Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Fleeing Dragons

Looking for Trouble

by Myshu 0 reviews

The King House is robbed by the Tooth Fairy.

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Crossover, Fantasy, Sci-fi - Characters: Zidane Tribal - Warnings: [!!] [V] - Published: 2005-12-06 - Updated: 2005-12-06 - 5193 words

I don't really take well to being told what to do. A "keep out" sign? Might as well put down a welcome mat. "No loitering"? I'm totally there, not doing anything. You could say I was never a man of rules, like, say, Captain Stuck-up Steiner, but I still have enough sense to know when to listen to them or when to, oh, bend them a little. Or a lot.

Or just break them. And enter. By the way, a wet rag is good for bending iron bars, especially the kind those rich folks put over their windows--you know, the kind that keeps out burglars. You just need a good lever, like a piece of wood or a pick, if you brought one (you should never go anywhere without a steel pick, Boss would always say). Then you can wrap the shirt around your fist to break the glass so you won't cut your hand and...

You know, I probably shouldn't be telling you this.

Rule number one: "A Tantalus always gets what he sets his eyes on."

3. Looking for Trouble

There were many out there in the galaxy: dilapidated, forgotten gaterings, neglected for either tragedy or disuse. The C'tarot Stellar Directory kept a register of all the active gaterings discovered thus far, and inactive ones were either promptly restored or scrapped.

This one was all hers. Myshu remembered following him to these withered desert peaks, where the wind sandblasted pores into the cliffs. It was a freak spelunking trip that unearthed a skeletal gate shrine. He said they'd bring it back to its former glory; it would be part of her training. She didn't question him; she can't remember why not then, or ever. She did remember spending two years toiling through gravel and scraps of archaic steel, trying to make ancient technology new again.

Once the job was at last complete, he made her vow to tell no one it existed. So she didn't, not when the Peacekeepers came looking for him, not when they found him, and not when they killed him, here on this very mountain.

These gaterings were hers now, and Myshu was grateful for them. If she had to use a registered gate she'd have to start explaining herself: where was she going, what was her business there, what was she bringing with her, when would she be back. She wasn't going to answer to C'tarot's bureaucracy ever again. This was "life on the lamb," as the saying went.

She stood outside the cave, that secret one she'd slipped into those two years ago. To the side of the entrance was a pile of rocks she'd thrown together for his grave. She couldn't explain why she did that, either--why did she come back, why'd she make a shoddy memorial that no one else would ever see, why'd she waste the effort.
He wouldn't have cared for it. He wouldn't have done it, if it were her. Maybe she thought it was fitting to leave him where he last stood. Maybe she just didn't want to glimpse his hulking, rotten, dog-chewed carcass each time she showed up to use the gate.

'Master Tair...'

She harrumphed into the wind and turned to enter the shrine. "That bastard."

Myshu crawled down the sedimentary wall piece-by-piece, working her way out of golden daylight and into the gate's lunar glow. At length she touched level, solid ground, and crossed the pit of the cave to the shrine's front steps.

Gates were the gift of space travel in a convenient package, a wormhole network that made the universe small, after all--or at least, made it feel smaller. Nobody knew who invented the things--they predated time itself--but everyone who passed through gaterings wondered who first thought to build such a majestic harness for one of the universe's most incredible phenomena.
Their design was always the same, too. Myshu didn't know if gate engineers kept it that way out of habit, necessity, laziness or lack of creativity. Three stout, stone columns stood around a pentagram-etched dais, pitching a pair of interlaced silver rings off the ground by magic-conductive tethers. Suspended within the rings was an electric-sapphire globe, often the only source of light in hidden shrines such as these. Looking at it now, the energy core was reminiscent of the Dragon Tear in dimensions and hue, only the latter was solid and didn't expand to a door-sized disc when activated.

Speaking of activating it, she couldn't just stand around staring at the gate all day. She approached the rings and checked the alignment of their runes, or coordinates, rather.

'Good. Just as I left them.' Good that no one else had found and used this gate. Not yet.

She paced back to the switch-pad on one of the columns and put her palm to it. The crystal knob read her spirit's signature and sent a luminous lavender pulse through the tethers and into the gate, which flared to violent, noisy life.

Myshu flinched at the gust that tore out of the gate, spit a tuft of her own hair out of her mouth and straightened her pack between her wings. She hadn't forgotten her faux pas from her last venture to that planet: she stepped right through that gate and onto an ice-capped mountain, just about freezing her underdressed tits off. Well, this time she'd be prepared.

She wore a scarf.


They called Treno "The Dark City." It thanked not only for its latitude for its short days and long nights, but also the mountains to the East, West and South that gobbled up the sun for breakfast and supper.

Treno was also called the "City of Nobles," but that was only half of the story told within its great round walls. It was a town of dramatic class divisions, squalid shacks just across the river from opulent estates. It was the ageless plot of the rich getting richer while the poor got poorer, and the most exciting setting for ruffians and thieves.

Daylight was so dim, if not fleeting, that there was no real schedule for Treno's citizens. The hour meant very little when the sun would never rise the next morning, so it was too common for half the populace to be awake and about while the other half slept. It was even possible to walk in on a silent town at high noon.

If Zidane could get away with this job in broad daylight, he would. Well, he probably could, actually, but he was just a little afraid of getting caught, this time. It wasn't that he doubted his thievery skills, oh, not one bit.
...Well, maybe just a tiny bit. Very tiny. It had been several years since he'd last pulled a stunt like this.

He wasn't afraid of getting in trouble, though. It was more a matter of Garnet getting in trouble by association. Steiner had once given him a rather abrasive and thorough lecture about "royal conduct," which basically meant that the queen's beau did NOT roam about her kingdom's territories (or worse, other kingdoms' territories), pissing off the higher class. If he did get caught (haha), his actions would be traced straight back to the Alexandrian throne, and it would get all political and other bad things blah blah.

It didn't matter. He wasn't going to get caught.

The King Mansion was home to Treno's famous auction house. There was an unconfirmed rumor that Kuja was once Lord King, which made sense since a new lord inherited the estate shortly after Kuja's demise. According to Blank, a trusted source in the matter of treasure, it was the new Lord King that fell into possession of the Silver Pendant, an Alexandrian royal heirloom. This was bad, because if the pendant were put to auction and sold off, it would take gods-knew-how-long to track it down again.

It belonged to Garnet, last Zidane checked, and he was going to set that straight before the long Treno night was over.

He sat in one of the crenels of a stony grey parapet, gazing out at his target and ruminating over his method of approach while his tail stirred the muggy air. The King Mansion was resplendent with torch glow over creamy plaster and bleached trimmings. A sleek ivory griffin stood over the gate to the auction house, peering across the twinkling black city reservoir at other wealthy neighbors.

Zidane never held a strong opinion on Treno's social system. He commiserated with the slum-dwellers and was envious of the rich, but every time the money bug bit him he'd just break into a noble's house and take some, problem solved. Maybe that's why he felt so comfortable in Treno; it was full of opportunists, and that mentality he understood.

It wasn't really greed that motivated his mischief, though. He despised greed, the kind that trampled others to push oneself on top. He'd never put someone down to better himself; it just didn't feel right. On the other hand, he wasn't playing some gallant rogue, robbing the rich and giving it away to the needy. More than anything, he was stole for... the sake of stealing. It was the mountain he climbed because it was there. When he was a child, he did it because his boss approved.

Maybe, even today, he was still seeking approval... from whom? Baku? Garnet?

Zidane shook his head, clearing his thoughts. 'I don't have to prove himself to anyone. I'm doing this for Dagger.'

He needed to focus. He had to plan a way into the mansion. Maybe he could take the route he used before, for old time's sake. That would depend on whether the owners of the house had wised up to that particular breach in security, and if he was wrong... well, he'd just have to find another way in, no problem.

He withdrew into the parapet and descended the vacant watchtower. Part of the city guard concentrated on the front gates, while the rest were hired on to individual properties, leaving the inner districts virtually lawless and ever to the bandit's advantage. It would be a real problem if anyone in the inner districts had stuff worth stealing, but as it stood the slums merely accommodated bums and gangs.

A trick to getting around Treno without getting noticed was its canal network, running smooth and ichorous beneath much of the bridged city. Small boats could coast through downtown on a whisper, or one could stick to a narrow sidewalk along the bottom of the ditches and sneak around on foot. Zidane left the tower, stepped off the brick road and skidded down a ledge to such a river walk, dropping into the streaming shadows.

With the watery road to his left and a steep stone wall to his right, he followed the "Ratwalk," as the lower lives called it, watching a pack of its namesake skitter out of the way. Urban lights skipped off the inky canal and painted his shadow in dull lightning, understated and fidgeting. Zidane passed under a bridge and into a black patch, pausing for a moment when he caught the glint of another pair of eyes. Across the culvert was apparently another man with the idea of not being seen. After a muted standoff Zidane left him alone, each to their own way. By the honor of Treno's underground, it wasn't any of either's business.

He walked another quarter mile, finally stopped, and peered up over the wall, spotting the telltale privacy fence that closed off King's back courtyard.

He shrugged off his travel pack and knelt over it, digging out his first secret weapon: a rope with a large, heavy knot on each end. He unraveled the cord with a twirl, stepped back to the edge of the Ratwalk and braced to toss it over the fence. It barely reached over, the rope successfully sinking into one of the cracks at the top of the planks, and with a firm tug the knot caught between the crack and the obscured crossbeam on the other side.

The thief shouldered his pack, took hold of the rope and was out of the ditch and over the wall in a quiet minute. He hit the thick, dewy grass on the other side with a padded thud and sat carefully in place, scoping the scene out.

As he remembered it: three large trees, a flagpole flaunting the King House's colors, a lamppost in the center of the yard and a guard pacing along the sidewalk skirting the back doors of the mansion. He shifted into the nearest tree's shadow and began to paw through the grass for something to throw.

Finding nothing, and it figured (he wondered how much it cost to keep an immaculate lawn in this town), he was glad to have brought a diversion or two of his own. He picked out a palm-sized flog ball from his pack (flog was a popular sport in Treno, even if the name was terrible. There was a flog course right in the heart of the nobles district, and it was common to find stray flog balls raining from the sky and all over the waterfront.) He peeked around the tree, trying to judge the distance to the small kennel off the side of the house.

He wasn't quite close enough, and the tree ahead of him was in the way besides. He waited with patient breath for the guard to turn on his heels and march the other way, and then darted up to the obstructing oak.

A little better. He stood off the tree's side, cocked his arm and tossed the ball high and far. It caught an overhead leaf on the lift, and he shrank behind the tree with a wince and a prayer that it wasn't noticed. The next second rewarded him with a clatter when the ball struck the honeycomb wire partition he'd aimed for, setting off a torrent of barks and rustling chains.

Zidane overheard the guard grumble and start towards the kennel riot. "Dog dammit. What is it now?"

The thief waited for the guard to walk past his line of sight before making a dash for the flagpole. He crossed the lamp's soft gold halo on the grass and was scrambling up the flagpole's rigging in the next blink, just as the guard began to interrogate the riled dogs.

"What??" the night watch shouted over their howling and tried to peer through the wire fence into the pen. "Something in there? God help me, if it's another flog ball..."

Zidane's heel slipped on the slick pole, and he lost three skidding feet before he could mutter, "Shit." He glanced hurriedly over at the kennel, which was still being sniffed around by the guard, and resumed his climb. He must have been three stories off the ground before he reached the top, well out of conspicuous light. The dogs had simmered down and the guard resumed his easy pacing, far below and oblivious.

Now, the part he dreaded most. A good leap over from where he clung to a lazy flag laid a balcony. If he jumped just right he could make it without falling and breaking his back, but in either case there was no quiet way to do it.

Zidane drew a tense breath, wet his lips, pushed himself off the pole and prayed to the nearest common god that a stiff breeze didn't decide to show up or that his feet reached completely over the wooden railing so he wouldn't straddle it and smash his nuts or that even if he did miss the mark completely and plummet to his doom he'd do so silently, preferably in a magic puff of smoke that removed all evidence from the scene of the crime, damn Steiner and all diplomacy to hell.

He landed like a cat with one great muffled thwump on the balcony floor. A dog started wailing again, something deep and keen. The thief stuck a fast hand into his pack and withdrew another flog ball, which he discreetly pitched over the balcony rail. He heard its cracking bounce on the pavement below and sighed with relief at the guard's growling, "Damn floggers."

Zidane slowly rose, back to the job. He cupped his hands around his eyes and pressed his face to the glass balcony door, striving to see into the dark room beyond. It didn't help, he realized, that white gossamer curtains were pulled over his line of sight. He couldn't tell what--or who--was inside.

Oh well. He took the careful tack anyway, drawing out the next item from his bag of goodies: a bottle of oglop oil. A few drops were applied to each of the doors' hinges, then to the joint at the handle, and then he slooowly turned the knob, testing it. The wooden doors peeled open without a creak, not even locked. So far, just like last time. He assumed that, also like last time, the room was unoccupied, and now he was--

...Holy shit, dead wrong. What was once furnished as a guest room now looked like a playpen. Dolls were stacked in the corner; the open wardrobe was stuffed with tiny, puffy dresses; wooden letter blocks and toy marbles were sprawled over the super-plush carpet, and the balcony's invading moonlight was soft as frosting on the dizzy pink comforter and frilly pillows.

A little girl was sitting up in a twister of bedclothes, gaping at the be-tailed visitor with dumb shock. She couldn't be more than six years old. Who was she? A relative of King's? A daughter, a niece? He didn't care as long as she didn't give him away.

'Oh please, don't scream.' What should he do? He bit his lip and stood frozen in the doorway, a bunch of nerves poised for either pouncing or fleeing, and only the rationale that he didn't have anywhere to go held him in check.

What should he say? Maybe he could sweet-talk her back to sleep, if he approached this gingerly. He wanted to be the first to speak, to get control of the matter somehow, but she beat him to it.

"Are you the tooth fairy?" she asked with wide-eyed innocence and a gap-toothed, hopeful grin.

He blinked. "...Yes," Zidane drawled ingeniously. It was so absurd, it was beautiful. He could picture the headline in the Treno Herald already: "King robbed by Tooth Fairy."

The thief-fairy loosened up and walked over to the girl's bedside, in time to receive a host of questions. "Where are your wings?" she enquired, not shy about the deal at all.

Oh, boy. Game time. "They're in the shop."

"How do you fly, then?"

"I cast a float spell."

"You know white magic?"

"A little," he fibbed, though what was one white lie on top of all the black ones?

"I thought you were a girl." Not a question, but okay...

"No, I'm just a really femmy guy. You won't believe the jokes I get." Sadly, that was the most honest response he'd given yet.

"Like what?"

"You're not old enough to hear them yet."

"What's 'femmy' mean?"

He couldn't believe this. "Like a girl."

"Why do you have a tail?"

"What's with all the questions?" Zidane finally snapped, impatient if still polite. "You want your ten-gil piece or not? Go back to sleep."

This tamed her; the girl's head flopped to the pillow in a hurry. Zidane was set to walk away, towards the door to the inner hall, but his conscience snagged his wallet. He glanced back at the girl (whose eyes were shut too tight in a mockery of snoozing), made a muddled, heartfelt frown, dug out a coin from his pack and stuffed it under her pillow. Then he walked away.

Zidane had only one foot out in the hall when he caught the faint, nagging, "...tooth."

He grimaced and leaned back into the room. "What??" he hissed.

"My tooth," the girl whimpered, her disappointment questionably sincere, "You didn't take my tooth."

Zidane rolled his eyes, strode back to her pillow and snatched the lost milk tooth from beneath it. "Nobody likes a critic," he remarked, and pocketed the tooth while the child giggled at his exasperation. The thief-fairy amicably tousled the girl's hair to show there weren't any hard feelings, and for the last time turned to leave. "Now go to sleep."

She seemed to do so, finally, thank the god responsible. Zidane took care in closing her door and tip-toeing out into the hall, back into familiar stealings. The auction hall, gallery and vault were on the base floor, his next stop.

He took brisk, light steps down the stairs, casting corner glances at the gaudy, ruby-encrusted frames to noble portraits. He about had a stroke when passing a familiar visage, and had to stop and gawk at the baroque likeness of his favorite porcelain-masked, snowy-crowned villain. The subject's painted eyelids dipped low to match a condescending smirk, and his chin was tipped over a lily that was cradled between his milky fingers and the pale hollow of his neck.

The thief noted the painting's label. 'King XII...?' Zidane shuddered a bit and moved on. 'I guess that answers that.'

Broad-seamed scarlet carpet ran in strips down the halls and across the juncture of the next level, where a grand staircase broadened with elegant curves as it dropped to the base floor. There, Zidane found an old Alexandrian suit of armor, a ceramic vase just as large and two security guards approaching, one from below and the other from the hall across the stairs, the opposite way.

Oh, decisions.

"What was that noise back there?" one of the guards spoke up. The two met at the top of the stairs for a brief exchange.
"What noise? The dogs?"
"Yeah, in the back."
"Gary said it's just a flog ball, hit the cages."
"King's getting pretty ticked about that. I heard him say he's going to take action against that flog course over there."
"It's just a bunch of rowdy kids trying to hit balls over the fence on purpose. What can he do? Make them move the course?"
"Haha. I dunno, get those kids banned from it or make them put up a higher fence or something. What else can he do? Have all the windows boarded?"
"Yeah, with solid gold."
They chuckled. "Ah, crazy rich folks. Hey, see you next shift."
"Yeah, later."

They lazily saluted and parted, continuing their rounds. Zidane waited until their iron-toed footfalls disappeared into other rooms before he squirmed out of the vase and tumbled tonelessly yet gracefully to the floor, like a flan (Baku liked to cast him in the acrobatic roles in plays because he was impressively flexible.) He then straightened on his feet and headed downstairs.

On his first "visit" it was all by the map, the hours during the airship ride into town spent running a finger between the lines of a makeshift blueprint. Which guards stood where and when was meticulously recorded to plot and then to memory, like for a play the actor wrote and then performed himself.

Now it was all about recall, making the same steps and reciting the same lines, only all the other actors were different and the audience had left years ago. He'd spent that airship ride daydreaming, not rehearsing. The only constant was the stage.

Zidane turned into the gallery behind the auction floor and stepped right up to the closet between the glass-paned display cases. The rest was clockwork: pull out a steel pick, pop open the door and snatch the goods inside. It was his favorite part--the satisfying click of a picked lock, cueing the climax.

It was dark inside, his only company the diffused moonlight from the gallery and the groan of the door's hinges. Zidane's mission required a little more nitpicking this round; he couldn't just stuff everything shiny into his bag and bolt. He began to fish through the shadowy piles on the shelves, shuffling antiques around and nearly knocking a crystal egg to its fractured doom.

He picked up a small, heavy jewel case, pried it open and nearly jumped out of his boots when loud, tinkling notes began to pour out of it. He hissed, snapped the music box shut and put it right the hell back.
Zidane continued to rummage through the treasure, bits and expensive baubles saved for the weekly auction. Rich people had too much free time, but then again, so did he.

He combed through each shelf, left to right and other-way, and didn't see it. Where was King keeping it?
Zidane scuffed his heel against the floor, leaned back against the doorframe and ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. He could go back, search the main gallery, search the auction room itself... Augh, too much time, he didn't have it. The guards would sweep back this way any minute.

He stared hard into the closet. That pendant was in there somewhere, it had to be. It belonged to Dagger, it belonged to Alexandria, it even had the royal crest engraved on it, just like on... that music box there...

The thief took the box again and turned it over in the wan nightglow, examining the sterling silver creases. It was pretty big for a music box, now that he thought about it. He couldn't see more than one way to crack into it though, unless...
He frowned, wondering if King was this clever on purpose or if it was just highly inconvenient. He could just take the box with him and open it later, but it would be a waste if there was nothing special about it, after all. He had to have the pendant in his own hands. Zidane swallowed a deep breath, opened the box and gritted his teeth through the melody that flooded the gallery and rooms beyond; it might as well have been a foghorn in the sleeping mansion.

He frantically thumbed around the velvet lining inside, trying to pry something loose. The top lid was suspiciously heavy, so that withstood the most inspection. His meticulous attention was rewarded when fuzzy cardboard caved out and a clear white jewel set in silver spilled into his glove. He took only a second to identify it.

'Yes! Finally. Time to get out of here.' He pushed the Silver Pendant into his pack and the disjointed music box back on the shelf before rising to leave.

"Hey, who's there?!" rang authority from the outside hall.

Now came the fun part: run like hell.

Zidane zipped out the gallery and started down the corridor behind the auction floor, one hand around the strap of his pack and the other on the grip of a sheathed dagger. He knew he was spotted the moment he set a clapping foot on the marble tile of the hall, and the crowing, "Stop! Thief!!" only confirmed it.

"You're singing my song, babe," he shouted over his shoulder as he neared the doors to the back patio. Clanking armor fell in pursuit, though the thief didn't pause to check how many pairs of feet were chasing him. He slid up to the decorative glass doors and fumbled with the bolts for three seconds too many. Security was practically on his tail when he shoved the way open, one of the doors knocking over the dog-watcher who had hoped to stand in the way.

"Stop right there!!" another voice, male, tried in vain to catch him, and the dogs threw their usual party.

Zidane was crossing the yard, too late for them. Ten feet before the fence, he glanced back to survey the hunting party.

Two guards were lagging behind, each wielding swords. The one he'd grounded had staggered back up and cut across the patio towards the dog pen, and after him arrived a dark-haired man in a silk nightgown with a--what the hell was that thing he was holding? It looked like an air gun, only it was too big--oh crap, the dogs were out.

Zidane threw himself on the fence, getting his footing on crossbars that he wasn't afforded on the other side. Two sleek, muscular dogs rushed to meet him, and he dug his fingers like nails into the boards when he realized that they could jump higher than he expected. A set of chompers caught the scruff of his pants at the ankle, and Zidane had to drop his other heel on the dog's snout to free himself.

He finally scrambled to the top, at the pique of his getaway and relishing it. He was one long hop to ratwalking freedom, and all King's men couldn't do a thing to stop him now. It wasn't until he could feel the ride ending that he realized he had missed it: the close calls, the hard luck, the good steals--it was bad euphoria and he had traded it in for queen and country. Now, though, now was great, the best of both worlds, exciting and dangerous and all for the girl--he's Treno's number one bandit!


He heard the air shatter as something hot took a bite out of his thigh. He jerked upright in alarm and balanced stiffly on the teeth of the fence. Through the shock he felt his body listing, about to fall over the side, and as the surprise melted into searing pain he turned a bug-eyed look on his pursuers.

The guards stood back, watching him with blank, open expressions, their advance stalled--why? On the porch, far behind them, that silk-clad man lowered a smoking barrel.

Goddamnit, it was a /pistol gun/, he'd heard of those. It's the same principle used with canons and air guns, only some kook had decided to combine the two so people could shoulder it and shoot little exploding pellets at the speed of sound but it was unstable as all hell and prototypes blew up in people's faces and it figures that RICH PEOPLE have them now they're the only ones who can afford 'em gods help Gaia now and WHAT THE FUCK HE WAS JUST SHOT IN THE ASS.

The fence scrolled up, obscuring his shooter, then the moon streaked across his vision, and then a brick incline cushioned his head. The dizzy world got wet before it turned black.


One of the guards swallowed, a little shell-shocked on top of winded, and turned to the gunman. "Nice... shot, Lord King."

The dog-keeper began to reel the twin dogs in by their chains, fighting them all the way from the fence to the house. "I'll get the police; we'll go out and bring him in," he announced and disappeared indoors, half dragging and half being dragged by his tow.

King and the other two guards milled about for a sickeningly quiet minute until a genuine flog game intervened, one of its balls catapulting through a third-story window with a glassy crash. The lord of the house twisted an aggravated look to the sky and shook his fist.

"Goddamn floggers!"
Sign up to rate and review this story