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He steps directly into his path, somehow making even the PPDC jumpsuit look menacing. Neither of them speak, waiting for the other to make the first move. Finally, the kid clears his throat. My brother. Listen, I just wanted to thank you. For, uh. Being his partner. I never really wanted to pilot a Jaeger, you know? And he needs to make a good impression on this kid, Rengoku is telling him he needs to make a good impression on this kid, so he finds himself opening his mouth against every instinct in his body.
What is it you want. To do? And the worst part is, they came out wrong. But Genya half-smiles at him, one corner of his mouth tugging up. I want to work on the Jaegers as a tech. So, uh, thank you. Like Giyuu makes him nervous. Which is preposterous. I should go. He does, however, seek out Shinazugawa, who is huddled in one of the training rooms reserved just for Rangers, as he usually is at this time of day. He folds himself into a corner and watches as Shinazugawa moves through his katas, eyes only flicking to acknowledge Giyuu for the barest of moments.
They never make conversation; they never leave together. Giyuu is just there to watch, to lose himself for a while in how different the other man moves compared to everyone else. Compared to Rengoku. Sometimes, in the dark, Giyuu even allows himself to think that he and Shinazugawa are better suited than he and Rengoku ever were; the ghost he carries with him hums in agreement at those thoughts, and a sick sense of shame floods him for even thinking it in the first place.
Today feels different; full of untapped potential after his meeting with Genya. A time for new things. Shinazugawa is mid-swing when Giyuu opens his mouth. He wanted to work on Jaegers instead of fight in them. It was always our plan, to be Rangers together. Until you came along. Shinazugawa stares at him, unblinking, long enough to make him uncomfortable thirty seven seconds. The bond forms in unexpected ways, in unexpected places, sometimes between unexpected people.
The Scientists thought they understood what they were messing with, when they decided to meld man and machine, but humans are. That small layer might be too much, because one shows Shinazugawa a weak spot and he dives for it, going for the kill. Fucking Rengoku.
Everyone knows you loved him. Shinazugawa grips at his own chest, right where his heart is, grabbing a fistful of his tank top. In the drift. I can—I think I can fucking feel him. He knows, logically, that Rangers take everything into the Drift. That they leave nothing behind, everything shared between two souls. He ends up saying nothing, because that is what he is best at. What is there to say, at a declaration like that?
I think I can fucking feel him. He is so used to being alone, to being adrift in the world despite having someone quite literally in his head, despite having a ghost attached to his soul, that the weight of being almost-known is too much. He sags back against the wall he was leaning casually against, warm shoulder meeting cold metal, and breathes in deep through his nose. Are you going to talk to me, fucker?
Giyuu pushes himself off of the wall and stalks out of the room without looking back. They share a room, they share a Jaeger, they share a Bond. They also share a ghost. Shinazugawa sits on the top bunk like a gargoyle waiting for him, legs crossed up beneath him. Giyuu makes the mistake of direct eye contact while he closes the door behind him, the locking mechanism snicking shut forebodingly. There is no backing out now.
He gulps, almost audibly in the quiet of the room, and trudges to the bunk beds to face his fate. He has to talk to Shinazugawa, or this will all fall apart. He had simply been allowing it to exist, unnurtured. So he tells Shinazugawa a story about two boys who met in the Academy, neither of them sure what they wanted to do beyond pilot a Jaeger.
One of the boys had no tongue and the other had more than enough for two of them, which worked out just fine for them. They became fast friends, inserpable, and before long it was clear that they were Drift Compatible. Opposites, physically and mentally, that worked, somehow. Over time, they fell into each other. Just a need for human contact. The seeking out of another body, one you know as well as your own, when things got too dark.
Eventually, they rose to the top. Around them, their comrades died, felled by the Kaiju and side effects of Drifiting and experimental Jaeger-tech alike. They were not foolish enough to think themselves immortal, they knew every drop could be their last. They clung to each other more tightly as each day passed, trained harder with each second that they breathed. Finally, their count grew to nineteen drops, eighteen kills. Their timer was up. The bright one died while they were in the Drift, fighting a Kaiju, leaving the other one clinging to his ghost and choking on saltwater.
Shinazugawa snorts. You should know better by now. It should have been me. Giyuu finally finds the courage to bring his head up and meet his eyes, and what he finds there startles him. Something about the knowledge that at least someone else feels the same way puts him at an odd sense of ease. Someone else agrees with him.
Even if you do come haunted, fucking Tomioka. That Shinazugawa, who openly hated his guts in the Kwoon Room when Gyomei first announced Drift Compatible, would come so far so quickly makes his head spin. He almost laughs in relief. They eat, they train, they sleep. They go for walks through the Shatterdome, just the two of them, sometimes with Genya tagging along, locked in conversation. While Sanemi is busy with that, Giyuu has taken it upon himself to take up a post in the Kwoon Room with Gyomei, watching how the cadets are filling out.
In the midst of all of that, Sanemi and Giyuu are deployed in Fatal Flame for patrols, each time on some kind of hunch by Ubuyashiki, and each time the hunch turns up nothing. Not that either of them mind it; they like wandering the Pacific in their hulking orange and blue robot, just the two of them and the barest outline of a third, the wind and the waves and the hum of machinery keeping them company. Their seventh drop turns disastrous. On the small side. Ten minutes, eight seconds, and the beast rises out of the water before them, as though looking for a fight.
Panic spears him in the chest at the sight of the Kaiju. The last time he had seen one in person was Akaza, and everyone knows how that ended. Calm radiates down the bond, pulling him back down to himself. Cloudbreaker is small, for a Kaiju. They engage the beast as one, grappling with it. Time speeds up for Giyuu during the fight to the point that he misses chunks of it, blurring together and blending, time chopped up into bite sized, disjointed pieces: An arm comes off, Kaiju blue arcing through the air into the ocean churning below them.
Their plasma cannon discharges, a direct hit into one of the freakishly large eyes of the Kaiju, and Sanemi laughs like a maniac. Kanroji and Iguro arrive in their Jaeger, a pink and black painted monstrosity, and immediately slide up beside them to join the fight. Ultimately, the fight lasts for one hour, sixteen minutes, and thirty nine seconds. Giyuu is only half aware of most it, body entirely on autopilot, mind humming with the words, stay alive on repeat. The few blows the Kaiju does manage to get in on them are a few blows too many, and he can feel them bruising as they limp back to the Shatterdome, the carcass of the Kaiju cooling in the Pacific behind them.
It had been too much, too soon, perhaps. Or maybe he had just grown complacent, thinking he was healed when he was just a collection of parts stuck together with duct tape. But being so close to a Kaiju, having to fight one again, had rattled him to the very core of himself.
He had thought, for a moment, that history was bound to repeat itself. That he would be stuck in Fatal Flame again as she took on seawater, the other side of the conn-pod empty and sparking, Sanemi lost to the Kaiju and the sea both. Worse, he doesn't want to find out. It takes fifty eight minutes for Giyuu to peel himself away from the festivities, helmet in his hands, and head upstairs to the Drive Suit room.
The pounding of booted feet on the grated metal of the walkway makes him straighten up just seconds later, trying to get his breathing under control. His messy white hair is an even bigger mess than normal, sweat slicked and sticking up this way and that, sticking to his forehead. It might be much too soon. It might be far too early. Like, do I want to maul you with my mouth because he does or because I do? She does, however, nearly laugh herself sick when he explains the entire situation he finds himself mired in.
Petite hands pressed to her stomach, nearly doubled over in mirth, cold laughter ringing out of her mouth and into the hollow spaces between specimen jars like bells. But he sits and allows Kochou her humor anyway, because there is not much brightness to be found in Kaiju labs aside from the LED lights. The problem is, this time he wants to be one of her science experiments.
Three days, two hours, twelve minutes, and too many pots of tea to count later, Kochou throws her hands up in the air. By all rights, yours should have faded months ago. I think forcing you back into a Jaeger so soon, making you reconnect with the memories of that day over and over again, might have reinforced it. There might not be a way for you to be rid of it. It takes him one day, sixteen hours, four minutes, and eight seconds to figure out what exactly he has to do to get rid of the Ghost Bond.
He does not tell Kochou. The starched collar of his dress uniform itches at the back of his neck, just beneath his low ponytail. He had still be unconscious for it. A radio interview would have been preferable. Less people to stare at him, no dress uniforms, less bright lights in his eyes.
Sanemi, on the other hand. Giyuu can only pray for a properly timed Kaiju attack. They go back and forth like this until an aide comes to fetch them, looking thoroughly fed up with her job of herding important guests around the building. Kanroji smiles at him, strained. The attention makes his skin crawl, and he subconsciously walks a little closer to Sanemi than is socially acceptable, the backs of their hands nearly brushing.
They eat it up anyway, because he is a Ranger, and he keeps them safe in theory. His eyes widen a fraction as a face, grinning, comes into his peripheral vision, taking up the space between him and Sanemi. They do so, Sanemi taking up a post between Giyuu and the audience, as though by instinct.
It settles Giyuu right into the jaws of the lion, as it happens. Uzui oozes grace and goodwill as he introduces them as his guests, and then draws Sanemi into conversation. Giyuu only half pays attention, mind focused more on keeping the ball of anxiety in his chest ball-sized rather than boulder-sized. Sanemi does well. For all of his grousing in the car ride over and backstage, he keeps his curses to himself. He and Rengoku were regulars, but he never spoke a word.
Then the Kaiju Akaza attacked, and Rengoku made the ultimate sacrifice. Especially with another Ranger at your side. His throat is dry. The mic hooked to his collar picks it up anyway. Uzui presses a hand to his chest, ever dramatic. No other emotions? Nothing to explore. He felt something, he let it go. A little like fishing. But you have the distinct pleasure of having drifted with more than one person in your lifetime.
He shuffles the cards in his hand, eye narrowing. Twisting, twisting, twisting. Underhanded and just a little dirty, and so, so much like the Uzui Giyuu knows the other man rarely shows to the cameras. And then he stands up and walks offstage, right past an open mouthed Kanroji, leaving a roaring mad Sanemi behind.
He can hear Sanemi cursing and yelling at the other man, the entire tirade blasted through the speakers backstage as he makes his way through the throng of onlookers back to the dressing room. He undoes the buttons that hold his cuffs together, folding his sleeves back twice, focusing on the task. With that done, he has nothing else left to do but count the ceiling tiles, a task he focuses on with every fiber of his being so he can stay in the moment and not pay attention to the chaos surely unfolding onstage.
The nerve of that man! Pretty as he may be! Iguro loves those snakes. The apperance of the other man startles him from his task, drawing his eyes away from the ceiling and to the door, past Kanroji. Sanemi takes one good look at him. Kanroji tilts her head to the side, anger seemingly forgotten. It should air tonight. Are you ready to go? Shinazugawa can find his own way back. He sits upright, exhausted. He had tried to stay awake until Sanemi came back, but he must have nodded off. For a moment, he thinks of going back to sleep.
But that would be useless, now, with alert from Ops calling for Kanroji and Iguro to get to the Drive Suit room immediately for deployment. There is a Kaiju, and it may be closing in on Japan. There is a sea of people heading that way already and he gets lost in the tide, pulled along by these people that have purpose and ambition.
They let him into Ops, where they allow him to stand quietly in the corner, out of the way and not bothering anyone. Ops is a flurry of activity, all people rushing to and fro and shouted commands and questions. Waiting for the Kaiju, waiting to be deployed, waiting inside the Jaeger, waiting in Ops, waiting during the fighting, waiting, waiting, waiting. Of all the times for his Ranger partner to go missing, this was not it. The Ranger pair afield hold their own for twenty minutes until, somehow, the Kaiju makes a copy of itself and slips past them, through the water, sluicing through the tide like a great big sailboat and making straight for land.
Shinobu had chided Rengoku, once, for using the word impossible in her presence because nothing was impossible where the Kaiju were concerned. In the time it takes for Kanroji and Iguro to dispatch the copy, the Kaiju has torn through two cities, three villages, and is nearly into a mountain range. Oh, well, he thinks. But the Ghost Bond , his brain insists. And what is he, if not a Ranger? What is he, if not a man with the ghost of another man inside him?
Neural loads this, they say, mental capacity that. Giyuu knows his body, knows his Jaeger, knows his brain. Knows he can do this much, without a shadow of a doubt. As though no one thinks he is walking to his death. Giyuu remembers it in a kaleidoscope of too-bright colors and over-loud sounds, every nerve in his body on fire. The Kaiju was big, it was ugly, it was in the goddamn mountains , and most importantly, at the end, it was dead.
Who struck what blow when or where. He remembers thinking, Sanemi is going to kill me if this Kaiju does not. If Jasper were a wiser man, he would have left long ago, but, after bribing a hapless information broker, he had found out about the branch of Yggdrasil owned by the royal family.
Whichever fiend had possessed his king wanted the Sword of Light, and Jasper would die before a tool to find it fell into his hands. The sultan would not give a precious royal treasure to just anybody, though. Fortunately enough for Jasper, he still had his copy of the Heliodorian seal, and word of his supposed death— he would have to thank Hendrik for that cover story if he ever saw him again— had yet to reach the kingdom of Gallopolis.
He knew the handwriting of his king well enough to forge it, even if the thought made him cringe, and with any luck, he would be out of Gallopolis with the Rainbough before any of them knew any better. Deeming the ink to finally be dry, Jasper rolled up the letter and dropped a glob of red wax on it to seal it.
He pressed the seal into the wax, holding it there until the image could come out clearly. With the letter done, he donned his formal armor. He had managed to secure an audience for that afternoon, and even though his armor was near to roasting him in the Gallopolis heat, it would all be worth it once he held the Rainbough in his hands. Setting his shoulders back proudly, Jasper made his way out of the inn and up to the front gates of the palace.
The guards there nodded to him politely before leading him through the doors to the throne room, where the sultan sat alone. Please, rise! I hope you have been enjoying the festivities? They are quite impressive, as to be expected from a prosperous kingdom such as your own. Now, my good sir, what business brings you here? Of course, after the need has passed, it shall be returned to your kingdom safely. It is no longer in the possession of Gallopolis, but sol— stolen. The thief outclassed the guards tasked to chase him down, but they recognized his path as the one towards Gondolia.
Still, he could understand that the man wanted to save face for relations with Heliodor. I shall pursue the thief to Gondolia, and after I recover the Rainbough, I will return it to Gallopolis when Heliodor is finished with it. Are those agreeable terms for you, Your Royal Highness? You have my thanks, Sir Jasper. May Yggdrasil bless your journey. He would be faster still if he rented a horse, and Gallopolis was known for its fast horses.
He brushed past with a muttered apology, but the jester grabbed his arm. Jasper scowled. What of it? His name is Hendrik. Do you know of him? That is all I know of him anymore. The jester glared after him as he walked off, but Jasper ignored them. He had a mission and a lead. He would not fail his kingdom again. Erik was a whole other brand of problem child all on his own, one that Eleven did nothing to discourage. Not to mention, the two of them were a force to be reckoned with in battle, attacks flowing into each other with a strange grace.
That was another thing. And there they were, across the campfire, Eleven working on a piece on the Fun-Sized Forge as Erik offered up lazy critiques from where he lounged on a rolled-up bedroll. If Veronica were the one on the receiving end, she would have tossed a Frizz his way over an hour ago, but Eleven endured it all with smiles that veered dangerously close to affectionate. Serena thought it was sweet, apparently, but it just made Veronica want to hurl.
Eleven finished their project with a flourish, then stepped away from the forge and wiped the sweat off their brow. They lifted the dagger up for his inspection, and he grinned as he tested the edge with his thumb. Veronica had no such qualms. He scowled at Veronica, who could do nothing but cackle. Oh, that was it. Veronica jumped to her feet, her hands sparking. She lobbed a fireball over his head, and he ducked, curses spilling from his mouth.
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I don't need a new love or a new life – just a better place to die. I'll put one foot in front of the other one. I don't need a new love or a new life – just a better place to die. Maybe I should . Tom Hanks has signed on to both act in and executive-produce No Better Place To Die, an upcoming World War II drama about the airborne Normandy landings and not just for World . Just a Better Place to Die cuttlecuttlefishfish Summary: Though Erik's dreams tell him to have faith in the Luminary, there isn't much reason for faith without his sister around. So when a .