Even when the war was over, it wasn’t.
SO, CALLING ALL YGGDRA UNION FANS ON TUMBLR: Y’ALL NEED TO DROP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND READ THIS FANTASTIC THING RIGHT NOW.
Newcomer to the AO3 DHE tag Zugzwang spins together a post-war portrait of Yggdra, Milanor, Durant, Nietzsche, Rosary, and Elena, crafted from 21 drabbles. This fic is at once bleak and hopeful and humane, a reflection of the sheer despair of a handful of traumatized war survivors trying to pick up the mess they’ve made and make the world better, and juggling their own guilt at the same time. Fingers aren’t pointed at anybody, because there’s no longer any point, and because that would take all the meaning out of the sacrifices made.
Zugzwang’s writing is very kind. They have put together this story with empathy for everyone involved, which is reflected both in the prose and in the attitudes of the individual characters. Here stands Yggdra, sifting through the wreckage of Flarewerk; here is Milanor, tipsy and maudlin, and Durant feeling tired and insignificant; here is Nietzsche sleeping in Yggdra’s bathtub, and Rosary wondering why she was the one spared, and Elena looking back on her brother’s memory with fondness.
And about Nietzsche: This is the most spot-on rendition of her I have ever read in all my six years of being in this fandom. Every bit of this story with Nietzsche in is golden; she is young and bright and awkward and thoughtful without being dumbed down or turned into a caffeinated caricature of herself.
This story will deliver a right cross straight to your feels and then it will wrap you up in a blanket and feed you a warm comforting drink of your choice. It is brilliant.
ALSO HERE IS AN EXCERPT IN CASE I HAVE NOT CONVINCED YOU YET SOMEHOW:
He held the staff once, but it didn’t do anything for him. Under the light of the moon, it seemed to shine, all ruby and gold and colors fit for a queen and especially for a thief.
He didn’t want to steal it, however. He only wanted to look at it, and hold it, and wonder. At this point, it was impossible for him to lose the eyes and hands and curiosity of a lifelong bandit.
It was funny – Yggdra had told him the staff gave her wisdom. But all it gave him was silence.
He handed the scepter back to her, shrugging pale hair out of his eyes. “Nothing,” he said.
“I see.” Her voice was soft, even. She didn’t stammer anymore, she never hesitated.
He studied her face, her eyes, her hands, and asked, “What does that thing tell you?”
She murmured, “Everything.”
He shrugged. “I guess silence is the new smartness.”
This story involves spoilers, PTSD, and references to suicide!
carrogath replied to your post: carrogath replied to your post: domesticity meme,…the reason Leon is so good about being a caretaker is probably because he has a little sister to be all overprotective about, even if he won’t admit it. little girls tend to soften you up a bit, or so i’ve…
See, I figured Elena closed herself off to Leon (and the rest of the world) before he even had the chance to distance himself from her. The fact that Leon gives into his issues and starts turning into a sadist just gives her a reason to cut off that final link. So, yes, Gulcasa and Leon have this great rapport because they’re very similar, but I don’t think Elena’s the one taking care of him.
I mean, you don’t reach a conclusion that extreme without being just a little unhinged. Elena might seem normal, but I think she completely lost the ability to empathize with other people after Leon proved he couldn’t pull himself together. (ugh see this is why I don’t talk about Bronquia; my entire headcanon for it consists of these depressing character analyses)
I’m not sure I can get behind that reading of Elena—while her issues are legion, egocentricity just isn’t one of them. She still cares about everything else! She cares about everything else far too much, actually, and thus spends most of Yggdra Union flagellating about in self-hatred and angst, or otherwise unbelievably grateful to the Royal Army for letting her stick around despite her being this horrible traitorous person.
I don’t think our diagnoses of why their relationship fell apart are necessarily all that different, though. Here’s my flowchart:
This choice seems completely crazy from Gulcasa’s standpoint, because he is blind to Leon’s bad traits and directly experiences the best in him (we don’t kill people just because they’re acting like douchebags, what the hell!). Gulcasa’s inaction seems completely crazy from Elena’s standpoint, because she doesn’t know Leon still has good in him at all, and has had a front row seat to what a dick he can be (just because you care about someone, it doesn’t make their bad deeds go away!).
Also important is that Elena’s not actually a part of Gulcasa’s inner circle. Leon’s gentleness is only visible to Gulcasa himself. The people around Gulcasa never see it, but they see the aftereffects: Their perception of Leon accepts and filters this information through Gulcasa’s testimony and their own opinions. Elena is one extra step removed: The only way she has of hearing about how nice Leon can still be is through Zilva, Luciana, and Emilia, who are all ambivalent about her brother because the issue isn’t as relevant to them.
And finally, it’s important to remember that Gulcasa’s men are perfectly okay with protecting him and/or keeping him on track via lying by omission. (See: BF28. I mean the Japanese version, by the way, since that’s the one where nobody actually tells Gulcasa that Leon was killed.) So it’s reasonable to guess that nobody’s actually let Gulcasa know that Leon attacks civilians in order to protect the army’s solidarity/just plain keep from upsetting him, especially because that’s the one thing that Gulcasa just won’t stand for.
Yggdra Union is pretty much Communication Failure: The Game, and I am fascinated with all the ways that the characters’ individual interpersonal relationships influence why their communications are so unproductive.
Annnd it’s always going to be All Bronquia All The Time around here because I am still not over the fact that Gulcasa’s issues are so close to my own. This is not a thing that I get handed often, so I am going to take it and run with it as far as I can go.
(As a final note, your word choice about Leon “giving in to” his issues makes me kind of uncomfortable. Somebody with his level of trauma can’t just decide to not be traumatized, especially when their condition is actively deteriorating. Especially in a setting like this one where sophisticated help just isn’t available, it’s awfully uncharitable to expect him to just up and get over it after a while.)
the reason Leon is so good about being a caretaker is probably because he has a little sister to be all overprotective about, even if he won’t admit it. little girls tend to soften you up a bit, or so i’ve heard
Hmm, I’d actually argue that Elena is actually in the role of caretaker over him throughout the series. She has to intercede with Gram Blaze on his behalf because his communication skills are about as shot as his ability to trust other people, she monitors him and decides what’s best for him, and even makes the decision that he has to die in Yggdra Union. This might show that the balance of power in their relationship is slanted heavily towards her, or at least that Elena’s the one who feels responsibility for Leon.
My personal interpretation of why Gulcasa and Leon work so well, platonically and romantically, is that they are very similar to the point where Leon can actually empathize back. And Gulcasa’s very emotionally open and vulnerable and has this huge raging need for affection and support—which Leon is in a position to give. He gets to actually be the strong and dependable one in this relationship, which is one of Leon’s personal needs. It just comes with the responsibility of having to be really nurturing and gentle, which Leon absolutely finds as embarrassing as he finds it enjoyable.
Like, there’s definite significance in the fact that Elena gave up on Leon before Gulcasa did, and I don’t think that it’s solely because Gulcasa just needs to trust everybody beyond the point of common sense due to his own issues. I think the different kinds of relationships Leon has with both of them and who gets to be the caretaker might be why he shut off from Elena first.
…i was waiting for this one to show up actually
i will ride this ship until my dying day