He did what, now?
It wasn’t the war that sparked the mayhem this time. For once, news of Wutai was forgotten. Even ShinRa’s doings were largely left out of the picture. For the first time in a long time, spreading from Midgar outward to the rest of the planet, the world was inundated with earth-shattering news of a romance.
It started with a simple tactical objective of the ShinRa military. The ensuing mission had been brief and, by all accounts, uneventful. The official report itself was less than a page. In, search, out. It took as much time traveling to and from the area as to carry out the operation.
The city was Kuro, an infinitesimal speck on the map of Wutai. Less than 40 people inhabited the village, and all of them worked the fields for a living. When ShinRa forces had arrived, it was the first time that most of the villagers had ever seen a sword, let alone a gun.
The only reason why a hamlet this size was of any interest to the military at all was because it was rumored that a particularly troublesome squadron of Wutaian troops shipped weapons through the area. Some notorious and elusive officials were rumored to be at the head of the battalion, and ShinRa was not about to let a chance to hunt them down slip through their fingers.
There was nothing that the military did that had been worth reporting, surely nothing that would call for two reprints of the Midgar Times. There was no confrontation, no intel to be gathered on the enemy officers, and certainly, definitely no weapons.
And yet the news of what had happened in Kuro spread like wildfire.
Critics questioned why such a high ranking ShinRa officer was even sent on such a mundane mission in the first place. Some civil rights groups stirred, upset with the proceedings and claiming human rights violations. Some fangirls wept, or cried scandal or witchcraft. Others stood in denial.
Whatever the implications for ShinRa, human rights, and fangirls alike, by the end of the day, everyone in Gaia knew that First-Class SOLDIER Sephiroth had brought back a wife from Wutai following a three-and-a-half day mission.
When Angeal found Genesis in the SOLDIER floor cafeteria, the man was squinting at a newspaper held sideways and three inches from his face. Unperturbed, the man took his seat at a small, greasy table across from his friend and slid a mug of coffee away from him. The redhead hummed distractedly and caught it with one hand, but let it go unattended as he continued to scrutinize the front page.
“I didn’t know you took an interest in the news,” Angeal commented, removing the teabag from his own mug and shaking it dry. Breakfast in the barracks was ham today, or some semblance of it. He picked up his fork, but decided against the grayish meat and went for the eggs instead.
“Everyone takes an interest in the news after yesterday,” Genesis said. He sat for a moment, and when Angeal did not reply, he finally took his eyes away from the paper to give his friend a disbelieving eye. “…Naturally,” he said with a small shrug, “you would be the last person on the planet to know.” He shook the paper once and continued his reading.
“I don’t trust the journalism in the Midgar Times,” Angeal said before taking a long, slow sip of his steaming tea. It was early, and it was Monday. He had a sinking feeling the day was going to be very, very slow.
“Then pick up any other newspaper, you’ll find the same thing.”
Angeal raised an eyebrow as his friend
rotated the paper further. Now it was nearly upside-down, held suspended above
the table at the strangest angle by both of Genesis’s red-gloved hands. “What
are you doing to that paper?”
“I think I can make out Seph’s hair in this photo if I hold it this way. Still, it’s a stretch. It could be anything, really.”
“Sephiroth made the front page?”
“Oh, he did so much more than that.”
Angeal sighed and wordlessly held out a hand. Genesis handed over the paper.
In the biggest, boldest words Angeal had ever seen on one sheet of paper read “FAMED SHINRA GENERAL WEDS WUTAIAN GIRL”.
Angeal stared at the words. And stared some more. He blinked and refocused his vision. The headline did not change.
There was still a chance. “Surely they’re not talking about…”
But they were. It didn’t take any more than a cursory glance to tell that Sephiroth’s name was all over that page.
He turned his attention to the photograph. Genesis was right; it could have been a photo of anything. The caption claimed it was a hurried shot of Sephiroth and his new bride as they exited the convoy, but it was so blurred and chaotic that it was impossible to tell. Angeal knew that Sephiroth hated paparazzi with a passion, and if it truly was a picture of him (he really could not tell), then their friend had probably reacted, and if that had been the case, then it was a miracle that even this pittance of evidence from their encounter had survived.
“What happened in Kuro?”
“You can read, can’t you?”
Angeal ignored the quip. “Where is Sephiroth?” The trio usually ate breakfast together. The pair hadn’t seen the silver general since his return from the mission, but even with time off to rest he should have been back to SOLDIER headquarters after the weekend.
“I wouldn’t show my face if I was him, either.” Genesis took a bite of the ham, winced slightly, and discreetly disposed of the remains in his napkin, following up the action with a large swig of coffee. “Or if the press has it right, maybe they’re honeymooning.”
“You and I both know that this is absolutely preposterous,” Angeal scolded. And for a million and five reasons, it was. As far as the two of his friends knew (and they were probably the only ones to know the general enough to tell), Sephiroth was as absolutely asexual as he appeared to the public, with zero interest in anything even vaguely romantic. Even if a girl had somehow managed to catch his eye, he did not form any relationships quickly or easily. It had taken Genesis and Angeal the better part of four years for them to have a normal, mostly functional friendship with him. For Sephiroth to devote his life to a woman based on three days of knowing her would be an anomaly of astronomical proportions.
“Maybe the fangirls have something with that ancient Wutaian witchcraft stuff,” Genesis commented dryly.
Angeal resisted the temptation to glower. His friend had gotten himself into something very, very deep indeed. He thought, long and hard. What did he know? Had Sephiroth acted strangely before he left? Was anyone out to get him? He ended up with nothing. As far as he knew, this had happened out of the blue, without a prologue of any kind.
Genesis was musing on about something. “Where would he take a girl on a honeymoon? Costa del Sol is way too cliché for him, and the Gold Saucer is too flashy. Maybe somewhere like Cosmo Canyon?”
Angeal snagged Genesis’s plate away from him. “Come on, we’re going up.”
“Up? You think he’s in his room right now?”
“It’s a place to start.”
Genesis got to his feet, eyeing his plate before waving it away with a hand. With that permission, Angeal dumped the plentiful leftovers in the garbage can and set the dishes in bins.
“You know we have a mission briefing,” Genesis said through a yawn.
“So does Sephiroth,” Angeal said. “Let’s clear up this mess and get on with our jobs.”
The good news, Angeal thought, was that today was no longer likely to be slow and boring.