Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Prince of Thieves

3. Work Hard

by Myshu 0 reviews

Work Hard

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Characters: Freya Crescent - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2007-03-27 - Updated: 2007-11-02 - 3000 words - Complete

3. Work Hard

Luth was miffed for a while over being abandoned on the streets, but the long walk downtown cooled his touchy heart and gave his mind a chance to catch up with his rushed day.

He thought about how and when he might (or if he even should) resume his Pilgrimage, considering his sudden, unsolicited employment. He was already homesick, albeit in strange ways. The Owlsons' neighborhood was not unlike where he grew up--in fact, it was the only thing about Lindblum Luth could relate to. Not even the dark was the same. In Burmecia, when the rain clouds spared a night, Luth could lose count of the stars, so many constellations freckling a blushing blue firmament. In Lindblum, the night sky was haze-shrouded and glowed a dull orange, presumably from the flames of the refineries in the industrial district. The garish lights and signs of the rest of the city would have paled any view of the heavens, besides.

The moons, at least, were a constant. The blue crescent had cut a fair swath in the smoggy sky by the time Luth found his motel, checked out and navigated back to Ultima Express's central branch. The lobby was open, though Sheryl wasn't there. He politely explained his situation to the night receptionist, who helped him through the security stiles, his knight's halberd strapped to his back and all.

Even at the late hour, though the evening traffic had thinned, the halls were steeped in far, wide, wavering echoes, like the thrum of an everlasting rain. The occasional buggy laden with parcels squeaked by, and straggler pilots were loitering around an indoor café, waiting for their next flight.

Too tired to wander and mingle, Luth left behind the main floor and took the private lift to the top. He was ejected into the same tranquil, carpet-muffled corridor from whence his afternoon had spiraled out of control. As he followed Boss's directions to his quarters, he wondered what sort of room the wily man had gifted him. Given the eclectic tour he had been dragged along, he would not have been surprised to open the door to a kennel or an arcade.

The simple lock gave way, and Luth slipped into the dark, fumbling for a light switch.

A pair of gentle beige lamps welcomed him. There were no dogs and no slot machines. There was a queen-sized bed, a flat-screen television pinned to the wall, a minibar, a bathroom with a standing shower, and a pair of sliding glass doors leading to the balcony. The room felt clean and calm, washed in dull greys and reds. It was all so orderly, so... /ready/, it could not have looked more like a hotel if a mint had been left on the pillow.

He dumped his pack into a reclining chair, lay his halberd over it and fell face-first onto the bed, exhaustion finally kicking him down. It wasn't the kind of tired he felt after a long day on the road, with aching feet and a sore back--it was some funny weariness of the head, a sensation new and strange to him. He wondered if this would be the first of many nights to get to know that feeling.

He spied the lint-bunnies on the bedding and the sheer layer of dust on the nightstand, and wondered as well if he was the first person to occupy this room in ages.

That was the last trifle on his mind before he dozed off.


He didn't stir until a slit of sunlight broke in through the balcony, thawing out the last of the morning. He flexed over the bed, still too comfortable to get up. Then he saw the clock on the table reading 9:34 in jagged red bars and scrambled to his feet.

Luth mumbled rebukes at himself for sleeping in (even if Boss wasn't very explicit about what time his day started) and stepped into the bathroom for a quick wash. He brushed his teeth, combed his limp brown hair out of his green eyes, frowned at his old, wrinkled clothes, sniffed them thoroughly before deciding they were fit to wear out again, made a mental note to find a nearby launderette, picked a small box of apple juice out of the minibar (after checking its expiration date, just to be safe) and drank a quick breakfast before wandering outside.

He caught a buxom young rabbit woman emerging from two doors down the hall. She giggled, her whiskers twirling around her button nose, and waved at him before adjusting her purse and miniskirt and trotting to the elevator on shiny platform shoes. Luth didn't remember his "hello" until she was already gone.

Curious, he approached the room she left and held an ear to the closed door. Silence. He didn't pursue the intrigue and looked for Boss's office instead. It was on the opposite end of the floor, as he remembered correctly. Luth knocked once after testing the room's sound--he could hear faint scratching and the rustle of paper.

"Come in," Boss's voice called.

Luth stuck his head inside. He found his employer at his desk over a pile of envelopes, a pen in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The window was cracked, letting the smoke seep out a lofty vacuum-drone of city noise seep in.

"Hey Lu," he greeted cheerfully. "Come on in. Sleep well?"

"Yes, sir, thank you." Luth closed the door behind him, sank his toes into the fur rug (Burmecians, like many demis, tended not to wear shoes, finding them restrictive. Ankle bracers and sandals were common substitutes), and stood by, itching for a task. "Anything I can do, sir?"

The Genome looked up from a sleeve of stamps he was licking. "Hmm? Oh, I've got this, thanks. Oh!" He abruptly snapped his fingers at the entertainment center over Luth's shoulder. "You see over there? I just got Super Speeder XD for my Gamebox. I haven't given it a test run yet. Wanna fire it up?"

Luth glanced apprehensively into the corner. "Uh... I'm afraid I'm not very good at things like that, sir."

Boss's eyebrows knitted together incredulously. "What? What kind of man are you?"

"A man who doesn't play video games, sir," he admitted plainly.

"That's it." He snapped his fingers again, resolved. "You're sitting down right there and playing Super Speeder XD. That's an order."

Luth slowly registered the strange command. "...Okay, sir..."

Boss resumed his paperwork while his subordinate fumbled with the pile of cables and game discs on the floor. When Luth turned on the TV, a smartly dressed woman popped on screen.

"Today a new wing to South Gate Memorial Hospital is being opened," spoke the newscaster, "Thanks in part to generous donations from both the Lindbluman National Health Foundation and the CEO of Ultima Express..."

Luth started a little. "Wow, sir. You did that?"

"Did what?" Boss glimpsed the building pictured on television. "Oh, that hospital. Good, they finally got that wing up. They were needing a new burn ward like crazy. I had to give 'em a little push to make it happen."

"That was very altruistic of you, sir."

He shrugged, sinking back to his writing. "Eh, it's nothin'."

The news continued, "...was going to be named after him, but he respectfully declined."

Luth frowned a tick. "You should've let them name the building after you, sir. At least the family name. It would've been an honor."

"You know why I couldn't do that."

"It's a 'company secret,' sir?" he guessed.

"You're catching on, kid." He spun a finger at the idle Gamebox. "Now less news, more game."

Luth had finally set everything up and was racing for fifth place on the Ice Slopes when Sheryl gracefully barged into the office.

"Hi Miss Sheryl," Luth said distractedly from the floor, eyes glued to the TV lest he fall into sixth place.

Sheryl blinked at him once before snorting at Boss. "Working him hard already, I see."

Luth could practically hear Boss's wayward grin. "Of course. What's up?"

She slapped a notebook onto his desk. "Homework, just for you."

"You always bring me the best gifts, sensei," Boss facetiously remarked.

"Also, one of your scumbag friends is here to see you."

"Which scumbag?"

"Greasy Ricky."

"Man. Probably wants more money. Let him up."

Sheryl left, leaving Luth anxious over the guest he was about to meet; "scumbag" and "greasy" weren't the sort of labels that inspired good faith.

"Should I leave, sir?" he wondered for their privacy.

Boss waved him down. "Nah, you're cool. Keep playing your game and don't mind us."

An energetic figure cut into the room moments later. Luth cast him half a glance, but everything about his build and garb was too slight and dull to hold his eye for long. His hair was slicked back as with tar, and his tone was high and noisy.

"'ey, Boss!"

"Hey, Ricky." Boss rose and moved around to sit on the front of his desk. He offered his visitor a cigarette.

"Yeah yeah, thanks." He took the lighter that followed it and made himself comfortable while Boss stoked the conversation.

"What's new?"

"Same old, same old." A leery squint fell on Luth's back. "Who's the rat?"

"He's my new guy. Don't worry about him."

Ricky shook his head. "Alright. Listen man, I had fifteen feather dusters coming in from Gnomarbor, on Maxiclean Inc. through Dalishire."

"Okay..." Boss drawled.

"But I only picked up ten at the drop! I don't know where the hell the other five went."

"When did they come in?"

"Last night. I don't wanna say your guys were in it, but I've gotta come up with somethin' or Leo's gonna skin me and nail my dick to his front door. This is the third time this has happened."

"I dunno what to tell you. If this is the third time, you might have a leak on the inside."

"Fuck me," Ricky spat. "I wonder if it's Pevy. He's been trying to nose in on my route for a while."

"Pevy's a twat," Boss muttered through cupped hands as he lit another smoke.

"Yeah. There's nothin' you can do, though? You can't check around for me?"

"I can check the station here, but that's about it."

"Man, you know what would work, though. About twelve grand--"

Boss's palms dropped heavily to the desktop as he rolled his eyes. "Fucking Christ..."

"--just to cover the five until I find 'em!"

"See, Lu?" Boss said pointedly, "This is about money."

Luth thankfully didn't have room to say, "Um..." before Ricky mowed over him, pleading through casual desperation, "I told you, man, my dick is on the line. Please, think of my dick. Think of my poor dick."

"That's nasty. Look, I'll give you five if I can stop thinking of your gonads."

"Five? That's not even half. Com'on, be a friend."

"I am a friend! A friend you already owe seven grand."

"Shit," Ricky relented. "Alright, alright man. You're the boss. Five's cool. Meet you under town tonight?"

"Yeah. I think I'll be taking it to The Pen. Look for me there."

"Cool, cool." Ricky wove his way to the door. "Hells of thanks, man. Good luck."

"You know I won't need it. Take it easy, Ricky."

"See ya." He vanished with a hasty slam.

Once it felt safe, Luth set the game controller down and carefully asked, "That was a friend of yours, sir?"

Boss smirked and folded his arms. "Eh, sorta. He's more like a business friend."

"He seemed awfully concerned about his feather dusters, sir."

A baffled expression met Luth's innocent remark, a second before Boss broke down into roaring laughter. Luth stared dumbstruck at the overreaction while Boss tumbled over his paperwork in a fit.

"Um... sir...?" Luth probed uneasily.

Boss eventually reclaimed his bearings and squished his cigarette before the desk went up in flames. "Yeah..." he sighed, wiping a tear from his eye. "Yeah, he did."

He snapped to his feet, motioning towards the door. "Hell, rookie, let's head down to the bay. Maybe we'll find 'em for him."


Luth propped his feet on a pillow and reclined in bed, enjoying the easy throb of blood in his relieved soles.

He spent a long afternoon on the docks, learning the grittier points of the shipping industry. Unloading crates, driving trucks, pushing carts, stamping trunks, writing labels, tagging bags, redirecting traffic, taxiing ships--he had done a little bit of everything with Boss at his side, explaining where things went and why. His nails were scuffed, his back was sore and fresh blisters bloomed in places his halberd never scratched. It was a step apart from his knight's training, which was certainly tough, but not nearly as hectic. It would take Luth a while to adjust to this new breed of stress. Boss assured him that they wouldn't spend much time on the field like that; he just wanted to acquaint Luth with the basics.

Nonetheless, it was a very fulfilling day of grunt work. Luth was satisfied when Boss dismissed him for supper and then dropped off to parts unknown. Boss was good at disappearing, Luth noticed.

He used his spare change to buy some stuffed rolls and biscuits from the café in the lobby, and then returned to his room for a shower and rest. Now clean, refreshed and wrapped in a soft robe he found in the closet, he drank in the quiet evening and waited for his hair to dry.

His lazy focus settled on the worn leather bindings peeking out of his knapsack. In all the frenzy of his new job, he'd nearly forgotten the artifact he stowed away, and the moment of peace was perfect for catching up on his reading. He pulled out his ancestor's diary and thumbed to the last page he could recall.

It wasn't a diary, really--the first part, anyway. It opened with memoirs, particularly surrounding the Mist War and the writer's (amazingly prominent) role in it. The entries eventually digressed into a journal, if a rather sweeping one, taking the later years of her life one highlight at a time.

It was a fascinating read at any rate, and Luth wondered why none of his family had considered getting it published before.

We followed the Black Mages and were teleported to the Red Rose, Alexandria's flagship. We were fortunate to have boarded undetected, but we were too late to stop Brahne. With Kuja's help and the power of the Desert Star, Brahne summoned Odin, the great eidolon of death, to wreak doom on the surviving Cleyrans.
The demon tore out of the heavens as from the lakes of hell, galloping across burning clouds on an ironclad steed. A single thrust of Odin's lance shattered the settlement. The cathedral, the town, the majestic tree itself--all were rent asunder in seconds. The rising cloud of smoke and thunder eclipsed the sun. I watched from the deck of the Red Rose, but could not move. I could not speak. I felt the last shred of my heart crumble to ashes at the bottom of Cleyra's trunk. I had failed my people--and myself--for the last time.

So engrossed was Luth in the tale that he nearly missed the rapping on the door.

He jumped and rearranged himself appropriately. "Come in."

A straw-mopped head poked through the door. "Hey Lu. Bad time?"

Oddly prompted, Luth surveyed his own room. The clock showed 9:30, to his surprise; apparently he'd been reading for hours. "Hello, sir. No, you can come in."

Boss entered and likewise swept a glance around, rolling his shoulders restlessly. "I like what you've done with the place."

"I haven't done any--" Luth started when Boss scooped up the halberd by the door.

"Whoa, nice." He swung it around experimentally, almost knocking over a lamp. "This yours?"

"Yes, sir," Luth said, not elaborating. He trained a wary eye on the weapon's volatile path.

Boss held it still, admiring the blade crafted into a dragon's wing. "You don't see things like this anymore." Putting it aside, his gaze roamed to the book in Luth's lap. "So, what'chya got, there? Reading a bedtime story?"

"Not quite." Luth chuckled faintly as he skimmed the next thirty pages. "I will tell you this about my great-great-great-grandmother: she was very... verbose."

Boss closed the thought with a swipe of a hand. "Say no more. Hey, you wanna hit the town with me?"

The sandy fur of his brow tangled over the idea. "This late, sir? What for?"

"Gonna take care of some business. You like boxing?"

One of the Burmecian's ears swiveled considerately. "I like it okay, sir," he replied openly enough, barely perturbed by the segue.

"You might like this, then. Want to go with? I'm heading out in a minute."

"Well, um..." He glanced from the diary, to the door, to his boss rocking eagerly on the balls of his feet (he was wearing sneakers, so he looked serious about going out. Well, as serious as he could.) "Okay, sir. Just let me get ready."


The cab left them on the flimsy border between districts. Boss skipped down the dark sidewalk into deeper, darker sidewalk, tugging Luth along with all the crafty, subdued enthusiasm of an urchin leading fellow children into trespassing.

Before long they were stalking into the shadow of a boarded-up warehouse, alone save the rats that puddled through the alley.

Disconcerted by the deviations left and right, Luth asked, "What's down here, sir?"

Boss stooped over a manhole cover. "Ever been to Gatortown, kid?"

"Gatortown? What's that?"

He popped the heavy lid with a clang, dragging open a drainage tunnel. "You know, Lindblum underground. Don Gator's turf."

Luth's ears perked with recognition, and then flattened with alarm. "You mean Don Gator the /mobster/?"

Boss brushed his greasy hands on his jeans and flippantly indicated the ladder dropping into the dank, pitch unknown. "This'll be your first time, then?"

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