Track Four – Tseng – Easier to Run
He always thought it was easier to run when the voices came. That way, they couldn’t attack him with their predictions or the things he didn’t want to hear. Other people’s thoughts. The future or prophecies. He did not want to know about the world rotting away. He did not want to know about the children that he couldn’t save. He did not want to hear about pains that he couldn’t soothe.
It hurt too much.
His breath came out in sharp pants as he sliced his katana through the air. His boots scraped across the sandy ground of the training arena, kicking up a light sheen of dust to cloud the air. He almost choked on it, the gritty feel of dirt rising in his mouth, caking to the sweat that clung to his brow.
He always told himself it was easier to replace the pain with something numb. Alcohol. Mindless sex. Anything to make them go away. Anything to not remember the past or the future, to forget the present. To lock them away. It was easier to go than face the pain within him all alone. He didn’t trust anyone else, so it was cast away until it didn’t exist, draining him a little, making him die more each day.
His sword struck the training dummy with a solid clank, but he pulled back just as quickly to form another well-aimed strike. The dummy dumbly smiled in return, as if happy for every strike, happy for every fall of the sword or axe or dagger or whatever Tseng used to train himself into exhaustion.
Something had been taken from deep inside of him. The secret that he had kept locked away so that no one could ever see. If they did, they would hate him. They would call him a monster like the others. The wounds were so deep that they never showed, and they would never go away. He remembered the past so well, like moving pictures in his head. For years and years, they had played. They refused to let him forget. They refused to let him rest.
He ignored the numbness that was spreading to his arm, the aching in his back and thighs. He ignored the sharp gasps for breath and the sweat pouring over his body. He ignored his hair as it flopped weakly around his face, having fallen from the tie he pulled it back in. He ignored the sun shining down on him, burning his face, searing his sight. He welcomed the pain.
If he could change, he would. If he could take back the pain, he would. But it was too late. He hadn’t listened. He never listened. Instead, he ran; it was so much easier. If he could retrace every wrong move that he made, he would. If he could stand up and take the blame, he would.
Except, that meant that Hojo would find out his secret, and he would be the bastard’s newest experiment. It would be just another disgrace to add onto a pile of them, a new fear to haunt his dreams at night.
If he could take the shame to the grave, he would.
The shadows talked. The ghosts had names. And in the graveyard, they whispered their woes like he could help.
They had thrown him out, his own kind. They had cast his family aside. He was nothing more than a disgrace. He was an exile, an outcast, an abomination. That’s what they had called him. And his mother… his poor, sweet mother…
They had thrown them out like they were garbage.
Sometimes, he remembered the darkness of his past, bringing back the memories he wished he didn’t have. Of a home he once used to live in. Of praying in a temple to a god he no longer believed in. Of accusations and harsh words and foul names and being given no time to pack all the little things that meant everything to a five-year-old boy. Of watching his mother waste away in misery and his father die not long after. Of being unable to stop her tears.
He blinked back fiercely on tears threatening to crop up, using all of his self-taught willpower to push them down. His boots slid across the ground again as he reared his hand back, stabbing fiercely at the dummy. With a clank, the head went flying, only to land with a thunk about twenty feet behind him. He gasped for breath as he sunk to the ground, the sword falling from nerveless fingers. He didn’t care that he was kneeling in the dirt.
Sometimes, he thought of letting go and never looking back and never moving forward so there would never be a past. He would do anything to forget the pain, to forget what should have been, the mistakes that he made. He ignored the voices, ignored all the people around him, even those that meant something to him. He had pushed away Sephiroth before he got a chance to pull him close. He had feared for the man and afraid was of his attraction, terrified that it might mean he wanted something more.
He buried everything beneath layers of ice and alcohol, layers of impassivity and rigid control. Anything to no longer feel and not reveal all the secrets that he held. He just washed it aside, all of the helplessness inside. He pretended he didn’t feel misplaced. It was so much simpler than change.
He sat on the ground, heart thudding wildly in his chest as the sun beat down on him. He was unable to stop the heavy sensation that settled on him, the weight of his shame and his burdens. It made him want to tear out his hair in frustration, to collapse and weep, but he didn’t dare.
He didn’t have the luxury of breaking down, so instead, he took deep breaths to calm the trembling in his limbs. His hardened silver eyes locked on the headless dummy, the thing having taken the brunt of his emotions.
It was so much easier to run, replacing his pain with something numb. It was so much easier to go than to face all that pain all alone. He couldn’t face all those voices, all those things they asked of him. He wasn’t a hero. He could not save the world. He didn’t want the voices or the telepathy; he didn’t want to hear other people’s thoughts. He just wanted them to all go away. He wanted silence and peace. He wanted… to be normal.
If he could change, he would. If he could take back the pain, he would. He would replace every wrong move that he had made.
The craving hit then, the desire to make it all disappear in a wash of alcohol and anonymous sex. Perhaps it was time to make another trip to the slums, a place where Reno and Rude and Elena did not know to look.
He felt a buzzing in his pocket then, the cell phone that he had forgotten. He dully reached into his pocket and pulled out the PHS, flipping it open automatically and answering with a clipped “yes. “He listened with half an ear as the caller rattled on, fighting back a grimace because that meant he could not partake his vice. His only solace.
He hung up several minutes later with a new mission in mind. He picked up his discarded sword, cast one final glance at the beheaded dummy and headed out of the training arena.
After all, it was easier to run. It was so much easier to go than to face everything all alone. And he would take all his shame to the grave.