Chapter 1: the tale of genji
Some artistic liberties have been taken with the canon material to make things easier? but for the most part, this is canon-complaint.
Father died in the winter.
“He should dye that ridiculous hair, at the very least -”
Genji smooths down the front of his suit jacket and tries not to touch his hair, his fingers twitching as he sucks in a quiet breath. Father’s death came suddenly, but he takes comfort in the fact that he went in his sleep. As the eldest son, Hanzo was in charge of taking care of the funeral arrangements, but Genji was the one who found him and covered the shrine. The two of them kept vigil throughout the night. Despite all of his shortcomings, he knew to do at least that much.
Along with the entire clan, they watch the coffin slide into the cremation chamber. The rest of the clan will leave once it is in and return after the cremation is done, but the two of them will stay.
“The leader’s eldest will do,” Genji hears a clan elder whisper to another in passing, “but that other son of his -”
Through sheer force of will, Genji keeps his glare directed at the ground, clenching his hands into fists at his side. He feels a hand on his shoulder. “Ignore them,” Hanzo says beside him, his gaze forward and resolute. Genji nods and tries to do just that, watching the flames grow and engulf the coffin.
Later, kneeling in front of the family altar, Genji looks at the framed photo of his mother, now joined by a photo of his father. He and Hanzo didn’t talk about what lies in their future now that Father is gone, but Genji knows it’s on their minds. Their paths were set from the moment they were born; together, he and Hanzo were to lead the clan. Hanzo always embraced it, but Genji had grown to hate it and rebelled constantly, only agreeing to participate in his training. The elders have always been critical of his behavior and lifestyle, but Father never paid them any mind and loved him regardless. Genji tries not to wonder if that was the reason his father was dead.
The person who allowed him freedom is gone. The path he was given was never one he wanted, but it is the only one he sees before him.
Genji is always running away from home. The guards have long given up trying to keep him within the castle grounds, though the elders don’t know that. If the elders were smart and really wanted to keep him from sneaking out all the time, they’d stop training him altogether.
It’s not quite spring yet, the tail end of winter still lingering. The streets of Hanamura are quiet, as they usually are. It’s one of the things he hates about this place, one of the reasons he’s always running off to be somewhere else, but he’s not in the mood to go into the city tonight. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his gi - he snuck at in the middle of the extra training the elders were trying to get him to do as punishment for showing up late and hungover - and keeps his head down as he walks around the town. Everyone here knows the clan that resides in the castle that towers over the town, knows who he is - the green hair is a dead giveaway - and no one’s reckless enough to try to start something with him. Sometimes he’s tired of seeing the way people avoid his gaze, like he’s something terrifying.
The elders have been pressuring him even more as of late. Even Hanzo is pushing him to train longer, suggesting that he take on more responsibilities ever since Father -
He shakes his head. Now isn’t the time to think about that.
Though he’s half-lost in his thoughts, something manages to catch his eye. Or rather, someone.
Under a hazy, flickering streetlight, there is a woman.
She casts a striking figure; the light draws a hazy halo around her. Her hair is a pale yellow, almost white, brushing against her shoulders. She looks to be a foreigner, mostly likely a tourist, judging by the way she’s looking around like she isn’t quite sure where she is.
Genji frowns. Shimada territory extends far beyond the castle walls, controlled by branches of the clan. At this time of night, low-level thugs wander about, looking easy targets to elevate their status within the clan. Tourists tend to be easy targets, especially ones that are alone.
He may be one of the young lords of a criminal clan, but he’s not that kind of person.
Smoothing back his hair, he walks toward the woman, giving her a wave when she notices him approach. “Hey,” he says once he’s close enough, though he makes sure to maintain distance so he doesn’t scare her. “Are you alright?”
Up close, the woman is very beautiful. A part of him wishes they had met under different circumstances. Genji realizes his behavior might seem suspicious, but he takes some comfort in the fact that she doesn’t seem to be wary of him, her blue eyes blinking at him before she smiles. “Ah yes, I’m fine,” she replies. It sounds like she has an accent, though he can’t be sure of where it’s from. “I just seem to have ah -,” she looks around again, as if hoping to have found her way in the last five seconds, “forgotten how to get back to my hotel. And my phone is out of battery.”
“I know this area quite well. Do you have the name of it?”
To his surprise, the woman doesn’t hesitate to tell him the name of her hotel.
“If you walk down this street and make a right at...uh…,” he trails off. Around Hanamura, there are still street signs that have yet to be updated with rōmaji. “How are you at reading Japanese?”
The woman looks apologetic. “Not as good as I would like to be.”
Genji scratches his cheek, thinking. “I can escort you to your hotel,” he offers. Upon seeing the look on the woman’s face, he quickly adds, a little flustered, “I-It’s just - this area can be dangerous at night and I would not want you to run into any trouble and -”
The woman stops him with a laugh. “That’s very kind of you, Mister…?”
He holds out his hand. “Shimada. Genji Shimada.”
She takes his hand and shakes it. “Mister Shimada. I would appreciate that very much.”
“And you are…?”
The woman smiles at him. “Angela Ziegler.”
Genji feels his heart skip a little before he realizes that he’s still holding her hand. He lets go, bowing his head. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Ziegler.”
He doesn’t know what to say.
He’s not used to being quiet - he’ll admit that’s not very befitting of a ninja -, especially not around someone beautiful, but this isn’t a time for flirting. To be honest, he’s not great at casual conversation either, having had little opportunity to practice; being the son from a criminal family doesn’t make it easy to make friends. He keeps glancing at Angela, who seems content to walk in silence. She catches him a few times and looks at him a little expectantly, like she thinks he’s going to say something, but he just turns away. He mentally chides himself for being like this. Why is this so hard?
“What do you do, Mister Shimada?”
Relieved to have the silence broken, Genji nearly jumps to reply, but then stops himself. It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. What could he say? As the heir to a criminal empire, he doesn’t have a job, doesn’t need one. He passes the time by training before he sneaks away from home, sneaks off to the arcade to play games by himself, sneaks off to bars and clubs and picks someone up, anyone who’s willing, and stays with them for the night before leaving in the morning, and does it again and again. He runs from a legacy he can’t escape, a legacy he doesn’t want. He’s always running.
“I am ah…,” he starts, trailing off before trying to cover it up with a sheepish laugh. “I help with the family business.” Before Angela can ask him to elaborate, he asks her, “What do you do?”
If Angela notices his evasiveness, she’s kind enough to let it go. “I am a doctor. I had come here to attend a conference, actually.”
“A doctor? I should be addressing you as ‘Doctor Ziegler’ then.” Angela smiles, bashful. “And you are from…”
“Ah, Switzerland! The place with the chocolates!” Genji exclaims, a little too excitedly, flushing with embarrassment when Angela laughs.
“Yes, our chocolates are the best,” she confirms, her eyes twinkling. “I am guessing you have a sweet tooth.”
Once when he was young, Father came home from a trip with Swiss chocolates. Genji ate all of them and ended up with a stomach ache. In high school, he and Hanzo received a lot of chocolate every year for Valentine’s Day. Hanzo never thought it was right to eat the chocolate he got when he didn’t return the feelings of the person who gave it to him. Genji had no such qualms.
“A little,” he admits with a mumble before Angela giggles. It’s strange, being teased by someone who’s not his brother. There aren’t many people who don’t know who he is, who his family is, what kind of person he is. There’s always something they want from him, but Angela doesn’t make him feel that way.
“You know, I had wanted to get a chance to look around the city before I left,” she mentions with a sigh, casting him what seems to be a sort of hopeful glance.
Genji blinks at her, quickly turning away. This sort of scenario is new to him. “I can show you around if you’d like,” he says, feeling oddly shy.
When he chances a look at her, Angela is smiling, her eyes brightening. “I would like that.”
Hanamura doesn’t have much in terms of history, but Genji does what he can. It’s too late for the usual tourist spots so they walk around the shopping district, where young couples hold hands and window shop. He takes her to the arcade and they play a few games; he thinks about letting her win a few, but she talks surprisingly good trash talk and comes dangerously close to beating him even without a handicap more than a few times. They call a truce and stop at Rikimaru’s for a late meal, warming up with hot tea and steaming bowls of ramen and chatting about food. He walks with her past the gates of the castle, careful to keep out of the sight of the guards, and eventually they end up walking down a path lined with cherry blossom trees.
Angela’s shoes click against the cobblestone path. Genji sneaks a glance at her. The trees throw shadows all around them, yet the moonlight falls on her face, illuminating her eyes. He clears his throat. “If you came to Hanamura a little later, you would have seen the cherry blossoms,” Genji tells her. “They are very beautiful in the spring. My family used to come here for hanami.”
“You don’t anymore?”
“No,” he answers after a beat. “Not since my mother passed.”
When he looks at Angela, she looks sad. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. It was a long time ago.” He doesn’t know why he brought it up in the first place; he doesn’t think about those days very often.
Angela gazes up at the bare branches. “I wish I could see them.”
Genji looks up at the branches too, thoughtful. “Perhaps one day,” he says.
“Maybe you can show me.” She turns around, as they have reached the end of the path, and then adds over her shoulder, “If that’s alright with you.”
Genji blinks, then flushes when she quirks a grin. “S-Sure.”
They walk around for a little while longer until they eventually find themselves standing at the entrance of Angela’s hotel. Neither of them makes a move. Genji glances at Angela. She looks like she’s thinking about something. He wonders what she’s thinking about.
“This is your hotel,” Genji says, just to break the silence.
“So it is,” Angela says.
This scenario is a little more familiar to him. It usually ends with him going into the hotel with someone, but this time, it doesn’t feel right. He never sees the person again after that. “I hope you had an enjoyable time.”
Angela turns to face him. “I did. Thank you very much for your help and for showing me around,” she says. She rummages through her purse - for a moment, Genji’s worried she’s going to give him money or something - but she pulls out a business card and presents it to him, bowing. “If you ever come to Zurich, please feel free to find me. I’ll show you where to find all the best chocolate,” she adds with a wink.
Genji fumbles to bow and take the card with both hands. He looks it over. It’s a simple business card, plain save for the gold-lined wings bracketing her name. Angela Ziegler MD, PhD. “I-I look forward to it.”
She smiles warmly. “I’ll see you later then, Mister Shimada.”
“See you later, Doctor Ziegler,” he returns faintly as he stands in the entrance and watches her go. He lingers until the bellhop starts giving him looks before he sheepishly scratches the back of his neck and turns to start to make his way home.
He’s grateful that the streets are empty at this time at night, though it’s unlikely anyone could see how red his face is or how fast his heart is beating. He wants to see her again. He’s always running with his unsettled heart, but for just a little while, he felt like he didn’t have to anymore.
Genji can barely take a meal without someone nagging in his ear about the clan’s business, about his obligation to carry on the work. He doesn’t understand their persistence; there’s no need to involve him in the family’s criminal dealings when they have Hanzo. Genji has made it clear his distaste for what they do time and time again. They can’t be so foolish as to think he would suddenly change his mind and decide to help them.
“This dirty business you hate is what puts food in your mouth,” the elders told him. “It’s the reason you can even have your frivolous pursuits.”
Genji slices through a training dummy, sighing in frustration as the top half slides and then falls to the floor. Training helps sometimes to blow off steam, but there are only so many training dummies they have on the training grounds. He sighs again, feeling defeated. He knows the elders are right. He’s not an idiot, despite what they think. He knows that this life has given him much, that he can’t run from who he is.
The footsteps behind him are nearly inaudible, but he can recognize his brother’s footfalls anywhere. Genji doesn’t turn to meet what is undoubtedly his brother’s disapproving gaze. They all know that Hanzo was meant to become the true head of the family. He’s a natural leader, dedicated to his studies, trained with every weapon he could get his hands on. Hanzo was willing to take on the burden Genji didn’t want.
“Genji,” Hanzo says behind him, weariness evident in his voice.
“Why do they insist on involving me? They know I will not take part in any of this.”
While Hanzo was never exactly approving of his lifestyle, he never tried to order him around. At least, not until recently. These days, he sounds more like an elder than his brother. “Things are different now,” Hanzo says evenly. “Father is gone.”
Genji clenches his hand at his side. “I know.”
Hanzo is quiet for a long while. The wind howls outside. “Then you know that Father would have wanted -”
Rage flares from the pit of his stomach as Genji spins around to face his brother. “You do not know what Father wanted for me,” he grows lowly.
Hanzo’s eyes harden, anger simmering under an expressionless face. “You and I,” he continues in that infuriatingly calm voice of his, “we were born for this -”
“It is not a path I chose!”
“You spoiled brat,” Hanzo snarls, the facade gone in an instant. “Father let you do as you pleased, but he is gone now! He left us with this, his legacy, and it is our duty as his sons to preserve what he gave us!”
Genji scoffs. “You think you are carrying out Father’s wishes?” He shouts. “ You are a pawn of the elders! you think yourself a leader but you are a fool! You do not see the strings they pull -”
The sharp clang of steel hitting steel rings in his ear. Had Genji not drawn his wakizashi in time, he would have lost his head to the blade inches away from his neck.
“I did not want it to come to this, brother,” Hanzo says, his eyes cold, steely with resolve as he pushes his katana harder against Genji’s wakizashi. Genji knows there is no convincing Hanzo once he has set his mind on something. He can feel the edge pressing harder and harder against the back of his neck, the bite of the cut; he shoves Hanzo’s blade away.
A thousand thoughts run through Genji’s head, a thousand emotions, but there is no time to try to think about how it all came to this. Inside of him is a boy who admired his big brother, who grew up protected by him, but he forces himself to forget. Genji forces himself to focus on the blade in front of him, the blade that has drawn his blood, as Hanzo wordlessly takes his stance.
He sheaths his wakizashi and draws his katana. “Neither did I,” he says quietly, hoping Hanzo doesn’t hear the way his voice shakes.
Blood trickles down Genji’s face, dripping from his chin. Sucking in breaths of air, he tries to blink the sweat out of his eyes.
He doesn’t know how long they’ve been fighting.
He can tell Hanzo is tired too. He’s always hated it when Genji made him run circles during their spars. Genji may have the advantage of agility, managing to escape out to the terrace, but Hanzo is still the stronger fighter. He can only avoid Hanzo’s attacks for so long before he’s completely worn down. The gashes Hanzo have managed to land aren’t helping the matter either. His right arm is useless now.
Hanzo waits, as if giving him a chance to surrender, but Genji will not let go of his sword. Genji sees Hanzo move - he is ready to strike once more. Despite the fatigue, he sees Hanzo running toward him, second by second, like he’s watching a video in slow motion. Hanzo raises his arm and swings his sword down on him with a heavy strike, but instead of dodging, Genji parries, hitting Hanzo’s blade away hard, forcing his arm to brace against the vibration of the impact. Hanzo stumbles back for the first time in the fight and Genji sees it, the desperation in Hanzo’s eyes, the stance he takes. The dragon is coming and Genji knows there’s a moment when he can strike, a moment when Hanzo is vulnerable. He raises his katana, knowing that even if he misses this moment, he can turn the dragon away -
But he hesitates, his katana hanging in the air, motionless.
That one moment is all it takes.
It’s a feared technique for good reason. He’s only heard stories of the damage the dragonstrike could do, stories of the great battles fought by his ancestors. It is said that the dragon consumes all in its path and it feels true enough; the ethereal blue dragon throws him back against the wooden barrier, the wood splintering from the force of the impact, before it rips through his body and Genji screams; he feels like his body is being torn to shreds, his vision going bright white from the pain, and then - nothing, like the pain had become so much that his body became numb to it.
Before the splintered wood snaps under the strain of his weight, before he starts to fall, he hears a blade clatter against the wooden floors, hears his brother’s footsteps running away from him. He drops his own blade before the barrier finally gives and he falls over the precipice.
He can see cherry blossoms. He can see his sparrow headband, split in two.
Through the haze of pain, his mind is still conscious, somehow, his will still intact, but his broken body refuses to move. It’s as if he is outside of his body, aware but powerless. He feels cold.
He is going to die.
It hurts. His clan has betrayed him. He has turned his brother into a killer. Mother, Father, he thinks, as his blood pools around him, slowly, infinitely. He chokes and coughs, flecks of blood staining the cherry blossom petals blanketing the ground.
I wish I could see them.
“What do you have there, Genji?”
Genji, age 8, looked up from where he was crouching in the castle courtyard. It was Father, looking down at him questioningly. “It’s a bird,” Genji answered, showing him the bird cradled in his cupped hands. “I think it’s just a baby. It’s not flying away.”
“A sparrow.” Father hummed thoughtfully and looked up. In the middle of the courtyard was a gingko tree, older than the castle, towering over the walls. “It must have fallen out of its nest. Perhaps it wanted to venture out into the world before it was ready.”
Genji looked down at the peeping bird. “What should we do?”
Father turned back to look at him. “Nature says that it should be left where it fell. Such is the way of life.”
Left where it fell? But then it wouldn’t get any food. A stray cat might get to it. Genji looked down at the small fragile bird, stricken and devastated, the scenarios in his head too terrible to imagine.
“Or maybe you can put it back in its nest,” Father suggested, perhaps noticing Genji’s distress.
Wiping at his face, Genji looked at the tree. He was good at climbing things. Sometimes climbing was a part of his training, though sometimes his climbing would get him into trouble. He tugged off the sash tied around his waist and tied it over his shoulder to make a makeshift sling. Carefully tucking the sparrow in, he approached the tree and started to climb.
He had no idea where the nest was, but it couldn’t be too high up; the baby sparrow wouldn’t have survived if it was. He looked around at every branch before moving on to the next and it was not long before he heard chirps. Looking toward the sound, he saw a sparrow hopping frantically around the edges of an empty nest.
Climbing onto the branch, Genji balanced himself and approached slowly. The mother sparrow hopped further away from him as he did, but did not fly away. Once he was close enough, he scooped the baby sparrow out of his pouch; it began to chirp upon seeing its mother. Placing the sparrow gently in the nest, Genji allowed himself a smile as the mother sparrow immediately went to feed it before he made his way back down.
Father was still standing there by the time he landed on the ground. “So what did you gain from helping that sparrow?” He asked.
Genji patted down his clothes before looking at Father, a little confused. Father’s expression was stern. “I just wanted to help it.”
Father was silent for a few moments before he nodded, smiling and patting Genji on the head. “Aren’t you supposed to be training with your brother?”
“It looks like that bird was not the only one who left the nest,” Father laughed. “Run along, little sparrow.”
Chapter 2: landscape with a blur of conquerors
To have a thought, there must be an object—
the field is empty, sloshed with gold, a hayfield thick
with sunshine. There must be an object so land
a man there, solid on his feet, on solid ground, in
a field fully flooded, enough light to see him clearly,
the light on his skin and bouncing off his skin.
He must already be dead. There is only one person who calls him that.
“Mister Shimada, can you hear me?”
Genji struggles to open his eyes, barely having the strength to do even that. “Doctor...Ziegler…?” He tries to say, but it comes out as a wet raspy warble. He manages to open his eyes a little, only to squeeze them shut immediately; it’s bright, too bright. He can hear wheels squeaking and rattling under him, beeping, a voice speaking but it sounds hollow and tinny.
He tries to move, but Angela stops him with a touch on his shoulder. “Don’t move,” she says softly. He hears her shout in another language - German, he realizes idly - and then footsteps, other people running over. It sounds like she’s issuing them commands. He feels someone pull at his clothes; they’re cutting through his gi.
He tries to open his eyes again, tries to move his hand. “Doctor Ziegler,” he calls. He sees her turn to look at him. Her eyes are so blue. She catches his hand with hers.
“Stay with me, Mister Shimada.”
He knows he’s delirious - the shock has worn off and he’s fading in and out of consciousness from the pain - but he can still see the cherry blossom petals falling, like rain. The remnants of his gi are pulled out from under him, clumps of blood-stained petals still clinging to the drying blood. He looks at Angela again and wants to say, this wasn’t how I wanted you to see them, but he finds that saying anything but her name is too difficult right now.
She squeezes his hand as his eyes fall closed, as if she understands.
When he opens his eyes again, he sees a white ceiling.
He feels so weak. There’s a weird taste in the back of his throat and everything hurts and at the same time feels dull around the edges. He turns his head slowly and sees the beeping machines before he hears them. He can’t even begin to count the number of tubes running from the machines to his body, including the intubator in his mouth.
“ - not authorized - this -”
It’s a man’s voice coming through the closed door. Genji can only make out shadows through the window.
“ - couldn’t - him there - “
That’s Angela’s voice. He’s already exhausted again, but he tries to move a little more. He can’t. The beeping grows urgent.
The door opens. “Mister Shimada?”
Genji tries to speak, but the intubator keeps him from doing so. The beeping grows faster.
A second later, Angela appears at his bedside. “It’s okay, Mister Shimada, you’re safe now,” she says soothingly. “You’re in my hospital in Zurich. You’re safe here.”
He’s not in Hanamura. He’s not in Japan. The sounds of the machines slow to a regular beat. He sees her turn back toward the doorway; a few moments later, the door closes quietly. She turns her attention back to him, sitting down in the chair by his bed.
She looks as tired as he feels, dark half moons under her eyes, her hair dull and messy, but to him, she is as lovely as she was when he first saw her. She manages a small smile, but it goes as quickly as it came.
“You’ve suffered severe injuries. I’m sure you are aware.”
She falls silent, as if to give him some time to take inventory. Aside from the pain, fatigue, not being able to talk, he can’t feel his right arm or his legs. He blinks slowly to communicate his understanding. Angela nods.
“We’ve managed to stop the bleeding, but the internal damage is too severe. What he have now are temporary solutions to keep you alive,” she continues. Her expression is neutral, detached. Professional. “There are not many options left.”
“I work for an organization called Overwatch.”
Overwatch. He knows of it. He has heard the elders mention it during clan meetings, worried their empire was a potential target.
“Our commander believes you can help our cause. If you agree to help us, we can reconstruct your body with cybernetics, strengthen it, allow you to fight as you did before.”
Cybernetics. They could save him, fix him.
He looks at Angela. She looks pained; she looks away, biting her lip. “I will not lie to you. It will be difficult, painful. I know you have many questions,” she says, quieter, “but right now, you need to survive. If you agree, I promise you will have your answers.”
For years, he has tried so hard to resist his path, hoping for a new one. This may not be of his own making, but at least this, this agreement with Overwatch, is something else.
He nods as much as his body allow.
He sees the cherry blossoms blotting out the night sky.
He blinks. He sees his hand holding his katana. He sees Hanzo, shouting, but he hears no sound. He blinks.
He sees the dragon.
Gasping, he jolts awake. He was dreaming. Pain rolls over him and panicked, he looks around, trying to discern where he is, but there’s a bright light shining in his face and -
Angela. Her gloved hand outstretched toward the door, a nurse standing in the doorway. He sees his left hand, gripping her arm so tightly that his own hand shakes. He quickly lets go, tries to speak, to apologize, but no sound comes out. He remembers now. They’re in the middle of the first procedure, repairing his throat.
“It’s okay, Mister Shimada,” she says, her voice soft and even. “It’s okay. I’ve got you.”
He tries to calm down as Angela reaches for a syringe. He watches her wave off the nurse before turning to inject something in his IV. A few moments later, the pain starts to fade.
“I’ve got you,” she repeats reassuringly as she helps him lie back down. Her blue eyes are the last thing he sees before he loses consciousness.
He can talk again, but not without difficulty. Angela says it will get better once his body is used to the artificial parts. Genji watches as Angela arranges various metal parts on a long table; he assumes those are going to be a part of his body soon. He sees the bandage wrapped around her arm where he had grabbed her, his stomach sinking with guilt.
Angela pulls her gaze away from the parts to look at him and then shakes her head, giving him a smile. “Don’t apologize. I understand. It is better this way. Commander Morrison agrees that the fewer people who know about the procedure the better.”
When Angela and another doctor had come in to do the throat reconstruction, Genji refused to let the other doctor operate on him. Angela agreed to complete it on her own. If she hadn’t been alone, maybe he wouldn’t have been able to hurt her. “I don’t mean that,” he says.
She notices him looking at her bandaged arm and shakes her head again, tugging her sleeve. “I’ve been through worse.”
They’re interrupted by a knock on the door. A second later, a stocky man comes through the door with what looks like a metal arm sticking out of a box.
“Torbjorn,” Angela says with a sigh. “I hope you didn’t walk around the hospital like that.”
“It’s fine!” The man - Torbjorn - assures, placing the metal arm and other contents in the box on the long table. “It just looks like any old omnic arm but this is some of my best work!”
A part of Genji thinks he really did die and found himself in a video game. A small Swedish man is helping him become a cyborg. “This is Torbjorn Lindholm,” Angela tells him. “He’s building the parts necessary for your cyberization.”
After emptying his box, Torbjorn walks over and gives Genji a onceover. Then he looks at Angela, letting out a significant-sounding hmph. “I’ll have his legs ready in three days, Mercy.”
“Thank you, Torbjorn,” Angela calls as Torbjorn leaves with a hand wave over the shoulder.
“He called you something. ‘Mercy’. Is that your codename?” Genji asks.
Angela laughs, sheepish. “It was assigned to me and it stuck.”
“It suits you.”
She smiles, her cheeks a little pink.
It is a test of endurance. The synthetic nerves are forcing themselves to fit into the existing system while his body fights the foreign material. His body is in a battle with his brain, constantly disobeying him, failing to do something as simple as holding a cup of water. The pain makes the days pass in a haze; he doesn’t know, doesn’t care how much time has passed. Beyond the physical pain, he is alone, more alone than he has ever been in his life, but Angela is always there, after each procedure. She talks about the news, about what she had for lunch, just mundane things, and she doesn’t mind if he doesn’t answer. Genji finds that he likes to simply listen, anyway.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how is the pain?”
20, he thinks, but a childish part of him still wants to be kind of cool. The pain still wakes him up in the middle of procedures occasionally, but he doesn’t panic like before, instead trying to keep calm until Angela can sedate him. “6,” he grits through his teeth, trying to grin reassuringly. Judging by the look on Angela’s face, he wasn’t very convincing. “You will grow wrinkles if you keep making that face, Doctor Ziegler.”
Angela’s eyes widen with surprise before she quickly smooths out the furrow in her brow. “I’m sorry, Mister Shimada,” she says, a little embarrassed.
“That is not to say I do not enjoy it when you worry about me,” Genji admits with a small grin. Angela levels him a look before the troubled expression returns to her face.
“This isn’t the kind of healing I’m used to,” she tells him quietly, her voice oddly fraught. It surprises him; he knows a little more about Angela now, that she’s a well-respected, extremely skilled doctor, once a warzone medic. He didn’t think there was anything that daunted her.
He looks down at his new cybernetic arm, the tubing jutting out of his forearm, replacing his veins to pump blood through his body. “Does it frighten you?”
Gradually, he’s regaining control over his body, but he feels his humanity slipping away with each modification, with each piece of metal welded to him, every wire pulled through him. In the darkest times, he wonders if there will be any of it left after it’s done.
Angela shakes her head. “No,” she answers softly. “I just wish I understood how to take away the pain of it.”
Genji wakes up in the middle of the night after his final procedure, roused by the sound of voices outside his door. There often are voices outside his door, usually Angela talking to someone, a nurse, Torbjorn, sometimes Commander Morrison - the same voice he heard when he first woke up in this room - though Genji has yet to formally meet him. Usually it’s too noisy for him to hear, but at this time of night, it’s quiet enough to hear the conversation.
“What are you doing here?” Genji has never heard Angela’s voice like this, cold and unwelcoming.
“That’s an interesting pet project you have in there. I just wanted to take a look -”
“It’s none of your concern.”
A pause. “There was no need for you to have that dwarf make parts. You know I have plenty.”
“This requires Caduceus tech.”
“I’ve made it better.”
“That is your own belief.”
It’s silent for a short while. “It’s unlike you to be so...invested. I never thought you of all people would do something like this.” Another pause. “I’m just curious -”
“I will not let you twist him into something of your making. Now leave. He needs his rest.”
It’s silent again before he hears a set of footsteps leading away. He wishes he knew what all these conversations were about, what they meant, but he believes that Angela will tell him one day. She promised him answers.
Angela is still standing in front of his door when he drifts back to sleep.
“When you first met me in Hanamura, was it a part of Overwatch’s plan to recruit me?”
Angela pulls her gaze away from the TV. They’re both semi-invested in a daytime soap opera and sometimes Angela watches it with him during her infrequent breaks.
“We did not know this would happen to you, if that’s what you’re asking,” Angela answers.
Genji knows that was an unreasonable question, but he wanted to ask anyway. He lets out a short laugh. “Well, neither did I.”
Angela turns back to the TV, but her gaze is downcast. “I was not supposed to talk to you,” she eventually tells him. “It is true that there was a conference. It’s true that the Shimada clan had been under our watch for a while. The commander thought that I should take a look, see if I could find anything useful since I was nearby. I did not think I would meet you.”
They have spent enough time together for Genji to discern the different tones in her voice. There is something she is not saying, but he leaves it alone, asking instead, “Why do you work for Overwatch?”
A beat. “I believed that Overwatch could allow me to help save more people than I could working in a hospital.”
“But?” He baits, flashing an innocent look at her when she looks at him. She laughs, maybe at his persistence, and shakes her head a little, but seems to relent, gazing into the middle distance.
“I don’t like violence,” she says. “But I suppose it is naive to wish for a world where peace can solve everything.”
Her expression has turned melancholy. He almost regrets asking. “It is a good thing to wish for,” he says. “If there is anyone who could do that, it would be you, Doctor Ziegler.”
She smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “I wish that were true, Mister Shimada.”
Chapter 3: landscape with a blur of conquerors ii
I ask it what it wants. I want to be a cornerstone,
says the head. Let’s kill something.
“I need a haircut,” Genji mutters while Angela is running a diagnostic. Angela doesn’t look away from the computer, but she raises her eyebrows a little and Genji know she’s listening. Seated on the examination bed, he runs a metal hand through his hair. It’s long now, almost long enough to tie, and the green is fading, overtaken by his natural black hair. Between the diagnostics and check-ups, physical therapy, and light training, he doesn’t have much time for personal grooming. “I look ridiculous.”
“You thought you didn’t with the green hair?” Angela quips, laughing when she sees the deeply betrayed look on Genji’s face. “Don’t worry, Commander Morrison is not one for a strict dress code.”
They’ve arrived at the Overwatch headquarters, not far from Angela’s hospital. It’s taken months fo him to recover, but now that he’s been cleared by Angela, he is to meet Commander Morrison. He looks over at the mirror on the wall of the examination room and frowns. The cuts on his face have long been healed, leaving only scars. The first time he saw his complete body was jarring; even now he prefers not to look at it, but at least he’s a little more used to the synthetic parts of his body now, testing its strengths and limitations.
“Well,” she says, tapping on the keyboard with finality, “everything looks good. Time to meet the commander.”
Genji is grateful for all that Angela does for him. She has never asked him about what happened or the past, though he wonders if she already knows. When they talk, they talk about the weather, about their TV show; sometimes they don’t talk at all. It’s the first time he’s ever spent this much time with someone who wasn’t his family.
As they walk through the base, he catches a few people looking at him before quickly looking away, though there are many who greet him and Angela as they pass. He’s been wary of strangers ever since he arrived at Angela’s hospital, the nurses who bring his medication when Angela is called away, even Torbjorn who comes by to make sure his cybernetics are in good shape. When they reach the commander’s office, stopping in front of the door, Genji glances at Angela. After all these months of having Angela by his side, having to go in alone makes him feel oddly anxious.
“Everything will be fine,” she tells him with a reassuring smile. Taking a breath, he nods before he opens the door and steps in.
The man sitting behind the desk stands, holding out his hand when Genji approaches. “Strike Commander Jack Morrison.”
“Genji Shimada,” Genji returns, shaking his hand. There is another man standing in the corner, watching, his arms crossed over his chest. The man makes no move to introduce himself. Genji assumes he’s to ignore him.
Morrison gestures for him to sit. “How are you feeling?”
“As well as one can feel in my state.”
Morrison nods understandingly. “Well, if there are any problems, feel free to let me or Doctor Ziegler know.”
Genji elects to simply nod. He’s not sure what he was expecting, maybe someone a little more stern, a little more aloof. Morrison is friendlier than he thought he would be. He almost reminds him of his father.
Morrison twines his fingers together on the desk. “I’ll get to the point then. Overwatch has been watching your clan for a while now.”
Genji has been anticipating this meeting for the past few weeks. He has a feeling he knows where this is going. “But you have no one on the inside,” he guesses. Judging by the look on Morrison’s face, he’s right. “It is difficult to plant a spy in the Shimada clan. Anyone who knows anything worth knowing is either family or has been a friend of the family for decades. They do not welcome strangers.”
“We figured that out a while ago,” Morrison says wryly. “But you are the son of the former leader.”
Overwatch doesn’t know why he ended up nearly dead outside of his family home. “I am sorry, but I am no use to you as a spy. That is the reason I am here, sitting before you.”
If Morrison is surprised, he doesn’t show it. He straightens in his chair. “I see.”
“However, I will tell you all I know about the Shimada clan on one condition.”
Morrison nods. “I’m listening.”
“I want to be the one to end them.”
The man in the corner grins.
Betrayal is a strong motivator.
He is assigned to Blackwatch and all missions pertaining to the Shimada clan. Though he didn’t care to participate in the clan’s activities, he still remembers the meetings he was forced to sit through. Strategy was never his strong suit - his brother was better - but he manages. The years of training are finally put to use as he helps Blackwatch infiltrate strongholds, extract information from the people he once called family. He doesn’t see Hanzo in the intelligence that Blackwatch gathers, but that doesn’t matter right now. When the time comes, Genji is sure that the clan will call on Hanzo to fulfill his duty and Hanzo will answer.
His commander here is the man who was in the office with Commander Morrison, Gabriel Reyes. Gabriel is a dark reflection of Commander Morrison; they work together to achieve the same goals, but where Morrison is merciful, Reyes is ruthless. Genji has no choice but to trust Reyes as his commander, as his comrade, but he can’t say that he extends that same trust to many of his other Blackwatch associates. The people here are different. Instead of veterans and heroes, there are saboteurs and assassins. They are usually cold and unfriendly; it’s worse if they’re friendly. They pass in the hall in silence, eyeing each other cautiously. Genji isn’t foolish enough to not see the flaws of Blackwatch, but he tells himself its goals are ultimately good. There are things that must be done in the dark to bring forth the light. He may be seeking revenge, but it is to end something evil.
Besides, being the son of a criminal family, he supposes he belongs here.
While he’s with Blackwatch, he doesn’t see Angela as often. With his cyberization complete, she’s back to her regular duties. Morrison ensures that they meet every few months for check-ups and calibration but in between those times, however, he is left with Moira O’Deorain.
He does his best to make do with the temporary fixes Angela had taught him to do. His method of avoidance fails when one of his legs ends up out of alignment after a rough sparring session and Reyes directs him to the infirmary to meet the doctor.
“Genji Shimada,” Moira purrs when he limps into the infirmary. “Pleased to finally meet your acquaintance.”
Genji does not return the greeting, silently sitting down on the examination bench. Moira wears a suit similar to Angela’s, just accented with a different color, red instead of yellow. Moira has eyes like a fox. Genji keeps his eyes fixed on the wall in front of him as Moira plugs in the cables to run the diagnostic.
This was the person Angela was talking to outside his room that night.
“You have an interesting body, Genji,” Moira notes as she reads through the information on her computer screen. “Given the number of cybernetics you have implemented in you, I almost wonder if you’re an omnic now.”
Genji narrows his eyes at the wall.
“Don’t get me wrong, Doctor Ziegler is excellent,” she continues casually. “But she lacks imagination. All those papers she wrote about genetic conditioning and tissue regeneration and what does she have to show for it? Shame I wasn’t there to save you. At the very least, you’d have all your limbs.”
He thinks about the way Angela looked at him back in that hospital room, guilty, desperate, thinks about the way she sat beside him and wished she could stop his pain. He thinks about the countless operations, seeing nothing but Angela’s bright determined eyes ringed with dark circles before he went under, before she put him together, piece by piece. He thinks about her, spending her free hours in his room, the way she made him feel less alone.
“I could do that for you, if you’d like. Make you whole. Better.”
Genji yanks out the plugs and stands. “We are done here.”
He doesn’t look back as he limps out of the infirmary with as much dignity as he can, sweating and sucking in labored breaths by the time he makes it outside. There is a man leaning against the wall, smoking, but Genji pays him no heed. He falls back against the wall and slides down with a heavy sigh before looking down at his leg. He should have paid more attention to Angela’s instructions.
The sun is low on the horizon, washing the sky red. Moira’s words gnaw away at him. An omnic, she said. He looks back at his leg. He clenches his hand into a fist.
“Why’d you join up?”
Genji looks over at the smoking man. He knows him; his name is Jesse McCree, if he remembers correctly. They’ve worked together on a few missions. McCree’s a little cocky, but he’s a half-decent shot.
“So it’s like that, huh? Alright then,” McCree says when Genji doesn’t answer immediately, shrugging and tilting his hat over his eyes.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to answer. “Why did you?”
McCree turns back to him, a little surprised, before he shrugs again. “Reyes found me back when I was runnin’ with the Deadlock gang.”
“He saved you?”
McCree lets out a wry laugh. “It was more of a ‘join or die’ deal, but yeah, I suppose that’s sort of like savin’ me.”
Silence hangs between them. McCree takes another drag from his cigarette. Genji thinks about that hospital room, the ultimatum that was given to him. “Me too.”
Sometimes Genji wonders what would have happened if Overwatch left him bleeding in Hanamura, what would have happened if he shook his head when Angela asked him if he would accept their help. Would he be dead now? Did he really ever have a choice? Genji looks at his hand, the metal parts sliding together to make a fist. A ball of metal. It’s not something he can run away from. “That is why I joined too."
After a quiet moment, McCree tosses his cigarette on the ground, stubbing it out under his boot. “You twisted your leg, right?” Blinking, Genji nods. McCree walks over and kneels down in front of him. “My arm gets like that sometimes. I’ll help you out.” He holds up one finger, a cybernetic one, just like his. “Just this once.”
It doesn’t hurt physically - it’s cybernetic after all - but something in him aches. For some reason, he thinks of his brother.
When Genji asked for this mission, Morrison warned him that it was difficult to deny blood.
“P-Please, I’ll give you anything, anything you want -”
The man cowering before him is Suzaku. He was second-in-command to his father, the one who handled the day to day operations of the clan. He was the one who trained Hanzo and Genji, prepared them for the task of leading the family. He was practically family. Now he’s living in a penthouse in Tokyo, rolling in the riches of his criminal activities.
A shame all that money couldn’t keep Genji from reaching him.
Genji lifts his visor, showing Suzaku his face. He wonders if he looks different to Suzaku, if Suzaku still sees him as the boy who ran from his birthright, the boy who didn’t understand the harsh world he was living in. He wonders if Suzaku can see it in his face, the pain he has gone through, the lengths he has gone to find him, the places he destroyed, the people he hurt to get here. He wonders if he knows what’s coming next.
Suzaku’s eyes widen with shock and recognition, his mouth shaking with fear. “G-Genji? B-But, you - Hanzo - you’re supposed to be de -”
The rest of his words are lost as Genji slits his throat.
As blood pools out on the dark wood floor, Genji thinks about that moment before Hanzo struck him down. He still remembers the thought that was going through his head, the thought that immobilized him for one crucial moment.
I do not want to be a killer.
Genji may have lost one master only to gain another, but he thinks of the clan, the people he once called family, and what they did to him. He will never forget it. He will do whatever it takes to gut it out, the corruption that had taken hold of his brother, the corruption that has destroyed so many lives.
The assassination doesn’t go unnoticed. News breaks out that it was a Blackwatch operation. Despite the victim being a known criminal, the Japanese government issues a complaint and the division ends up suspended. For the time being, all Blackwatch agents are called back to the headquarters to debrief.
“How are you feeling?”
Morrison watches him carefully. “We have people you can talk to if you -”
“There is no need.”
His finger taps against his desk. “Gabriel tells me you don’t get along with the others.”
In his head, he turns over the words Moira had said to him. I almost wonder if you’re an omnic. “I did not come here to make friends.”
“I can see that. Angela always has a good word to say about you though.” Genji looks away when Morrison shoots him a pointed look. “Well, you should see her for your diagnostic. I know it’s a little early, but it’s rare for you both to be in one place at the same time and you never know when something will come up.”
Morrison dismisses him and Genji makes his way to the infirmary. It’s been a year or so since he was last here but there are a few people who recognize him and greet him as they pass. For the most part though, they avoid eye contact. It’s different without Angela at his side.
He walks past the infirmary and to Angela’s office. As he thought, she is behind her desk, working, as she always is. He leans against the doorframe and watches her for a while. He feels lighter just being near her. A minute or so passes before he knocks to get her attention. When she looks over at him, her eyes meet his and she smiles.
Not many people do that when they see him.
“Do you ever rest, Doctor Ziegler?”
Angela laughs a little as she stands and walks toward him. “I sleep every once in a while,” she says, like it’s meant to be a joke, but Genji has a sneaking suspicion that there’s more truth to it than she lets on. He knows how busy she is. When she isn’t in her office, she’s checking on other agents, conducting physicals. Torbjorn once told him that she spends time in R&D, working on new tech, looking over blueprints. When she isn’t at the headquarters, she’s at another base or deployed to conflict zones to help those in need. He doesn’t know how she manages to get any rest at all.
She retrieves a new helmet from a cabinet before she heads over to the examination room and Genji follows. They go through the usual process, plugging in the cables, running the diagnostic before making any repairs and adjustments. Angela watches the screen; Genji watches her silently. Angela usually makes small talk, asking how he is, what he’s been up to, but she doesn’t today. She seems more tired than usual.
“You should get more of it,” Genji says as Angela stands and picks up the helmet she brought from her office. “You’re a doctor, you know that.”
“I appreciate your concern, Mister Shimada,” she says a little absently as she presses the sides of his helmet to remove it. Genji lets her tug the new one over his head. “This should fit a little better. I’m going to have to update the HUD as well so -”
Before she can compress the helmet, he catches her hand gently. There are only two times they have touched each other outside of the procedures and examinations. The first was the day they met, when they shook hands; the second was the day he was taken to Angela’s hospital, when Angela held his hand as he was being wheeled to surgery. He knows that despite caring for so many people, Angela is used to the distance she has to keep. She is kind and capable, but accustomed to silence, to loneliness. He wonders if she has ever had someone worry about her. “You do not have to carry all of your burdens on your own,” Genji says, looking up at her.
He knows he has changed. He knows that there is a darkness in him now, festering. Despite all of that, when he’s with Angela, sees that she doesn’t look at him in fear, he feels like the person he used to be.
He lets go of her hand, but it lingers, her fingertips brushing against his cheek. “Neither do you,” she says softly.
If things were different, he might have been able to say that he loves her.
Most people go on leave when they don’t have any missions, but Genji has nowhere to go. Someone must have told Morrison that he was wandering aimlessly around the headquarters because Morrison calls him into his office for a favor.
“I have a new recruit who wants to be promoted for active duty, so we’ll need to evaluate her. Take this as a sparring session. Don’t be too hard on her,” Morrison warns him. “She’s still green.”
Genji agrees since he doesn’t have much else to do. Apparently it’s common for more experienced operatives to train new recruits. After a short stop at the armory, Genji makes his way down to the training room where the new recruit is already waiting.
The commander hadn’t given him any information about her, perhaps to test him but most likely to ensure that he doesn’t soundly beat her. The recruit is young and a little jumpy, judging by the way she keeps pacing around and spinning her pistols. Genij notes the curious device strapped to her chest.
“Hi!” The recruit greets cheerfully upon noticing him, bowing deeply before she straightens and beams at him. “I’m Cadet Lena Oxton AKA Tracer! I’m looking forward to working with you!”
“Genji. Likewise,” he answers, a little amused as he bows as well. He moves his fingers, three shurikens dispensing out of the gauntlet in his arm and slipping neatly between his fingers. “Are you ready?”
Tracer grins and nods, holding out her pistols. “Ready!”
The intercom crackles to life. “There will be a time limit of five minutes.” Angela’s voice, he notes idly. “First one to knock down the opponent wins. Start in 5...4...3...2...1...”
“Come on!” Genji leaps the moment Tracer pulls the trigger of her pistol. She’s fast, jumping side to side to dodge his shuriken. It must be the device. Her target tracking is impressive, especially given the speed she can move; most of his effort is focused on not getting hit.
Trying to find an opening, he throws a trio of shuriken just a little in front of her projected path, knowing she’ll run into them but then -
And she’s back to where she was a few seconds ago.
Genji jumps away to avoid the volley of bullets. Tracer grins as she reloads, clearly proud of her gimmick. Some sort of time travel? Genji thinks.
He quickly learns that there is a cooldown to the device. He keeps throwing his shuriken, dashing in close with his sword, forcing her to keep her distance. He throws another set of shuriken and she disappears, but this time he’s prepared; he quickly turns and throws another set at the spot she was three seconds ago. He misses by mere inches, but it’s enough to catch her by surprise and throw off her footing. He runs toward her, not giving her a moment to regain her bearings.
Just as the cadet leaps back, her fingers on the triggers of her guns, he grins; in a last ditch effort to get him to back off, she shoots at him and just as she pulls the triggers, he draws his wakizashi, nearly laughing right then and there at the undignified yelp she emits when the rubber bullets deflect off his blade and bean her right in the forehead.
Genji sheaths his sword as the buzzer in the room sounds, signalling the end of the session, with Tracer rubbing her forehead in pain.
“That was mean, Mister Shimada,” Angela scolds him when he walks into the observation room, though she’s smiling.
Genji crosses his arms over his chest. “Would it have been better if I hit her with the back of my blade?”
“Genji!” Tracer calls from the other end of the room as the medic puts a cold compress on her forehead. “That was so cool!”
“See? She thought it was cool.”
The next round of evaluation does not go as well for him. This time, Tracer baits him into a deflection, outflanks him, and gets him in the back on his blind side.
Afterwards, Genji ignores the cheeky grin on Angela’s face. “She fought well,” she says.
Genji huffs a little but agrees. She may be inexperienced, but she’s skilled. “That device of hers is useful. And those rubber bullets sort of hurt.”
“We can run another diagnostic to make sure she didn’t break you,” Angela teases, but then someone calls her and Tracer away to meet with Commander Morrison. She gives Genji an apologetic look but Genji waves her off, watching her go.
“I will be going to King’s Row.”
Genji’s been reading the briefings, the news about the uprising. If he recalls correctly, Reyes had sent McCree there to do recon. Genji knows about the omnics and their fight for personhood; he’s been mistaken for an omnic on occasion when he’s in his full armor. There is a small population of omnics in Japan, mostly working in service sectors. The conditions they live in aren’t great, but at least they aren’t forced to live underground like the omnics in King’s Row. “I thought the UN did not want Overwatch involved.”
“Lena has convinced Commander Morrison,” Angela tells him. “He’s sending a small unit. Reinhardt and Torbjorn will be going. Lena as well.”
Reinhardt is a legend, a well-respected soldier, and Torbjorn is...Torbjorn. Tracer may be a new recruit, but there are few motivators stronger than the desire to protect one’s home. Still, Genji wishes he could go too, though he’ll admit that he doesn’t have much experience in group missions like this. “Will you be alright out there?”
Angela gives him a look. “I appreciate your concern, but I have been in more warzones than you have.”
Genji laughs, sheepish. It’s true; he should know better. “Then I will see you soon. I would hate to have to find another doctor.”
Angela smiles. “Well, we can’t have that.”
The King’s Row mission is a success. The uprising is stopped, but tensions between human and omnics still rise, with conflicts continuing to pop up around the world. The Shimada clan have been quiet since Suzaku’s death and Blackwatch is still suspended, so Morrison decides to bring Genji into the fold on Overwatch missions.
“A new suit for a new hero,” Angela tells him as Torbjorn brings in his new parts. Because of the state he was in when he was found in Hanamura, his parts needed to be made quickly, so speed and utility was the key; Angela and Torbjorn have been working on this new complete design ever since. Instead of a flat black, these parts are a light silver, streamlined, more like armor than body parts.
Genji looks at the parts as they are methodically placed on a long table. He picks up the helmet. The visor looks like the headband he had once worn, the one that was broken during his fight with Hanzo. He still has the pieces that Angela had kept for him. “Green?” He says, noticing the faint green tint under the visor.
Angela smiles. “I thought it would suit you.”
There’s no rush to finish the procedure all at once, so Genji has some time to adjust to each part before moving on to the next. He passes time by mostly training, but staying at the headquarters means having a chance to train and talk to other field agents. He didn’t have many chances to train with people outside of the clan when he was younger and training in Blackwatch was not exactly good for camaraderie. He’s always had a competitive streak and it feels good to spar with his comrades, to learn new techniques, to build up friendly rivalries. He used to worry about being unapproachable, but it probably helps that he’s only got his helmet and gauntlets so far. The Overwatch jumpsuit he’s wearing in the meantime diminishes his presence a bit too.
“Genji!” He hears someone shout as he’s walking to the training room. “Genjiii!” The other people around him look at him and he just shrugs. A moment later, a blur speeds past him; the next moment he blinks and Tracer is right in front of him. “There you are!” She exclaims, her hands on her hips.
Genji blinks again. “Yes?”
She huffs and grabs his arm. “C’mon, you’re going to miss the photo!”
“The pho - WAUGHHH -”
Ten seconds later, he’s across the base and in the courtyard, doubled over as he heaves in deep breaths, grateful for his strong stomach. When he looks up, he sees a large CONGRATULATIONS banner hung up.
“Ah, Mister Shimada, you made it!”
Genji looks behind him to see Angela. Behind her is Captain Amari and McCree. Reinhardt is talking to a starstruck Winston. Even Reyes is here, pointedly ignoring Morrison and Torbjorn. “What’s going on?”
Angela smiles. “Winston was promoted to field agent today. Lena wanted us to take a photo together to commemorate it.”
As if on cue, Tracer jumps in front of them, pulling along a harried lab tech holding a camera. “Gather round everyone!” She calls, herding everyone under the banner and into a semblance of a line for the photo.
Genji ends up next to McCree, who tosses him a grin and a hat tip in greeting. On the other side of him is Reinhardt; if he’s being honest, he’s a little starstruck by Reinhardt too. Reinhardt seems to notice him staring, letting out a boisterous laugh as he puts a hand on Genji’s shoulder and pulls him in. Genji glances over at Angela, who smiles at him. When the lab tech starts to count down, he straightens his back and faces the camera.
He feels like he belongs here. A hero.
It takes a month to have all of his parts replaced, another for him to become acclimated to it. When Angela clears him for field duty, he goes on a string of solo missions and doesn’t see her for months; the new parts are lighter and stronger, lessening the need for maintenance. Eventually, Morrison gives him a small break and assigns him to a group mission. He is to meet Winston and Tracer at the Numbani base to take care of a disturbance in the city center.
“Genji!” He hears Tracer chirp when he arrives. When he looks toward the sound of her voice, she’s running full speed at him. For a moment, he’s almost afraid she’s going to hug him but she screeches to a stop in front of him and bows before she beams at him. “How’ve ya been? You’re looking sharp!”
Tracer carries most of the conversation on the ride down to the city center, where sightings of an individual wielding the Doomfist gauntlet were reported. Genji and Winston listen politely until Tracer asks about Genji’s new suit. “Did Doctor Ziegler set that up for you?”
“She did.” He pauses. Tracer mentioned being stationed at the headquarters for a while. “How has she been?”
Tracer shoots him a sly look. “Why doncha ask her yourself? We have something called technology, y’know. Computers, holophones. You should try it!”
Genji flushes, embarrassed he even asked. He’s always had an excuse to see and talk to her back when he needed regular maintenance but now that he doesn’t, he finds himself unable to work up the nerve to contact her, just to talk. “I-I’ve just - I’ve been busy -”
“Genji,” Winston says, alarmed. “Your compression ports seem to be malfunctioning. I can take a look if you -”
“Haha! Are you blushing under that mask, Genji?”
They weren’t prepared for this.
Genji watches as the man grabs the back of Tracer’s chronal accelerator right out of the air and rips it off her back, crushing it in the fist of the Doomfist gauntlet. He sees the pain, the fear in her eyes, sees her trying to run as if it could keep her tethered to the present, before she blinks into nothing, lost.
He watches Winston fly into a rage, destroying everything in his path, his strength pushing beyond its limit to avenge his friend.
He watches all of this, powerless, wanting nothing more than to help, to do something, anything, but the force of the Doomfist gauntlet has shorted out the cybernetic parts of his body. What good could he do? Swearing, he yanks himself out of the crushed remains of the car he had been tossed into, throws himself forward, and tries to drag himself across the broken street with the arm he has left before he stops, slamming his fist against the ground in frustration. He can feel himself losing consciousness, the strain on his body exhausting him. What good could he do like this? What good is a will if it has nothing to carry it?
It ends with the man who had caused all the destruction incapacitated, the Doomfist gauntlet and the remains of Tracer’s chronal accelerator in Winston’s hands. Winston helps him back to the exfil point and the two of them don’t speak on the way back to the headquarters, lacking Tracer’s chatter to fill the silence.
Angela is waiting in the hangar with a stretcher when they arrive. Winston sets Genji on the stretcher before leaving without a word, his expression grim. The trip to the infirmary is quiet, save for Angela murmuring into her comms requesting his replacement parts to be sent to the infirmary and the wheels of the stretcher rattling, the sound echoing through the halls.
“Will he be able to find her? Tracer?” Genji asks as Angela sets him up on the infirmary bed.
He catches the worried look on Angela’s face, but it quickly disappears. “She knows what she needs to do when she reappears. Winston will be readying her new chronal accelerator for when that time comes.” She gives him a reassuring smile. “She will be fine.”
Genji nods, allowing his head to fall back against the pillow as someone comes in and drops off the replacements. For the first time in his life, he tried to fight for someone and failed. He couldn’t save Tracer. Even though Winston didn’t need him in the end, he couldn’t help Winston. With this body, if it is broken, it is broken. No amount of willpower can translate to electricity, can make it work. He is bound to the parts of his body that are both his and not his, bound to its mechanical limitations.
“Are you okay, Mister Shimada?”
Pulling himself out of his thoughts, Genji curls the fingers of his working arm into a fist. “Aside from the lack of movement, I am fine.”
There is a moment of silence. “I don’t mean that.” Genji looks at Angela and sees her concerned gaze. She has always had a way of gauging his mood; even with the mask covering his face, she still can.
He knows this is the nature of what they do. He knows that it could have been worse, that they could have died, but he can’t help thinking about what he could have done if his body worked when he wanted it to, if it wasn’t all metal and circuitry. It could have been worse, but it could have been better too, if only he wasn’t like this. If only he was whole.
I could do that for you. Make you whole.
“I want to ask you something.”
He was promised answers, a long time ago. Angela tenses for a moment, but nods, taking a seat beside him.
“When I was at Blackwatch, the doctor spoke to me.”
Something in her expression darkens, just for a moment. “I see.”
“She said she could give me back my body. That you could as well.”
Angela is turned away from him now, not meeting his gaze. He has always known her to be an honest, straightforward person, someone who would tell the truth without hesitation. This is something else. She closes her eyes. “You have to understand -”
“Doctor Ziegler,” he says, desperate. He needs to know. “Was it possible?”
Her shoulders slump in defeat and his stomach sinks with dread. “Yes,” she admits quietly.
He feels numb, then the sourness of betrayal.
“It is true that I have done research for tissue regeneration,” Angela continues. “But it has never been done, never successfully. Trying something like that when you were in that condition - it was out of the question.”
“Why?” He asks, his voice low, shaking. Angela looks pained, but does not answer. He wants so badly to be angry, but he can’t. He turns away, staring at the opposite wall, unable to look at her. “Then you saved me to use me.” There is no bitterness, no anger, just resigned acceptance. A statement of fact. There was a choice and Overwatch chose to turn him into a weapon. There is nothing he can do now and he understands, he does, and he knows it shouldn’t hurt him as much as it does, but a part of him wanted to believe he had escaped what the clan had wanted him to be. Another tool. He wanted to believe that maybe -
“There was no order to save you.”
She says it like she’s confessing something terrible.
“I had to think of the one thing I knew could save you.” She breathes in, then lets out a shaky breath. “I had to turn you into something Overwatch would want to keep you alive.”
“Why?” He asks again, because he needs to know the reason behind this, the reason she did something that was against what she believed in, the reason he has to live with this for the rest of his life.
She shakes her head, like she doesn’t know the answer herself, but she answers, her voice barely above a whisper, “I wanted you to live.”
He wants so badly to hate her, but he watches a tear fall down her cheek and thinks of the sparrow.
It should be enough. To make something
beautiful should be enough. It isn’t. It should be.
- Landscape with a Blur of Conquerors by Richard Siken
Chapter 5: herakles
Come back! Even as a shadow,
even as a dream.
- Herakles by Euripides
Shimada Castle has not changed.
Two years after the Suzaku assassination, the clan has resurfaced, but the death of their last viable leader struck a heavy blow. Commander Morrison sent Genji and a few other operatives on missions to take out the remaining warehouses and suppliers.
Genji steps into the courtyard. The gingko tree stands tall and proud. The castle is empty now, but Genji knows that in due time, some of the clan members will return. He knows they are looking for him. He knows they will never find him.
Hanzo never showed his face once as the clan fell. Reyes thought it was possible that he was careful to hide himself from the public, to disguise his influence, but Genji knows his brother. Maybe another Blackwatch agent had killed him. It didn’t matter anymore.
The moment he steps into the castle, he sees the mural of two dragons and he lowers his gaze. Walking into the dojo, he sees the family altar. Someone has moved it here. He draws closer, closer, and then stops dead in his tracks.
He sees his own face between the framed photos of his parents.
The clan believes him to be dead. Overwatch must have done something after he agreed to help them. Putting down his sword, he kneels in front of the altar, his eyes fixed on the smiling, carefree face of someone he no longer recognizes.
Is this what you wanted for me, Father? He thinks as he looks at the photos of his mother, his father. His heart aches. Some small part of him is relieved his brother’s photo is not here, but perhaps it is because there was no one left of their family in the clan to place it here. It’s been so long since he’s thought about his family that when he does now, there is nothing but a yawning emptiness in his heart. Even though there were times when they argued, when they disagreed, there were times when they were happy, when they weren’t broken. Genji touches the photo, his metal fingers clinking against the glass. There was a time when he wasn’t broken.
His mission is complete. This was what sustained him for the last five years, this mission, this pursuit for vengeance, but all he has now is this bitterness, this grief for the family and life he once had and lost, a life he wasted, taken from him by his own brother. All he has is this life, this body he has grown to hate, this body he did not choose. There is no going back to the time when he was not half-machine, when he was not a killer, when he was whole.
There is only one path left before him.
“You are leaving.”
It’s winter and they are standing outside in the headquarters courtyard. Genji turns to look at Angela, her expression unreadable. Angela must have heard from the commander, saw him out of the window of her office.
They haven’t spoken much since Angela told him the truth. He couldn’t find it in him to forgive her but she didn’t ask for his forgiveness either. Still, regardless of what he feels, she has done so much for him. She deserves this, at the very least.
“I cannot go on like this,” he says quietly.
Angela wraps her arms around herself, bracing against the cold night air. Her gaze is downcast. “I won’t pretend to know how you feel, but I understand why you want to leave,” she says. She tucks her hair behind her ear and sighs. “Sometimes, I want to leave too. We were trying to save the world, but we have strayed so far from the path.”
Overwatch has been under harsh scrutiny ever since the activities of Blackwatch were uncovered; even sanctioned Overwatch missions have drawn criticism from the public. Heroes like Reinhardt were forced to retire. The discovery of Overwatch’s affiliation from Moira O’Deorain caused the media to speculate on the possibility of unethical experiments done with Overwatch’s approval, forcing them to disavow her. Genji has caught glimpses of it, Morrison and Reyes arguing, with Angela trying her best to mediate ever since they lost Captain Amari. Even McCree left, not wanting to get involved with the infighting. Genji had only stayed to keep his end of the bargain, to see his mission through.
“I could stay,” he says, even if he doesn’t mean it, if only to attempt to give her some comfort.
A forced, wry laugh escapes her lips. “Why would you?” She asks, her voice quiet, fraught. “You have wounds I can’t heal.”
It is silent for a long while. He clenches his fist at his side, the metal clinking together, then releases. “Goodbye, Angela.”
Whenever he left her office, she would see him off with a smile. When she finally meets his gaze, her eyes are bright, her lips taut and trembling. “Goodbye, Genji.”
Despite everything that’s happened, it hurts to see her like this. Even though he can’t find it in him to forgive her, even though she never asked for forgiveness, she is still the person who is the closest to him. You saved me, he wants to tell her, but it’s all so broken now. It can’t be fixed like this, with them like this. He turns his back on her, holds the words he wants to say close, and promises the one thing he can before he leaves, “I will see you again.”
She doesn’t look for him, her eyes fixed on the vacated space in front of her. In the shadows, he sees her lips turn up in a small, shaky smile. “I’m looking forward to it,” he hears her whisper.
He has only just made it to Germany when he hears about the explosion at the Overwatch headquarters. Before he can finish listening to the report all the way through, he’s pickpocketing the nearest phone and ducking into the nearest alley before pulling a card out of his knapsack.
Angela’s card. His heart pounding, he dials the number.
Hesitating for a moment, he hits call. It rings and rings before finally someone picks up. “Zurich General, how may I help you?”
“Is Doctor Ziegler at the hospital today?”
“May I ask who’s calling?”
“I-I am a patient of hers. I wanted to know if she will be in today.”
“Please hold.” Genji’s heart beats faster and faster as the hold music plays. Finally, there’s a click. “Doctor Ziegler is with another patient right now. I can let her know you ca -”
He ends the call, his visor clacking against the wall as he lets his head fall forward against the wall, allowing himself a few moments before he exits the alley, puts the phone back where he found it, and continues on his journey.
For a few months, he wanders, traveling without any particular aim. He seems to see remnants of Overwatch wherever he goes, the statues that still stand, the landmarks of battles won. He puts it out of his mind. That life is behind him now.
He doesn’t know what he’s looking for. Maybe he just wants peace. Maybe despite all of his rebelling, he’s always needed a master, someone to guide him. A purpose to distract him. He feels hollow, emptier than he did before, and doesn’t know why.
Eventually he makes his way southward, near Egypt. All of the sand isn’t good for the cybernetics but there are merchants selling clothes for omnics that are meant to protect them from the elements. As Genji looks through the stands, he notices someone holding something interesting in their hands. They seem to notice him staring.
“That is a peculiar rifle you have.”
The stranger regards him with goggled eyes, then looks back at the rifle they have leaning against their shoulder. Something seems oddly familiar about it. “It is useful,” the stranger tells him, her voice like worn canvas. “Though I don’t think the creator would approve of the way I use it.” She lifts her head to look at him. Her goggles flash under the hot desert sunlight. “What are you running from?”
There’s something familiar about her too. The mask doesn’t help, however. “What makes you think I am running?”
The stranger laughs. “I know my kind.”
It’s been a year since Overwatch was disbanded and outlawed. While the world is now largely at peace, the tensions that Overwatch sought to keep at bay rise quietly. It’s rare to see omnics walk around freely, but they are seen more often near omnic-friendly cities.
“I sense discord in your soul.”
Genji turns around to see an omnic floating behind him. The omnic is dressed in the robes of a Shambali monk. Genji has seen a few of them during his travels, has had to defend a few of them too. He had considered going to a monastery, to see if they could help him, but after encountering those monks, he found he wasn’t a fan of the preaching. “You know nothing of what I have gone through.”
“Perhaps,” the omnic replies. Then, nothing.
Genji stares at the omnic. By now, a Shambali monk would be talking about he can save his soul or whatever, but all this omnic offers is silence. Annoyed, Genji turns back around and continues to walk, but he can still sense the omnic.
Indeed, when he turns back around, the omnic is behind him.
“Stop following me!”
“I only follow the path I am meant to follow.”
Genji scowls, though the omnic can’t see his expression. Then again, Genji can’t see the omnic’s expression since - anyway.
“But since it appears we are headed in the same direction,” the omnic continues, “I suppose I should introduce myself. I am Zenyatta.”
Zenyatta doesn’t ask for his name, but Genji has a feeling he’s going to have to tell him anyway. “Genji.”
Then, they walk.
“I only meant to offer some insight,” Zenyatta says when they stop to rest. He sounds apologetic.
Genji casts him a glance as he pokes at his small campfire with a stick. “What would you know? You are a machine.”
“You would be surprised,” Zenyatta answers, seemingly unfazed. “Try me.”
Genji scoffs quietly, tossing the stick into the growing flame. “If you know so much, why don’t you tell me what it is that’s on my mind?”
Zenyatta is quiet for a while and for a moment, Genji thinks he got him. But then, Zenyatta speaks, “You feel as though you are two halves struggling against one another. A conflict between human and machine.”
Genji’s blood runs cold.
“You search for peace but your mind is clouded. Peace is not simply stillness of the body, but stillness of the mind. Your struggle prevents you from achieving it.”
Genji glares at Zenyatta and his perpetually serene expression, though he knows Zenyatta can’t see his. Or maybe he can. “I do not believe in your parlor trick,” Genji snaps before he stands and starts off walking again.
Zenyatta simply continues to follow him and Genji doesn’t say another word about it.
“You are not like the other Shambali monks I have come across.”
Zenyatta bows his head. “Though I consider them to be my siblings, I am no longer with the Shambali,” he answers. “I do not agree with the way they teach the world. I chose to walk my own path.”
They have traveled quite far together now. They are moving away from the omnic-friendly areas; some of the people who pass them watch them warily, some are outright hostile. He has seen them confront Zenyatta, ridiculing him, but he treats them the same way he treats the people who are kind to him. Genji is quiet for a while before he asks, “Why do you do it?”
“I seek to make the world better.”
Zenyatta answers it so simply, as if it was something that could be simply done, as if it was something that could be made possible alone. “A large task for one person.”
“Large, perhaps, but not impossible,” Zenyatta points out. “I have come across many people in need of guidance and I try to help them as best as I can. There is always a way we can help, always something that people need.” Zenyatta turns his head to look at Genji. “Sometimes, it is even just a stranger to walk with.”
This side of the world is all green now, signalling the start of spring. He thinks of the cherry blossoms in Hanamura. Genji catches Zenyatta’s gaze and then turns away, feeling a tightness in his chest. For the first time in months, Genji had thought of Angela.
Genji hasn’t had many opportunities to sharpen his skills and he doesn’t know how much practice he can get out of sparring with a slow-moving omnic monk, but much to his surprise, Zenyatta agrees when he asks.
It turns out the orbs that float serenely around him are not simply for show. Genji ends up lying on the ground after failing to dodge one of Zenyatta’s orbs and catching it with his head.
“There is too much on your mind,” Zenyatta tells him as he floats over, leaning over Genji’s head. “You lack focus.”
Genji scowls, jumping to his feet. “Again.”
Zenyatta looks at him for a few moments before he nods and takes his stance.
Genji spends the next year traveling with Zenyatta, acting as an occasional bodyguard; though Zenyatta doesn’t really need it, omnic violence has risen in the past couple of years. He resolves to leave once he defeats Zenyatta in a fight, but Zenyatta manages to win every time. Zenyatta points out that Genji would easily win if he just caught him off guard, but that’s not the point. Genji wants to win fair and square.
Lying on the ground, knocked down from yet another orb, Genji feels a headache come on. “How do you keep beating me?”
“You are skilled, yes, but plagued with doubt.” He lets out a sigh. “I can help you, if you will let me.”
It’s been a year of these vague explanations, these offerings of help, and Genji’s tired of it. “How do I get rid of this doubt then?”
Zenyatta tilts his head and then looks up. “Everyone is different. Every struggle is unique and so requires a unique resolution. The path is not easy, but I can help you.”
Genji gets himself up on his knees, frustrated. It has been over a year and he is no closer to peace. This was the sort of thing he hated when he was younger, but Zenyatta is different from the stern teachers of his youth. He seems to come from a place of genuine kindness. He understands him when Genji can hardly understand himself.
He bows his head low. “I seek your guidance.”
Zenyatta bows his head as well. “So you shall receive it.”
The very next day, for the first time, Zenyatta is the one to ask Genji to spar.
“Do you enjoy knocking me out all of the time?” Genji asks as he takes his stance.
“Not particularly,” Zenyatta answers airily. “This is your first lesson.”
Zenyatta raises his hand, drawing forth an orb, but this one is different, surrounded by a strange purple aura Before Genji can react, Zenyatta sends it toward him; almost immediately, Genji feels something, like a dark, heavy weight on his body. “What is this? Some trick?”
“Not a trick. This orb draws out the discord in people’s hearts.”
His mind muddled, Genji tries to focus, his hand holding tight to the grip of his wakizashi. “How do I rid myself of it? This discord?”
“You don’t,” Zenyatta says, bringing his hands together. “You will learn to how to live with it.”
Genji spends another year doing more of the same, traveling with Zenyatta, still sparring and losing, but this time there’s a lot of meditation too. Genji has never been a particularly patient person so his training with Zenyatta is difficult at first. He’s almost sure he has a dent in his head from all of the orbs Zenyatta has thrown at him for fidgeting.
When they aren’t sitting in silence, they talk. Zenyatta tells him that it helps to talk. He doesn’t ask him for his life story, but he asks him questions every once in a while, what he’s thinking about, how he’s feeling. Sometimes he thinks Zenyatta might actually be a therapist.
“You have never told me how you came to have this body,” Zenyatta mentions one day while they are meditating in a field under a starry sky.
For a moment, Genji hesitates. “I was close to death when a doctor found me,” he says. “To save me, she had to turn me into...this.”
Zenyatta lets out a thoughtful hum. “This doctor. Do you hate her for it? For giving you this body?”
Enough time has passed for Genji to feel some distance from his old life, from the emotions he felt. Thinking about his time with Overwatch is like looking through a foggy glass now. He can hardly remember the missions he did, but he remembers that night.
I wanted you to live.
“No,” Genji answers quietly.
Zenyatta nods. “Did she see you as broken?”
Genji looks at Zenyatta. He thinks of Angela, the way she would smile at him. “No.”
“Why do you?”
His body is stronger in some ways, yes, but it fails him too. He falls to things that he shouldn’t fall to because he is a human, but at the same time, he isn’t human. He is a machine too, a weapon. “With this body, I no longer know who I am.”
Zenyatta is quiet for a while before he asks, “Do you believe in souls, Genji?”
If Genji had come from any other family, perhaps he wouldn’t. “Yes.”
“Do you no longer have yours?”
He was born with a dragon in his. He knows it still lives there. “I have mine.”
“Then why do you seek the means to become whole?” Zenyatta asks. “You already are.”
Genji grits his teeth. “I’m not. I am neither human nor machine - ”
“It matters not if you are human or omnic, what material you are made of,” Zenyatta interrupts. “What matters is who you are beyond the body, the content of your soul. Your body has new limitations, yes, but new strengths as well. Change is natural and you must accept it when it comes. The physical form can change in a myriad of ways, but you must accept that it will always be yours.”
It’s different to hear it said aloud. Maybe he already knew it, deep down. After his cyberization, there was a part of him that always wished he could be human again, the same part of him that wished things could have gone back to the way things were, before Hanzo cut him down, before Father died. He told himself he had moved on, but still he dwells on the past, on what could have been, on the mistakes he made, fixated on the belief that if he were just himself, if he were just human, he could fix all of it. If he were human, he wouldn’t have become an assassin. He would’ve saved Tracer. Everything would have been different.
But this is who he is now. He can’t change the past.
Genji inhales, exhales shakily. “If I do, will I finally be able to live with this doubt?”
“Perhaps.” Zenyatta looks up at the night sky. “You are on a journey, Genji. Do not simply stop when you have healed. Grow.”
Hanamura still feels like home.
As he had predicted, some of the clan members have returned to the castle. The Shimada clan is still crippled, but they refuse to fall. That is the thing about being a Shimada: the refusal to stop, to give up. Even now, with the elders scattered in the wind, they still send out their loyal members to seek revenge against those who have brought about their downfall. All they have left is this castle, the only place from which they can operate.
It’s familiar, scaling the walls of Shimada castle, sneaking past the guards. Almost nostalgic.
It’s been eight years since the day he should have died.
He doesn’t really know why he came back. This is a part of his past that he can’t change; he will never be able to return to his ancestral home, to the clan that wanted to control him. Perhaps it is closure.
He tenses, hearing something, and quickly jumps up to the ceiling support beams. In the distance is the sound of barely muffled grunts, bodies falling, coming closer. Then, below him, footsteps, barely audible.
His heart stops. He knows those footsteps.
From his perch, he watches Hanzo enter the dojo.
Hanzo looks so much older now, gray streaks in his now shortened hair. His katana is nowhere to be seen, but Genji can see a bow on his back as Hanzo approaches the altar. Genji tenses as Hanzo reaches for the bow, but then Hanzo kneels and sets it on the floor. He pulls out a small bowl, then incense.
“Mother, Father,” he hears Hanzo whisper. “Genji.”
Genji watches as Hanzo bows before he slips away silently, leaving Hanzo to his offerings.
When they were young, Father used to tell them a story about the dragons.
“Who would give up being a dragon?” Hanzo would huff, annoyed with the ending. The elders used to tell the two of them that they had dragons living inside him, that they would be able to call forth their power when they became strong enough. Genji used to think that meant he could turn into a dragon.
Father would laugh and concede that being a dragon does appears to trump everything else. When Father put them to bed, Genji asked him the same question. “Why did the dragons turn human?”
“The dragons became humans because that was the only way they could fix what they destroyed,” Father answered. Then he added, “It’s hard to build houses when you don’t have thumbs, after all.”
Genji could follow that logic. It seemed reasonable enough. Then he asked, “Why did the dragon forgive his brother? The elders always tell us that if you are struck, you must strike back twice as hard. To show weakness is to bring dishonor.”
Sorrow crossed Father’s face and he fell silent for a long while. Genji fidgeted, wondering if he had asked something bad. He usually only got like this when they talked about Mother. “Because he was his brother. Because there are things in life that are more important than honor or victory,” Father said softly. “Things like family, like love.”
Father smiled at him as he pulled the covers up to Genji’s chin.
“Remember this, sparrow. There is no dishonor in kindness or forgiveness.”
For the next two years, he makes his home in a monastery in Nepal, training and meditating. Zenyatta prefers to travel, spreading his teachings, and Genji accompanies him every once in while, especially if Zenyatta is heading somewhere where tensions between humans and omnics are high.
“Genji,” Zenyatta calls. “Something is beeping.”
Apologizing for interrupting the meditation, Genji goes over to his knapsack and digs out a small box where the beeping is coming from. It’s where he keeps the few valuables he has, childhood trinkets from his parents and Hanzo, Angela’s card.
Opening the box, he sees the Overwatch communicator, quiet for all these years now flashing weakly at him. Taking it out, he holds it up to the sun. Slowly, the words on it grow clearer, scrolling across the screen.
RECALL INITIATED. ALL AGENTS REPORT TO: WATCHPOINT GIBRALTAR
He can sense Zenyatta peering over his shoulder. “What does that mean?” Zenyatta asks.
“Overwatch is calling its agents back,” Genji replies slowly in disbelief. He wonders if this is a dream. Maybe he fell asleep during the meditation.
“I thought Overwatch had been disbanded.”
“It was,” Genji answers. Suddenly, the communicator screen blinks and then a video begins to play.
“Is this on? I made a chronal accelerator; I’m sure I can do this! Ahem, to all agents of Ov - to ALL agents of Overwatch -”
Genji and Zenyatta glance at each other as Winston fumbles with his notes on the small screen. Finally, Winston finds his voice and speaks. They watch as Winston loses his wind, sets his notes aside, and shows the countless news reports of violence all over the world. It is difficult to watch, especially the tragedies they have encountered themselves during their travels but were unable to stop.
“We can make a difference again. The world needs us now more than ever! Are you with me?”
The video blinks out before replaying. Zenyatta looks at Genji. “What will you do?”
Genji watches the video, reads the words scrolling across the bottom over and over. He faced this decision once before, a long time ago.
This time, he chooses.
Every year since he saw Hanzo, Genji would return to Hanamura and watch Hanzo give his yearly offering. Each year, he would wonder what he should do, if he should speak to him, if he should strike him down, only to do nothing, but this year, Genji has finally made his decision.
“You are not the first assassin sent to kill me and you will not be the last.”
Genji emerges from the shadows, where he had been waiting for Hanzo to notice him. He chooses his words carefully. “You are bold to come to Shimada castle, the den of your enemies.”
He sees Hanzo’s fingers twitch toward his bow. “This was once my home. Did your masters not tell you who I was?”
Genji twists his body, dodging the arrow with ease. He sees the incense bowl that Hanzo brings each year, the sparrowhawk feather he lays beside it. Genji has an identical feather. It was Hanzo who had given it to him. “You risk so much to honor someone you murdered,” he says coldly.
Hanzo glares, growling with anger. “You know nothing of what happened!”
Hanzo launches arrow after arrow, forcing Genji to dodge and deflect before he manages to escape out to the terrace. Genji is quicker, smarter than he was the last time, hiding beneath the floorboards to throw off his location. “I know you tell yourself that your brother disobeyed the clan and that you had to kill him to maintain order.” An arrow flies through the air, burying into the nearby wall. Genji climbs and drops behind Hanzo, facing down his bow. “That it was your duty.”
“It was my duty,” Hanzo says lowly, “and my burden.” He launches another arrow at him and Genji easily bats it away with his sword. “That does not mean I do not honor him!”
Genji slices through the next arrow that comes at him; Hanzo comes running toward him, swinging his bow. Genji parries and kicks him toward the edge of the terrace. He leaps, swinging his wakizashi down toward Hanzo’s throat, only to have it blocked by Hanzo’s bow. He pins Hanzo against the wooden railing, the wood creaking. It’s all so familiar. “You think you honor your brother, Genji, with incense offerings?” He hisses. “Honor resides in one’s actions.”
“You dare to lecture me about honor? You are not worthy to say his name!”
Hanzo throws him off and slides across the floor to pull an arrow out of the floorboards. Rolling back onto his feet, Genji looks up and he sees it again; even with a bow, the stance is the same. His body tenses, reacting on instinct to the memory, before he forces himself to focus as the dragons come roaring. He draws his blade and summons his own, the green dragon flying alongside its brother. Using the tip of his blade, he guides the dragons as they move together, sweeping around him and sending them back to Hanzo, harmless, the dragons fading away into wisps of light.
Hanzo falls to his knees, defeated. “Only a Shimada can control the dragons. Who are you?”
Genji does not answer. When he was with Blackwatch, he hoped for this day, hoped to see Hanzo again so he could hurt him the way Hanzo had hurt him. For a long time, Hanzo was his murderer, not his brother. Genji dashes forward, his sword drawn -
Stopping the blade an inch from Hanzo’s neck.
“Do it then. Kill me.”
He has been here before. Genji slowly turns his head to look at Hanzo, holding his blade still. What Hanzo did to him should have been unforgivable, but the vengeful feelings he once held in his heart have long faded. Genji puts the pieces together, the things Hanzo has said, the fact that Hanzo has to break into the castle every time he returns, the fact that Hanzo no longer wields the ancestral sword passed down to him, the fact that he comes here year after year to light incense and bow his head low before the family altar, and he sees the truth. The clan broke Genji because he rejected it. The clan broke Hanzo because he didn’t.
He thinks of the dragons.
“No,” Genji says, withdrawing his sword. “I will not grant you the death you wish for. You still have a purpose in this life...brother.”
Hanzo stares at him in disbelief, shaking his head. “My brother is dead.”
Genji opens his mask, showing him his face. He can see the horror, the turmoil in Hanzo’s eyes. This struggle is necessary. He closes his mask and walks past Hanzo, pausing to put his hand on his shoulder. “I have accepted what I am and I have forgiven you. Now you must forgive yourself. The world is changing once again, Hanzo, and it’s time to pick a side.”
He hears the pull of the drawstring, the bow creak as he walks away. “Real life is not like the stories our father told us!” Hanzo shouts after him. “You are a fool for believing it so!”
“Perhaps I am a fool to think that there is still hope for you, but I do. Think on that, brother.”
Maybe it’s true they can’t fix what they broke. All that is left of their legacy is an empty home filled with ghosts, but it doesn’t have to be. Hanzo deserves to have a second chance, just as he did. A different path has unfolded before them. They can build something new. They can do something good. All they have to do is move forward.
Watchpoint Gibraltar is in good condition despite having been abandoned for so long. It’s actually quite nice. He’s never been able to appreciate it before.
There are already a number of people at the base. He doesn’t see any agents, at least no one he recognizes, but he does see a few people who used to be headquarters personnel, lab techs and engineers, the people who kept the base up and running smoothly.
“The recall was only issued a few days ago, was it not?” Zenyatta asks as people bustle around them. “And if I remember correctly, any Overwatch activity is illegal.”
Genji nods. Not only is the Petras Act is still in effect but there are rumors that there is someone hunting down former Overwatch agents. Even with these risks, these people still dropped their lives to come here to revive Overwatch. They still believe in the good that Overwatch can do. Even after everything he went through, Genji does too.
Winston’s recall told him which base to go to, but not where to meet. He decides that looking for Winston would be his best bet, heading over to the control room. Luckily for him, it was indeed the right place to look; in the middle of the control room, Winston is surrounded by people, issuing orders. He looks a little overwhelmed. Genji starts walking toward him but then something else catches his eye. Someone.
Angela is here too.
“Genji!” Winston waves his hand and gestures him over. Beside him, Angela looks up from her clipboard, searching before she sees him. Their eyes meet briefly before she breaks contact, looking back down.
“Winston,” Genji greets, bowing his head.
“I’m so glad you came!” Winston looks truly elated to see him, but his attention is quickly called away. “I uh, I have to go take a look at some things, but I’ll be right back! Stay right here!”
Before Genji can even get a word out, Winston is rushing off with his crowd of people. Genji almost considers following him. Angela is still here, clutching her clipboard against her chest.
Neither of them speak. She hasn’t changed much. Her hair is longer. She is still beautiful, still looks at him like she can see right through his mask.
He missed her.
“You must be Doctor Ziegler,” Zenyatta says, breaking the silence. Genji nearly jumps; he had forgotten Zenyatta was even here. Zenyatta shoots him a pointed look before Genji clears his throat.
“This is Zenyatta. I have been in his care since…,” Genji trails off, looking away. Since he left.
Angela seems to pick up on his hesitance, nodding and turning to Zenyatta. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Zenyatta,” Angela says, bowing her head. “I am Mercy, the head of the medical division here at Overwatch.”
“And I you, Mercy. A fitting name,” Zenyatta tells her as he bows as well. “My student has told me about you.”
Angela raises her eyebrows while Genji resists the urge to run away, opting instead to close his eyes and mentally kick himself. “Good things, I hope,” she says with a small smile.
“Always,” Zenyatta says in a way that sounds zen-like, but Genji has traveled with him long enough to know he’s trying to embarrass him to death. “I think I would like to take a look around, if that’s alright.”
“Master, I -”
“Oh, do not worry about me, student. I’m sure you would like to catch up.”
Leaving it at that, Zenyatta turns around and floats away. Genji knows better than to curse his master behind his back, but he’s thinking this time might be worth the risk.
“You seem well, Genji.”
She seems uncertain, reluctant to meet his gaze. Shame overcomes him. He had been so selfish when he left. He didn’t think about how she would feel, the possibility that she would believe that it was her fault that he began to hate himself, her fault that he left. He was angry at what he had become when he should have been thankful that she saved him. There is so much he wants to say to her that he doesn’t know where to begin, but he decides to say the first thing he wanted her to know when he saw her again.
“I am a different man now,” he says softly. “I am whole.”
When she finally meets his gaze again, her eyes are glassy as she smiles. It’s a start.
More of their agents return, like Tracer, who was the first to answer the recall, McCree, who spent some time as a mercenary, Mei from the Ecopoint Antarctica, who manages to make contact with them after spending years in cryostasis, and Captain Amari, who turned out to be alive. Even Commander Morrison, now a jaded vigilante, returns, though only to try to convince Winston to stop. Along with the old members, newcomers arrive at the base, having heard of the recall through word-of-mouth, from war heroes to musician rebels to world-famous gamers; even Zenyatta ends up deciding to stay and join the fight. When Reinhardt arrives at the base along with a grumpy Torbjorn, morale skyrockets. As soon as enough people have gathered, they divide themselves into units and assign missions in order of priority. Overwatch may not have the resources they used to have, nor the organization to go up against the rising Talon, but as naive as it sounds, they still have their drive, their determination. There are battles out there they can fight, people they can save now, as long as they work together.
This is different from before. Genji is more sure-footed, stronger from his training with Zenyatta. Tracer keeps pace with him, as she always has, and her aim is true. When he sees Angela flying overhead, her wings of light spread out like the wings of a bird, he feels unstoppable.
Genji looks at the rickety bulletin board in the hall outside the training room, where someone has pinned up photos of their old Overwatch days. There is one of Angela and Torbjorn in their Halloween outfits, one of McCree striking a pose, several blurry shots of Tracer.
These years have not been kind to them and they have made mistakes, but they have learned from them. The days in these photos may be long gone now, but they can still hope, still fight for a future where they can all smile like that again.
Genji looks at Morrison as he walks over, stopping beside him. He turns back to look at the photos. “It is.”
Morrison lets out a rueful laugh. “Last time I saw you, you were telling me that you were leaving Overwatch. Why come back?”
There is a photo of Captain Amari and her month-old daughter, Reinhardt with Torbjorn and his wife and daughters. “When I agreed to help, I thought that I had only wanted revenge, but I was wrong. Overwatch gave me more than that. It gave me an honorable purpose to fight for.” Pinned to the corner of the board is the photo they took the day Winston became an agent. “It gave me a family.” Genji turns to look at Morrison. “I believe you know this as well as I do.”
Morrison is quiet beside him. He has changed the most out of all of them, stubbornly pessimistic in the face of Winston’s unshakable optimism, but Genji knows he is the same man who fought to keep Overwatch alive, who believed in it until the end.
Older than all of the photos on the board is one of a young Morrison and Reyes, standing side by side. Reyes is even smiling. Morrison reaches for it, pulling it off of the board. “Guess now I see what Angela always saw in you.”
Morrison grins at him as he tucks the photo in his pocket and leaves, as if he could see the surprised look on Genji’s face.
Genji smiles to himself as he walks past, the child looking up at him in awe.
“You are famous, Genji,” Angela remarks, hiding her grin behind sticks of dango and laughing when Genji turns away, crossing his arms over his chest.
The return of Overwatch shook the world. Even though the government still condemns them, the people see them as a symbol of hope again. There is still much to do in the coming days, but they cherish the bits of peace they are able to enjoy themselves.
“Should we have left Jesse with your brother?” Angela asks.
Hanzo has come around, joining Overwatch; he’s a little stuck-up, prideful, and not particularly friendly, but at least he can look Genji in the eye now. The last thing Genji saw before asking Angela if she wanted to take a walk was McCree pulling out a bottle of whiskey when Hanzo offered him a cup of sake. Hanzo looked like he was about to have a heart attack. “They were getting along,” Genji assures her. She just laughs in response.
In Hanamura, there are more omnics out in the open now. He sees them walking with humans, with other omnics. Shimada Castle no longer casts a shadow over the town; thanks to Overwatch, the clan has given up on its criminal endeavors and now the castle is a historical landmark, with the clan opening up parts of the castle to the public. They walk past the open gates, past the courtyard where families have laid blankets under the ginkgo tree, and eventually they walk down the same path they walked many years ago. Angela’s shoes click against the worn cobblestone path once again, but this time, the branches above them are full with white and pink cherry blossoms, blotting out the clear blue sky.
Genji touches the sides of his helmet, opening his mask. It’s been so long since he’s been able to see the cherry blossoms with his own eyes, to smell the scent of the flowers, to feel this familiar breeze on his skin. The memory of it all hits him harder than he expects. Much to his chagrin, that boyish nervousness has come creeping back. “A long time ago, you told me you wanted to see them.”
Angela smiles, a faraway look in her eyes. “I did.” She holds out her hand, catching the petals in her palm. “You had green hair back then.”
“Your hair was shorter.”
Angela laughs softly. “It was.” She curls her fingers around a handful of petals. “It was a different time. We were young then,” she jokes.
“You still are.”
Angela laughs again. Genji smiles, looking at her, standing under the cherry blossom trees, petals in her hair, and his heart feels full. There’s something about this place. He still remembers that night like it happened yesterday. For a night, he didn’t feel so alone. For a night, he had her. Here, over a decade later, he still does. It is so strange, the way their lives have intertwined. He’s grateful for it. Without thinking, he lifts his hand to brush the petals out of Angela’s hair. He freezes when she turns to look at him, quickly drawing his hand away, but Angela catches it, holds it in hers. She smiles at him as she draws closer, their shoulders touching.
“Thank you for saving me,” he says quietly, sincerely. “You made me better than who I was.”
She shakes her head. “You were already a good person.”
He laughs a little. “How could you know that?”
She reaches up to touch his cheek, her fingertips skimming across the scars on his face. “Things like that cannot made. It was already there.”
It feels natural to lean down when she tilts her head up, her lips touching his softly. Genji has learned that the things that matter take time to fix, that even undeserved guilt cannot be soothed with words of forgiveness. There are still many things unsaid between them, but they have time to find their courage again. They have found each other for the last time and are no longer lost, no longer running, no longer lonely.
The title is taken from a poem titled The Ghost by Frank Bidart.
Thank you for reading!