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Details on the original works listed:
For current and prospective patrons, just a reminder that there’s one day left to vote in this month’s poll.
Details on the original works listed:
When making camp at a haven, Ignis was frequently the last to bed and first to rise. On occasion, Noctis may have stayed up later or Gladio rose earlier for a run at dawn. More frequently than that, to Ignis’ concern, Noctis would awaken in the middle of the evening. Not pleasantly so either.
His nightmares were understated on the surface: a white-knuckle grip, an oddly quiet interruption of his usual restful breathing, and then a sharp hiss as if caught off guard. After a moment’s pause, an impatient sigh would indicate if the nightmare woke Noct. He had been much the same in his warning signs since he was a child. Following his recovery and return from the disaster in Tenebrae, the instances of his sleeplessness had increased. Yet he rarely spoke of it or sought support.
Simply put, Ignis had years of experience in waking when Noct was troubled. That first startled inhale cut through his dreams perfectly in time to catch the sigh as the young prince maneuvered his way out of his sleeping bag in pursuit of fresh air. If he paced the restricted grounds of haven, Ignis knew to leave him be. But when the sound of a camping chair unfolding reached him, he likewise exited the tent to see Noctis seated by the low embers.
He gave only a cursory glance and nod over his shoulder in greeting. Something in seeing him cast in silhouette, even without his spectacles, emphasized the burden placed upon him by his station and the Six. There was no one on Eos who deserved nightmares less.
Pulling a chair out himself, Ignis pressed it out to be a comfortable distance from Noct. He was not particularly tactile in his affections on a good day—Prompto being the exception, by and large. Intruding upon his space would do neither of them any favors.
“Was it a nightmare?”
His exhale was quiet and plainly displeased. The prince had yet to learn the lesson that the majority of healing procedures were less than soothing. He punctuated his distaste for Ignis’ observation with a half-shrug as stilted as it was tense.
“Yeah. Don’t worry about it.”
“Hm.” The answer wasn’t to his liking, but in fairness, the line of questioning wasn’t to Noct’s. The least Ignis could muster was being in his company for a while longer. The prince shouldn’t be forced to wait alone in the dark with the remnants of his fearful dream. Somehow, the nighttime chill made for a surprisingly crisp and refreshing atmosphere. His vision was not in need of so much correction that Ignis couldn’t see beyond the dim firepit to the moonlight cast over their forested surroundings. But it was the sky above that captured his attention above all else. In the hopes that a diversion would draw Noct back to slumber sooner, he made note of it aloud. “I find the views afforded to us in nature have an uplifting aspect to them.”
Noct looked to Ignis for direction, which never failed to instill a sort of pride in Ignis. To have his trust was a gift he could never bring himself to squander no matter how small the circumstance. He pointed to the stars in this case, and Noctis tilted his head up to see for himself.
“I guess.” He crossed his arms as his hair stood on end, but still held his attention on the stars. The chill didn’t agree with him, clearly, and he should return to the tent. Ignis similarly knew better what a pensive pause from Noct sounded like. “Where do you think she is right now?”
“Lady Lunafreya?” There were not many other women he might have referred to, yet assumptions were not known for paying off.
“Yeah.” He breathed the word more than speaking it. A testament to how near this conversation was to his heart.
“She is a highly intelligent woman with unwavering resolve.” Ignis himself had never met Lady Lunafreya in person before. In his role for the prince, he knew of her far more than their mutual unawareness would indicate. He knew his words to be true. Noct needed little else in the way of reassurance. “Wherever she is, I’m certain she’s safe.”
His response did appear to dissolve some of the tension from his shoulders. Ignis could not place the precise reason that he sensed there was more Noct had to share. All he could do once more was wait for him to be ready. That, too, was an honor Ignis gladly rose to accept.
“It’s not right.” He looked back down to the firepit, uncrossing his arms to rest his hands on his knees. “Nothing’s been right since we left. I get that my father sent me off to save me, but—” A frustrated sigh stole away the rest of his sentence while Noct rest back in his seat. “Forget it.”
“Noct,” Ignis implored him, speaking to the struggles had already been expressed indirectly. All part of his royal duty per His Majesty, and yes, a sort of hobby for him as well, as the prince preferred to refer to his stewardship. “Your father had every confidence in you when he sent you away for your own safety. He loved you.”
Turning away abruptly was a poor mask of Noct’s shaky inhale at those three words. Ignis pretended not to notice out of respect for his privacy. Sentiment was not a welcome aspect for him. He rather enjoyed having his emotions separate from his interactions with others as much as humanly possible. Where his father was concerned especially. Despite that, the truth that his father loved him dearly was a statement he should have heard more often in the years before King Regis passed so tragically. The Wall and the war occupied much of his father’s attention while Noct simultaneously came to realize what precious little time remained for them to share.
“He knew as I do that you will be ready for the road ahead. And whatever it may bring, you will not walk it alone.”
The three of them all supported Noct on his journey to kinghood. Prompto brought out a certain brightness in the prince that he’d only seen before his severe injury in his youth. Gladio inspired him to aspire, even as they warred over several subjects where their opinions differed. And Ignis himself took no small amount of pride in his steadfast service to Noct. Wherever their path lead, he would never suffer a time without their companionship.
“Thanks.” He’d reached his limit for emotional discussions. So soon. Ignis supposed he should be grateful he made it that far. Noct pushed himself out of the seat, circling around it in the direction of the tent. “I’m gonna—”
“Of course. Rest well.”
He received no answer aside from the zip of the tent doors opening. Ignis took the time to return the two chairs to their rightful place and wasn’t far behind.
Visiting Noctis’ separate residence on occasion after Ignis had tended to his duties was simply habit. The crown prince expressly stated he wished to live alone for greater independence, but regular visits had revealed that very little self-reliance was taking place. Dishes accrued over Ignis’ absence and on more productive weeks, the clean laundry still sat wrinkling in the basket.
Inside, the lights were off today despite the hour—merely 6 o’clock, a more appropriate time for dinner than resting as Noctis no doubt was. His shoes were present by the entrance, after all. Ignis paused to straighten those after removing his own, walking deeper into the apartment by the light of his cellphone.
Noctis was not quite ready yet perhaps, but Ignis was there to support him. When he was prepared, Ignis was confident that the prince would step into his role as the heir to the Lucian throne. Until then, Ignis himself had duties to uphold and a dear friend to look after. With his spare key, he let himself into the apartment monitored at a respectful distance by the Crownsguard.
The main room was slightly cleaner and more orderly than usual, a sure sign that Prompto had visited recently. Noctis’ newest friend had made both Gladio and Ignis wary until they met the nervous blond in person and taken time to know him, whereupon they had no choice but to acknowledge that he was a good influence on Noct. Up until his friendship, Noctis had no peers that he considered even acquaintances. He went to school, to his part-time job if he had a shift, and traveled directly home only to repeat the process the next day.
Once Prompto reached out to him, Ignis was fortunate enough to see more of the young boy he first served start to return. On several visits, he would arrive to Prompto and Noctis laughing in an apartment not entirely covered in piled up garbage bags and empty bottles, takeout containers, haphazardly stacked books, and scattered clothes or papers. Noctis was recovering, and Ignis could only be grateful.
“Noct?” He whispered into the shadows, grocery bags in each hand. He knew better than to expect any usable ingredients to be in the prince’s fridge. At the silence, Ignis set the bags down on the counter and approached a familiar silhouette on the sofa. His eyes adjusted to distinguish the sight of Noctis asleep beside a history book he likely knew inside and out. At the very least, he grades suggested as much.
Despite the knowledge that Noctis was unlikely to wake easily, Ignis was careful to approach the linen closet quietly to retrieve a blanket. The addition of a pillow would awake even the prince, but surely the simple comfort of a blanket would be welcome when his nap was done with. The dishes would be cleaned, and any trash would be cleared away. His laundry would be complete and put away. All evidence of Ignis’ care and attention for Noctis, a young man he valued as his own family and as his king.
Unfolding the blanket and draping it over the teenager that would one day lead the nation, Ignis smiled to himself in the dark.
Gladio would have lectured him on coddling Noct, though he was just as aware as Ignis that the prince they both served could be resolutely obstinate when he wished to be. In a manner, Ignis supposed there was merit to his claims. But Gladio had not known Noct as long as Ignis had, did not play an integral role in raising him from his toddler years like Ignis—who was a boy himself at the time and yet that bond made all the difference.
Prepping the ingredients for meals designed to conceal vegetables, Ignis began to cook. He would later divide out lunches for easy portioning, but for now, Ignis permitted his mind to wander. Meal preparation came to him instinctively enough by that point that it hardly called for his undivided attention, and there was something of a comfort in reminiscing while still seeing to Noctis’ wellbeing.
Ignis would admit that Noctis was prone to despair and resignation at the most inopportune times, but it was no obligation to serve him in his darkest hours while he sought out the strength Ignis knew he had. When the weight of the crown and the impending passing of his father bore down on Noctis, there was always Ignis at his side. Noct did not need to say a word to communicate to Ignis, and rarely felt inclined to, but it was a given that he could at any time. As it had always been.
If Noctis was not yet ready to face the calling ahead of him, he had Ignis’ support. When he needed someone to listen, he had Ignis’ willing ear. When he required company and silence all at once, he had Ignis’ quiet presence. Whatever the burden or obstacle, Ignis was a safe haven and loyal aide to Noctis.
Perhaps he did enable his less-than-regal behavior from time to time, as Gladio accused him of doing, but there were so few people that a prince could entrust his truest self to. And to Ignis, he would always be the young child who, with a smile, silently took his hand in friendship from the moment he became the prince’s retainer.
Gladio was his Shield and inspired him to push to greater heights. Prompto was his friend and encouraged him to enjoy all the fond memories that a standard high school experience could offer, just as King Regis had hoped for his son.
Each of them was essential to the prince’s contentment, but one fact would never change: Noct could rely on Ignis in all matters. He would indulge his desire to nap while Ignis drove or delegate more tedious tasks to him so Noct might write to Lady Lunafreya or make plans with Prompto. Was that not the sort of unsung sacrifice Ignis was meant to make both as his retainer and his oldest friend?
Ignis did also take the time to remind Noct he would one day have to see to these tasks unaided, which was an equally valuable part of his service. Yet that time would come one day in the future, only when Prince Noctis was prepared to accept his responsibilities as royal heir. The privilege of witnessing Noct rise to all he could be was well worth the possibly lenient service to him now.
To celebrate his existence, I figured I’d do my thing and analyze his personality.
A lot of strange wibbly wobbly science/magic things happen to Cloud at the end of Crisis Core and through FFVII, so the best place to begin is naturally the start.
His friendship with Tifa sheds a lot of light onto who Cloud was growing up and how he differs from the larger personalities found in the FFVII cast.
His father died when he was young and aside from Tifa, he didn’t have any friends. In a discussion Cloud has with her about his childhood, he said, “Later, I began to think I was different… That I was different from those immature kids [her friends]”.
There is a crossroads here for his thoughts behind this sentence – either he really believed them to be immature or he rationalized that he was better than them to cope with his difficulty making friends.
Based on the loss of his father at a young age and his continuing desire to be better throughout the series, I’m inclined to believe it was a rationalization to help himself adjust to his struggles in making friends.
The issue with that being that instead of trying to make friends in his own way, as he did with Tifa, he convinced himself he didn’t need them – that he was better than the rest. This further increased the divide between him and other people, and his ability to socialize and connect to other people took a fairly serious hit.
But it also put greater value in the friendships he did have. So when Tifa’s mother died and she tried to see her by crossing Mt. Nibel, Cloud followed her to keep an eye on her.
This was another formative moment for him because when she misstepped and he tried to catch her, they both fell. He was unharmed and she was in critical condition.
The village believed it was Cloud’s idea to go up the mountain and as a result, her father wouldn’t even let Cloud go near her. The only friend he had.
He tried to be the hero and do the better thing, and it all fell apart. For someone who suffered loss at a young age and coped by thinking he was better than others his age, this was even more devastating.
The harsh realization that he wasn’t as good as he thought (with such severe consequences) combined with the rejection from everyone in the village was sure to wreak havoc on 10-year-old Cloud’s psyche. And so he developed a temper problem and began picking fights with little to no provocation.
Four years later, word of Sephiroth’s reputation reaches Nibelheim and 14-year-old Cloud, who is still in the throes of self-blame and puberty.
Hearing about such a legend re-inspired Cloud to become the superior person he used to think he was, in my opinion, and with so few personal ties to Nibelheim – of course he left for glory in SOLDIER.
To reinforce that theory, Cloud arranged to meet Tifa at the village’s water tower to say he was leaving and promised to save her if she ever found herself in trouble.
It’s strong evidence that he still blamed himself for her injury and that drove his need to be better – so he’d never fail someone he cared about like that again.
Taking a step back and viewing this as a writer, that’s what I love most about Cloud. He’s relatable. Zack is insanely charming, Angeal is dad-wise, Genesis is extra fab, and Sephiroth is actually superhumanly powerful. Cloud is there to aspire to greatness as a Shinra Infantryman.
His honest ambition to improve humanizes the story and makes it more accessible than having the top tier people of Midgar alone.
Return to Nibelheim
After befriending Zack, Cloud sees him about once a year for missions – one of which was when he was 16 and involved an investigation of a reactor on Mt. Nibel.
Cloud still feels ashamed of not being SOLDIER, not being better, and he hides his identity from everyone but his mother… But the most important aspect of this mission is his confrontations with an unstable Sephiroth.
The first time, he’s knocked out by Genesis and becomes angry that he failed again. Everything he wants to be is escaping him, and since he holds himself to such a high standard, he’s bound to frustrate himself.
Cloud is steeped in that bitter anger when Sephiroth burns down his home town, killing his mother, and Cloud finds him with a heavily injured Tifa and barely conscious Zack…
It’s the worst moment of his life that he can’t forgive himself for, only worse, and this is a chance to finally do it right, be the hero he wants to be.
He ambushed Sephiroth, stabbing him with the Buster Sword, and going back for his two friends. This is a proud moment for him, what he’s aspired to be was finally within his grasp. His friends were in danger and he saved them from Sephiroth. The Sephiroth.
So when Sephiroth returns and lifts Cloud up on his sword, ready to kill him, this stepped on years of rage at failure, inadequacy, and a powerful need to protect the ones he cares about.
That’s where the strength came from for Cloud to use the katana as leverage to throw Sephiroth into the Mako pit… Before falling unconscious, of course, because he’s got his limits.
After that point, he spends about a year as a Mako poisoned vegetable, so that’s the end of this analysis… Although I hope you enjoyed the read! Questions, comments, etc., go for it!
Vincent frequented the forest that Kadaj and his kind ran their operations in — first, for the solitude. Eventually, it became for the victims out there who caught themselves in their net with no one else looking for them. There could be no redemption for him. Nothing would change what was. But there was a future for those suffering from the stigma and if he knew Cloud, there was someone else out there making a stand as well. How could he do any less?
He did not sign up for this, however.
“Tseng, is he—” How Elena dragged herself and Tseng to his hideout, or even knew where to find him, was a mystery. She teetered, half-dead and somehow still conscious, catching herself on a pile of crates. Who knew what was even in them. “—I’m okay, I’m okay.”
Vincent lifted Tseng, unconscious and pale but alive, and carried him to a bench in the abandoned stone church he’d made into his quarters. Elena trailed after him, guiding herself on whatever was near her path to Vincent and Tseng. Her stubbornness and sheer determination… They often reminded him of someone he would never forget. Dangerous waters. “We are both aware that you’re not. What’s happened to you two?”
She eyed the neighboring bench, deciding against having a seat and instead leaning against the back of another bench to prop herself up. “Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo. We were caught.” She tore off a tattered piece of her own sleeve, holding it against one of her graver injuries with a small wince. Even in the low light Valentine preferred, Elena had an unhealthy sheen on her skin. “They wanted it. Jenova’s head. They tortured us both. Is he…?”
“Unconscious, but he has a pulse.” Vincent went to the stock of potions and other restorative supplies he had, taking back a collection for Tseng and Elena alike. He held out one of the blue bottles to Elena, meeting her weary gaze from the corner of his eyes. “For you.”
“So generous,” she teased, even now, and put the scrap of fabric in her pocket while she took the bottle from him. For Tseng, it would not be so simple since he was not awake. Vincent would need to heal him with salves and materia instead. She downed her potion quickly, punctuating it with a sigh. “An X-potion,” she observed with a note of surprise.
“Hm,” Vincent acknowledged, treating Tseng’s wounds and seeing a flicker of pain that pierced through his unconsciousness. “You should rest.”
Elena laughed, a delicate brightness in this dark place. Few could muster the strength to laugh after all she’d been through today alone. Vincent glanced to her again and she settled in close to him and Tseng. “Thanks, by the way. I really had no idea where to go.”
“How did you even find me?” Vincent hadn’t planned on asking, but the alternative was to let Elena choose the subject. Silence was not an option with her present.
“Turk instincts,” she remarked, tapping her temple and smirking. Her hair hung partly in her face as always, though it was now matted with sweat and dried blood. No potion could fix that. She was certainly a sight.
He breathed something akin to a laugh.
“What do you know,” she teased, resting back against the bench and placing the empty potion bottle an arm’s length away. “He can laugh.”
The stillness of night imbued the church with a peace even with the company and conversation it was so unused to housing. Or perhaps that was his concern alone. Elena’s wounds had closed, though the ones she first incurred in her torture still remained — either as they were or as scars. One raw injury traced along the soft curve of her cheek, jagged and dark red. He could see a redness around its edges that suggested the cut had been even worse before the potion. What could possibly cause such an injury… Vincent was certain he did not want to know. Even if he had, he wouldn’t put Elena through an explanation. Part of him considered offering her comfort. Mercifully, the impulse passed quickly.
“Did they mention why they wanted the head? To torture you both so brutally,” he thought aloud and stood. He wasn’t sensitive to the cold as much as he had been before the experiments conducted on him, but he assumed the two of them would prefer blankets. Among the supplies he held here for other victims, Vincent was certain there were at least two they could use until they recovered enough. Being Turks, they would of course be on their way the moment they could stand unassisted. Given where his thoughts were taking him today, it would be best for him that they did.
“I’ve seen your record. You still have clearance, so…” She sighed, leaning forward once more. Her movements were stiff, but they were steadier than they had been prior. At least any other terrible decision she made that day would be done in mostly working condition. “I guess I can tell you. They want Jenova’s legacy, the Sephiroth gene.”
Lucrecia, growing with child, but sickly from experiments. The argument with Hojo concluded with a gunshot; how was Vincent outdrawn by such a man? Pain blossomed in fragments across his chest. Consciousness came and went as the experiments on his body continued and ultimately failed — he was not dead, but neither was alive.
She saved him. He woke up on an operating table in her lab, tormented and enraged, from all of it. Her suffering. The experiments she had been subjected to. His powerlessness to stop any of it. This was his punishment for being unable to protect her and her unborn baby from their fate at the hands of Hojo.
He tensed, drawing himself to the present with a bitter and familiar taste of regret in his mouth. If Elena noticed, she wasn’t letting it on.
“I figure they want to re-create Sephiroth, but with all the talk of their ‘mother’,” she muttered, staring off into the shadows of his shelter. Having found the blankets as she spoke, Vincent returned to the sudden patients taking shelter with him. “Who knows anymore?”
“You had it coming, then,” Vincent deadpanned and laid a blanket over Tseng while she attempted to break up the mats in her hair. “You knew the danger when you took the head.”
“Of course we did,” she answered matter-of-factly as if it were nothing more serious than the weather. She tucked her hair behind her ear, evidently successful in detangling it enough for that. It was as if she wasn’t at the gates of death mere minutes ago. He could hardly be surprised. There was very little that Elena could not accomplish through her tremendous force of will. “We’re Turks. That is our actual job, Vincent. And we get paid well for it.”
Her gaze turned to Tseng as he shifted, settling in under the blanket. If nothing else, he had relaxed and gotten some of his color back. A regular person would take days to recover, but a twenty-minute nap ought to suffice in his case.
“I’ve done what I can for him.” Vincent held out a blanket to her, which she took with a smile. A familiar feeling rised to the surface… One he would not pursue — a final transgression he could spare himself and Lucrecia from. “We’ll just have to see.”
Days passed unremarkably. The situation had quieted, though who could say how long that peace would last. With Cloud and company, it was never a permanent state. He was only disrupted by a package brought by a teenager with a messenger bag and a jagged scar on her face.
Inside the battered package, a phone with a default set-up screen displaying was waiting for him. The protective case was a dark red with black accents, certainly not a mistake on her part. He didn’t even need to read the note to know the sender.
I heard from a little bird that you don’t have a phone yet. I programmed my number in already. Don’t worry, it’s private — not Turk-issued. And don’t be a stranger!