Angeal knew that knocking would not be effective. He knew that when Sephiroth did not want to be disturbed, he would not be disturbed. While he was usually hospitable enough when his friends came to visit, even in a particularly sour state, if he was pushed past a point then little short of an apocalypse would get him to unlatch that bolt.
And Angeal guessed that today he was likely to be in “a mood”, as Genesis often referred to his friend’s locked-down state.
He started, for the sake of good faith, with a knock, knowing it was probably useless. “Hey, Sephiroth. It’s Angeal.”
No answer, no noise. But it wouldn’t be the first time that the silver general had outright ignored them. He was still just as likely to be in there as he was to be out.
“I know you’re in there.” He didn’t, but it paid to be overconfident. Sephiroth took you more seriously if you had a strong front, even if it was fake.
“I’m sure you haven’t forgotten, but there’s a briefing soon, and I thought I’d ask how your mission in Kuro went before we went back to business.”
Was it possible for the room to be more silent than before? It would be something that only Sephiroth could pull off. Angeal could picture him, sitting on his couch, just staring at the door, seething in annoyance.
Genesis pressed his ear to the door. “What are you doing?” Angeal scolded.
“I don’t have to answer that,” he said. “…There’s something in there. It sounds like…running water and…dishes.”
“Sephiroth doesn’t have a real dish in his house, you know he doesn’t cook—“ Angeal went silent as the realization hit him.
“Oh,” Angeal said.
Genesis started laughing. Angeal half expected Sephiroth to tear through the door and choke the laughter out of the redhead.
“Sephiroth, we as your friends would like to know what’s going on.” He hoped that Sephiroth would listen to him and not Genesis’s sniggering. “We’re worried about you.”
And with that, the latch clicked, but the door did not open.
Genesis and Angeal looked at each other. That had never happened before. Even if they’d annoyed him, he would have at least come to the door to tell them in person.
“Are we walking into an ambush?” Genesis asked.
Angeal ignored that. “I’m coming in.” And with that, he did.
Sephiroth’s apartment was modest. It always had been, and it probably always would be. The living room was furnished only by a couch, a small coffee table, and a bookshelf on top of which was a small television. In the near corner was sectioned off a small half-kitchen, with only a sink, mini refrigerator, and a microwave, all situated neatly on the countertop next to some stacked food items and disposable dishes. There were a few cabinets up above the counter, but the two friends knew that Sephiroth never used them. There was a small, square kitchen table, with seats for four, but it, like the cabinets, was little more than a space-filler, or occasionally a place to set papers that needed attending to. The walls were bare of any decorations, but one perk was a large window that had a great view of the sprawling city below.
“How can Sephiroth live here?” Genesis mumbled to himself as he scraped his boots on the unadorned welcome mat before slipping them off and setting them on a rack by the door. Angeal followed suit. If Sephiroth didn’t care about decor, he certainly cared about the cleanliness and orderliness of his home, and Genesis and Angeal had quickly learned that he was especially particular about getting mud on his carpet.
Genesis had told Sephiroth many times that he could afford more, even on a meager SOLDIER salary (though as General it was likely he was paid much more – but they never asked). Sephiroth had shrugged and said it was a waste. Given how much time he spent in his office or out on missions, and how little time he spent at home, it was probably a valid point. Genesis even swore that Sephiroth slept in his office most of the time.
Just as the two had shut the door behind them, Sephiroth came out of the hallway from the right side of the room, rubbing a bath towel through his long, dripping hair. He stopped when he saw his friends, and his eyes narrowed. “How did you get in here?”
“It wasn’t you?” Angeal asked, though he had begun to suspect as much. For now, he judged it best to feign ignorance. “The door unbolted when we knocked.”
Sephiroth said nothing. He didn’t have to. He had clearly just gotten out of the shower.
“So you didn’t hear us at all?” Genesis asked.
“Can we at least take a seat?”
Sephiroth turned away to go back into the bathroom. “As you please.”
“You’re more frigid than usual,” Genesis commented, beneath his breath but not as quietly as was prudent. Sephiroth’s hearing was exceptional. Angeal jabbed Genesis in the ribs with his elbow but it didn’t matter. Though Sephiroth did not react in the slightest, they all knew he had heard.
As they both took a seat on Sephiroth’s couch, they heard the hairdryer start and Genesis frowned. “Are we going to have to sit here while he does his hair?” Though they’d never seen the whole process yet, rumor had it that preparing his hair for the day was a long and arduous task, meticulously, even scrupulously done. By how immaculate it always appeared and how fussy he got when someone or something tried to mess with it, they believed it.
“Make the best of it,” Angeal said. “Turn on the TV.”
“Does he get anything good?”
Angeal sighed. The only channel that was provided free of charge was the ShinRa news network, and it seemed unlikely that Sephiroth would pay for anything else.
“He’ll be done on time for the meeting,” Angeal assured him. Sephiroth was punctual to a point. “So at max he can only take up to…”
“…two hours,” Genesis concluded. Angeal could feel his friend’s mood get sourer by the second.
“Wait a minute…”
Genesis rose from the couch. Angeal scanned the room quickly and immediately knew this was a very bad idea.
There was a small cardboard box on the kitchen table, unmarked and neatly closed. “Genesis,” Angeal said but knew it was useless. The man was already over there.
Carefully, Genesis opened the box. His face betrayed nothing, but he stared at the contents for a long time. Slowly, he pulled out a kimono of stunning workmanship. As he pulled, fabric as blue as midnight spilled across the table, shimmering, with embroidery in threads that shone like moonlight. The obi was wide, silver, but with glimmers of color like opal dust, and embroidered with pearlescent cherry blossoms of the daintiest pink.
“Holy…” Angeal said, eyes wide. Such a thing would cost a fortune. Aside from royals, he seriously doubted that anyone in Wutai could afford such a luxury. He had seen lesser kimonos costing several months’ salary for the average working man. But Genesis wasn’t even done. He pulled out no less than five jeweled hair pins, each resplendent in both materials and workmanship.
“She must be…” If Sephiroth had brought home a Wutaian royal, then he was in for not only a personal mess, but a political one as well.
The rest of the box was rather unremarkable. There were three scrolls tied with red ribbon, a small music box, two china teacups, and a small, well-worn book. “Poetry, maybe?” Genesis said as he flipped through the book. “It’s divided into short sections.” He set it down, unable to gather anything from the foreign script. “It’ll be the life of Sephiroth’s library.” Genesis, a literary man, had made it extremely clear exactly what he thought of Sephiroth’s own collection of practical, nonfictional books.
“Wait,” Angeal said, getting off the couch to join his friend at the table. He looked at the book. Especially compared to the luxuries of the rest of the box, it was plain, tattered, and worn. He could see fingerprints on the cover and across the pages and ripples from where it had gotten wet and then dried. In some places, the ink was bleeding.
“I know this symbol,” Angeal said, pointing to one of the kanji on the cover.
“Oh, well…that makes things…interesting.”
The kanji, well known even on the Continent, was the symbol meaning love.
“If she’s a romantic she’s in for a rude surprise,” Genesis said. “She picked the wrong guy for sure.” He picked up the kimono by the collar. “So…how do I re-fold this?”
“You don’t,” Sephiroth said, and the two nearly jumped out of their skins. “It’s an intricate process. I’ll take care of it later.”
That had taken much less time than the two had expected. Sephiroth was completely ready, hair, uniform and all. Furthermore, it looked like he had his angry battle-face on. His eyes were set on them, lethal in intensity, and his arms were folded across his chest.
They had been caught red-handed.
“Seems like you brought a lot back from Kuro, my friend,” Genesis said as he put down the kimono, folding it neatly in half on the table’s surface.
“Indeed,” Angeal agreed. “It all looks very…expensive.”
“Heirlooms of the Kazehawa family,” Sephiroth said blandly, as if any of the others knew what that meant.
“Is that her family?” Genesis asked, and Angeal tensed. That came out very blunt.
Sephiroth paused. “Yes. Her mother’s ancestors.”
“And…her,” Angeal said very carefully, knowing he was treading on thin ice. “I take it you brought her back as well?”
“Yes.” No apology, no explanation. To Sephiroth, it probably was really that simple. To the rest of them, it was anything but.
“Yes, she and I are married.”
There was a long pause. Angeal cleared his throat. They had to talk or nothing would be said. Sephiroth was not likely to offer what was not asked for. “Well…congratulations.”
Sephiroth closed his eyes and nodded. There had to be so much going on in his mind, but none of it could be seen on his face.
“That was quick,” Genesis said.
Sephiroth looked at him, as if to ask where he was going with it. There was an edge in the way he stood – a defensiveness that the two had not seen in him for quite some time. His guard was way, way up.
“Did you really do it?” Genesis said, but it was a question Angeal wanted to ask as well.
Sephiroth reached into a file set next to the television on the bookshelf, deftly flipping through the papers until he found what he was looking for. He set it down on the kitchen table.
They could tell nothing about it. The whole thing was written in beautiful calligraphy, the Wutaian characters so artful that it would take a native to be able to read them. Near the bottom, however, was Sephiroth’s elaborate signature, next to a name signed in kanji. Beside and below them were several official-looking seals in red ink.
“Our marriage certificate,” Sephiroth said. “Or…the closest thing to it that Wutai offers.”
Genesis let out a low curse. “You seriously…?”
Sephiroth put the paper back in the file. Angeal knew that when he turned his back it was a cue that the conversation was over, but Angeal and Genesis were far from done.
“Are you in your right mind?” Genesis asked, more heatedly than was prudent.
Sephiroth’s eyes flashed from annoyed to enraged. His two friends could see his entire body seize up, tensed as if to physically retaliate. Seldom had they seen this kind of reaction, and never had they seen it off the battlefield. His pupils constricted to slits of black in seething, raging mako green.
“I did what I had to do.”
And with that icy statement, he flew out the front door, letting it slam behind him. Angeal winced at the sound, but Genesis did not react.
“Genesis,” Angeal scolded and sighed at the same time.
“What? It isn’t like you weren’t thinking the exact same thing.”
“I had the common sense not to say it.”
The seconds ticked by in silence, marked only by the regular rhythm of the clock.
“Gaia,” Genesis sighed. “Never seen him that bad before.”
Angeal nodded. Right now his friend would not be reasoned with. “What do we do now?”
Genesis crossed his arms and leaned against a wall, shaking his head.
“I guess we follow his example,” Angeal offered. “Go to the briefing and pretend nothing happened.”
“How long are we going to play that game with him?” Genesis quipped, irritated. The redhead was the most emotional of the three, with a flair for the dramatics. He did not let things sit and stew – he dealt with them promptly and with all the heat required for the moment. He did not like to sit back and play Sephiroth’s coolheaded conceal-and-wait game. Angeal didn’t like it either, but his patience was much greater than Genesis’s. Even so, as far as the two of them knew, Sephiroth could bottle up whatever he wanted and let it sit for an eternity. If left up to the silver general, it was unlikely that anything would ever be discussed about the matter again.
“We’ll figure something out after he’s had time to cool off.”
And then they heard a soft scuffing sound.
Behind a closed door on the left was a spare bedroom that Sephiroth used for his personal study. But the desk and chair had been removed, placed in a corner of the living room, with all his books stacked on top of it. Apparently, he was clearing out that room, perhaps repurposing it. The scuffing continued from behind the closed door.
“She’s in there,” Genesis said. “Do we dare?”
“Something’s not right,” Angeal said, stepping towards the door. “Something happened in Kuro. Something big. Maybe she will have some answers for us.”
And with that, he turned the doorknob.