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Fandom Final Fantasy: The Age of Ophiuchus [Closed]

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Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Didymus did indeed follow along under the weight of the water and cold. He couldn’t wait to get back to the fire with Reva and Cleon. It would be cozier there. Warm. He almost didn’t care that it was also going to be a bit chaotic because of introducing Jagger to the group. After all she’d done today, he figured Kikiti would help vouch for her. She had helped a lot in finding Tuna and didn’t put up too much of a protest towards it, either.

At least they made it back to the honey man without incident, save a few stares their way, which abated when Jagger gave them dirty looks. The man seemed happy to see his cat, and true to his early comments, the cat was also quite happy to see honey. Didymus just kind of stared at it for a moment, thinking of how it didn’t like fish, before he turned his attention back to the man.

“She was in warehouse 13, which had some large spiders in it. You might want to, uh, mention it to someone here so no one gets hurt over there,” Didymus said, as the man straightened up, looking surprised.

“I wouldn’t have guessed she’d go so far.”

Didymus could only shrug. She might have gotten scared and run heedlessly into that dangerous place, thinking it was dark and quiet, only to then end up paralyzed with fear by what was actually there…and ending up in a small space the spiders couldn’t get to her at. He could only guess, though. “What can I ever do to repay you three?”

“Well, we were actually trying to get some honey,” Didymus said, rubbing the back of his wet head. That was how they’d even crossed his path to begin with, after all.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
"Honey, eh?" The man chuckled a little, straightening up. "Is that really all?"

"Well..." Jagger piqued up, about to ask for some gold to pass hands, though, she felt a pair of eyes on her. A hard stare. She looked down, finding Kikiti looking at her with a look that said, 'Seriously?' She looked back at her, as if to say, 'Yeah, seriously.' She was about to turn back to the man and ask him up front, but he had already turned back to his stall. In one hand, a pot of honey. In the other...

"Here, for your troubles," the man smiled, holding out a pouch, with some gil tinkling inside. "I can't let you part with just the honey."

"Oh, really, it's--"

"Much appreciated," Jagger added for Kikiti with a smile, walking forward. She happily lifted the pouch out of the man's hand, then the honey, with a coeurlish smile. She ignored the glare from Kikiti before turning to Didymus and handing over the pot of honey.

The man smiled nonetheless at all three of them, lifting up Tuna in his arms and smiling. "Thank you all so much. Really, you don't know how much Tuna means to me and my wife."
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Didymus couldn’t help but shoot Kikiti a bit of his own look as she tried to protest the gil, which Jagger easily accepted. They should pay Jagger back a bit for helping them buy food, and this was a way to do that. Not to mention, they fought literal spiders for this cat. They deserved some gil. Didymus took the honey and pocketed it in his bag, looking at how calm Tuna was now, before going over his own mental list of what he needed for a good meal.

Still a few things to grab.

“We’re glad to have helped get her back,” Didymus offered. He probably couldn’t imagine what the cat meant to them, but he wasn’t going to contradict it, either. People loved what they loved, and unconsciously he again pulled on his pink bracelet. “I hope she won’t wander too far after this excitement.” Maybe she learned her lesson now.

Or maybe she’d keep hoping random adventurers would get her out of trouble. “We have to go get some food for our friends now, before they get too hungry,” he added as a way of dismissal.

The old man smiled, “You all have a good day, and keep them close,” he said, and went back to packing up his stall. Apparently, he was going to take time off to spend doting on his cat – or Didymus assumed, anyways. He wouldn’t ask. He just led them back through the market to go about getting the rest of the ingredients, and once those had been picked up, he’d be leading them back towards the camp they’d set up with Reva and Cleon.

Only they didn’t get quite that far, before Reva intercepted them.

She did not look pleased. ‘How does she—’

“Er, Reva!” He said, and gestured quickly to Jagger, “My sister, Jagger. She, uh,” words suddenly failed him under Reva’s ever-hardening red glare. She hadn’t even needed to speak her discontent with this situation for all of them to know she was upset with it, and why she was upset with it.

~***~

Elsewhere, in a city of gas-lights and paved walkways, another had gotten lost. No cat, but a child, the young Lilia Vespers. The blonde girl had slipped her guard at the chocobo races while Oleander was getting set up. She had wanted to watch him and go find a good seat, but somehow, she’d made her way out of that area entirely and gotten terribly turned around.

She followed what she thought was correct, golden feathers painted on the ground, but rather than take her to the chocobos, it took her to a chocobo-themed casino.

Flashing lights, noises, and people in sexy chocobo outfits wandered around. “Mmmmm.” This definitely wasn’t right. Lilia gripped at her red dress, honey-eyes drifting around as she twisted up the fabric of her skirt over and over, trying to figure out where to go from here.

Staff would probably help, but she didn’t see any uniforms (although maybe the chocobo people were staff? There were a lot of them, and people in same outfits usually meant they belonged to the same group) of the Empire around, so she wasn’t sure how to go about finding her dad.

“Are you lost?”

The voice startled her, and she looked up to see an older boy with darker skin and weird blue hair. Or was it black? “U-um. Who are you?”

The man blinked a moment, but he answered all the same, surprised to be asked, “I’m Hector, I’m from this area,” he didn’t add his last name, just in case. She still looked strangely suspicious for a child.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
With a cat safely returned, a handful of gil, and some honey to boot, the others eventually returned to the market to grab some ingredients they still needed to pick up.

All the while as they walked back to their camp, Kikiti seemed troubled by Didymus’ sister. Perhaps the two were alike in more ways than one, but something about her seemed…off? With the greedy gil grabbing and her rather aggressive nature, something felt more experienced about her than just being a traveller. Then again, perhaps Kikiti was just overthinking it. She should have been very grateful for her help, after all.

She could only hope Reva and Cleon could warm to her. Maybe even dispel some of her own worries.

Though, that wouldn’t come any time soon, what with the way she suddenly appeared in front of them. Kikiti paused and stepped back, Didymus sounded as if he was about to soil his breeches, and Jagger…just stared at Reva. At…parts of Reva. She’d never seen a Viera in the flesh, like many others, and even if those reddened eyes imposed on them all, she seemed more fascinated than intimidated.
“Found Diddy. I got worried about him, as big sisters do, travelling around the world,” Jagger finished for the stuttering Didymus. “I hope you don’t mind me joining you. I heard he was travelling with a few people and I decided to help with finding some ingredients for cooking with!” Her tone was conversational, friendly, much the same as it was with Kikiti. Though, all the while, Jagger had been watching Reva, trying to break past that red-hot stare of hers.

There was a reason she was the Prince’s lapdog…or lapbunny. Plus…Pisces.

~***~

“…diggin’ up some holes somewhere. Must be something juicy they’re looking for,” in one painted fingernailed hand passed a map, scrolled up, while the other took a sizeable amount of gil. “Careful where they’re involved though. Could get messy.”

“I live for mess, Rhona,” a blond haired and tanned man winked with one blue eye, securing the scroll on his belt. “Ask Hector.”

The short-haired woman scoffed. “These aren’t mercenaries or drug lords like you’ve dealt with before. Goddamned Imperials, they are.” Though, she shook her head, as if knowing the man wouldn’t listen to her warnings. “Just don’t get in over your head, Ses. Losing it over some apparent treasure ain’t worth it.”

The sky pirate smiled and gave a salute. “Yes, ma’am.” He turned after she rolled her eyes and nodded, and the two parted ways from the shadowy alley.

Sesario emerged into the bustling streets of Escander. Manoeuvring past those shouting lottery results, listening to the all-too-familiar sounds of jackpots from inside the nearby casinos, and trying to avoid staring too long at the lovely chocobo ladies, he scanned the heads looking for the one that belonged to Hector. The boy had told him he would be nearby while Sesario was securing that treasure map of his, and lo and behold, he had only gone and run off. Most likely to the ship.

He understood all too well why he hated it here.

Eventually though, Sesario paused as he noticed Hector’s head, and significantly, a blonde-headed one that sat far below him. He soon approached, observing better than Hector had been speaking with a young girl who had been scrunching up her dress in her hands, eyes flittering around her. Another abandoned miscreant lost in these murky waters? Mind you, she looked too wealthy, too done-up to be some lost orphan. Most likely of noble stock. If they returned her safely, perhaps they’d get quite the pretty penny out of it.

And, well, because it was morally the right thing to do in a morally defunct place like this.

“Don’t worry about him,” Sesario smiled at the girl, patting Hector’s shoulder before squatting down in front of her. “He’s a friend, and so am I. You can call me Sesario. Or Ses, if you like.” He told her, trying to seem as openly friendly as he could manage it. “Did you get separated from your parents?” He could imagine it in a place like this. Uppity nobles often spent just as much time gambling as the poor masses did. A tough cycle to break.

Elsewhere, in a city of gas-lights and paved walkways, another had gotten lost. No cat, but a child, the young Lilia Vespers. The blonde girl had slipped her guard at the chocobo races while Oleander was getting set up. She had wanted to watch him and go find a good seat, but somehow, she’d made her way out of that area entirely and gotten terribly turned around.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva let her gaze move to the woman introduced as Didymus’s sister. She knew of no sister, he had not mentioned a sister on their journey at all, though she supposed that ought not to be so odd. She had plentiful sisters, and rarely mentioned them at all. Of course, her situation was not a friendly one. Her sisters would not coming looking for her anytime soon. They would be exiled, if they were, and suffer as she suffered.

She folded her arms over her chest, “Did you speak of who you were traveling with?” Reva asked Didymus and Kikiti both.

“No,” he shook his head, answering for them both. They’d talked around it, hedged, just in case. “Look we know it’s sensitive, but she’s just going to hang around for a bit, and then be on her way—”

“To where?” Reva sniffed, looking back at Jagger, finding it hard to believe Didymus’s sister appeared out of nowhere to help him. Of course, she found Didymus to still be a touch suspicious, even after their time traveling together, “How did you find him here? Were you looking?” as Big Sisters would? Why would she worry of Didymus? Did she know he had gone to Ucantis and know of the war?

Reva couldn’t help but find it all too suspicious. They were so close to getting on a boat and going to Rozari, she didn’t want it all ruined now, at the last moment!

~***~

Lilia looked at the new man with that same suspicious gaze, before he said his name. Something about it clicked in her head, and at first there was surprise, before a softening. Hector noticed it, and seemed puzzled by it. He canted his head. ‘Do you know her?’ No, if he knew the girl, he wouldn’t have needed to introduce himself. ‘Is this some child you had on another girl?’

The answer wouldn’t help much, “Oh! I know you – Mama Virus was talking about you with my aunt! Sesrio Kavleers!”

“Uh…close enough,” Hector supposed Sesario wasn’t a common name, but still, how did she know from just her…mother?...mentioning his name? Who was this girl? He was only more confused, but thankfully, she had decided to start talking now.

“I’m Lilia Vespers!” She stuck out her hand for a proper handshake, “I was gonna watch my dad race a chocobo but I got lost. I thought following the feathers would bring me back, but….” She was clearly embarrassed her idea hadn’t worked, “He’s um. Oh. Oleender. I think that’s what other people call him. He says not to call him that, only other people call him that, but you’re other people. His last name is Arkidos, but mine isn’t.”

Hector paled. 'Uh, shit. Oleander's kid? He has a kid?' Red flags were going off in his head. There was benefit to taking her back, obviously, but they usually tried to avoid being known to the Arkidians. He didn't want to start that now. Even if it would be on their good side. "We know where the chocobos are," maybe they could just take her back that way and leave her with some random Arkidian guard?
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Jagger watched Reva look over her, and for a moment, she thought she was interested in her. That was, until Reva put her hands over her chest, and the woman had to suppress something of a groan. The best view blocked. Then again, she didn’t have time to be ogling up the Viera. She had an alibi and a ruse to keep up. And even with Didymus’ reassurances – which, she expected not to be trusted either way – Reva looked back with that piercing gaze.

“Escander,” Jagger answered with a relaxed tone. “And as a matter of fact, yes. I’ve been travelling for a few months now on my own. Diddy would have sent me a letter on occasion telling me he was okay. When I didn’t hear from him, I decided I’d put my leisurely travelling on hold to try and find him.”

Kikiti listened, and just as she was about to take her word as gospel, as she always did, she couldn’t help but stop and think. Didn’t Didymus send a letter recently to her? Only a few days ago, mind you. Something stirred in her stomach, a sudden discomfort and gut feeling that something was just as odd about this. Or perhaps she was just being overly cautious. Maybe the Moogles hadn’t caught up to Jagger or it got lost in transit.

Just as Kikiti was about to speak up, and ask about the letter Didymus had sent, someone called out in their direction.

“Reva? What is it?”

Jagger’s gaze turned to the approaching prince, trying her best to keep her face from scrunching up, or bursting out in a fit of laughter.

He looked like shit. Sure, he had the long hair, wildly unkempt now, and surprisingly, a good physique, but he looked like a damned nomad that got picked up out of the forest.

Prince Cleon definitely looked like the kind of cry baby Oleander had alluded to.

“Hello,” Jagger gave a wave and a smile to the rather surprised, and suddenly suspicious, prince. “Jagger, Diddy’s sister. Long story short, I hadn’t heard from my little brother in a while, and then found him whilst on my continent-wide travels. Who da thunk, right?” She tapped her head, watching the younger man blink at her. “Twelve, you have such a punchable face.”

“Oh! I forgot to mention! We got plenty of stuff to make food!” Jagger smiled triumphantly. “Even got our hands on some honey.”

Cleon blinked again before he asked, “Honey?”

“Don’t ask…” Kikiti mumbled.

~***~

Sesario noticed the lightbulb effect light up on the girl's face. When Hector had looked sidelong at him, Sesario gave a slight shake of his head. ‘You know how much one of those costs?’ Maybe one day. Maybe. Certainly not today. He’d shit himself if he had to suddenly take responsibility for one of them. He didn’t know his old man had done it, bringing in other kids he suddenly discovered were his.

Sesario was liable to shit himself more when he heard her say his name. How the hell did she know about him? And Virus? Why did the name sound so familiar? Didn’t sound as if it was a name native to Hyune, rather one that was further east of here. But shit, his name.

He was about to ask the girl what her name was with a smile, though, she had barrelled on ahead. And once a kid started spouting, they revealed all kinds of things. Oleander Arkidos was not one of those things he thought he would hear.

Still, Sesario refused to flinch or show a reaction to the name. Kids were great at picking up things. Hector was a bloody nightmare picking up on all behavioural and expression shifts that Sesario had to stop doing them. Instead, she took the girl’s hand, shaking it as firmly as what a five-year-old—or six-year-old?—would do. “Fancy names you got there. And daddies don’t like their kids calling them by their names. Though, I wish Hector would call me ‘Daddy’ every once in a while.” He leered at Hector, a wicked grin cropping up on his face.

It was just so easy to tease him.

Though, he knew his partner was overthinking. Sesario could see the fear running in his eyes. He knew they couldn’t just leave Lilia here, but ending up on an Arkidian radar was the last thing the two of them needed.

Then again, the pay out would be prosperous. Sesario could play the charmer. He totally had this.

“Yeah, we’ll be able to lead you back,” Sesario said with a smile, nodding to Hector’s comment. “And maybe we’ll even get you back just in time for the race to start. How’s about that?”
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva shot a look back as Cleon caught up. She had told him to wait! Now the woman saw who they were traveling with, and Reva was irked by that. She hadn’t been certain she ought to get so close to the situation, but now that she knew, there was really little point in protesting further. She knew Cleon was likely going to want the food soon, anyways.

So did she.

“It was an ordeal,” Didymus muttered, “but yeah, we have the food, and other things,” he hedged on that, figuring Reva would appreciate him not mentioning where they were going, or details relevant to their mission, in front of Jagger. It was the least he could do to keep up the illusion.

“Very well,” Reva didn’t sound happy as she relented, “Let me show you back to our camp. You will be leaving before night, yes?” it wasn’t really a question, though.

“Yeah – she will,” Didymus cut in, before Jagger could answer, “she has her own travels to get back to, and probably a cushy hotel room,” he sighed, as if jealous, but really it was still to keep her reminded that she wasn’t supposed to fuck this up. She had more information to figure out about their markings first, before any decision was reached about that.

And he knew how to contact her.

Just as she knew how to contact him.

Reva would lead back towards the camp, and there Didymus would begin to unload his supplies so he could get started on cooking.

~***~

Hector narrowed his eyes a bit at Sesario’s headshake, though he believed it. For now. The girl had claimed to be from Oleander, and as far as Hector knew, that made sure Oleander wasn’t the mother. Still, he’d be watching Sesario closer. The girl looked enough like him with her hair, after all.

Thankfully, she seemed more accepting of them, even if she knew his name. Likely, because she did. He kept the scowl on his face, though, for the ‘daddy’ comment. “He’s not my dad, but he’s right, we can get you back to the track,” whether or not it’d be before Oleander started the race was another matter entirely, Hector wasn’t keeping up with those.

Still, it wasn’t too far. The chocobo themed casino was close, they just had to get off the boat, and get back to the track. How did she get onto the boat without recognizing it? Questions for later. If ever.

Lilia did seem to brighten at this, at least, “Okay! That sounds good,” she said, hands back at her side and no longer uncomfortably twisting up the skirt of her dress. “I wanna see the race, my dad wins a lot!” She was always excited to watch, but there wasn’t often competition for her dad. It felt tense to her, of course, but few could compete with the chocobos of the Arkidian Empire, and certainly not the chocobos of the Imperator. “He brought Momo today! Momo’s my favorite!”

“Oh yeah?” Hector figured he might as well keep her talking, since he couldn’t annoy Sesario right now with questions of why the fuck Oleander’s daughter knew who he was, “Why is Momo your favorite?” They were already heading off the ship to get her back, with Lilia walking between himself and Sesario, for the time being.

“She’s tall, and she’s the only black one, which is really, really, really rare!” Lilia expressed, “Dad’s says she’s gonna have babies one day that will be golden!” She didn’t really understand how that worked, except they had to find her a partner. Of course, Oleander made it sound romantic, not, well…what it actually was.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Cleon knew he really shouldn’t have moved, but even if Reva was capable of taking care of herself, he wanted to make sure she at least had some back-up if anything were to happen. Not that he wouldn’t have been too much use anyway, but…

Jagger chuckled before she rubbed her nose. “Heh, sometimes I think the ground outside is cleaner than some of those inns, I tell ya…” But she turned back to Reva and smiled. “Lead the way and we can rustle up some of that good food!” Or, well, Didymus could. She could stand there and cheer him on for moral support.

He’d love that.

So, eventually, the group did move back to camp. Jagger at the very least did help Didymus get the ingredients together and helped cut some up or to prepare them. She didn’t really know what she was doing or what these ingredients would turn into.

Kikiti had taken up her regular sitting spot, starting to pull out her sewing handiwork again so she could work on it again. Cleon sat beside her, though, had shifted a few times, unsure of what to really say or how to start conversation with Jagger.

She, of course, noticed this, and she smirked.

“You got ants in your pants, mister?”

“H-huh?” Cleon looked up, as startled as a chocobo.

“You’re awfully shifty.”

“The log is just…uncomfortable,” Cleon scrambled for an excuse. It was an awful one, and Jagger knew it.

~***~

Sesario had to hold back a chuckle at Hector’s scowl. It never got old seeing how irked he could get over something he said. Hector truly did make a mistake joining Sesario on full-time. The man soon rose to a standing pose once again, groaning as he did so. Clearly the squats weren’t doing him much good. Else he was doing too much strenuous activity. Who knows?

Sesario, of course, was on the other side of Lilia as they walked, listening to the young girl spout about her dad, and his chocobo, and how that chocobo was going to be having lots of golden little babies. He would have made a joke about that, but children were present. He wasn’t sure Oleander’s daughter needed to hear anything inappropriate or left field. Ach, Oleander…why did it have to be Oleander’s daughter? Sure, he had no direct dealings with him, but an Arkidian…it was getting tougher to swallow the more he thought about.

“Super rare? And golden chocobos, huh?” Sesario answered, looking down at the girl. “What are you gonna name ‘em?” He assumed a girl like Lilia would have liked naming things, especially chocobo chicks.

He glanced around as they walked along, actually rather thankful they had found this girl first. Escander was large and bright, but even the flashiest lights could distract almost anyone from the absolute pit of sin and depravity this place was host to. Twelve knew he had met some pretty fucked up people in Escander before. Well…not all, he supposed, given one or two people he had met before…though, they weren’t from Escander.

Sesario continued to search as they approached near the tracks, squinting. “Okay, so if we find a black chocobo, we’re doing pretty well...” He mumbled, noting many of the chocobos that were being prepped for the upcoming race. In amongst the chocobos, he was searching for some sort of Arkidian guard. Oleander was probably not able to look after Lilia if he was busy preparing for a race coming up, after all.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Didymus tuned out the activity around him, other than to order Jagger to turn her attention to chopping vegetables, or mixing together spices in a bowl for him – things she couldn’t really mess up that badly, at any rate. He began to prepare, boiling the rice with some of those spices in it so they’d soak in the flavor and taste much better. He wished he’d grabbed some tea for it, but next time.

He also set up the fish to cook over the fire, and then began to get the veggie side dish and main veggie dish prepared for Reva. He felt like nudging Reva as she noticed Cleon’s discomfort, but resisted the urge. He did at least send her an irked look, for whatever that was worth.

“If you don’t like the log, just sit on the ground,” Didymus suggested, “Or go find another log, I’m sure there’s plenty around.” He wasn’t going to go look, though. Soon they’d all be on a ship and not have to worry about logs.

Reva wasn’t sitting. She was staying near, but more or less at a sort of perimeter, watching over things, ears alert. Jagger was probably a bit disappointed, even if she still had a good view. “Jagger, check the fish for me, would you?”

~***~

“Mhm!” Lilia nodded excitedly at the prospect of the golden chocobos. She’d never seen one. Her dad said they were shinier than the yellow ones she saw everywhere, and also super rare. It took a lot of work and luck to find a golden chocobo, apparently. Again, Lilia didn’t really understand how it happened, but she was still excited for it all the same.

As for names, “I was thinking of maybe Boco. It’s a good name, but dad says it’s not good for a girl, so maybe Koko if it’s a girl,” she mused, “but I really like Boco. There’s a story about a chocobo named Boco, you know! He saved another chocobo from a demon!”

Hector arched a brow, “Never heard any story like that before,” he didn’t hear about chocobos really doing any heroics, though. He doubted any of the chocobos they were passing by were capable of much.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU LOST HER?!”

The raised voice drew attention, even where the person wasn’t visible. Lilia flinched at the sound, but quickly straightened up and got her ‘game face’ on. “That’s dad.” He sounded upset. The reason was obvious, but she still hesitated to go forward. Sometimes, he sparked with lightning, and he told her not to come close when he was like that, he might hurt her, and he couldn’t control it.

Lixue had confirmed it.

“He’s probably upset with Anna…I lost track of her….”

Other people were making some space to show the guard, and Oleander, near Momo. The guard looked quite shaken, and was sans helmet to look ‘nicer’ for Lilia…so it was obvious she was already starting to cry.

“U-um…he’s a bit….”

“Yeah, we got you.” Hector didn’t need her to explain, though he just looked at Sesario. ‘You’re the charmer, asshole.’ Although, up close, Oleander didn't look that tough. He was tall, sure, but he didn't look strong. Not like the rumors said.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Cleon shifted again – subconsciously for that matter – before he rose to his feet. Of course, the log wasn’t the problem. He never had trouble speaking to others, yet, being on the run changed everything. He never expected Didymus’ sister of all people to just show up.

Kikiti, sensing Cleon’s unease, looked up to him and asked, “You wouldn't mind going into my bag and grabbing some more string, would you? I could do with some more.” Of course, that wasn’t the case, but she figured Cleon could do with a bit of distracting. She smiled when he nodded, heading over to her bag by the grazing chocobos.

As much as Jagger wanted to chuckle at the irony of someone telling a prince to go do something, she had to return to checking the fish. Didymus’ way of keeping her busy and out of trouble, no doubt. Must have learned that one from Juno.

“Should be done soon,” Jagger told him as she checked underneath the fish. She thought she could feel Reva’s eyes move to her, move away again, as if surveying over the whole camp. Imagine if she had planned to have this camp stormed.
She doubted they’d have a chance with the ears and eyes on that Viera.

~***~

“Boco, huh? I love Boco.” Sesario smiled. Incredibly enough, he remembered the story of Boco. He begged his grandfather to tell him the story every night before he went to bed. At one stage, he was quoted as wanting to be as strong as Boko himself. Then again, he also wanted to be a chocobo when he was younger. He had only managed it in terms of hair, really.
Any more of the conversation, however, was halted by a shout. Sesario looked to Lilia. ‘Certainly sounds like it,’ he thought to himself. He guessed Oleander could get pretty angry when he wanted to. Though, his eyebrow raised at the name ‘Anna’, clearly feminine, and that was enough to get the man interested. Well, after they returned the young Lilia to her father, of course.

Sesario watched as the man looked like he was about to tear shreds into the young woman. It wasn’t fair to let the poor woman be subject to Oleander’s shouting a moment longer. Of course, that look from Hector told him to go and handle it, and he just gave a reassuring smile to both him and Lilia.
“Don’t worry, you just let me handle things, alright?” He said before walking on and gesturing them to follow him. Just as if it looked as if Oleander was truly about to blow his lid, Sesario arrived near their sides, beaming.

“Imperator!” He greeted before looking to the guard, “oh, and madam. Did you both lose something? Because I believe...” He started stepping to the side to reveal Lilia...unless they lost her, in which case he was about to look quite the fool. “...we just found it.”
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
The food wouldn’t take too much longer. As the fish were finishing up, Didymus did his best to steam the carrots with what tools were available to him, and add the honey to them, before he began bowling out the food. Which, they didn’t have enough bowls for everyone, so he kept the pot for himself to eat out of, and cursed his foresight here.

Jagger, Cleon, and Kikiti would get a bowl of the fish, the honeyed carrot circles, and the lightly flavored rice. He did his best to keep the carrots separated, and laid the fish over the rice instead, but it was still something of a problem.

For Reva, of course there were the carrots and rice, but he’d also snatched up some broccoli and peas, explaining to Jagger that it would really make Reva happy. And, as she did see the bit of excess green amongst it all, a faint smile could be detected as she sat down with her own meal and began to eat with the rest of them.

“Are you truly going to eat with the cookery?” Reva asked him.

Didymus sighed, “No other choice,” although he did have to wait for the pot to cool down so he could actually stand to be near it. “It’s okay, the food will taste the same no matter what it’s served in. The only thing I’ve noticed that really changes flavor based on that stuff are drinks, and caviar, but caviar’s terrible anyways.” So it didn’t matter to him how it was served.

~***~

Hector arched a brow, figuring he’d also ask about Boco later, too. He didn’t know Boco. Why didn’t he know Boco? ‘You didn’t have loving parents to tell you stories, duh.’ That was…probably it, yeah. Lilia obviously had a loving father. He looked like he was about to rip the head off that poor guard. Hector couldn’t help but feel a touch jealous, though it wouldn’t last as he became quickly concerned for Sesario when he stepped forward, and they followed behind him.

Oleander’s head snapped towards the one who called for him by title. He had no idea who this was, but he wasn’t surprised to be known. Before he could even demand to know what was up, the stranger offered his answer.

He had Lilia, who was a bit behind him, looking afraid. Of course, as he met her eyes, she brightened a bit, and waved. “Lilia,” he breathed out in relief, the anger falling away, and he moved from the guard to approach. Anna held her position. She knew better than to try and take advantage of Oleander being distracted; he hadn't forgotten her. Still, she gave the strangers a relieved look. She liked Lilia. She hadn't wanted anything to happen to the girl.

Lilia was quick to move away from Hector and rush to where Oleander was. He scooped her up rather effortlessly, “What did I tell you about talking to strangers?”

“He’s not a stranger. That’s Sesrio!” Oleander just gave her a blank stare and she tugged on his shirt, “Mama Virus talks about him with Zari!”

“Why?” Oleander just looked even more confused by this, but he looked to the stranger for an explanation before Lilia. It was probably above Lilia’s head to know what Lixue’s mother talked about with Zariel. How did she even overhear this stuff? Last he knew Zariel didn’t let her around during business talks.

“How do you know the Virys family?”

‘Viry—oh shit.’

Hector bit the inside of his cheek but scowled up at Sesario. ‘If you were thinking of selling me off for experiments, I swear to the Twelve….’
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Of course, Jagger was more than happy to help Didymus with the rest of dinner…and especially for sorting out Reva’s dinner. Which apparently, would make her very happy. So, of course, she jumped in on that…though, she found it odd the Viera forwent the fish. Must have been one of those people who didn’t eat meat.

She wasn’t sure how one could live without it.

But she did see a smile crop up on Reva’s face, and that was enough for Jagger to get a kick out of.

At least she didn’t have to look at a scowl the whole evening.

Of course, Kikiti, when she got her bowl, gave the contents a good, long sniff. “Ohh…it smells so good!” She grinned before she got her cutlery and started practically wolfing it up. Looking for that cat today certainly worked up an appetite.

Cleon too, thanked Didymus and Jagger when he got his bowl. He would have offered up his bowl to Didymus so he didn’t have to eat out of the pot, but he seemed fine with it, in that apparently it didn’t taste much different. Then, caviar came up, and he pondered on it for a moment. “I miss caviar…” Cleon murmured before he took a mouthful of food.

Jagger’s face scrunched up. “Ain’t that like, fish eggs or something?” She gave a shiver, going back to her food, talking as she ate. “I mean, imagine eating fish babies. I mean, you have, but man.”

Cleon paused halfway through chewing, blinking for a moment. He was eating…fish babies before? No, wait that wasn’t…

“I…don’t think it’s actually…”

“Sure it is,” Jagger countered, chewing on her food. It was hard to tell whether or not she was joking because she didn’t have that weird smirk on her face that she previously. “I mean, you don’t know for sure, right? You’ve probably been chewin’ on fish babies this whole—”

“Can we not talk about this during dinner? Please?” Kikiti begged, already feeling her stomach beginning to turn at the topic of conversation.

~***~

Sesario could see the disgruntlement working on Oleander’s face even further as he had addressed him, though, his expression relaxed, and her daughter practically rushed towards him. He felt a sudden sense of pride at being able to reunite both father and daughter…even if some of it had been for a personal gain too.

Of course, again, Lilia had brought up his name, about how he was talked about by these two people. Though, when he thought more about it, given Oleander’s position, and who Lilia’s daughter was…

Shit. Zariel. The Zariel. Like, the Empress Zariel. And Virys! That crazy family of Imperial loyalists! Especially with that weird-ass scientist with those even weird-ass experiments he conducts…

Shit. Why were they talking about him though?

Sesario side-eyed Hector, who was scowling at him. Did he really think he was involved with insane Imperials? He’d never be that bad, he knew that!

Though, now came the question of how Sesario knew the family. Sesario turned back to Oleander and smiled. “Oh, I don’t know them. Not personally,” the man reassured him…or well, told him. He’d remember meeting a Virys. He wasn’t sure he was even in a position to be interacting with them in the first place. “I think your daughter might have the wrong guy.”

Sesario was common enough.

In Rozari, at least.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Didymus knew that Kikiti would be happy for the rice, and no doubt everything else – he was still pleased, and a little smug, to see her reaction. To watch her wolfing it down. That was always a good sign. Reva didn’t seem to eat slowly, either, though she never ate fast. Reva was just calm…er.

That was good, too.

And the food was good. He knew dill and fish always belonged together, and he’d had carrots like this before. He was content, and then amused, as Jagger and Cleon got on the topic of eggs. “Okay but,” he said as Kikiti asked them to get off the topic, “they are fish eggs, so they are technically fish babies. Like eating bird eggs,” he said.

Then realized he didn’t know anyone that ate chocobo eggs. Not even in Escander.

Now he was morbidly curious if those were poison or something. He’d have to do some research on that. He couldn’t imagine it was just because chicobos were worth more alive; that never stopped Escander from doing depraved things before.

“Eating animal babies isn’t odd,” he said that mostly for Jagger’s sake. He was sure she ate her fair share of more ‘regular’ eggs. “Wait, Reva, do you eat eggs at all?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head.

“I think that answers it then….” Eggs were animal babies if the viera wouldn’t eat them.

~***~

Hector was still scowling as Sesario evaded the answer. It was possible, of course, had Lilia not added his last name earlier. Hector had no intentions of bringing that up to try and get any answers, though. Oleander seemed suspicious enough, and he looked at Lilia again, who bore a pout at people suggesting she was wrong.

She knew she wasn’t wrong!

“Lilia? Have you ever seen him before?”

“Nooo,” she admitted, “but—”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Oleander sighed. At the very least, the name she knew was one that wasn’t unfriendly.

“But—”

“You need to go apologize to Anna for getting lost.” Oleander said. He wasn’t going to apologize to Anna. He was in the right to be furious with her for being outwitted by a child, even his own child, but she ought to go apologize for losing Anna all the same.

“Fine,” Lilia didn’t sound fine, but Oleander lowered her to the ground. She gave a curtsy to both Sesario and Hector.

“Thank you. Hope to see you again soon, Sesrio! Hector! I think Zari will like you even if she didn't think so.” Oleander just gave his daughter a weird look as she hurried off to go catch up with Anna and apologize for the situation. She did feel bad about that. She liked Anna.

“Sorry about that,” Oleander offered, “and thank you for getting her back to me. I suppose you’re going to want some sort of reward?” That wasn’t actually a question. Oleander knew how Escander worked.

He also knew he was supposed to be doing a job here and not just fucking around with chocobos. “C’mon. I don’t have it on me, but I can get some gil.” At an Imperial checkpoint where the two could at least go through and verify they didn’t have any marks. Did Zariel already know of someone named Sesario who had a mark? Was that what this was all about? Damnit, what did he miss now?
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
The “Okay, but,” made Kikiti want to run away with her bowl in hand. She just put her head down nearer the bowl, almost tempted to scoff it down faster, all the while telling herself, ‘dontlistendontlistendontlistendontlisten!!’

“But, they’re not fertilised…” Cleon murmured, unconvinced of whether his answer was even correct. He didn’t notice Kikiti squirm beside him when he used that word. “…or am I wrong?” Had he just been unwittingly eating fish babies this entire time?

‘The Twelve wept,’ Jagger shook her head to herself. That was the man holding the Cancer Zodiac? Man, would the other three love him. She looked back to Didymus and shrugged, “Oh, I know that. But caviar? I dunno how people eat that shit.” It was her gods honest opinion of the fact. Too salty for her liking.

Though, the debate seemingly ended when Reva said she didn’t eat eggs, and Didymus decided that eggs were therefore animals. Though, Jagger’s curiosity didn’t stop there, as she turned to Reva and asked, “So, what about stuff like milk, or cheese? You know, stuff that comes from animals, but aren’t their meat? You don’t eat them either?”

~***~

Even with the boy’s scowl still firmly set on Sesario, he kept up that charming smile. He doubted he could explain to Hector about his honesty here, or that he would listen, but it wasn’t the time to bring it up. And he was glad that he didn’t. Even if it did seem to irritate Lilia that her claims weren’t being backed up by the man himself.

He wasn’t about to drop himself in it as to who he really was.

After the two’s brief conversation, and Oleander had told her to go and apologise to that guard, she curtsied to them both. Sesario just gave Lilia a wink, though, again, Zariel’s name cropping up again seemed to unsettle him, though, he’d be damned if he ever let that show. “Don’t you go getting lost again, Miss Lilia. I won’t be around a second time to return you.” He told her before she went running off to Anna.

Sesario turned back to Oleander once again, shaking his head. Really, kids ran off all the time. His siblings had been prone to doing that back in Rozari. Hector, mind you, was usually well behaved for a child. He folded his arms and shrugged. “A bit of gil never goes unappreciated.”

Though, he did pause at Oleander’s remark. An Imperator, without coin? Sure, maybe so the swindlers and thieves couldn’t snatch it from him, but he had the means of fighting them off. He would have liked to think an Imperator was smart enough than the average pickpocket and could hold his own.

Sesario did glance to Hector, wondering if he found that notion just as strange too. Though, he instead covered it to Oleander by saying to his companion, “Wouldn’t you agree?”
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
“No, I agree,” Didymus also thought caviar was too salty, “supposedly it’s better if you use bone utensils, but eh,” he just shook his head. He’d never noticed a difference himself, and he wasn’t sure there was one. It was probably just stupid fancy people being stupid, as per usual, to seem cultured. There was a lot of that in Escander, after all, and bone was such a rare thing to use for bowls and utensils.

Maybe the bone industry just wanted to profit.

“Milk and cheese are of no issue to me, although I do not much crave them,” Reva answered. Not like some people she knew, who were practically mad for dairy products. She could do without them.

“Her diet’s boring,” Didymus noted.

Reva shrugged; she couldn’t contest it. Her people were not really like humans when it came to the pleasures of food. She enjoyed them, obviously, but not to the extent she knew humans could enjoy them. “I still appreciate that you try to find ways to make it less so,” she said to Didymus, startling him a moment into looking up, surprised. He didn’t expect anything close to appreciation from her, when she was all about just eating for survival.

His cheeks flushed, as he murmured a ‘thank you’, and went back to eating.

Damnit, he really did like this group, didn’t he? And now Jagger was going to see that, if she hadn’t already started figuring it out around Kikiti.

~***~

It did not surprise Oleander that the offer of gil was taken so easily. This was Escander, after all. People bought and sold their own children here. Much as he liked Escander for that sort of depravity, he did also hope it would get at least a little more cleaned up. Then he wouldn’t have to worry so much when Lilia went missing. As it was now? He’d worry.

“Yeah,” Hector shrugged, nonchalant, at the offer. He caught Sesario’s look, but he didn’t personally find it odd. Someone like Oleander didn’t need to carry money around. He was the brother to the Empress. Any debts he incurred could be taken up elsewhere, if brought up at all. People like Oleander could get away with pretty much anything.

He didn’t need money on him at all times for that.

And he was just about to race a chocobo, right? He wouldn’t need the extra gil weighing him down. At least, that was how Hector’s mind went about it, all he could really communicate to Sesario was in his nonchalance and his shrug and hope he picked up on the limited sincere worry.

In either case, Oleander would lead them a bit off towards the betting windows, “I stored a bit of gil here; it’s not illegal yet to bet on yourself,” he chuckled, “though I can’t bet on anyone else.” That could be considered rigging things.

As they approached, the guards before the betting lobby let Oleander pass, but moved to stop Sesario and Hector. Oleander paused, mock concern, before ‘remembering’, “Oh, just show them your passes – if you haven’t been vetted already, it’s a quick thing, and then we can discuss the price.”

“Checked out…?” Hector wondered aloud. This was unusual for Escander.

“Just doing a census, only letting those registered in Escander in for any betting. It’s going to be spreading to all the casinos and locales here, so you may as well get it over with,” the guard suggested. "You'll get a certified ID afterwards that you can just show."

‘This is a fucking trap.’ Hector was pretty sure whatever Sesario knew of the Virys or Arkidos families had just gotten them fucked over. "Uh, but, we're from Rozari?"
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Jagger rolled her eyes. Bone utensils. Just when she thought she heard it all. Man, rich people really were stupid, and Didymus could at least agree with her on that point. She wondered if Zariel, Oleander, or even Lixue would go as far to say something as stupid as that. Zariel and Lixue seemed unlikely, Oleander…less than unlikely, but she could imagine he would have his own opinions on it.

Judging by Cleon’s confusion at the mention of bone utensils, Jagger took that as a sign that he didn’t use them.

“Damn. It really is boring,” Jagger said, scratching her cheek. She earned something of a surprised look from Kikiti as if it was something she shouldn’t have said. “Come on, don’t tell me you weren’t thinking it~”

Kikiti had filled her gob at just the right time to give some incomprehensible, muffled answer, excusing her from actually answering the question.

Jagger turned her head soon after at Reva’s appreciation for Didymus. When she turned to look at Didymus, she was surprised to see him…blushing? She would have teased and made fun of the fact, had it not concerned her. He was softening around the very people he should have been kidnapping. Being soft was never an awful thing. It just wasn’t recommended when you had a job to do.

Especially when it was your ‘get out of jail free’ card.

So generously given by your friend who had gotten you out of jail before.

“Oh, yeah,” Cleon’s voice broke the silence. “You guys haven’t told us about that thing with the cat yet.”

~***~

Sesario wasn’t sure if it was just his intuition or paranoia. Hell, maybe he was waiting for that strange voice that popped up every now and then to warn him. But Hector seemed nonchalant about the whole situation. Did paranoia run in old age? Was he just old? What kind of sky pirate was paranoid?

Well, a sky pirate who was a prince.

Nonetheless, he’d have to remain as unworried as what Hector was, else he seem suspicious around the whole situation. He followed Oleander, eager to just grab the gil and get going. Though, he remembered he was very aware of the map he had on his person. The kind of map that he didn’t want Imperials seeing him with.

Though, before they could even get inside the betting lobby to grab their reward, they were stopped by two guards after Oleander had been let in. Sesario paused before he murmured straight after Hector, “Passes…?”

Even when the guard had explained it, it still didn’t make much sense to Sesario. Why the sudden census and pat downs? Or did it go even further than that? Seemed a little much for a census of all things.

Else, they knew about them and their exploits, that map he had procured, and were looking to rumble them right there and then.

“All the more reason to be doing it,” the other guard answered, looking to them both. “Look, just make it easier for yourselves, alright? It’s a pretty simple process.”

“You’re making a huge deal out of something so simple,” Sesario thought. He’d have to come up with a better deal for them here, or the two would have to book it.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
The cat story was a good enough distraction, although it still caused Didymus to groan in response, “So,” he said after a mouthful of food was swallowed, “I needed honey for the carrots,” which in his opinion turned out fantastic, “but the guy who sells the honey lost his cat, and was going to close up store so we couldn’t buy any honey.”

Which, obviously, was a problem. Reva arched a brow.

“We agreed to go find his cat – named Tuna, but doesn’t like Tuna.”

“He named her after a fish?” This was just stranger.

“Yeah,” Didymus shook his head, expressing his own bewilderment at the fact, “she likes honey, though, so I guess he found a good cat. She’s silver?” Like the fish. Kind of. Nevermind that, “Anyways, we ended up hearing from some dockworkers that there was a weird sound going on in a warehouse that was abandoned and thought to be haunted, so we went to investigate.”
Reva looked slightly more alarmed, “Ghosts are not something to toy with.”

Didymus opened his mouth to continue, closed it, gave Reva a bewildered stare. She spoke as if she had experience with ghosts, “Uh, yeah, no – I mean can’t ghosts be hurt with magic? Or is that just a myth?”

“No, not a myth,” Reva shook her head, “but I did not know you to be a powerful mage.”

Okay, fair. “Uh, Kikiti….” Well, maybe not Kikiti. “Wait how do you know about ghosts?”

Reva shook her head, for the moment, “You were going to tell us about the cat. It was not haunted, then?”

~***~

“But it’s not. We’re Rozari citizens, we’re not part of the Empire,” Hector countered, trying to muster that authority Sesario, technically, had as Rozari nobility. He tried to make himself seem bigger and more important, even if he wasn’t Rozarian. He was just, well, from Escander.

“Yet,” one of the guards said, as the other gave them an irritated look for it, and then tried to be placating.

“You’re trying to do business of some sort in Escander, so you have to have passes. Look, we’re working hard on making sure a lot of the illegal activity here goes down, having a system in place that actually identifies people helps with that. Do you know how many children are displaced here?”

‘Yeah!’ Hector wanted to shout that, but didn’t. He just glowered. Fair point. Maybe. He didn’t like it.

“You know what, we can just wait out here for Oleander to get our money, unless he’s not going to pay us for saving his daughter from becoming one of those displaced children.” Hector huffed, folding his arms across his chest. “Hate to see what would have happened to her.”

The guards exchanged a look, clearly questioning how to counter that, and wondering if Oleander was still paying attention.

He was, at one of the windows to get the gil, but really just making small talk while listening in to see if he’d need to take any action, like order the pair arrested. Would that be in bad taste? That would be in bad taste. They had saved his daughter. ‘Damnit.’ He should just get them the gil.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
A cat named Tuna, who doesn’t like Tuna. It sounded like something straight out of one of those children’s tales to Cleon. And who likes honey. Cleon listened attentively, even if the story was somewhat whimsical and far-fetched. It was nice to think of something so ridiculous as this than anything else. He too, glanced to Reva, just as curious to know how Reva knew ghosts, but she insisted on continuing the cat story instead.

“If by haunted,” Kikiti took up the mantle with a frown, “you mean haunted with three-foot spiders.

Cleon grimaced. “Three-foot spiders?”

“Yeah! We heard a yelping in the warehouse, so we went to go investigate. We were there long enough for one of them to jump down in front of me!” The Lalafell shuddered, remembering that one’s hairy legs and the way it skittered towards her. “Didymus managed to get a shot in with his dagger and even got to use one of his bomb things to confuse a bunch of him, so they just started fighting among themselves as we ran out of there.”

“Not without a bunch following us though,” Jagger pointed out, picking at her teeth.

“Yeah, a few managed to follow us. Oh, but Jagger handled them pretty well…and violently. I even managed to turn one into a frog before it got to Didymus!” Kikiti grinned, looking rather pleased her white magic had started to come more into its own.

“Just be glad we didn’t bring home frogs to eat tonight,” Jagger threw a tease towards Cleon. “Diddy sliced that bugger up, reaaaal good.”

Cleon shifted again. At least he didn’t like eating frogs all that much anyway…

~***~
Yet.

Sesario had heard some stuff about rough blows for Ucantis on the grapevine. The Empire was all but closing in on the continent, leaving Rozari cornered and forcing themselves to put their hands up and surrender.

He’d spit on those smug guards’ boots if he didn’t know any better.

But he had to keep playing the charmer. Especially when Hector, impassioned by the current topic, could have put one foot wrong when it came to the very people who could easily throw their asses in jail.

“It’s a miracle nothing did,” Sesario jumped in, patting Hector’s shoulder as a means of warning him to not overstep, “and that no one else found her first. We were lucky to find her when we were on our way out for business elsewhere.” Sesario smiled, glancing past the guards, even though he had been addressing them first.

“But it’s no worries. We have all the time in the world, don’t we, Hector?” Sesario looked to his companion with a grin. “I can certainly wait on that gil coming to me.”
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva allowed herself to appear startled by Kikit’s declaration of spiders, not expecting such large fiends in a town, nor in such numbers. Shouldn’t they have been dealt with long ago? She had always dealt with such things in Ucantis before it spread. ‘Well, there was the gator in the sewers…’ True, she hadn’t known about that, or she would have dealt with it some time ago, too. That was too close to civilization to go unchecked.

“The cat was at least there,” Didymus noted, “so we got her out of there and took her back to the owners, and got some honey,” and Jagger got some gil, he wouldn’t mention that so the others didn’t try to get it from her or ask her to share. That was her gil, and she’d helped enough by buying ingredients. He wasn’t sure the gil covered all the food, though.

He hoped.

Reva wanted to ask about the boat and passage situation, but she would not, with Jagger present. Instead, she just nodded, “At least the search for food went well, in the end,” for it was tasty, and far better than what they’d been living on, on the road. “And the cat was found in good health before she was eaten by the spiders.” She allowed a wry smile, “you are lucky not to have been in my forest. We had spiders of far greater sizes than that, and one far older than me we called Arasi.”

~***~

Hector knew he was close to stepping out of line, but the smug Empire really did piss him off sometimes. He probably shouldn’t have an opinion. It wasn’t like he was doing anything about it, really. Nor was Sesario, and he should care a little more, being from Rozari and all. He played it cool, though, taking Hector’s own suggestion and agreeing to wait outside for Oleander to return.

Oleander broke his own front by laughing from where he stood, but waving off the guards looks for direction, as he took a bag of gil from the lady at the counter and stepped out of the designated check zone.

As he offered the bag to Sesario, he put his free hand on the shorter man’s shoulder. The grip wasn’t gentle, but it wasn’t meant to hurt, either. Sometimes, though, he failed to recall his strength, given it wasn’t a natural strength, “You might want to reconsider in the future if you plan to do much business in Escander,” Oleander offered, a gentle warning.

“Soon enough, no one will be let in without passes.”

“You wish you could get such control over Escander.” Hector huffed, in spite of Sesario’s own warning grip earlier. Oleander just let his eyebrows raise, but he let go of Sesario, patting his shoulder in the process.

“You’d better hope we do. For everyone’s sakes.”

The mystery of Ophiuchus had to remain just that; Oleander didn’t pretend to understand it, given they spoke about it enough back home, but apparently Zariel had concerns about it spreading too far, to too many ears, that Ophiuchus might catch on and do something sooner. If he could do something sooner, why didn’t he?

That was the mystery though, wasn’t it? They didn’t know what Ophiuchus was capable of….

“You two have a good night, though!” Oleander said cheerfully.

At least the gil would be good, and all sincere – not a fake piece in the lot of the 2 million. He figured a million a piece was fair.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
“Ugh, that big?!” Kikiti let out a startled and disgusted cry, shaking her head at the thought. She would have been most definitely eaten by that stage. Twelve, if she had nightmares about this tonight, she’d be blaming Didymus for them.

Not that he did anything wrong, just that she had no one else to blame for it.

“Damn,” Jagger murmured, leaning back against the log. “Those Kikiti-sized ones were enough of a hassle to deal with…” Then again, she had dealt with much larger monsters on occasion. She had insane – or perhaps stupid – courage when she was taken out a bigger group of them. She was told she led with the head too much, and people were usually quite right about that.

“That’s a pretty wild story just to grab some honey…” Cleon pointed out the obvious, rubbing the back of his neck. It only seemed to get more bizarre as it went on. Then again, they were caught up in some very bizarre situations at this moment in time.
“I blame Diddy for that,” Jagger rubbed her forehead. “Though, it was a slap-up meal, kid, I gotta hand it to ya,” she winked.

~***~
Sesario’s expression remained unmoving when Oleander laughed. He kept smiling, like he had learned to. That, and he was rather happy to see the bag of gil that was making his way into his hand. As he took the bag, he felt a hand almost weigh down on his shoulder, and he gave something of a grunt at it.
Either Oleander hadn’t noticed the weight he put on him…or he had such intentions with a heavy hand. A warning. It wasn’t long before Hector had his own input to Oleander’s comment, and Sesario shot a look to him. The last thing they needed was to stir up the Imperator.

He had heard that never ended well.

The arrogance of that man had only gave rise to the desire to put him in his place…but he just turned back to Oleander and smiled. “We’ll remember that, Imperator.” Hector, perhaps, may be happy to know that they may not be returning to Escander for a time. Or, rather, would get worked up about another Imperial makeover on yet another nation.

Sesario started turning, assuming Hector would soon do the same, but on his way around nodded to Oleander. “And you. Give our regards to your sweet daughter.” And the Empress, he had almost added, but he couldn’t risk him thinking he knew either them or the Virys personally. At least, because he didn’t think he had met any of those two Imperial families personally.

Then again, there were enough occasions he was so drunk, he couldn’t remember who he had spoken to. Could have met anyone in those blackouts in his mind.

Sesario started walking with Hector, meandering in his usual way, only speaking until they were well out of earshot.

“Looks like business is gonna be in a rut here,” he muttered. No wonder people were doing deals in shady alleys and basements. “Soon enough, they’ll be battering on Rozari’s door…” Sesario looked back to Hector, seriously.

Somewhere, dully, at the back of his mind, something told him to go somewhere. It was always either to go home, to go here, to pursue this, or that. His hand moved to the map on his belt. Perhaps wherever some more gold was, that would be their next location.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva gave Kikiti a small smile at her wariness of the spiders, “Do not worry, Arasi would not harm you. She is more like a giant whale that eats only algae, she rarely causes any fuss, but we would tease the youth with her.” And the youth would go running, but Arasi was a staple of the forest, a guardian of sorts, really.

Reva liked Arasi.

Reva missed Arasi.

The topic shifted a little, back to Didymus and the food, and he flushed again, a bit, “Yeah, well,” he shrugged, “I come up with good ideas sometimes,” and he was glad to have pleased everyone this time around. “One day when I get to open my restaurant, I’ll have all sorts of things.”

“You will open a restaurant one day?”

Didymus shrugged, “Well, I assume when all of this is done, I could. You’d let me, right?” He looked to Cleon for that, as if seeking permission to open the restaurant in Ucantis. He didn’t imagine he’d ever be a royal chef…or that he’d ever want to, either. That would just be too bizarre.

But, he didn’t dream of a life that was constantly on the run and stealing, either. If he could get something stable….

Ah, but wasn’t that what they all dreamed? He couldn’t help but let his small thought flicker a bit, thinking of Juno.

~***~

‘How does a guy like that, have a daughter like her, anyways?’ And a bastard daughter at that, by her last name, though he wondered if anyone had the audacity to say that to her face. Probably not. Did she even understand why she didn’t go by Arkidos? Hector would try not to think of it as they made their way out of the races, folding his arms over his chest.

He was in a foul mood, of course.

He didn’t like Escander.

In truth, he thought the Empire did a few good things for Escander.

But….

Well, he didn’t like the Empire on principal, and now they threatened Rozari. They always threatened Rozari, but it wasn’t a distant threat any longer. In the course of a century, they’d nearly conquered the entire continent, and Zariel seemed to be the greatest at making progress, far more than her father, and more than her grandfather.

‘And your name is on her lips.’

That was another point of contention, and Hector gave Sesario a rueful look, that softened only a little as he noticed Sesario had also turned serious. “You really don’t know what all of this is about, do you?” He asked, hesitated, “You think your…parents…maybe did something?” That was the only logical following if Sesario didn’t know, wasn’t it?
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
“Oh…well, I guess that doesn’t sound so bad,” Kikiti smiled, relieved at the thought. Perhaps a giant whale would have been fun to see and play around with. Usually she wasn’t so fond of animals or things that were much larger than hers…but if this was one was docile enough, she didn’t see why she wouldn’t like Arasi.

A restaurant sounded nice. Sounded like a busy life, but perhaps it would be cushy, and stable, and something would be different from the poverty that Didymus had normally thought. So, Cleon smiled and even chuckled a little at the thought, “I suppose I would owe you for it, given how you’ve helped us.”

“Helped?” Jagger’s brows lowered at the word. With the cooking? Or with the escaping, she wondered? Perhaps the man had gotten a little too soft around the crybaby prince, and that wee angry Lalafell, and that very…curvaceous Viera.

“If you’re letting him open a restaurant,” Kikiti butted in, standing up in front of him and putting her hands on her hips, “then you have to get me some sort of reward too!” She demanded.

Cleon laughed a little and he nodded. “Of course. Name your price.”

Kikiti paused, blinking at the prince, before her cheeks flared. “Uh, I…maybe a…no…um…can I think about that? Yeah, I’ll get back to you on that one.

~***~

Sesario clicked his tongue before he sighed. “I don’t see how else an Arkidos and a Virys would have much of an interest in me.” He was turning out to be quite the popular man. In most cases, he would have been rather proud of that…but given his current occupation, he liked to keep his…other credentials safely under wraps. He wondered if his parents had been in contact with him. Else, somebody who knew him deeply passed his name on.

It was a referral he hadn’t asked for either way.

Sesario was quiet. Thinking. He didn’t seem like a man who would ever think, but yet, here he was, trying to work it out in his head. Then there seemed to be a spark of realisation before his nose twitched in disgust.
Fuck.

“The only thing I can think of is my old man suggesting a parley,” Sesario sighed, rubbing at his forehead. “And parleys…agh, shit…maybe this is their way of tying me down!” He cursed, looking up at the sky as if he would gain some sort of answer from up there. So much for Rozari pride and independence. He could practically see his grandfather rolling in his grave at the thought of an alliance with Imperials.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
“Yeah, you would,” Didymus agreed, catching Jagger’s look and whispered comment. He couldn’t say anything to her right then about how it all happened, and he hadn’t gotten much of a chance when they were alone. He knew she didn’t understand it all – but at least she was on the same page as him now. She didn’t know enough, either, to go rushing to get Arkidian forces to apprehend them, after all.

And he knew there had to be such forces in a port town.

He focused more on Kikiti, and snickered as she didn’t know what she wanted, “Wait until you’re an adult before you figure something out, Kikiti,” Didymus suggested, “Trust me, a lot’s gonna change for your perspective. And you only get an IOU like this once.” She could save it and milk it at just the right point.

“Then why do you not save it?” Reva asked.

‘I’m not actually sure I’ll be cashing it in. I may betray all of you and get an Imperial reward.’

He didn’t say that, of course.

He shrugged, “I know I don’t want to go back to the life I’ve had.”

~***~

Hector waited for Sesario to finish thinking. He knew the look. It was a rare one, sometimes, but he knew it all the same. He hadn’t joined with Sesario because he was an idiot, after all – though sometimes his rashness would suggest it. And he knew the moment the thought process broke into an answer he disliked, and he prepared himself for something terrible to be said about it all.

What he said at first had Hector give a blank look, not immediately understanding the implication.

Then, he wrinkled his nose and scrunched his face in disgust.

Before finally realizing there was no way this was real, and he burst into laughter. Not just a simple chuckle or a short laugh, but one that might have had him slapping his knees had he been sitting down, “That’s rich!” Hector teased, and poked Sesario’s arm, “You think you’re good enough to land an Empress!” He shook his head, “I know you have an ego, but come on, the Empire clearly doesn’t care enough about all that!”

They were good at war.

They were very good at war.

“It’s probably something else.”
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Did she say that out loud? Fuck. Jagger just rubbed her nose, shrugged, not wanting to bring too much attention to her comment or Didymus’ answer. She was starting to get the picture. She still thought Diddy was a big softie, of course. Trust people being thrust into a very precarious situation that changes their lives to melt his heart.

Damn. He didn’t make this any easier on her working with the Empire.

But he also worked with the Empire. He’d do well to remember that.

Kikiti turned to Didymus, listening to his advice. Though, her lips did screw up at being warned to wait until she as older. Even if she was sixteen, it made her feel younger still than she thought. “I guess that’s smart. Especially if you’re looking back on things,” She reasoned, sighing. “Still, it’s fun to think what I could ask for later on!”
Cleon, meanwhile, had just been thoughtful. He had his head on his hand and his eyes were watching the lining of a tree not far from their campfire. It was something that was said. Something he hadn’t quite understood.

“I…O…U…?” Cleon murmured, thoughtful, before his eyes lit up in realisation. “Oh…like…I owe you…”

A loud cackle erupted from the mercenary. She leaned against Didymus in a fit of uncontrollable laugher, clutching her stomach. Cleon wasn’t sure whether to laugh with her or not. Kikiti, on the other hand, was stifling a giggle herself.

“Aw, man,” Jagger laughed, wiped at her eyes with the sides of her palms, a cackle occasionally escaping. “You’re killin’ me!” Though, even in her coming down from such a fit, she started to realise why it was that Diddy hung around these people instead of doing his job.

Fuck.

He focused more on Kikiti, and snickered as she didn’t know what she wanted, “Wait until you’re an adult before you figure something out, Kikiti,” Didymus suggested, “Trust me, a lot’s gonna change for your perspective. And you only get an IOU like this once.” She could save it and milk it at just the right point.

~***~

The two of them had been close since the day they met. As close as brothers, or hell, it bordered on something of a bond only a father and son would have. Sesario liked to joke – and sometimes think seriously – that he was a father figure to Hector. But whenever he laughed at something Sesario said seriously, like now of all times, man, the Rozari prince could have throttled him.

“W-wha--? Am too!” Sesario protested, cheeks flushing. What was even worse was that those passing by delivered a strange glance at Hector’s belly laugh. Sesario’s irked face only reddened more. “I am totally good enough to land her! I’ll have you know, I’ve landed plenty of highborns in the past!” The cheek of that boy!

Sesario tutted, rubbing his nose. Maybe he was just being paranoid. They had the might of five other kingdoms now. If anything, it was easier to squash Rozari than to negotiate anything. He’d be surprised if negotiation were even on the table at this point.

“Tch, well, whatever it is,” Sesario waved a hand. “I guess we won’t know until they make their move. And anyway,” he pulled the parchment out of his belt, waving it at Hector. “We got something the Empire doesn’t…” He winked.

He wasn’t ready to go home yet. Something – or maybe someone, as he had always thought lurking in the back of his mind – had pushed him towards whatever was on this map. Must have been his intuition for adventure and vast rewards.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Honestly, Didymus couldn’t quite contain his laughter…even after facepalming at Cleon’s not catching on to something as simple as an IOU. All the letters sounded like the words, how did it not…? Well, Didymus supposed he’d never understand. Those in power probably didn’t deal with too many IOUs.

They got their payment immediately. ‘Zariel must be fuming, then.’ She didn’t have the prince immediately in her grasp, after all. He should feel lucky not to be anywhere near any of that messiness.

He still got himself together before Jagger, and rolled his eyes at her overreaction to Cleon’s naivety. He was already used to it by now, even if moments like this could still amuse him, too. Just not as much as Jagger. “I’m guessing that’s not a very common phrase for you, Cleon,” Didymus noted, “but, uh, yeah – when you don’t have means, or you’re going to call in a favor later, it’s an IOU situation.”

“Fairly common among thieves?” Reva asked, arching a brow. She knew the answer, obviously.

Didymus shrugged. “Yeah. It works,” sometimes. And when it didn’t, people got killed as payment. It was a pretty fucked system, actually, but he was so used to navigating it now that even the threat of death just felt like a Tuesday.

Even when it came from an Empire.

~***~

Hector could only laugh a little harder at the way Sesario’s cheeks flushed and he moved towards indignant anger at the idea he wasn’t good enough for an Empress. It was exactly what Hector expected, but it didn’t make it any less funny. The audacity of Sesario for wanting to keep it going when he should be relieved there was no way it was possible was just too much, really.

After all, Sesario knew the force they had now.

And as Sesario tutted, Hector did calm, but he couldn’t quite wipe the smirk from his lips, or stop the intermittent chuckle that escaped as Sesario tried to continue on as if nothing were wrong, and ignore musings on what it all could mean. The truth was, they were both ignorant of what it could mean, and could only grasp at straws to figure it out.

His eyes lit up as Sesario waved around that bit of paper, though. “You got it!” Not that he doubted it, really, but confirmation was still good to see, “Let’s get out of here, then!” They had some mysterious treasure to go find, assuming the map was legible.

Even if it wasn’t, Sesario had a way about him. He seemed to always know where it was they needed to be.
 

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