Why here? What the devil is he doing here? She leapt to the roof that overlooked the corner of the street. He was fast, but the furiously disoriented pedestrians he disturbed on his way made it easy to follow his trail. She went to the next rooftop. And then the next one. I hope he doesn’t do this all day. He wasn’t one to give up, if ever at all.
It wasn’t long before she had left the Business District. As she suspected, she soon found herself in the Industrial District. Where he’s most comfortable.
And then the haphazard trail ceased.
After a quick survey, she made a gathered assumption of the vicinity and she remained perched on the roof overlooking the street as she caught her breath. A quarter of an hour passed and deciding he wasn’t coming out but was instead inviting her in, she made her dramatic drop to the sidewalk and strode to the doors of the crooked tavern.
In the back was where she found him. He said nothing as she took the high chair beside him. She signaled to the waiter for a drink and then folding her hands on the table, she looked at him.
She knew he wouldn’t break the silence despite his occasional furtive glance in her direction. So it was up to her. “So what’s the occasion?”
“Filing a complaint.”
“You?” She let a glitter pass across her eyes in amusement. “Something you can’t take care of yourself?”
“What could it possibly be?”
The waiter arrived with her drink and she slipped him a coin. His intimation registered as she took a sip. She blinked at him. “You don’t mean Lani?”
Freya put her hand to her mouth to hide her grin. “Has it gotten that bad? What could you possibly have against her?”
“I go alone.”
“Not all the time, I’m sure she’s noticed. She’s seen you with quite a few friends, I can attest to that.”
His eyes darkened under the red hood of dreads. “She isn’t welcome.”
“With how much you detest her, one would start to think you secretly adore her,” she exclaimed, trying to exclude the giggling from the statement.
“I would make friends with the entire planet if she would leave me alone.”
“Everything, damn it. Now why are you chasing me halfway across town?”
Now it was Freya’s turn to darken, and she took another sip. Dare I ask him…? Oh no, what if Dr. Francis is looking for me? I should just get to the point. “I have a favor to ask of you.”
He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. His blueish skin nearly glowed in the dim light.
“It would take you far from here,” she attempted a weak coaxing. She noticed he’d already finished his drink. It probably took at least twenty more before he could feel even remotely inebriated.
His face remained stoic, his eyes hidden under shadows.
Who knows what goes on in that head, she sighed. “I was waiting for my friend at the Library for the trip’s approval. We probably will receive it, but I am in need of a partner–”
“Ask your fine-tailed friend.”
She frowned. “He’s your friend, too. And he has declined.”
“Too busy flirting, acting, sleeping in, stupid kiddy stuff?”
“It’s his business,” she felt rather insulted at his demeaning words. “And as it is, you were my next choice.”
His frown deepened. “…Why?”
“Because you’re competent,” she replied. This part was easy because it was true. “You’re level-headed, and you’re strong. You’re intelligent.”
“So are you, you don’t need me.”
“…” He needs more incentive. Money? He was a mercenary, after all. But what money do I have? Nothing! Well… “Perhaps if the library compensated your efforts with a monetary bonus?”
“What’s the occasion?”
Now it became vague. “We would basically be making sure that Terra is indeed gone.” And finding out what this cult is about. And making sure those prophecies are untrue. …And finding out if Terrans have souls.
“You’re getting paid for that?”
“You’re insulting me.”
“It is a bit more complicated than that…” No one actually ever mentioned money… Ugh, why do I bother making things up.
There was silence. Freya gulped down the rest of her drink.
Still more silence.
This is his usual game… “Would you consider it? I would most likely be departing this evening, it is a rather urgent investigation.”
“I have to return to the library. Amarant, please, consider…?”
The stoic blue statue remained mute.
She bowed her head and got up from the table.
“If you do consider, then please find me outside the Dragon’s Gate tonight at sunset.”
He didn’t move, and she left.
“Money he wants?” Dr. Francis grinned. “And what’s he going to do with it?”
Freya shrugged. “Wine? Tobacco? Lodgings?”
“With all that greed, he should pay someone to get that head huntress off his back, hmph!”
“They are expensive for a reason. Amarant himself probably fetched the highest price, Lani a close second.”
“And he quit?”
“To the best of my knowledge,” Freya bent her head in doubt.
The committee had approved of the trip with a small allowance that Freya knew immediately would barely suffice more than one night outside of the city. It didn’t help that Dr. Francis bragged to them about his gold chocobo to which they applauded his sufficiency and brilliance in eliminating transportation funding from the budget. Amarant wouldn’t work for the measly 150 gil that had been handed to her. Add another zero to that and he would still scoff.
“That was foolish of him. So maybe ye take Isoto with ye and I stay with Mara. She cooks a mean bisque.”
“Don’t be silly. I will find you a pleasant and safe place for you to stay. And you would be near enough to the library to entertain your friends here.” She shuddered involuntarily at the thought of Isoto. It wasn’t that she was evil, but there was a creeping oddness to her that made the world slightly off-balance. Was it because she was a Terran, did all Terrans give off a strange vibe? Was it the sentiments of Sieem that was only temporarily setting her views askew? She hadn’t noticed anything peculiar the last time she had interacted with the Terrans with Zidane. But then again, that was in tumultuous and changing times, she hadn’t been settled in body and spirit to notice these sorts of things. She wasn’t sure what was normal anymore, if there ever were such a thing.
No matter. She would have her chance of meeting more Terrans, no doubt. Sooner rather than later, it seemed. Though she told Dr. Francis of her personal ambitions, she neglected to inform the committee that she would be making an initial diversion to the Shimmering Island. She hated to take advantage of their naiveté, but they were most positive that the whole endeavor would take over a month to investigate. That was more than enough time for her to accomplish both objectives. Better to come back early than late.
And it appeared that she would have to go whether or not she had a companion. Perhaps it were better that way.
She spent the rest of the afternoon setting up a short-term living arrangement for Dr. Francis and sharpening up her weapon and armor. She would have to rehearse her dragon skills — hopefully they hadn’t receded into the depths of her mind from disuse and faded into nonexistence.
The evening hour came earlier than she anticipated and bidding her good-byes to a distracted and hungry Dr. Francis, she set off to the Dragon’s Gate with her essentials. Shoofie was to meet her in the same location he had dropped them off… hopefully.
With only a small lamp, she found herself sitting alone on the hillside watching the goodfolk prepare themselves for the next humdrum day. Shoofie was nowhere in sight. She even tried whistling, but to no avail.
Dusk turned to twilight, twilight turned to dusk, and the stars began appearing steadily one by one above her. With thoughts of the Terrans and the odds of finding the book at the Shimmering Island, she began dozing in the cool evening.
“Looks like your ride stood you up.”
Freya jumped, gripping her trident and whirled to meet her ambusher.
“Amarant,” she sighed, his presence sending a surge of surprise, then relief, through her.
“I thought you’d left already.”
“Well,” she brushed herself off and glanced around. “Beggars can’t be choosers. What are you doing here?”
“What does it look like I’m doing here?” He raised one of his fists, his Rune Claws glittering in the moonlight.
“I really thought you wouldn’t to come.”
Not a conversation worth pursuing, I suppose.
“Where are we off to, anyway?”
“First, we’ll be going to Shimmering Island.”
“Sounds like this has something to do with Terra.”
“Correct,” she nodded. “Then if my trip to the Shimmering Island is unfruitful, we’ll proceed to the Black Mage Village… They call it the Village, now.”
“I know. What’s to do at the Shimmering Island?”
With one eye on the lookout for a golden speck somewhere, anywhere, she recounted the mystery of Dr. Bani and his book. He only crossed his arms and shook his head.
“You sound bored,” Amarant shrugged after she completed her story.
“‘Bored?’” She peered up at him.
“You’re chasing books around the globe and watching for shadows.”
“I think a lot of us would rest easier if we knew Terra was truly gone.”
“You think the book has to do with Terra coming back? I think Terra’s always been here and the book’s an afterthought.”
He shrugged again. “Just a feeling.”
He’s always been a terse fellow. Never says more than he has to, and always straight to the point. It’s going to be like old times. I… no. We have nothing in common.
“So where’s your ride?”
“Shoofie… a gold chocobo.”
He raised his eyebrow but said nothing.
She searched the skies again, but only more stars appeared behind the few passing airships.