People always paid attention to Cloud's sword. Nanaki could understand why; it was big, ostentatious and the guy waved it around as he would a stick. In the face of that strength and ability, the spatula jokes were forgotten very, very quickly.
He received a fair share of fear himself, but he didn't actually try to encourage it like, say, Yuffie. He had more to win from keeping to the side, looking like the tamed animal his foes preferred seeing him as. A good dog at Cloud's heels that would not attack less it was ordered to. That made them watch the sword and the hands, just in case they raised to snap an order.
It always created rather interesting encounters.
The soldiers before them reeked of fear, the stench stronger than the oil and leather and other military scents. Their eyes were riveted on Cloud, who casually held his sword to his side. Occasionally they would dart to him, but never for long. After all, he was patiently sitting, with no hackles raised or showing any other menacing sign.
"Don't move!" The foremost soldier ordered, his rifle shaking in damp hands.
"I haven't." Cloud slowly, deliberately raised his sword to let it rest point down on the floor. No matter their superior forces, a bullet could cause serious damage before the soldiers were taken out.
Silently, Nanaki charged energy into a Fire materia, reaching for the weaker spell. No need to waste energy on them; one spell would be enough to disable them long enough to finish the battle safely by hand. The only tricky part was to avoid causing any reflex shots when the spells hit.
"Stop, I said!" the soldier insisted. Nanaki titled his head slowly, licking at a paw absentmindedly. "And keep your beast in check!"
Always amusing, that. He might have felt humiliated once at this lack of recognition in his regards, but now he'd grown to enjoy how their faces lit up with understanding and fear when they realized he wasn't under anyone's control. That he was on the same level of intelligence, maybe even higher than these fool's.
An intelligent beast knew battle tactics.
The air was heavy with fear and tension, so much that it stuck to his throat and made him want to growl. He kept control, however, waiting. He waited for the moment where it would be safe to pounce, when those guns would waver in angle just enough that his speed would cover the distance before a bullet could be fired.
"Do you really think he's under anyone's command?" Cid growled from where he'd been passively waiting, knowing the routine.
Eyes widened. Nanaki smelled the sour stench of sweat as he pounced forward. A shout was stopped in the throat as he bit down and prevented it from escaping. Blood flowed down his own throat, hot and thick. Bullets ripped the air, aimed harmlessly to the ceiling. Plaster rained down to powder his black mane gray.
"Fire!" It was a panicked command, issued in the light of the attack. Nanaki raised his head from the ripped throat of the corpse, saw the barrel aimed at him and rolled, dodging the bullet that sent a spray of dark blood rising from the lifeless body of the soldier.
The fire spell was shot, hitting a soldier standing in retreat as he prepared for a spell of his own. His concentration broke and he yelled as flames gouged his eyes.
Only one left near him that the others hadn't taken care of, that could be bothersome. He had turned towards the rest of the party, maybe meaning to catch them by surprise; Nanaki didn't know, nor did he care. A snap at his shins brought him reeling back. He'd forgotten the beast, thought it had been still occupied with a determined prey.
"Never turn your back on an enemy," he growled, occasioning a frozen fear to cross the soldier's features.
"You talk!" he said hoarsely. It took him a second before he remembered to aim his rifle.
"I do more than play parrot," Nanaki retorted and jumped, grabbing the weapon barrel between powerful jaws.
A bullet grazed the fur of his shoulder as the soldier fired in panic and he heard his dismayed groan at the missed shot. A yell reached his ear, accompanied by the silent whistling sound of Cloud's falling sword. The agony of the other soldier's charred face had been put to an end. A few bullets threw a broken rhythm in the air before being silenced by blades. The other soldiers were down.
The soldier grappled with him, refusing to release the riffle.
Nanaki allowed him to raise him off his front legs. Hind ones took the weight as two paws came to rest on the man's chest. Deadly claws shredded blue material, were hampered by leather protection that prevented them from reaching vital organs. Groans from the soldier, growls from the beast.
So long as the gun was still there, Nanaki could not risk another wayward shot in a direction he ignored. He couldn't throw him on his back; comrades would be in danger of being hit.
Nanaki immobilized him, tasting metal as the barrel howled under the pressure of his jaws yet refused to yield. He pushed, upsetting the man's balance, forcing him to raise his gun to the ceiling.
A spearhead ripped through the soldier's throat from behind. Blood rained down on him, washing the plaster from his fur in a red current. The riffle remained silent.
"Should've listened to him," Cid growled, pulling his weapon free.
Nanaki released the gun, licking blood and gunpowder from his chops and hating the taste. He joined his party, moving away from the dead soldiers.
Everyone was safe. Minor injuries. Grazes.
Nanaki was an animal, yes, but he was not a breathing weapon at his master's side. He was a fighter, and these soldiers had paid dearly their ignorance.