Shattered Feathers Chapter 2

By Tsarmina

The trip had been tedious and I had decided maybe Zidane was trying to get some sick revenge on my by boring me to death. I thought it'd work, too. But, alas, the hackneyed phrase had no real substance and I didn't die (at this point I decided someone in a high place must really have hated me to put me through such torment as Zidane's card games, which he thought were the most enjoyable thing on Gaia). I arrived in one piece, though, and I watched as we entered Lindblum in the little cargo ship we had jumped a ride with.

The last time I had seen the city was when I had been in the process of destroying it. Not exactly the best to admire the cityscape, I imagine. Airships chaotically raced everywhere my eyes could see, and people milled like grains of sand in an hourglass out of buildings. There was an overbearing noise that filled the entire atmosphere; the noise of many people and machines. It was an august city, its large buildings jutting out from the ground like immense trees. I was impressed, to say the least.

The two of us walked through the Theatre District later, adding to the grains of sand. I trailed a little behind Zidane, feeling oppressed by the cloak he had made me wear and the crowded street. He had fed me some tale about "someone might recognize you in your armor", "for your own protection". If you ask me, I think he felt uncomfortable, but I didn't argue about it. I knew, though, that no one had ever really seen who was responsible for all of the previous problems… Besides, it was a chilly day.

"Here we are, I think," Zidane said cheerfully, stopping abruptly in front of a shabby building.

I looked at it and arched an eyebrow. It was a small home that cowered beside a larger building. Everything about it screamed "abandoned": door ajar, windows nothing more than jagged knives held in place by the frames, dark interior, and holes in its roof. "I don't think anybody lives here…" I hazarded.

"Nonsense!" Zidane exclaimed. He strode up to the door and knocked on it, much to my amusement. "Guess she's not going to answer," he said sheepishly, mistaking my muffled laughter for something completely different. He shrugged and walked into the darkness.

Seeing no reason to follow him, I walked over to a railing and leaned against it, crossing my arms over my chest. I continued to smile, anticipating being about to smugly say "I told you so."

A man walked towards me, stepped on my foot, and continued on his way as if nothing had happened. He was a short and rather pudgy man, perfectly tailored clothes fitting his rotund little body like a glove. I felt no sympathy when my other foot, which had somehow found itself in his way, caused him to trip and fall onto the cobbled road.

The pudgy fellow regained his feet, sputtering something angrily. He brushed at his clothes, which had gotten traces of dust upon them. "How dare you, madam! I'm not interested in whatever you have for sale," he sneered.

I stared at him. "Madam?" I repeated, thrown off by his mistake.

He sniffed disdainfully. "Well, I could call you—"

"Hey! Kuja! Looks like she doesn't live here, after all!" Zidane shouted, emerging from the doorway. He noticed my, ah, companion and grinned cheerfully, making his way towards us.

"Well, I am leaving your questionable presence," the man said with his pinched voice.

"Don't leave so soon!" Zidane protested, grabbing the man's arm. "You a friend of his?"

The man stared at me, I glowered back, and Zidane just grinned towards both of us. Times like that I wondered if Zidane was simply pretending to be stupid, or if he actually was as dense as he acted.

"Oh, hey, do you know where Rasha lives now?" Zidane asked when no one else spoke, motioning towards the house he had just exited.

"Yes, of course I do. I just had to collect rent from her… Trying to get out of it, she was. Barmaids are so untrustworthy," the man sniffed.

"Barmaid? Maybe we're talking about a different person. Rasha works at one of the little stores around here," Zidane said, shaking his head.

"Well, you'll find her at Chanterelle. Plenty of fliers about so you shouldn't have any trouble finding it." He looked at me again and shuddered, turning around promptly and waddling off.

"Leaving without saying goodbye?" Zidane asked me with a shrug. "Oh well… Let's see if we can find one of these fliers he mentioned."

I straightened from my position and muttered "madam" again. "Lead the way," I said dryly.

Zidane gave me an odd look before he continued on his way. He peered at each flier we passed on our trek in the direction the pudgy fellow had come from.

I was the one to find one. I picked it up from the shadows behind a bench and read over it. It basically bragged about a new tavern called Chanterelle. "Here it is," I said to Zidane to keep him from walking off.

"Oh, good," he sighed in relief, reading it after I handed it to him. "Guess we should go find out about it now…"

We followed the directions on the flier. Well, we attempted to, but somehow or another we had taken a wrong turn. After much confusion and asking directions, we finally found the place.

I'm not sure how you'd want to describe Chanterelle Tavern. It was rather quaint, you could say, looking more like a friendly little restaurant than a tavern. The sign was new, a black bird painted across it with red letters scrawled over the bird, proclaiming "Chanterelle Tavern". The front doors were opened widely, welcoming anyone off the streets to enter.

Zidane trotted up the front steps and disappeared into the well-lit interior. I followed after him, wondering whom I was going to meet. He said it was a "she", her name Rasha. I could imagine a matron with a huge build weighing down on me, all muscles and temper. I shuddered involuntarily at the prospect.

I found Zidane waving happily towards a young lady who was in the process of squealing ardently and throwing her arms about him.

"Zidane! It's been so long! You haven't visited for years!" she admonished as she pulled away, punching his arm. She held herself elegantly, wearing a concealing, yet rather revealing, blouse that cut down into a V-shape above the rise of her breasts but showed nothing more than part of her sternum and collarbones. It was a deep red wine color and clung tightly to her form. The sleeves flared out at the ends, making her lean hands look even smaller than they were. Her skirt was a lighter crimson color, fitting snugly around her hips and reaching the floor. A slit ran up the right side to her knee, exposing a good portion of her lower leg. The black boots could barely be seen under the edge of the skit. I looked up at her grinning face, which was framed by cascading raven black hair, which held streaks of bronze on either side towards the front. He chocolate eyes twinkled questioningly towards Zidane. Her face was definitely beautiful: a long and straight nose led from her eyes to her mouth, which was curved into a smile; her chin was rounded, yet firm, helping to pull my eyes to notice her whole face was rounded, but in a lean and healthy way. She wasn't one of those delicate and pale girls who had never seen day; no, she had a tanned color that gave me the impression she loved being outside.

"Yeah, sorry 'bout that…" he said nervously. "It's nice to see you again. I was really worried when I found your house empty."

She crinkled her nose up some. "My old job wasn't getting enough money so I decided to start my own tavern."

I noted the comfortable atmosphere, the many windows that allowed lights to flow into the room, and the patrons that sat at various tables and stools, sipping their drinks and watching the spectacle.

"Oh! Who's that?" she asked, looking pointedly at me with those chocolate eyes.

"This is a…erm, an acquaintance of mine," Zidane coughed, remembering me. "This is Kuja." He turned to me. "Kuja, this is Rasha, an old friend of mine."

I inclined my head and smiled. "Please to meet you," I said politely.

Rasha let out a musical laugh. "Polite, aren't you? Well, it's nice to meet you, as well. Are you two an item?" she asked innocently, and rather mischievously, I noticed.

I cut in, as Zidane suddenly found himself cackling too hard to say anything comprehendible. "Actually, we're not. Although, Zidane does seem to have certain tendencies," I replied stiffly, glaring at Zidane.

Zidane stopped laughing almost immediately. "That's not funny!" he protested. "Kuja's a guy. Male. You know, not a girl?" he stammered.

Her eyes opened wide and her hand jumped up to her mouth. "Oh, my! I'm terribly sorry for that!" she exclaimed. I noticed she looked me up and down once again. "I could have sworn…"

I waved my hand to dismiss the problem. "Don't worry about it," I said, and actually meant it. She seemed sincere enough. Besides, she seemed like such a sweet creature. I learned later how wrong first impressions can be, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

"You two sit down," she commanded, ushering us to the table closest to the counter. When Zidane didn't sit down, she pushed him into a chair and scowled at him. I sat down on my own. "What would you like? On the house."

"Oh, we couldn't—" Zidane began but was cut off by her glare. "Oh, right… I'll have your…" He looked down at a menu sitting conveniently on the table in front of him. "Diving Falcon."

Rasha smiled secretively and looked at me. "What would you like, Kuja?" she asked, winking.

I took the hint and ordered a Special, deciding it was probably the safest of the bunch. She gave an approving nod and walked behind the counter to mix the drinks for us.

Rasha returned with the drinks quickly, placing each on the table. She watched Zidane expectantly as he lifted his glass to his lips, took a long sip, and promptly fell out of his chair.

"Strongest drink?" I asked when I had stopped laughing.

She snickered, calming down. "Yes… I thought I had named it appropriately enough to warn people off, though."

Zidane regained his seating, face red from surprise and irritation. "You could have warned me," he wheezed.

Rasha pouted. "Why would I do that? It's far more amusing to see you fall out of your chair from surprise," she replied.

"Absolutely true," I agreed, sipping my own drink smugly. Strong enough to be interesting, but not something that would bowl one over. "It's good," I complimented.

"Thank you," she replied, grinning happily. "What about you, Zidane. Don't you like it?"

Zidane took another sip and attempted to smile. Best impression of someone trying to keep from screaming I ever did see. "…wonderful," he gasped.

"You know, you're the first person to order that drink…" Rasha said thoughtfully. "I've been open for a week now and no one else ordered it."

I bit back a sarcastic remark when Zidane glared at me. "Nice place you've got here," he said, changing the subject.

"Yes… I’m renting it until I have enough to buy it," she replied. He expression changed. "Rent collector just visited to get more money…"

"We met him on our way here," I said, remembering what he had told me. "Seems he had a little trip, though…"

"What do you mean by that?" Zidane asked, cocking his head to one side. "You didn't do anything rude to him, did you?"

"Me? Something 'rude'?" I scoffed (cruel, yes, but never something as petty as rude…). "He was the rude one." I sniffed disdainfully at the accusation.

"…I don't think I want to know," Zidane said dreadfully. "Why do I try?"

Rasha had watched this exchange with much curiosity. "What brings you two here, anyway?" she asked.

"Well, you see…" Zidane said cautiously.

"No, I don't. Explain."

"I need someone to look after Kuja, actually," he said, much to my annoyance.

"What?!" she exclaimed.

"Do tell…" I said dryly. Interesting how I was, rather suddenly, being treated as if I was a child or animal unable to look after myself. I propped my elbow on the table and rested my chin on my hand, watching Zidane closely.

Zidane coughed nervously. "Well… For some reasons that I don't really want to explain, he needs somewhere to stay and I thought you'd be nice enough to help out?" he said hopefully.

Rasha sighed, not pursuing the cryptic remark Zidane had first made. "What use is he to me?"

I took offense at this remark and said so, only to be told my opinion meant nothing at the moment and to be quiet. Funny, that is… I fumed quietly.

"He could help you out. Be a server, or something… All the hard work," Zidane attempted.

"Oh, sure… It's so hard to say no to you," she sighed. "Besides, I have a spare room upstairs he could sleep in." She shrugged. "I guess free labor is always a nice thing to have…"

"Oh, good! Thanks, Rasha. You're a doll, as always. You won't regret this!," Zidane gushed, taking a healthy (or unhealthy, as was the case) drink of his Diving Falcon and regretting it immensely.

"Would you like to throw in a slave contract while you're at it?" I asked moodily, watching Zidane writhe in his chair.


Chapter 3

Final Fantasy 9 Fanfic