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No title.
(2013-07-26 - Now)
No description.
Ramza Beoulve It was a misconception that Ramza only drank milk.

Ramza drank water as well. And coffee. Plenty of other beverages! It was just his tendency to order milk in taverns while everyone was watching that caused that joke to circulate. He didn't much care about that little jape. He didn't define himself by the expectations others held for his behavior.

While Ramza didn't mind camping outdoors in an arctic region, there was something to be said about /not/ having everyone cause a minor mutiny in one of these lands of extremes when it came to the weather, so he sprang for the luxury of renting most of the rooms at the inn out. The common room of the inn had several of the new Zodiac Braves about, with Ramza sitting in a wooden booth in the back corner. In front of him was a cup of coffee which was no longer steaming with freshness, and a plate of waffles, soggy with syrup. It looked as if he'd barely touched either. And while some came and made idle conversation with him every now and then, most had left him alone in short order.

It was because Ramza had this sense of quiet intensity about him, and had for some time. While he was capable of making polite small talk, his mind was quite obviously elsewhere, so few disturbed him for overlong. He was still wearing his armor, even now, and had both of his weapons propped up against the wall of the booth, ready to be grabbed at a moment's notice. Right now he had the cup of coffee in his hand, but his expression was abstracted, such that having it there seemed to be sort of automatic, like he was just going through the motions of life.
Zack Fair It's been a heck of a time getting to Narshe, in no small part because Zack still can't read the map he was given. It's a confusing mix of gibberish put to paper, at least as far as Zack's concerned; he's never needed a map before in his life, after all. Normally he just wandered, or let the GPS tell him where to go. It was way easier that way.

But there's no GPS now, especially since he'd had to disconnect his phone from the ShinRa global network; there's no magic locators, no triangulated network of information, no ShinRa network (Zack used to call it the ShIntRaNet) to guide him. Nope, now it's just him and a piece of paper, and the paper was *kicking his butt*.

Still, thanks to some directions and a few well-placed pieces of gil, Zack's finally arrived in Narshe, and he knows right where to go. He pushes the door open and holds up his hands for the rest of the New Zodiac Braves to see, a huge grin on his face; he shakes some hands, greets some of the new folks, hugs some of the old folks, and then sits down next to Ramza and holds up a hand for the bartender. "Hey, I don't care what you give me, but it better be harder than whatever he's having." He jerks a thumb at Ramza, a wide grin on his face.

Zack unslings the Materia Blade, setting it against the bar, and stretches. "Hey."
Ramza Beoulve In stark contrast, Ramza loved maps. He had a pretty vast collection of them. From glossy tourist pamphlets all the way down to flimsy, ancient looking papyrus maps.

He had too many of them. A GPS would have likely frustrated him to no end, especially if it were one of the talky ones. He'd have probably listened to it telling him to take a left turn at Albuquerque or some other nonsense. So there was that one saving grace for an old-fashioned guy in this newly high tech world.

Zack arrives, and while he appeared distracted, he couldn't help but notice him. Not only because Ramza was hyperattuned to the fact that any newcomer might bring the possibility of some ambush.. the man always brought a sort of infectious cheer about him. It cut through his melancholy like an even bigger razor than the sharp edges that surrounded his memories.

Zack sits down, and he takes a sip of his now rather tepid coffee, putting it down and offering a wan smile towards the man, "Good afternoon, Zack. Glad you could make it."

And he meant that too, because while he truly could use every man for the upcoming battle, in particular his best.. it was more because he enjoyed the man's company. "And harder than coffee? This early?"

He quirks a brow, his smile perhaps growing slightly. "....fitting. The chill here is enough that it seeps right into the bones. I don't blame anyone for wanting to put some fire in their belly. How were your travels?"
Zack Fair Zack shrugs. "I'm not much of a coffee drinker. Plus, it's not like a little bottle of stuff is gonna knock me on my backside for the rest of the day or something, and it /is/ pretty cold outside." Zack takes the bottle and pops the cork out with his thumb - no mean feat - before pouring it into the offered glass. He takes a long sip, and makes a face as he does so.

"I have no idea what I just drank but that's some sour kick, man."

He eyes the bottle curiously, but, well, just because he can read the label doesn't mean he knows what it is. He shrugs and pours another glass, swirling it around in his hand a bit as he takes in the bar. "It's been pretty good so far. I'm gonna have to disappear again soon, got some business in a place on the other side of the World of Ruin, but I can spare a couple days to help my employer, y'know? Besides, I wouldn't be able to look Margaux in the eye next time if I just left you on your own; somebody's gotta look out for you." He grins, a moment before tipping his head back and draining his glass.

Zack coughs. Some of the patrons laugh, and he shakes his head as he catches his breath. "Whoo. Okay. Lesson learned, /bad/ idea."

"How about you? You guys get up to anything fun while I was out?"
Ramza Beoulve Ramza gives him a sort of bemused look as he tries the mystery liquor and coughs. He actually even affords him a small chuckle on the lesson learned comment. But he doesn't comment on it himself further. After all, he'd never actually tried any alcoholic beverages other than wine. And he hated even that. Ramza disliked the feeling of not being in control of himself, and his inhibitions, even to the smallest degree "Well Margaux is a charming lady. Not disappointing her is highly recommended. Though it certainly sounds like the two of you are hitting it off famously."

There is a sort of secret smile. It was kind of an open secret now amongst them the group she'd joined them after attempting an assassination on Ramza that she was talked down from, "...and thank you. As Artemis is wont to say, looking out for me is a full time job."

He rolls his eyes, as part of the jest. But then his expression sours like the verage when he asks if they'd done anything fun, "Not even a little. Unless you count tavern banter or Marlowe playing truth or dare with Boco." That was actually a real thing, but it's obvious that Ramza is trying just a little too hard to lighten the mood. "...unfortunately Boco always chooses dare."

He turns around his coffee cup in his hands, pausing for a time, before cutting to the heart of the matter, "...what I saw within the scrying was blood-curdling, Zack. It was not an easy thing to witness."

There is a measured pause, before he continues, folding his gloved hands, " is always easier to think of most of the conspirators as unwilling thralls to the whims of Lucavi, even if I know it isn't true. It is far harder to comprehend the depravity of those who willingly serve them."
Zack Fair "It was a nice lunch. We're gonna do it again sometime." Zack tops off his glass again, this time much, much more careful about how he's drinking it. It's not a slammer, and it's not a gulper, it's a sipper - a little sip here, a little sip there, to nurse over long periods of time. That was good, he wanted something like that right now. Something to slam back would just be gone way too fast. Wouldn't last him the conversation.

"Yeah, my full-time job, that you pay me for," Zack jokes again, nudging Ramza on the shoulder. He shrugs. "Relax. Don't worry about it; you saved my life. Least I can do for you."

Ramza jokes, and Zack just listens. When Ramza goes for the heart of it, Zack takes another sip of his drink and nods distantly. "Yeah. I'm sure it wasn't."

"But you can't think that way." Zack puts his drink down and sighs, stretching his arms above his head. "About those people, I mean. You're going to war, Ramza, and innocent people die in war. Nothing you can do about it. People make choices, and sometimes they're the wrong choices, and sometimes they're choices that put them at odds with guys like us. And no matter what you tell them, they won't know they're wrong."

Zack looks down at his glass. "And if you try too hard to save everybody, you'll lose the people on your side. And if you don't try, you'll never forgive yourself."

Zack reaches over and whacks Ramza on the back - a light tap, given how strong Zack actually is. "That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about. You're about to walk into battle with good men. You're gonna lose people - realities of war. But...Ramza, are you ready for that? Are you ready to lose Marlowe, or Agrias, or Margaux, or any of the others? Are you gonna be able to forgive yourself when they fall?"
Ramza Beoulve "Best of luck then. On your courtship and on looking out for me. I hope the former goes better than the latter tends to." The younger man chuckles, giving him a slightly warmer smile. It wasn't in him to offer /dating advice/ though, he wasn't really that experienced in it.

And then the heavy stuff starts. Ramza mulls over the questions, while towards Zack. "I'm not going to even try to dispute that innocent people die in war. I can pride myself on saying that I've never had to slay a civilian... or a non-combatant. But there were so many in the Corpse Brigade that fought for their ideals and brandished naked steel with barely any training. So many were just as misguided as Ser Senra." There is a measured pause there, "Actually I can't even say they were misguided in their beliefs anymore, just their means of obtaining change. Did I still end their lives? Yes. Did I want to? No."

He offers Zack a wan smile at this point, as he folds his hands in front of him, in a manner almost akin to prayer. " decisions have already cost me people that I care about, Zack. People whom I was unable to save. Friends who perished, and others who went down a darker path as a result."

Ziekden fortress, Orbonne Monastery, more sharp edged memories. He stares into the coffee cup for a while, and continues to stare, and for a while it seems he would not answer on the final point, but then eventually he speaks in a muted tone, "...No, but I would go on, nevertheless. It wouldn't be the first time. Everything they died for would be pointless if I decided to allow their sacrifices to weigh so heavily that it paralyzed me."
Zack Fair Zack waves his hand. "I dunno if I'd call two lunchdates a /courtship/. You're a heck of lot fancier than me; you come from a gilded cage, I come from a little village in the middle of nowhere. It's just a lunch date, right now, not like I'm lookin' to marry the girl."

Ramza talks, and Zack goes silent, nursing his drink. Finally, he just shrugs, knocking back the drink reflexively - and, again, hacking up a lung as he does so, laughing in short order at his own mistake. "Man, you know, I /say/ something's a bad idea, and I /know/ it's a bad idea, and then I do it anyway. That's gotta be some kind of learning disability or something."

"Listen. If you say so, then you do. You know yourself better than anybody else. I trust you." He shrugs and leans back in the stool, balancing on its two back legs. "Just don't dwell on your failures, okay? Everybody makes mistakes, everybody stumbles, everybody falls. If you dwell on 'em forever, you'll never move on. 'sall."
Ramza Beoulve At this, Ramza actually manages a smile, tsking after clucking his tongue, "As you say then. Just my recommendation, don't take his majesty, William Sherman on a lunch date, not unless you want to be scouring pots for a few days."

"Awkward conversations and poor judgment in drinks. Artemis would probably beat me silly if she knew I was here drinking coffee right now. There's a lesson to be learned there, but I'll do you one better since we're both filled with bad ideas today that require lessons." Ramza remains quiet for a time, turning his coffee cup in his hands before stating, "What exactly happened to you in the Cathedral that day, Zack? Those wings were not the result of the stone's influence."

And then on the last point he states in a melancholic sort of voice, "I remember my failures, Zack. Every single one of them quite keenly. I don't dwell on them. If I did, then the war would move on without me, and I daresay that I wouldn't even notice."
Zack Fair "Don't worry," Zack replies, waving his hand in front of his face dismissively, "Not a lotta chance of me taking any guy on a date. Not really my thing." He laughs and puts his drink down, then goes back to balancing on the stool comfortably.

He goes quiet again, just relaxing. It's been a long journey to Narshe; Zack didn't take airships, ever. Whenever anybody asked, he'd just say they made him uncomfortable...but of course, the real problem was ShinRa. They'd watch the travel lines. It was a lot harder to watch a ton of desert, grass, mountains...especially with the people they had. They didn't have the resources they did when they were alone in the world; now they had to rely on spies and informants intead of trained soldiers.

Zack was a trained SOLDIER. He knew how to avoid spies and informants.

Ramza Beoulve Just deflecting the other question?

Ramza wasn't sure, but it was a crowded place, and that was a pretty heavy question. He figured that he'd just leave the man to answering it on his own time. Ramza took his cofee and plate with him, moving over to sit beside Zack to the barstool. Turning away for a moment, his expression was a little abstracted as he took another sip of the now tepid brew.

"So." There's a lingering pause as he continues to look straight ahead, his voice slightly muted, "It is one sorry state of affairs we're in right now. Heading into Fluorgis against impossible odds. Everyone wants to know the plan."

He makes eye contact only out of his peripheral vision, "...except there is no plan, only proper planning and the hope that it will be enough."
Zack Fair Zack doesn't touch his drink right now. He just stares at it as Ramza talks; stares into his own reflection in the ridged, many-sided glass, like he's thinking about something. His fingers go to his face. "Yeah. Sounds like my kinda party, huh? Don't worry - I'll be there. Wouldn't miss an impossible fight for the world."

Zack exhales, his fingers brushing hair away from his face as he and the stool slump forward. He's gonna need a drink after this. He turns the question over again in his mind, like he's trying to find a suitable answer, then drains the rest of the glass and looks over at Ramza as he starts to refill it. The bottle emptied, Zack holds up his hand for another.

"So the wings, huh. That's kind of a long story."
Ramza Beoulve "I would never aver that you would."

For a moment there's only the scrape and clatter of cutlery, as he takes another bite of his waffles. He's in the midst of raising his cup, and manages to get halfway when Zack does eventually respond. It remains suspended there for a while, as he thinks over it.

"I can always make time to listen, for a friend."
Zack Fair "Wouldn't ask, but I'm gonna do it anyway," Zack replies, holding up his empty glass in Ramza's direction. "Not like I got somewhere else to be yet."

The bartender sets the bottle on the bar. Zack pours another glass, as he's been doing this whole time, with a distant look in his bright green eyes. "I'm not sure how much of it you'd get. I'm not sure how much of it *I* get. But it's not from the Lucavi. I have a previous, uh...tennant, I guess you'd say. Something like that. Not mind control or anything."

"It's from this experiment that got done on me by some previous employers. I'm basically not entirely human anymore, but it's cool - I'm in complete control."

"The longer version takes a whole lotta twists and turns, and has me killing a whole lotta guys whose only real crime was being involved in something they didn't have any control over."
Ramza Beoulve Not entirely human.

There was a time that phrase might have disturbed him. His version of Ivalice didn't have anything in the way of demihumans. And after encountering some examples of the darker science, ie. a completely insane Shinra scientist who could pull herself back together after getting cut in half? He didn't much like the thought of one being inhuman as the result of an experiment. But in his travels he'd encountered so many kinds and types of demihumans that he didn't consider them abnormal any longer. Like Ser Senra. And Zack truly did seem to have it under control. In the end he decided it mattered little in the grand scheme of things, except as to how it related to who might come after them. And that list was so large that he didn't mind adding a few extra names.

The cup of coffee eventually finds its way to his mouth somewhere in the midst of his explanation. Then Ramza just has an abstracted look as he listens to the rest of it. "I knew it wasn't something from the Lucavi, else we might have been having this conversation sooner." He manages a faint hint of a smile, "As oddities in this world go having someone else leasing out your head isn't the most peculiar thing I've ever heard. And the way I see it is this. You managed to resist it's influence for as long as it took, and that takes a feat of monumental willpower. I know from experience."

For a moment there's a like a tick within his body language as he tries to brush off some foul memories, "And that always seems to be the way of it. People whose only crime was just being involved. Being present..." Another distant look, more memories, "...getting swept up within a great current that few have the strength to swim against."
Zack Fair "Tends to be the way it goes," Zack replies, swishing his glass. "People tend to be caught up in things way bigger than they are, and they're the ones who suffer, not the guys responsible. Even if the guys responsible /are/ punished, it's normal people who get taken for a ride anyway."

Zack sets the glass down again and smiles. "But that's why we're here. 'cause somebody's gotta make sure the guys up top get dealt with. Somebody's gotta make sure those guys get what they deserve."

"And sometimes, the normal guys really do see the light, stand up, and swim through the current nonetheless." Zack puts his hand on Ramza's shoulder, drains the last of his drink, and puts the glass down. He stands up.

"Listen. We're all supporting you. You, at least, don't need to worry about being swept up in the current. And as long as you're in charge, neither do we."

Zack rolls up his sleeve and looks down at his arm. "I think there's somewhere I gotta be really really soon. I'll be here for the big day, though. Wouldn't miss it for the world."

Zack scoops up his map and lays his sword back on his back, cracks his knuckles, and rolls his sleeve back down. "It's gonna be okay, Ramza. As long as we're there, it's gonna be okay."
Ramza Beoulve All thoughts of consuming anything else are abandoned. Elbows find their way onto the counter, as he leans forward slightly. "What they deserve, you say?"

There is a faint hint of a smile on his expression, "One day I'll have to tell you about an old friend of mine. He chose to swim against this current as well. He was the 'normal guy' who chose a different path..." A soft chuckle, and perhaps a look of apprehension, "...I can scarce say he saw the light. We've parted ways, though we have something of an understanding. Mostly because.. I know what events brought him to the same crossroads as I."

Ramza folds his hands together. There are others around, and he doesn't want to let anyone know what sort of a dour mood such reminiscence puts him in. So instead, he puts on a wan smile when Zack touches his shoulder, "Worry not Ser Fair. Only a fool is without doubt. And while there is much that is still in question about what will occur in Fluorgis... there is noone else I'd rather have at my side, than all of you."

As to whether everything would be okay? He stays silent on that matter. Zack and him are both soldiers, just different sorts of soldiers. /Okay/ was a pretty relative term for both of them.
Zack Fair "Yeah, something like that." Zack looks off into the distance, as he's wont to do when ideas like this come up. Memories and thoughts and feelings stir up in Zack easily; even when it seems like he's just an airheaded goof, he's still remembering past experiences, and the things he's learned from dealing with the world around him. The bad guys don't always get what they deserve...unless someone's willing to stand up and force it down their throats. Zack's been that guy before. He'll be that guy again before he lays down to rest.

"Yeah. You'll have to tell me that story; sounds like a pretty good one. But you're lucky; even if it's an understanding that's forced, it's better to have something of an understanding than no understanding at all." Zack closes his hand around Ramza's shoulder, then releases it, heading for the door. There's no point in offering platitudes; they'd be empty and pointless. Zack just gears him, picking up the rest of the bottle and holding it up at Ramza and the barkeep. He grins.

"I'll be there, Ramza. We'll swim up the current and drag the guys who need to get dragged as deep under as we can. Promise."

"Besides," Zack muses as he pushes open the door, "With all the crazy stuff in the worlds, who knows? Maybe there really is a God up there ready to punish evil. Maybe He's just waiting for guys like us to do our part."

With that, Zack departs.

This scene contained 18 poses. The players who were present were: Ramza Beoulve, Zack Fair