Shattered Feathers Chapter 3
Zidane left the next morning after sleeping in her spare room. I had stayed awake, sitting up in a chair. The entire night I looked out the little window at the street below, thinking of what might happen in the future and wondering over the past. As soon as the sun began spilling over the land, I had kicked Zidane awake, irritated by the fact he had gotten so much sleep. He had groaned, dressed, stumbled down the stairs, eaten, then left. I was left alone with Rasha.
"So, Kuja " she began cautiously. She seemed nervous now that the two of us were alone. "Why don't you take that cloak off and make yourself comfortable?"
I made a noncommittal remark and attempted to wave her off with my hand. At least I tried to wave her off.
"No, no," Rasha admonished. "Don't give me that! That bulky cloak has got to go, got that?" She turned away and smiled at someone who entered the tavern, momentarily forgetting about me. "What can I get you?" she asked cheerfully.
The tall man who entered mumbled something I didn't quite catch. Rasha seemed to understand him, though, and went back into the kitchen. There was some banging and other sounds and she reappeared a couple minutes later with a tray. A plate full of steaming food and a glass of some yellowish liquid sat on top of it.
By this time, he had sat down at a table. She plopped the plate in front of him. "That'll be two Gil, sir," Rasha said kindly. He located the coins and handed them over, somewhat reluctantly, before going after his meal.
I pushed myself deeper into the wooden chair I sat in. She walked back towards me and put her hands on her hips. "Get up," she commanded. I sat there, staring at her. "Up!" she repeated. I got up reluctantly. "Take the cloak off," she ordered and I stared at her.
"You probably" I started, knowing very well how everyone reacted to my armor.
"Am I going to have to pull it off you?" Rasha demanded. She meant it, too.
I pulled the cloak off and dropped it onto the chair, crossing my arms and letting my mouth curl into a little smirk. She looked me up, down, then just stared blankly at my torso.
"What on Gaia are you wearing?!?" she yelped. I noticed the man, who had previously been munching happily at his meal, gaping at me as well, his food forgotten. Rasha obviously noticed and pushed me into the kitchen, slamming the door behind her. "No wonder Zidane was so eager to get rid of you!"
I protested: she was being rather unfair, I felt. I mean, she was the one who told me to take it off. She wouldn't hear any of it, though.
"Gods! That customer is going to think I'm in a completely different business," Rasha groaned.
"That's completely uncalled for," I protested, resenting the slur.
"Well, it's true, isn't it? You look like"
"I do not!" She was getting awfully rude. I decided she wasn't the sweet creature she had appeared to be the night before; a demon in disguise was a much more accurate description, I reasoned.
"There's nothing I can do about it now," she groaned. She pushed me onto a stool. "Sit and stay. You can wash the dishes, but you're not to take a step outside of this room." Rasha left the room before I was able to get another protest out.
She left me no real option. I sulked, glaring angrily at the sink. My sulk was interrupted much later when she returned, notice me doing nothing, and let out a shriek.
"Get to work! You're being so lazy! I should kick you out right now! Oh, Zidane, I'll " She carried on like that for a while, but I tuned her out. No sense listening when she was only chastising me. Once she seemed to be finished, I stood up and moved over to the sink. I decided that was most likely what she had ended up saying; 'Get back to work'!
"Don't you look at me like that, you you Augh! Just get those dishes clean and earn your keep!" She stormed out.
I slowly started washing the dishes. I imagined defenestrating her. The next time she walked into the room; it'd be so perfect. I couldn't help but laugh at this idea. She walked in as I was laughing.
"What's so amusing?" she asked, her expression softening some.
I shook my head, knowing she would turn back into the fiery banshee if I wasn't careful. "Are you always going to keep me back here, or will I eventually be allowed to fly free?" I asked instead.
Rasha scowled. "When you get new clothes, and not until then."
"If I can't leave the kitchen, how am I supposed to get new clothes?" I asked with mocked innocence. I hid my smile of satisfaction by turning back to the dishes.
Instead of cursing me, she started laughing. It sounded more like the cackle of a satisfied hag to my ears, though. "Well, I'll just have to find you some clothes, won't I?"
"W-wait You're not serious, are you?" I stammered.
"I guess you'll find out, won't you?" she purred. She sounded like an executioner that loved his job. Rasha left the room, her laughter hiding any protests on my part.
That afternoon, during what Rasha called her "off" period, I was made to stand behind the counter and take care of any customers. She had put the cloak back on me and commanded me to take care of the tavern. I was given a quick rundown of what I would need to know for everything to go smoothly. She had walked out with the comment of 'You'll like what I find for you'. I don't recall a time I felt as much dream seep into my bones as then; dread which didn't dissipate until I saw what she had bought for me, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The chubby man from the previous day waddled through the doors, blinking furiously to help his eyes adjust do the near-darkness. He moved to the counter and dropped a paper onto it. "You, Miss Rasha, are out of business," he said smugly.
I stared at him, deciding he really was an idiot. "Just who do you think you're taking to, hmmm?" I asked softly.
"The crossdresser!? I knew you had to be in cahoots with" he started.
I jumped nimbly over the counter, grabbed him by the back of his coat, and propelled him in the general direction of the door. "I'm sick of you," I growled. He made weak little sounds of protest, but I pushed him out the door anyway.
It had obviously rained the night before, I noted, because when he tripped he fell into the mud. Lots of mud. Pity he tripped, considering his clothes looked rather new. He began yelling some rather unpleasant comments in my direction, much to my amusement, and I walked back into the tavern.
I went up to the counter and noticed he had, rather carelessly, left the paper he brought in. I picked it up and read over it: a letter from him. I wondered why he had written a letter when he had come in to speak with Rasha If he brought it himself, wouldn't he be able to just tell her she was late for rent payment and she had to leave, not write it all down and give it to her then run? I found it all interesting: she didn't exactly seem like the type to skip payments, and her tavern seemed to be doing well enough that she could afford the rent. Very curious. I left the paper there where she would see it.
I strode behind the counter and went back to waiting for customers. There were two people in the tavern other than me: a woman sipping a drink and a man munching on a meal. They both stared at me. I refrained from scowling at them.
The doors were pushed open and Rasha walked jauntily through them. She carried four boxes in her arms. "I had to estimate on size, but I'm pretty sure they'll fit you fine," she said cheerfully. A bit too cheerfully, in my opinion. If I ever did think someone resembled a grinning Death, that was one of them. Her smile was sadistic, her eyes twinkling. It seemed to me she had a flare for tormenting others, what with Zidane and all.
"Let me guess I'll cringe the moment those boxes are opened. Possibly even cower senselessly behind this counter?" I asked her.
She didn't stop smiling that horrid smile of hers. It actually seemed to worsen. I could almost curse my bad luck. Why didn't Zidane just let me die? It would have saved me so much distress! "You don't get to see them until I want you to," she said mischievously.
"You're only prolonging the inevitable torment," I growled. I thought that, maybe if I bared my teeth at her, she'd leave me be.
"I spent almost everything Zidane gave me," she commented, walking into the kitchen. I heard her move around some before returning. She had taken off her cloak and was wearing the same red dress she had worn the night before. "How was business while I was gone?" she asked.
"About as busy as you see now," I replied. "You were visited by someone " I motioned towards the paper.
Rasha picked it up, every last trace of humor draining from her expression as she read it. "Damn," she muttered.
"Why are you having so much trouble with them?" I asked.
"The owner, the stubby man you've met, has it out for me. I swear he does. It took me forever just to convince him to let me rent from him. Then Riche, that's his name, put all sorts of compromises into the deal after I had set my tavern up. Too late then to get them changed." She sighed, and I wondered what she was keeping from me. "They come quite often to demand more taxes from me. I really want to know why they're treating me worse than everyone else."
Her current attitude reminded me of why I had been son interested in her the night before. She no longer was shrieking orders, but instead was actually kind. "Well I kicked him out for you," I said. I wanted to reassure her, but that would be somewhat awkward. Besides, she would probably just command me to go back to scrubbing dishes.
"I'll just pretend I didn't see this paper," Rasha said with a hint of a smile.
"I could throw it out in the mud if you'd like," I suggested.
She laughed and hugged me. I just stared at her as she pulled away. She turned around towards the drinks, but not before I noticed a hint of a blush.
Near the dinner rush, Rasha ushered me towards the kitchen. "Go upstairs to your room and try them on. I want you to come back wearing them. Got it?"
I sighed and agreed, leaving the tavern for the kitchen. I picked the boxes up, noticing one was much heavier than the others. With a shrug I headed up the stairs and into the room she had given to me. I closed the door behind me and placed the boxes on the bed.
"Why ?" I muttered to myself, opening the first box, the heaviest of the bunch. A pair of boots greeted me. They were dark black leather, a soft and somewhat shiny quality. The buckles were silver and I smiled; they would go up half of my lower leg. "So far not too dangerous," I told myself.
I reached for the next box. It was much lighter than the first and held two pairs of pants. Not something I would pick for myself, but not horrible. One pair was black, the other deep blue like my eyes. They would fit snugly, I decided. There was also a black belt sitting along with them.
After setting aside that box, I reaching for the next one. Opening it revealed four shirts. They weren't terrible, but definitely nothing I would have bought. One was red, another blue, the third purple, and the fourth white. The were all the same style: buttons down the front, loose fitting, and the sleeves flaring out at the ends much like those on my armor. I admit I liked the sleeves.
The fourth box I was skeptical about opening. I finally did, with a sigh. Three pairs of black stockings sat on the top. No interest there. Some undergarments, much to my amusement (I realized she must have felt silly purchasing those for me). The last thing was a black hat with a white feather stuck in it. I gaped at it then started laughing. I seriously wondered how she could expect me to wear such a thing.
I took my cloak and armor off and got dressed. I decided to go with the black pants and white shirt, finding they fit me quite well. The boots were almost too loose, but they would serve their purpose. I picked the hat up and shrugged. Rasha would get some enjoyment out of it, I decided, and plopped it on my head at a rakish angle. I grinned at myself in the mirror. Even in those clothes I looked handsome.
The only problem, though, was my tail. With the fit of the pants I faced a problem; there was no real way to hide it. I twitched it back and forth, studying the silver fur in the mirror, and decided to try and tuck it into my pants; I didn't really care how it looked. The shirt made things less noticeable, but if someone were to look closely at my backside, they'd notice the lump that was my curled up tail.
I left the room and walked down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out the door. Rasha turned and started laughing.
"What's so amusing?" I asked defensively.
"You wore that hat," she giggled, catching her breath. "I thought for sure you'd refuse to!"
I smirked at her. "Well, since you enjoy it so much, it is obviously worth putting it on, right?"
She continued laughing until the door flew open. Riche strode, as best he could, with two particularly large brutes behind him. "What!?" Rasha asked sharply.
"I've come to get you off my property," Riche snarled, sounding like a frightened puppy more than anything else.
"What? You're not even going to ask for rent?" Rasha shot back.
I noticed at this point that her customers were practically cowering where they sat. I would feel like cowering, as well, if that fiery glare was shooting anywhere in my general direction.
"Oh? You're willing to pay now?" Riche sneered.
"You didn't even give me a chance to!" she pointed out. "I refuse to, though, given the current situation."
"I gave you a warning. Didn't it " he motioned towards me," give you the notice?"
"It seems to have been misplaced. You must have taken it with you," Rasha replied. "Kuja told me about it, but we were unable to locate it within this tavern. He hadn't read it so he couldn't tell me what it was about."
"And why should I believe you?" Riche demanded.
Rasha opened her mouth to say something but I stepped in front of her. "Why should you not believe her?" I drawled.
"You stay out of this, you" He let out a shriek as, for some reason that Im positive I had nothing to do with, the lapels of his jacket caught on fire. He made quite a comical figure, and I had half a mind to ask him if he was performing a ritual dance of some sort. When he had managed to stop the fire, he attempted to pull himself together.
"Why don't you leave?" I asked softly.
"And you are you to tell me what to"
Another comical scene, I decided. He seemed to be floating a foot above the ground. A pesky thing, that. Now, I was so sure it wasn't me doing such a think Oh, wait, yes it was. "You were saying ?" I mocked. "I'll let you down if you promise to leave the second you hit the ground."
Riche's mouth opened then closed. I waved my hand distastefully. "No talking, now. Nod your head like a good boy," I taunted softly. He nodded. I cast dispel with a thought, and the three hit the ground with a thump. The didn't wait a second before turning around and running quickly. Applause and cheers came from the customers sitting around; they were obviously pleased with the performance.
"Kuja!" Rasha exclaimed. I had flinched and caught hold of the counter, grimacing from pain and lack of energy. She grabbed my arm. "Are you alright?"
"S-sorry It's been a while since I've used magic. Somewhat out of practice," I said shakily.
"Thank you " she said softly, smiling cautiously at me.
I smiled back at her, my strength returning and the pain fading. "I am your property, aren't I? So why shouldn't I protect as well as serve?"
Rasha laughed and declared a free round of the Special too all the customers. I noticed something different in her eyes, though, as she worked. I couldn't place the emotion I saw, though; it was something I had never seen in someone else's eyes when they looked at me and I didn't know what to think of it. So I didn't think about it; I let it slip my mind completely as something insignificant. The night passed quickly and, soon enough, I was asleep in my warm bed, dreaming dreams of defenestration.
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