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He Gets A Little Bit Ivan Romonat

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The lower levels of Castle Mordengrad have held secrets for millennia, the most private depths of the lonely structure just on the outskirts of the capitol city. Before the country’s fall to higher powers, the lower levels were delegated to holding prisoners of war - often times never to be released or heard from again. Afterwards, a safe haven for the country’s people to seclude themselves within in the hopes that they wouldn’t be found within the hallowed rooms made generations earlier. In the present day and age, they have been refurbished and made to suit the purposes of the country’s new leader - Ivan Grigori Romonat, Baron Blade.

Heavily guarded halls patrolled by Blade Battalion Soldiers until the late hours of the night, only to be relieved by the robotic counterparts made by the Baron. Blinking lights emanating from the server towers dedicated to powering the electrical grid that now spread out through the country. Rooms dedicated to the sole purpose of holding the Baron’s prototypes before they were sent out to be built in the factories.

The dungeon rooms still existed. Housing enemies of the state and would-be assassins that either disagreed with the Baron’s politics or wished to have the country of Mordengrad under the thumb of their own leaders. Currently, they are empty save for one man.

America’s Greatest Legacy.

The Baron’s guest of honor is locked away tightly, the Baron taking no chances in the hero escaping. He’s been outfitted with a simple prisoner’s jumpsuit in the Mordengradian colors, rich purple and red contrasting against his tanned skin and blond hair. Shackles keep him tethered to the floor by his ankles, allowing him minimal range to move around the room, just barely reaching the simple cot in the center of the room. And cuffs are cinched tightly around his wrists, unlikely to hold him if not for the regression serum injected into his system every morning and evening by a delivery bot.

Cameras watch the imprisoned hero from all sides, their feeds leading into the Baron’s office computer. He’s been watching the security footage on his off time, making sure that Legacy hasn’t made any moves to escape or that the serum has begun to wear off early. It’s been an interesting side project of his to keep an eye on his prisoner, though he’s yet to make a personal appearance in front of the man.

It just seems like a dream. Years of facing against the man and defeat and he’d finally come out the victor. He wants to savor the moment for as long as he can and the latest regression serum has proven that he can wait this out for as long as he’d like. The world would simply have to go without one of their heroes until he decided what he wanted to do. There were just so many options set before him. He could access their network televisions and broadcast Legacy’s defeat or just keep the rest of the world in the dark as to where their hero could possibly be.

Baron Blade smirks at the thought, putting the video feed behind the screens of his other projects. He’s been deliberating on his choices since the moment he’d gotten the drop on Legacy, not wanting to waste the opportunity that he’d been fighting for for years. So here he sits in his office, contemplating just what to do with the man he’s named his greatest enemy - set against one another from the moment that their shared history had been bared.

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Ivan Grigori Romonat is small for a child his age. The dark circles around his eyes that would plague him as an adult are still present, now accompanied by a lanky, malnourished frame, but his face has yet to marred by the scar that would become one of his most defining features. There is little to speak of a good, wealthy family on his person - dirty clothes stained with oil that hang from his body, grime and grease coating his face in layers that should have been washed off weeks ago, and a bruise on his lower jaw in the late stages of healing.

Ivan Romonat is too young to remember the status that his family once held in the country of Mordengrad, he only knows the stories that his mother told him growing up before the soldiers’ occupation and the factories that began to crop up and stain their natural landscapes with smog and other pollutants. Mother had been extremely verbal in her opinions, a proud Mordengradian who mourned the loss of her country’s splendor no matter the company present.

She was gone now, leaving him with Father.

And he was a good man. He taught Ivan everything that he knew whenever he found the chance. How to survive even the most dire of situations, when to hold his tongue and when to let loose, and most importantly how to create. His hands were rough from working with machinery day in and day out, inventing the prototypes to be approved by the leaders of the occupants and later sent to the factories.

They eat well when his father is successful, but Ivan isn’t a stranger to lean winters watching his father reach his breaking point again and again when his work is passed over. It’s been ingrained into him that they are dispensable, alive only because of his father’s intelligence and the older Romonat’s promise that his son would follow in his footsteps.

He’s supposed to remember Mother as a lesson.

He doesn’t attend school anymore, not many of the children in the country do anymore. Their hands are small enough to work the more fine details in machinery. But he’s been spared a life in the factories, cut short by grievous injuries caused by unsafe working conditions - a term demanded by his father.

“I am an old man and you will have no-one to invent your devices once I am gone. You have to let me teach him.”

And Ivan is grateful. He has more time than most to himself, sneaking out of the house and past patrolling soldiers so that he can visit the last piece of the country untouched by the factories his mother hated so much.

It’s just a small clearing surrounded by firs with natural blackened trunks that sink into the shadows of fading light once the sun begins to set. Ivan had laid claim to a nearby hill, just tall enough to see into the largest opening between the trees and into the clearing. Here, he could watch the animals that had hidden for their own safety - the presence of the occupying soldiers calling for more hunting expeditions than the environment could handle. But nature would always find a way, his mother had told him in-between her venomous insults whispered at passing soldiers. The clearing is proof. Save for Ivan, he has seen no man or woman in the area since he’d found it - though a part of him wants to take Father one day, to lift the spirit and life that had flew from him when their small family became even smaller.

The peace and quiet of the early morning would be the best time to bring him, Ivan decided during his most recent expedition. The soldiers that guarded their home, for protection they said - but Ivan had long since learned that they considered his father a flight risk, often slacked off in the hours before the sun had risen. The darkness would cover their excursion and as long as they kept a good pace they would return during the changing of the guard in the few minutes that their simple hut was left unattended. They could take solace in the open clearing untouched by the soldiers.

Except for today. When he arrives under the cover of darkness, there’s firelight in the clearing that initially causes Ivan to freeze up. If he’s caught out before curfew is officially over, sounded by klaxons placed all throughout the small village, he’ll be punished despite the protection usually provided to him by his father. Panic sets in quickly. How did they know that he came here? Had he been followed in the past?

More astute observation, fueled by Ivan’s need to know which group of soldiers had learned about his excursions, shows that the soldiers are from the other side and Ivan’s heart soars. This could mean the end of the occupation. He needs to get closer, learn their next course of action and offer what knowledge he could to aid them. He doesn’t care for their war, but he wants to experience what life in Mordengrad used to be like. The glory his mother once spoke of.

Ivan’s worn boots crunch the snow underneath as he makes his way into the encampment that had recently been set up. He isn’t noticed at first, but it doesn’t take long before his distinct appearance catches the attention of the soldiers milling about.

“Do you think he’s a spy?”

“Hey, hey kid c’mere!”

Ivan runs. These soldiers aren’t the one calling the shots, he needs to find their superior officer and demand that they listen to what he has to say. If he isn’t back before the sun rises, he’ll get in trouble and this new camp would be found in the aftermath, ruining any chance of freedom that the country had. He’s quick enough even in weakness brought on by years of meager rations to dodge the soldiers that try to get in his way - except one.

The man is taller than the others, and sporting a different uniform. White. The color bothers Ivan, the man would be a walking target on the battlefield. His dialect is distinctly American, and Ivan’s eyes narrow with distrust when he offers what is supposed to be a kind smile. Just the right amount of teeth.

“Hey little guy, anything I can help you with?” The soldier asks while Ivan continues to give him a thorough once over. The lantern emblazoned on his uniform is odd, not denoting any affiliation. Ivan doesn’t trust it.

So he remains silent, peering around the man and frowning when his path is blocked again.

The soldier continues to play nice, holding out a hand to stop Ivan. “You come from around here? We knew there was a village nearby, but we had intel that people didn’t come this way. What’s your name?”

He hates small talk. How hard is it to tell that he doesn’t have time?

“How old are you? You look about…nine…ten? I have a son around your age. Are your parents nearby?”

It’s becoming painfully obvious that if he wants to succeed in his current mission, he’ll have to speak with the American and gain his trust. He opens his mouth and…

Snarls when the alarms begin to sound, so loud that they carry over into the clearing, muted by the snow. He doesn’t have time anymore, he needs to leave now. The soldier likely would have blocked his path again if he had expected him to turn tail and run back towards the village, but his retreat is unhindered. And he’s lucky enough to bypass the patrols and return home without getting caught. For one of the first times in his life, Ivan finds himself having to trust that the outsiders would do what he wanted them to without him telling them. Mordengradians were innocent, forced into the factories to build the war machines his father was threatened to design - they could atone for damage they caused if the occupation ended.

Ivan takes a deep breath as he creeps into his father’s study, tugging on his sleeve and grabbing his attention.

“What is it Ivan?”

“Papa!” He can’t help the excitement that creeps into his voice. “Papa, there are soldiers in the forest.”

His father furrows a brow at the statement, setting down his pencil and regarding Ivan with a calculating look. “How do you know this? Did hear the other soldiers speaking of them?”

“No, I-“

“You what, Ivan? What did you do?”

Ivan blinks. This isn’t how he imagined this conversation going at all. His father should be happy that he had this information at all, not questioning him. “I…go into the forests sometimes. When the guards aren’t paying attention. I’m always back before anyone knows that I’m gone.”

He can tell by the set in his father’s jaw that he’s angry and Ivan can feel his own temper start to rise. Why? He hadn’t done anything wrong, he hadn’t been caught. His father shouldn’t be getting angry with him over this.

“You can’t do that anymore Ivan. Do you understand?”

“But I-“

“No! Do you understand me?” His father’s voice rises and Ivan finds himself shrinking back. “You cannot do that anymore. It’s too dangerous. They’ll take you from me as they did your mother and I have fought so hard to keep you! Do you understand?”

“Yes, papa.”

They spend the next several hours of the morning in silence until the changing of the guard, and even then Ivan is ignored by the soldiers that enter their home to ensure that his father is still working. Mother would have strong-armed him into taking a break rather than working into the night. A lot of things were different now. Nothing is said of his trip into the woods, his father doesn’t even mention the group of other soldiers. But now, Ivan knows why. His father thinks that if anything goes wrong, he’ll be taken away like his mother was. He doesn’t want that.

He’ll have to bide his time and hope that the soldiers in the forest encampment act soon.

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The click of Baron Blade’s boots echoes down the hallway leading into the dungeon rooms with a purpose. His destination is the heavily guarded cell in the furthest corner. A wave of his hand dismisses the guard on duty and the Baron himself comes to a halt in front of the reinforced glass looking into the small room and its lonely occupant.

“Legacy, I hope you’re pleased with your accommodations?” He asks, clasping his hands behind his back.

The hero’s hair is longer than he would typically keep it, greasy from weeks without a proper shower, and scruff has started to show itself on his face. He looks nothing like the Legacy so often shown in the newsreels and Baron Blade is content with the fact that he’s brought the hero to such a low point. This visit is merely the beginning of the end, the way the Baron sees it. He would see the end of Legacy’s line soon enough and he could finally rest.

“I could have hoped for better.” Legacy tries to smile, but the expression doesn’t quite meet his eyes when he does. “Ivan, please, you know this won’t end well. For either of us.”

Baron Blade sneers. “That name is dead to me. It would do you better to remember that.”

This visit is over. His temper is teetering on the edge simply because the hero has decided to speak a name he would rather forget. He can’t enact his revenge this way, it would ruin the pleasure he would like to experience once the deed was done.

“Ivan! Baron Blade!”

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Something goes wrong the day that the soldiers take the village.

Ivan has been sequestered away in his father’s study, shoved under the desk as the Romonat patriarch bars the door and begins to hide the blueprints of his work beneath an alcove underneath the floorboards. He can hear the muffled shouts of men and women outside and he’s unsure to which side they belong.

“Papa,” he whispers. “What’s going on? The other soldiers are going to help us. Why are we hiding?”

“You are brilliant, Ivan. I want you to know this. The end of occupation will not end the war, do you understand?”

Ivan nods, listening with rapt attention. His father has taught him so many things since the soldiers came, each of them important.

“The things I have made will have hurt so many people-“

“Will they punish you for that?”

“They might. They might have me build more to hurt other people. Worse people than them, ones that deserve it. But I am tired, Ivan, so tired.” His father pauses, running a hand through his hair and crouching to look his son in the eyes. “I wanted to help Mordengrad, but it is too late for that now. You will need to do so, understand? Should you survive, Mordengrad survives with you.”

The youngest Romonat is not unintelligent. These are the words of a dying man. All too familiar in the way that they mirror the last words his mother had spoken to him before the soldiers took her. He hates this. He shouldn’t have to lose both his parents, especially when his father is right in front of him. Tears prick the corners of his eyes, wiped away by his father’s calloused hands.

“…What about you?”

“I am going to do whatever I can to ensure that you survive, Ivan. Know that I love you and that I wish that I could stay and protect you for longer than I have. In the floorboards…you have my plans. Things that I never built for the soldiers that could be used to protect Mordengrad. They will give you a good start but I know that you can carry yourself into the future.” He swallows, turning his head when he hears the sound of splintering wood from the other side of the door. “Be safe, Ivan. You must survive, no matter the cost. But you must always remember your home. Do you understand?”

He doesn’t get to answer his father as he pushes in the chair to further obscure Ivan should anyone choose to look behind the desk. He wants to plead for his father to come back, explain that these new soldiers won’t make him work himself to the bone like the others. They’ll understand that he was under duress, they have to. He won’t be able to forgive them if they take his father from him.

He doesn’t care that he’s disobeying his father by quietly pushing the chair away from the desk, peering over the edge just as the door to the study is broken open - the room filled with soldiers that he’d seen from the encampment. His father must notice his movement because he positions himself in a way that blocks the men from seeing him. There’s yelling in a language that he doesn’t understand, but he hears his father’s broken explanation. What he’s able to get out before the soldiers strike him down and Ivan ducks back under the desk, covering his ears to muffle the gunshots. He can’t cry now, can’t reveal his position or else the soldiers will find him. He needed to survive, like his father asked.

More footsteps join the others in the room after the gunshots and Ivan chances another peek when a heated argument breaks out. It’s the soldier from the encampment, the one in the white uniform, ushering the others out of the room.

Leaving Ivan alone in the study with his father’s body.

He wants to be strong, like his father would want him to be. He allows himself to cry for a few minutes before he sets to the work that needs to be done. More shouting sounds from outside before everything in the village quiets down. Only then does Ivan shuffle outside to survey the damage. Bodies litter the street, soldiers that he’s seen before and ones that are strangers mixed amongst innocent Mordengradians. The soldiers from the encampment are the ones that won the day. They stay for several days, waiting for their wounded to heal and doing what they think they can before they leave.

It’s not enough. And Ivan is angry. What they do does not bring back their dead. It doesn’t bring back his father. They leave the country weaker than it was during the occupation, with no protection to speak of. Their own numbers are too few to start a militia and it’s only a matter of time before another regime finds itself in power of the small country.

Ivan can’t forgive this. He spends years growing up in a country forgotten by the rest of the world, used by men that don’t care for the people that live within its borders. Men that Ivan compares to the man he feels he has no choice but to blame for his father’s death.

The soldier with the lantern emblazoned on his uniform.

He grows bold as time moves on, angrier and angrier through the years. He loathes the general that’s made Mordengrad and its citizens his personal workforce. He understands his father more than ever now. He’s been forced into a similar situation, threatened with violent repercussions if he does not design the build for the man’s personal endeavors. He’s infuriated that the people of his country make him so weak, powerless to act in the way that he wants simply because he has to keep them safe.

His opportunity arises in the year that the general takes his leave of Mordengrad. Ivan spends his time planning to overthrow the man, the beginning of a new era for the country to claim its own power and refuse to give in to outside demands.

It goes poorly. Ivan Grigori Romonat is left for dead, blood clouding his vision as he flees the only country he’s ever known. He has to leave, for the sake of his people. Should he remain, his people will be killed in his place. And he could die now, save them the trouble, but he can’t. He’d been ordered as a child to survive, and with his survival came the country’s. He would simply need to bide his time for the chance to return and usurp the general. But for now, he has to run.

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The conversations between he and Legacy over the next several weeks goes much the same way as the first. The Baron’s patience is wearing thin with every time that the hero refuses to call him by his chosen name. How hard is it to understand that the name Ivan Romonat died as a young man, rising as Baron Blade. The hero pushes the use of his own name and the Baron refuses in turn. It would only serve to humanize him, break down the Baron’s resolve to enact the final phases of his plan. It’s already hard to speak to the man in the first place.

There are memories attached to these names that he refuses to use and bringing them up would mean breaking down the walls he’s built between himself and his past with a man that he so badly wants to hate.

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Ivan Grigori Romonat meets Paul Parsons VIII during his first week in America. The scar on his face is still healing, scabbing over and forcing his eye into a horrible squint that scares off many of the people that initially try speaking with him. It also has something partially to do with his attitude. Years of growing up the way he had in Mordengrad has left him hesitant to trust anyone, even in a country that is not his own. He’s even thankful that his new appearance does its own part in scaring people away.

He’s set up a simple life for himself in the city of Megalopolis in the first two days, sulking around the nearby hospital to ensure that infection doesn’t set in - not wanting to root himself to anything or anyone. He knows that he’ll be returning to Mordengrad in time, he doesn’t need to make friends.

Paul Parsons has other ideas.

Ivan sees him in the hospital at the end of the week, volunteering his time to visit the sick and elderly. He’s been confined to a room for the foreseeable future since the healing skin has prevented him from opening his eye for the last two days and the nurse that had handled his paperwork had become immediately concerned with having him admitted to keep an eye on the process, reprimanding him for not coming in sooner.

He’s ornery enough to warrant a private room, and the on-call doctor was too worried about making what could be the start of an infection worse by placing him with another patient. Ivan prefers the solitude, spending the time that he isn’t being checked on by the staff planning for his return to Mordengrad. Paul Parsons comes into his room on the second day of his stay in the hospital, nudging open the door and offering the most genuine smile that Ivan has seen in years.

He isn’t impressed.

“Hey there, Ivan Romonat, right? I saw that you hadn’t received any visitors, thought you might like some company.” He says, barging right into the room without bothering to confirm whether Ivan would like visitors. “The nurses at the front desk are practically gushing over you.”

That does bring a reaction, a derisive snort that Ivan uses to quickly bury his amusement. He’s more than aware that half the occupants of the nurses’ desk in the lobby are enamored by his “mysterious, foreign aura” that in his mind is practically nonexistent while the other half, the one that would currently be on call in fact, found his silence and dismal attitude a nuisance - but only a small one, and not one that garnered much attention when he didn’t cause much trouble.

“Not buying it, huh? They said you were sharp as a tack.”

“And you are?”

For what it’s worth, the volunteer looks surprised that Ivan’s deigned to interact with him. “Right, right. Sorry. That was pretty rude, huh? Name’s Paul Parsons.”

That’s the start of it all much as he’s loathe to admit it. Paul Parsons refuses to let a day of his forced hospital stay go by without at least one visit and most days he wouldn’t be able to count the number of times he sees the man on both hands. And he continues to allow it, sighing each time the blond’s shadow looms over the threshold before beckoning him to come inside. They grow close. As close as two people can be without learning horribly intimate details about their lives. He learns that Paul Parsons comes from a long line of Paul Parsons, dating all the way back to after the American Revolution and in turn Paul learns that he comes from a small European country that he doesn’t care to name. It’s an easy back and forth that Ivan learns to appreciate over time. Somehow, they know where their boundaries lie and back off accordingly when a curious question inches too close to home.

Near the end of his stay, cleared by doctors and approved by ever thankful nurses, Paul asks if he has plans to return home or if he’s planning to stay in Megalopolis for a while and for the first time, Ivan doesn’t have an answer. Since fleeing Mordengrad, his only thought has been to return, to aid in his country’s survival. But for the first time in a long time, things are easy for him. He could make a life for himself in this city if he decided to put down some roots and make connections. He’d be able to excel anywhere he chose.

But he’d have to choose first.

So he does.

Paul helps him find an apartment and a job, teaches him how to start a life in a city ten times as large as the village he grew up in. And a small part of him feels guilty but he wants this so badly. His father said that Mordengrad would survive with him and he can survive here, where life isn’t a constant battle to design and build until he’s old and gray. He can be happy here.

He can be happy with Paul.

Paul Parsons VIII who disappears at odd times but always apologizes after and buys dinner at the end of the week to make up for it. Ivan knows that he’s hiding something, about his family and his friends, something that he’s trying to protect Ivan from, but he can’t bring himself to be angry. Whatever it is doesn’t seem to be hurting Paul and it certainly isn’t hurting him. Ivan is just happy to have a friend, one who could possibly turn into something more if he would act on his feelings. But he hold back, because Ivan Romonat doesn’t rush headlong into anything these days.

It isn’t as if he’s afraid of being rejected.

Years pass like this and Ivan finds himself content with the life that he’s made for himself with Paul’s help. He’s thankful that the man is the force of good that he is that wouldn’t take no for an answer because he himself has changed enough to know now just how different he is from his past self. The man who wanted nothing more than to return to Mordengrad to take on the general who scarred him and his entire army or die trying. He’s open now in a way that he couldn’t have found himself being if he’d never met Paul and hadn’t grudgingly accepted his friendship.

And that relationship grows and grows into something closely resembling a romantic one. Chaste kisses after movies at the apartment that can no longer be called Ivan’s. Because it’s theirs, together in one shared space that Ivan would never have imagined living in when he first came to Megalopolis. He’s met a couple of Paul’s friends now, a gathering of some of the most intelligent people that Ivan’s had the pleasure of meeting. He couldn’t share the shame experience with Paul even if he hadn’t been forced to flee his home, having not been quite so keen on sharing his life with others until now. But Paul’s friends are more than willing to behave as though they’ve known Ivan for the same amount of time that they’ve known Paul.

Meredith invites him to her book club, fascinating Ivan to no end when the club meetings turn out to host the two of them and another member who phones in, introducing himself as another friend of Paul’s named Ryan whose recently developed a nasty cold. He’s got a wicked sense of irony that Ivan immediately clicks with when he isn’t asking Meredith about her latest scientific breakthroughs. He’s surprised to learn that Paul is in the same social circle as Maia Montgomery and her lesser known boyfriend Tyler Vance. The two swear up and down that they aren’t dating but there’s a group betting pool on to when they’ll finally admit to their feelings for one another and join Meredith and her girlfriend on a double date. And Meredith cheekily informs Ivan during a club meeting that there’s a second pool for when Paul does the same. And Ivan isn’t ashamed to drop a couple dollars on them being an actual couple by the end of the year - he stands to make a decent amount back if he’s right even if Meredith would take a chunk of the winnings if Paul got tongue-tied in the process.

He’s sending a text out to Meredith claiming that the day has finally come when Paul invites him to a family dinner, demanding her to pay out what he’d put in at the next meeting. A family dinner with the Parsons has to be a big step with how Paul skirts around the topic nearly as much as Ivan does. This is the moment that he’s been waiting for for months, he finds himself thinking - arm locked around Paul’s as they walk up the driveway and knock on the door, greeted by a smiling, friendly face that has to belong to Paul’s father.

It’s the soldier. The one in the strange uniform. The one that Ivan has blamed for his father’s death every day since he was ten years old and left to fend for himself in a war torn country.

Ivan can’t help himself. He runs.

The weeks after are a hazy blur. Ivan knows that Paul tries to get in contact with him. Calls and texts every hour until Ivan is forced to turn his phone off. Shows up at their apartment only to find that Ivan and nearly all his belongings are gone. Everything that could easily be placed into a backpack in a hurry. Megalopolis is a big enough city for Ivan to find himself lost in, falling off the grid and reverting back to the same vagrant tendencies he’d had when he first came to America. Before he went to the hospital and before he met Paul. The public library is kind enough to provide him with all the information he needs to piece together the narrative that Paul’s been hiding from him this entire time.

He’d joked before that the name was a legacy passed down to him from his father, but he hadn’t been very forthcoming in just how far back that legacy went and how important it was to the rest of the world. Heroes. He came from a long line of Parson men gifted with powers passed down from one son to the next, but he doesn’t care about that. He cares about the seventh iteration, Paul’s father, the first Parson to choose the name Legacy for himself - and according to the news headlines in the archives, soon to be followed by his son. How could he have been so blind?

There’s an abandoned warehouse near the docks that Ivan procures for himself, sinking back into his old ways. Ivan Romonat is and always has been a man of revenge. He shouldn’t have allowed himself to become distracted by things like friends or the possibility of a relationship. Not when there’s so much that he needs to get done.

First, revenge for his father. Then he’ll return to Mordengrad, ready to take back his rightful home and bring back the glory that they once held as a people.

Paul Parsons looks for him the entire time. Ivan knows because he keeps an eye on the man even though they are no longer on speaking terms - at least from Ivan’s point of view. The disappointing truth is that Paul has no earthly idea why Ivan disappeared so suddenly from his life. Even knowing that he was from Mordengrad wasn’t enough information to piece together that his own father was partially responsible for the death of Ivan’s. According to the e-mails swapped between the group of people he’d slowly been getting to know and allowed to worm their way into his heart, all Paul really knows is that Ivan disappeared after he came over to meet his family and lost track of him. No one thinks that he decided to return home even though his belongings are missing from the apartment, they all think something’s happened to him - Ivan scoffs as he scrolls through Paul’s hacked account. There’s talk of starting up patrols to look for him and Ivan is incensed.

It was jarring enough to learn that Paul was gearing up to take on the Legacy mantle and just how much history they shared between their families, but the knowledge that these few people he’s let into his life have always been so much more than they appeared is an outrage to Ivan. They’d lied to him because they thought it made him safer. All the times that Paul disappeared, he was off with the people he introduced as his friends saving the country - and he never even hinted that that was a possibility to Ivan. Did they truly believe that Ivan couldn’t handle himself in dangerous situations? Once he’s on the trail it takes a laughably short amount of time to piece together the true identities of the country’s heroes. Tachyon can be no one else but Meredith, she hardly even wears a disguise aside from the goggles. Tyler Vance’s identity as Bunker is on public record due to his start in the military. Even Ryan, the man he’s never met, can be no one else but Absolute Zero - unable to leave the Freedom Tower unless he was inside of his suit and thus unable to attend book club meetings in person without revealing himself to Ivan. Maia is more of a mystery, either funding the Freedom Five or aiding them as the Wraith. And they’re looking for him, concerned for his safety.

“Not likely that they’ll pick up my trail,” he mutters to himself under his breath. Ivan’s number one priority has always been centered around self-preservation and revenge. When he sets his mind to something, it gets done. He doesn’t want to be found before he kills Legacy.

But he keeps tabs on their work. On how the search for him slows to a crawl. They don’t stop outright, but they have more pressing matters to worry about than a man that doesn’t want to be found and it isn’t long before he’s able to regain a certain sort of anonymity on the streets.

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“They’re looking for you.” Baron Blade says. His arms are folded behind his back as he stares down Legacy. “I doubt they’ll give up until there’s evidence proving that you’re no longer with this world. Even then I imagine the hunt would continue. Closure, I suspect.”

The start of a beard ghosts Legacy’s jawline, doing more to show how long he’s been imprisoned than Blade’s own security footage. Determination still burns in the hero’s eyes, no matter what Baron Blade does to stamp it out. This isn’t the first instance that he’s threatened the hero with death and the attempts are cheapened by one that follows. He’s proven that he isn’t a man of his word.

Legacy is still alive in the dungeons of Mordengrad, months after his initial capture.

The blond merely sighs at the statement. They’re on a schedule at this point. Baron Blade will make his rounds to ensure that he’s still powerless, make his threats, and leave when he tries to appeal to the man’s better nature. The one that he knows he has after everything.

“Probably. They’d still like to find you, you know. They never gave up, even after-“

Like clockwork. The Baron is gone, fists clenched at his side because he doesn’t want to acknowledge that they didn’t have to be enemies.

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When the camera whirs to life, he’s certain of his choices. What he needed to do was something that deserved to be publicized in a way that his father’s death never was. A complete opposition to his mother being killed and fading in his mind to where he no longer remembered her face or what she sounded like. The death of Legacy was something that he wanted to be remembered for. A hero the country depended on brought down by someone so inconsequential that even the governing officials in his own country didn’t acknowledge him.

Ivan Grigori Romonat is a man long dead. Walking the streets of Megalopolis and pretending like his life hadn’t ended the moment he’d been left for dead in Mordengrad and forced to flee. He’d let himself be distracted from his goal. That wouldn’t happen again.

All it takes to lure Legacy to the steps of city hall is a substantial threat - one easily created by planting several bombs leading to the finish line, surrounded by cameras feeding directly into the city’s network and broadcast to any device currently on in range. He wanted an audience.
In the monitor, he can see the sky sprawled out behind him. Blue skies marred by the occasional wisp of a cloud, a light breeze rustling the fabric of his lab coat. It’s a perfect day. On days like this he would usually find himself packing up a book or two and a blanket to lounge in the park with Paul. No, he needed to focus. If he needed to succumb to nostalgia he needed to go back further than where his mind currently was as he waited for Legacy to appear. His father died on a day like this even if the season was different and he could still remember the snow that crunched under his boots on the day he met Legacy. His mother died in the rain, cold and alone - found in the center of the village to be made an example of.

Legacy would be his example.

Killing is laughably easy when he’s been planning the act for months. Legacy latches onto the bait and follows the trail all the way to the steps of city hall where he’s waiting. The legacy of his own country is in his veins, in the machines he built to aid in the act. He’s been powerless for years, considered lesser by men who didn’t count on his tenacity and cunning. The citizens of Megalopolis are helpless as they watch their hero die, someone they thought was larger than life. And he laughs, near doubled over before he turns his attention back to the cameras focused solely on him.

“Megalopolis, allow me to introduce myself. I am Baron Blade.”

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“Sir, you wanted to see me?” Asks the Blade Battalion Soldier lingering in the doorframe of the Baron’s office. Every soldier has received explicit permission not to enter the Baron’s work spaces for their own safety, and few were willing to risk his ire by disobeying. “Is this about the prisoner?”

Baron Blade glances up from his work, rolling his shoulders to work out the kinks. His people knew him as a tireless worker that devoted himself to his work to bring Mordengrad back to its former glory. Decades had passed since the war that had brought the country to its knees, but they still faced difficulties in repairing the damage sustained during that time. He couldn’t rest when there was work to be done. Now he understands his father’s work in a way that he couldn’t as a child. The circumstances are different, but their dedication comes from their will to save their country and its people no matter the personal sacrifice that needed to be made.

“It is. I’d like for you to skip this evening’s dose of the regression serum.”

“Sir?”

Baron Blade levels the soldier with a questioning look. He’s young, a new recruit that likely hadn’t learned that his leader made no decisions without considering every possible outcome first, at least not when it came to decisions that would affect the country. “Skip this evening’s dose. I’ve decided to show mercy. I will not be so kind in the future.”

He grinds his teeth together, a pulse in the old scar tissue marring his face to foreshadow a coming migraine. He would regret this decision in time, with everything that he’s left unsaid with Legacy. But he knows that this is the right decision to make in the end, nothing to be done about it otherwise. He opens the security feeds that show him Legacy’s cell. The hero knows that something is different about tonight, their schedule has been like clockwork from day one with no changes. He doesn’t have any way of knowing what time it is but there’s a part of him that knows that the bot that delivers the regression serum is late.

Then the cell door clicks open, swinging off its hinges in a slow arc as Legacy blinks at the change in events. It has to be some kind of trap, Baron Blade was meticulous in his planning and didn’t allow such an abrupt change in the variables he was able to control. Still, the hero draws himself up and drags himself into the hallway. His danger sense isn’t on the fritz and the hall is conspicuously empty of guards, and he can’t help but furrow his brows as his escape is left unhindered.

There.

“Are we fighting?” Legacy asks, steeling himself for the inevitable when he sees the silhouette of Baron Blade in front of the exit. If he made it past him, he’d be in the open air of Mordengrad and clear to contact the Freedom Five.

The Baron is silent, hands at his side. There’s no sign of the machinery he’s so fond of building. It’s so much more reminiscent of the man he knew in Megalopolis.

“Baron Blade? …Ivan.”

“Go.” Clenched fists when Legacy doesn’t move. “Go! Before I change my mind.”

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Legacy…Paul doesn’t leave. Not at first. He’s so certain that he will but the hero stays and Baron Blade feels his resolve crumbling. This wasn’t at all how he imagined his life turning out. He was supposed to have grown up in his country, full of pride and surrounded by his family. But if that had happened, he never would have met Paul…and in turn he never would have killed his father that day at city hall. There are so many changes that he could have made in his life to not end up here in this very moment. He’s expecting a fight, deserves one after all that he’s done - he wouldn’t raise a hand against him.

But Paul stays, lingering by the doors and releasing a deep sigh before reaching out to grab his hand.

“Come on. Everyone misses you.”