wordmage: Pen nib with a paw print (Default)
Crimson-Sun did a fantastic piece of art of Lazard and Sephiroth, from the shoulders up, and you're looking at Sephiroth's back but he has his head bowed a little, and Lazard is touching his face with this tender, compassionate look. Obviously, I had to write about it.

[Original Tumblr Post X]


“They’re gone.”
 
Lazard looked up immediately at the quiet words, lips parting though he could find none of his own at the sight of his lover. In so many ways, Sephiroth had always embodied strength to him, and if you gave him a passing glance tonight he was no different. He stood tall, posture perfect, an imposing figure of black, silver and porcelain. His face was schooled into neutrality, deep voice steady.
 
But his eyes, those brilliant green eyes… something was broken, and threatened to lose him in the wash of pain like nothing he’d ever known. In that moment, he felt a nearly blinding fury towards the two missing SOLDIERs, that they could just go without a word. They were his friends as well, and he would likely miss them, but Sephiroth… he was devastated.
 
For all his strength, for all his skill, for all the battles he’d fought and the war he’d won… he was not prepared for this. This injury cut deeper than a blade and would not heal anywhere near as quickly. It might never heal completely, as stricken as he was, but all he could do was hope.
 
He’d risen at some point, crossing to his lover and touching his cheek with a gloved hand. That he bowed his head into it without reservation made his heart ache, and he touched their heads together. “Sephiroth…”
 
“They left me.” The words were a whisper, lost and hurting in ways the younger man didn’t understand, had never had to deal with before. “Not a word. Angeal and I had breakfast that morning, and…”
 
And he was gone, without a word, without a hint that he would do so, in the middle of a mission. Yes, Lazard knew. He’d been there, if not in the thick of it. Zack had been baffled, and the others kept in the dark, but he knew the moment he’d seen Sephiroth’s face that he had been betrayed again.
 
The abandonment cut him to the core, but he’d barely had time to react until now. Part of him was touched that he was considered safe enough, a haven for his general - his love, because this went so far beyond the bond of comrades, this wasn’t the silver general standing so close that their heads touched and his bangs obscured his expression. He’d lost so much more than subordinates. Most of him, however, ached that he hurt so badly he needed someone else to cling to.
 
He could have happily lived his life with Sephiroth never needing to lean on his strength, never being hurt like this. But life was often cruel, and even if Angeal and Genesis came back through the door this very night, the damage was done. Even a mended heart would always have fine cracks, broken bits where it was weakened. Where it could break once more.
 
“I don’t understand,” for a moment, his hands were simply clenched at his sides, but then they were holding his jacket as tightly as they dared. Ever mindful of his strength, ever mindful of the needs of others even when he didn’t understand why. He tried so hard.
 
And they left.
 

wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)

Short banner with two pictures of Cid Highwind saying "Happy birthday Cid Highwind"
[Original Tumblr post X]


Cid Highwind was born on February 22, 1975, in an unknown location and is originally met in Rocket Town. Depending on the source material, he is listed as 5′8 or 5′10 and was given blood type B.

Known distinctly for his foul mouth, temper and rough personality, Cid is just as matter of fact with his compassion and shows his own brand of caring. His weapon of choice is a spear, but guns found in his engineering room indicate he also uses them. While he’s seen smoking regularly in the Compilation, in Kingdom Hearts he’s seen with a toothpick instead, presumably due to the younger target audience.

Cid’s ages through the Compilation are as follows:

  • 26 in Before Crisis
  • 32 in the original FFVII
  • 34 in Advent Children
  • 35 in Dirge of Cerberus

While unseen in Crisis Core, he would be 25 at the game start and is employed by ShinRa as a pilot and aerospace engineer. It likely isn’t a stretch to literally call him a rocket scientist.

Cid is mentioned in Crisis Core as an airship pilot and is a part of the Space Program, headed on the ShinRa Board of Directors by Palmer. He’s first chronologically seen in Before Crisis when the original AVALANCHE attacks the Shinra No. 26 rocket before it can be launched, stealing an oxygen tank. Cid insists they continue, and when the President and then-Vice President Rufus agree AVALANCHE kidnaps him.

Upon being rescued, Cid resumes the launch, leading into the countdown. Unfortunately, his assistant Shera is doing a safety check and Cid forces the launch to be aborted so she won’t die in the blast. He is determined to continue to take care of the ship, but ShinRa eventually cuts the space program, allegedly due to funding. The rocket becomes a tourist attraction and Cid grows bitter at having his lifelong dream of going into space crushed.

When met in the OG, Cid is extremely bitter and his temper all the worse for the four years since the aborted launch. Shera is living with him and has devoted herself to doing whatever she can to make up for her part in it, but he’s terrible to her anyway. He joins the second AVALANCHE nearly by accident, grabbing onto his plane, the Tiny Bronco, when they attempt to steal it and staying on with them.

Despite a plethora of insults and generally abrasive behavior, Cid likes the idea of fighting against ShinRa and eventually comes to believe in AVALANCHE’s cause. At one point, when Cloud is out of commission, he is voted a temporary leader, likely due to his background as a captain.

During Meteorfall, Cid finally achieves his dream of going to space with AVALANCHE in an ironic attempt to stop ShinRa from launching it with a Huge Materia. He makes it to space with the party and Shera, and finds out that she was right in her original fears four years ago and he apologizes to her as they return back to the Planet. He uses his airship, the Highwind, to ferry the party throughout the game and uses it at the end to get them out of the Northern Crater, where they watch Holy destroy Meteor.

In On the Way to a Smile, Case of Barret, Cid and Shera are working on a new airship that Cid eventually agrees to use helping people with Geostigma get medical attention. He appears in Advent Children bringing the rest of the team to Edge to battle Bahamut SIN, arriving in time to save Denzel and Tifa from some of the Remnant’s shadow creepers. He keeps the team ready to help Cloud with Kadaj if necessary, but they don’t end up landing, only meeting him later at Aerith’s church.

During Dirge of Cerberus, Cid is a leader of an airship division supported by the WRO and is involved in the battle of Midgar against Omega and Deepground’s forces. It’s heavily implied he and Vincent are close friends and used to have a few drinks now and then.

Cid is styled after the Dragoon class, and uses spears, often striking multiple times and multiple enemies. All of his limit breaks use his physical strength stat to determine their power, and his final limit is the strongest of anyone’s limit break, including Omnislash

  • Level 1 begins with Boost Jump and unlocks Dynamite with 7 uses, the only limit to reference his constant smoking by having him light the dynamite on a cigarette
  • Level 2 unlocks Hyper Jump after killing 60 enemies, and Dragon by 6 uses
  • Level 3 unlocks Dragon Dive after killing 76 enemies post-Dragon limit and Big Brawl after 5 uses
  • Level 4, Highwind, is able to be unlocked once Cid knows all six other limits and has the Highwind Manual, found in the sunken Gelinka’s cargo hold and has the potential to be the most powerful of any limit break in the OG

In addition to his Compilation appearances, Cid also appears in:

  • Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade
  • Final Fantasy Artniks
  • Final Fantasy Record Keeper
  • Final Fantasy Trading Card Game
  • Final Fantasy VII G-Bike
  • Pictologica Final Fantasy
  • Triple Triad (version available via the Final Fantasy Portal App)

Cid is also in several Kingdom Hearts games.

While not the precise same or even related character, there is always a character named Cid in each Final Fantasy game.


Cid’s birthday, February 22nd, will be celebrated yearly on FF7Central.

wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
So I operate FF7Central on Tumblr, and one thing done is profile pages of FF7 characters for their birthdays. I plan to do others eventually, and want to copy them all over here. First up, Aerith!

Image with two pictures of Aerith, saying "Happy birthday Aerith Gainsborough"

[Original Tumblr post X]

Aerith Gainsborough (also known as “Aeris” Gainsborough due to a translation error in the original FFVII) was born on February 7th, 1985 in Icicle Inn of the Northern Continent to Professor Gast Faremis and Ifalna, last of the Cetra race. Upon her mother’s death, Aerith was considered the last known Cetra.

Listed as 5′3 with blood type O, she is the following ages during the Compliation:
  • 15-22 in Crisis Core
  • 17 in Before Crisis
  • 22 in the original FFVII

Less than a month after her birth, Aerith was captured along with her mother by Professor Hojo and taken back to ShinRa where she would spend the first seven years of her life. In 1992 she fled with her mother under the plate but was orphaned when Ifalna died at the train station from wounds inflicted by ShinRa’s security during their escape.
 
Elymra Gainsborough, having been waiting at the station for her husband in hopes of his return from the Wutai war, took in the seven year old and raised her as her own daughter. While the Turks would eventually find her again and maintained surveillance during her entire life in Midgar, they did not force her to return to the company until 0007 during the original game canon.

Aerith is first met chronologically during Chapter 11 of Before Crisis, a full five years before her original appearance in the OG. She plays a significant part in Crisis Core, where her relationship originally alluded to with Zack is further fleshed out. During that time, Aerith receives her signature ribbon from Zack and together they set out to help her sell flowers as she is first seen in the OG. There is also a comment from Zack that she should wear pink the next time they meet, and when she is last seen in Crisis Core she is wearing what becomes her signature outfit.

During the OG, Aerith approaches life with enthusiasm and curiosity. President Shinra believed her able to lead the company to ‘the Promised Land’ but she is largely uneducated in her Cetra heritage. Nevertheless, history comes full circle and she ends up giving her life in an attempt to stop the Calamity of the Skies, Jenova, who had nearly wiped out the Cetra people over two thousand years before.

There have been questions from fandom of how necessary that may have been, as there was no indication in Aerith’s behavior that she believed it was necessary that she sacrifice herself to summon Holy and there would have been no reason for Sephiroth to kill her unless that would hinder her efforts.

In Advent Children Complete, Aerith is seen years after her death in visions by Cloud Strife, and creates the holy rain (presumed to be her Great Gospel limit break) that cures Geostigma and removes the last traces of Jenova’s presence. All members of AVALANCHE can be seen wearing a ribbon in her honor, and Marlene has a similar pink ribbon in her hair.

In the typical style of white mages, Aerith uses staves and rods as her weapons, and her limit breaks are centered on healing and buffing the party.
  • Level 1 defaults with Healing Wind and unlocks Seal Evil with 8 uses
  • Level 2 unlocks after killing 80 enemies with Breath of the Earth and unlocks Fury Brand after 6 uses
  • Level 3 unlocks after killing 80 enemies after L2 with Planet Protector and Pulse of Life after 5 uses
  • Level 4 is Great Gospel, suspected to be the source of the healing rain in ACC. The manual can be received as soon as you unlock the Tiny Bronco, but steps can be taken to get it as you get the buggy.

In addition to her appearances in FFVII Compilation games and the On the Way to a Smile novellas, Aerith appears in the following Final Fantasy games:
  • Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade
  • Final Fantasy All the Bravest
  • Final Fantasy Explorers
  • Final Fantasy Record Keeper
  • Final Fantasy Trading Card Game
  • Final Fantasy World Wide Words
  • Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy
  • Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
  • Triple Triad (Final Fantasy Portal App version only)

There have been references to Aerith in other games such as World of Warcraft and she also appears in the Kingdom Hearts series.
wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
 Ao3 || FFN

Previous

CH3: A Second Chance
Summary: Call him sentimental, but Genesis thought it was time three boys had a happy ending.

Genesis was at a point in his life that he would admit there were some things he wasn’t an expert in. Magic, however, was something he would still go toe-to-toe with anyone who dared to use it against him.

So when Sephiroth’s remaining remnants came up onto the ruins loaded with active materia, he rounded on the pair with his wing spread and his sword glowing ready once more. “Little brothers, you do not want to start this fight.”

Loz squinted at him, panting under the strain of injury and the constant rain. “You’re not… our brother…”

“I’m more your brother than the boy you’ve been harassing.” Genesis’ wing flicked back towards one very baffled Cloud Strife, a quick glance showing he was glaring at him. It wasn’t his current concern, however, so he looked back to the two silver haired boys. “I grew up with Sephiroth, friend, foe and more. So believe me, I’m the closest thing walking this planet to kin these days that you’ll get to talk to.”

“Who are you?” Cloud was apparently not content to be ignored, boots heavy on the wreckage behind him. “And who was that other man? What did he do with Sephiroth?”

“My name is Genesis Rhapsodos, former SOLDIER First Class, the first of three children from the Jenova Project. The man with the white wings was Angeal Hewley, my best friend and mentor to Zack Fair.” Genesis turned to keep an eye on the blond, not missing the way his eyes narrowed at Zack’s name. “The three of us were friends, as best how we knew to be.”

“He wasn’t happy to see you.”

“He doesn’t know more than his own name anymore, Strife, let alone who I am beyond an interference.” Genesis shrugged, waving his sword towards Sephiroth’s remnants. “Let those spells go, boys, you don’t want to play this game. You will lose, and you won’t like the outcome.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Yazoo said. “We’ll all be together again.”

“You can be together again without having to die.” Angeal returned, Kadaj’s body laying limp in his arms. “Here.”

Kadaj!” The glow of their materia faded, attacks abandoned as they hurried forward.

“He’ll need to rest a while, but he should be okay.” Angeal coaxed them to kneel, giving over the unconscious remnant before rejoining Genesis. “I’ll take care of Sephiroth. You be careful, alright?”

“Oh I think I’m going to be quite busy minding those three.” Genesis rolled his eyes. “Consider it my penance, I suppose. The Planet may not like it, but they probably should have thought about that before repurposing me. Sentient weapons never do exactly what you want.”

Angeal laughed quietly, resting a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “If anyone can manage them, it’s you. I have to go, but if you need me, just call.”

Genesis nodded, smiling fondly and watching as Angeal turned, going back to Cloud and handing over the restored Buster Sword. Whatever he said was quiet enough that it stayed between them, but Genesis didn’t miss the way Cloud’s shoulders relaxed, a tentative smile on his face. It blossomed into genuine warmth as the shimmering figure of Zack Fair returned to give him a hug, clapping him on the shoulder before he vanished with Angeal.

After a moment of silence, Cloud looked up and met his eyes, staring a long moment before coming over. He stopped when Yazoo and Loz shifted protectively over Kadaj, but was still less surprised than they were when Genesis opened his wing in a protective gesture. “You’re gonna take care of them, huh?”

“I plan to.” Genesis shrugged. “If they’re a problem, they’ll be my problem. But they deserve a chance.”

Cloud nodded slowly. “People saw them, you won’t be able to stay here. They’d be hunted down. If Rufus and the Turks find out, they still will.”

“We’ll manage.”

Cloud nodded again, sheathing his sword. “Alright. I’m holding you to it.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Genesis assured him. “Quite the protector you’ve become, even if you didn’t choose the path. Perhaps the blade suits you more than I’d thought.”

Cloud glanced at the Buster Sword, frowning slightly. “You knew all of them, before? Zack and Sephiroth?”

“I did.” Genesis considered his expression. “Perhaps one day I’ll tell you stories.”

Cloud smiled faintly. “I’d like that. Later.”

“Later,” he agreed. For now, there were three boys who needed him, a mirror of three young men who had desperately needed guidance years ago. This time, Genesis would make sure everything turned out alright.

wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
A03 || FFN

CH2: Déjà Vu
Summary: At long last, things come full circle and the cycle of pain is over.

It had been the better part of a decade since the three of them had battled like this. It was in Midgar back then, too, though they’d chosen Junon as their virtual playground. Even now, Genesis wasn’t certain if that was really where things started to fall apart, or if it was just the first unhealing wound between them.

Pain blazed through him and he was forced to refocus, smiling wryly as he regarded the neat tear in his coat, feeling blood dampen the fabric beneath. Their fights had always been intense, but Sephiroth wasn’t checking his blows this time. The fondness he’d once taken for granted was replaced by an unsettling hollowness, everything about Sephiroth seeming washed out; the man he’d been seemed long gone. “I suppose you really have forgotten, haven’t you? Never let it be said I shied from the chance to beat some sense into you, old friend.”

Sephiroth sneered, but the real emotion wasn’t there. “I am a god. Stand against me and I will destroy you.”

Even if the morrow is barren of promises, nothing will forestall my return.” The words still came easily, but were bitter on Genesis’ lips. “You left me to rot once, my friend, yet here we are once again. The world may have forgotten who we once were, but I remember.

Sephiroth didn’t deign to reply, bringing his blade down hard, sparks flying as Masamune and Rapier met at full force - Genesis would give him no quarter, he never had. “You are a fool. It’s useless to resist, I will win.”

“Overconfidence will destroy you first,” Angeal said, spinning into Genesis’ place, the two falling into sync as if nothing had changed. “It doesn’t have to be this way, Sephiroth.”

There is no other way, you are only ensuring your death!”

There. There was real emotion at last, frustration flicking in those washed out eyes, and Angeal smiled wryly. “I’m already dead, Sephiroth. Just like you.”

“You’re nothing like me,” he hissed furiously.

“We’re the only ones like you,” Genesis retorted, black wing stretching to full glory, mirroring Sephiroth’s own. “Therein lies your only immortality, Sephiroth, that you will never be truly forgotten.”

“I will never be a memory.” Sephiroth’s eyes narrowed and he flicked his blade to the side in challenge. “No more distractions. I will not be delayed any further!”

“So be it.” Genesis ran a hand along the length of his blade, new runes lighting along it. “My soul, corrupted by vengeance, hath endured torment to find the end of the journey.”

Sephiroth lunged, blade set to kill.

Enough!” Angeal met him blow for blow, wings straining to keep himself aloft under the force of it. “That’s enough, Sephiroth.”

Get out of my way,” Sephiroth snarled, too far gone to understand the bitter irony of his words. With a flurry of blows, he wrenched free of Angeal, wing beating hard to send him towards Genesis. “I’ll show you torment!”

In my own salvation,” Genesis continued, two great flaps of his wing bringing him up to meet Sephiroth, spinning in the air to gain momentum. He gasped softly when Sephiroth’s blade cut deep in his shoulder, managing a faint, bitter smile as he finished the verse. “And your eternal slumber.”

It was almost anticlimactic, somehow, to watch Sephiroth clutch at his chest where Rapier had impaled, shock written openly across his face. “But I…”

“Goodnight, my friend,” Genesis whispered, pulling his blade back and watching as Angeal caught Sephiroth, easing him back to the ground.

Angeal brushed Sephiroth’s bangs out of his face, smile soft and sad at the hurt and confusion that passed through washed out green eyes before they finally closed. “I’ll make sure he’s alright this time.”

Genesis huffed a laugh, nodding. “Take care, then. And if you ever put him back together, you keep that bastard in place. I’ll join you when the Planet is done with me.”

Angeal laughed, shaking his head. “Alright. Be careful, Genesis.”

“Mm.” He inclined his head slightly, watching Angeal curl his great white wings around them. In a moment, they were gone, a swirl of white and black feathers whirling away as a gentle rain began to fall.

Previous || Next
wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
This fic was based off of this headcanon, regarding why Zack was only seen at the end of Advent Children. Also on Ao3 & FFN.

Ch1: The Three Friends Reunited Once Again
Summary: It was never supposed to be Cloud's fight

Zack wasn’t sure where on the human-to-monster scale he fit these days - did it count when you were dead? he was pretty sure it shouldn’t count - but he was positive he wasn’t an Ancient. The only reason he was still able to keep a presence in the Lifestream was because Aerith was. Then again, she’d said more than once that his willpower was pretty impressive too. Apparently that was what let him leave her side at all.

Which was exactly what he was doing while she was helping Cloud deal with Geostigma and the three boys Sephiroth had crafted in his image. Cloud was his friend, but he had more than Zack. Right now, someone else needed him.

“Sephiroth!”

The former SOLDIER didn’t acknowledge him, a much more solid presence in the Lifestream just by sheer power, washed out gray-green eyes watching the living with obsessive attention. Cloud was easy to see, and Zack winced at the flashes of the silver haired boys that Sephiroth had thrown out into the world.

Zack stopped close by, on almost stable footing in the bubble of power the older man held around him. “Sephiroth, listen to me. You can’t keep doing this. Let it go, man, we’re dead.”

You’re dead,” Sephiroth corrected absently. “Fragile human that you are.”

“Oh god, can you not do this now?” Zack grit his teeth, trying to find any sign of the man he’d once called friend. “Sephiroth, you have to stop this.”

“It will end soon enough.” A small smile curved his lips, watching the littlest one baiting Cloud. “Good puppets, aren’t they? A pity your friend didn’t want to play along… no matter.”

“Don’t do this.” Zack wasn’t afraid to beg, he was afraid it wasn’t working. “Let it go. Please, just let it go, Sephiroth. Our time’s up, there’s nothing out there for us now.”

“I don’t expect you to understand.” Sephiroth’s tone was suddenly softer, more familiar, and he turned his head to offer that same little smile. “You never really understood, but that’s alright. You’re only human, after all.”

“So are you,” Zack insisted.

Sephiroth chuckled softly, looking back at Kadaj and Cloud’s battle. “I am beyond humanity. And my time is only beginning.”

Sephiroth -” Too late, Zack saw Kadaj falling, curling in on himself and taking in the remaining concentration of Jenova cells. He spent a breathless moment cursing ShinRa as Sephiroth vanished from his side, taking over the body of his little remnant. The smile he gave Cloud as their swords clashed was chilling.

“Zack?” Aerith came to his side, bringing the illusion of flowers in her wake and filling the cold space Sephiroth had left behind. She touched his arm lightly, green eyes full of concern. “It’s up to Cloud now.”

“It should never have been his fight.” Zack crossed his arms, tracking the fight with his eyes and feeling a terrible certainty settle like ice in his gut. “He’s not going to make it.”

“His Geostigma is gone, and he has the strength,” Aerith said. “Cloud has what it takes, and his friends are there just in case.”

“Sephiroth was fighting in a war when Cloud was still a kid, Aerith, the man could have beat him on muscle memory, that’s not even talking about sheer power.” Zack ran a hand back through his hair. “He’s toying with him, and Cloud doesn’t have enough faith in himself to take advantage of it and end the fight.”

Aerith sighed quietly. “What are you going to do about it?”

That was the question, wasn’t it?

“Tell me what you cherish most.”

Zack arched a brow slowly, a grim smile on his lips. “I have an idea.”

“Be careful!” Aerith watched him go, clasping her hands loosely. Be safe, Zack. I don’t want to lose you again.


Zack hefted the Buster Sword, grimacing at the rust and wear on the blade. It would do its job, though; the Buster was far too well made to be ruined so easily. And maybe it was a little fitting, bringing it with him in that state to have Cloud’s back. It was taking a lot of energy to pull it off, but if he could just end this, if he could just make sure it never happened again, that this nightmare that had been going on since he was a teenager would finally end… maybe things would finally be alright. 

He could see the look on Cloud’s face coming in, all the pain and loss and that same self doubt that had haunted him for as long as Zack had known him. It wasn’t an expression he could look at long, standing at Cloud’s back to get his composure together. “Hey. You need a hand?”

The blond shook his head, using his sword as a crutch to get upright. “Zack…”

God, that voice. He sounded so lost, like Zack was somebody who could make a difference. Who had made a difference, instead of a load of very painful and costly mistakes. Blinking back tears, he tried to keep up a positive tone; if that lie helped Cloud, right now wasn’t the time to argue it. “You already beat him once, right? Should be a cinch. Just… remember what I told you.”

That is ironic.”

Zack froze, breath catching at a voice he honestly hadn’t expected to ever hear again. “Angeal?

His mentor shimmered into view a few paces away, eyeing the Buster Sword ruefully. “I think it’s time I take that burden back.”

“But…” Zack could hear Cloud murmur his name in confusion, but he could only stare as Angeal held a hand out, the Buster appearing there like it had been called. “Angeal, wait!”

“This shouldn’t have been your fight.” Angeal offered a small, sad smile. “I’m sorry. This time, we’ll set things right.”

“… we?

The Lifestream construct broke around them, Zack left behind in limbo as Angeal took a fighting stance in front of Cloud. “That’s enough, Sephiroth.”

For a moment, Sephiroth stared blankly at him, eyes trailing along the two white wings as Angeal took to the air. “I knew you, once.”

Angeal nodded slowly. “There’s a lot you’ve forgotten, my friend.”

“I have no friends, nor do I need them.” His expression closed off once more as he flicked his blade in challenge. “Stand aside, or your fate will go with the rest of the traitors.”

“I can’t do that.” Angeal readied himself, broad shoulders set. “This has to end, Sephiroth.”

“And so I shall end it.” Sephiroth launched himself down, gravity lending him speed and force behind his blow, driving Angeal back. “Is this the best you can do? You should have let Cloud try before he bled out. At least he stood a chance. You are nothing-

A streak of fire roared across the building, cutting off Sephiroth’s advance. “I don’t remember you being this chatty.”

Boots clicked quietly along the ruined metal, a long crimson blade deflecting a streak of blue energy thrown by the force of Sephiroth’s blade as the redhead joined Angeal’s side. “And so the three friends are reunited once again.”

Sephiroth looked between the pair a moment, frowning. “… you should not be here…”

“He doesn’t remember,” Angeal explained.

“Well.” Genesis chuckled softly, a gloved hand running down his blade until its runes gleamed. “I guess I’ll have to beat it into his head, then.”

Next
wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
[Original post on Tumblr]

First, some screen caps from ACC to set the canonical scene.

Picture of Cloud in ACC with Zack behind him.
Pay attention to two main things in this series - Zack's eyes and the Buster Sword.

Close up of Zack's face, tears in his eyes.
Zack keeps a really light tone when he's talking to Cloud, but there are tears in his eyes during the entire conversation.

Take note that the Buster Sword is shown in the same rusted condition that Cloud left it in.
Notice that the Buster Sword is in the same rusted condition that Cloud had it in on the cliff, not how Zack left it.

Now, on to discuss ACC, namely the way people kinda ignore the whole “dead stay dead” idea. Sephiroth is the most obvious example, but Aerith and Zack are clearly more than figments of Cloud’s imagination - they both actively take part in events.

With the healing rain/holy water, it’s pretty obvious how Aerith takes a physical effect on things. She also takes Cloud’s hand during the fight with Bahamut Zero, joining in with everyone else in giving a literal and figurative boost to his strength. Notably, though, Zack isn’t there. Zack doesn’t show up at all, in fact, until Cloud has taken quite a beating from Sephiroth.
So seriously, where was Zack?

It’s at this point that we need to remember that, while Zack was never as close to Sephiroth as Angeal and Genesis once were, they were friends. And Zack Fair does not give up on people, you have to literally take the decision out of his hands. Looking at you Angeal.

Obviously, Sephiroth has been around as a spirit entity - which is also the position Zack and Aerith have been in. Sephiroth, who is just a shadow of himself made of malice and anger, twisted from the man Zack once knew. But that doesn’t mean Zack wants to write him off.

I absolutely believe that in ACC, Zack spent his time trying to talk Sephiroth down. That may even be what compromised Kadaj’s ability to sense that Rufus had Jenova’s remains in a box under a blanket all that time. Cloud, he knew, had plenty of support. But Sephiroth? Sephiroth was the Nightmare, son of the Calamity, Jenova’s favorite son, and he had no one but Zack left.

Sephiroth toys with Cloud. Is it malice or distraction? Likely both. Sephiroth has years of experience over Cloud - many of which were on the warfront, but also fighting the likes of Genesis and Angeal - in addition to formal training in combat and strategy. There is no reason Cloud should win if Sephiroth had his mind together. Blame Jenova, blame his breakdown, blame the fact that he has no frame of reference of how to handle all that emotion - here, even, blame Zack.

For most of the fight, Zack isn’t there. Then, when Sephiroth is going for the kill, Zack pulls Cloud into the realm of “other” that Aerith had done before. And with tears in his eyes where Cloud can’t see them, he asks if he needs help to take him down.

If you’ve forgotten, go take a look at the screencaps above to see the sword Zack has.

Yes, it’s the Buster Sword. But this isn’t something he conjured from his mind, in the condition he last held it. This isn’t even something one would picture Cloud imagining - not that he’s facing Zack to see him, anyway. This is the same sword that Cloud left on the cliff. The same sword that is mysteriously polished and placed in Aerith’s church at the end of the movie.

Zack, as much as the thought pained him, was ready to fight Sephiroth one more time. He was ready to step out of his place in the Lifestream, having gone to get the blade his mentor had given him, that he had given Cloud, and take up the fight.

Like the last fight of his life, there are tears in his eyes because for all his efforts, Zack wasn’t able to save Sephiroth. Cloud may never know the kindness he did his friend to spare him the pain of having to help put him down again, but at the end of the pep talk Zack gives him, there’s a smile on his face.

Relief.

This doesn’t have to be his fight, and Cloud is strong enough to make it on his own. Zack has lost one more friend for good, it’s a bittersweet victory. But he does meet him one last time in the church. He doesn’t say anything, his wave is slow, a little uncoordinated - I imagine it was one hell of an effort to get the strength to be ready to do what he did, Zack doesn’t have the heritage to give him any advantage there, it’s pure will driving him then. But that’s not really a new thing for Zack.

... so yeah, THAT is what I headcanon as happening regarding Zack during ACC.

 

wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
This was a pinch-hit I did for FFlove190 of Ao3 and Tumblr, to the promt: Valenwind. Where Cid steals Vincent's cloak and wonders at it's mysteries. It got away from me a bit, though, and largely ended up a celebration of the dynamics of Valenwind.


~ LOUDER THAN WORDS ~

It was hard to say when Vincent had first become accustomed to having Cid around, particularly given he’d gotten fiercely protective of his personal space and the captain tended to be a bit tactile. Not to mention that the captain’s loud, quick-tempered, foul-mouthed persona should have grated on him more than anyone else. Gods knew he could only take Barret in small doses, generally across the room, with someone else in charge of the conversation. And it wasn’t that either man was better than the other, they both had good hearts under their rough exteriors, but Cid… Well. The captain was something else.

“Hey Vince?”

Speak of the devil and he doth appear. Vincent smiled, soft and fond behind his collar, and peered over the edge of the piece of machinery he’d sat on. Cid had half turned from his drafting table to look unerringly up at him. “Yes, Captain?”

“Good, thought you mighta fallen t’ sleep up there. Come look at this.” Cid crooked a finger at him, other hand tapping at the paper that even Vincent’s enhanced eyesight couldn’t quite make out. He didn’t miss the amusement in the captain’s eyes when he hopped off and drifted down, nor the little tilt of his head that always said he was trying to puzzle something out.

Landing with a soft tap of boots, Vincent smoothed his cloak back and made his way over. “And what have… oh.

The initial draft had clearly been done under inspiration, sketched hastily with quick, light lines and marked with tiny notes around it. But much more had been applied in the second drafting, heavier lines flowing smoothly across the paper and details filled in with care. The brace was laid out in layers, the top suggesting some sort of alloy he didn’t recognize molded and reinforced for the forearm to take blows and redirect them from the vulnerable limb beneath, a slot for materia and the option of clawed tips. If he was reading it right, all he would have to do amounted to little more than a flex of his hand to go between deadly sharpness and something that would still allow for a gentler touch.

Vincent couldn’t tear his eyes away from it, even when he heard Cid shift in place. Dimly, he had a feeling the captain was probably a bit nervous with his silence, even though he normally managed it well. But that was going to have to wait, because he’d made him this… this…

“I know you do just fine with yours, of course, but it sure didn’t look comfortable that time you let me look at it t’ fix up some of the dents, an’ there’s a helluva lot better materials out there now t’ use, especially with the kinda shit you get up to. I mean, unless that’s special for transforming. Is that special for transforming? I mean, Chaos has one, too, an’ Galian but I didn't think the others had any not that I got real close ‘cause those two are a lil’ wild even for my tastes but-”

Cid.” Vincent smiled softly, finally able to look at the captain when he heard the increasing nerves in his unusual rush of words. “Thank you.”

“Oh.” Cid grinned broadly, relief a quicksilver flash in his eyes that was overridden by satisfaction. “Great! I mean, I can change it however you might need it t’ be but I thought it was far enough along that you oughta see.”

“I’m glad you showed me.” Vincent touched the paper lightly, already trying to imagine what it would be like when he would be able to do so with either hand and not worry about tearing the paper. “I’d like to try it. Did you need to see this one, for measurements?”

“Well, I wasn’t gonna ask, but if you’re offerin’ it’d help t’ get whatever measures I can,” Cid admitted.

“Whatever…?” Vincent glanced back to him thoughtfully, seeing the younger man was debating his words. Just thinking about what must have made him hesitate made Vincent pause, putting it together after a moment. “Oh. All of it, then?”

“Well, everythin’ elbow down would be great, yeah.” Cid shrugged. “Wasn’t gonna press for that either, but I could get you an even better fit if you don’t mind it too much.”

That made him chuckle softly, flexing and clenching the hand in question with a delicate clink of metal. “I don’t think I mind too much, no.”

Cid was many things and not all of them good, but at some point Vincent had registered him as ‘safe’ and that was the end of it. As unbearable as his trademark behavior should have made him, there was also this side that casually got some tools together while the gauntlet was unstrapped and carefully set aside.

He felt the lack of support in seconds, his arm throbbing dully, and took a moment to bend and flex it, rotating his wrist carefully before getting up to his elbow to remove the close-fitting glove. The air always felt too harsh against hyper-sensitized skin when he took it off, making him shiver slightly. Disgust rarely got the same reaction, but he felt his lip curl all the same at the sight, pale as death until you got to the needle scars and mako burns. Some of it was his ‘fault’ arguably, trying to escape from the processes that had led to the rest. Either way, it remained a memory of pain and betrayal that had shaken him to his core.

“Vincent,” Cid’s voice was unusually gentle, and the blue eyes that met his own were calm and understanding. “You don’t have t’ do this now. I can measure your gauntlet, maybe do the rest later when you’ve thought about it some more. You don’t have t’ push for me.”

Vincent took a slow, even breath, and reminded himself that this was why Cid was safe. Offering a faint but genuine smile, he shook his head and set the glove down. “It’s fine, Cid. Just old scars.”

“Scars that run deep hurt like hell,” Cid retorted, smile gentler than his tone when he got a smile back. “If you’re sure, I’ll make it quick.”

“I know you will, Chief. I trust-”

The door to the hangar opened, several voices meaning several people, and Vincent snatched his hand back. He trusted Cid, but that was not Cid. He had just long enough to recognize disbelief and Cid’s temper hitting like a limit break as he wisped himself away in a blur of red.

 



Cid’s nostrils flared with a deep breath and he rounded on the group, certain Vincent was well out of reach by now. “You goddamn motherfuckin’ morons can’t remember that IF THE DOOR IS LOCKED YOU FUCKING KNOCK? It ain’t fucking rocket science an’ I think I’d know since ‘m the goddamn rocket scientist around here!”

“C-captain?”

“Git yer asses outta my hangar it’s a goddamn Saturday there ain’t no reason ta be here without callin’ first!” He snarled, pointing to the door when they didn’t move. “Don’ make me say it twice, I’ll throw ya out on yer ass so hard yer folks’ll feel it!”

“But sir-”

“Did I give ya permission ta fuckin’ speak, idiot?” Cid started towards them, well aware that being shorter didn’t do diddly to take away from how intimidating he could be, and raised his voice to a full bellow. “GIT OUTTA MY HANGAR!”

“YessirCaptainHighwind!”

They stumbled after each other, but all made it out fast. Cid marched himself off after them and slammed the door before locking it securely. “Goddamn idjits can’t remember th’ simplest courtesy! Folks outta be ashamed lettin’ brats out without th’ sense the gods gave a dog… there’s beach plugs smarter’n that, for fuck’s sake!”

A pointed throat clearing had him spinning, giving Vincent a sheepish smile. The former Turk was clearly amused. “I think you’ve traumatized them, Chief.”

Cid laughed quietly, rubbing a hand over his neck. “Yeah, well, they earned it. You okay?”

“Just startled, it’s fine.” Vincent came back down, cloak billowing out around him in a lighter ripple than physics said it should.

“How the hell does that even work?” The words were out of his mouth before he realized it and he was maybe just a little embarrassed, but Vincent had heard worse and just looked amused still. “The cloak. Is there an anti-grav device in there, an’ if so why haven’t you shared?”

“There’s no anti-gravity device in any of my clothing, Chief.” Vincent made his way back over, smiling softly. “Perhaps we should get the measurements down now?”

Cid huffed, nodding. “Yeah, we’ll do that. C’mon, might as well take it all up t’ my loft. I can put on some tea an’ it’ll be more comfortable.”

Vincent nodded, heading back to get the glove and gauntlet while Cid gathered his supplies. “You have a kitchenette up there?”

“Eh, enough t’ manage.” He shrugged, gesturing with the papers. “It’s just stairs t' get up there, no elevator.”

“Really? I’m surprised.”

Cid huffed at him. “I’m not all machines, Vince. Here, come on up; lil’ steep but I imagine you’re light enough on your feet t’ manage.”

“… I’m imagining you carrying all manner of things up and down these,” Vincent admitted, voice quiet but close enough to be clear behind him. “It’s a bit worrisome.”

“Only fell the once, ‘m used to it now,” Cid said. “Besides, I can take some knocks.”

“That doesn’t make me any more inclined to want you to.”

“Aw, it’s fiiine, got myself a nice thick skull, haven’t you heard?” Cid let them in, taking a moment to swat at the light switch. “Lemme get that tea on.”

“I listen to everything, but I’m far more picky about what I believe,” Vincent said.

“Yeah well, good on you for that much, but I’m fine.” Cid set water to steep, then came back to see where Vincent had settled - or not, really, still standing near the desk he’d put his papers on, gauntlet laid down carefully beside them. The black glove held in his bare hand just made the paleness more striking, the deep scarring more vivid. He’d seen plenty of scars before, though, and didn’t flinch from it. “So, how sensitive is all that? I’m not a tailor, but I could see about a lined glove t’ go with this.”

Vincent froze a moment, but relaxed slowly at the calm questioning. “Most of it is fairly sensitive, but I can adjust.”

“Yeah, an’ usually you do, but I don’t want you t’ have a big change t’ adjust to.” Cid shrugged. “We can look into that later. I’ll need time t’ make this anyway, give you better mobility than that one you’ve got.”

Vincent nodded slowly, extending his arm once more to let Cid work. He was silent for most of it, answering questions when they were asked and watching Cid with intense red eyes.

Cid was calm under his stare, moving slow and doing his best to project his own calm and confidence as he worked. He was sure he only had the bare outline of what had happened to his friend, but that was enough to be honored by his trust, and he was damn well going to treat it accordingly.

Still, there was something that eased a bit when Vincent got his glove back on. Their silence was fairly comfortable, in fact. “Yours is an interesting art, Cid.”

“Hnn?” Cid glanced at him and shrugged, smiling at the compliment. “Thanks. Helps t’ have somethin’ t’ do that I really enjoy.”

“I’d honestly expected this more of Reeve,” he admitted, turning to admire the sketch again.

“Just ‘cause my machines are bigger doesn’t mean I don’t like all the fiddly details - just means people don’t see ‘em near so much.” Cid watched him a moment. “You know, you can take some of that off, too. If it’s comfortable.”

Vincent’s brows rose, heading for his bandanna. “You just want to look for the presumed anti-gravity devices.”

“Well, I’ll admit I’m goddamn curious about how you pull that fancy wispin’ maneuver of yours,” Cid said. “Looks awful close t’ flight. You know how I am.”

“I do.”

The teapot began to whistle and Cid headed back to get it, making two cups of tea and setting them to brew. He made a startled noise in the back of his throat when he turned to see Vincent standing without the obstruction of the omni-present red fabric, currently draped over his arm instead. “Well.

“I know how you are,” he said simply, offering it for inspection.

Cid arched a brow, wondering at all that might be implied in that sentence. Still, he accepted the cloak in silence, marveling at how soft it was. “Well, no wonder you wear it. ‘S just like a blanket.”

Vincent chuckled softly, watching him spread it out and the gentle way he examined it. “It’s… comfortable.”

“Guess so.” He held it by the collar, trying to get a feel for the weight of it, only to stop when Vincent approached him. It was a little disappointing to have him gesture for it back, but he handed it over without complaint.

There weren’t really words for Cid’s surprise to have Vincent swing it around to rest on his shoulders, the weight settling differently than he’d pictured.

“I don’t think it’s quite your color,” Vincent said, amused.

“I probably look ridiculous,” Cid agreed dryly, aware that there was enough differences in height to make something that fell lightly on Vincent’s thighs to look odd on him. And that wasn’t even going into the style of it, not that Cid didn’t have plenty of raggedy things. “But it is comfy, yeah.”

“And does not, in fact, contain anti-gravity equipment or experimental materia,” Vincent added, lips twitching.

“I didn’t even get around t’ suggesting that one yet!” Cid huffed, but he couldn’t help a little smile. “So, how do I make it fly?”

“Never so at home as when you're in the sky, are you?” Vincent shook his head. “I couldn’t tell you. There’s no secret magic that I know of that makes it possible.”

Cid didn’t pout - he didn’t - but he wished there was something. Actual flight, without even a plane between him and the sky… that would be amazing. “Ah well. Life’s just like that sometimes, isn’t it? It's a nice dream t' have.”

“Sometimes it is,” Vincent agreed quietly. “But you’re good at watching things until you figure them out. Maybe sometime I can show you.”


~ FIN
Also can be found on Ao3 and Tumblr.

wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
This was written for ClementRage of Ao3 and FFN, to the prompt: Reeve Tuesti must rebuild the world. Again.

~AFTERMATH~

It wasn't hard for Reeve to remember that Meteorfall had only been three years ago. That their mad rush to stop Sephiroth had only been a single year in itself was mind boggling, yes, but he had a very solid grasp on what all had been going on for the past three years - he'd been in the thick of it, even before an 'anonymous' benefactor had helped him fund the World Regenesis Organization. The irony of the fact that his efforts to make the world a better place had once been so thoroughly ignored by the late President Shinra wasn't lost on him, but it was hard to savor with how busy he was.

As fond as he was of AVALANCHE - at least this second incarnation that Barret had started and Cloud had finished - they were like so many civilians who just hadn't comprehended the necessary evil ShinRa Inc. had been. The loss of the reactors was only the tip of the iceberg, immediately cutting power from anything that may have survived in Midgar, and even out to Kalm. That meant no air conditioning and no heating, yes, but it went even further. Hospitals scrambled to get generators working, but many who would have managed to survive Meteor with proper medical equipment died as there just wasn't enough power to go around. Water systems came to a stall. Any stores of perishable foods had to be prepared quickly in ways that many people in the city simply weren't prepared for, and what could have helped feed the survivors in another situation was ruined before most thought to even look.

Yes, Reeve had memories of his own of that time, marshaling what forces he could to try and evacuate the city. And let people say what they would of the Turks, but he thanked anyone who was listening that Veld had brought back his team, because he'd been desperate for people to help take charge that he could trust the competency and efficiency of. Just getting people out of the city was complicated by a lot who stubbornly believed they'd be safe until it was nearly too late, and there were just so many of them. Trains were packed full, highways were clogged, military vehicles were stuffed and it still wasn't enough. Saying the population had been halved during Meteor and the aftermath was extremely conservative.

Sephiroth may have become 'the Nightmare' but Reeve's nightmares were haunted by memories of fire in the sky and panic thick in the air, screaming and sobbing and-

"If you're going to be ill, Commissioner, I'd appreciate a bit of warning."

Reeve glanced up and across the helicopter to where the current director of the remaining Turks sat, looking over some paperwork. It wasn't from him, but he didn't even try to guess what the man might be working on. ShinRa may only be whispered these days, but Rufus was busier than ever. "I'm fine."

Tseng arched a brow, giving him a look of open disbelief and waiting patiently for him to tell something a little closer to the truth.

"Thinking about the mess from Meteor," he said finally.

Tseng didn't put the papers away, but he laid them on the folder and gave him more direct attention. "This is a bit reminiscent, I suppose. As I understand it, Omega did a great deal of damage to the ruins."

"And Midgar was already a mess." Reeve sighed. "Joined now by Kalm and Junon."

"Kalm and Junon have both faced and recovered from disaster before," Tseng said mildly. "And I've been told you've continued to come up with better plans for dealing with Midgar. Do you think the battle with Deepground and Omega would have done enough to scrap those plans?"

"Not all of them, no." Reeve shook his head, mind going over several of his ideas just by habit. "But I'm not so optimistic as to think none of them will need reworking."

"We're quite fortunate you're creative, then."

"Oh is that what they're calling it these days?" Reeve chuckled softly, well aware that not so long ago the words used to describe him were not nearly so kind. Funny how the world almost ending made people appreciate practicality and a mind for civil engineering.

"Your ability to work with Mr. Wallace and Captain Highwind is also admirable." There was a hint of a smile on Tseng's lips, but his words were sincere; Barret and Cid were not the easiest people to work with, and they were a special breed of difficult for Rufus and the Turks.

"They do have very strong personalities," Reeve agreed. "You may find Vincent to be easier to approach than going straight to Cid."

That particular tidbit earned a brief lift of both brows before Tseng's expression smoothed to something more thoughtful. "The insight is appreciated."

"Mm."

Silence reigned for a while, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Then Reno's voice came back to them, relaxed but professional. "ETA about ten minutes, yo. Valentine's coordinates check out for landing."

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised you felt the need to check," Reeve admitted. "Do you have someone on the ground?"

"Reno has an eye for that sort of thing." Tseng gave him a curious look. "Did you have someone waiting?"

"Not planned, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised to find a red-eyed shadow looming somewhere over my shoulder," Reeve said. "No slight to any of you, so much as I think sometimes he questions my survival instincts."

Tseng had a neutral expression down to default, though his eyes held a spark of amusement. "I can't imagine why."

"Mm." Reeve thought back over the years, smiling faintly. "It often seems my greatest strength is being underestimated." 


Reeve hadn't been at 'ground zero' as it were since the battle with Deepground, and without the rush of adrenaline it was an even grimmer sight. It was only now in the calm and still of the aftermath that he could really process it all, the levels of damage done by both sides. Really, it had been unavoidable - he'd had to throw everything they had at them, no time to look for neater alternatives when they were trying to rouse Omega WEAPON and end all life. The damages here were nothing compared to having the whole planet wiped. But now that they'd survived the threat, he had to deal with the mess left behind. He had an entire portfolio of reports and blueprints from Shelke, a few notes in Vincent's flowing script often near the hasty markups and comments Cid had added. It was tremendously helpful, but not enough. "What a mess."

"No arguments here," Reno muttered, toeing at the rubble nearby with a huff. "A lot of this stuff has Scarlet all over it. Big, nasty machines were her MO, y'know?"

"Oh believe me, I know very well." Once upon a time, Reeve might have let himself comment on how much of his time and energy had to go into cleaning up after her messes back in their days at ShinRa, but it really wasn't worth it now. And if he was reading his Turk escorts correctly, they were remembering the same things from the angle of their department anyway. "The only warning we had, if you'd like to call it that, was from her files. It's entirely possible this is her handiwork."

"The robots would be her designs." Tseng looked the area over, keeping close to Reeve's side as the head of the WRO made his way further into the mess. "She was always fond of that sort of thing. The rocket launchers as well, very reminiscent of her previous works."

"Mm. I don't suppose you could suggest anyone who might be able to evaluate some of those for repurposing?" Reeve made a list off to the side of the notepad he'd attached to the front of his portfolio. "We'll salvage as much as we can, of course; the metal in particular will be useful to melt down and rework, but some of the engines would be good to get a look at. I can't imagine they all ran on mako, and more alternatives are always welcome."

"There are some individuals I could make requests from, certainly," Tseng said. "You have the manpower?"

"Some, yes, but I'm aiming to make more jobs. Getting people out where they can see the difference they're making is good for the morale of the workforce, and hopefully the sentiment will spread further into Edge at the least."

That was another thing that people took for granted until it was too late; ShinRa was the largest employer by far on the eastern continent, and Reeve didn't think he was exaggerating to say it was probably on a world scale too. And when ShinRa fell, it took the economy crashing down with it. Now people were scrounging to survive, desperate and more than a little bitter. It was a hard thing to be optimistic for the scared, battered survivors, but helping the people was what Reeve had always wanted to do. He just hadn't expected it to end up on such a big scale.

"The President was interested in hearing what plans you put together later." Tseng glanced towards their former headquarters with an expression Reeve would tentatively call nostalgic, though the small smile faded after a moment. "I can't help but wonder how much was collateral, and how much was in some way deliberate."

"Hm?" Reeve tried to follow his gaze, to see which parts of the damage he was fixed on. In that particular direction… "I think that was mostly from Sephiroth's visit last year."

"Visit." Tseng was unquestionably amused by the wording.

"I've found that word choice goes hand in hand with perception of events," Reeve explained. "I have no intention of giving anyone or anything more power to use against me than they already have. Sephiroth is no different."

Tseng nodded thoughtfully, saying no more on the matter.

Reno ended up interrupting the companionable silence with an apparent find, and Reeve banished his musings for later. 


They spent the better part of the day weaving through the wreckage, making notes that Reeve would transcribe later on different sheets, sending them out to Cid and Vincent, a tentative request to Cloud and a promise of much more thorough discussion over a business dinner with Rufus. Reeve suspected that the business dinners were less about setting a calculated atmosphere and more about Tseng making sure Rufus stopped to rest and eat these days, though he'd never say so. For all the younger man had been a brat, he was shaping up to be a much better man than Reeve had dared to hope.

Sometimes he did let himself wonder what might have happened if Rufus had gotten the presidency under better circumstances, if Shinra Sr. hadn't been murdered and then Sephiroth started on his year long trek that had AVALANCHE chasing after him and the company trying to keep up and stabilize from the sudden shake-up. Having to jump in the perception of the executives from "too-young vice president" to claim absolute presidential authority, managing the significantly smaller forces of Turks, SOLDIER almost completely wiped out, and the army hindered by Heidegger's questionable leadership… honestly, giving credit where it was due, Rufus had done a commendable job only to have WEAPONs and Meteor wipe out the progress he'd carved out for himself.

That the man wasn't overwhelmingly bitter, was in fact willing to help from the shadows, spoke volumes of the changes it had brought to him personally. But that was the way of it now, more than topography had been drastically changed. Entire portions of the Planet were wiped to the point they would need a complete rebuild, the population drastically reduced, and there was only a vague semblance of society these days.

Reeve thought it could be done. Not that there was much choice, things needed to be changed and drawn together before they lost the little they had, but still… still, there was hope. Barret had struck oil last year, and while it wasn't a long-term solution, it would help in the meantime. Reeve had managed to wrangle Cloud into discussions, largely mechanics and recycling, as well as thoughts of how to thin monster populations and arrange for goods to be transported in bulk. Cid was extremely helpful once you roused the inventive and honestly brilliant mind that he hid under a very rough and often crude exterior; it was terribly easy to forget the man was a literal rocket scientist, and he didn't help by focusing far more on how he just enjoyed flying. But Reeve was a detail man, and he made a point to remember.

Vincent was helpful as well, when he let himself be tracked down. The man was an information hound, gathering everything he could find to catch up on the time he'd missed. 'Formerly of the Turks' he might claim, but apparently some habits never left. He helped make a tenuous connection to Veld as well; the pair's relationship beyond Reeve's full understanding, but it was enough to know the former Director was willing to give input if not actively help very often.

Shaking his head, Reeve finished up his last set of notes for the night, getting up and chuckling at the loud sigh and clearly heard 'finally!' from Cait Sith as the animatronic cat hopped down from whatever perch he'd settled in and tried to shoo him to bed. "You need your rest, Reeve."

"I know," he said, making his way down the hall and working off his suit. It had been a busy but productive day, and he was pleased with the outcome. "More to do tomorrow, best not to waste what hours I can spend for sleep."

"Good man. I didn' want t' have t' pull any dirty tricks."

"I'd really rather you not, myself." Having given himself permission to wind down, Reeve found himself yawning even though his mind was still buzzing with the long list of things he'd need to order and arrange, matching up the level of work that needed done with how many jobs it could make, and the ripple effect going through to bolster the economy. It would be slow going, but the big picture was there. Lots of jagged bits needed gathered and fit together with care, but Reeve was an engineer. Making things work was what he did. This time, it just happened to be the world.


~ FIN
This can also be found on Ao3 and Tumblr.

 


wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
 [Original Post X]

This post was used to explain why I roleplay and write Lazard the way I do, having taken time to really look at his character objectively and try to apply logic and reason. If you haven't read the first part, it's easy to find here on DW [X] and would be useful to read. The simple fact is, however, that as much as I love FFVII - perhaps even because I love it - I can be very critical. Also the burden of being a writer, I suppose, in always analyzing the stories of others. And I think there were some issues that even hard core fans really do have to admit to if they’re being honest with themselves. For one, the original game, FFVII, was released first. Now, that’s rather understandable on the one hand, given everything centers around it. BUT!

It immediately boxed in all releases that were placed earlier in the timeline. Everything that occurred in Before Crisis and Crisis Core 
had to line up with the events of FFVII. That meant that any character that wasn’t seen in the original game had to die or disappear. Zack and Angeal are prime examples. It was also a foregone conclusion that Sephiroth had to lose his mind and destroy Nibelheim, setting him on the path to become the villain seen in the original game.

And all of that is their right, naturally, but you have to consider the wider range of effects that has. There 
is a story being told, and you have to stick with it, because canon has been set, and these projects have too many people and funds tied up in them to justify fussing over something as small as a side character’s motivations and how realistic they are.

But as I
 write and roleplay at my own pleasure, and I’m not so restrained. I have the chance to write Lazard Deusericus as I believe, were there more of a nod to realism on his behalf, he would have been played.

There are core, indisputable traits to some characters that need to be taken into consideration if you’re going to claim any real relation to them. The biggest example no one can argue: Angeal’s honor fixation. Lazard has some of those traits, too, which I’ve taken care to consider.

  • He was born a bastard child to President Shinra, and grew up in the Slums.
  • He holds deep concern for the people - particularly children - in the Slums.
  • He worked his way to being Director of SOLDIER very quickly, indicating high intelligence and competency.
  • He didn’t know that he was President ShinRa’s son until he became the Director of SOLDIER.
  • He always thanks the SOLDIERs in the mails he sends out, before saying anything else, something no one else does even in mass mails.
  • He uses the word ‘we’ in reference to his department, indicating a sense of camaraderie.
  • He is never shown losing his composure, always calm and reasonable, even portrayed as understanding and sympathetic.

All of this is solid fact for Lazard Deusericus, stated in canon and shown in his actions. They paint the picture of a man who grew up in the Slums and worked his ass off to climb the corporate ladder with his intelligence, competence and apparent skill with politics. Let me stress, he had no knowledge of being President Shinra’s son, prior to his final promotion to the executive position of Director of SOLDIER.

Regarding his position as Director, the image portrayed by his actions in Crisis Core show that he has a passion for his work - that he cares not only about the efficiency of SOLDIER, but about the SOLDIERs 
themselves, reinforced by his gentle demeanor when dealing with Zack, and the respect that Sephiroth seems to have for him.

The overall picture painted above of just who Lazard Deusericus is, I’d like to remind you, is one 
fully supported by canon. The facts are right there in bullets.

And yet, there is a huge disconnect between who this man is defined as, and how he acts in Crisis Core. Allow me, for a moment, to quote from the first part of my assessment of the role Lazard plays in canon, and the significance of that.

… Lazard was hardly the only one on a quest for vengeance. However, the man was in politics, and one would assume quite intelligent. There were many more ways - safer ways - to see to his father’s downfall, without having to betray the men who looked to him and trusted his orders. If one wants to say he was lumping SOLDIER in with the organization, and saw that as needing destroyed, I’d like to draw your attention to one more thing that Lazard should - and likely did - know.

ShinRa was more than a power company. They were, by Crisis Core, 
the most widely influencing political power. The entire eastern world had come to rely on ShinRa for mako power, for protection, for steady jobs and for a stabilizing influence on the economy. If ShinRa was destroyed before any sort of alternative was in place, there would, at best, be anarchy. Quite possibly a collapse of economy, and a lot of people would suddenly be out of work. ShinRa was corrupt, and did a lot of horrible things, but they were a necessary evil. Did they need replaced? Yes. But the key word is replaced.You can’t just take out something that so many people rely on in one swoop, with nothing to fall back on, and “hope for the best” because it’s not going to work out well.

In conclusion, I’d like to sum up my musings by restating that canonically, Lazard was either the biggest 
idiot by thinking it was a good idea to use mentally unstable SOLDIERs to destroy his father’s empire, creating an energy crisis and sudden anarchy with the loss of a key political power that also provided most of the world with mako power, technology, and military might - or he was the biggest villain because he didn’t care what happened to the rest of the world, or the people who had trusted him, so long as his father and his company was destroyed in the process.

The actions stated above do not add up with the person Lazard is said to be. You cannot have a compassionate, empathetic man who would do that. And, assuming that all of that is fake, that he really is that cruel, I’ll point you to the middle paragraph one more time and ask you how, exactly, someone as intelligent as Lazard seems to be, could or even would do that?

This is a man who supposedly managed to embezzle from ShinRa Company - and I assure you, if there is 
anything President Shinra pays attention to, it’s his wealth - without getting caught by the Turks until quite a bit later in the game. A man who apparently has the intelligence, cunning, willpower, and sheer audacity to plot with Hollander and Genesis while still staying within the company, and not only doesn’t get caught - he pulls it all off with no one the wiser.

At no point is there any indication given that Lazard has the sort of training to outwit Turks, who are 
trained to pick up on this sort of thing - and I’m sure they had a very close eye on the President’s bastard son once he gained such influential rank. And yet he defies the odds and does exactly that.

This doesn’t add up for me. I 
adore the Final Fantasy VII Compilation, but as I’ve said, it’s not without its flaws. Lazard Deusericus takes a backseat to everyone else, because he’s essentially a side character, with a dash of plot device. The story is centered around Zack and Sephiroth, and everyone else fills in the blanks, even people like Aerith and Tseng, who go on to play much bigger roles. Some of these characters you never hear of again come the original game, even in mention, which makes sense, because FFVII came first. But as far as seamless continuity, it’s leaves us hanging.

So, yes, I understand fully why Lazard was written as he was - makes sense enough, as long as no one delves too deeply into the “why” aspect - and he fills a necessary role. But as someone who wants to RP Lazard, I had to take a step back, really look at who he was in canon, compare it to his actions, and admit that they didn’t match up. I had to go back, take all the facts, everything that made Lazard who he was, and go from there, working in that bare bones framework, building from there to give you what you see today.

wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
[Original post X]

I’ve gotten a lot of surprise from seeing a Lazard on Tumblr, and I think a lot of that has to do with his role in the fandom. Now, please don’t misunderstand me - I 
love Final Fantasy VII. I do. I think that there are a lot of things in it that were just completely brilliant. That said, I do also think everyone needs to take a moment and be honest: FFVII has a story, and anyone who has ever read or written a story will have to admit that it is planned ahead. All the more so for video games. FFVII had a planned story, and things were worked accordingly.

Now, that is 
not a criticism! I’m a writer, fanfic and original. I understand the reasoning and yes, necessity for there to be a plot, and have it stuck to, for something as big as a video game series. There’s too many people and resources tied up in that to just change it on a whim. But it does affect things, because something has to give. Real life is never so neatly packaged, because everyone is the main character in their own story, and people don’t fall into neat categories. So, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on who Lazard Deusericus is in Crisis Core, and who I think he really should have been.

Lazard is not a good person in Crisis Core, nor does he have much in the way of sense. Or, if he does, then he’s quite possibly the real villain of Crisis Core.

That’s quite a big statement to make, but if you take a moment, you’ll realize it’s true. Lazard worked his way up in ranks in ShinRa, gaining the respect of SOLDIER and one would assume many of the others. Around the time he makes Director, he finds out that his father is the very man who signs his checks. He is the illegitimate older brother of the vice president. He grew up with his mother in the Slums - and we’ve all seen how horrible it is down there, so there’s no believing it was ‘easy’ for anyone. There’s no knowing what he was told growing up, but obviously it left out the identity of his father’s side of the family. And finding out deeply affected him.

He plays loyal to the company from there out, but clearly his anger begins to gnaw at him. I’ve seen the phrase once - on someone’s Tumblr, actually - “hate is like taking poison and hoping someone else dies.” That’s entirely too accurate. Hate is a horrible, horrible thing that I could rant on all on itself, but the focus right now is 
Lazard’s hate in specific. It blinded him, and whatever sense he had, it was consumed within that one single emotion. When Genesis started degrading, Hollander approached Lazard - we’ll assume he figured out Lazard’s own 'origin’ issues - and they created an alliance. By the time Crisis Core begins and the fans meet Lazard, Genesis has defected with the bulk of SOLDIER at Hollander’s prodding. The game itself opens, and not too far into it, Zack is meeting Director Lazard for the first time as he gets his mission to Wutai. Lazard goes as well.

Whether it was to really see the end of the war personally, or because he wanted to peek in on Genesis’ army, Lazard did go, and assessed Zack’s performance while they were there. His entire presence, however, is overshadowed by Angeal disappearing at the end of the mission. Sephiroth is the first to outright state that Angeal has deserted as well.

From there, time passes to where Zack (and thus the player) are more or less on their own, and Zack is asking the director for word on his mentor. I certainly don’t blame him - Angeal clearly meant a great deal to Zack, and he can’t comprehend what’s happening. At this point, it’s reasonable to assume Angeal may have left just to try and bring Genesis back. Genesis, however, is mentally and physically degrading and just together enough to remember he certainly doesn’t intend to return to the place and people responsible for his declining health, even if he 
could.

By the time Zack is sent to Banora, Angeal has found out about Project G, and quite likely more than the player. His best friend since childhood is mentally unhinged and succumbing to a slow, painful death because his very body is destroying itself. Why? Because before he was born, Hollander and 
Angeal’s mother tampered with Genesis’ genetics. Angeal’s genes are likewise altered, and he might have sprouted his two wings by this point. While in Banora, there’s a good chance of Angeal actually having witnessed his mother committing suicide, but he did know that she did - and was then more or less accused by Zack of killing her. Granted, the teen was more than a little shaken up himself, but that didn’t help the situation.

Given that Hollander is still alive, Lazard is undoubtedly still aware of all of these ongoings, and does nothing to step in and stop it. By the time Zack is promoted to First, Genesis’ troops launch an attack on the Tower itself, and soon after, Zack meets with Angeal again. Though he looks healthy, Angeal 
does have wings, which indicate something happened on a genetic level. Possibly degradation. The one good part is Zack meeting Aerith, but things keep going downhill from there.

Lazard sends Zack to Modeoheim. He 
knows Genesis and Angeal are there, and less than sane at the moment. He has to realize what he’s setting him up for. They’re not coming back to ShinRa, Genesis is openly hostile, Angeal is depressed and not thinking straight, and with Tseng there, it’s not like Zack can just let them walk off.

It’s not until Hollander’s escape from Junon, well after Angeal has been killed and Genesis is assumed dead, that it’s realized Lazard was a traitor. He’s noted as giving intel and funding to Hollander and Genesis’ operation, and runs off. That leaves Sephiroth in charge, abandoned by his only two 
real friends, betrayed by a man he respected and probably trusted at least somewhat as a superior, and having to decide how to handle it all. Of course, he puts the “SOLDIER” in “soldier on” and decides that since Genesis has been going after reactors, let’s go check out NIBELHEIM.

And we all know how 
that went.

Never mind Lazard’s later attempts at redemption - a lot of that could be put on the fact that he’s been made into a clone of Angeal.

Was it all in the name of vengeance? It seemed so, certainly. But what does it boil down to? Lazard was hardly the only one on a quest for vengeance. However, the man was in politics, and one would assume quite intelligent. There were many more ways - 
safer ways - to see to his father’s downfall, without having to betray the men who looked to him and trusted his orders. If one wants to say he was lumping SOLDIER in with the organization, and saw that as needing destroyed, I’d like to draw your attention to one more thing that Lazard should - and likely did - know.

ShinRa was more than a power company. They were, by Crisis Core, 
the most widely influencing political power. The entire eastern world had come to rely on ShinRa for mako power, for protection, for steady jobs and for a stabilizing influence on the economy. If ShinRa was destroyed before any sort of alternative was in place, there would, at best, be anarchy. Quite possibly a collapse of economy, and a lot of people would suddenly be out of work. ShinRa was corrupt, and did a lot of horrible things, but they were a necessary evil. Did they need replaced? Yes. But the key word is replaced. You can’t just take out something that so many people rely on in one swoop, with nothing to fall back on, and “hope for the best” because it’s not going to work out well.

In conclusion, I’d like to sum up my musings by restating that canonically, Lazard was either the biggest 
idiot by thinking it was a good idea to use mentally unstable SOLDIERs to destroy his father’s empire, creating an energy crisis and sudden anarchy with the loss of a key political power that also provided most of the world with mako power, technology, and military might - or he was the biggest villain because he didn’t care what happened to the rest of the world, or the people who had trusted him, so long as his father and his company was destroyed in the process.

On to Part 2

wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
Original post from my directorlazard blog on Tumblr, prompt: write five unconnected scenes (300 words maximum each) involving only two characters. after reading all five, the reader should have a firm understanding of the two characters and their relationship.

As I ship Lazard/Sephiroth, this was a fun exercise to try and explain it all.
-----------------------------------------
 

Scene 1: Lazard’s POV [211 words]

Heiddeger gave me a headache on the best days, but with casualty reports constantly coming in sleep was coming less and less, and I think I was about ready to just haul off and hit him to see if he was really that dense. The way he talked, like the men were just… expendable…. He didn’t even have the excuse that there was an overwhelming number of them - SOLDIER was a small, elite force. Not that anyone was expendable, but gods damn the man, sometimes he made me so angry.

Sitting at my side with quiet dignity, Sephiroth had just touched my wrist. Just a touch, but I was wound so tightly that I snapped my gaze to him.

A tiny smile danced on the edges of the general’s lips, understanding in his eyes. His voice was so soft, barely a breath, that it was almost more a matter of reading lips to be sure what he’d said.

'We know.’

It was just a moment, unnoticed by the others in those few seconds, but… slowly, I felt myself relax. There was no real point in fighting with Heiddeger - experience had proven that time and again. SOLDIER knew how I felt about them, and that was really what mattered.

 

 

Scene 2: Sephiroth’s POV [241 words]

Lazard was going to be the death of himself. It wouldn’t be an executive order, it wouldn’t be an assassination, it wouldn’t be from an ill-advised training exercise with the men - he was going to work himself to death.

It was easy to tell when he was exhausted, particularly once the glasses came off. His eyes were too bright, mako eating through increasingly lower reserves, and there was a dark bruising beneath them that spoke of many sleepless nights. He had trouble sleeping to begin with, but he’d get stuck in his own head and run himself in circles - more than once I’d returned from a mission in the dead of night and found him awake, sometimes not even fully changed as he plowed through paperwork.

It didn’t help that he’d gone and caught something - I couldn’t tell what, he was doing a good job hiding it, but there was a husky note to his voice that would normally have been quite enticing if I didn’t know it was from pain. The usual handkerchief was conspicuously absent halfway through the day, an occasional breathless sneeze escaping despite his efforts as his body rebelled.

The look on his face when I came in and took his coffee, replacing it with honeyed tea, waspriceless. Somewhere between offended, embarrassed, and touched, but really, if the man wouldn’t take care of himself, then I suppose I had to do it myself.

 

 

Scene 3: Lazard’s POV [296 words]

I saw genuine pain in Veld’s eyes when he came to tell me - personally came instead of sending someone, though I doubted he was supposed to be out of the infirmary; I suppose I should have felt something for that - but it meant nothing.

My hand moved to my throat, uncovered this late at night, thumb brushing the scar still easily felt if not so easily seen, and my eyes lingered over the bandaged shoulder that was all that remained of a once strong arm.

A bitter smile twisted my lips as I met his eyes. Sorry was not enough. My mother… Veld, how could you? Mother… and your wife. Your daughter. I could tell they hadn’t survived it either, from the strain in his voice, and spared a brief moment to hope the three innocent women had died quickly and without suffering.

“How much does he get to take, Veld? Do you even have a line you won’t cross anymore?” Vicious words, despite the quiet delivery. But I meant them. Let him think on it. Let it haunt him. I didn’t care about his answer, however. “Go back to your Turks, Director.”

You have no place here, Veld. Not with me, not now.

I closed the door on him, swallowing thickly and leaning against it. I was barely aware of my surroundings until I was pulled against a broad, warm chest, heartbeat strong and alive beneath my ear. Young as my lover was, as awkward as he could be in his words, we never lacked for understanding in the silent reality of touch.

I needed that, then, turning to press my face to his shoulder, silver bangs tickling my cheek as he bowed his head and held me while I silently fell apart.

 

 

Scene 4: Sephiroth’s POV [194 words]

Do you trust me?

How can you ask me that, Lazard? How can you melt all this down, strip away all the confusion and conflict and pain and make this about trust? Genesis is gone. He left, and we both know he has no plans to come back. Not with what we know now.

What we know now… I can’t even… it’s too much. Too much. I focus on the now, on one of my best friends’ pain and suffering, and the question you’ve asked. Do I trust you? I barely recognize my voice, strained and harsh. “Yes.”

There’s a calm certainty in your gaze, the fierce determination that I love in you - love, are you really making it about that? Love and trust… that’s what it always comes down to with you. Trust, more than anything.

My hand grips yours as tight as I dare, mindful that you’re nowhere near my strength - unnatural, inhuman power - and I stare into your eyes as you promise me that if it is at all possible, this will be made right. That you will do everything you can for us.

And I trust you.

 

 

Scene 5: Third person [236 words]

It had been inevitable that eventually, with Genesis being taken care of and no immediate struggle he could take action on, Sephiroth would have to confront the very personal ramifications of the whole situation.

Project G.

Project S.

Jenova.

A massive black wing, two white wings, anger and pain and betrayal on the most fundamental of levels. Genesis was torn between seething rage and despair when his mind was clear, and when his mind began to slip… it was horrifying to watch, even more than the hint of white in his hair and the pallor of his skin.

Lazard was doing what he could, but it was hard. This wasn’t all right, and there was no guarantee it would ever be again. No guarantee that if - IF - they saved Genesis’ body there would be anything left of his mind. No guarantee Angeal wouldn’t go the same way, not now.

It was no comfort that it did seem much more certain that Sephiroth would survive, though not unscathed after witnessing this most personal of losses.

No guarantees, save one whispered with complete sincerity. Words backed by deed with unfailing consistency. Words whispered against the general’s lips, within a tight embrace.

You are who you have always been, Sephiroth. Knowing what they did to you well before you were born doesn’t change who you have become unless you let it. It makes no difference to me.

wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)

I got to thinking about Hojo, and what he did or didn't know - and the people in the Jenova Project in general - and this came out of me trying to justify him being a part of the project when he clearly knew Jenova wasn't an ancient.

----------------------

“Gast thinks you’re an ancient,” Jirou mused, glancing up at the tank that held the creature in question. There was something human-esque about it, certainly, but the doctor didn’t buy into the theory that it was ancient in any way but old. “Two thousand years ago, trapped so deep in the ice and rock. I don’t think that was an accident.”

“They say talking to yourself is a sign of insanity, you know.” Lucas gave him an amused look, coming to view the tank himself. “You don’t think it can hear you, surely?”

“You never know.” He shrugged, considering it. “Maybe. There’s reason to think it might be semi-aware, somewhere in all that.”

Of course, the younger doctor scoffed at that, openly skeptical. “If it wasalive the project wouldn’t have gotten a go ahead, Jirou.”

“You never know,” he repeated. “But you’ve seen the readings. You’ve looked at the samples. Even you had to have seen that some of them are very much active.”

It was almost funny to watch him squirm, making a face. “They’re just cells. Jenova is dead.”

“Mmhm, you sound so sure of yourself.” He chuckled softly, pushing his glasses up. “A dead Ancient, preserved so humans would one day dig ‘her’ up, study, and make new ones. Hah.”

“That’s the project you signed on for, you know!” Lucas was generally even tempered, but he tended to get rather angry if you flustered him. It was amusing. “The Jenova Project will change the world!”

“Oh that I believe.” He smiled darkly, leaning against the rail and watching him sputter. “It’s late, Lucas. Well past your bedtime, I’m sure. Why don’t you go get some rest.”

“Don’t you talk down to me!”

“I never talk down to anyone, Lucas, I meet them on their level.” His smirk was sharp enough to cut. “That just happens to generally be beneath me.”

“Get over yourself, you’re not that great! You’re not even the only doctor - and I’m younger than you.”

“Oh, well, by all means Doctor Hollander don’t let me hurt your feelings.” He laughed at the thought until he had to wipe tears from his eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”

“I wasn’t the one talking to a dead body because I can’t handle a civil conversation with living human beings, Doctor Hojo.” He sneered. “I might just leave before your insanity catches. Bad enough I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Mmhm.” The Wutain scientist was already turning back to the specimen in question, and didn’t turn even when the other man stomped off. “I don’t know what you are, Jenova, but I’m sure you’re no ancient. Still, if it gets us the funds… well… a chance to study a creature as old as the ancients that was sealed like some cursed demon? Sure. But don’t think for one second I’m going to just clone you like that idiot.”

Jirou Hojo set a hand on the tank, considering the chill of foreboding a challenge. “I can do better.”

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