Final Fantasy VII Remake: Picturing the Past is a short story written by Kazushige Nojima that was included in the Final Fantasy VII Remake World Preview. The book was released in Japan on March 19, 2020 and in English on September 9, 2020.
Picturing the Past is told from the perspective of a Shinra Electric Power Company military trooper who knew Aerith as a child. The narrator begins a personal investigation into the events of the past.
The narrator, an unnamed Shinra military trooper, arrives in Mideel, searching for a man named Geddie Bach who had visited there 15 years prior. He meets with a doctor named Donovan. Donovan does not find Geddie's records, but does find records for Glen Reiner, another Shinra grunt. Glen had been found suffering from intense mako poisoning 15 years before. Upon returning to Shinra headquarters, the narrator learns that Glen supposedly died in the Wutai War just days after his return from Mideel. The narrator finds this suspicious and feels that Glen and Geddie are somehow connected.
The narrator next locates Jack Klein, the pilot who had airlifted Glen from Mideel to Midgar. In exchange for money, Jack would give people suffering from mako poisoning to the research and development team at Shinra. Glen was a member of the Special Survey Unit (SSU), which was purposed with finding large mako reserves. Members were at high risk of being poisoned. Glen gave Jack money in exchange for a clandestine trip to Mideel, and Jack was later tasked with bringing him to the research team after he developed mako poisoning. The narrator shows Jack a picture of Geddie Bach, but Jack identifies the man as Glen.
The narrator reminisces about his time with Aerith Gainsborough, who he played with as a child. Aerith was often upset with Geddie for seemingly harming her mother. In actuality, Geddie was a clerical worker who was charged with supervising the comings and goings of others. Geddie, in a conversatin with the narrator's mother, theorized that Professor Hojo was going too far with his experiments. He also mentioned the possibility of leaving his position to join the military.
The next day, the narrator seeks out Joann Liu, a woman who had been on the transport helicopter with the supposed Glen. Joann is suspicious of the narrator, so he explains that he wants to resolve a matter before his partner Silvina Kelly gives birth to their child. When the narrator was young, Geddie cared for him, and he would like to find him once more. During the narrator's conversation with Joann, a woman named Lilisa Meg begins pounding on the wall in another room. The narrator recalls an incident when he was younger, where a black-robed woman blamed Aerith's drawings for someone's death. That woman was also named Lilisa. Joann reveals that Lilisa had gotten mako poisoning and, despite treatment, never fully recovered.
Joann goes on to explain that she, Lilisa, and Glen were all from the slums and enlisted in the military at the same time. The three become friends, joined by Glen's friend Geddie, a clerical worker. Joann and Glen both signed up for the SSU. SSU members were given pictures of drawings of landscapes and tasked with finding their real-world counterparts. Lilisa threw a party for the two before their departure. However, worried for Glen, Lilisa begged him not to go and confessed romantic feelings for him. Later that night, Geddie, Glen, and Lilisa fell very ill. Geddie began to recover when given medicine, but Glen and Lilisa remained unstable. Geddie believed that Lilisa may have secretly drugged their food, which Joann had not eaten, with mako. Geddie decided to take on Glen's identity and go on the SSU mission in order to fulfill Glen's dream in his place. Lilisa responded somewhat to treatment, but Glen passed away. Glen's family was told he died in the Wutai War.
The narrator then leaves Joann before answering any questions from her. Joann seeks the narrator out the next day and brings him to the slums. She points out two figures: Glen and Geddie, both wearing black robes. She explains that people in the slums have gone missing, returned, and many have numbers tattooed on them, including Lilisa. The narrator approaches Geddie, but Geddie does not recognize him. Later, Joann tells the narrator her new theory: Geddie had poisoned the food so that he could take on the mission.
The narrator reveals that Aerith drew the pictures given to SSU members, and that President Shinra thought the landscape images were mako sources. Aerith grew sickly after being forced to draw. Aerith told the narrator that she could no longer 'see' places, and that Hojo had told her making up places would get people killed. The narrator instructed her to draw Mideel, which he had seen in a magazine, promising they would never ask her for help again. The narrator passed the drawing on to Geddie, telling him it was the clearest image Aerith had ever seen. The narrator realizes that Geddie had poisoned Glen so that he could find the location and gain favor with President Shinra.
Joann tells the narrator of Aerith, a girl who sells flowers in sector 8. The narrator visits her and apologizes. Aerith feigns ignorance, but giggles and waves as the narrator leaves. The narrator returns home to Silvina, finally free from guilt.