... Ifrit always spoke of soft things, told him to be gentle, told him not to hate anything. Ifrit was the one who would steal the keys and let him out of the cage in the dead of night and get him something to eat. Ifrit bandaged his wounds til they healed and reassured him they wouldn't scar. Ifrit kept Vivan and Diurn from hurting him, gave them looks that Nova couldn't understand, made them cut a wide circle around him any time he was in the room.

... He hadn't really known the extent of what Ifrit did in the military until after he had died.

He didn't want William to know, but just as surely as he was slowly orbiting the room in his goddamned office chair, he was reading what the DASS knew of Ifrit.

Accounts matching the unabashed hatred and scorn in that older woman's eyes.

... Maybe since William seemed practically immune to such things, he would listen.

... Why would Nova bother defending a war criminal, anyway?

It was no wonder that even Irdat was disgusted by him. Even though he had done all of those things for her.

For the sake of his alliance with DASS, he couldn't defend a single action Ifrit had taken.

" Hey, Nova... So, who was Ifrit to you...?" William asked, kicking off the wall and spinning.

" My older brother," Nova said.

" But you got along with him?"

... All his spinning was irritating. It was like he never took anything seriously.

" He was the only one who was nice to me," Nova admitted reluctantly. " He was very kind, Wille. He never said a single harsh thing. Irdat could beat him until his bones were broken and as he laid in bed to heal, he would say, it's alright, Nova, don't hate her. You shouldn't hate anyone, or anything. It just makes violence, and violence makes war. No one can ever become happy through war. ... And other weak, soft-hearted things like that."

" Duality of man, huh," William said, spinning in place. " It's hard to think someone like that is the same one I'm reading about. You sure we're talking about the same person, Nova?"

Nova reached over and stopped his chair; it was barely within reach.

" ... I already decided not to unnecessarily defend him. The level of brutality he exercised was unwarranted, even for battles during the height of the conflict. All I can say is that he didn't enjoy it, just viewed it as strategically necessary."

" What did you think of it? Did you know?"

William scooted the chair even closer to the bed.

" ... Not for a long time, no. When I heard about the things he did... I was disgusted. Who wouldn't be? It was like the brother I knew wasn't my brother at all."

" Let's try to patch things up with Rosenthal tomorrow, alright?" William requested. " Since there's no problem in you understanding that he committed inexcusable atrocities, she should be satisfied."

Nova reached up and wrapped his arms around him.

" Wille, will you hold me?" he asked quietly. " I haven't been made to think of him in a long time, and my chest hurts, really bad."

His voice cracked.