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Designated Heroes Rule!

Posted: 4th October 2009 21:54

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Onion Knight
Posts: 48

Joined: 1/11/2008

Awards:
Member of more than five years. Winner of the 2008 Fanfiction contest. 
Hey everyone!

All right. This fic is inspired by this thread. Go support the thread! thumbup.gif (And consider my post as more of a lying trailer. Hehe.)

Now, just a little housekeeping to get out of the way before we begin. I really fought with the idea of making such a blatant self-insert, despite the fact that it would have conformed to the Rule of Funny, so I replaced my character with an OC. And this chapter does kinda throw the reader right in the middle of the action, so if you're confused you're on track. biggrin.gif (It's also a liiitle shorter than the following ones will be. Probably.)

The script influences that I used were: Lina Darkstar's translation for General Leo, GBA FFV for Gilgamesh, and GBA FFIV for Cid.

This is a just-for-fun FFIV-FFVI crossover with part of FFVIII used as a plot device. I have no idea how many chapters there will be at this point in time...maybe eight or so? I'll do my best to stick with the "Portia updates on Thursdays" thing. But be warned: I have had no beta readers test this chapter for me and my mind was occasionally elsewhere while editing. Comments and constructive criticism always welcome!

So, without further ado... away we go!
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Chapter 1

In the swirling mass of people in evening finery, Leo Cristophe stood out like a sore thumb. He navigated the crowd in the mansion’s ballroom with the casual ease of a man who was used to commanding authority. People parted for him as naturally as his soldiers would have a quarter century ago, during the reign of the Gestahlian Empire.
    Closely behind him was a young woman of about twenty-five, moving with a curious hop-skip that came from either an adrenaline rush or ill-fitting shoes. She had to pick up the hem of her dress to keep from stepping on it, the nervous energy evident in how the green silk shook in her hands.
    “Move more slowly,” Leo said as he quietly opened the door that led to the foyer and shut it behind his companion. “Eyes are drawn to quick movement and it makes people more likely to give chase. Just try to walk calmly.”
    “Easy for you to say,” Blanche Lautens said, her voice quaking. She grabbed onto his hand, trying to find comfort in human contact. “Normally, I’m not being chased by my old friend’s guards.”
    “It takes a while to get used to life and death situations,” Leo agreed. He wished he had brought his sword, but even as he thought about it he knew it would have been useless. Even if he had a sword and Blanche had her shotgun, it would still be two against thirty or so. He didn’t care for those odds in the past and he didn’t care for them now.
A door slamming open and loud footfalls announced the presence of their pursuers. Blanche inhaled loudly and grabbed tighter onto Leo’s hand. In the room behind them, people’s murmurings grew louder as the band of hired guns Blanche’s old friend Eben Sandwald had hired rudely shoved their way through the ballroom, looking for the two uninvited guests.
    “There they are!” someone shouted. “Over there!”
    “They've found us!” Blanche exclaimed as she and Leo whirled around.
    “It’s not over yet. Just keep heading toward the front door.”
    “But – ”
    “Trust me.”
Letting go of Leo’s hand, Blanche moved up flush with her friend and tried to take several deep breaths. She couldn’t steady her breathing no matter what she did. Leo noticed and gave her a sidelong glance.
    “Calm down. We’re going to get out of this.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Of course.”
Someone’s meaty hand grabbed Blanche’s shoulder and tried to pull her back. Blanche shrieked and overcompensated by throwing herself forward, tripping and falling near Leo. From the back of the room, their leader rolled his eyes and groaned.
    “Boss isn’t paying us to rip the girl’s arm off, you moron! Pick her up and bring her over here.”
Leo maneuvered so that he was facing the mercenaries. “I strongly suggest that you turn around and leave,” he said as he gave Blanche a hand up. “Give Sandwald our regards.”
    “I don’t think so,” the leader said as he moved up through his ranks. “I’m afraid you have to come back with us now. Mr. Sandwald wants to have a few words with both of you.”
    “I’m sure he does,” Leo agreed. “But they’ll have to wait.” He flicked his eyes back to his right where Blanche was putting herself to rights. “Are you all right?”
    “I’m fine,” she told him. Then, “I was wrong about Eben, Leo. I’m sorry.”
    “We’ll worry about it later,” Leo said, keeping his eyes on the hostile crowd of mercenaries and moving Blanche and him closer to the stained glass windows. “Right now we need to focus.”
    “Do you have a plan?”
    “I came in with one.”
Leo and Blanche continued stepping back until they were quite literally against a wall. The stalemate continued – they were surrounded by over two dozen hired thugs itching for a fight and over a hundred oblivious partygoers in the next room.
    "But just out of curiosity,” Leo asked almost casually, “how are your hand-to-hand skills?”
    “Abysmal.”
    “I was afraid you’d say that. Follow my lead.”
    “Whatever you say – urk!”
Blanche was cut-off by Leo suddenly grabbing her around the waist and pitching the both of them through the nearest stained glass window. Glass shattered, Blanche screamed in surprise, and the two uninvited guests landed in some hedges a floor below. They rolled off the hedges to a stop on a grassy area and took a moment to assess the situation.
    “Up! We have to keep going,” Leo said as he pulled the girl to her feet.
    “I’m in an evening gown and slippers! I can’t run!”
    “You’ll have to make do.”
Leo pushed her ahead of him and looked around for the best escape route. They were in the most rural area of all possible rural areas surrounding Jidoor. Blanche hadn’t mentioned that the country estate was so far away from the city proper. There – on the gravel path at the front of the building– was just what he’d hoped he’d spot. One of the new steamer automobiles he’d heard Cid talking about sat there, almost as though it was waiting for them.
    “Blanche! Can you operate an automobile?”
    “I’ve never tried – what’s the operating gear?”
    “Foot pedals and a wheel, according to Cid. Can you handle it?”
    “Sounds like one of the diggers we ordered from Figaro,” Blanche said, out of breath from running. “Yeah, I think I can handle it.”
    “Then turn left. See it?”
    “I see it. Back to the airship?”
    “Back to the airship.”
    “All right,” Blanche said as she tore the bottom of her dress to allow for better mobility. “The only way this could get worse is if Gil was here.”
    “I’d think it would be worse if we were caught.”
    “Okay, that would be worse. Let’s not get caught.”
They ran to the car, the adrenaline still coursing through their veins. From behind them, the clamor from Sandwald’s men became louder, indicating that they were gaining ground. Leo hazarded a look behind them and saw that people were boiling out from every opening of the mansion.
    “Looks like this is our only option,” Leo said grimly. “Do you know how to start it?”
    “If it’s like a digger,” Blanche said as she kicked off her slippers and hopped into the driver’s seat, “there’s a floor button right…here…somewhere…”
    “They’re getting closer.”
    “Trying to find the button in the dark with my foot!”
    “Blanche.”
    “Hurrying!”
    “We’re running out of time.”
The car roared to life, backfired once, and set out with a sharp jolt. Blanche jammed the hand throttle down as far as it would go, released the brake, and the tires kicked gravel toward their pursuers.
    Blanche began to laugh in relief a mile down the potholed excuse of a road, but Leo knew better than to assume they were in the clear. “It’s going to be dark soon. We’re going to need lights.”
    “Um…let me try this knob here.”
Nothing happened. Blanche scowled and fished around for another knob near the floorboard. “Then let’s see what this one does.”
    She pulled on a knob and suddenly the car died.
They were tossed forward due to the sudden lurch and Leo smacked his face on the dash. Stars turned into comets for a moment and his eyes watered from the blow. He looked over to see that the steering wheel had absorbed most of Blanche’s impact, although she looked a little dazed.
    She looked over at him, horrified. “Sorry,” she said in a small voice. “That must have been the choke.”
She pulled the knob again and pulled another one close by. The lights flickered on dimly and Blanche started the car.
    “Still, nod bad dribing,” Leo said, his voice thick and nasal.
    “Your nose is bleeding,” Blanche said as she looked away from the road for a moment to assess her friend. “Are you hurt?”
    “I hade id when dis habbends,” Leo said as tried to set his nose back to rights. “Dis musd be ford dime.” There was a loud pop and Blanche grimaced.
    “Are you gonna be okay?”
    “Of course,” Leo told her. “Like I said, this is the fourth time I’ve done that.”
    “Does it hurt?”
    “A little.”
    “Sorry. I’m not good at operating diggers or automobiles, apparently.”
Leo shrugged and looked behind them. “It’s okay. We lost them either way.” As the stolen car lumbered down the road, every hole in the road sending them flying, Leo gave the girl a small grin. “I promise I won’t tell Cid.”


“Five.”
    “Nine.”
    “Seven.”
    “Ten.”
    “Ha! A king! Beat that!”
    “Ace.”
Gilgamesh threw down his half of the cards and crossed his arms. “I don’t know how you’re doing it, but you’re cheating!”
    “I’m just lucky,” Cid said as he began gathering the cards and reshuffling.
    “You’re so cheating, you old goat!”
    “Who are you calling ‘old?’ ”
    “You, you cheater!”
The two men stood up and scowled at each other until a pair of lights appeared over the horizon. The lights were moving at a rapid pace and a far-off roar accompanied them.
    “Do you see that?” Cid asked, the argument promptly forgotten.
    “What is that?”
    “Two lights, moving closer. Pretty dim lights, though.”
    Gil unsheathed his sword and picked up his halberd. “Don’t worry, old man,” he said as he stepped in front of their camp and assumed a battle stance. “I’ll defend you and your … wrench?”
    “Never underestimate a good heavy pipe wrench,” Cid said as he stood next to his heavily-armed comrade, indeed wielding one of his tools. “So put your knock-offs away before you hurt yourself.”
And then, the lights honked at them. Cid stared forward, squinting, with a quizzical expression.
    “What in the hell was that sound?”
    “We’re being attacked by…um…baby chocobos? Lots of little mutant chocobos?”
Cid tapped Gil on the head with the pipe wrench and gave him a disbelieving look. The lights grew closer and the honking was louder.
    “Hey, wait a second,” Cid said, still squinting into the twilight. “That looks like an automobile. Nice one, too.”
    “And you know this how?”
    “Always had good eyes.” Cid raised his field glasses and nodded once. “But these help. Definitely belongs to someone rich.”
    “Actually,” Gil said as he sheathed his sword and stared at the swerving car coming closer, “I think it belongs to us now. Might want to get ready to jump out of its path.”
    “Huh?”
Before Gil could answer, the automobile roared up to them and skidded to a halt a few feet away from their campsite. A ragged-looking Blanche and Leo sat in the car, dazed and windblown respectively. Blanche applied the car’s brake and stared out at Gil.
    “Hi. We’re back a little early.”
    “Musta been a hell of a party,” Gil observed as he helped Blanche out. “Did you bring me back any of those little weenies on the toothpicks?”
    “Well, well, well,” Cid said as he observed the car. “This fine piece of machinery’s been driven pretty hard. You had to make a quick escape, I suppose?”
Leo nodded and touched his nose one last time to make sure it wasn’t still bleeding. “Just as I’d feared. Sandwald isn’t going to be any help.”
    “How do you know that?” Cid asked, half-interested, as he began looking at the car’s engine. “Completely steam powered. Are we keeping this?”
    “Take it back yourself if you want. I’m not going back,” Blanche said, a shaky edge to her voice. “Eben’s gone bad.”
Gilgamesh narrowed his eyes. “Eben was your contact back in Jidoor, right? I didn’t like him to start with.”
    “I hope you gave him a complementary face-beating with the escape,” Cid said as he began overlooking the gear shifting mechanism.
    “No,” Blanche said sadly as she sat down where Cid and Gil had been playing cards. “And I don’t know if I could or not.”
    “We’ll do it for you,” Gil offered cheerfully.
Leo sat down next to Blanche. “How do you know him? Was he a friend of yours?”
    Blanche nodded, playing absently with her long jade necklace as she stared into the fading twilight. “ ‘Was’ is the better word now, I suppose.”

Back down in Jidoor, Eben Sandwald stared at a broken stained glass window and sighed. The leader of the Zozitan gang he’d hired stood behind him, shifting his weight from foot to foot uncertainly.
    “Who was the man?” Sandwald asked as he crossed his arms over his chest.
    “Dunno, sir.”
    “Find out. I want to know all about him. I want to know where he lives, I want to know who his friends are, I want to know what he has for breakfast.” After taking one more good look at the window, he let a small smile creep across his face. “How did Blanche look?”
    “Sir?”
    “It’s a simple question. The girl. How did she look?”
The mercenary leader wore a flabbergasted expression for a moment. “Fine, I guess, aside from being scared out of her wits.”
    “Of course,” Sandwald said, the smile turning into a grin. “She came only to talk to me.” He turned suddenly, taking quick strides that forced his hired man to spring into action to keep up. “Here’s the new plan. We’re going to Narshe. If she wants to talk, she will have that chance in spades now.”
    “What’s in Narshe besides coal and dead bodies?”
    “She will be,” Sandwald said as he pushed the ballroom doors open to rejoin his guests.


This post has been edited by MeaPortia on 6th October 2009 13:47

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I figured I had paid my debt to society by paying my overdue fines at the McLennan County Library.

"Oh crap!"
- Bartz

"Huh? Why's everyone singing?"
- Sabin
Post #181733
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Posted: 4th October 2009 23:42

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Black Waltz
Posts: 901

Joined: 29/5/2005

Awards:
Member of more than ten years. User has rated 25 fanarts in the CoN galleries. Major involvement in the Final Fantasy V section of CoN. Second place in CoNCAA, 2011. 
Member of more than five years. Has more than fifteen news submissions to CoN. First place in CoNCAA, 2009. Vital involvement in the Final Fantasy IV section of CoN. 
See More (Total 9)
Words that describe this chapter and the concept of the following:

Yes.
Win.
Incredigood.
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Can't wait for more.
Post #181734
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Posted: 5th October 2009 00:30

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Chocobo Knight
Posts: 131

Joined: 30/3/2009

Awards:
Member of more than five years. 
That's so good it's awesome.

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Snooping as usual, I see?
Post #181736
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Posted: 6th October 2009 00:17

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Holy Swordsman
Posts: 2,030

Joined: 18/7/2004

Awards:
Celebrated the CoN 20th Anniversary at the forums. Member of more than ten years. User has rated 300 fanarts in the CoN galleries. Participated at the forums for the CoN's 15th birthday! 
User has rated 150 fanarts in the CoN galleries. User has rated 75 fanarts in the CoN galleries. User has rated 25 fanarts in the CoN galleries. Member of more than five years. 
Great job!

P.S. I really like your writing style. smile.gif
Post #181757
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Posted: 10th October 2009 08:52

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Onion Knight
Posts: 48

Joined: 1/11/2008

Awards:
Member of more than five years. Winner of the 2008 Fanfiction contest. 
Thanks for all the positive feedback, guys! This story is a lot of fun to write, even if the plot does leave me stuck once in a while. That's why this is so late - I've been editing it in chunks instead of all at once. Darn midterms. sa-eng101.gif

So! Let's pick up where we left off!

____________________________________________________________

Chapter 2


It was the most unusual feeling Leo had ever had. Kefka’s screams of rage against him still echoed in his ears even over the click-clack of the train, and he felt … light. He flicked his eyes open and wondered for a moment if the Returners had managed to somehow save his life and put him on one of the last remaining railways on the Southern Continent.
    He curled his fingers instinctively and felt the thin velour of the row of seats where he rested. Apparently he was fine, even though he had distinctly felt it when Kefka stabbed him. Perhaps Terra or Celes had used some of their powers to heal him, or Thamasa had a very fine surgeon as a village doctor. He swung his boots off the row where someone had placed him and hit the floor, determined to find out where he was and what he was doing there.
    “General Cristophe, sir.”
Leo looked up to face one of his soldiers who had accompanied him to Thamasa. A brawny young man from Tzen, he had been the general’s left flank guard while meeting with the Espers.
    “Ah. Fiorello. Where are we?”
    “We’re dead, sir.”
The general gave his soldier a scrutinizing look. “Dead.”
    “Yes sir.”
    “Do you need some leave to recuperate, Fiorello? You’re not making any sense.”
    “No sir. We're onboard the Phantom Train. We were killed back in the village with the Espers.” The soldier jerked his thumb back toward a group of his fellows. “At least, that’s the information we’ve managed to piece together. It happened so quickly.”
    Leo took a good look and saw that there was at least a platoon’s worth of men sitting or standing mournfully in the car with him. “My gods.”
    “Yes,” a deep voice further down the car said, “it was over the gods.”
Fiorello and the other soldiers snapped to attention and Leo turned to see who had spoken. Emperor Gestahl stood from his seat and slowly made his way toward the group of men who had died in his name.
    “Leo. I am sorry to meet you in this state, but I am glad to meet you again.”
    “Your Majesty,” Leo exclaimed as he dropped to one knee, the circumstances of his death overriding his curiosity as to why Gestahl was dead, “what Kefka said – was it true?”
    “About?”
    “The truce.” Leo looked up into his mentor’s eyes. “Was it truly a front so you could collect magicite?”
Gestahl heaved a heavy sigh. “Yes. And I paid a dear price for it indeed.”
    “You … ”
    “He betrayed me, Leo. Kefka had me – me! – killed without a second thought.”
    “But sir,” Leo said as he stood without leave for the first time, his voice taking the hardest tone it ever had, “how is that any different from what you did to me? Or to my men?”
    I was trying to make a better world!” Gestahl exclaimed, his tone matching Leo’s. “Kefka is mad! He wants to destroy everything just to see if he can!”
    “You made him what he is! I remember when he was just a junior officer eager to serve his emperor!”
    “You forget your place,” Gestahl said coldly.
    “I know my place quite well. It’s right here on this train because you sacrificed me and my men to further your petty ambitions! And I trusted you!”
Gestahl’s expression changed almost instantaneously. “Leo,” he said sadly, slowly making his way toward the general, “you wound me to the core. You are, of course, correct. And don’t think that I don’t regret deceiving you. But it had to be done. You would have never knowingly allowed me to convert the Espers into magicite. But politics is a game of chess, you see, and sometimes you must sacrifice a powerful piece to win the game.”
    He held his hand out to Leo, who stared at his former father figure with absolute disgust. “So take my hand, my boy, and forgive me for trying to cure the world’s ills.”



Blanche finished reknotting her cravat; the first thing she had done when coming aboard was to change into some warmer clothing. “I’m being played like an old tin whistle,” she complained to Gilgamesh as they walked toward the deck ladder. “And what’s worse is that it keeps happening!”
    “How do you mean?”
    “No matter who I’m with or what I’m doing, I keep being used.”
    “I haven’t used you,” Gil said in mock indignation as they passed through the lounge where Leo was resting. “Five months is a new record for me!”
    “I’m not referring to my friends, Gil.”
    “What, you mean Sandwald?”
    “And Jeff too.”
Gil stopped at the ladder and turned to face Blanche. “That’s the third time you’ve mentioned him since you got back. Exactly who is this Jeff guy? If you’re going to crash another party, can I at least come along this time? I haven’t gotten to be a hero in ages!”
    “I’m not crashing any more parties. Jeff’s my boss. In a sense.”
    “I see,” Gil said, his tone clear that he didn’t.
The matter dropped as they climbed the deck ladder. Blanche wrapped her jacket more tightly around her body and shivered from the misty winds common to the altitude. The airship’s rotors made a pleasantly soft whump-whump sound as they sailed north.
    “Hey kiddo,” Cid said to Blanche as he noticed the newcomers. “I trust you more than Sharp-Pointies here. Wanna take over for a while? I’m starving.”
    “Sure,” Blanche said as she took the wheel. “I’ll try not to crash.”
    “And the scary thing is that I’m not sure if you’re being serious or funny,” Cid said as he disappeared in the direction of the galley.
Gilgamesh crossed his arms and moved to stand next to Blanche, blocking most of the wind coming in on her side. “He’s just mad that I found out about his cheating ways at cards.”
    “What?”
    “While you and Leo were off having fun and breaking really expensive windows, I was stuck playing cards with Cid. He has to be stacking the deck. It’s the only way it makes sense.”
    “You complained that he won too much, didn’t you.”
    “Yep.”
    “What did he do?”
    “Hit me with a wrench.”
    “Did it knock any sense into you?”
    “Not a bit!”
Blanche sighed and leaned on the helm as they sailed on through the night. “Well, tonight wasn’t much fun for me either.”
    Gil sat down on the deck and rested against the railing, his grey skin blue in the moonlight. “Who is this Sandwald guy? Why are you letting this get to you?”
    “It’s kind of a long story.”
    “I like long stories.”
Blanche stared off into the distance, a contemplative look on her face. “Well, the story starts nearly twenty years ago in Narshe … ”
    She turned to look over at Gil after the barest of pauses. “My sister Martha and I grew up with Eben. He was probably our closest friend. We went our separate ways as we grew older. Eben moved to Jidoor to work for his uncle or something like that. Martha shut herself up in her workshop when Mom and Dad died. And I moved to Figaro to finish studying.”
    “Hell of a way to greet an old friend. I’ve fought my share of friends but I never tried to, y’know, actually kill them.”
    “I don’t think he wanted to hurt us. I don’t think he recognized me. That has to be it.”
    “Hey Blanche, there’s this thing called ‘denial.’ I think you might want to look it up.”
The current airship pilot gave Gil a dirty look. “You do know that if I moved the wheel a few degrees you’d go flying off the side, right?”
    “Like you’d really do it.”
    “Don’t push my buttons, Gil.”
Gil laughed and stood, heavily patting the top of Blanche’s head. “Wouldn’t dream of it. Come down to the galley later when you’ve got some free time and watch me beat Cid in a fair card game.”
    “Fair to you or fair in general?”
    “You’ll just have to see for yourself,” Gil said from the ladder.


Blanche was still flying some time later when she heard footsteps on the ladder. “Is that you, Cid? I thought Gil was going to challenge you to a card duel to the death.”
    “Sorry, not Cid,” said another voice as he finished climbing the deck ladder. “Just me.”
    “Oh – good to see you, Leo. I thought you were resting.”
    “I don’t need much sleep anymore.”
    “I see.”
They stood there in silence for a moment, and then Blanche looked over at him. “Thank you.”
    “For what?”
    “For saving me tonight,” Blanche said as she turned back toward the helm. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
    “It was nothing,” Leo told her as he buttoned his coat, the fine mist still peppering them. “I’m sure you would have thought of something in time.”
    “I’d be dead if it wasn’t for you,” Blanche insisted. “I don’t know what came over me. I couldn’t control anything – my breathing, my heartbeat, my thoughts. Everything just screamed that this was the end for me.”
Leo smiled and watched his breath turn into vapor from the cold. It was a pleasant reminder that he was back in the world of the living. “I know the feeling.”
    “What … was it like?” Blanche asked hesitantly. “You know.”
    “Dying?”
    “Yes.”
Leo inhaled and unconsciously touched where he’d been stabbed. “It’s a shock, to be sure. As soon as the realization hits you, it’s already happened. But you adjust quickly.”
    “Did anyone meet you?”
    “Actually, yes. My daughter. I hadn’t realized she’d gotten so big while I was out in the field.” Leo glanced off into the clouds surrounding them. “Her mother wasn’t too far behind me.” He gave Blanche a sidelong look, furrowing his brows just a bit. “Why do you ask? Are you nervous?”
    “No. Not really. I just want to know what happened to my family when they passed away.”
    “Ah. I see.” The former Imperial general paused for a moment, choosing his words carefully. “I don’t know their particular situation, but I can promise you that they’re fine. It’s actually better on the other side. At least, in my experience it was.”
    “Thanks, Leo,” Blanche said as she wiped tears away from her eyes. “Goodness. I should have stolen Cid’s goggles. The wind must be getting to my eyes.”
    “Looks like the makings of a storm,” Leo agreed, changing the subject. “But you’re flying well. I think you’re getting better.”
    “Thank you. All the practice Cid makes me do, I’d hope that I’d show some improvement.”
Leo leaned over the railings and watched as the land passed below them. “What can we expect in Narshe?”
    “I don’t know,” Blanche told him. “It’s been so long since I’ve been home. At least ten years have passed.”
    “And what’s there that’s so important as to make you go back?”
    “Jeff,” Blanche said, a small smile crossing her face.


Narshe was colder and more melancholy than Leo remembered. He hadn’t visited it but a handful of times during his lifetime, but the cold and the snow that piled up as high as buildings still evoked powerful memories of Terra going AWOL and the frozen Esper that started the Second War of the Magi.
    “I’ll take point,” Blanche said in a hushed tone, interrupting his thoughts. “And I don’t like the fact that it’s so dark. Gil, be our rearguard.”
    “Been guarding your rear for five months now,” the swordsman said as he lazily drew twin blades from their scabbards. “I know my job.”
    “Hilarious,” Blanche muttered. “Millions of vaudeville acts out of work and he’s trying to be one.”
    “Want me to pound some sense into him?” Cid offered, drawing a mallet. “I have a feeling I’m gonna get real good at it.”
    “Thank you Cid, but no. Gil can’t afford to lose any more brain power than he already has.”
Leo tuned them out. All his senses went into high alert in the dark and obstacle filled city streets. He had some experience with urban fighting, but not as much as he would have liked at the moment. “Blanche,” he said, still in hushed tones, “you said that this is your hometown, yes?”
    “Yes.”
    “Will the city militia engage us?”
    “More likely than not. While we’re perfectly free to enter, we do look quite suspicious.”
    “We are us,” Cid agreed.
    “So we need to be especially careful not to attract any undue attention.” She paused for a moment and then continued. “As little undue attention as we can, that is. I think we’re safe in the city. The fighting hasn’t come here yet as far as I know.”
    “What fighting?” Gil asked as he turned to check a side alley. “Is there a war or something?”
    “Not quite yet,” Blanche said as she reached up to check her shotgun in its scabbard. “But due the uncertainty caused by the time fluctuations, everyone and their mother is thinking about launching a coup.”
    “A coup? Against the elder?” Leo asked, releasing his sword in its scabbard. “I didn’t think that would happen here.”
    “Not against the elder,” Blanche corrected. “We’re a part of the Kingdom of Figaro now. With the king off investigating the time anomalies, our enemies think we’re in a weakened position.”
    “Narshe has joined Figaro,” Leo said, the skepticism clear in his voice. “Famously neutral Narshe.”
    “And Nikeah,” Blanche added. “They were the first to join after the Apocalypse.”
Leo pinched the space between his eyes that threatened to give him a headache. “You’re going to have to show me a map and explain it in detail.”
    “Back in the airship,” Blanche told him as she squinted ahead. “But geopolitics will have to wait. We need to meet – ”
A sound to their front and right interrupted the conversation. It sounded like a body hitting the cobblestone street and then a man loudly cursing.
    “Cid?” Leo asked, his voice barely audible.
    Cid raised his field glasses and nodded. “Yep. That’s a person up there.”
Blanche took her shotgun scabbard off and handed it to Leo. “I know that voice. But surely he wouldn’t be so stupid as to – ”
    She gathered up her skirts and took off at a run toward the sound.
    “Where’s she going?” Gil asked, twirling his swords in his hands. “Does she have a death wish?”
    “Follow her!” Leo commanded, and took off after their pointwoman.
Cid and Gil stared at each other. “Sad that we’re the brains of the operation,” Cid commented as they took off after their party.
    “Not as sad as the fact that we’re chasing after them,” Gil observed.
Blanche slowed as she reached the source of the noise. She finally came to a stop and peered at a man sitting on the curb of the street, rubbing his shin. Leo was behind Blanche in a moment.
    “Care to explain what that was about? I thought you said not to attract any undue attention,” Leo said as he slung her shotgun scabbard over his shoulder.
    “Jeff?” Blanche asked the man, completely ignoring Leo. “What are you doing outside? You’re an idiot, placing yourself in danger like this!”
    “Good to see you too, Bea,” a male voice thick with a Figaronian accent said, his amusement clear even as he gingerly felt around the bruise on his leg. “Guess I’m not used to this ice yet. You think you can manage a simple task like checking the pipes for bursts and you wind up nearly breaking your leg.”
Blanche helped him up and embraced him as though he was a long-lost friend. “Safe trip, I’m sure?”
    “Oh, of course. Easy trip, too. But I’ve been here for a week now and I’m getting awfully bored.”
    “Why didn’t you bring something to work on? We’re going to need all the help we can get!”
    “I did bring all my inventions that weren’t working right. But I fixed all the problems on my third day here.”
    “I’m not surprised. I told you that you could repair them if you could just sit down uninterrupted for a day or so.”
Cid and Gil caught up with their wayward party. “I hate to break up the reunion,” Cid said as he caught his breath, “but would someone please explain to me what the flaming hell’s going on?”
    “I’d like an explanation too,” Gil chimed in.
    Blanche stared at her companions in the dimmest of light from the houses surrounding them. “I’m sorry,” she said, mortified. “This is my contact here.”
    “Let’s go inside,” Jeff told them. “We can talk more in there. My fingers are getting ready to freeze off.”
As they entered the house, the wooden steps creaking underneath them, Jeff shut the door and locked it behind them. Leo surveyed the interior of the room; looked normal enough, although there were several interesting looking pieces of machinery surrounded by their maintenance equipment on the dining table. Things seemed consistent with what he’d gathered from the conversation outside and he relaxed his guard.
    “Jeff,” Blanche said as the man stomped snow off of his boots, “I want you to meet my friends. I think they’ll be interested to hear your story.”
    “Any friend of yours is a friend of mine,” he joked as he took off his scarf and knit cap. “Good to have you all here.”
    “This is Leo Cristophe,” Blanche said as she led Jeff to where Leo was standing. “He’s one of the finest people I’ve ever met. I know you two are going to get along famously.”
    “High praise indeed,” Jeff observed as Leo put an oil can back down on the table. “Bea’s not easily impressed.”
Leo turned to formally greet the man and wound up looking into the smiling face of Edgar Figaro.

This post has been edited by MeaPortia on 12th October 2009 09:26

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I figured I had paid my debt to society by paying my overdue fines at the McLennan County Library.

"Oh crap!"
- Bartz

"Huh? Why's everyone singing?"
- Sabin
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Posted: 19th November 2013 07:40
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Joined: 19/11/2013


That's so good it's awesome.


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Smile PlzZZzzz(Usman Malik)!!!
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