Ukiyoe Painting

BY : MystIc19
Category: Final Fantasy VII > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1053
Disclaimer: I do not own FF7 or any of the FF7 characters. I do not make any profit in writing these fanfictions.

“Easy, easy,” a soft soothing voice spoke up, seeming completely out of place to the searing pain that he was in at the moment. His eyes were shut tightly and he was gritting his teeth through it, but when he felt that piercing, burning pain again his eyes opened and he fuzzily made out a young woman leaning over him, pressing down on his shoulders when he jerked from the sensation.

    “Papa hold him down,”she spoke while reaching across him and pressing something against his side. Shifting his gaze when he felt a stronger weight holding him down he looked up into an older man’s face, his brows were knitted together and he faintly heard him mumble to relax.

    “Not much further to go, just hang in there,” the girls voice spoke again. 

    Who were these people? And what on earth were they doing to him? Where...was he? 

    His eyes slipped closed again but only for a moment before that same pain appeared at his side again. He tried to sit up as he let out a cry of pain but hands were on him again, holding him down, restraining him. But then he felt a gentle touch on his cheek followed by a quiet voice speaking his name.

    Opening his eyes again the room and his surroundings spun around him. He shook his head a bit and squinted his eyes. Staring down at him were blue eyes this time.

    “It’s okay,” the boy spoke softly while pushing some of his damp hair away from his face. “It’s alright, I’m right here with you.”

    “Cloud?” 

    “Yes,” the other replied with a nod of his head. “It’s me. I’m right here, just focus on me okay?”

    He was just about to say something. Ask him what was happening, where were they...but he didn’t get a chance before that sharp pain appeared again. 

    “Shh shh,” Cloud’s voice came as he cradled his face in his hands and leaned down close. “I know, it’s almost over just a bit more.”

    The pain didn’t seem to let up this time and he felt the room spin more around him, making him feel sick to his stomach and weary from it all. His eyes drifted closed once more and he faintly heard his name being called again before he became completely consumed by darkness...



 

    Blinking open blue eyes he squinted as he tried to focus his vision. Everything around him seemed so bright and hazy at first that he had to shut his eyes once more. Opening them again he let them roam around the place. Where...was he? He was in a room of some kind but it wasn’t any that he recalled being in before. He was lying in a soft, warm bed with a heavy blanket draped over him. Glancing down he noted that his kimono was absent and that a white bandage was wrapped around his torso and across his chest.

    ‘Bandage...but why?’

    Frowning slightly he tried to remember just what had happened and why he was here like he was now. He remembered...snow...a lot of snow. And...Samurai? That’s right, Samurai had followed them into the mountains when they were traveling and then-

    ‘Wait...we were traveling. That means-’

    Sitting up quickly Zack winced at the pain that shot through his side, but he ignored it for the moment as he quickly scanned the area. He was...alone? Then that meant...

    “Cloud,” he started to call out, only to realize that his throat was dry. He was extremely thirsty but that could wait. “Cloud?” He tried again, this time louder. 

    They were up in the mountains when the Samurai had appeared. He had been able to dispose of all of them...or so he thought. He remembered one of them following after Cloud into the wooded area and he had quickly gone after him, hoping to catch up to the Samurai before he found Cloud. And while he had found the Samurai he had been caught off guard momentarily and the Samurai was able to land a hit. Then shortly after he came across Cloud and tried to make it back to the carriage and then...after that everything was a blank. Did he indeed get Cloud to safety? No...no he didn’t. He must’ve passed out...so then that...did that mean that Cloud was still out there? Or were there more Samurai that followed after? Had they found Cloud and taken him back to Edo? Was he himself back in Edo?

    Feeling the panic begin to rise within him Zack had just started to exit the bed before the sound of the door sliding open drifted in the air.

    “Whoa whoa whoa,” a feminine voice sounded and Zack glanced up to see a petite girl with auburn hair enter into the room.

    “So you’re awake,” she began while crossing the room and pushing back on the other’s chest. “Don’t go sitting up so abruptly, you’ll rip your stitches.”

    Staring at the girl a bit confused she raised an eyebrow when she saw that he hadn’t budged.

    “Lay back,” she commanded while using a bit more force against his chest. He finally complied and opened his mouth to speak but she continued on. “You don’t want to have to go through getting stiched up again right? You didn’t seem to enjoy it much.”

    “I...” Zack began while trailing off lost in thought.

    “You don’t remember?” The girl asked while sitting down beside the bed and reaching across Zack to begin undoing his bandage. “I don’t suppose you would, you were a bit in an out of consciousness at the time.”

    Glancing down at the small hands that were working at the bandage Zack looked back up towards the other.

    “Where exactly....am I?” 

    “You’re at my house,” the girl replied simply. “My papa found you out in the storm,” she explained before glancing up into blue eyes and giving a small smile. “Lucky you.”

    While Zack should’ve been elated at those words the only sensation that he felt was his stomach dropping. 

    “Just me? Was there...someone with me?” He asked hesitantly.

    Getting the bandage undone she gently pressed around the wound causing Zack to take a sharp intake of breath.

    “Sorry about that,” she replied before reaching over to a tray beside the bed and grabbing a small cloth. “I just wanted to make sure it’s healing properly. It doesn’t look to be inflamed much at all, that’s very good.”

    Nodding Zack looked back up at her as she began to redress the wound. “So...was there?”

    “Was there what?” She asked while glancing back at him. “Oh,” she started with a shake of her head. “Yeah, my papa was able to retrieve your horse and belongings. Don’t worry. Although the carriage was a lost cause.”

    Zack’s eyes widened at those words and he felt as if his heart was going to stop. That was all that they found him with? So Cloud was nowhere around...surely that meant that the Samurai had found him? Did they...was he...?

    “I...I can’t. I have to go,” Zack started with a shake of his head as he started to sit up.

    “Go?” The girl asked while pushing back against him once more. “In your condition, in this weather? There’s no way.” 

    “I need to...I was traveling with someone and they might still be out-”

    “Cloud?” The girl asked with a bit of a perplexed look. 

    What? How does she know his name? 

    “Yes,” Zack replied with a nod. 

    Giving a bit of a smile she shook her head. “You poor thing,” she started while cupping his face briefly. “You really must’ve been out of it. It was a bit difficult having to stitch you up and it took a bit longer than I had expected. Not to mention I needed some assistance in keeping you restrained. Cloud was right there with you through most of it. You saw him then...but then you drifted off and you’ve been asleep ever since.”

    Stitching him up? Now that she mentioned it...he did recall some thoughts of being held down...and she did look a bit familiar now. But he still couldn’t really make it out and if anything else thought it could’ve just been some dream or something.

    Letting out a sigh of relief Zack’s gaze fell onto the door. “So he’s here?”

    “Yes,” she replied with a brief laugh. “He’s helping my papa out in the garden. They’re trying to salvage what crops they can, this storm did a lot of damage. In more ways than one.” 

    Reaching beside the bed she picked up a pitcher of water and poured it into one of the small cups before holding it out to Zack.

    “He’s been in here with you everyday but I told him to take a break. He’ll be really happy to know that you’re awake though, he was really worried.”

    Taking the offered water Zack gulped it down before saying thank you. “I would...really like to see him. When he’s not busy.”

    “Of course,” she started while pouring him another cup of water. “I’ll go get him. You just drink up, and I’ll make you something to eat. You must be starving I’m sure.”

    “Thank you...very much,” Zack started before the girl waved him off.

    “Don’t. Cloud’s been thanking me alot. It’s enough already. I’m a doctor, it’s what I do,” she explained with a smile before exiting the room. 

    Still trying to gather his thoughts Zack sat there in silence. He felt as if he had woken up in some sort of a dream and he was still trying digest it all. He still had a lot of questions...but those things could wait. The one thing that mattered to him the most was that Cloud was indeed okay. And now that that had been confirmed he felt the tension drift away from his body. Hearing rapid footsteps approach the door he shifted his gaze over before seeing the door slide open. And even though he was expecting Cloud...just the sight of actually seeing him physically, where he could actually see for himself that he was okay, made his breath catch in his throat.

    Blue eyes stared back at him and the smaller one remained in the doorway unmoving. Almost as if he were trying to convince himself that Zack was really up and that it wasn’t just his mind playing tricks on him. Stepping into the room he slid the door closed behind him. He remained still for a moment more before his feet began to move on their own, taking him towards the bed. No words were spoken between the two, Zack simply held out his arms and Cloud fell into them being wrapped into a fierce embrace while letting out a shaky breath. He held onto the other just as tightly, soaking up his warmth, listening to his heartbeat and feeling his breath on his skin. Alive. That was what Cloud’s mind kept repeating. Even though Cissnei had kept telling him that Zack would be fine, that he was just resting...Cloud couldn’t fully believe it until Zack was awake. 

    He felt his eyes begin to sting with tears that were threatening to fall but he quickly blinked them back.

    “You’re okay,” Cloud finally breathed as he felt fingers thread into his hair. “You’re okay.”

    Cloud had taken the words right out of Zack’s mouth and he nodded in reply while pulling the blond closer towards him.

    “I thought...I thought I was going to lose you,” Cloud continued. 

    “I’m so sorry,” Zack started, his voice heavy with guilt. The fact that he had put Cloud in such a situation was gnawing at him, and he couldn’t help but to feel as if he had let him down.

    “No,” Cloud started with a shake of his head while pulling away to look into blue eyes that he had been so afraid that he might never look into again. “I’m sorry. It’s my fault you got hurt while protecting me. And I....I ran away. I shouldn’t have, I didn’t listen when you told me to stay by the carriage and-”

    “No,” Zack began while cupping Cloud’s face and trying to stop the tears that he saw welling up in the others eyes. “It’s not your fault. It’s not, don’t think that.” 

    “I was so scared,” Cloud continued, “I don’t ever want to feel that again.”

    “I was careless. It won’t happen again, I’m sorry to put you through that.”

    Wrapping his arms around Zack’s neck Cloud held on tightly while strong arms wrapped around his waist.

    “It’s okay,” Zack said gently. “Everything’s alright now. It’s okay.” 

    “If it weren’t for Cissnei Zack,” Cloud started while pulling away once again but still keeping his arms around the others neck loosely.

    “Cissnei?” Zack asked softly, “Is that the girl from before.”

    Nodding Cloud let his hand run down Zack’s cheek briefly. “You probably don’t remember meeting her earlier on. She said some things might be spotty for you. Do you...remember what happened?” 

    Furrowing his brows Zack let out a sigh. “I remember...being up in the mountains and coming across the Samurai. But...everything after that is a little vague. I remembered finding you but...I wasn’t sure if you were safe. When I woke up here just now I thought...that you weren’t with me.”

    Seeing the concern in his eyes when he uttered those words Cloud instantly moved back in and wrapped his arms around him. He just wanted to hold on and never let go.

    “I wouldn’t leave you alone,” Cloud said softly.

    “I know,” Zack replied while wrapping an arm around Cloud’s shoulders, “but I thought you may have been taken from me.”

    Cloud felt his stomach sink from those words. He couldn’t imagine how Zack must’ve felt upon waking up in a strange place without knowing what all had happened. He knew he shouldn’t have left his side! But, well he guessed Cissnei just didn’t want him to worry. But now that he was there he wanted to fill in all of the blanks for Zack so that he wouldn’t feel so confused. 

    “Nobody was taking me from you,” Cloud started, “you got rid of all the Samurai back there. And then after you found me, when we were heading back to the carriage was when you passed out.”

    “So I did pass out all the way up there?” Zack asked in a bit of surprise.

    “Yes,” Cloud replied while looking up at the other, “we hadn’t even made it to the carriage yet. I wasn’t even sure that we would but...somehow I managed to drag you there.” 

    Zack raised an eyebrow at that. He had to admit that was a bit shocking as well. After all if he remembered correctly that was a pretty good distance. And not that he thought Cloud was weak or anything but their size difference alone made it a difficult task he was sure.

    “It wasn’t until I got you into the carriage that I saw your injury...I thought that...I didn’t know. But I could see the blood that you had already lost so I wrapped it as best I could and I decided to turn the opposite way, to try to find the closest town. There was no way we were going to be able to continue on the way we were going, at that rate you would’ve...”

    Pausing briefly Cloud let his gaze waver as he thought back to those moments. Cold, scared and worried. Even now he honestly didn’t know how he managed but he supposed at the time there was no room to over think things, he just did what he had to.

    He felt Zack rub his back comfortingly and when he looked at him again he saw understanding in his eyes. He let out a soft sigh as he leaned against him again.

    “I guess we made it a good ways down the mountain, I couldn’t really tell with the storm but then the wheel on the carriage must’ve gotten stuck in the snow and it completely broke off. I thought for sure that was it...but then I saw a light coming from this house here. And I tried to get us as close as I possibly could to it. And that’s when Kenzo found us.”

    “Kenzo?” Zack asked gently.

    “Yeah,” Cloud replied, “he’s Cissnei’s father. He found us and carried you back here the rest of the way, and then Cissnei took it from there.”

    Zack nodded as he took in the information before looking down when he felt Cloud’s hand clench at his chest.

    “If it weren’t for them...before that I honestly was just going to give up. I thought it was impossible. I was just going to stay there in that broken carriage and wait for the end to come.”

    Not being able to hold back his tears any longer Cloud turned his head so that his face was hidden against Zack’s chest. He felt like he had been holding in so much ever since they had arrived there. He wanted to be strong for Zack, and to have that same optimism that Cissnei had. And so he had been trying, and holding back his fears and worries, as much as he could on the outside anyways. But now...all of those overwhelming feelings just finally had to escape.

    “But you didn’t,” Zack began gently while holding Cloud tighter when he felt the wetness of his tears against his chest. “And even if you had, you decided to stay with me. You would follow me... even till death?”

    Not hesitating for even a second Cloud nodded.

    “Life or death...wherever you go, so do I.”

    Zack had to swallow the lump that he felt rise in his throat at those words. He grasped the sides of Cloud’s head before leaning down and placing a lingering kiss on top of feathery blond hair.  Those words to him were love at it’s purest and rawest, and he would always cherish them more than anything. After all he felt exactly the same way.

    “You know,” he started before placing another kiss on top of his head, “you say if it weren’t for them...and I am very very grateful to them, but if it weren’t for you...getting to them wouldn’t have even been possible.”

    “Me?” Cloud asked while pulling away and looking up at Zack with a tear stained face. “Zack I didn’t do anything, I didn’t even know what to do.”

    Reaching out Zack wiped away Clouds tears before a hint of a smile appeared on his face. “Really? Sounds like you bandaged me up and carried me off to get help.”

    “Bandaged? I ripped my kimono and wrapped that around you,” Cloud explained with a bit of a scoff. “And it wasn’t really carrying you more than it was dragging.”

    “Details,” Zack replied with a wave of his hand before his small smile turned into a grin. “Either way those things probably saved my life.”

    “Well,” Cloud started with a slight blush. He supposed when it was put that way that he had indeed helped, as unsure and clumsy as he was with it all. “You would’ve done the same for me.”

    “Yes,” Zack simply replied while leaning down and pressing his forehead against the others. Their eyes met briefly before Zack leaned in the rest of the way and placed a soft kiss against Cloud’s lips. He held the kiss for a moment, pulling away only briefly before capturing the others lips once more and feeling small hands against his bare chest. They gradually moved upwards, traveling over his shoulders and up his neck before tangling into raven hair as their kiss grew more passionate. 

    Circling his arms around the smaller ones waist Zack pulled him flush against his body and he savored the small moan that escaped from the blond. 

    “Cloud? Are you still in there?” A soft voice asked from the other side of the door.

    The tender moment was abruptly shattered and they quickly broke their kiss. Cloud pulled away from Zack before standing up from the bed and crossing the room. “Yes I’m here,” he replied while sliding open the door. He was greeted with a warm smile as Cissnei stepped into the room carrying a tray of food.

    “I was pretty certain you could eat alot, and you definitely need your energy,” she explained while crossing the room and placing the tray down beside the bedside table.

    “You should’ve told me, I could’ve helped,” Cloud spoke as he looked over at the meal.

    “Oh it’s no problem,” Cissnei started, “besides I know you two needed a moment.”

    Cloud nodded before a slight blush graced his face and Zack gave a smile of appreciation.

    “Thank you Cissnei,” he spoke before the girl gave him a smile.

    “You’re welcome,” she replied. “Eat everything, and then get some rest. I’m glad you’re awake and feeling better but you still need to heal. So no leaving that bed until I say so.”

    Blinking briefly Zack gave a nod. “Understood. How long do you think it’ll be until I’m alright to travel again?”

    “Travel?” Cissnei asked as her eyes widened slightly. “What are you worrying about that for right now? Even if you have healed up, in this weather traveling is out of the question. You could easily end up back in the same situation.”

    “Well I-”

    “Don’t push yourself,” she continued as Cloud made his way back over to the bed and took a seat beside Zack. “Let’s just take it day by day alright? We’ve been managing pretty well so far.”

    “So far?” Zack asked with a tilt of his head before shifting his gaze back to Cloud. “How long have we been here?” 

    “It’s been about five days,” Cloud replied and Cissnei nodded in confirmation.

    “Five days?” Zack repeated in shock.

    “You see?” Cissnei started, “you obviously needed the rest. And you still do, so don’t go trying to speed up the process.” 

    “I think she’s right Zack, we really shouldn’t push it,” Cloud added while placing his hand on Zack’s arm.

    “Of course,” Zack replied while glancing back into concerned blue eyes before looking up at Cissnei. “We wouldn’t want to outstay our welcome, but if it’s fine with you we’ll remain here for a while longer.”

    “It’s no problem at all,” Cissnei spoke. “However my papa would like to talk with you later. I suppose just to answer some questions that he had that Cloud couldn’t particularly answer.”

    Cloud gave Zack a bit of an unsure look and Zack nodded once more.

    “I’ll speak with him whenever he’d like.”

    “Great,” Cissnei replied with another smile. “But that’s later. For now,” she started while lifting the tray from the bedside table and placing it on his lap. “Eat. Then rest.” 

    

    

 



    “Well then, if that about sums it up. I think today’s meeting can come to a close,” Elena explained while giving a sidelong glance to the Shogun.

    “Indeed,” the man replied  with a nod of his head. 

    The conference room became filled with sounds of people getting up from their seats and exiting, not before giving parting bows to the Shogun. He remained seated with Elena standing beside him as mostly everyone left out of the room. However Angeal remained, gathering his documents and folders as Sephiroth waited for him beside the door. 

    Elena was speaking quietly to the Shogun before the conference room doors burst open. Everyone inside quickly looked over to the loud sound and Sephiroth reached for his sword, instinctively getting ready for a possible confrontation. But upon looking at the person who burst into the room he let his hand slip away. It was a Samurai...a somewhat frantic looking Samurai. Who he was though Sephiroth wasn’t sure.

    “What do you think you’re doing?” Elena asked in disgust at the man’s sudden entry.

    Dropping to the ground the Samurai gave a deep bow.

    “Forgive me,” he spoke, “but I needed to see the Shogun right away. I have urgent news.”     Elena was about to speak again but the Shogun held up his hand to silence her.

    “You may speak,” Hojo said as he kept his gaze locked on the Samurai.

    “Thank you,” the man started before sitting up, “We found Chamberlain Saito’s son.”

    Those words made Angeal’s stomach drop but he kept a neutral expression on his face before shifting his gaze towards Sephiroth. He had an unreadable expression as well but Angeal was sure that he had to have been feeling the same thing at the mention of those words.

    “You have?” The Shogun asked while leaning forward in his seat. “Is he alive?”

    “Yes,” the Samurai replied, “very much so. But we...were not able to retrieve him.”

    Raising an eyebrow the Shogun shook his head. “Why not?”

    “He wasn’t alone,” the Samurai continued with a sigh, “He’s with Zack Fair.”

    Hojo’s eyes widened and he slowly leaned back in his seat while Elena let out a small gasp.

    “So it was true,” Hojo seemed to speak quietly to himself before the Samurai continued on.

    “Yes, he...he disposed of everyone else...I was the only remaining, and I came back here.”

    “You deserted,” Sephiroth stated while raising his head and looking down at the Samurai.

    “I...I had no other choice,” the Samurai replied shakily, “besides, I lost them in the mountains. And with just me remaining there was no way that I could’ve gotten the Chamberlains son.”

    A silence fell over the room after that, each of them getting lost in their own thoughts. Then the Shogun was letting out a deep sigh before looking over to Angeal.

    “Hewley,” he started sternly.

    Not saying anything for the moment Angeal looked down to the Samurai. “You’re certain you’re not mistaken? You did run away after all. Was it indeed Zack that you saw with-”

    “It was Zack Fair!” He shouted while turning a blazing gaze to Angeal. “No mistaking at all.”

    “So not only did he take the Chamberlain’s son from his home, he also killed his former comrades,” Hojo started quietly while folding his hands together. “Those were your men out there Hewley. Slaughtered because of your star pupil. What will you do?” 

    Crossing his arms across his chest Angeal gave a brief nod. “If it’s as you say,” Angeal started while shifting his gaze back to the Samurai. “I suppose sending more after them would be a bit risky. I could say I’m shocked that he easily got rid of them, but that would be a lie. Zack has always been one of the most skilled. He definitely wouldn’t run,” Angeal finished while narrowing his eyes at the kneeling Samurai.

    “Indeed,” Sephiroth agreed, keeping cool eyes on the Samurai.

    “So what are you saying?” Hojo asked while furrowing his brows. “That sending anymore Samurai after him would be a waste? We’ll just send more...ones that are more of a match,” he explained with a wave of his hand. “None of these cowardly ones.”

    The Samurai looked away at that, hanging his head as they continued to converse.

    “Yes that’s a possibility,” Angeal started  before shaking his head. “But even then, they’re certainly far, far away by now. And with no way of knowing which way they were headed or where they could be...would it be worth it?”

    “This is true,” Sephiroth broke in while taking a few steps away from the wall. “With nobody trailing them at this point we wouldn’t know the first place to look. Sending out a bunch of Samurai to search would be pointless. Not to mention a waste of bodies that we could use for legitimate assignments.” 

    “This is a legitimate assignment,” Hojo replied quickly.

    “He’s one kid,” Sephiroth spoke just as quickly. “One who has taken up a sufficient amount of time, energy and expenses. And now even lives. At this point I would just let it go. It’s not as if they could ever come back, leave them out there. They’ll be exhiled.”

    A brief silence passed over them as Hojo let Sephiroth’s words sink in. He had a point, and logically it was the best thing to do. Perhaps he was sinking too much time and energy into finding Cloud, but now that he was for certain that Zack was with him...he felt as if he had to find them. To show Zack that he was the powerful one, and that he would pay dearly for trying to defy him.

    “Zackary Fair is a traitor,” Hojo started quietly while pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. “If I merely look the other way on this what does that say? He needs to be held accountable, as an example. So that others may see what’ll happen if you betray the Shogunate.” 

    Angeal knew this was more than that however. He knew that this was just the Shogun being stubborn. He could act as if he was “concerned” about Cloud and just wanted to return him to his family, and that he needed to make an example out of Zack’s betrayal, but that wasn’t fooling Angeal at all. And if the Shogun was so insistent on it and wasn’t going to let up, then he figured he would just have to take matters into his own hands.

    “If that’s how you feel about it, then I’ll go myself,” Angeal stated calmly.

    “You?” Elena asked in surprise as Hojo gave the other a suspicious look.

    “What would just you going alone accomplish?” Hojo asked while leaning forward a bit more.

    “A lot,” Angeal said while looking at Hojo. “I can retrieve Cloud if he is indeed with Zack. And despite whatever the circumstances are I won’t be harmed. I was Zack’s mentor, regardless if he’s betrayed you or not he would never lift his sword to me.”

    Nodding Hojo leaned back in his seat as Elena gave him a questioning look. 

    “You are the head of the Samurai here...” Hojo began before Angeal gestured to Sephiorth.

    “Yes, but now that General Sephiroth is back it changes things. So long as one of us is in Edo it shouldn’t cause any problems.”

    “You mentioned that you could retrieve Cloud,” Hojo started before looking at Angeal from over the top of his glasses. “And what of the ronin?”

    “I’ll do what I must,” Angeal replied without a moments hesitation.

    “Is that so?” Hojo asked with a bit of a smirk. “Even though he was your shining pupil for so long?”

    “Even so,” Angeal stated with a nod.

    Pausing for a short moment Hojo contemplated it before giving one short nod.

    “Very well then,” he spoke while looking towards the Samurai who had reported to him. “I suppose it would be the most appropriate, and we wouldn’t have to send out any others.”

    “It seems to be the best bet,” Angeal agreed.

    “How soon could you leave?” 

    “Right away if necessary,” Angeal replied, “I just would need to go over some things with the General before departing.”

    “Very well,” Hojo began with a nod before looking back to the other Samurai. “Is there anything else that you could tell Hewley that may be of some use to him before he departs?”

    “There’s no need for that,” Angeal broke in while glaring at the Samurai who deserted. “I can track them on my own.” 

    “You’re dismissed,” Elena said with a wave of her hand to the Samurai. He gave another quick bow and then he was exiting the room. Within a few more moments the rest of them dispersed from the conference room. Angeal and Sephiroth moved down the hall silently as they made their way back to Angeal’s quarters. There was certainly questions running around through both of their heads, but they didn’t dare to speak a single word out loud until they were in private. 

    Once inside Angeal made his way directly over to the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of his finest sake. Sephiroth had just taken up his seat at the table when Angeal sat the bottle down.

    “So leave it all up to you,” Sephiroth spoke, breaking the silence just as Angeal began to pour their drinks.

    “What would you have me do?” Angeal asked while sliding the cup of sake towards the other. “It didn’t seem as if he were going to listen to the just leave them out there idea.”

    “True,” Sephiroth replied while picking up his cup, “however now you plan to bring Cloud back? And Zackary, there’s no way you-”

    “Of course not,” Angeal snapped with a shake of his head. “I won’t bring Cloud back here, and I definitely would do no harm to Zack. I just need Hojo to believe that.”

    “So what will you do?” Sephiroth asked.

    “I should know roughly where they are,” Angeal started before taking a drink. “We mapped out a general idea of where they would be traveling. And if they for any reason had to change it up because of the run in with those Samurai, I’m still fairly certain I could track them from that point. And I also know some of the places they may decide to settle at.”

    “Okay so you find them...and then?” Sephiroth asked.

    Letting out a sigh Angeal ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know. Warn them. At least it’ll buy them time, and they won’t have any Samurai after them. And who knows, after the amount of time that I’m gone when I get back perhaps the Shogun won’t be so focused on this anymore.”

    Taking another drink Sephiroth took in Angeal’s words. He was right about buying them time. But how much? And after he came back empty handed wouldn’t the Shogun just grow more frustrated, and if he did he would probably just send out others again. When would it end? 

    “When you do come back, I think you need to say that they’re gone.”

    Glancing up from the table Angeal raised an eyebrow. “Gone?”

    “Yes,” Sephiroth replied, “as in they’ve perished. It seems the only way that the Shogun would give up this search for Cloud is if he were led to believe that he was dead. With him now knowing that he was spotted and that he’s alive it just re ignited the spark in him. This will just turn into a vicious circle. Tell him that there was some accident, a run in or some encounter. Whatever it might be.”

    Nodding Angeal furrowed his brows. A vicious circle indeed, perhaps Sephiroth was right. But even then...

    “Do you think he would accept it so easily?” Angeal asked quietly.

    “That I do not know,” Sephiroth replied with a sigh. “But it seems to be the best chance for them. Especially Zackary.”

    “For Zack yes,” Angeal agreed before taking another drink. Zack’s safety was the one thing that Angeal had feared for since the beginning of all of this. And he would do what was necessary to ensure that no harm came to him, but he only hoped that it would be enough. 

    “But I would be very wary of my surroundings,” Sephiroth continued. “Hojo agreed to this, but the amount of trust he has in you I’m sure has dropped considerably since Zack is involved. He may already suspect that you wouldn’t be honest...so he may have you followed as well.” 

    “That thought already crossed my mind,” Angeal spoke.

    “Just be cautious,” Sephiroth added while shifting his gaze towards the window. “We won’t have to worry about this for much longer.”

    “Hmm?” Angeal asked while glancing up towards the other. “How do you mean?” 

    Remaining silent for a moment longer Sephiroth looked back to Angeal. “Don’t worry.”

    Those words didn’t sit well with Angeal and he leaned back while keeping his gaze fixed on his friend.

    “Seph-”

    “Just make sure Zackary and Cloud are safe. That should be your priority as of now,” Sephiroth broke in while reaching forward for the sake bottle and pouring more into his cup. “Leave the things here to me.”

    “I’m not quite sure what that means,” Angeal started quickly while narrowing his eyes slightly.

    “Well then I’ll leave you to ponder it,” Sephiroth replied, letting jade eyes pierce directly into the others. Angeal’s eyes widened briefly before he was leaning onto the table, searching those emotionless eyes for any more meaning of his words. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought...he was starting to wonder...

    “You haven’t forgotten you made a promise to me,” Angeal spoke lowly.

    “That was a long time ago Hewley,” Sephiroth spoke while lifting the cup of sake to his lips.

    “And? Does that make it any less of a promise?” Angeal asked with shock.

    “I kept my promise,” Sephiroth continued calmly. “It’s been years.”

    “Sephiroth-”

    “More importantly you forget that I made a promise to someone else as well,” Sephiroth explained. “Why do you think I even came back to Edo?” 

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    



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