The thief and his princess
When Zidane, the youngest thief in the infamous Tantalus group, meets the mysterious Dagger on the Alexandrian streets, he thinks of her as nothing but one of his many flirts. But with time, he will realize that the girl does not only hold the power to bind his heart forever, but that she is an unwilling part of a conspiracy that can easily destroy the world. - A FFIX AU Fan Fic
Note: Due to the rules of this site, I am not allowed to post any lyrics of any song in here - even if the song is the main theme of the game. I'm really sorry about that, but I had to take the lines out.
Epilogue ~ Melodies of Life
Dagger nibbled at the end of her pen, staring with wet eyes at the rose-colored paper filled with longing, aching words from her heart.
She heaved a sigh and put the pen down.
"You should write about it, honey," her mother had said. "Youalways were a talented poet; I'm sure that writing about it will soothe your soul."
At first, she had been excited; she hadn't written in years – her new duties as the queen just wouldn't allow her to find the time for it. But that excitement had soon vanished once she had sat down, grabbed the pen and started to think of the words that would express her state of mind.
Dagger let out a shivering breath, trying to blink away the tears.
After four years, it still hurts.
She shook her head.
Who am I kidding? It will always hurt. Even in ten, twenty, fifty years, thinking back will always hurt.
The overwhelming pain of loneliness was readying itself to take over her, so the queen rested her chin on her chest, inhaling deeply.
One, two, three, four – out. One, two, three, four – in.
Once her breath and mind had calmed down, Dagger opened her eyes again to look at the paper. With the distance she brought by the short meditation, she even managed to smile at the longing words written there.
She turned her head, looking out of the broad window of her luxurious chamber.
Beatrix had offered her to take over the room of the queen, but Dagger had politely declined. She preferred the location of her room and the view from its window.
A soft, unbelieving smile appeared on her face.
I am the queen. Since almost four years, I am the queen of Alexandria.
"Already? But, Mother, I -"
"No buts." Beatrix voice was firm, although a certain tiredness seemed to be a part of her now. Dagger could understand – being mind-controlled for years, forced to order and watch the suffering of the people she had sworn to guide and protect, would naturally take its toll on any personality, even one as strong as her mother's.
Still, asking me for this is certainly not right!
Beatrix watched the struggle on her daughter's face.
"Garnet," she reached out for Dagger's face, cupping her cheeks between her hands.
"I understand your revolt. You are still young, and the burden of the crown is heavy." The queen sighed and let go of her daughter's face.
"But I am not befitting to sit on the throne anymore."
Dagger shook her head. "Don't say that! We already talked to uncle Cid! And I'm sure that if Freya and Fratley talk to the king of Burmecia, he will understand as well!"
Beatrix smiled bitterly. "Even that is not enough, and you know that."
Dagger hung her head down. She knew her mother was right. It wasn't the kings they had to convince. It was the people, and Dagger could see it in their eyes that they mistrusted her mother.
"It's only natural they distrust me," her mother spoke as if she could read Dagger's mind. Beatrix was looking out of the window, absent-mindedly playing with a strand of her light brown locks.
"I brought them so much pain. I misused the powers I held."
"But that was Kuja's doing!" Dagger protested. It made her heart ache, seeing her mother blaming herself for all the pain.
Beatrix turned, wearing a smile. "Thank you, honey. I appreciate your support – especially after all I did to you, too." For a moment, the queen stared to the side with such a bitter look on her face that Dagger felt like crying. But then, Beatrix straightened up.
"But even though it was Kuja who plotted all this, it was my voice that ordered the deaths. My fingers pointed to the path of destruction. The people cannot and will not forget what I did to them. I lost their trust, and it would be foolish trying to continue my reign."
Beatrix shook her head. "No, it just won't go well. They will rebel against me, resulting in even more bloodshed and sadness. It is the best if you become queen as quickly as possible."
Dagger opened her mouth, about to ask a question of which she didn't want to hear the answer.
Beatrix smiled understandingly. "You are my daughter; but you are also the one who came to end the suffering. The people know that, Garnet, and they value it over the fact that we share the same blood. They trust in you – as much as I do."
Dagger gulped, looking down at her nervously fidgeting fingers.
"But... there's so much I don't know yet."
Beatrix placed her lean fingers on Dagger's shoulders.
"You are not alone, honey. Everyone will support you; me, too, as much as I can without raising suspicions from the people."
A knock woke Dagger from her reminiscent thoughts.
A grumble from the other side, unmistakenly Steiner's voice: "It's me, your majesty!" Dagger chuckled to herself upon the stiffness in the voice of a man she works with every day.
"Come in, Steiner."
The door opened as the captain of the Pluto Knights followed her invitation. He barely stepped over the frame of the door, immediately stiffening up to raise a fist to his heart.
"I'm sorry for the disturbance, your majesty, but there are some matters that need your attention. I truly regret disturbing you in one of your rare moments of privacy, your majesty, and I -"
"That's enough, Steiner," Dagger interrupted him with a soft laugh. "Loosen up."
"B-but your majesty!" Steiner protested.
"No buts," Dagger shook her head. "You protected me ever since I was a child. There's no need for you to be as formal around me."
Steiner grumbled something inaudible, obviously not willed to let his manners slip. But then, he sighed surrendering.
"Well, then... Your ma- … Garnet. The summoner wishes to see you."
Dagger raised her eyebrows. "Eiko does?"
Steiner nodded. "She is at the ferry, accompanied by that filthy, redheaded scum -"
The captain lowered his head. "I am sorry, your – Garnet. It is just... very unusual for a queen to openly interact with thieves on a frequent basis. Even if it was secretly," the man shook his head, "it would still be very... noteworthy."
Dagger could not help but chuckle. "I know, Steiner. But Blank really is a nice guy. You should give him a chance."
Steiner grumbled something that was surely nothing nice, but then, he just nodded dutifully.
Dagger raised herself up, looking at the unfinished song.
I will work on it a later time, she decided as she followed Steiner out of her chamber.
On their way through the castle, she spotted Vivi. After a quick sign to Steiner, she ran up to her old friend.
"Princess!" the blackmage exclaimed. He still had a habit of calling her 'princess', despite her being the queen for four years now.
"How are you, Vivi?" She asked with a smile.
"I'm doing good. I was just showing them around a little," he added and pointed towards a group of blackmages standing behind him.
"Your majesty," they all mumbled in unison.
Dagger's smile deepened. She remembered all too clearly how – a few days after Kuja's death – Vivi had found the remaining blackmages. Without their master, they were lost, not knowing what to do or where to go, or if there even was any place to go for them.
Ignoring the protests of Steiner and other military advisers, Dagger had decided to give the mages a home in Alexandria. The people had been scared at first, but under Vivi's dedicated guidance, the blackmages soon proved to be extremely helpful with the city's reconstruction.
It had been a hard task for Vivi, but he found joy in guiding his fellow brothers. A lot of them had developed emotions just like him, soon after Kuja had died, and he helped them adjust to these confusing feelings.
"Is everything going well?" Dagger asked and Vivi nodded. "They gained their conscience a couple of days ago," Vivi explained with a voice that showed his happiness. "There are only very few left without one, and the more of us become alive, the higher our hopes are for all of us to get a soul eventually."
Dagger smiled. "That's wonderful! We really should sit and talk to each other once in a while, Vivi. I miss your company."
Vivi shyly did his hat. "Yes, princess. We really should."
With another smile, Dagger bid her farewell to the small mage and returned to Steiner's side.
"Sorry," she apologized, but the captain only shook his head and continued to lead her out of the castle.
While she followed Steiner's rattling armor, Dagger allowed her thoughts to wander around.
Unexpectedly, a verse popped into her head - a verse about the fugacity of their love, the unlikelihood of it to happen in the first place, and how she felt the need to sing it out so it won't get lost.
"Your majesty?" Steiner had stopped, his head turned with surprise.
Dagger blinked a few times until she realized she had actually sung the verse.
"Oh, it's nothing," she waved it away. "Just an idea for a song I have."
"Hm." Steiner turned his head away again.
Dagger smiled when suddenly, she saw a movement from the corner of her eye.
"Amarant," she calmly spoke as the giant warrior took his place beside her.
"You should have told me you go out," the warrior said. It wasn't really a stern demand – Dagger knew that he was just worried about her safety.
"I'm just going to the ferry. Eiko is waiting there for me."
Amarant's face darkened. "Even more so the reason for me to come with you."
Dagger frowned. She understood what Amarant implied. Despite him trying to hide it, he had grown to like Zidane – a pain stroke through her chest while thinking his name – and he silently blamed it on Eiko that the thief had disappeared on that day.
Dagger shook her head.
I mustn't think of it that way, she reminded herself. What's done is done.
Bright sunlight blinded her when she exited the castle. The queen blinked a few times distracted until she got used to the light, then she lowered the hand she had used to shield her eyes with. The water surrounding the ferry station was softly moving under a gentle breeze, glistening beautifully. A man with red hair and countless belts attached to his body and clothing stared out into the distance, and sitting on the last stair leading to the ferry, a small girl with blue hair was playing with a doll.
Eiko. Dagger's stomach convulsed. The laughter coming from the girl did not fit the image of the calm summoner Dagger had met four years ago. And while the leave of Madeen had caused Eiko to turn back into a more befitting behavior for a girl her age, traces of the Eidolon seemed to have stayed. Like the look out of her eyes, who always seemed too serious, too old.
Dagger could not help but feel the need to violently shake the girl that sat there.
After having cried for what felt like forever, Dagger managed to push herself off the ground. Her face burnt from the salty tears streaming down, her throat was hoarse and dry from crying out his name. But neither of that could hold her back from storming to Eiko.
The young summoner laid in Blank's arms. The summon of Madeen had taken its toll on her little body, and she only faintly managed to open her eyes when Dagger suddenly grabbed her shoulders and shook her.
"You knew it, didn't you!?" The princess yelled at the top of her lungs – whatever had been left from her crying. Her voice sounded pathetic, but it didn't matter.
"You knew he was going to disappear once we summon Ark, right!? You knew and you didn't tell us – why!? Why did he have to leave!? Answer me!"
"Stop it!" Blank angrily barked, but Eiko waved with her hand.
"It's okay, Blank," she mumbled weakly.
"But, you are -", the thief started, but became silent by the glare out of Eiko's eyes.
The blue-haired girl turned her head to Dagger.
"Zidane's leave to Terra... was the better of two choices we had."
"What choices!?" Dagger cried.
"Ark," Eiko mumbled. "Ark always requires a sacrifice."
"A... sacrifice?" Freya repeated with a frown.
"Yes. If no sacrifice is offered, Ark won't manifest in this world. It has to be an outstanding sacrifice, one that equals dying."
"Zidane is... dead?" Dagger's voice was quiet and devoid of life as the tears started falling down again.
But Eiko shook her head. "No. He's on Terra, just as he said.
Either of you had to make a grand sacrifice. If it were you to make it, Garnet, then you would have died. But in Zidane's case..." Eiko made a pause to catch her breath.
"Zidane's love for you is so big that leaving you was enough of a sacrifice for Ark."
Dagger stared at the girl with wide eyes.
Eiko smiled. "His love, Garnet. His love to you is so grand that Ark accepted Zidane's sacrifice of leaving you forever. Zidane offered to return to Terra and leave you, in exchange for Ark to kill Kuja."
This... this cannot be!
But the regard from Eiko's eyes was so honest that Dagger knew she spoke the truth. And once she realized that, she had cried even more.
"Garnet." Eiko's voice, now a lot more childish and carefree, pulled the queen out of her memories.
"Eiko." Dagger walked closer to the little girl who still played with its dolls.
"Steiner said you wanted to see me?"
Eiko chuckled. "Yes, I do. How are you feeling, Garnet?"
Dagger pursed her lips. She didn't want to unload her unjust anger onto the girl, so she just answered: "Life as the queen is challenging. But with all of this support, I can make it. Why do you ask?"
"Hmm," Eiko mumbled, braiding the hair of one of her dolls. "Do you remember what I once told you? That the powers of the Crystal can only be used in either a forceful death or a great peace of mind?"
Dagger stiffened up. She shot a regard to Blank, but if the redheaded thief was worried by Eiko behaving so strange once again, he didn't show it. He barely paid attention to their conversation, but Dagger knew that if anything was going to threaten Eiko's life, he'd be by her side in a heartbeat.
This should be us, Dagger thought, startled once she realized her envy. The queen quickly shook her head to rid herself of such thoughts.
"I do remember," she replied belatedly, though Eiko didn't even seem to notice her hesitation.
"Well..." The girl slowly spoke, rearranging the doll's clothing. "There might be yet another way for the powers inside of you to be unleashed. Like, a big desire or something like that."
Dagger frowned. "That is all well and good, Eiko, but... What does it matter? Kuja is defeated. We are save. There's no need for me to use these powers anymore."
Finally, Eiko put the doll down, turning her head to the confused queen.
"So you are happy with the way things are now?"
Dagger averted her eyes. "I..." She looked down on her interlocked fingers. "I guess."
Eiko narrowed her eyes. "Is that so? Well, then I guess there's no need for me to teach you how to connect Terra and Gaia."
"What!?" Dagger made a step forward, so hastily that her feet got caught in her long dress. She stumbled, almost fell, but Amarant caught her before Steiner even realized what was going on.
The warrior looked at her with his unmoved eyes – but Dagger was sure she saw something of her own excitement and desperate hope in them.
She slowly rose herself up, walking up to Eiko with more careful steps.
"What did you just say?" She asked, her voice trembling.
Eiko had turned her attention back to the doll, playing with it idly.
"Connecting Terra and Gaia," the girl repeated, with an indifferent voice. "There should be a way to bring Terra to the surface of this planet."
In a matter of seconds, Dagger had rushed forward, grabbing Eiko's shoulders and shaking them.
"How is that possible!?"
"Oi, stop it!" Blank barked, but Eiko cut him off with a wave of her hand.
Dagger blinked. The situation was oddly similar to the one four years ago.
"Don't ask me, your majesty," Eiko said with cold eyes. "You should be thankful I even know of it. You are surely ignorant to the extent of your own powers."
Steiner made a protesting, grumbling sound, but Dagger interrupted him with a shake of her head, her eyes glued to Eiko.
The girl was right. She was the Crystal, and yet she had no idea what powers she actually held. Without Zidane's help four years ago, she wouldn't have been able to summon Ark and defeat Kuja. And without Eiko's help, they wouldn't have even learned of the only way to kill that mad sorcerer.
Eiko withstood her regard and Dagger frowned. "For how long did you know?"
The security in Eiko's eyes wavered. "That's a good question, Garnet," she looked away with a bitter smile. "Technically, I always knew. But when Madeen returned to the Soul Cycle, he left behind a useless body and soul, torn between this side of life and the stream of memories from the past centuries."
Dagger averted her eyes; she felt sorry for Eiko. Blank had once told her that the girl was almost going mad from the changes that had been made on her body. She was unable to go back to her former self, but without Madeen's guidance, the memories and wisdom inside of her went out of control, overwhelming her out of nowhere.
Eiko let out a trembling sigh. "But, to answer your question: I remembered this morning. Or rather, I fully grasped the meaning of it this morning. I asked for an audience as quickly as possible." She had turned her eyes back to Dagger, suddenly resembling a pleading criminal, left to her mercy. "I swear, I wouldn't have withheld that information intentionally!"
Dagger frowned, letting go of the small girl's shoulders.
"I'm sorry, Eiko," she mumbled. "I know you're doing your best to... to deal... with all of it."
The faint flicker of a smile spread on Eiko's face before she turned around, grabbing her dolls again.
"Well, now that that's settled," she spoke, her voice showing no trace of the insecurity from before, "let me explain it to you in more detail."
Dagger gulped; then, she nodded and sat down, listening to Eiko's explanations. Only rarely did she interrupt the girl for asking questions. Most of the time, she just tried to comprehend what Eiko told.
The sun was setting when Eiko had finished.
Dagger stared out into the sea, her fingers interlocked. A calm had come over her.
"I will do it," she finally said.
Without lifting her gaze from the dolls, Eiko smiled lightly – one of the rare moments where she actually looked like the child she was supposed to be.
Dagger got up, dusting away the dirt from her dress.
"Thank you for telling me all of this," she started towards Eiko, but the girl only shook her head.
"It's the least I could do, Garnet." Eiko looked up, her eyes squished in something like genuine happiness.
Dagger smiled, then she turned away.
"Your majesty?" Steiner asked with a confused face; he hadn't understood even half of what she had discussed with the younger summoner, but he could tell by the look on her face that it was something of high importance.
"We need to go to the roof," Dagger said. "You'll see once we get there," she went on a bit more loudly when Steiner opened his mouth to raise questions.
The captain grumbled something into his armor, then he nodded and stood beside her as she made her way back to the castle.
Dagger felt her heart beating heavy in her chest; hope had risen, but she didn't dare to hold on to it just yet.
In her thoughts, yet another verse of the song of her heart came to life, and she followed the inspiration by softly singing it.
It was sad, longing, claiming how her most precious memories were the one she made with him, and that even after his disappearance, she believes he could call out for her.
Amarant shot her one of his typical grumpy, yet worried regards, and Dagger worked up a smile to him.
'It's alright' she's trying to say with it. 'I'm doing fine. I won't collapse again.'
Amarant frowned, turning his head away with a grunt.
Dagger could understand his worries all too well. She clearly remembered that day, a few weeks after her coronation.
"No!" Dagger's voice hollered across the castle. Some servants a couple of doors away dropped their plates at the scream of the queen, eying the door to her room suspiciously as another cry occurred.
"Garnet, please, calm yourself down." Beatrix tried to calm her daughter, who was running wildly around the room, a look of shock on her face.
"Calm down!? Then don't expect something like that from me!" Tears were streaming down her face, stupid, hot tears, and Dagger blinked them away in anger.
Beatrix had raised her hands in a defensive manner.
"Garnet, honey, I know this must be a burden to your heart, but -"
"I will not marry any noble man who just came along to claim the throne!"
"Listen, you are the queen now, honey," Beatrix tried to explain calmly, but Dagger only shook her head, the crown on top of it considerably shaking.
"No, no, no! I already became the queen on your demand! I won't marry someone just because you tell me to!"
Beatrix frowned. "I understand you, Garnet, but -"
"No, you don't! You have barely met him, Mother! If you knew him, then you'd understand why that is the one thing I can't do!" Dagger's voice turned to a sobbing, she wrapped her arms around her chest at the thought of the man she loved so much.
Amarant stood in the corner of the room, his eyes following her every move, and his expression was even more grave than usually.
Beatrix sighed. "But, Garnet. You might be young for a queen, but you are old for an unmarried member of the royal family. We need to ensure that our lineage is continued."
"No!" She repeated herself, she knew that and she hated herself for it, but she just couldn't accept the idea her mother was proposing.
Suddenly, Dagger found herself on the floor, crying loudly and desperately.
I can't! I can't! There's only one man I could marry!
Beatrix expression was hurt; she understood her daughter's revolt, even more so due to the things Kuja had made her do. But it was a royal duty, and she had to somehow explain it to her.
Dagger shivered, her heart close to bursting into countless pieces.
"Zidane, where are you!?"
Dagger shook her head, bringing herself back to the present. In the end, she had managed to shake off her mother's attempts in finding a man for her. She knew she couldn't escape her fate for too long, but her heart just wasn't ready to let go of the love it was filled with.
And I probably never will be able to, Dagger admitted towards herself while she followed Steiner to the roof. She had avoided that part of the castle as much as she could; the memories it evoked were just too strong for her. As soon as Dagger stepped out the door into the fresh breeze, she found herself searching for a sign of Kuja. She was sure to see her mother lying motionlessly on the ground, and she could almost feel Zidane squeezing her hand.
Dagger shivered, gently shaking her head to clear her mind. She focused on what Eiko had told her earlier.
Maybe it will fail, she thought worried, biting her bottom lip. She felt Amarant and Steiner staring at her intently and – at least on Steiner's behalf – curiously.
'It will be okay.' Shiva's voice came seemingly out of nowhere and Dagger stumbled surprised upon hearing it.
'Shiva!' She hadn't talked with the Eidolons in a long time. After they had defeated Kuja, Dagger had had a long discussion with Eiko and what to do with the unsealed Eidolons; some of them had been sealed away for a reason, after all.
But Dagger had grown to love her companions too much as to banish them. Instead, she had asked for Eiko's help to bind the Eidolons to gemstones. Then, she had built statues for each of them around the city. It had been a compromise the Eidolons approved of.
As a result, the winters in Alexandria had become a little more chilly thanks to Shiva's influence, whereas the summers were hotter because of Ifrit's ever burning fire. The people weren't as scared of floods and storms anymore, because even though they were a lot more wild due to Leviathan's and Ramuh's presence, they were kept away from the citizens by said Eidolons. Bahamut and Odin didn't seem to have a noticeable impact on their surroundings, though Dagger suspected that the dying responded to Odin's presence by being a lot more calm and confident in the face of death.
Still, despite the souls of the Eidolons roaming around freely, they barely made contact with Dagger; sometimes, she could feel the faint touch of a grand soul, but before she could even respond to it, it would fade away. Somehow, she felt reassured by the guarding concern of the Eidolons.
'We will support you in your plan, summoner.' It was Ifrit's voice, and Dagger could almost feel the heat radiating from his soul.
A smile spread on her face as she felt the souls of the other Eidolons approaching. Most of them remained silent, but she could sense their quiet approval of her undertaking.
She nodded and raised her hands to her chest. Closing her eyes, Dagger allowed herself to feel all the suppressed emotions she had held in ever since Zidane had disappeared; the good and the bad. The desperate feeling of loneliness, the hatred towards the world and its injustice, the longing for another touch of his hand, to hear the sound of his voice just once more and to see that ever-cheery grin. She accepted the heavy weight of the crown and throne, the fear she had, facing all those new situations. She remembered the countless nights when she would cry herself to sleep, sure that she couldn't continue, just to wake up and continue nonetheless.
Each day had been a fight for her, but Dagger had never allowed herself to accept these feelings. She thought it would make her a weak, ungrateful person. Now, she knew it was only who she truly was.
After some of this meditation, she felt two contradictory emotions raising on equal parts. There was the calming peace of mind, finally accepting who she was and what she felt. And there was the desperate, hurting longing for Zidane that would dominate every second of her life.
Faintly, Dagger felt how the Eidolons surrounded her soul. It seemed to have spread outside her body, taking up almost the entire city. And in its core, there was something Dagger had only once faintly felt, back when she had summoned Ark: an orb of energy in herself. It wasn't an Eidolon, but her own true power, and Dagger almost recoiled at its potency. But Zidane's image rose in her head, and she gulped down her fears, stretching her imaginary fingers out for that power.
She barely touched it and suddenly, it was as if the world around her exploded. Swirls of colors took over her vision, unheard sounds occupied her stunned ears, and Dagger felt her self drifting away, getting lost in the magnificence of it all.
No, the queen reminded herself. I am here... for a reason.
The dancing light seemed to cease its jumping for a bit, almost as if it turned to her curiously.
I am here... to make a wish. I am here to... to claim my power.
Now, the light and colors would only swash idly from one side to the other, waiting eagerly for her to finally form her wish, to set free the power she held in her hands.
I want... I want to make everything whole again!
An exploding sound almost deafened her. The ground shook, her vision cleared and Dagger found herself lying on the platform on the Alexandrian castle. But the ground was still shaking. Screams hailed from the city beneath her as the earth trembled.
Dagger was in danger of sliding down the plateau when suddenly, two big hands caught her shoulders.
Amarant had pressed his lips thinly against each other, and once more amazed Dagger with his skill and control. He held her firmly until finally, the trembling ceased.
Dagger felt dizzy and sick, but also strangely agitated. She stumbled up to her feet, straining her eyes to see what she was hoping for.
But she was disappointed.
Nothing has changed, she thought to herself as her stomach clutched together in pain.
I should have known better. I -
"Your majesty, look over there!" Steiner suddenly exclaimed.
Dagger's gaze followed his outstretched arm.
And there, in the distance, in the middle of the sea was a light.
A blue light.
Dagger's eyes widened. She gathered up her dress and ran down the flight of stairs.
"Your majesty!" Steiner called after her, but Dagger wouldn't listen. She almost stumbled over her own feet, the blood in her ears roaring loudly. She grabbed the nearest servant.
"Ready my airship! I need to leave immediately!"
The servant nodded scared and surprised and hurried away to fulfill the order.
Dagger ran to the hangar outside the castle. Her feet hurt, she surely had received some blisters, but she just kept running. She spurred the staff on, nothing could happen quick enough for her.
Steiner had assembled some guards, along them Vivi. To her surprise, Dagger spotted Freya and Fratley, belatedly remembering how the two were paying the usual visit to bring friendly wishes from the Burmecian king. Her mother had been brought to the airship as well, and it didn't surprise Dagger to see Eiko and Blank sitting at a bench nearby, waiting for the airship being ready to set off.
Dagger stormed to the bow of the airship, requesting for the pilot to start.
"But, your majesty, shouldn't we take some more preparations to -"
"Take off!" Dagger cut him off, her eyes sparkling. "Head towards that light!"
The airship took off, not quick enough for Dagger's taste. She felt her friends eying her, some of them worried, others curious, but she barely realized it. She leaned forward, over the bow, to the point where Amarant stepped for, worried she might fall.
They approached the source of the blue light in a matter of hours – Dagger reminded herself to thank Cid once again for gifting her his quickest, most advanced airship as a coronation present.
Dagger heard the astonished sounds of her friends and the crew behind her, and her own jaw dropped as she saw what caused the blue light.
Where the ocean had once spread out almost endlessly, there was now a new continent, almost as big as the Mist Continent, though rather long than wide. The architecture on it was foreign, resembling the one in Ipsen's Castle, and it was the material of the buildings that emitted the blue glow.
"What is this?" Freya asked with a trembling, surprised voice.
"Terra!" Dagger could barely form a full sentence, but she couldn't hold herself back from exclaiming the name. The stares were unbelieving and doubtful, but Dagger only nodded to reinforce her statement.
"I will explain it a later time! First, we have to -"
"Offer our greetings to the king or queen of this place," her mother softly spoke.
Dagger turned to her mother, nodding with held-back enthusiasm.
"Yes, Mother. You are right." She tried to straighten her ruffled dress, but she could tell by the chuckle of her mother that it was useless.
The pilot quickly found a place to land, amongst some taller buildings in the center of the continent.
A crowd had already gathered to eye the newcomers, but Dagger didn't even see them. She almost jumped off the airship before it landed; only Amarant's tight grip around her shoulder stopped her. At first, she wanted to tell him off, but as she turned her head, she could see how his expression was just a tad too indifferent; he was surely almost as excited as she was.
As soon as they left the airship, Dagger could not help but stare at Terra's inhabitants.
They all had tails – a fact that stirred up Dagger's stomach – blond hair and blue eyes, though their features were so different from each other that they still seemed to be fairly individual.
The Terrans stared at her and her company with wide eyes. Young children hid behind her mother's backs, while the older ones tried to run up to them; especially Vivi drew a lot of attention.
"What are you?" one of them asked.
Shyly, Vivi did his hat. "I am, erm, I am a blackmage."
"You can use magic!? Let's see, let's see!"
Vivi shot a regard to Dagger, who nodded encouragingly.
The little mage hemmed, then he performed a small spell, raising a fireball out of nowhere.
"Wow! That's so cool, Mr. Blackmage! Show us more!"
With that, the ice seemed broken. The children flocked to the passengers of the airship, bombarding them with questions.
A lean, tall Terran walked up to Dagger and her mother.
"Am I correct assuming you are the queen of this... place?" His voice was polite, but it showed the irritation due to the previous events.
Dagger nodded. "I am Garnet Till Alexandros XVII. I am the queen of Alexandria. This is my mother, Beatrix, formerly queen of Alexandria," she added with a gesture towards her mother. "We are here to greet the ruler of your people."
The man bowed. "It is an honor meeting you, Queen Garnet. My name is Diri; I am but a humble servant of our Queen Mikoto. Please follow me this way. Don't worry about your companions," he added when Dagger looked back to her friends with a worried frown. "No one will do them any harm. We are peaceful people."
Reassured, Dagger nodded, and followed the man deeper into the city. Her former companions on her long journey followed silently.
She was astonished by the blue rock that seemed to dominate the entire continent, and the high constructs which resembled giant mushrooms were shining blue as well.
But their walk was only short-lived; they soon reached a building that seemed to be Terra's palace. Diri lead them inside, through countless corridors and doors, until he finally stopped in front of a heavily decorated one.
He shot a quick glance at Dagger; whether he felt like saying something or not, he simply smiled and opened the door wide, bowing right as he finished.
The throne room – it couldn't be anything else than that – was as blue as the rest of the planet. It was spacious and luxuriously furnished. Especially the throne was decorated immensely and with much craftsmanship, but Dagger had little eye for it or the woman sitting on it. Her eyes were drawn to a man right next to the queen, sitting on a smaller, a little less ornate chair.
His blond hair was tied up with a blue ribbon, and his blue eyes had that special color of oceanic waves that Dagger would recognize among all others.
"Zidane!" She forgot her manners, her duties, everything as she ran up to him.
He stared at her wide eyed, blinking repeatedly as he slowly raised himself up from his chair.
He hadn't even finished whispering her name when she flung her arms around him. He didn't wear his usual thievish attire anymore, but an armor fitting for a knight. But he still wore the Rune Tooth he had gotten back in Dali, and it fell to the ground with a loud clattering.
"Dagger!" He enclosed her in his arms and Dagger buried her head in his chest.
"Zidane!" Tears streamed down her face as she hugged him even tighter, breathing in his familiar scent.
He pat her black hair, playing with a strand of it.
"It's still short," he mumbled hoarsely and Dagger nodded.
"Mother wanted me to cut it, but I... I thought you liked it better short," she admitted with blushing cheeks.
Zidane laughed, but his voice trembled. "How?" He couldn't phrase the real question behind that simple word, but Dagger understood.
She looked up, almost unable to make out his face through her tears. Dagger reached out with her hand, touching his cheek and smiled happily.
"I wanted to see you again. So badly." It was the short version and Zidane seemed to know it because he chuckled.
"Now, that sounds easy. Took you long enough, my princess." He only teased her, but Dagger shook her head.
Zidane blinked surprised, then he laughed wholeheartedly. "I'm a terrible knight. Missing my own princess' coronation."
Dagger chuckled. "There's a lot of stuff you missed."
"You gotta tell me everything!" Zidane grinned while he gently stroke her back.
"You're an even worse friend, bro!" Blank suddenly called from behind.
Zidane and Dagger turned on their heels; they had almost forgotten that there were so many people watching them.
"Blank! Yo, what's up?" The happiness in Zidane's voice was evident, though he was reluctant to leave Dagger's side even for a second. Noticing his hesitation, Dagger took his hand and lead him to their friends, so Zidane could give Blank a proper, manly hug.
Blank snorted. "'What's up?' Quite a lame greeting for your best friend after four years, man!" But the redhead grinned, and Zidane could only grin back. He looked down to Eiko, seeming a bit surprised to see her there.
"Hello, knight," Eiko greeted him. Her voice was shy and quiet, causing Zidane to blink confused. But then, he smiled and pat her head. "Nice to see you again, little summoner."
Eiko chuckled, swatting his hand away and hid behind Blank.
Zidane turned his head to Freya and Fratley and gave both of them a lewd wink.
"Of course I'd see you two together. How's dragon hunting been? Boring without me, I'm sure."
"You couldn't stand up against that beast of last week for a second, my dear," Freya joked.
"Yeah right," Zidane grimaced at her before he turned to Vivi.
"There's the blackmage of the hour! Have you grown?"
"Not an inch," Vivi mumbled shyly, but his yellow eyes seemed to express great happiness.
Zidane shook his head. "Nah-uh, I'm sure you grew. Maybe inside? You gotta tell me all the things you've done ever since I left!"
Vivi nodded, still shy, but with a bit more enthusiasm. "I will, Zidane!"
Still grinning, Zidane looked to Amarant. For a moment, they looked at each other silently; evidently, Zidane was thinking of a nice greeting – dealing with Amarant just wasn't as easy as with the others.
But then, Amarant stepped for, until he was only inches away from the former thief. He eyed Zidane with serious eyes before he suddenly gave him a hard punch.
"Ow! Amarant, what the hell was that for!?" Zidane cursed, but Amarant only cracked his knuckles.
"If you hurt her that much one more time, I'll kill you."
Zidane was startled. He looked at Dagger, who seemed shocked and scared at Amarant's action, and understood.
Suddenly, an apologetic grin formed on Zidane's face.
"I'm sorry, Amarant. But I left her in good hands, didn't I?"
"Don't change the topic here," Amarant narrowed his eyes. "I'd rather have you with me to protect her."
Zidane was startled for a second, surprised by the hint of friendliness in Amarant's voice. "Amarant, I..."
The warrior grumbled annoyed. ready to turn away when Zidane suddenly gave him a playful punch on the shoulder.
"I missed you too, Amarant."
Amarant stopped in his tracks, his expression frozen. Very slowly, he turned his head.
"I'll seriously kill you, Zidane."
The thief only laughed, then he looked at all of his friends. "Damn, guys, it's so good to be back!"
"Erm, Knight?" A soft cough caused them all to turn their heads.
Mikoto, the Terran queen, wore a gentle smile as she got up.
"Could you explain all of this to me?"
Zidane shot a glance towards Dagger and squeezed her hand.
'See?' His eyes seemed to say. 'I'm a real knight now!'
Dagger smiled as she prepared herself to talk to the queen. There were a lot of things to explain, treaties to be worked out and decisions to be made. Terra had appeared on Gaia, and that would surely bear consequences.
But she wasn't afraid. Zidane was with her, holding her hand. Everything was alright.
Everything was whole again.
Oh my goodness. I finished it! And I feel equally empty to finishing an Anime or reading a book. Three years in the making and now I have to bid my farewell to this story.
Zidane is back! Of course I couldn't just leave him out of the epilogue! How could I possibly seperate this lovely pairing! I hope you are satisfied with the ending of this story; I tried to give every character at least a small entrance again. (Shoot, I forgot Baku and the others. But oh well, they are in Lindblum, just like Cid, so what could I do? Rest assured though, they are all doing fine.)
If you're wondering why Eiko is still playing with dolls at the age of twelve: For one, I still played with dolls that age. And secondly, she's probably trying to catch up on her missed childhood.
My heart feels quite heavy, finishing this story after three years.
I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it made you smile, laugh or become a little teary-eyed at the right points. I hope you could enjoy the characters and the plot, and I hope it was worth the time you spent reading it.
I am thankful for everyone who reviewed this story, thankful for everyone who showed their support by favoriting or following the story. Writing this was funny and interesting, but even more so because of those who read it. If you enjoyed this story even a little bit, it was worth all the hassle I had at times.
Now, I have a lot of other projects in mind – some of them even bigger, more complex and unique than this! I hope you can enjoy those stories to come as much as this now.
Until next time, take care.