It had worked. It had finally worked. She had a damage-nullifying arte.

"You've done it. I guess you don't need me anymore." Mal tried to be cool, approving, older brotherly about it, but she saw through the attempt to laugh it off.

"It doesn't last that long. I think I can improve it with a fon slot chamber." Nightmare had already been improved as much as possible as she tried to understand seventh fonic artes. "Still, I think this is a reason to celebrate. And I'll need to talk with Luc about this and see if he has any ideas for other hymns. Do you know what type of cake he likes?"

"No, I'm afraid that's not in his dossier." Barely anything was except his exploits.

Mal had seen the footage of Dr. Southern-Cross' capture before he was sent to this base. Despite, or perhaps because of the fact he couldn't use fonic artes the too-good-to-be-true doctor was better than Mal was with a sword. And that was before the revelation that Luc had been trying to leave his opponents alive so he could be captured while at the same time give his current masters the impression that he was trying to not be captured in case they 'saved' him. It was much, much harder to fake a battle like that then fight it, as it was harder to subdue than to kill. He hadn't just been fighting, he'd been choreographing that fight.

And he was far, far too calm under pressure. If he couldn't crack the nut he couldn't see what was inside, and the stronger the shell proved itself to be the more dangerous the contents had to be.

And no, he was not thinking of that brat when Julia was talking about a party and smiling a real smile. He hadn't seen one in far too long, and he wanted to think about it and not who caused it.

A trill interrupted her. Dammit. "Director Fende."

"Sir, I think you should see this." Aslan Lascal was someone else who was mostly unflappable. The note of caution there was the one he had when he had discovered something that had indeed turned out to be a hyperresonance-based bomb.

"En route with Dr. Grants."

"Sir, I've sent Lygra to meet you en route and escort her to Dr. Gardios' lab. He has something to report to her."

"Tell him that she's completed the force field arte."

"Yes, sir."

Something Aslan didn't think Julia should see?

Aslan was right as usual. "On the one hand, it's good to know he's only human."

"Unless he's lying about that in order to cover up the fact that he made a slip that wrecked his other lie."

"No, we do know that he was one of the five survivors of that disaster. That was worldwide news. Where he spent his first ten years isn't very likely to be something worth lying about. If he's only got seven years of life experience that would explain a lot. It would take someone very dedicated to get that good with a sword, to acquire his knowledge base at such a young age: his original personality may have been very different. Couple that with a traumatic experience connected to the seventh fonon and then the loss of the best chance to regain his old life…" Mal tapped his finger on the console. "Scientists are odd even if the war is driving everyone crazy. The way they act when it comes to their subject can be completely different from everything else. Dr. Southern-Cross is right. He's playing tourist. This world isn't one he lets himself connect with enough for me to get a good grip on him. If I want to get inside his head I'm going to have to either learn how to program fontech or have Dr. Gardios give me one of his personality analyses. Luc is right: a fontech program is apparently an inside look at how the person who wrote it thinks, step by step."

"Should I page him?"


After Aslan played the tape again Galahad was silent for a long time. "Damn."

"Regarding what he said about personalities and programming, do you have anything I could use? He hit everyone's weak points. He's barely been around Aslan and Lygra for an hour total and he was never with them and Dr. Lascal when the whole group wasn't there." Dangerously, dangerously perceptive.

"There are geniuses and then there are geniuses. When he was tutoring me, he wrote out annotated versions and went step by step on everything. In fact, he overexplained things, and when I examined the one I brought with me I found out why. The programs he writes for himself? I can't…" He shook his head. "He's got the logic, you can't program without logic. But he does practically everything intuitively and going back and doing it the 'right' way he ends up with something a hundred times the length. And the program I did for the first run we produced, before the Harem got here? I had to… I sometimes ended up with… He comes up with stuff no one's done before and… He can't tell the difference between what I find obvious and what I can barely grasp because he just thinks about fonons on an entirely different level. And we both saw that tape of his capture. He acted like a bit of a space cadet when it came to people, but it looks like he hasn't even got the normal weak spot. But… hmm. He can figure out things, but… what he said about him and Julia. Why wouldn't they have any chance of ever hooking up?"

"Julia is the world's only seventh fonist. The last person she should marry is someone incapable of fonic artes."

"Oh, right, he does have a weakness. Phew. And… I've been looking into that headache of his. For one thing… That's it." Galahad snapped his fingers.


"The headache. He has it in order to detect attempts at coercion. With what he gave us about the resonance phenomenon, he might be able to detect our attempts at coercing each other or ourselves, the sort of self deception he's talking about here. Someone trying to get someone to love them, someone trying to keep someone else from figuring something out… In other words, he's got a lie detector. A very, very painful lie detector, but it seems to be a good one." There was a bit more to it. "He's always going out of his way to not use coercion. Possibly because it's painful to him. That explains a lot, really. He tends to be very, very passive unless he's actually doing something. When two people argue they use coercion by instinct as well as any intended coercion. He also doesn't… set things up overtly, use psychological warfare… try to coerce the outcome of an action. Which means that there's none of the warning we're used to having. He's either passive or he's going after something, and there aren't any of the normal signals that he's about to move."

"Hmm. Perhaps the fact that he's not using coercion as a crutch is why he's so good tactically. As he said, everyone knows how to coerce nowadays. Abstaining from it is a major handicap."

"The two that never woke up from that explosion? A lot of people had dreams where they visited. That stopped when they died. The woman with five-minute recall has beyond perfect recall. She can know a pin dropped a mile away. And one can see random visions of all sorts of things, although they can't control it." They had been inside Galahad's former country, after all. "Those are all related to the seventh fonon. We can't test it since he can't use fonic artes, but I wonder. An intuitive understanding of the fonon… Perhaps Julia was right that he was a seventh fonist, or a carrier of the capability, at least."

"What's he up to now?" Perhaps it was true that he was jealous.

"Getting drunk," Aslan reported without prejudice. Alcohol could be fixed with certain self-coercive techniques. On the other hand, the pain medications that dampened the edge of his headache were far, far too dangerous and he'd built up enough of a resistance to them that he couldn't take a high enough dose of them to let him go to sleep safely. "Dr. Grants is en route to find out why he's not at the party."

"This screen."

Dr. Southern-Cross was hunched over, facing away from the camera with two empty bottles by his side and a third he was trying to finish off. He picked it up, put it down, and sat there staring at it until Julia knocked. "If it's the nameless woman, I'm sorry I spilled the beans."

"Nameless woman?"

"The blonde with the guns. Feel free to come in."

Julia eased the door open. "Oh, Allegria. What beans?"

"I've already done enough, so don't ask me to tell you too."

"Are you feeling alright?"

"I'm fine. I just got a little dehydrated."

"Oh, please. You're not the only one who has alcohol smuggled in for them. There's a difference in the labels."

"You caught me." He leaned back in his chair. "I said some things I shouldn't have to Drs. Nephrite and Selenia. Some secrets that weren't mine to tell. I'm just sick of it. All the lies, all the manipulations? How do you stand it?"

"Lies? We're like a family here. I like that, that Selenia feels free to go wild and Nephrite knows she doesn't have to play office politics and make nice." After what they'd heard her words made them wince. She went further into the room and sat down on his bed.

"Every family has skeletons in the closet. Congratulations on the hymn, by the way. That's a relief."

"You felt it?"

"I… It hurt less, for awhile. Lorelei wanted to do that for you. It wasn't coerced."

"I can sing it again. Or nightmare."

"Thanks for the offer, but if it weren't for the hangover I don't think I could get up in the morning. I'm fine when I'm focusing on something, but…"

"Don't do that! Hurting yourself so you feel better? It's a contradiction!"

Luc turned his head to look at her, stood up, went over, and pulled back her sleeve. "Yes, it is a contradiction, Julia." He touched the thin lines on her wrist. "Two wrongs don't make a right. But sometimes there isn't a right, and you can only go with whatever's less wrong."

"There's a right. There's always a right. Mal… he's like a big brother to me. He's the one that pulled me out of the abyss, and I know that he'll always be there for me. I… I want to be that person for you."

Whatever she saw in his eyes was a rejection: Mal wished they had more camera angles. "No. You don't. Mal could save you because he loves you, but you take him for granted. You want me to both cling to you and love you, and Julia? That kind of love is what a child has, not a partner. You want to be the savior since you couldn't save yourself and you don't know if you can save the world. Julia, don't try to save me. You're just setting yourself up for failure. I'm not going to live out the year, one way or another. For one thing, my fonons are separating."

Julia gasped.

"What? How did I miss that?!" Galahad then punched the table. "Dammit! Biofeedback! I knew he was concentrating on something while I was taking readings!"

"I'm going to die, and I want to know that you and this world will live and be as happy as possible under the circumstances." He hugged her, and for once Mal wasn't jealous.

"Luc, I…" There went the jealousy again. "If there's anything I can do? To make you feel better."

"Julia, you're currently applying about eleven CU to me. I'd feel better, if only emotionally since there's so much else going on, if you stopped."

"I'm sorry." She turned away. "I just hurt everyone, don't I? You think I can save the world. You're the only one who I can believe in besides Mal, and you believe in me. Mal thinks I'm weak and wants to protect me. I want to be strong. I want to save everyone, I want to be the one who makes them stronger instead of hurting them."

"Then do that, Julia. You have the power. If you truly want to make us stronger, then the seventh fonon will respond to that wish." He tipped her chin up to look at him. "What do you want to do?"

"End the war."

"There's a way."

"A way?" A, singular? Luc knew one?

"Create an absolute prophecy. One that no one can tamper with. If that happens, then there's no point in fighting anymore."

"A, that's not possible, and b, how can you want that? Taking away everyone's free will? And wouldn't that hurt you?"

"A, it is, and b, because it's the least of the many wrongs. There's a story in which someone is under a spell to follow orders, and they're ordered to act exactly the way they would choose to. They're still bound, but they can carry out their own will. And it wouldn't hurt anywhere near as much as the world ending would."

"That's, that's brilliant."

"It wasn't my idea, so I can't take credit for it."

"But how would you create an absolute prophecy like that?"

"Remember the legends about the pacts with the gods? How someone who could defeat them could force them to obey their command? Lorelei's a sentience, just like Efreet, Undine, all the others."

"Didn't you need things for that? A special arte and a sacred weapon?"

"You're an arte creator and I? Am very close to pinning down the location of something that has to be the key to Lorelei's power." He looked smug, and he had a right to.

"Are you serious?"

"I used my fontech to send the adverse fonons to the core since I was able to verify that Lorelei's main power was in the fon belt. However, there has to be some sort of mechanism to regulate the L-M conversion… That's memory particles and seventh fonons, the ratios between each and how many seventh fonons disintegrate and how many memory particles catalyze new seventh fonons… Sorry, of course you figured out what I was talking about already. There has to be a concentration there, I verified that there is one, and it's not sentient. If it isn't a weapon already then we just bring it back here and forge it into one…" Luc paused for long enough Julia started to look worried, then stood up and looked at the camera. "Mal, I know you're listening in: press the panic button. Someone's trying to keep us from knowing they're coming. A lot of someones. There's no coercion fontech backing it, but my former side would know I can sense that."

The alarm was not activated with a button, but it was activated.

Julia grabbed Luc's arm. "What do we do?"

"What Security Director Fende says. All I know how to do is get captured, really."

"Dr. Grants," it was unprofessional to call her Julia. "Please head for Desi's hanger." The defenses were as insane as the mind that produced them and if all else failed the airship was there.

"Dammit, they're trying to win now, they must know you activated the alarm… and there goes the coercion fontech." Luc staggered to his feet, there was no other way to describe it. Julia let him lean against her and headed for the door. "Thanks. Yeah, this isn't a country. I thought all the take over the world psychos had already gone extinct…"

"Lean on me," Julia told him. "I'll keep you upright and sing. Even if it's not an arte the fonons will gather, and that makes it hurt less, right?"

"And it disrupts coercion in general." Luc was clearly about to fall over, Julia or not.

Mal could hear the desire to lend them strength in her song as it filled them.

Luc's eyes opened."It's not inherently a healing arte, but I think it has the potential to do that. Way to go, Julia!"

Two in one day: that was something to celebrate. "Shadow, earth, and this is wind. I think… I think I need hymns for all seven fonons and something to symbolize the memory particles that join with the first six fonons to create the seventh. If I have that, and a key, and Lorelei's… how do we get to the fon belt?"

"Ask Desi for a lift," Luc joked. "Come on!"

How did Luc know where the security station was? Oh, yes, they had wanted to keep him from finding out where they were going all the time. By the time they arrived, Mal and the other security staff had checked everything and found no infiltrators.

"One, two, three..." Luc counted. Aslan had left already. "Give me a sword and we'll have a full party."

"Give you a sword when there are no enemies to fight?"

"No… then what are the Harem trying to kill and vice versa?"

"Dr. Daath?" No response from the seemingly peacefully working figure. "Dr. Daath!" The cameras had been tampered with: they had to be! Right under his nose! Dammit, he would kill for Southern-Cross' coercion detection ability: now that he thought about it… they were infiltrated, he had been checking, and he had missed or thought were correct dozens of obvious giveaways!

"Not a country. I know their fontech. What's going on?" Luc wondered. "They're not trying to keep me from finding anything out anymore, which means I don't have any clues to work with."

"Drs." Gardios was no weakling, neither was Dr. Grants, and as for Dr. Southern-Cross… Mal handed him his sword.

Luc looked at it. Was he serious?

"Other than Julia's Nightmare, I'm the only one here with offensive fonic artes. I don't need a sword for that." And Luc would make better use of it than him, not that he had to admit that. "Try not to get killed."

"Oh dear." Luc took it, then managed to plaster on a smile. "Well, let's get going."

"Ha!" they heard when they got close enough, as well as the roars of Lygra's pets.

"What's going on?!" Mal called out, since they still hadn't seen an enemy.

Then they did. Who wore gold and feathered masks? It had to be a cult… a new one, he didn't recognize the insignia. "You shall die, enemies of the gods!"

"Dammit! Imperial Guard!" Mal didn't recognize them but it seemed Galahad did.

"Julia! The second fonic hymn: keep singing it! No matter what, don't let it go down!" Luc took up a stance in front of her, and Mal wished he could take it but no, he didn't have a sword. "I'll try to keep them busy," he continued as he blocked a hit, "but I can't do anything else, I'm sorry." He grunted as he was forced to stop talking long enough to execute an upperslash that went into, "fang blade," to, "lightning blade!"

To top it all off, it was Mal's own preferred style that Luc was better than him at, even though he'd thought the stories about the two older sisters who used a greatsword and a rapier had to be true since he seemed just a bit off with a mid-sized sword, the sort off offness you could get with a blade type that wasn't what you had performed all those katas with.

"I can't…" Luc hesitated, just a fraction, and then kicked his opponent towards Galahad instead. "I can't kill them."

"Why not?!" Because they had been his side once? Because he was trying to play both sides of the fence?!

Galahad merely kept the enemy pinned, his eyes also capturing Luc's. If you're not with us, you're against us. If you're with us, prove it.

"Stop!" Julia rushed forward. "He's a pacifist, that's in his file! He never has aided weapons development and you're forcing him to…"

"Keep casting!" They had never seen Luc actually upset. "You want to see why I can't kill? This is why!" He crossed the distance in a lunge and his sword slashed the Guardsman from stomach to head.

He had enough stored seventh fonons to repair the first foot or so after the sword passed. Not the rest.

The enemy died. Luc collapsed to the ground, blood flying from him.


"Keep…" It took him a few twitches to get his hand to move and start to push himself up. "Casting. There is nothing that resonates more with the seventh fonon than the desire to live. There is no moment that a human exerts more coercion in than those in which they are about to die." He coughed into his hand, and they all knew it had to be blood. "And that, lady and very ungentle men, is why I can't kill. If Julia's holy song wasn't still active I would probably be catatonic for six hours, that's what happened last time."

"There's no way you could have programmed that in with biofeedback." Dr. Gardios had been a medical doctor by training, once upon a time when he was a fourth son. "Not without either me hearing about it or your minders stopping you. How are you so sensitive to the seventh fonon?"

"Because I was caught in a hyperresonance. Hyperresonances don't destroy. They reshape. They could turn a bonfire into a diamond, an object in Sylvania into one in the fon belt. A city into ashes. I wanted to live. That's the first thing I remember. Or should I say they wanted to live." Luc smiled that smile. "Two hundred researchers, students, staff, guards, families, locals, newsies, and people who had come to gawk died in one instant. Weaponized hyperresonances are meant to kill. That one just went out of control. Their collective will to survive allowed five of the people who were there to, the ones with the strongest wills, in bodies composed of the seventh fonon instead of the first through sixth. This came with various problems, or benefits if you see it that way. If those two are really dead I'll be very, very surprised. They wouldn't have let the doctors turn off the life support: they'd prevented it before. Not unless they'd finally decided to move house."

"Possession?" If people could do that, if Luc could do that, then Mal's job would become almost impossible.

"The good news is that once they were in a normal body they wouldn't be able to do it again. Not that they would take it over, they were good kids, which is why their family was so determined to keep them alive. I know they had several people who had offered to take them in. I offered, since it was getting hard to scare tactic everyone in such a crazy environment, staff transferring in and out, hundreds of patients in daily…" Luc finally managed to get to his feet. "They were getting kind of scared, I didn't hear from either of them for a bit, then they were finally taken off. From the people they talked about, I'd guess Sol for Faun since they got along like that and he hoped that the seventh fonon thing could help the other kid live. Some sort of weird condition, and misery and company really hit it off. Probably that bossy girl he had a crush on for Flor. Maybe the idea of a female body would have been a bit off-putting, but he said that Kuth had threatened to kill him if he picked anyone else and he was smiling about it, so… Yeah. " He shrugged helplessly. "Not that I have any idea how to find either of them, and there's a war on… You know them?"

Damn ability to tell people were trying to hide something! "Drs., could we continue this conversation someplace secure?" It would be so, so much easier to bodyguard people who didn't drop everything, including Mal's own damn sword in Luc's case, to discuss theories and interesting phenomena and other things that were in fact very important but currently in jeopardy if they got themselves killed.

And it weren't like there weren't tons of other bossy teenage girls named Kutha who talked nonstop about boyfriends named Flor to the point it had their big brothers a little worried since they'd never actually managed to meet or run a thorough background check on them since she'd never mentioned a last name… He was going to strangle her, he really was. As soon as he got actual leave time to go see her.

Yeah, like that was going to happen anytime soon.

Oh, yes, and Soliaca happened to be the name of Dr. Ellaranthis Lascal's probably-dead son who had warned his distant cousin Lygra and her uncle Aslan to escape from Remia because he'd had a dream even though his father Dr. Aska Lascal refused to leave the family keep for the dangers of the road. The dangers that had resulted in the captures of Drs. Sappho and Nephilim. Ella hadn't mentioned that he was sick, but it would explain why Dr. Aska hadn't come here along with his wife. Remia had once been on the cutting edge in both aerospace fontech and new medical techniques..

If they'd ended up alive and with strange powers because of the seventh fonon it made sense that they would go looking for people who could tell them about it.

"They both had amnesia too. It's kind of ironic, that we tried so hard to survive, all of us, and it ended up costing us the personality traits that made us who we once were. Those two did have people who had known them they could find, and they ended up sort of… well, Flor was the only one who got a bit of a split personality out of it. Sometimes he acted all serene and then he was… He took my knowledge of the planetary arte catalysts and I had to chase him all over my head in that dream to get it back. He just wanted to play."

"As fascinating as that is, Mal's right. Less talking, more running!" While Galahad rarely used it, he did have a tone of command befitting his true rank.

"You three have to be better at seeing them than me! If you see all the first and sixth fonons around us disappearing, it means the planetary fonic arte's powering up!"

Okay, that was, "Good to know!" They would have to stop and guard Julia while she cast. "Lygra!"

"We have them trapped between my family and Desi's fontech dolls," Lygra told him, galloping up on a fully adult Liger Queen. The Lascal family had actually bred the things for centuries, along with several other monster species. Bred half- or more wild man-eating monsters the way some people did dogs. Remians.

Although Lygra's were amazingly tame, really. Although he had to wonder what her parents were thinking, giving her to a Liger Queen as an infant so she would think the girl was one of her own cubs. Aslan might say it was perfectly safe, but where he was from…

Not that there was anything left of Falias but the refugees in Population Sanctuaries 21-25 anymore. "Can we get through to the hanger?"

"No." Aslan could be amazingly quiet for someone of his bulk. "We have them contained, but trying to go through them would be suicide. Since the hanger contains our only still-operational way out, you could say they have us contained."

"We need them to think Julia's dead," Luc reminded them. "Witnesses are good, but if they're here they're going to want her body. And the two traitors." Luc and Gardios. "Does anyone else hear that?"

"Could you be more specific?" Aslan didn't hear anything all that unusual, for a chaotic battlefield containing his niece's pets, Desi's dolls, and the infamous Harem. In the distance a rappig battle-squealed.

"It's… Something's coming. Trying to coerce Daath, but I don't think even they know what they want. Powerful. Um… We might want to get back." They followed Luc's eyes up to the roof of the dome. "Whatever they're about to use is going to be nasty." And if it didn't know they were there its artes wouldn't affect them. "Sentient, human, insane human… More than normal, I mean." He took another step back, then turned and started to tug Dr. Gardios back into the building they had just left. "Julia, you might want to use that arte."

And then everything warped, and when normalcy resumed they all felt their body's warning that they were almost out of the fonons needed to heal.

Julia sang holy song instead: with the right chamber it did in fact heal. Amazing. If seventh fonists became more common the entire face of combat would change. Again. Mal and Gardios exchanged glances and Gardios started to creep towards a window.

"Dr. Nephilim!" Was that Desi? "You saved me again!"

"Holy…" Dr. Gardios, a determined atheist despite his upbringing, rarely swore so mildly and Mal could almost believe it was a cut-off piece of prayer. The spent magic lens dropped to the ground. "We can't fight that."

"I don't think we'll have to, unless… That can't be Dr. Nephilim. Daath would not react this way to her, and she's… Julia? Can you… No, you're only up to the third fonon. I'm not sure… Well, killing the guardsmen would have helped, they were all sixth fonists minimum and very high-leveled…"

"You're damn right it's not Dr. Nephilim, Dr. Nephilim didn't have damn wings!" Gardios leaned against the wall and looked back towards them. "Monster. I've never seen anything as powerful in my life."

"I need to get over there. This could go very, very bad very easily, and Selenia and Nephrite have no idea what's going on. Thank goodness Dr. Lascal's a born diplomat, but whatever she is she's immune to coercion."


"No, Julia, we couldn't use what makes her immune to make the rest of the world immune. The other guard is a sixth fonist, right?"

"Yes, why?"

"Hit her with a sixth fonic and first simultaneously?" At least Gardios seemed to know what Luc was talking about. "What do you want the fonon fields for?"

"No, not a first fonic arte, a first invoking the seventh!" Seeing Julia's grin and obvious admiration for Luc Mal really, really wished this stuff didn't make his head hurt. "Which would render her temporarily resonating with the seventh fonon, which in combination with the coercion fontech working to keep anyone from attacking us could be used to create a hyperresonance that would render her extremely vulnerable to coercion! One that our defense fontech wouldn't affect because it would be non-destructive, affecting only her personal fonons and particles. And what Desi, who is right next to her wants has to be…"

"Professor Nephilim back?" Gardios looked skeptical. "Theory, sure, but bringing back the dead?"

"It's well within the theoretical capabilities of the seventh fonon. It does control time, after all."

"Sadly, I have no idea where Alegria is."

"If you just need the light fonon field, I think all of us have some strike artes that create one." Gardios looked around.

"I should do it. Mal needs to stay with Julia and I can tell what she's after, so I have a better chance of not angering her than you, Galahad." Luc was up and out in the open before anyone could really object.

He charged forward so bravely, to protect them all, and how could they not appreciate it, no matter how little they trusted him?

How could they hate him, when he cared about them so much, even when they found out what he was? That he'd lied to them. That he was the cause of all of this.

That he had to be sealed in the core. That he couldn't stay with them.

Despite everything that happened before they met, despite everything that happened on their journey, they still cared for him.

Even two thousand years later.

Gargoyles reference.

The seventh fonon is the fonon of spacetime, and this is when people were doing mad science with it. Interesting to think of what kind of screw-ups could happen. That also gave me an excuse to put in some of the replicas...

There's a Japanese legend that star-crossed lovers will be incarnated as twins, which sounds nice, but then you realize that first they spend a life where they're in love and can't be together, and then they spend another life where, if the love carries over, they really can't be together. Since Van is Tear's big brother now, Anise eventually finds a big brother in Jade: she needs one in that life, and in the previous life Mal was too busy to even visit the ~city where she lived much.

Since a central concept here was that these are previous incarnations, and they'd be making sure that they incarnated at the Endgame so they could try again to give the world a future, I was sort of working backwards in terms of what could cause people to end up in the positions the game characters are in? Jade himself comments that such a group just coming together by coincidence kind of boggles the mind.

Natalia and Peony give them the two people who were supposed to be the rulers of the two biggest power blocks at the end, which is fairly obvious, but Guy's born into the guardians of the Albertesque seal, which could have meant that he would have inherited lots of information that could help the party if it weren't for the fact that his family had to be destroyed so the seal could be destroyed.

Then there's how a lot of important stuff, like the actual building of the sephiroth trees, happened after the Score was made and everything predestined. So what they wanted in that moment (eg. Natalia wanting to see her husband again) isn't what they might have wanted if they'd made those choices later in life. But the changes that happened to them in those lives would have been controlled by the Score, by what would bring about the end goals they specified.

A moment where the future becomes frozen in place and can no longer be changed, and people living knowing that everything they do after that moment is set, and thus everything bad that happens to them they brought upon themselves/inflicted on the world...