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Fandom Final Fantasy: The Age of Ophiuchus [Closed]

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Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
“Kind of common amongst a lot of people,” Kikiti added, for some reason, eager to jump to Didymus’ defence. “You’d be surprised how many favours people owe each other back home,” she giggled a little. Mind you, in saying that, Lalafell Town was a close-knit community. People helped out others just out of the kindness of their own hearts. Even her father, who practically towered over most Lalafell (obviously).

It was just a shame the rest of Ucantis didn’t seem to do the same.

“I’ve never really heard of it before,” Cleon admitted sheepishly, though, that much had been obvious to the likes of Didymus and Jagger.

“Well, you learn something knew everyday, that’s what they say, right?” Jagger pointed out, leaning back with her hands behind her head. “I mean, you guys just racked up an IOU with me grabbing some of that stuff for our dinner,” she teased. Technically, they did, at least.

Maybe she could ask them to quietly come back with her to Zariel. That would count as a nice IOU.

~***~

Sesario grinned at Hector’s sudden enthusiasm, even laughing a little as he slotted the map back into his belt. “I have my ways, Hector, as you well know,” he said, pride abundant in his voice. That could have meant anything, and for once, he didn’t even have to fuck for it.
But he’d leave Hector guessing.

“I’ll explain more when we’re on the ship,” Sesario told him. “Can’t be revealing all our cards, can we?” He grinned. Last thing they needed were Imperials on their asses, or those of similar occupations tailing them to their next location.

It wasn’t long before they got to the airship landing, where several airships – though, nowhere near the impeccable beauty that was The Valkyrie, of course – had docked. They reached theirs, a beauty of radiant blues and goals, its masts spread either side like wide spanned wings. It was a rather large ship, the kind that should have been dedicated to a whole crew, but was home to two very loyal pilots.

It was a far cry from the heap of junk it originally had been, even if Sesario loved her all the same.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Didymus groaned at Jagger’s reminder about the food, “I’ll pay you back for it,” he didn’t need the others involved in this, or to think it was necessary that they pay Jagger back at some point. “I’ll have more funds later. Probably.” He shot Kikiti a look, even though he knew the entire party was against him just pocketing from gil from a random passerby. It was so easy, though. But no, they were all hyperaware and alert for him pulling these kinds of shenanigans, so now he couldn’t get away with it.

Damn his luck. “You’d think feeding you was good enough,” he still grumbled the complaint. At least pretending to be siblings wasn’t hard; he and Jagger had down the asshole rivalry part down pretty well.

Reva eyed Didymus, but shrugged after a moment, “I am sure we will be able to repay you for this at another time, if Didymus is unable to.” Didymus gave her a bit of a rueful look for insinuating that he couldn’t, but them dropped it with a sigh and a roll of his eyes.
Maybe they’d let him steal in Rozari.

Or maybe this El Cid really would be all that they were looking for and he wouldn’t need to steal. ‘Doubtful.’ They’d find out soon enough.

He did opt to ask, “So, do you know what’s happened in Ucantis?” He knew that Cleon might not want to hear it, but they probably needed to hear it, “We haven’t been able to catch too much about the situation, and it doesn’t look like everything’s spread just yet.”

~***~

Hector wasn’t going to question Sesario’s ways right then. He usually found he didn’t enjoy the answer, or believe it, most of the time. So he’d just be happy they had the map, and hope it actually led somewhere useful this time. They didn’t always. He gave a sharp nod at Sesario’s promise to explain more in the ship, understanding fully why they couldn’t talk out here.

The Imperial presence was, well, far more numerous than usual. ‘And that won’t be changing….’ Not if this census thing the Imperator was talking about was going ahead. That probably meant more Imperials everywhere. He wasn’t looking forward to it, or the idea that he and Sesario might have to end up on a registry somewhere just to do business.

They’d really start living up to their pirate name if they continued to avoid it, though.

The Imperator probably wouldn’t be so nice next time, though.

Back in the Valkyrie, Hector went first to start a run of diagnostics to make sure nothing had been damaged while they were away. You couldn’t trust people in Escander, and they didn’t need to be surprised by something that would knock them out of the sky all of a sudden. “Okay, details, Ses,” the diagnostics would take a minute, anyways, as the ship slowly came to life around them, energy coursing through it.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
“Tch,” Jagger tutted, rolling her eyes at Didymus. “Just feeding me as a reward doesn’t pay the bills,” she muttered. Or rather, expenses. Then again, she could have been talking about ‘their parents’ and their bills. That would have been a good cover, nonetheless. She looked to Reva – after seeing Kikiti give something of her own glare back to Didymus – and she smiled. “N’aww, you’re too sweet.” Then would have been the part where she said they didn’t have to.

But she didn’t. She liked money, and it was true, there were expenses to be paid. Of the entertainment kind, that was.

The conversation soon shifted onto events in Ucantis, and if she had ‘heard’ anything that had happened there. Of course, the sellsword felt a pair of princely eyes move to her, bear right into her as if searching for those answers herself. Jagger sighed as she scratched her jaw, trying to think of the right way to word things without giving away she was in Ucantis.

“I heard in passing they had a funeral for the Queen, uh…Inara, I think it was.”

Cleon had stiffened at the very name, though, he narrowed his eyes. “A…funeral?”

Jagger, even though she didn’t want to see the puppy dog eyed man, looked to him. “Yeah. Big ol’ Ucantis-style one. Apparently, there was a huge turn-out for it and everything.” She wouldn’t admit it, but she hated to see the prince’s grievance over it. This was a man who couldn’t even mourn his own mother.

She knew too much about grief and mourning.

Jagger tore her eyes away from Cleon. “Shame how it came about,” she glanced to Didymus, a statement only he would understand fully. “They…said it was suicide.” Zariel said it was suicide. Of course, only a handful of people knew the real reason for her death.

“Suicide…?” Kikiti blinked, frowning deeply. “But…she always seemed so strong.”

Jagger looked to Kikiti, shrugging. “Heard she had a bad history of death in the past. Maybe Ucantis falling was the straw that broke the chocobo’s back. Bunch of soldiers found her dead.”

“That’s not true,” Cleon told her with adamance. Rather than breaking into tears over the news, he had his fists clenched, and there was this fury building up in his features. “She would never do such a thing.”

Heads turned to Cleon. Jagger raised an eyebrow, trying to look at least a little unbelieving.

“She was murdered,” Cleon continued, insistent and impassioned that this was the case. “The Empire murdered her.”

‘You’re not wrong,’ Jagger thought, though, responded, “I’m just repeating what I heard. I ain’t saying you’re wrong, but it could have been either way—”

“Well, I’m telling you now, I’m not wrong,” Cleon snapped, rising to his feet. “The Imperator Oleander Arkidos cut down my mother!”

~***~

As Hector started running diagnostics on the ship, making sure no pesky Escander-born civilians had messed with their girl, Sesario brought out the map again, unfurling it on their dashboard. “So,” he started, grabbing a spanner that Hector, for some reason, had sitting up there, and a shiny rock sitting at the other end of the dashboard. He put them on the map to hold them down. “As you know, the Empire has been doing some little excavation projects for whatever reason. I dunno, maybe some treasures they can sell on for a little extra dosh.”
Though, he really doubted the Empire needed the extra money, what with all the nations who had been added onto it. And well, the two million gil Oleander just parted with.

“Apparently though, they haven’t found this one,” his finger moved to that of an island, “bunch of ruins somewhere down to the south. Practically on our way to Rozari.” He looked to Hector. “I know we haven’t had much luck in the way of maps recently…I got a good hunch about this one. I dunno,” he sat back in his seat, shrugging. “Something’s telling me this is a good find.”

‘Or someone,’ Sesario told himself. He wasn’t about to let Hector, or anyone, think he was hearing a strange voice in his head. People thought he was loony enough as things stood.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva also stiffened at the words of suicide. She had not forgotten Oleander Arkidos’s greeting those many days ago. They knew that Inara was dead, but they had known then that she had been killed, and indeed, Reva suspected it was Oleander who did it, too. It was strange to her that the Imperator would do such a thing, only for it to be covered up. Why was the Empire not celebrating the death of Inara, if their highest officers had done it?

Cleon was outraged. Likely so. No amount of respect for the dead via a funeral would forgive the Empire of what they had done to her. It only made it worse that they covered her death in such a lie. It was offensive, and it was wrong. “I knew Inara for many years. She would not have done this.”

She added, “We had a brief…conversation with the Imperator, as well. He knew Inara was dead then.” Discovered by some soldiers, bah. She was killed by them. Killed by the Imperator. “He did not confess, but she would not have done it,” and who else but someone like the Imperator would have such clearance to kill the Queen?

Didymus lifted his hands, then sighed, and lowered them, “Unfortunately, that’s probably going to be what the rest of Ucantis believes,” Didymus said, “it’s a good cover,” he honestly didn’t know the truth, or what they wanted to have happen. Jagger might know more of that, “it probably makes their position stronger here in Ucantis if Inara died by suicide and not…murder.” She was well liked, from what Didymus could tell.

Killing her would weaken their cause.

Not that Cleon wanted to think in politics, ever. Not when it came to something like his mother. Her death was nothing political to him.

~***~

Hector nodded. He was familiar with the excavations, many held in places already conquered by the Empire, and they couldn’t exactly determine what the Empire was looking for. Nor did they fully understand why a tower was being built, either. There were plenty of activities that seemed contrary to conquest, and a waste of resources, but nonetheless, they were occurring, and without any threat to funding.

Just like many of the science projects of Lixue Virys.

He frowned a bit, not upset, just thinking, “And you’re sure this is one of the ruins they’d want to look at?” He asked, adding, “We don’t even know what they’re looking for,” obviously something worthwhile, which meant it was worth investigating, but Hector didn’t know enough to even be able to identify which ones were which.

And they didn’t have the kind of army an Empire did, either. If the Empire wasn’t successful in cracking them open, how were they supposed to be successful in getting into one of these places? He was willing to try – sometimes two heads were better than a hundred – but still.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Reva had equally supported his claim. Even if Oleander didn’t admit to doing it, he had to have done it. Only someone as twisted as the Empress’s brother, the Imperator, would do something like that, only to cover it up with lies and deceit. Cleon had hoped Ucantis wouldn’t have believed such lies. Now though, he was beginning to feel less optimistic with every waking moment that had passed.

Snakes garbed in wondrous phoenix feathers. That was all the Empire was to him. That was all that they would ever be.

Cleon had grown silent during the explanation. It was a seething silence. He was beginning to understand why they did it. But it didn’t change how it was his mother who lost her life. He lowered himself back onto the log beside Kikiti again, despondent. “It…makes sense,” he loathed to admit. “She suffered death before she could fully understand it. Her mother, her siblings, her father…my father too.” Ucantis had witnessed such tragedies alongside her. It made for a sickeningly good narrative to explain her death.

For a woman who dealt with death regularly, Jagger had grown silent, reflected inward on the subject. That woman must have been tough as nails, dealing with a slew of deaths. Meanwhile, the mercenary only ever experienced one significant death in her life, and she was still grieving. Not that anyone ever stopped but she could never quite move on from Juno.

Ah, fuck. She needed a drink.

Kikiti had a silent pondering before she looked up to all of them with a sudden realisation, “So, if Queen Inara is dead, and Cleon isn’t there in Ucantis anymore…who takes over Ucantis then? Cleon, you don’t have any other family, do you?”

Cleon shook his head with a grim expression. “No, I…I’m the last one, at least, that I know of.”

~***~

Sesario just leaned back in his chair, smirking at the boy. “Oh, Hector, worrying about the small details! Isn’t the thought of going after it just thrilling alone?” He asked, though, it wasn’t really a question that needed answered in his mind. He’d never admit to whether or not an escapade like this was worth it. For all he knew, it could have been a pile of dust and rubble waiting for them.
All he had was intuition, and this one was a good one. It wasn’t a great springboard, but it was enough for Sesario.

“Listen, our pockets are heavier with two million gil,” the older man pointed out. “We can afford a little detour to investigate. And, even if nothing comes out of it, we can sell it onto some sorry sod. Hell,” Sesario shrugged, sitting forward as he looked at the map. “Maybe even sell it to the Imperials for double what we got from the Imperator.”

He knew as well as anyone cutting a deal with the Empire was risky. There was no telling if they would arrest them or double-cross the sky pirate duo themselves. He was just holding onto the potential that it could turn out to be something extraordinary.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Didymus always hated making Cleon understand. The despondent look, that utter sorrow that he felt, it all just made Didymus feel…well, terrible. Sure, he hated people with wealth in abundance who ate caviar like it was nothing, but Cleon had shown a penchant for understanding, or at least trying to understand, that made it worse. He may have truly wanted to help Ucantis, and make things better in his kingdom. He may not have been one of the bad ones who just abused their luxury at the expense of their people. It felt terrible realizing that, but of course, he wouldn’t say anything to out himself, or to out Jagger, right then. He’d just suffer that wordlessly. “There’s always some noble vying for the top position,” Didymus muttered.

Reva heard it, though. She considered what was said with a thoughtful tilt of her head, “There are others who claimed to have Bandoethel blood, who thought they were more closely related. The Empire may have put one of them in charge,” which, she couldn’t say, although she had her own guesses. There were those more hostile to Inara than others, and those who had advised surrender before things got worse.

Before everyone lost more.

The Empire would want to retain some symbol of old Ucantis authority, if they honored Inara with a proper funeral. They’d want to show things passing down along familiar lines. They’d want their puppet to be able to play along and convince the people of Ucantis to do what the Empire wanted. Cleon would no longer be needed for that. No doubt, it would be hard for Cleon to reclaim anything, even under the Empire, at this point. “Whether or not they did,” Reva sighed, “They had made a case for years, and vied for authority. The people believed they had it.”

And that was the part that was important – what the people believed.

~***~

Hector kept the frown on his face as Sesario tried to wave away the details. The details were important! They could be walking into a trap, or at least into a pit of fiends! How did they know this island was clear of mist? Sometimes he really hated Sesario’s intuition – it went against all logic. It also, usually, paid off – but one day it would get them into trouble!

It was true, they were now well-paid.

Still, Hector sighed, “Let’s at least pick up some supplies in case this is a mist-island, or a trap, or anything else. I’m sure we can use more potions, and probably some other things,” he moved away from the dash, “I’ll go take a look at what we have and make a list, we can pick up some things in another town,” obviously, they wouldn’t be staying here to do it.

Nonetheless, Hector wasn’t letting them go without proper precautions for ruin scavenging. If they were going to follow one of Sesario’s wild gambits, then they were going to at least have everything Hector could possibly think of! Two million gil would make that a lot easier to acquire, too.

Getting Sesario to part with it, another story, but he’d parted with enough to get the Valkyrie up and running – he’d go along with this, too. Eventually.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Cleon had certainly guessed himself, but again, he didn’t want to be so pessimistic that someone would simply take the throne for their own benefit. Perhaps for the benefit of others, but never themselves. He was quickly – and rather painfully – learning that. He had learned that not everyone adored his mother as much as he, Reva, or the majority of Ucantis did.

Plenty of nobles made outlandish claims of being distant cousins or some other kind of relative. Cleon had been told to take it as rumour, nothing more, and he always had. He thought of one set of nobles, however, that were the most outlandish in terms of claims and protests.

“The Marchands,” Cleon muttered, staring at crackling sparks of the fire die out on the firewood. Out most nobles, they were the first ones he believed would try to gain from recent events.

Marchand was a name Kikiti had heard before. She raised her eyebrows. “Don’t they own that big fancy estate outside the city?” She asked. She had never met a Marchand, or many other nobles for that matter, but she sure as hell had heard about them. Cleon had nodded. She scratched her cheek as she mused, “I didn’t think they would have had much of a claim…”

“Like Reva said, no one can really be sure,” Cleon repeated, “though, I wouldn’t be surprised if plenty of nobles were wanting to profit from what’s happened…”

“Man,” Jagger mumbled, rubbing her eyes. “Remind me not to ever get into politics…” A difficult one not to, seeing as she was working for the very people setting these nobles up as their puppets.

~***~

Sesario chuckled at Hector’s frown. The boy worried too much. Though, he would admit, having him worry over supplies and making sure they were well prepared to go exploring was always a plus in his book. There were several times Sesario had gone off to do such things on his own and had come out a little worse for wear.
Sometimes he felt Hector was the one taking care of him and not the other way around.

“Alright, alright,” Sesario held up his hands. “We’ll go on a little shopping trip and stock up. Guess one of us has to have the common sense around here, eh?” It was true that they needed some more potions, probably antidotes and eyedrops too, now that he thought about it.

“Check for booze too,” Sesario, both seriously, and teasingly, “I think we’ve ran out of whiskey.” And port. And wine. And rum.

The last few guests he had over were heavy drinkers.

Including him, another heavy drinker.

In the meanwhile, Sesario would be setting up for the two of them to eventually take off. He just had to wait on diagnostics – which all looked positive. If it wasn’t beeping viciously at him or flashing some deathly warning, then he took it as a sign all was right with their girl.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva gave a solemn nod at the mention of them. It was hypothetical for now, this Jagger had no information to relay to them about all of that, but the odds were in the favor of the Marchands taking over. She also nodded to Kikiti’s inquiry about their estate; she had seen it, been inside it, paid them visits alongside others.

It was part of politicking.

She did not pretend to fully understand it, but she knew she had to be there with Inara to protect her. Usually, the Marchands would instead show up to the castle, of course. That was the more powerful stance, but now and then, they had to show grace and allow others to host them in Ucantis. The Marchands had worried of Cleon’s health…to the point of suggesting that Inara ought to appoint a different heir.

Reva did not like them.

She caught Didymus’s somewhat exasperated look to Jagger at her comment, and though she noted it, she did not know what to make of it. “I do not recommend going into politics.” Even as a mere bodyguard, it was…exasperating and confusing. Everything Reva knew about politics was not intentional. She just picked it up along the way.

Didymus shook his head, “No plans on it.” He said, “I can understand it a bit, but it’s too cut-throat for me.” Which was true. The only reason he was even helping the Empire…maybe…was because he owed Jagger.

And she wasn’t sure yet if she wanted to support the Empire.

~***~

Hector would check for booze, but he’d only suggest buying more if they really needed it. He would go through all of their supplies, and let the ship come to life without rushing up to check on it and make sure Sesario hadn’t started it up prematurely. He could usually trust Sesario not to do that, so long as they weren’t being chased. They weren’t in a hurry – it wasn’t like a bunch of ruins were going to get up and walk away from them!

Eventually, he would return to the cockpit with the list, and he’d slap it down on the dash in front of Sesario. The expected items were on it – potions, antidotes, and all manner of medicines. There was also the suggestion of a lantern, and rope, apparently they were out of rope. Hector wasn’t going to ask why, he knew what kind of answer he’d get from Sesario.

He also assumed it’d be a lie, but he assumed most of that was lies because of Ses’s ego.

“And we do need a bit of booze,” he had allowed. They were practically out, and hadn’t restocked in Escander. They probably meant to. Meeting an Imperator would change plans. “And based on what little I know of ruins, I’m assuming we might want some pick-axes, brushes, and explosives. I can make the explosives, I just need the parts.”

Since no one could put that black powder to use better than he could. Guns still weren’t catching on. He couldn’t believe it. “So we have to go to a port that sells it, okay?”
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Reva had confirmed the Marchands were owners of that huge estate, though, judging by both her and Cleon’s rather sour looks, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Or, well, considering the recent news that said family just stole Cleon’s birth right from him. Their despondent looks were well warranted in Kititi’s eyes. She had been itching to know more, to gather all the gossip on them, but as much as she was desperate for it, now wasn’t the time for it.

Meanwhile, Cleon had been thinking of all kinds of things Kikiti would have loved to have on the Marchands. They said more damning things to his mother than they ever did to him, but plenty of looks insinuated he had a certain unworthiness in comparison to them, even in his higher position. Children though, being the sponges and the blabbermouths they were, easily passed on the opinions discussed.

Cleon never liked being hosted at any estate then, much less at the Marchand household. Not all of them were so bad at least.

“Oh, it’s very cut-throat,” Jagger confirmed. “I like to settle my fights upfront and personally. A couple of blows later, and you can put it all behind you,” Jagger explained, gesturing as if throwing something over her shoulder. “Politics though? Everything’s sneaky, a good ol’ stab in the back. At least from what I heard,” she added with a shrug. She knew rightly what politics were like. Several nobles had hired her over the years, and she had been a witness, and was even involved, in several political dramas. Jagger usually liked to stay out of it.

But the Empire paid well. And really, they were eager to keep her there because of that marking of hers. She knew those were the only things keeping her there. Diddy knew it too.

“It sounds stressful,” Kikiti noted. She’d love the gossip, but being in the middle of it just sounded like a whole lot more work than it should have been.

~***~

Sesario leaned forward in his chair when Hector returned with the list, slapping it down on the dashboard. He went through every item with an, “Ahuh, ahuh, ahuh…ahuh…” When he had gotten to the rope. His hand purposefully reached for one of his wrists, rubbing at it, mostly to see if he would get a reaction out of Hector.
Keep him guessing.

Obviously, they wouldn’t be doing their grocery shopping in Escander. Perhaps today’s business would be the last kind of business they would be doing for awhile there, to the disappointment of Sesario, but the glee of his partner, no doubt. Pirates drummed up the best business and the best exploits there!

When Hector had finished explaining their plan of action, Sesario gave a mock salute and winked, “Aye-aye, Cap’n. I know just the place,” Sesario said with a grin. He was grateful for him, really. He was the only one who could keep him on track and organised.

Certainly could never ground him for too long though.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Didymus could only sigh outwardly at Jagger’s declaration of preferring violence. Obviously, he didn’t look the sort to crave violence, and he could imagine Reva assessing that difference between them. Perhaps in a way, that helped them with the lie. They were convincingly dissimilar enough, while also supporting each other. He’d seen people like that.

He heard Zariel and Oleander were like that. He knew there was definitely a height difference.

“I just prefer to avoid the drama all together,” Didymus said, but added with a slight smirk, “although it doesn’t hurt to have Jagger around when I do get involved in drama.” Which was very, very true, although right now she’d put him in one hell of an awkward position with all this Empire negotiations and this mark situation. Which, he was only now learning about, which Jagger clearly had known about – at least with regards to herself, and never mentioned it.

He wasn’t sure if he hoped more for the Empire to be on the right side of things, or not.

“It is better to stay out of it, where you can,” Reva agreed, although with a touch of resentment. More like jealousy, perhaps. She did not have such luxuries, nor would she go back and change things so that she did have such luxuries…but she would envy those with the ability to decide from the sidelines, all the same. “Yet it never seems to care. All end up impacted by it.”

“Are the viera very political?”

Reva sighed at the question, and shook her head. It wasn’t a negative, so much as a ‘you have no idea’. Their politics, which they wouldn’t call politics, forbade people from leaving the forest. They lived their lives around it. It consumed all of their actions. Oh yes – it was political to the point of insanity in her opinion.

~***~

Hector did see that action, and his nose wrinkled with a groan. He hadn’t even asked, and Sesario still answered in his way. Damn him. Hector was going to try and push it aside, though. He really, really didn’t need to know, or have more images put into his head. Ever. So he waited for Sesario to finish the list while scowling, only to smirk slightly at the title. “Damn right.”

Of course, Sesario was captain…but how the man ever got on without Hector, the young man didn’t know. He was hopelessly disorganized, and his ship had been falling apart when Hector joined him – desired or not.

“Let’s get going then!” He was eager to get out of Escander, and get what they needed in an area that wasn’t going to be asking for ID. Though, he wondered if those changes had already taken effect in Prumoor, or other areas…probably not Ucantis. Not yet, anyways. A port there, or in Rozari, was likely their best bet.

And he knew it wouldn’t be Rozari.

“I’m gonna go ahead and get the gil split,” he said as he reached out for the bag, “I’ll come back with your share.” He knew his only time to do this would be while Sesario was flying – he had to focus on that, after all! “See you in a bit!” He was too cheerful with that.

At least he knew it’d be fun to watch Sesario later be paranoid about whether or not Hector ripped him off.

And of course, Hector wouldn’t.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Jagger rolled her eyes at Didymus, both keeping up the pretence of annoying siblings and because, well, it was true. If Jagger didn’t have to bust his ass out of jail, sometimes she’d have to get involved in minor disputes that Diddy wanted to scram from. “Better not need my help sooner than later again…” She mumbled, clearly referring to him of his current predicament. If Zariel found out about any of this, she was liable to gut her and give her mark to someone else…was that even possible? Lixue had ‘hypothesised’ that being of interest, but she doubted that was possible.

Either way, the two of them were walking fine lines of either side.

“I guess it would be everywhere then,” Jagger pointed out, a little surprised politics would have been a thing with the Viera potentially, though, it made more sense when she thought on it. “Affects everyone from the highest and holiest appointed right down to the scrappy orphan fighting for food on the streets. Plus, their decisions affect everyone.”
The Rastogi Clan in Prumoor certainly changed the tides. Anyone in league with them saw their lives looking a lot sunnier. Cubhir Clan supporters found themselves in a shitstorm then.

“How does viera politics work?” Kikiti asked.
“Their lives practically circle around the forest,” Cleon had answered for Kikiti, desperate to turn his thoughts elsewhere. “Reva has always told me loads of stories around it.” His mother had suggested to Cleon quietly that he refrain from it, but the young and curious boy, who pulled at her ears, asked why there weren’t others like her in Ucantis. From there, he had learned more. Their way of life, their beliefs, their home. But it wasn’t his place to explain such things.

Cleon did fondly remember telling her that he hoped he would look as young as she did at 104.

~***~

Sesario chuckled at his affirmation of being captain, rubbing his nose. Kid made a more capable captain than he did. Then again, he liked to think his disorganisation and his wildness added to the charm of his position. It was something Hector would no doubt disagree with.

Sesario moved closer to the dashboard then, beginning the start-up sequence needed for take-off. He looked back to Hector though with a teasingly suspicious gaze at his announcement of splitting the gil. ‘Bugger.’ Of course, he would take the time as he was piloting to split up the earnings, methodical as he was.

“Not a gil less than I deserve, kid!” He shouted back, semi-serious. Hector knew better than to take gil off him.

Unless he was drunk, and was about to make a rather terrible purchase, of course. He had given him explicit permission for that.

Before long, the Valkyrie hummed to life, and gently, Sesario had lifted the old girl into the air. He couldn’t help but look back at Escander and its eye-watering display of colour, and bid a farewell, as shitty as it was.

‘Southward, to the ruins.’

As faint as a whisper, yet, heavy in the back of his mind, he heard it again. Sesario knew where he – at least, he believed it to be a him – wanted the sky pirate to go.

“Prumoor first,” Sesario bargained with him. “Then we go south, old boy.” Giving that strange voice a persona probably made the man stranger.

But he chose to live in tandem with it as a friend, not an enemy to him. That was the only way he could live with it.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
‘We both know that ain’t an option.’ Didymus just outwardly gave a bit of a nervous laugh, though he figured that would pass over well enough as the topics shifted to viera politics. He wasn’t that invested in viera politics, but it was a far better topic than anything that was closer to home for himself or Jagger, so he was willing to latch onto it.

“But who makes up the rules? Is it like…a monarchy, or…?” Didymus asked, wondering a bit about that.

Reva offered, “It may vary by different viera cultures, but where I come from, the Wood Herself tells us who speaks for Her,” Reva answered, folding her arms over her knees, “We can all hear Her, some better than others, and we all know who has the Wood’s authority to interpret and speak. I do not know if She has ever gone back on a selection before their death.”

“So…you all really just…listen to a bunch of trees?” Didymus didn’t grasp it, and Reva sighed.

“I do not know how to explain it,” she said, “there is One Voice that encompasses the entirety. It is never in conflict with itself. It is not a bunch of trees, although it is the forest. Consider…consider how cities seem to have a personality,” Reva offered, “the Forest, too, has one personality, and one voice.”

“And it rules everything that the viera do?”

Reva nodded. “Those viera who leave, no longer hear Her voice, and so we are no longer a part of that society. It is why it is not smiled upon to leave,” she offered, “because we are no longer connected and can no longer participate in the culture by hearing Her word.”
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
As questions shot forth, Reva was able to answer them with ease, and little distress, so it seemed. Reva had been in Inara’s service for a long time, Kikiti had remembered. She must have gotten used to speaking about it. Perhaps she had gotten used to the idea. Then again, Leviathan could have had a hand in that too.

She wondered what her mysterious being would be like. Friendly, she hoped.

“That’s a nice thought though,” Kikiti smiled, having put down her handiwork and had been swinging her legs off the log. “A forest with a whole personality. Makes me wonder what Ucantis would sound like if we could hear it like you do…”

Cleon did smile a little at that. “Hardy, probably.”

“But caring too,” Kikiti added, putting her elbows on her legs and leaning her head on her hands.

Bleugh. All this feel good, heart-warming crap. She was never a mushy person. Or at least, she stopped being mushy a long time ago.

“So,” Jagger tilted her head, looking to Reva. She was suddenly curious, and yet, she felt she had an answer to the question she was about to give. “Why leave the forest then, if you run the risk of not hearing the Voice anymore?”
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva did not know what Ucantis would sound like, if she had a voice, but she was pleased with how the people thought of their hometown. She had liked Ucantis, of course, but the noise of it was not exactly something she preferred. Out here, in nature, was still far more to her comfort. The sounds of a city could still hurt her ears, though she had gotten used to it over time.

She was not surprised by Jagger’s question, although her brows knit together in thought. Thinking that Jagger may have overstepped a line, Didymus added hastily, “You don’t have to answer, if it’s too personal.”

Reva just shook her head.

“No, it is not, it is just hard to find the words for it,” she answered, speaking slowly, seeming to measure even those words. Of course, she had answered this question before, but her understanding changed the longer she was out of the forest, the longer she was away from that voice. It had not left her, not entirely, but it was now a faded memory, “She is…like an overprotective Mother. I love Her. I will always love Her, but She…is blinded by Her fear.” Reva looked up to Jagger, “I was born in Her world, but Her world is not the only one to know, and She does not understand the world beyond Her borders.”

Reva shook her head.

There was sorrow in her tone, but more than that…there was pity.

“I desired more. For Her sake, and for my own. I cannot return to Her borders, but…I can look out for Her, by knowing what is out here.”

She could not say what led her to that realization, Jagger may be Didymus’s sister, but she did not need to know about Leviathan, the Mist, or anything else that tied to that history which led Reva to leave. "I know She does not understand. I know She will never understand, and will hate me for it, but I am at peace with it."
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Jagger could have shot Didymus a look to keep his nose out of it, but Reva had been more than willing to explain her reasoning for it. She had just assumed it was because of her Zodiac, and though she never expected her to mention it, she had believed it was mostly the reason for it.

Yet, she was surprised by her answer. Reva had so much loyalty to a home she was never allowed to return to, yet she wanted to look out for it, in a way that she could protect it. She wanted to know more than there was offered inside her own borders.

Something like Jagger had maybe thought, in some sense. Only, she just got sick of being in the one place for too long.

For once, Jagger had something serious to say, without it being a joke or some sort of off-hand comment. “Must have been tough having to do that,” she said, bringing one leg up to her chest. She had never found running off from home difficult. Not when there was so much more out there to explore. “Guess you can’t stick in the one place forever, huh?”

Damnit, was this whole thing making her soft and mushy again? Crap, no wonder Didymus was getting affectionate around these lot.

“Well,” Kikiti tried to brighten up things with a smile. “At least you’ve met lots of different people outside of your home. And you’re teaching people like us about your culture. You still carry a piece of your home with you somehow.”

Cleon smiled at the sentimentality of it himself and nodded. “That’s right,” he looked to Reva. “And I know Mother always valued that from you too.”

It would be some moments later before Jagger would stretch, letting out an obnoxious yawn. “I dunno about you guys…but I’m beat.” She would take her leave soon, and from there, decide what it is she has to do. It’d be easy to just round them up in town tomorrow, though, her bit of loyalty to Didymus throwed a wrench in the works.

She had much to think about.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva could only nod at Jagger’s assessment. At that time, it had certainly been tough, but there had also been no other way. The Wood would not budge, and Reva had been a stubborn woman, even then. She had presumed to know better, and still considered that she may, in fact, know better by getting out of there, and meeting all of these people. By seeing the world. It was true, she was not as aware of the goings on, but she doubted anything was immediately threatening her home.

The Empire soon would, but she was working on that problem by staying at Cleon’s side, and helping get him to Rozari, so they could determine how to proceed from here. They would soon have answers, and a way to proceed forward. It was just a matter of getting to Rozari. “I do not regret my decision,” she said, giving Kikiti a smile, “I have enjoyed having the experiences I have had, and meeting those who have crossed my path. I also think it is good for others to know about our culture. I think it may help.”

She did not know for certain, but if human curiosity was somewhat sated, then they may not bother the viera in the forests.

Jagger seemed to determine she was tired not long after that, and Didymus got to his feet, “I can walk you back,” he suggested. It was the one way he had to talk to her alone again, and make sure they remained on the same page. And, well, just to kind of check-in again about everything he didn’t know about.

Reva didn’t interject that it was a bad idea. She didn’t think it was, as she began to gather their dishes to clean up. Didymus had cooked, it was now time to clean, and Kikiti was already sewing so Reva wouldn’t interrupt that duty.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Kikiti smiled, glad to hear that Reva hadn’t regretted her decision in leaving the forest. She nodded then, “It might do.” She hoped it would. Even as open and friendly as her Lalafell community in Ucantis had been, there were still those who were incredibly prejudiced. She’d experience much of that prejudice herself, even being half human, half Lalafell. Perhaps Reva could help change that when it came to the Viera.

Jagger nodded to Didymus. “Sounds good.” It would be better for the two of them to talk alone. She rose to her feet, starting to gather up her stuff.

“You have somewhere to stay, right?” Cleon asked, looking to Jagger. He assumed so, but he wanted to make sure that was the case.

Jagger smiled at Cleon. “N’aww...no need to worry! I’ve got a place.” She kept smiling as Cleon nodded, seemingly glad that she had somewhere. Else, that she didn’t have to share a tent with any of it too.

“Well, it was nice meeting you,” Kikiti chirped, gathering up her sewing again. “And thank you for your help today.”

Jagger nodded. “Least you won’t be set upon by spiders.”

Eventually, more farewells were said, and eventually, Jagger and Didymus were on their way back to the town. Jagger occasionally gazed up at the stars. She very rarely needed a map if she got lost, and somehow she always got to where she needed to alone. Jagger hadn’t brought up anything to Didymus on the first part of the jaunt back, though, it became apparent soon enough she would have to do it.

“So. They seem nice,” Jagger started, looking over her shoulder at him. She had been tempted to call them his ‘friends’ but she figured that was taking it too far.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Didymus let the walk continue in silence. He hardly knew what to bring up, or where to begin, so he wouldn’t end up breaking it, even though his mind was trying to come up with a way to do so. He was too indecisive, and he sighed at Jagger’s opening, “Yeah, they are,” well he couldn’t deny it. That was part of the problem, wasn’t it? They weren’t bad. They weren’t obnoxiously spoiled or rich. If Cleon had just been that, it’d be so much easier to hand him over to the Empire, but he wasn’t.

He was a sheltered boy who lost his mother, and his home.

“I know, I know. We already talked about this, you just gotta figure out why Zariel wants people with the marks and what’s going to happen. It concerns you,” she could go about this and be selfish, take the others out of the equation. Think of herself. Think of him, a bit, maybe. “Bad enough you don’t already know this,” he gave her a bit of a dirty look for it, for working with the Empire without knowing what it was they wanted.

“How did you even get involved with them?” Particularly to this level. He knew they’d talked a bit about the gig, how it paid, but now it seemed so much more, and Jagger knew that – but didn’t know precisely what it was. “I mean, I get it – that kind of gig, that kind of money…I wouldn’t pass it up, but….” He’d have a lot more questions.

~***~

Back at the camp, with Jagger and Didymus gone, and Reva washing the dishes out, she did put some attention back on Kikiti, “Have things gone well for our…departure?” She had not asked that in front of Jagger, not wanting her to know where they were going, or even when they were going.

She knew she shouldn’t mistrust her, but she still had some mistrust of Didymus. Not to mention, it would be better for Jagger if she didn’t know where they were going. In case she was ever questioned by Imperials, she could honestly say she had no idea where they had gone. Well, unless Didymus mentioned it.

Hopefully he wouldn’t.

And hopefully Kikiti would have good news, and her connections had worked to get them out of there sooner than later. Reva wanted to get onto the open water sooner than later. They were at too great a risk of being caught on open land. She was becoming more aware of that every passing day.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Them being nice was the problem. Diddy was soft in some cases too, despite living in a hardened background as he had. Jagger had often opened her mouth and insulted others without so much as a thought towards their feelings. Such disregard made it easier to do the things she did. She had grown up as such, knowing she had to look out for herself, and perhaps one other person. But that was it.

“Tch,” Jagger tutted, rubbing her nose. “I’ll work on it. You’d be surprised how tight-knit and tight-lipped Zariel and Lixue are about it all.” In a sense, it was true. Lixue scuttled about after Zariel and the two spoke far too much and far too secretly around the topic. “That scientist says, ‘I only disclose what information you need to know’,” Jagger repeated the words of Lixue, impersonating that long, scathing glare, and his stoic and polite manner of speech.

Else, they knew very little and avoided making that known to Jagger. She was the sellsword, after all.

Jagger sighed, rubbing the back of her neck. “Wasn’t always gonna stick it out up there, you know. We were escorting a bunch of important cargo up to Amarum, and when we got there, they checked the cargo, then asked we get checks done. I assumed it was a pat-down, so, I was pretty surprised when they asked us to strip down for routine checks.” She was sure some of those guards got a kick out of checking her out.

“One of them saw the mark I had, on my thigh,” she patted her left thigh. “Next thing you know, I was marched up to the head honcho’s palace, started being asked all these questions by that nutty scientist, and well,” she shrugged. “Soon enough, I was being offered enough gil that I wouldn’t have to work another damn day in my life.”

Jagger knew a little more. A crumb’s worth of what this was all for. It was important, no, imperative, that they gather people like her, for everyone’s lives depended on it.

Why? She wasn’t even sure Zariel or the two lapdogs knew fully what would happen if they didn’t. Only that they had to.

~***~

Kikiti looked up to Reva and she gave her a big grin alongside a thumbs-up. “You bet! They remembered Marden when I dropped his name into the conversation, and they were more than happy to help us out by putting us on the next boat.” She was rather pleased with the outcome herself. “Though, uh, with a catch or two.”

“Catch?” Cleon blinked.

Kikiti nodded. “Yeah. We can lessen our fee by taking some work onboard. I can sew, Diddy can cook…cleaning also came up.” Again, she doubted Cleon or Reva were all that proficient in swabbing decks. Still, one of the four of them could have done it either way. “Diddy and I are siblings, and you two are both business partners of Marden Tochu, if you’re asked,” she explained. “The ‘doing business in Rozari’ seemed to be a good enough cover.

Business partner…Cleon was wondering how Reva and himself would even pass as business partners to these people, but he supposed that could be discussed. Plus, it was a miracle Kikiti had even secured this opportunity for them in the first instance. “We appreciate it, Kikiti. Really. It seems we’re in your debt again.”

“Oh, stop you!” Kikiti blushed, waving her hand as if to dismiss such a notion. Though she would admit, she loved the attention and praise.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
‘No, no I wouldn’t.’ Didymus didn’t say that, though, but he was aware of the secrecy kept around all of this. He doubted if they asked the majority of the guards about the marks, they’d actually understand why the Empire was looking for the marks. They were just doing their job. ‘Well, they might know something.’ He was pretty sure everyone knew that Zariel was supposed to have some magical phoenix.

He had yet to hear of, or see, any magical phoenixes.

He wondered if they all connected the dots, or just assumed it was something special to the Arkidos. He certainly hadn’t thought much on it, until, well…now. Jagger clearly hadn’t put much thought into it, either. He wondered if she even remembered what Lixue had asked her, all that time ago.

He still found himself shaking his head. “Well. Try to be careful, okay?” If they weren’t willing to share, there had to be some way. “That uh, Oleander guy probably knows something. I hear he likes to drink,” Escander had plenty of stories about him. “If you can’t get the information out of the heads, maybe you can get him drunk enough.” He said it with a shrug, that ‘don’t blame me if it doesn’t work’, look.

But he did mean it.

Jagger ought to stay safe, and play her cards close to her chest, otherwise she could potentially doom them both.

~***~

It seemed there were a few catches. Notably that Reva and Cleon would have to think of Didymus and Kikiti as siblings, come up with a business, and also help in cleaning the ship. “I can do…some cleaning.” She was washing the dishes now, anyways. She could probably learn to do a few other things.

“We appreciate it,” she added on, after Cleon. This was going to get them further, they could both endure the minor hardships of cleaning in order to make the passage more affordable. Better if it kept some gil in their pockets after they sold the chocobos, so they could have some gil when they reached Rozari.

“When is the next boat?” Hopefully soon, so they would not be out here camping the entire time, “and do you know where in Rozari we will be going?” Figuring out how to get from there, to El Cid, would be the next part. At least now they had a map so they could start planning, and Rozari wouldn’t be as hostile to travel through.

Reva assumed the Empire wouldn’t have it conquered by the time of their arrival.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Jagger had remembered Lixue was pushy with his questions. The man flew too close to the sun like she did. The two, in some odd sense, would have gotten along. Though, he wanted to know everything about her. Where she was from. How old she was. When she realised she had such a mark on her thigh. Who her family were, who her most trust friends, or allies, or lovers were.

He had written something down when Jagger cut it off there. He hadn’t brought it up since. She liked it better that way.

Jagger couldn’t help but snort at Didymus’s suggestion. “You make it sound like I’ve never done that before. You worry too much,” she grinned. She had every right to worry. It was different when it was some hoity toity noble lord. She’d be teasing information out of the Imperator, who happened to be the Empress’s brother of all people.

“I’ll be fine,” Jagger reassured Diddy. She’d handle her end of things. Now, she would just have to trust Didymus knew what he was doing on his end. She did stop to turn to him, regarding him seriously for a moment. “If you need me,” she started, “even if it’s to get you out of…that,” she gestured vaguely, indicating the group some distance away from them. “I’ll do it in a heartbeat, kid.”

She showed a surprising amount of loyalty towards a man who showed more dedication to the ragtag fugitives than an Empire, she knew.

Maybe Jagger was just soft where Didymus was concerned.

~***~

Cleon had opened his mouth, about to suggest that perhaps he could aid in cleaning too…until he realised he had hardly ever cleaned a spec of dust his entire life. Tidied up after himself, perhaps, but he never scrubbed vast hallways or changed his own bedsheets.

He’d resolve to keep watch on the boat, in that case.

Kikiti smiled, glad for Reva’s offer of help. She nodded happily before she explained the other details, “Tomorrow morning. As for where in Rozari, I’m not sure yet. I’m assuming they’ll take the shortest route to the nearest port town off the coast of Rozari.” Details like that could be confirmed with the company at least.

“We could take a look at the map, take a guess at where we might be headed,” Cleon suggested. Better at least to be semi-prepared.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Yes, Didymus was absolutely going to worry. Someone had to, he knew Jagger wouldn’t. Sure, she may have done something like this plenty, and perhaps Oleander really would be that easy to get information out of, but then what if he mentioned his conversation to Lixue or to Zariel? What if he felt some guilt after it? That was the damning part, the worrisome part. Anything could happen, and they would be apart.

Jagger had her gang, of course. They would probably help her out, but then again…they’d both learned lessons about trusting people in this line of business. They shouldn’t even trust each other. So, he folded his arms over his chest as she chastised him for worrying and huffed, but took it in silence otherwise.

“I know,” he agreed, “I can always get a moogle to you, and get you what information will help,” he said. “And you can reach me,” he added. “If I need to break…I think this group would understand if I have to go save my sister,” hells, they might even want to help, which would be…well, bad, but he’d figure out how to deal with it if it happened.

There was still a lot of unknowns. “Just…keep in touch. I’ll let you know when we get to Rozari. Okay?” Gods, he sounded almost pathetic to promise to keep in touch, but now he could. They all met her. They all knew her as his sister. He had every excuse to send word back, and he didn’t think they’d get too upset with him for it.

~***~

Reva nodded, and went to fetch the map herself from their baggage on the chocobo. She moved back to join them at the fire, and spread it out so they could all consider it, eyes going over the port cities that were a possibility in Rozari. “There seems to be a couple that may be decent ports….”

Her finger moved over them, “Selona is one I have been to before, though many years ago,” she circled that one, “I recall it as a large city,” blooming with plants, like much of Rozari, but also blooming with rivers, small boats traversing them, and plenty of bridges. It had been such a strange place to her, never quiet, music seemed to come from every corner.

She had been young, then.

It was rather hellish to her hearing, too sensitive by far.

“Perhaps also Zaradrid,” another one she circled with a finger, “I have not been there, but I have heard of it as a trading port.”

Neither would house Elcid, though.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Jagger nodded, smiling a little. Of course, it was a nice cover. Hers was little more complicated, however. “At least the moogles have a confidentiality agreement,” she said with some relief. “If I need to come and get you…well, you leave that excuse to me. Some shit about them kidnapping you, or you got yourself in a pickle.” She’d weave some story about them. They certainly weren’t the kind of people to go and kidnap someone.

She wouldn’t admit it, but Jagger felt a relieved smile sneak into her expression. She nodded and patted his shoulder. “I appreciate it, Diddy.” It made sense she would keep in contact with him, considering he was her point of contact for when he was bringing back marked ones.

…she’d just have to make excuses for him. And herself.

“Take care of yourself, alright?” Jagger told him. “And again, anything, you let me know.” Again, that strange protectiveness over him. She didn’t know why she just didn’t drag all of their asses back to Zariel.

She was loyal to few in this life.

~***~

Once Reva had grabbed the map and spread it out, Cleon and Kikiti joined Reva to look at it. As a long nailed finger glided over the parchment, from location to location, Reva had spoken of two ports; Selona and Zaradrid.

“Oh, Zaradrid…I heard my papa travelled there a few times,” Kikiti mused with a smile. She didn’t know much more beyond that, bar the stories that her father had told her as a young thing. “It’s pretty busy, like any trading port. From what I remember, Papa told me it wasn’t as colourful as other Rozari ports…” Not unclean, not run-down, just…surprisingly tame in comparison.

“Rozari always did seem like a bright and vibrant place…” Cleon noted. It wasn’t as if Ucantis wasn’t pretty in itself, but Rozari had always been known for its flora, its colour, its exoticism.

Hearing of one that was less colourful was strange.
 

Lucyfer

I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
“Yeah, thankfully,” Didymus was grateful for that with the moogles. Sometimes he wondered why they were so good about it, though. Which gang was paying them off. He assumed someone was paying them especially well to hold onto that agreement. He wasn’t upset with that, given how well it benefited him.

He did chuckle at the thought of Cleon kidnapping him. That was just…improbable. But the Empire didn’t know that, so he figured that didn’t matter much. Jagger could get away with all sorts of lies, given the Empire didn’t actually know Cleon, Reva, or even Kikiti well at all. They could make assumptions.

He did roll his eyes a little at her insistence, and with the town in sight, he nodded, “I got it, I got it,” he said, and paused where he was, not going all the way back into the town. “When this is over….” He hesitated, not sure what he was going to say after that, really. “Well. We’ll have a hell of a story, no matter what.”

That was true.

“Might finally figure out a name for my restaurant.”

That was to be determined. He never really stuck with one idea for it. Of course, he never really thought it was going to be a real thing. He did like stealing from rich assholes, after all. He didn’t think he’d ever get tired of that.

~***~

“Rozari is,” Reva concerned, “overall,” Zaradrid might be an exception because of the nature of it, which would make it the most likely port. Thus, she tapped it again, “Odds may be more in favor of this port, then,” unless they had some reason to go to another port, a special order, or something else.

They would know tomorrow, but it was good to plan ahead, at any rate.

“Either way, we will need to travel more to get to Elcid,” she traced her finger from Zaradrid to the last place she knew of Elcid living, “Here, in Valenda,” she tapped it. She had at least been in Valenda before, and could vouch for it being pretty. She was pretty sure it was something of a noble resort town, though.

It always felt that way, anyways.

Not that it was a bad thing, although Reva could somehow imagine Didymus being grumpy there, with all the nobility flaunting their wealth and status, particularly after his life in Escander. Rozari was good at retaining nature over industry, but it still knew how to make its nature look as well-kept as any heavily industrialized building, so that it almost seemed magical – without losing any of the modern day touches.
 

Arcanist

One Espresso Depresso
Jagger couldn’t help but laugh at Diddy’s words. A hell of a story indeed. She hoped the both of them would be able to tell it beyond the confines of the continent. And she’d no doubt exaggerate her part in it as she did with all stories. What was the point in making it boring? Every storyteller fluffed the details a little bit.

She had that to look forward to. She didn’t want to think of the alternatives for either of them when all of this was over.

“I still think the Marauding Moogle is a great name,” Jagger pointed out. Juno said it sounded too much like a seedy underground tavern. Which, to be fair, was all they had ever frequented together on their movements around the continent.

Maybe once she and Diddy had that huge pay-out from the Empire, they could fuck off and do whatever they wanted. Jagger would travel occasionally like she wanted to, Diddy would run his restaurant, she’d occasionally visit…

She wondered if he could just do a pop-up restaurant. She heard they were all the rage nowadays.

“Anyway, I’ll make my way back from here alright,” the mercenary insisted, though, knew already Diddy wouldn’t lead her the whole way back. She backed off from him then, giving him a mock salute. “See you later,” she grinned before turning and walking onwards. She never said goodbye. Always a see you later.

Goodbyes were too final for her.

~***~
Of course, Cleon hadn’t imagined Elcid would be living in some busy port area.
…well, he wasn’t sure what to imagine of Elcid.

His mother told Cleon little about the man. Only that he was born in Rozari and was an old, trusted friend of his father’s. Inara cautioned that should the worst happen to her, to Ucantis, or even both, that he should seek him out. Reva knew Elcid too, seeing as he had spent time visiting Ucantis before, and so Cleon would have help in being able to find him. Cleon had asked why he had never heard of Elcid before or why he never visited them.

His mother had turned to ask one of their servants for more wine despite having a full glass. Cleon stopped asking about Elcid and he never came up again in conversation.

“Isn’t Valenda a fancy resort town?” Kikiti ventured, cocking her head at Reva. Again, another town that her papa raved about. She was always so jealous of how he had managed to go to all these wonderful places. She hummed to herself before looking to Cleon. “Must be nice having friends in some fancy places, huh?” She giggled.

Cleon looked to Kikiti, blinked, before he managed a smile and nodded, “Uh, yes. Of course.”
 

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