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[Guilty Gear] Passing the Torch

Title: Passing the Torch
Fandom: Guilty Gear
Characters: Kliff, mild Sol/Ky
Rating: G
Contains: Some fluff, some angst
Summary: Ky becomes High Commander.


Passing the Torch



The good thing about becoming a site of pilgrimage is that, given time, the pilgrims will lay down enough flowers and votive candles to hopefully cover the flat-out embarrassing statue. Between the wreaths and garlands, it's still possible to make out the words that have been carved into the base, the kind of pompous, pseudo-inspirational drivel Kliff always refused to feed to his troops in the field. In Latin, too, for that extra bit of delusional grandeur.

In hoc signo vinces.

Under this sign you shall be victorious.

The sign in question is blazing from the center of his marble chest in all its whiteness, a rather free interpretation of the Order battle dress, its elaborate ornamentations and carved jewels better suited for a cathedral rooftop than the flaps of a coat that's managed to stay clean and whole for all of five minutes during his entire career. They've even taken the liberty of removing the notches from his sword, the blade lodged in the throat of the wyrm-like creature writhing on its back, its claws clutching at the empty air. Minus five points for the swordsmanship, the angle of the blade so steep it would have collided with the rock-hard scales and shattered all the bones in his arm, and minus fifty for the overall arrangement, because anyone stupid enough to try for a victory pose on the stomach of a dying Gear deserves to get their legs turned into shashlik.

If the world hangs on for a few months longer, he'll get the chance to see his likeness go up in every town, this sharp-eyed young half-god that he never was, not even when his back still remembered how to stand that tall, how to hoist up that blade without all his joints complaining their way into next week. Fifty years of command, and he never felt that old before, not when he first started redistributing his duties, not when his kids started looking younger and younger, not even when he thought he could start ordering the coffins before even taking on the next set of proteges.

Retirement.

The word feels like a pebble stuck at the bottom of his boot, rubbing the skin raw with every step. Retirement. The first High Commander to be forced to make use of his pension fund, and by God if there isn't a part of him still hoping for a chance to go out in a blaze of glory. It would help to make the statue seem less out of place, at least, the only living monument in the company of all the dead ones, and twice as ridiculous. General Cyrus, wild-maned and brandishing a spear, when he didn't grow another hair on his head past the age of nineteen. Roman, the hero of Berlin, flying the flag atop a German warhorse, when he famously couldn't stand the beasts and walked wherever he could. Eirin, one of his own kids who died holding the fort at Bratislava, saving a hundred thousand lives. One of the best fire mages he ever trained, a tomboy if there ever was one, and every time Kliff catches a glimpse of her memorial, he half-expects her to rise from the grave to torch the unlucky bastard who thought of immortalizing her in the garb of the Holy Virgin, hands clasped in ardent prayer.

Quiet footsteps in the empty plaza, the gait of one of the only two people who'd know he'd be out here, scowling at this parting gift instead of mingling with the exuberant crowd. Perhaps he'd feel guiltier about it if he didn't know the only reason Ky didn't flee back to his paperwork the instant the ceremony ended was the prospect of petit fours. Kliff doesn't turn, instead waiting for the boy to stand beside him and finish his critical once-over.

"Well…" A sigh, appropriate disdain for the poor sword work and posture, but Kliff knows what's coming, Ky's aura brimming with barely controlled mirth. "At least they didn't give you wings, sir."

Kliff snorts, lips threatening to twitch into a smile. "You haven't seen the first draft, have you."

"There's a draft, sir?"

"Was," he corrects, because at the time, he thought someone at central command was playing a joke at his expense, sending him drawings of himself shepherding a crowd of frighteningly cheerful putti. "I had my second set it on fire. Don't see how that torso could become airborne, anyhow."

Laughter, the rare, precious kind that doesn't care who is around to hear it, compelling him to turn his head against his better judgment. He's not sure when exactly it became hard to look at Ky, when exactly it started hurting to meet his gaze and see it so unchanged, so full of that bright, pure soul that would have deserved better, so much better than the fate he chose for it. Maybe it's always been hard, and he just was better at not thinking about it, able to console himself with the thought that at least, he could be out there, too, that each Gear that fell by his blade was one Gear less waiting for Ky. Maybe it's just that Kliff is now the one who has to tilt back his head to look him in the eye instead of the other way around, that he expected the boy to look as ridiculous in the ceremonial garb as he feels, and Ky doesn't.

He's wearing the stuffy gold-rimmed white like he was born for it, the overly long cloak gathered comfortably on his arm. During the ceremony, Kliff couldn't help but think how it looked like a wedding trail, the folds unraveling from their tight bundle when he reached out to drape the damn thing around Ky's shoulders. Giving his last remaining child away to a fate that would demand everything and give nothing in return. It shouldn't rest there with such ease, like it is anything but a symbol of his own failure, passing on the torch when the war should have ended with him.

"Sir?"

Amazing, that he can get to seventy-five and still not figure out how to explain himself, give words to at least some of the things that have been floating around in the cavity beside his heart ever since he lost Tetsu.

"It's nothing," Kliff says, shaking his head in an effort to dispel the gloomy thoughts. If there's one thing Ky deserves even less than the crushing weight of that responsibility, it's not even being sent off with a bit of good cheer. "Just thinking about things."

"If it's about the front…"

There's no overt change in Ky, no sudden tension or loss of confidence, just some invisible scale that shifts, the newly appointed High Commander disappearing behind those wide, serious blue eyes that always leave Kliff floundering a little, spelling of a trust so utter no mortal man could possibly be deserving of it. Ky's earned the coat, the seal, and the honors, earned them with blood and sweat and broken bones, but one word from Kliff and he'd give them all back, reverse everything he worked so hard for if Kliff gave the slightest indication that he didn't think Ky ready.

"My dear boy. If I ever doubted your abilities, lightning shall strike me where I stand."

And because he never gave a rat's ass about decorum even when people were still wasting their breath saluting the Venerable-High-Commander-of-the-Same-Holy-Order-Sir, he figures it's okay to grab the newly appointed venerable High Commander and ruffle him until there isn't a spot of unwrinkled fabric left. Ky's ears are turning pink, but he doesn't move to protest, patiently taking the indignity for what it's meant to be, the only parting gift Kliff can give that'll stay with him for a while, at least until he finds an opportunity to change out of his rumpled uniform.

A subtle change in the air puts an end to his efforts of embarrassing the boy, a familiar presence asserting itself at the edge of the plaza. Sol doesn't come any closer, drawing on a cigarette in the shade of the vine-covered arcade, trying to look for all the world like he isn't lurking, like the three of them don't know the reason he is here.

"You're leaving, then?"

Still flushed, Ky nods a little too quickly, the only indication of how much the pomp and ceremony has been grating on his nerves. "Well, they're all out of cake, and I've got an arsonist threatening to burn down the hall if he has to sit through another speech."

"A serious problem, that," Kliff says, choosing to ignore the truth lurking behind the flippant words, that the Gears don't wait for the consecration of Commanders, that his conscience won't allow him to keep wasting time at a party when he could be out there doing what he does best.

Casting a glance back towards the arcades, Ky bites his lip. "Um, sir, could you…?"

"Of course." Perhaps there should be something better to say here, but he's never found a good parting word that doesn't feel like a final goodbye. Instead, he digs up a grin, touches his knuckles to Ky's cheek and trusts the gesture will say what he can't. "Go on. I'll handle the excuses."

"Thank you, sir!"

Kliff watches him go, a spring to his step that doesn't match the task that awaits him, the fate of the entire world now resting on his narrow shoulders. Another man would bow his head, drag his feet to delay the brunt of that crushing weight — armies waiting to rise at his word alone, lives being pledged in his name, millions pleading for salvation. All eyes on his every action, always. It's what Kliff has tried to prepare him for, just like he tried to prepare every one of his kids in the best way he knew how, and still, no one could think badly of the boy for faltering in the face of so much responsibility, Kliff least of all.

Ky doesn't, though, picking up the pace as he approaches the edge of the plaza, hope and conviction paving his way into battle like a pair of shield maidens, fierce and unwavering. In the shade, his unwilling earthly guardian detaches himself from the wall, stubbing out the cigarette against the polished stone. He and Sol have an unspoken agreement, the only bargain Kliff could strike without troubling deaf heaven — all it took was beer and a little bit of sneakiness, the secret knowledge that whatever Sol was looking for, Ky turned out to hold an answer. An unwelcome answer for a hundred-year-old chain-smoking cynic, perhaps, but an answer nonetheless.

Kliff has seen too much and done too much to summon any valkyries, but that doesn't mean he can't do everything in his power to ensure that Ky's have as smooth a ride as possible. The only thing allowed to change is the battleground; he might be too old for the sword, but that doesn't mean he's too old for arguing and swearing and banging his fists on absurdly shiny tables. Anything to keep Ky safe from all the things festering in the upper echelons of the Order, threatening to spill over into the field in the form of a botched decision, a delayed shipment of supplies or a suicide mission.

Across the plaza, Ky dances away from might have been a lazy swipe or, knowing Sol, a masterfully complicated wedgie. A turn, a half step, and he's back within arm's reach, almost daring Sol to make another grab. Playing, in defiance of everything ahead, and Kliff can't see it exactly, but he's pretty sure he hasn't imagined the flash of a smile in his direction, knowing and so very honest, an answer to a question he's never even dared to ask.

We'll win this. I know we will.

Huffing out a quiet laugh, Kliff leans back against the column, gazing up through the tangle of marble tails and claws at the upside down letters.

In hoc signo vinces.

If nothing else, he's going to make damn sure there won't be a need for any more statues for a good long while.





-Fin-




A/N: Happy Ky Day! *toasts with cup of tea*
1) Of course the Order isn't above horribly cheesy statues.
2) The sculptor is probably some distant descendant of a Japanese man who loves copic markers and impossible anatomy.



Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
sheikah_minuet2
Nov. 21st, 2012 03:51 am (UTC)
This! lol Kliff is so put out on having survived to be old.

I really like this, I like seeing how others view Ky and it's nice to see it from his mentors view especially.

I love the playfulness of Ky and Sol at the end I could see that easily... it's also hmm, how to put it, ironic? maybe how Ky's heading towards a war zone and is chipper... also him only staying for the food! Glee~
aphelion_orion
Nov. 21st, 2012 07:11 am (UTC)
Hee, yes. For someone who's spent his whole life leading and fighting, it must suck to suddenly have to think about reading glasses and walking sticks.

Thank you! Kliff's the kind of character I find easiest to write when he's watching others... he seems suited for that, somehow. And one of these days I'll manage to write these two an actual sword fight, because man, that must be a sight to see. XD
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )