Rose of Mideel Chapter 13
The Black Chocobo
By Chocobo Goddess
Aerith left Kalm that night. Though she wished she could stay at an inn until dawn, she didnt want to be found. She knew Cloud would be out looking for her the moment he realized she was missing, and she planned to be far away by then.
She hitched a ride on a farm vehicle to Sanford, a small town to the south of Kalm. They were attacked on the way by a small group of Mandragora, which Aerith fought admirably. The driver of the hay truck was so thankful that he told her to keep the gil theyd dropped. Added to the goodly amount she had with her (Cloud and Tifa had insisted on giving her "her portion" of what they had earned during the fight for the Planet), she realized she had enough to buy herself some transportation.
Well, I have always wanted a chocobo, she thought, now I can afford one. She turned to the driver of the truck, a weathered older man. "Excuse me, sir, how far is the Chocobo Ranch from here?"
"Bout three days or so South, Missy. Though Sanford has a nice stable, if ya feel like taking a look locally. Tell Jend I sent ya, hell give ya a good deal, and hes honest."
"Thank you so much!" She beamed, and the farmer thought for the nth time how glad he was hed picked her up. Hed originally done so simply because she had looked so small and defenseless on the road; later, when the Mandragora attacked, she had repaid his kindness in spades. That, and proved that she wasnt as defenseless as hed thought. He grinned and rubbed his chin, continuing on into Sanford.
Marcel Jend, owner of the local chocobo stable, grinned when he saw his latest customer walk in. Her plain brown twill skirt and jacket couldn't hide the curved figure beneath, while her well-worn boots and scarred leather pack spoke of quite a bit of travel. A pair of green eyes peeked out from under her light brown hair. "Hello, sir, Id like to buy a chocobo."
Jend grinned at her. "Im sure we can find something for you. Right this way, Miss "
"Gainsborough. Thank you." She walked with him to the stable proper, breathing in the scent of hay and fresh greens. Chocobos of different colors filled the stalls, some poking their heads out to watch the two as they passed. "Theyre all so pretty!"
"Yes, well, theyre all of good breeding; nothing but the best here." He looked her up and down. "I think I have just the one for you. Something sweet-tempered, quiet, not too headstrong."
"Actually, Mr. Jend " Aerith began, but he interrupted her by leading out a gentle yellow hen.
"Now, Miss Gainsborough, dont worry, she wont bite. Shes as nice as they come." He beamed down at her in a fashion Aerith found terribly annoying. "Here, give her a pat."
Sighing, she did as he asked. "Shes lovely, Mr. Jend, but as I was saying "
He was about to interrupt her once more, when a loud squeal from outside made them both look up. A very angry-looking handler was wrestling with a massive black chocobo as he tried to lead it inside. The bird tossed his head, blue eyes rolling at the person who held him. He pranced in place and snapped at the mans arm. Annoyed, the handler rapped him smartly on the beak. The black hissed in return.
Aerith took one look at the upset chocobo and felt her heart go out to him. "Is is he all right?"
"Hmph. Damn birds been more trouble than hes worth. He was owned by a SOLDIER, before ShinRa fell. We thought hed do well at the races, but he wont let anyone ride him. Must miss his owner." Jend patted her shoulder. "Dont worry, Miss, I assure you he isnt likely to get away or anything. Now, about Lerita here "
But Aerith had ducked around behind him to walk over to the chocobo, now tethered and breathing hard. He kept his ropes taut, looking about himself with intelligent eyes. "Hey, there," she cooed, reaching out her hand, "Whats your name?"
The handler, who had gone into the tack room for a moment, came out to hear Jend crying, "Miss Gainsborough! Be careful!" as he ran by. The handler panicked, too, when he saw a delicate-looking young woman standing by the Black Beast.
She turned around, nonplussed, as if unaware of the danger she was in. The Beast raised his head over her, looking at them with one baleful eye. The men faced her, both with hands out in a placating gesture. The chocobo snorted almost disdainfully. Aerith glanced up at him, chuckling softly and scratching at the underside of his beak. "Silly, youre scaring them."
Both men watched in awe as she tugged a bit on one of the leads to bring his head back down, and the chocobo obeyed. He made a sound like a cross between a wark and a purr, closing his eyes and butting his head against her shoulder.
"Ill pet you more later, okay? I need to talk to your friends about buying you. So be good."
Aerith turned to Jend and the handler, smiling brilliantly. "How much?"
"Miss Gainsborough, hes a monster! Hell kill you!"
She winced. Now where have I heard that before? She thought. Aloud, she said, "I dont believe thats going to happen. He just needs someone who understands him. Besides, hes exactly what Im looking for. No offense, Mr. Jend, but pretty though Lerita may be, she simply wont hold up under the strain of travel. This one, here, however," she fondly thumped the blacks shoulder, "craves just the kind of life I plan on giving him. Besides," her heart gave a little twinge, "he kind of reminds me of someone I know."
"But but " Jend sputtered.
"Mr. Jend, please. You said yourself he was SOLDIER-trained, right? That means hell be protective, and he will respond well to spoken and unspoken commands. Wont you?" She scratched the birds eye ridges, making him sigh in bliss.
The handler and Jend looked at each other in disbelief, then back at the young woman they realized theyd badly misjudged.
She gave them an innocent smile, all the while petting the chocobos glossy black feathers.
Aerith left the stable with a considerably lighter purse and a very happy chocobo. His name had been Killer, according to Jend, and they had usually referred to him as "the Black Beast" or simply, "the Beast". She shook her head when she thought about that.
"You need a proper chocobo name. I refuse to call you Killer, and Beast is just too impersonal. Lets see, it should sound regal, to befit your appearance, and traditional, because thats just the kind of girl I am." She laughed when he rubbed his head against her arm. "Goodness, Killer, honestly. Only a SOLDIER would come up with something like that. I could just see Cloud," she pulled herself up short. The chocobo gave a small wark, surprised at the abrupt stop.
I dont care about Cloud anymore. He took my life away from me. A gentle nudge on her arm brought her back to the present. She looked down to see the chocobos large blue eyes regarding her with something like concern. "Im sorry, I got lost in my thoughts." Taking a deep breath, holding it, and releasing it, she started walking again. "Lets go; I have a room at an inn with a stable. Well rest there tonight, and leave in the morning."
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