere, alright? I'm really, really sorry about the guitar."

The other could do nothing but stare as he uncomfortably got up and left. After a few moments, she stood up and headed to a diner to clean herself up; bandage tape in one hand, wad of money in the other.