Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Fleeing Dragons

The Phoenix's Legacy

by Myshu 0 reviews

Zidane visits Tot, Gabby visits Myshu, and Magus visits Jerad.

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Crossover, Fantasy - Characters: Doctor Tot, Zidane Tribal - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2005-11-15 - Updated: 2005-11-16 - 6223 words

"Always have a back-up plan."

That was our rule number two. Rule number one was, "Always get what you set your eyes on," by the way. Boss had a lot of rules for us, things like, "always look out for each other," "all for one and one for all," and "take out the trash once a week," but that first rule was the only one we really paid attention to.

The trick about it was to never look too high.

We always ignored that part too.

2. The Phoenix's Legacy

Alexandria Castle's gardens were the most splendid on Gaia, some said. While they were enchantingly beautiful, the rose hedges trimmed along labyrinthine, narrow slate walks laden with soft flakes of red, white and yellow, Zidane was not so interested in the aesthetic appeal as he was in the tactile.

There was a neat, wicker-framed, leafy alcove off the paved banks of the Alexandrian river, a hollow in the bushes reserved for the last queen's grave. Behind these resting grounds, dubbed "Sanctuary," a tight cluster of apple and gumball trees lingered, the closest to a wilderness the Genome could relate to. When he sat among the weedy grass patches and untamed trunks he felt like a member of some rebel club, refusing to conform to the man-sculpted world.

He did enjoy the gardens proper, especially the flowerbeds teeming with fresh, colorful things, but it all reeked of broken stems and mowed grass, a scent that made him cringe.

From his (non-consenting, circumstances damning) stay with the mother tree, the Iifa, he had acquired an extra sense--a "plant sense," he called it--that placed him in peculiar empathy with flora of all kinds. When he sat in a tree or rolled in the grass, he could literally feel the leaves' breath or the sigh of the earth, vibrant and warm beneath his skin, and it was just a little titillating. He could brush his fingertips across severed stumps and taste a twinge of pain, or caress a budding flower and sense the tingling anticipation of blooming at the base of his fingernails.

Experimenting with his plant sense culminated in an awkward scene in which Dagger walked into the castle parlor and asked him why he was hugging a rubber tree plant. After several blundering starts and explanations an analogy with eidolons satisfied her, though she still rolled her eyes at him basking shirtless in the gardens when he thought no one else was watching.

Zidane was hence more discreet about his communes with the flowering world; "normal" people just wouldn't get it.

The early afternoon was balmy, breezeless and cloudless, blinding sunlight filtering through the treetops to feed more tolerable portions to the ground. Zidane reclined against the trunk of an oak, the tip of his tail batting a prickly gumball through the grass. There wasn't much to do to pass the time before he could pester Doctor Tot.

A faint static tugged the hairs on the back of his neck, like a magnet. He lazily contemplated "communicating" with the oak, a species he hadn't tested before. Seeing no harm in trying, he unbuttoned his shirt, shrugged out of the white, airy linen and pressed his bare back into the rugged bark, drawing upon that deep-rooted sense of touch.

A few halting breaths waited for his body to adjust to the tree's microscopic pulse, thriving and pleasant against him. It was an old, big, oh so big tree--the more he felt a part of it, the more he felt it was swallowing him--so overwhelming...

Oh... it tingled, so warm, hotter now--was that the oak, the sun or him?

Oh... He turned into the tree's gritty face and wrapped his arms around it, feeling as much as he could hold, shuddering and throbbing with heat and a little too alive... A fine sweat broke along his spine, his tail bristled delightfully and a purr spilled from his throat, and he began to move, slowly at first, with the rhythm of breath, grinding...

"Oh...!" Oh God, what was he doing??

Zidane pushed off the tree with a spooked, wide-eyed jerk and sat back on his hands, catching his breath. That was a little too close, he determined as he swallowed dryly. He sighed, trying to cool off, found his shirt and collected himself. A glance at the sun through the interlaced canopies told of a couple of hours past noon.

He'd head back into the castle, take a cold bath and go see Tot.


The neiphiti dragon tousled her long, tangled hair with a towel, stepped out of the shower and into her now sultry flat.

"Great, now it's stuffy as well as bloody hot," she huffed and punched open the foggy glass slit at the top of the wall. A hollow-sounding gutter draft exchanged humid, mildewed air for dry, acridic city air, and she wasn't sure if she appreciated the difference. 'The water wasn't even that warm. Damn heater.'

She didn't really mind the cold shower, since it beat sweating through the indoor summer. She combed the towel over herself with hasty abandon and slipped on her casual wear: a faded, frazzled purple loincloth and top that tied around the base of her wings. She couldn't get dressed anymore without flashing back to that strange woman she'd met on the last planet she searched. Ayla was a strange breed (prehistoric, her friends said, although the dragon lady still wasn't sure how much of that time travel rot she bought), though the neiphiti fancied they resembled each other in more ways than choice of attire. Ayla was tough-skinned, exotic in manner and strong at the touch. The dragon woman even smelled wind magic on her, though the cavewoman's grasp of the art was comparable to a potato's.

She plucked a strip of jerky from its plastic wrapper on the table, plopped onto the soot-stained sofa beside it and ruminated with as little remorse as possible over leaving her dump of a hideout.

She couldn't stick around for long. People would come looking for her--or rather, for what she took from the Griffin House. The police would come first, she imagined, and then the Peacekeepers, C'tarot's elite soldiers. The latter certainly wouldn't sit idle when a world's treasure was at stake. Between her propped-up heels, the Dragon Tear sat patiently amid candy wrappers and crumpled papers, as if already awaiting rescue. She tapped the giant, polished marble with the claw of her big toe. Of course, it was not bothered.

"Fucking rock," she cursed it. As soon as she had arrived home with the artifact, she put it to the test, trying to channel her intent through its magic alloy. When it didn't respond after a dozen varied enchantments and approaches (one of them involving violently knocking it against the table), she gave up for the night and crashed in her cot, hoping against hope for better results in the morrow.

She didn't really expect anything to change, even as she tried to summon its power again. The dragon woman tore off another piece of jerky between her teeth, planted her feet on the floor, and leaned forward on the edge of the sofa, over the uncooperative prize. She chewed loudly over the dilemma while giving the Dragon Tear a thorough looking-over.

It was supposed to be a gift to the first neiphiti archmage from the god of dragons himself, Bahamut. The legend told that it could peer into one's soul and reveal the means to obtain that person's most longing desire. She knew what she wanted, sure as anything, but wresting a map from the artifact was turning out to be futile.

What if it was... a dud? A decoy? And she fell for it? What if all her effort had been in vain?

"Oh hell no," she shot down that dawning thought, outrage peeking through her voice. "You listen to me, you draconic snot bubble," she addressed the magic rock, donning her most ferocious, indignant tone, "You're not going to piss out on me after I went to all that work to steal you. You're gonna tell me right the fuck now where the Phoenix is or I'm gonna crack you your own asshole!"

After it did nothing, again, she snarled and lifted the Dragon Tear over her head in a fit of rage, about to smash it over the rim of the table. Just as the doomed artifact was poised over her head, the door rattled.

The woman froze and turned a steely eye to the wooden portal. She let loose her breath, adopted a blasé mien, dropped the artifact on the table with a negligent thud and moved to answer the knocking. The warped floorboards and a cockroach running for its life were crossed in two long paces, and she had to reflexively tip her head to one side to avoid the light bulb dangling from a chain. She stuck her nose into the crack of the door (a peephole would have been nice, she complained many times, though she supposed she was lucky enough to get running water) and sniffed out the visitor. She didn't smell any cops by the permanent press, caffeine-lathered starch of their uniforms...

Actually, that scent was familiar...

"What does he want?" she murmured to herself as she wrenched open the door. A neiphiti hare in dusty brown slacks and suspenders appeared on the other side, the imp of a man just tall enough to poke her in the eyes with the tips of his long ears. The breezeway's dim green lamp painted his fur with sickly shadows, and as he wrung his wiry hands a nervous tick bent his left ear with every blink.

"I thought I'd find you here," he spoke quickly, getting the first word.

The neiphiti dragon frowned, mildly put-off by the visit. "I thought I told you to get lost. I paid you off for the map and papers already."

"Erm, yes." With an ashamed grimace the hare's gaze dropped to the floor. "And your services were..." He rubbed his whiskers ashamedly. "...Appreciated. But that's not why I'm here."

The dragon lady planted a palm high on the doorframe and slackened her posture with a sigh. "Then state your business or get lost again," she spoke tersely.

"Ah, y-yes." The hare straightened, meeting her eyes again. "Have you watched the news? About the Griffin robbery? It's all over the place! Everyone's looking for the crook--there's a huge bounty out--oh!" His hand flew to his chin and he leaned forward, whispering discreetly, "I heard about it and thought about what you said the other day, about wanting a blueprint of the mansion. I didn't think you'd actually go and do something so silly--b-but I wanted to see if you were all right!"

"Bullshit," she shot him down, carelessly loud, "You came to see if I have the Dragon Tear."

Even as she spoke the hare was trying to peer around her into the shabby apartment. He almost immediately espied the artifact on the table and gasped in horror, a noise reminiscent of a dying frog. "Is that what I think it is?!"

She rolled her eyes and stepped to one side, granting him the view. "Oh, for Bahamut's sake..."

The hare stuck a foot inside, his thirsty, dark marble eyes almost as large as the artifact he was fixed on. "You got away with it!" He then subdued his voice to ask, "I mean--that's--it's--Can I look at it?"

She apathetically waved him in and mused, 'A bounty out, huh? At least I know the thing's authentic, then.'

The hare hopped straight over to the table and bubbled over the treasure. "Ooh, ooh! Oh my. Look at it! The prize treasure of the Griffin House! One of the wonders of the world! The Dragon Tear! I can't believe my eyes." As if to complement that thought, he withdrew a pair of bifocals from his pocket and set them on his dainty nose. He appraised the artifact thoughtfully, humming to himself, and then looked to the woman, who had returned to her burlap-stitched throne. "What are you going to do with it? You can't sell it off. Not to any dealers around here, that's for certain! It's too hot."

"I'm going to use it myself, you dipshit," the vulgar dragon spat. "What business is it of yours, anyway?"

The hare wrinkled his nose with amusement, as if she'd just told a joke. "Use it yourself? Oh, really? Fascinating. For what purpose? I take it you know how to use it?"

She snorted, not seeing the humor. "You're the smartass scholar. You tell me."

"Myshu!" he screeched chidingly.

The dragon woman responded to her name with an acidulous mockery of his. "Gabby!"

Gabriel quivered with a mix of anger and fear. "You went all the way to filch something so extraordinarily vital to the state and you don't know what you're doing with it??"

"I'm working on it!" Myshu snapped, "Mind your own business and either tell me how to make it work or get the hell out, already! You're cramping my space."

The hare threw his hands up in defeat. "You're unbelievable! You've shown absolutely NO foresight in this at all! In that case, good luck! I think I've helped enough!" He stood and skipped towards the door, ranting, "You've dug your own grave this time, missy! I'm not getting any more mixed up in this! It'll be the ruin of me!"

"Hrmph. Then get lost, you spaz."

"Good riddance." Gabby stepped out, pausing only to hotly throw back at her, "If you want to know how to use the Dragon Tear so badly maybe you can go back to Griffin House and steal an instruction manual while you're at it!"

The rickety wooden door slammed shut, the light bulb flickering at the blow. Myshu, hardly fazed, took another bite of jerky and grumbled in his wake, "Smartass."

Would Gabby go and squeal to the police? No, she figured, since he was officially an accomplice. Even if he were brazenly stupid enough to rat her out, she would already long gone by the time the cops knocked down her door.

Yet, the question was, where was she going? She was counting on the Dragon Tear's guidance, but that luck ran out. "Away from C'tarot" was preferable, but didn't suffice. She needed a destination, some planet not even Gabby would point after her to.

Even then, once she was on her way, what was there to do with the loot? She still couldn't crack the Dragon Tear's mystery, and it would probably take a magician much more experienced than she to do so.

"Hrmph," she grunted. "Instruction manual..."
Gabby thought he was a wiseass, did he? If she didn't know him any better, she'd bet the fool was proud of that quip, and would be snickering over it on the way to his grubby little desk job, pouring over big, useless old books...

Myshu jumped to her feet with an epiphany. "Shit! The T'torlan!"


His hair still damp from the bath, Zidane shivered as he stepped into the main hall, already missing the sun's touch. He felt cold and weary a lot of the time, but sitting in some sunlight for a while would always alleviate that. It was difficult to explain, but he didn't feel so heavy or clammy when out in the light. The sun made him feel... warm and fuzzy inside, in a way that wasn't usual.
It was, again, more plant sense than common sense, and if he tried to explain it to anyone they'd tell him to quit being obvious and dense. "Of course the sun is warm, you dolt," he could picture Steiner blaring.

Though the rest of him was chilled, his cheeks were still hot with an ashamed blush over the incident with the oak. It was too big for him, he supposed, though he honestly didn't expect such an intense sensation, and the way he responded to it... Well, people got locked up for those kinds of things. It had to be illegal somehow. Damn that woman, teasing him and leaving him hanging earlier, though he deserved it...

He shook his head ruefully. No, no, it was just disgusting, no excuses, and he needed to get over it, or maybe seek help--but no, who could understand? Oh, Dagger, he was too fond of her to be comfortable with breaking it to her. He could barely explain it to himself.

Tot might understand... Zidane had confided with the bird on many matters pertinent to his health (Tot had taken an academic interest in his plant sense, as well as the other gifts from Iifa), but that would entail telling him about it, and frankly the Genome would sooner to take that episode to his grave.

'You're broken, buddy,' he was chastising himself as he took brisk steps to the bottom floor, 'You can thank Iifa for it on the way down to hell.'

He grimaced to reflect on that cursed tree. Despite the year that had elapsed since they parted ways, her ("she" was proven to be quite sentient) influence on him was still prevalent, and more deeply rooted than he once imagined--literally, in a disturbing sense. The Genome's body hadn't quite functioned normally since his escape. His newfound plant sense aside, Iifa had stripped him of quite a bit of weight during his captivity, and thanks to her he wasn't in a hurry to gain any of it back. He was prone to bouts of lethargy and nausea that taxed his appetite and soured what little he did eat. That considered, he was rather underweight. His friends ribbed him about it, but that was their casual way of expressing concern. He didn't really want their concern. He was fine. He could keep up with them, or anybody, just like the good old days.
The "good old days..." He was only nineteen. Was he too young to start saying things like that?

Zidane had conferred secretly with Doctor Tot during one of the bird's routine visits, and the sagely old bird agreed to provide him with a special tonic. It was no miracle fix (and it tasted like chalk), but it was something to settle his stomach when a problem arose. Perhaps keeping his condition from his beloved wasn't the most honest thing he'd ever done, but he had convinced himself that it was for her peace of mind.
Or was it his own?

He blanched and pressed a hand to his sore stomach. He wished he had some of that medicine, like, yesterday. Better yet, he wished he never needed it at all. He was starting to feel light-headed... he wanted to sit down.

Its door left wide open, he peeked into Tot's office and found it unoccupied. A couple of boxes, one of them unopened, and a briefcase cluttered the round table in the middle of the room, but the rest looked fairly settled-in. He wandered over to a bunk on the inside corner (he supposed the room was designed to be knight's quarters) and lolled onto the mattress, making himself at home.

Zidane had just about dozed off when the clicking of heels on tiled floor caught his attention. Tot shuffled in, looking appropriately busy while whistling a cheerful tune. He had half-crossed the room before he noticed the visitor. The bird started, breaking off his song on a high note. "Oh! There you are, Sir Zidane."

The weary Genome threw his legs over the side of the bunk and sat up, trying to look awake. "Hey, Tot. I was just seeing if you were in."

Tot chuckled under his breath, stepped over to a shelf on the wall and procured a small knife, which he stuck into that last sealed box on the table. "I hadn't forgotten about you," he assured as he cut open the package. "So, how are you feeling today?"

"A little sick," Zidane replied honestly. "Can I have it now? Please?"

The box lid abruptly sprang loose, launching a stray ball of cotton stuffing into Tot's face. He blinked and tipped his glasses to shake it off. "Oh yes, quite sorry. It was packed with all my things. I have to unpack everything to find it."

"Need help with that?" Zidane offered as Tot climbed atop a chair and stuck his beak into the box.

"No, it's quite all right--ah, haha. Here it is. It's always in the last place you look." Tot plucked a leather bag from the stuffing and neatly emptied it over the countertop. "One, two... five bottles. Here you go." The bird took one of the glass flasks and handed it over to Zidane, who popped the cork and downed the red potion in a few ravenous gulps.

"Goodness," Tot remarked, "It's no wonder you run out so quickly. You really should ration that better."

"Mmmhmm." Zidane put the empty bottle aside, gasped for breath and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. "Yeah, I know. It just takes more of the stuff to feel any effect, these days."

"Your tolerance has gone up. It's from taking too much, you know! I told you to be careful."

"Sorry." The be-tailed boy slouched with impish guilt. "It's just, it hurts..."

"I know, I know..." Tot sighed sympathetically and rooted through his briefcase. "Why don't I get a look at you, while you're here?" he proposed, pulling out a stethoscope. Zidane groaned at the sight of it.

Both parties knew Tot wasn't that kind of doctor. As the bird once said, "Mind, I'm a scholar, not a physician, but I've learned a thing or two from a good colleague of mine about medicine." Zidane became Tot's patient on the assumption that it wouldn't kill him... right? It was more to humor Dagger's old tutor than a medical necessity, though Zidane couldn't say he liked being poked and examined, for science or not. At least he got good medicine out of the deal.

Zidane suffered the check-up and obligatory interrogation in the meantime.

"Anything you want to tell me about? Any unusual happenings?"

The Genome repressed thoughts of an oak tree. "...No."

Tot picked up his patient's left elbow and gently prodded a discolored patch of skin, near the shoulder. "What's this?"

Zidane yanked his arm free and twisted to look for himself. "Hmm? Huh, a bruise. I musta got it falling off a piano..."

Tot's brow ruffled. "Pardon?"


The doctor's meticulous, feathered digits began to comb through the tomcat fluff of his tail, and Zidane had to consciously hold himself from flicking it out of Tot's reach. "Why are you checking out my tail?" he had to ask.

Tot hummed and backed off. "It's relevant... So, how are you enjoying life in the castle? It's certainly a step away from your old life in Lindblum, I'll bet."

Zidane shrugged. "Yeah, I guess it is. It's been nice here, though. People here are nice. It's been really quiet. Everyone seems to go by routine all the time, though. I wonder how they don't ever get bored."

"Are you bored?"

"Well, ah?" He scratched the back of his head, thrown off by the question. "I have Dagger around, so it's not so bad, I mean... I dunno. Maybe sometimes."

"Mmm hmm." Tot turned back to his briefcase and fished out a pad of paper.

Zidane turned narrowed eyes on the doctor, suddenly leery of the questions. "Hey, what's that supposed to mean?"

Tot, unfazed, waddled over to his desk, dipped a pen in ink and began to scribble over the notepad. "I'm going to write up a script for some extra medicine. You need to present this slip to the pharmacist in this shop in Lindblum..." He tore off the slip in question and passed it to his patient. "Here's the address--to pick it up."

Zidane read over the prescription with a frown. "I have to go to Lindblum to get it? You can't just have it shipped here?"

"Oh, no. The pharmacist is very finicky about, erm, policy. You have to hand him the script personally or he won't fill it out. It's something about drug dealing and cases of stolen identity." Tot shook his head. "I won't pretend to know about it, myself. I hope you understand."

"...Okay." Zidane slid off the bunk and stretched, flexing through his newfound relief. That medicine worked fast. "I guess I'm going to Lindblum, then."

"Sorry for the inconvenience of it all. I'd go talk to the pharmacist myself, but I have some pressing research here."

"It's no problem. Thanks for the stuff. I feel better already. If I can ever repay you..."

The doctor waved the notion away. "Oh, don't bother. You're quite welcome. I like to think our arrangement is mutually beneficial."

Zidane smirked, amused. "If you say so, Doc." He pocketed Tot's note and headed out the door, but paused in the threshold. "Hey," he'd almost forgotten to ask, "Why were you checking out my tail? What did that have to do with anything?"

"Oh." Tot scratched his beak and looked aside. "It's a bit of a diagnostic trick."


"Usually people with fur or feathers or what-not keep it well kempt. Mangy or dirty fur is sometimes a symptom of disease or depression."

"Oh. I see. Anyway, thanks a lot, doc. I'll see ya around."

The doctor nodded. "Indeed. Have a safe trip."

Tot watched his patient step out of sight, padding his wingtips together anxiously. "I hope he's not suspicious."


Jared's keyboard clacked beneath his speeding, twitchy fingers. Ryan kept telling him to get a newer, quieter model, but the noise and grimy feel of the keys were familiar to the point of being beyond Jared. They didn't manufacture keyboards like his anymore, and he couldn't stand the layout of any other brand.

The neon orange streetlamps peering through the windows and his computer's monitor provided the only light in his makeshift lab--or lab-cluttered apartment, depending on the hour. Jerad brought work home with him or stayed up at the lab so often that one became too much like the other, and the only thing that told the difference was the room with the bed in it.

It was quiet outside, no cars venturing into this neck of Traven's urban jungle. Jerad reveled in the peace, relieved that it wasn't a night for street racing and that the local gangs were at their usual games in another neighborhood. He could concentrate more on his research without them.

The last page was spit out of his scanner with a phantom hum. He collected the weatherworn piece and returned it to the notebook on the corner of his desk with care. Now that he'd scanned Doctor LEA's hand-written work into the computer, he could stow the hard copy in a safe place. Then he would get some sleep, for a change. Jerad clicked his computer's shutdown procedure and sighed.

Doctor LEA...
He still couldn't believe the notebook was hers, much less that she personally gave it to him. Meeting Doctor LEA was probably the greatest confirmation of the doctor's own time travel theories that he could think of (short of crossing the fourth dimension himself), but it required a great leap of faith for Jerad to take her word for her identity. Ultimately, it took her written word as well, which matched every document of Doctor LEA's in the archives.

Jerad, though skeptical, played along with the idea that the girl and her friends were from another era, not only for the opportunity to exchange notes with someone as interested in space-time theory as he, but because his heart--the same one invested in one too many years of study and sifting through the past, wanted to believe it.

Ryan still thought they were a bunch of wackos. Jerad didn't care; even if the girl wasn't Doctor LEA in the flesh, she had the late doctor's notes on hand, invaluable material to learn from.

A draft swept under his chair, tickling his bare ankles. Jerad leaned out of his seat to reach for the itch, and on the way caught a shadow gliding over the corner of his eye. He sat up, looked behind him--

"Aaaahh!" --and nearly fell over backwards. Jerad scrambled to his feet, shoving his wheeled chair into the corner of his desk and dislodging the notebook there with a clumsy clatter and a downpour of paper.

"Shit!" Jerad hissed at the mess of Doctor LEA's notes before shooting the intrusion that spooked him a wild look. Standing in the middle of his apartment, straight out of the dark, was a huge man. The hood of his deep violet cloak was pulled down around his neck, where his long, loose blue hair pooled into the fabric's creases. He was a tower of thick, refined muscle and leather armor over pale flesh, and Jerad could swear he was wearing the first and most placid scowl ever.

The apparition didn't move or speak at first, perhaps sizing Jerad up or waiting for the scientist to make the first move. The young man's pistol was under his bed, in the next room, so it might as well have been a million miles away. The saving realization that this was one of "Doctor LEA's" comrades allowed Jerad to swallow his panic. What was this one's name, again? Magus?

Even if he was a familiar face, that still didn't explain how he got in. "The hell?" Jerad rasped, glanced to the door beyond the wizard, which was bolted shut, and then to the windows, which were cracked open--hardly enough for the intruder to squeeze through, and even then he would have to climb up three floors of sheer brick first. "How did you get in??"

Magus, cool and oblivious to Jerad's exasperation, withdrew a bright red feather from an inner fold in his cloak. His eyes lazily focused on the pinion as he twirled it between his gloved fingers. "I was wondering if you could do me a favor," he spoke flatly.

Jerad hiccupped, aghast with the wizard's imposition. "A favor? Listen, pal, I'm not doing anything until you tell me how you got in here!"

"I teleported in," Magus answered, nonchalantly as ever. "Now, about that favor..."

"You what??" He didn't have a telepod in his living room, last Jared checked.

Magus regarded him with a patronizing smirk. "I. Teleported. Inside. It's an advanced magic trick."

"Magic... right..." Jerad licked his lips nervously and voted not to press the issue. "Um, what is it you want? And what happened to you guys? I haven't heard anything from Ramezia since you left."

"Ramezia?" Magus echoed, as if answering a far-off chime. "Oh, her. She's a little dead now."


"Yes. I killed her."

Jerad gaped at the wizard's deadpan. "I... you... what?" He shook his head, clearing away the shock, and then launched into angry raving. "How could you?! We were on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough, and you killed our only supporter!? Why the hell did you do that??"

Magus waved off his protests. "No need to thank me. Are you going to help me now or do I have to wake one of your associates? They might be more motivated to give me a hand if I show them the hand of the last person who didn't."

The scientist blinked. He wasn't sure exactly what that meant, and suddenly he didn't want to find out. Maybe Ryan was right about letting those weirdos in his home in the first place. Was this Magus a real wizard? Was he anything like THE Magus, from the old mystic wars? If he's really a visitor from Death Peak, which was where Ramezia built the gate rings, there was no telling for sure. "...Uh, okay. What is it?"

The wizard pointed over Jerad's shoulder at the computer. "I'd like your machine to tell me what this is," he demanded, indicating the feather.

"I'll... see what I can do," Jerad acquiesced and moved to boot the computer back up. A thick, looming, awkward silence overtook the dark room while both parties waited on the machine's clicks and beeps. The scientist carefully slid back into his chair and faced the warming screen, muttering, "It just looks like a feather to me."

Magus decided to overhear him. "It's more than just a feather."

Jerad cleared his throat. "Um, right. What's so special about it? Maybe you could throw me a bone, here..."

"I found it in an abandoned manor farther inland. It has a strong magic aura, and was kept in an enchanted glass case."

The young man faintly rolled his eyes towards the monitor. "A magic feather. Of course. I'll run a search on it." Jerad set his fingers to the noisy keyboard and browsed through the myriad results on the screen. Magus hovered over his shoulder in his best imitation of a patient man.

"Stop," the wizard called when a sketchy image of a feather alongside archaic text popped up. Jerad obediently paused and held his hands up, as if at gunpoint.

"That looks like what you got, there," the scientist remarked as both studied the screen. Taking initiative, Jerad began to read the caption.

Phoenix Pinions
/The phoenix pinion is a magic artifact said to have restorative powers. Accounts from the Guardian Age claim that the sick have been cured, the wounded healed and even the dead brought back to life with the application of a phoenix pinion./
According to legend and questionable written sources from the beginning of the second millennia AD, phoenix pinions originate from Falcen of Guardia, who was a retainer to the Guardian royal house in the eleventh century AD. Falcen participated in the Battle of Guardia Castle, where he sacrificed his life to protect Queen Nadia from the invading army of Porre. Accounts from both armies claim that when Queen Nadia suffered a fatal injury during the siege, Falcen performed a magic rite that gave his own life in exchange for the fallen queen's. A specific account notes that during the rite, "[Falcen] sprouted such wings upon his back magnificent, crimson and gold like frozen flame, and once [he] uttered the spell there appeared a warm, soft halo around both. When the light receded he then did fall like a broken bird and die, while the queen arose, in fine health."
/Feathers salvaged from Falcen's corpse were reputed to heal others with their magic, bolstering the rumor that Falcen was the son of the phoenix, a mythical fire bird known to bring itself back to life from its own ashes. In this vein, the feathers were dubbed "phoenix pinions."/
Once used, a phoenix pinion's magic extinguishes itself, reducing the feather to ashes. It is assumed that for this very reason, if phoenix pinions ever existed, they would be a rare, perhaps impossible find today.

Jerad scratched his chin, humored by the article. "Huh. A phoenix pinion. You think that's what you have?" He swiveled around in his chair to read the wizard's expression, since he didn't hear a response--

...probably because Magus was gone. Jerad paced once around his apartment, searching for a trace, but the wizard had vanished as abruptly and mysteriously as he had appeared.

"Damn. Not even a 'thank-you'."


"Looks like it's time for a road trip," Zidane mused out loud, the hand in his pocket brushing the note from Tot.

To Lindblum... It had been a while. Maybe he could stop by the old hideout, say hi to the guys... He'd pack up and leave, oh, whenever. He wouldn't need more medicine for a long while, yet.

He was on his way back to the gardens when a moogle rounded the next corner a little too sharply, sending both on a collision course. An Alexandrian guard who witnessed the crash snickered, and Zidane picked himself up and disappeared with the dazed moogle around a hedge before he had to endure a crack about being knocked over by a fairy.

"You alright, buddy?" Zidane enquired while the harried moogle dusted his fur off.

"Kupo," he chirped, his bearings and the satchel around his shoulder duly recovered. "Oh oh oh, I'm sorry. I was, um..." The moogle held a paw to his nose, frozen as if lost. He then hopped in place, at once lucid and animated again. "Right, the mail!"

Digging through his satchel, an envelope shortly appeared in the moogle's paw. "I have a letter for Zidane!"

The recipient brightened. "Hey, how convenient! I'm Zidane."

"Oh! Even better. Here you go. Have a nice day, kupo!"
The letter delivered, the Mognet carrier flitted away on his stubby wings.

Zidane didn't hesitate to crack open the envelope. He usually got mail from either Ruby or one of his Tantalus brothers, and the latter proved to be the case.

/I found it./
Fell into the hands of some dealers in Treno. Finally sold to the new King.
/Good luck getting it back./


The Genome pocketed Blank's letter along with Tot's note, hummed and rubbed his chin, considering the news.

"Yep, definitely time for a road trip."
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