The name Aphrodite was so common in Amaurot one had to adopt a nickname or be faced with the consequences of clarifying, "no, I'm Aphrodite from Phantomology, not the Aphrodite from Psychology".
Hades, thankfully, was rare.
Hair like summer roses were, perhaps, the rarest of all.
He came at her behest. Hades had waited as long as he was able to put it off after his brief encounter with his friend - another consultation that had become routine as of late - but he had said that he would appear and he was not fond of lying.
Akadaemia Anyder held its own batch of memories that he had outgrown (one hoped) but she had not. The place felt stifling now as he roamed the empty halls - no one attended lecture this late and he was thankful for the silence - and he slowed as he came to Phytobiology, watching a lone hooded figure tend to the plants. Hades crossed the threshold, trying to ignore the pollen that threatened to overtake his breath.
She turned around just as he got close enough, flowers in her hands and shoved into his face. Hades sneezed, turning his head and coughing into his sleeve.
"Think twice before sneaking up on me again," she sneered. "I've your number, dearest Hades."
"If you're done assaulting me with pollen, Urania, I believe you asked me to walk you home. I'll take my leave if you're keen on continuing."
"I was just showing you my newest creation," she brushed her fingertips across the many petals. "Don't you like them?"
"I have no inclination towards one or the other," he said plainly, though he did reach out to curl a lock of her dusty rose hair in his fingers. If this bothered her, it was impossible to tell. "This is the first I've heard of you trying your hand at flora."
"I felt inspired. Besides, it was annoying me that all the flowers I saw come out of here had so few petals."
"And your grand inspiration was... to be contrary."
"Exactly. You sound as if you don't appreciate it, but you will." She let him wait until they both knew he was waiting for her to explain her actual inspiration, and she let her voice grow softer. "I love the gardens outside of the city. There are nights I go out there to grade creation classifications and I'm overwhelmed by how beautiful everything is out there. I'd like to add something to this new life."
He drew closer, peering down at the flowers in her hands. "Aren't there too many petals? It's busy."
"They're layered so it seems that way, but each section is actually very simple," she explained, turning her gaze to him finally instead of her apparent masterpiece. The glass of her mask glinted in the bright lights, making it harder to see her expression than normal. Hades simply assumed she was being her usual self, brimming with a love for arguments and improvement. She watched him in turn, growing a little less amused and more thoughtful. "Well?"
"They're only red," Hades pointed out and tugged her hair, causing her to hum and pull her head away, so unbothered by it that it seemed more like an orchestrated dance than an attempt at making her annoyed or angry.
"True. I'll have to make more in varying colors. I'll fill his entire office full of these!"
"I did not know you harbored such a grudge against Halmarult. Should I be concerned?"
"What will he do in return, bury my star charts under a pile of orchids? The ink will run and I'll complain to the Akadaemia's main office," Urania said. "I'm doing him a favor by giving him so many new specimens."
Hades felt the corners of his mouth quirk. "You aren't taking one home?"
"Not yet. They're not done," she placed the pot back down, dusting her hands off before turning back to him. "Take me home, Hades."
"My purpose, fulfilled," he said, bowing at the waist - she laughed at his flair, waiting until he had straightened to close the distance and kiss him properly. It was a small, mostly chaste thing and she moved right past him to drag him along as she finished - always charging ahead. And so nothing changed about her. He didn't expect it to.
What a disappointing bunch. The Scions he already knew of, but the band of Warriors was something else entirely.
Not unlike the band from the First, there were five players; a Roegadyn harnessing the powers of her restrained rage, an Elezen with a devastating handle on her black magic, an Au Ra emblazoned with the title of the Azure Dragoon and Ishgard at her back, and a Lalafell with the a fine-tuned control over white magic that would put Padjali to shame.
And yet they all paled in comparison to the radiance of his lost brethren. Hydaelyn gave her best and they still left him wanting.
"And one of your number lost their way," Emet-Selch sighed. "Nevertheless. I don't see why -"
"Sorry, sorry, I had to fix my astrolabe," a harried voice came from behind the group. "What are all of you..."
Ah, the straggler. Emet-Selch restrained himself from giving another sigh, watching as the group parted to let her step into the fray, pausing as his gaze settled.
There it was; rose hair he really only saw in memories, long enough to drape about her freckled shoulders.
Multicolored flowers with bundles upon bundles of petals tucked into her hair.
He heard the Warrior of Light was capable of harnessing the power of the stars, but he never gave it much thought until now.
And so, nothing changed about her.
Their eyes met and silence reigned. The hero shied away only after a good long moment, edging towards the Roegadyn woman, speaking in what felt like a stage whisper. "Isn't that..."
He expected something to change. "Solus zos Galvus," he bowed.
She stepped forwards, closing the distance.
The Warrior of Light punched him, green eyes glinting without mercy, her breath short.
He expected something to change.
Her soul burns a dark red. It matches the flower in her hair now as it did back then. Once he thought he wanted more colors than that one; seeing it now, he prefers them red.
He remembers the penultimate time they met. Her shouting, cursing at him - her voice raised in anger and slowly dropping into despair and sadness and he thinks of everyone - including himself - who had thought that this fight was like every other they had. He remembers thinking that her punch smarted but not that she'd never done it before. He'd seen the darkness in her eyes then, something broken and unspoken, but he hadn't thought overlong on it.
Just another fight, he thought, until she didn't show at the Convocation. Until he saw her raise her hands in worship in the outskirts of their once-fair city. Until he ran forwards to shout Aphrodite and all he could catch in his arms was smoke and dissipating aether.
Emet-Selch stared at the Viera woman in front of him. He expected something to change, and yet, nothing had.