PuPu's Saga Chapter 12
by Jeremy Chapter
Setting 12: 2039 DAY 15, Just
beyond Winhill Cemetery
"Folly, thou conquerest,
and I must yield!
Against stupidity the very gods
Themselves contend in vain. Exalted reason,
Resplendent daughter of the head divine,
Wise foundress of the system of the world,
Guide of the stars, who are thou then, if thou,
Bound to the tail of folly's uncurb'd steed,
Must, vainly shrieking, with the drunken crowd,
Eyes open, plunge down headlong in the abyss."
-Johann Christian Friedrich von
"Geronimo!" Laguna hooted in his midair
dive, bringing his arms into a streamline position with his body.
Kiros and Ward had told him time and time again that what he
considered intrepidity was really just his lack of a common
evolutionary knob in the back of the head from which rationale
and caution emanated.
But what do they know? Its
not every day that you get the chance to make a running dive into
It hit Laguna just then that he
wasnt diving headfirst into a pool of water as he had
originally thought. He managed to grab the cat that had been
trapped on a lower ledge but continued to fall.
Kiros read Wards eyes
knowingly even before the President of Esthar remembered to
holler for help. It was never too hard to tell when a collision
was going to occur around Laguna; if there wasnt any
projectile into whose trajectory he could step, hed make
himself the moving object and go caroming off the walls or over
The first thousand times it was
funny. After that, well
Kiros thought left off as
the much expected but less than desirable scream sounded at last.
Judging from its pitch, which Ward
recalled and saw that it was indeed related to the number of
echoes that reverberated up through and out of the fissure, the
large man quickly calculated how far down Laguna had had to have
fallen up till that minute. He raised his eyebrows and whistled,
visibly impressed. Had it not been for my dissertation on wave
mechanics and resonance during my pursuit of double doctorates in
applied physics and mechanical engineering, I would have never
been able to figure that one out.
Both men realized how dangerous a
drop Laguna was enduring. They also dimly noted how annoying his
continuous scream had become. Remember to inhale sometime,
they thought at the same time.
Right then neither Kiros nor Ward
could hold back their laughter any longer, and they doubled over,
grabbing their stomachs. On the ground they rolled and hooted
until their chests hurt and they began to choke. They had both
opted to personally leave Esthar to check up on Laguna and
inquire about Ellones absence because of the obvious
entertainment that Lagunas company would provide. He had
not disappointed them.
Suddenly Kiros froze, exclaiming,
"Holy Shiva! That poor cat!"
He dismissed the thought and went
back to hooting and chuckling in harmony with Ward before he
froze again and exclaimed, "Great Eden! How long has it
Ward got to his feet as well and
pointed at his watch. Dont even try.
Kiros started biting his
fingernails nervously. "Come on, Ward," he pleaded,
"this is serious."
Ward nodded. Youre damn
right. But too bad.
Kiros was sweating uncontrollably.
"Maybe we misheard. He has to have hit the bottom
Like Diablos he has! Ward
shot back with his indignant eyes.
"This cant be
happening!" Kiros cried, covering his face with his hands
and breaking down into a sobbing fit.
Ward was chuckling wildly. He
raised his eyebrows when they finally heard the thud of
Lagunas landing followed by some weak curses and weeping
Kiros nervously checked his watch.
Then he proceeded to swear.
"I dont believe it, Im
so dead!" he mourned, raising his palms to the sky.
Ward grinned and tapped the face
of Kiros watch. Then he held his hand out, expecting his
Kiros swore again, this time
invoking Diablos, and reached in his pocket. He stopped himself. Damn,
almost cut open my thigh again! I always forget to take these
It took another five minutes
before Kiros was clumsily able to shell out eight thousand Gil,
laying each bit on Wards sweaty palm. All the while, they
either couldnt hear Lagunas weak but laborious
groaning escaping from the pit or they chose to ignore it. When
Kiros had finished, however, Ward didnt withdraw his hand.
Rather he tilted his head indignantly and stuck his hand out
"Thats all I
have!" Kiros cried meekly, raising his hands up to shield
Ward scowled. You know youre
not even half way, right?
"Ill get you another
thousand once we get back Esthar," Kiros assured him
Ward didnt budge.
"Oh, come on," the other
pleaded, "how was I to know that that bum was going fall for
more than eighty seconds?"
Ward thought it over, and slowly
his countenance softened. All it took then was a shrug to remove
any tension left in the air. Kiros despair, however, as
well as Lagunas crying, remained vibrant.
"To Diablos with him!"
Kiros growled, kicking a rock that he felt was laughing at him
because he underbid Lagunas fall by eighteen seconds, and
he was left to pay the difference in thousands. Stupid 98,
what kind of retarded number is that?
Disgustedly Kiros waved his
partner off and started heading in the direction of the town.
"Im going to look around for some Gil. If I get lucky,
Ill stumble upon an entire hoard of it that doesnt
belong to anyone."
Before Kiros trudged out of range,
Ward hit him in the head with the blunter end of his anchor. He
seemed to say, "What do you think this is, some kind of
Kiros turned for a second to glare
at his companion, and then returned to what he was doing.
"That was the down-payment on my sons college entry
Ward snorted. We both know you
dont have a son.
Kiros either read his mind or knew
his colleague well enough to guess his response without even
trying to match a semantico-referential value to Wards
"How would I know that?"
Kiros shouted, flinging his arms into the air and waving them
wildly over his head. "Huh? Tell me, how do I know for sure?
I could have a son, you could have a son, Laguna could have
another son for all Eden knows! Theres so many of them
popping up all of the sudden."
Ward blinked, not having
anticipated this outburst. Whoa! Calm down.
"So if you dont
mind," Kiros continued, regaining his stoical composure, I
have a fortune to stumble on."
Ward stayed his hand so he couldnt
"What?" Kiros posed
Ward pointed at the chasm. He
pointed again and again.
"You want me to check up on that
moron?" Kiros protested in disbelief.
Ward grimaced but nodded. I
suppose that would be the decent thing to do.
"But hes not screaming
any more," Kiros pointed out.
Before either of them could
evaluate if Lagunas sudden silence purported less danger or
even more danger, Laguna continued his howling.
"See? At least hes
still alive. Do we have to check on him?"
Thats what we came all
the way from Esthar to this backwater sinkhole for! Ward
thought furiously. Ask him if Ellone stayed with him.
"But the clown just cost me
18000 Gil!" Kiros whined, hopping up and down in
Its not like you dont
get things for free at the Esthar shops anyway, Ward pointed
"You get stuff for
free?" an awed Kiros murmured.
Sometimes was the answer.
"Which shops do you go
to?" Kiros demanded.
Johnnys and Karens,
skinflints?" shouted Kiros triumphantly. "Ha! Now I know
I kid you not, little man,
Ward reaffirmed with renewed fervor.
"What about Cheryls
then?" Kiros asked.
Ward was beaming so much that it
bothered his counterpart. That may have been the intent all
fumed. "She never gives me anything!"
Thats cause youre
not fat or blonde, Ward explained.
"Well, that settles it,"
Kiros replied gingerly, "I need to find enough change on the
ground to dye my hair blonde so I can get things for free at
Cheryls and not have to look around on the ground for a
check for 18000 Gil!" He practically hollered the last
You cant just forsake the
cat, Ward argued, staring right back. You can leave him,
but the cat has to come with us.
No words were needed to decipher
that look that Ward now wore. Kiros knew there was no argument
when Ward cast that expression, so he resignedly agreed,
but purposely over-dramatized his slouching shoulders as he
slinked over to the opening in the ground. He rolled his eyes and
exhaled in disgust as Lagunas pathetic sobs grew
increasingly audible with every step he took in that direction.
By the time he and Ward reached the perilous edge, the whimpering
shook like thunder, a surprising amplifying effect that Ward
ascribed to the resonant chasm walls.
Kiros leaned forward, exuding
disdain throughout the maneuver, and called down nonchalantly,
"Whats up?" Not him, obviously.
Ward thought just as much, and
considered it just as droll.
Laguna was still screaming bloody
"Is everything okay?"
"I think I broke my
leg," Laguna crowed between wails.
"Not you," Kiros
reproached caustically, "I meant the cat. Is he okay?"
Laguna paused, slightly confused.
"Yeah, hes fine. But my leg-"
"Oh, shut up, you big
baby," Kiros shouted, "Take it like a man. Besides, it
"It does?" Laguna asked.
It does? Ward wondered,
taking a quick look at Kiros, who was too busy humoring himself
to notice. Why havent I ever noticed how impressive
Lagunas character is?
"So which leg did you
break?" Kiros questioned.
"Do they make
distinctions?" Laguna replied, earnestly taken by surprise.
"Yes," the condescending
Kiros assured him, "yes, Laguna, they do."
"Im not sure," was
the weak-voiced answer. "Im inverted right now."
"And why would you be
inverted?" Kiros posed.
"I had to stretch out so that
Id catch myself from falling with something protruding from
the walls. It ended up catching my foot, so Im
dangling," Laguna explained.
"Hows it hanging?"
Laguna shouted tearfully, "I need you to get down
He sounded so insistent that Ward
patted Kiros on the shoulder and motioned for him to go.
Itll build character,
he pointed out, pushing an extremely recalcitrant Kiros towards
"Ha, ha, very funny,"
Kiros responded and backed away quickly. "Keep away from
"Will you two quit kidding
around and help me up?" Laguna cried from below.
"But theres two of us
up here and we would have to traverse twice the distance that you
descended," Kiros reasoned to the desperate invalid,
"while youre the only one down there and all you have
to do is climb up one trip length. Wouldnt it make sense
for you to get off your ass and come up?"
Yeah, Ward concurred,
adding, quit clowning around and get up already.
"Stop being ridiculous and
help me," Laguna ordered. "You have no idea how much
"Oh, believe me,"
Kiros urged, "I can relate."
Me too, Ward added
"How long did we stay in the
hospital to recover from that fall?" Kiros asked Ward loud
enough so Laguna could hear.
Hmm, let me think
months? Ward thought back equally as loud so Laguna could
"And who was it who inspired
us jump off the cliff?" Kiros continued, raising his voice.
Just to rub it in farther, "What, pray, was the name
of this genius?"
Laguna, Ward shot back with
"Who was this man,"
Kiros continued sarcastically, "who made that ever wise decision
without, mark this, without ever having studied
Laguna, Ward repeated.
"Louder please, I dont
think he quite caught that," Kiros advised.
Laguna! Ward blasted.
"And who, kind sir,"
Kiros picked up again, "after being reacquainted with me for
the first time after all those months and travelling so far
to see him, made me kill five or six monsters for him before
giving me, poor me, poor and exhausted me, anything to eat
or drink, just to impress some woman?"
Laguna, Ward answered
acidly and pointed at the perpetrator with an accusing finger.
"Laguna," Kiros summed
up gravely, "you are despicable. How low can you go?"
Hes in pretty deep, Id
say, Ward tried to say.
"But she was hot!"
Kiros was about to refute that
excuse when he saw Wards reaction.
Hes right, Ward had
conceded, she was hot.
Kiros considered it, and shrugged
"Fine," he called down,
"well give you that much, but if you want my help, its
going to cost you."
Ward raised an eyebrow, but only
because he liked where Kiros was taking this.
Laguna had managed to stop crying,
but he was still battling with his sniffles when he heard Kiros
new proposition. The end result was a incomprehensible snort.
"Come again?" Kiros laid
"How much?" Laguna
Now were getting
somewhere, Kiros thought to himself delightfully, shifting
his weight to his other leg for the sake of comfort, and rubbing
his hands together interestedly.
"18000 Gil," he
They heard another weak yelp from
Laguna and then another thud. Obviously hed heard
the price correctly and slipped. Presumably he landed on a ledge
somewhere even deeper in the gorge.
Like that wasnt
outrageous or anything, Ward remarked.
"Hey, big guy," Kiros
returned, keep your remarks to yourself."
Fine, I will, Ward
rejoined, youre not allowed to read to my thoughts
There were some strange noises
"The cat is beating me up!
Arg!" they heard Laguna clamor.
"Dont hurt it,"
Kiros cautioned him.
Laguna shouted back.
Ward broke out with, Stop
playing around down there.
"Help, help, help,"
Laguna yelped between screams and heavy pants.
"Sounds like the cats
tearing him up," Kiros commented.
Sure seems like it, his
friend concurred thoughtfully.
"Its but a
kitten," Kiros reassured Laguna, "dont be
Laguna was too busy screaming to
catch the empty words.
"Five to one says the kitten
beats him," Kiros whispered to his compatriot.
Thats no contest,
"How about ten to one odds, and
consider that it is a de-clawed kitten Laguna is facing,"
Kiros offered after more consideration.
Youre on, Ward
complied, for 18000 Gil on the cat.
"But even if I win Ill
still owe you a fortune," Kiros whined. "Make it
Fine, whatever, Ward
consented, confident that Kiros was the worst gambler in the
world and Laguna was the least predictable person on whom to
place a bet.
The new wager had distracted them
for so long that they didnt notice that the scuffling
sounds had quieted. Kiros caught it first.
"You didnt drop the
cat, did you?" he inquired, his face paling.
"No, but I have my fingers
around its scrawny little neck," Laguna reported.
Dont do anything rash,
Laguna, Ward admonished.
"Help me up, or the cat
dies!" threatened Laguna.
Stars of Gilgamesh! Laguna
Loire! Ward exclaimed. Why I never!
"Lets talk about
this," Kiros entreated fearfully.
"I mean it!" Laguna
repeated more loudly.
"You better not hurt him,
Laguna," Kiros warned.
"I will if you dont
help me up," Laguna countered.
"T-This is outrageous!"
Kiros stammered. "Unacceptable. What do you think youre
I never imagined the President
as a hostage-taker, Ward reflected. Whoa! This blows my
mind. I have to sit down.
"Ill do it!"
Laguna shouted back, "Im crazy, you know I will."
Kiros looked nervously at Ward and
asked, "What now?"
We have no choice. Help him up.
"Does this mean I dont
get the money from him?" Kiros grumbled.
Live with it, Ward
"What do you want us to
do?" Kiros called down to Laguna.
"Well, it looks like now Im
going to need a rope," Laguna responded after surveying his
"Why didnt you ask
before?" Kiros chastised severely.
"The sides were rough enough
and had footholds before," Laguna clarified, "but Ive
fallen somewhere really smooth and impossible to scale."
"Well I dont have any
rope, and from the way youre describing it, I cant go
down there and help you up without getting stranded myself,"
Kiros pointed out.
"Looks like you cant,"
Laguna whispered, on the verge of crying.
"Well," Kiros said,
brushing his hands off, "it looks like youre going to
be down there for awhile. Do you need your backpack?"
Laguna cried in delight. Id
forgotten about that!
Kiros was curious why Laguna was
celebrating by himself in the pit.
"Is everything okay?" he
"Yeah, I always carry rope in
my backpack so I can elevate myself during my Desperado limit
break," Laguna happily replied. "Throw it down
Kiros nodded and replied,
"Gotcha. Hang on a second, I wont be long."
He went to grab Lagunas
backpack and threw it into the fissure.
Laguna felt something brush past
his head and race farther down into the gorge.
"What was that?" he
"You said to throw your
backpack down to you," Kiros answered, invariably puzzled by
"I meant the rope,"
Laguna said evenly. Im so dead.
Kiros and Ward exchanged looks. The
poor cat is lost, they thought simultaneously.
"We cant help you,
bro," Kiros yelled tentatively, "youll have to
figure something out."
"Like Doomtrain I do!"
Laguna growled in response. Gritting his teeth, he added,
"If you dont think up something quick, Im
dumping the cat."
You wouldnt! Ward
"I would," Laguna
Ward peered apprehensively at
Kiros. Do something, his eyes seemed to say.
Kiros went over to wear the
backpack had been lying and saw Lagunas machine gun. He
picked it up, put in a fresh magazine, and aimed it into the
"If you do, Ill shoot
you," he threatened.
"This is inexcusable,"
Laguna roared. "Ill haul your ass into court for
"Just dont drop the
kitten," Kiros defended himself.
"Put my gun down before you
hurt someone," Laguna ordered.
"Only if you hold on to the
cat," Kiros offered.
"Fine," Laguna agreed,
"just drop the gun."
A minute later something hard and
metal-like struck his head and ricocheted into oblivion.
"What the name of Pandemona
was that?" he asked, his head pulsating with pain. Thats
going to leave a mark.
"You said to drop the
gun," Kiros answered.
"To drop it on the ground,"
Laguna exploded. "What is wrong with you?"
"Maybe you should be more
explicit in your directions," Kiros sneered in return.
"I will not tolerate
insubordination, mark you," Laguna warned.
"I did exactly as I was
told," Kiros griped.
He did, Ward agreed.
"I am not going to get
into another debate with you about semantics and non-referential
indexes," Laguna said firmly.
Suddenly they heard Laguna
Kiros peeked over the edge and
asked, "I just tried to shoot you, in what are you
"What luck!" Laguna
excitedly exclaimed. "If the gun wasnt in the
backpack, then neither was the rope. I remember that I took out
the rope earlier. Its probably sitting around where you
found the backpack!"
"Okay," Kiros replied,
"Ill be right back. Dont go anywhere." Not
that he can anyway.
A second later Laguna felt
something whiz by his head again.
"What was that?" he
"The rope," Kiros
answered, even more puzzled. "Is that what you wanted?"
"I wanted you to tie
it to something!" Laguna yelled, foaming at the mouth.
"Why didnt you say
so?" Kiros parried, becoming slightly annoyed.
"Good thing I have another
rope," Laguna called up again. "It should be sitting
behind where you found that first rope."
"Okay, sit tight," Kiros
replied and went to check.
Why is this so difficult?
Laguna wondered, feeling sick on the inside because of all the
Just then, something whistling
through the air caught his attention, and looking up, hit him
right in the forehead. It then wrapped itself around his neck. It
felt like a rope.
"What the Ifrit is the
meaning of this?" Laguna roared. "I thought I told you
to tie it to something!"
Kiros peered over the edge again,
"I did tie it to
something," he explained. "The two ends are bound
together, you see?"
Both he and Ward had to cover
their ears in order to deafen the volumes of expletives they
would have otherwise caught.
"Any more of this and I
quit!" Kiros mumbled. "I cant take any more
invective from that impossible man."
"Kiros," Laguna hissed
slowly, "go and fetch the third rope and this time, tie it
to a tree before you throw it down to me."
Kiros did as he was told, but
stuck his tongue out at his superior, knowing he was well out of
visibility. Once he had completed the deed, he crossed his arms
and waited for his kudos.
Nothing happened, so he tried
crossing his arms again and settling back, certain that his kudos
Laguna did not display any of the
"I cant take it
anymore," Kiros said simply, throwing up his arms. "I
need a break before I mutiny."
Im getting tired standing
here too, Ward remarked, swatting some Bite Bugs away from
his face. Cant we go somewhere?
Kiros had no reason not to.
"Hey, Laguna," he called
down, "just wanted you to know, if you need us, well
be back at the tavern."
"What?" Laguna hissed
with a shaky voice.
"Call us when you get close
to the surface," Kiros suggested. They had walked nearly out
of hearing range.
"But you cant just
leave me," Laguna insisted. "I have a broken leg,
He got no response.
"Hello?" he tried.
He had no idea that his two aides
were already half way to bar.
"I wonder how long Laguna
will keep shouting for us," Kiros said.
Youd be surprised,
"Yeah, I know," Kiros
Somewhere far away, Laguna
hollered plaintively, "Kiros?"
As Kiros and Ward passed the
chocobo crossing, they saw a curious gentleman seated with his
back against the crossing sign and scribbling intently in his
notebook. He was dressed in an overcoat, but casually in all
other respects from neck down. Neck up he wore a sharp visor and
a blue cap that he rotated 180 degrees after every few lines he
wrote. His dusty satchel laid open beside him.
"What do you make of
this?" Kiros asked Ward as they came upon him.
Beats me, the other
"Doesnt look like a
native," Kiros deduced, "since no one in Winhill needs
I concur, Ward concurred.
Somewhere far away, Laguna
sorrowfully called, "Ward?"
Back by the chocobo crossing,
again referring to the stranger, Kiros said, "He is probably
from out of town."
How astute you are, Ward
Kiros turned on his heel and
snapped, "Thats enough out of you."
Ward answered by sticking his
tongue out at his partner and raising his anchor ominously.
"Yeah," Kiros snarled,
"like that wasnt childish."
Ward turned his attention back to
the stranger and motioned for Kiros to look. The lad was still
madly scribbling down notes under the crossing sign, totally
oblivious that he was blocking some chicobos from reaching the
Ward whistled and raised his
eyebrows. What do you think?
"I think we should tell him
to move before the mother chocobo shows up," Kiros
Ward saw some movement in the
brush next to the youth and pointed again.
It may be too late, he
Kiros was about to alert him when
he felt Wards tension ease about five notches.
"What now?" he asked.
Its not a mother chocobo
behind the bush, Ward answered. In fact, there isnt
a bush there.
Kiros was skeptical and squinted
for better discernment. Hmm, maybe Ward is right.
Of course Im right,
It was a white teddy-bear-like
creature covered in raggedy tawny cloth. On its back was strapped
a camouflage sack whose loose-hanging flap betrayed the identity
of the contents within- scrolls of some sort.
For no reason at all the air
suddenly began to pulse with a light melody; the term most often
used to describe this quaint phenomenon was "Mogs
"Hey," Kiros marveled,
mouth gaping at the site of the cat-mouse creature, "I didnt
know the mogli were back in town."
You must be scared now,
"M-Me?" Kiros stammered.
"No way; why should I be s-scared?"
Because youre a ninny,
Ward thought bluntly.
"I am not a
ninny," Kiros disputed with a glare.
Oh, so writing up, proposing,
and forcing ratification of the Esthar edict of nativity, three
Moogle suspicion acts, and four anti-moogle statutes in the
Assembly of Nobles RIGHT AFTER you lost your underground prize
fight to Mog had absolutely NOTHING to do with your feelings
after the fight? Ward sneered in contempt.
Kiros explained. "They provide no service to the public and
the only time they used to ever come out of their caves was
voting day, standing in massive lines outside their local
registrars offices." And if it hadnt been for
Lagunas patronship, those miserable little Moobas would
have been excluded as well.
Look at that one, Ward
refuted. Today isnt voting day, and hes carrying
the mail for Edens sake. Is postage delivery no longer
considered a civil function?
human," Kiros added, "so they shouldnt be voting
And thanks to you, now they
arent, Ward shot back.
"I am not a
ninny," the other repeated flatly but making no further
attempt to defend his side of the argument.
Hey, you know what? Ward
brought up with a genuine look of concern painted over his brow. I
"Besides," Kiros felt
compelled to add in response and did, "I was taking a dive
You? A presidential aide?
Taking a dive? Ward highlighted skeptically. Thats
like Laguna spelling his name right.
"All very good
questions," Kiros commented, "but yes."
So you think Im going to
believe that you consciously performed an indisputably realistic
FIRST ROUND knock out to fake the crowd out of its money? Ward
derided. There was no way you could drag the fight on longer
and make it look like you actually knew what you were doing?
"That is because Im
good at what I do," Kiros beamed.
Falling? Ward clarified.
corrected dryly with a miffed stare.
And his claiming the Mognet
Circuit title and the trophy didnt phase you at all?
"It was just a Mogs
Amulet," Kiros replied. "Who gives an Ifrit about the
A second later he began to bawl
and was barely able to suppress a flood of tears. I wanted it
so much. Now Ill never be able to shrink Maduin and claim
the Mognet Special Circuit title!
His mourning was interrupted by
Wards tapping his shoulder.
I think you misunderstood me
when I said I didnt care, Ward reiterated just for
Kiros. I really dont give an Armadodos rear end
"But Im not a not a
ninny!" Kiros insisted in a weak whine as he dropped to his
knees and shook Wards arm in desperation. "You have to
Good gods, man! Ward swore
at the same time he was overwhelmed by a sense of disgust. Get
a grip! Wait, I didnt mean it literally!
Ward tried very hard to shake
Kiros off as the latter began to babble incoherently in a state
of panic. This action only prompted Kiros to clutch on even more
firmly, much to the embarrassment of his partner. By the time
Ward succeeded in reclaiming his hand from Kiros, it was quite
conspicuous how the latter was trembling.
Back at the ravine, Laguna
piteously cried for someone to help him.
Your knees look pretty weak,
Ward reflected, reaching out to steady his friend. Do you need
to sit down?
Blast Pandemona! Kiros
worried. Should I run?
Wouldnt worry about it,
"Who says Im
worried?" Kiros replied too quickly for the statement to be
Ward rolled his eyes and then
proceeded, This one looks like a courier, not a fighter.
He looked up at his elated
colleague and caught him just as he was breathing a sigh of
relief. Having been caught, Kiros self-consciously made a poor
attempt of making the sigh look like a yawn.
The grave Ward slowly lifted his
right hand to his forehead and made a his index finger and thumb
orthogonal to one anther in a distinctive "L" shape. Loser.
Kiros ruffled his nose and shifted
his gaze from Ward to the moogle postman, wearing a roughly
leopard-colored costume. The speckle-caped moogle was still
struggling with something beside the young stranger. He had not
looked up, much to Wards relief. Two grown men,
presidential aides at that, clinging to each other in broad
daylight was not intelligence that he wanted the Esthar media to
get its hands on.
They took a few tentative steps in
the moogles direction to get a better look.
The moogle seemed to be repeatedly
kicking the sole of the mans shoe as he sat there writing.
"Doing a civil service?"
Kiros jeered Ward. "Yeah, Ill believe that."
Ward smacked him. Shut up and
go see if he needs our help.
In the middle of his thought Ward
reached out and caught the collar of an anxious Kiros whose
intent had been to casually slink away without his companion
noticing. Ward threw Kiros back in front of him and pushed him
forward a few steps. Ninny.
"For the last time,"
Kiros hissed at Ward though he keep his eyes in front of him,
"Im not a ninny."
The air currents in the area had
been pretty inert up to this point, but as they inched forwards
with Ward winning the pushing and shoving match against a
struggling Kiros, the breeze raised itself once again,
resuscitating the landscape and running through the soft Winhill
grass by rows. It raced past the two contesting Estharians and
apparently picked up some of their scent because as it streamed
over the moogle and his human companion, the creature immediately
stopped what he was doing and vigilantly turned around. The
startled moogle furrowed his big, round nose, puffed up both
cheeks, and squinted more ominously than mogli are accustomed to
While Ward had always wondered how
mogli could possibly see anything with their narrow eye slits
closed, he was not too curious to carelessly offend this
particular one by staring back at him. He desisted forcing Kiros
forward for two reasons: Firstly, he read from the moogles
crystal white countenance varying shades of suspicion and
annoyance; secondly, he was sensing great inner strength stored
within the small body. But from what he knew of Ultimecia, Edea
Kramers delicate frame and welcoming disposition were false
measures of innocuousness.
Kiros similarly tensed up and
whispered so only Ward could hear him, "Postal carrier my
ass, look at those bulging moogle muscles popping out from under
Ward frowned and nudged Kiros to
get his attention. Thats not what worries me the most.
"What worries you more?"
Kiros whispered back fearfully, his hands starting to feel
Ward didnt want to risk
drawing any more attention to himself by pointing so he just
indicated as clandestinely as possible for Kiros to scrutinize
the moogles fawn-skin cap. Kiros tried to focus in on it,
but saw nothing more than the cap.
Hes trying to hide his
antenna, but you can see it popping out from behind the cap,
"What about it?" Kiros
hissed back after he had located the orange-red bulb that was no
doubt connected to the animals forehead by a thin black
stalk. Kiros concurrently wiped a row of lingering sweat globules
from his dark forehead.
Only the more passionate mogli
have antennae, and this one comes with muscles. Not a propitious
combination for us, Ward grimly made known.
"But Mog didnt have an
antenna," Kiros refuted, turning his head slightly to face
his comrade who had been using him as a shield during the entire
encounter without his knowledge.
Who said that aloof furball was
passionate when he gave you the infamous shiner that didnt
interrupted, turning on his heels, "I get the picture. Do we
have to relive that?"
Ward shrugged. Boy is this
moogle theme music getting to me!
"What about Maduin?"
Kiros asked, shrugging off all the lackadaisical notes, switching
desultorily among octaves, that were ringing in his ears.
He has a horn, the next level
up, Ward answered and shifted his body so that Kiros was
again directly between him and the moogle.
Kiros scowled, becoming dimly
aware that he was being used as a shield in case the moogle
turned hostile. Hey, wait a second...
Ward gave an alarmed look and
redirected Kiros attention to the furry moogle.
Ward had also broken into a sweat
and was having difficulties swallowing. Its fortunate
that Laguna isnt here; I think the moogle might take
offense to a total stranger rubbing its furry tummy.
"Help me!" Laguna wailed
from the other side of the hill, but his voice did not carry far
enough to interrupt the stand off.
Throughout their nervous
conversation, the moogle grew increasingly apprehensive and did
not take either of his squinty eyes off them. Now, much to their
consternation, it lifted its left paw up to its face and rubbed
its pink nose until it turned deep crimson, and then took a step
Thats a cautionary sign,
Ward translated for Kiros.
Kiros suddenly realized how hard
he was breathing, but try as he did, he could not calm himself
The moogles new position at
the base of the young mans shoe was most opportune for
providing a seat, and so it took a short hop, beating its small
cherry wings sporadically, and plopped down on the mans
shin. It then crossed its paws, leaned over, set its elbows on
the tip of his companions shoe, and rested its chin on his
fluffy wrists. Never once, though, did he avert his eye slits
from his targets. The man still had not noticed anything.
From the corner of its eye slits,
the moogle saw the two intruders breathe more easily in response
to his movement, apparently underestimating how deadly he sitting
down even when seated. If mogli in general had lips, this one
would have curled its upper lip to one side and jutted its lower
lip outwards in a menacing snarl. The scariest expression the
creature could muster was two nastily slanted eyebrows and a
darkening of its snow white aspect.
"He doesnt seem so
dangerous now," Kiros commented, trying his best to laugh
off the suffocating tension.
I wouldnt be so sure,
Ward interjected, seeing as how the bulb on its antenna is
changing from orange to a dark shade of red. Wed best not
The moogle scratched its nose
again and then began to tap the young mans shoe, trying
extremely hard to get his attention. Ward wondered briefly how
long the two must have traveled together for the youth to accrue
the tolerance necessary to ignore the moogles meddling for
so long. In that brief span of time the moogle had tried to bit
the toe of the shoe but its mouth was too small and the material
too hard. Its only resort was to jump off its seat, afforded by
the pant leg, with the usual half-flutter of wings and resume
kicking the sole of the mans shoe.
Kiros and Ward watched
ambivalently as it grew tired and panted heavily with sagging
"We could just help him out
and toss a rock in the boys direction," Kiros
suggested to Ward. "That might get him to look up."
Its worth a shot,
After more thought Ward
considered, Or we could just call out to him.
Kiros did a quick scan of the area
and located the choicest rock within reaching distance, and so,
after stooping and picking it up, he aimed to miss and tossed it
The moogle, who decided that
gnawing through the mans pant leg was the best way to get
his attention, stopped what it was doing. Its antenna bulb grew
bright red, sensing danger. The animal propelled itself off the
mans leg and soared in the air. In mid-flight it performed
a quick rotation and the resulting roundhouse kick connected
squarely with the rock, sending it back along the same trajectory
with more force than was originally imparted.
Kiros swore and screamed in pain
as the rock hit him in the forehead. Clutching his face, he
keeled over just as the young man looked up.
"Whats going on?"
he asked, standing up and dropping his notebook. His moogle
pointed at Kiros and Ward with his chubby paws, quickly mimicked
how Kiros cast the stone, and then fell back into a fighting
stance with fuzzy fists raised.
Kiros was still on the ground
moaning so Ward stepped forward and tried to communicate, We
were just seeing if you needed help.
"Well, say something,"
the stranger said, not familiar with Wards technique.
"Here," Kiros managed to
pronounce through groans as he rose laboriously to his feet,
Dusting himself off and checking
to see if he was bleeding, Kiros eventually introduced himself
and Ward, and then inquired the name and business of the
The other tipped his hat and
reciprocated, "I call myself Jeremy."
Ward noted the strands of blonde
hair that forced their way out from under the cap before their
new acquaintance readjusted his cap
"May I call you Jer?"
Kiros entreated, noticing the flashy hair as well.
"No, you may not,"
Jeremy stated plainly.
"What is your business
here?" Kiros then asked, not having gotten the answer
"Why?" Jeremy retorted.
"Are you two gentlemen constables?"
"We have authority
here," Kiros replied coolly. "Let me see your passport
and some identification, boy."
"Give me a sec," the
other agreed, and went over to his satchel to find the
"Kupo ku-ku-kupo kupo-po kupo
ku-ku-po kupo-po ku-kupo kupo kupo kupo!" the moogle yelped,
brushed his nose twice, and lifted his fists pugilistically
"Is this vicious character
bothering you?" Kiros asked.
"Stiltzkin?" the youth,
still rummaging inside his bag, replied with an offhand glance in
the moogles direction. "Of course not. Why would you
His voice revealed his surprise so
Ward explained, The creature was kicking your shoe.
Jeremy, head buried inside his
satchel, did not see what Ward was trying to say.
Seeing this, Kiros translated for
Ward, "That thing was kicking your shoe."
"Was he?" Jeremy
returned in an amused tone that bordered on curiosity.
Honest to Eden, Ward
"Oh, yeah," Jeremy
replied suddenly, seeming to have recalled something, "he
"Do you want us to get rid of
it?" Kiros inquired.
"No," Jeremy answered,
floundering amidst a flood of paper, "Stiltzkin is fine
"He is your pet?" Kiros
followed the response without another question.
The moogle evidently did not like
what Kiros said because his expression hardened. Kiros did not
know what to make of the circumstances.
"Here they are," Jeremy
You write a lot? Ward
wondered, looking at all the random sheets that had fallen out of
the bag while the owner was going through it.
"Do you write a lot?"
Kiros asked for his companion though his attention was focused on
the inspection of Jeremys cards.
the other explained, making a face, "but not by
Well, you know, Ward
attested proudly, I would have been an anthro major had I not
switched to ap-phys and e-mech in my junior year.
Jeremy could not decipher what the
big man meant solely on kinesics.
Ward turned to Kiros for the
translation but he was too busy scrutinizing the cards.
Stiltzkin, meanwhile, had grown
tired of being ignored, and sensing no one who would take him up
on a brawl, turned back to Jeremy and resumed kicking his shoes.
The deep crimson color of the ball on his antenna regressed back
to a less-wary peach.
Does that bug you? Ward
wondered, referring to the continuous string of kicks.
Jeremy wore a blank expression on
Kiros was too busy reading Jeremys
information out loud to notice that Ward again needed help
getting his point across.
"Name: Chapter, Jeremy,"
the presidents aide pronounced, "POB: Trabia,
oh! It says here you actually trained in their
Garden for awhile."
confirmed, debating with himself whether he should compliment
Kiros reading skills or not.
"You got this Galbadian
border patrol stamp just yesterday!" Kiros noted, pointing
at the stamp on the passport.
"Yeah," Jeremy said,
unsure if he should compliment the man for his sleuthing skills.
"What were you doing
there?" demanded Kiros.
"You cant ask me
that!" Jeremy demurred. "I have rights!"
"Not here you dont,"
Kiros told him.
Actually he does, but whatever,
Ward signaled to his partner.
Kiros ignored the comment and
repeated more forcefully, "Tell me what you were doing or were
going to detain you for a few days to check on your
You dont actually have
the power to do that, Ward hinted.
Im well aware of that,
genius, Kiros thought. Lets see if he buys it.
Meanwhile, realizing that his
method was ineffective, Stiltzkin moved to Jeremys other
shoe and began to kick it more fervently than he had the first
"I was gathering data for my
anthro project," Jeremy muttered finally, moving his leg to
check the moogles activity. Stiltzkins antenna bulb
turned red instantly and he flew back a few feet to avoid the
kick and scratched his head. After observing that there was no
further danger, the moogle scratched his head until his bulbs
color faded back to an off-orange and he hopped back happily to
pick up his leg routine where he had left it.
"You were gathering
information in Galbadia?" Kiros asked.
"They had an anti-Malboro
campaign going on," Jeremy elucidated, "so I helped
happen?" Kiros inquired.
Thats really none of our
business, Ward registered.
"Thats none of your
business," Jeremy spelled out for him.
"I get paid to know
things," Kiros told him, "and to find out what I dont
Seeing his addressee still
reluctant to reveal what he wanted to know, Kiros stamped the
ground and barked, "So spill it!"
Jeremy scowled, but finally
answered, "Just this girl Mina who ran our errands. She was
really helpful in the side-effects research and locating the
recent, fatal cases."
"And you were doing this for
a class?" Kiros questioned again to make sure.
Jeremy nodded over ardently and
feigned a cocktail party smile.
Kiros checked the identification
card again and pointed out, "This isnt a students
To himself he said, Dont
get smart with me, kid.
"My academy blew up the same
time Trabia Garden did," Jeremy declared. Dont get
dumb with me, Kiros.
But instead of what he was
thinking, he said, "Im not currently enrolled in any
Stiltzkin was now amusing himself
by kicking dust on Jeremys pants.
"For whom are you doing all
this work then?" Kiros demanded.
"Im taking one of those
online courses," the other replied.
"You have an answer for
everything, dont you?" Kiros put forth, having hoped
so hard to catch the man in a lie.
"Oh, you mean the truth,"
Jeremy laughed derisively.
"Im going to have to
see your papers," Kiros announced quickly to save face.
Jeremy cut his laugh off abruptly
and listlessly reached in his pocket for what appeared to be a
"You just got in to Winhill
today!" Kiros remarked in surprise after examining the form.
"And boy has it been a
pleasurable stay so far!" Jeremy informed, adding a fake
"What are you doing
here?" Kiros demanded, shoving the papers and the cards into
Jeremys chest. He didnt do too fine a job because the
conglomeration slipped through his fingers and fell to the
Jeremy said very slowly for Kiros, figuring that the point would
finally get through this time around, "which you
Stiltzkin caught each item before
it hit the ground, jumping up and snatching the last floating
sheet of paper. These he whisked back to Jeremys satchel
and rushed back to where he could best perform his kicking, which
he was sure would eventually take effect.
Ward was growing impatient just
standing around without having had anything to drink.
Ask him how long he is staying
while you are at it, he proposed.
"That was actually my next
move," Kiros whispered back, trying to hide the fact that he
originally had no next move.
Ward sniffed contemptuously.
"How long are you planning to
stay in these parts?" Kiros questioned, making an obvious
attempt to sound intelligent after his extended pause.
"I cant stay
long," Jeremy answered.
"I need something more
definite, son," Kiros stated, shaking his head.
"No more than three days, and
Im not your son," Jeremy corrected. And I dont
care what you need.
Kiros was somewhat ruffled, but he
kept his composure and went on to inquire, "What were you
scribbling down before we showed up?"
"How would I know how long
you were watching me before you started chucking rocks?"
The boy has a point, Ward
"Just cooperate and answer
the question," Kiros said, going on to explain, "It
couldnt have been related to your project because there isnt
anything around here anthropological to study."
Humor him, Ward implored
Jeremy, for he knows not what he is doing.
Jeremy sighed and replied,
"If you must know, my novel."
"What is it about?"
Kiros wanted to know.
How Ifrit ate Kiros, Jeremy
made up quickly but ended up vocalizing, "How it would feel
to suddenly discover a brother you never knew you had."
Kiros was considering how dandy
the topic was when Ward shook him out of his trance and drew his
notice to the book lying by Jeremys bag.
I recognize that book, he
alleged. In fact, I wrote it.
Kiros smirked, remembering how
Ward bragged about the same, single book that he published during
every drinking party they attended.
"Why are you claiming to be
on an anthropology-related excursion when youre clearly
lugging around a text book on differential equations?" Kiros
asked. Caught you now!
Though clearly surprised at Kiros
newfound intuitive abilities, Jeremy found the right words and
answered, "Because non-linear, n-th order, non-homogeneous
differential equations are a bitch and Ill need to know
them if I want to pass the entrance exam for SeeD training later
Maybe we should just leave him
alone now, Ward reflected, unless, of course, he wants
Now fully convinced of Jeremys
harmlessness, and partly because he didnt want to witness
Wards chest swell with pride any more than he had to, Kiros
abruptly proposed to the boy, "Do you want to play some
"Uh, no thank you, I have a
lot of work to do," Jeremy declined, and then added,
"That and the fact that I dont know you at all."
Kiros drew back at the rebuff but
then realized that his challenge for a game was rather absurd,
considering they had just met. Why did I suddenly feel the
urge to challenge him to a game of cards?
Stiltzkin had by now acquired a
stick and after testing its durability, drew it back and then
swung it forward into Jeremys shin. The whack was
accompanied by a stinging sensation that caused the man to jump.
"Hey," Jeremy protested,
Stiltzkin kept whacking him with
the intent of keeping his attention.
Jeremy tried to take the stick
from him but he held it behind his back, safely out of reach.
"Youre obviously not
its master," Kiros commented, noting the creatures
"I never said I was,"
Jeremy said, deciding the best way to drive the moogle off would
be to swat him, though Stiltzkin easily maneuvered out of the way
of each swing.
"So he just follows you
around and kicks your shoes?" Kiros asked curiously.
"Pretty much," Jeremy
"I fail to see why you keep
him around," Kiros commented.
"Stiltzkin is a great
traveler," Jeremy explained, "and we exchange notes
about places that one of us has been and the other hasnt.
Cuts travel fares by half."
"I know youre
doing it for the anthropology grade, but whats in it for
the moogle?" Kiros questioned.
Jeremy replied knowingly,
"Stiltzkin is in the search for four hundred Cactus Thorns
to refine into four Hundred Needles and use them all
with a Rosetta Stone, which he doesnt have either."
And that way hell be
invincible, Ward mused. Pretty clever for a moogle.
Kiros smirked without the
sufficient tact to hide it from the moogles notice.
Turning to face Kiros, Stiltzkin
yipped as ferociously as a cute moogle could, ""Kupo
ku-ku-kupo kupo-po kupo ku-ku-po kupo-po ku-kupo kupo kupo
Kiros dropped his smirk and
exchanged looks with Ward. They both looked to Jeremy as the
interpreter, but the answer was did not come.
"Kupo ku-ku-kupo kupo-po kupo
ku-ku-po kupo-po ku-kupo kupo kupo kupo!" Stiltzkin woofed
and stuck out a pint-sized moogle tongue.
"Why does he always say the
same thing?" Kiros asked Jeremy, scratching his head.
Jeremy blinked, not really
following what Kiros just said.
"They were completely
different statements," he remarked tentatively.
"Kupo ku-ku-kupo kupo-po kupo
ku-ku-po kupo-po ku-kupo kupo kupo kupo!" Stiltzkin cried at
Kiros in response.
"See!" Kiros shouted
triumphantly, "There he goes again!"
Jeremy removed his cap, ran his
fingers through the blonde half of his hair in the front of his
head, and then scratched the dark hair in the back before putting
the cap back on.
"I think it sounds all the
same to you because you arent listening very closely,"
Jeremy said after at length.
"Oboete okeyo kono chikkoi
kedama wa itsudemo anta o buchinomeshite yattsukete yareru
karana!" the moogle growled as he stood up straighter and
pointed at his fluffy chest.
While noticeably different, the
cry was still as indecipherable as if it were still moogleese to
"What did it just say?"
Kiros demanded, seeing how hard Jeremy was trying to suppress a
white furball could kick your ass any day of the week,"
he finally translated, "and dont you forget
that! Its just Japanese."
Ward found the declaration equally
amusing and roared with sniggered along with Jeremy.
"Kono kaban o omae no nodo no
oku ni tsukkonde yaru!" the moogle threatened menacingly,
shaking his left fist while hopping up and down. He proceeded to
motion towards his scroll-filled backpack and then point at
Jeremy had to hold on to the
chocobo crossing sign to keep from falling. Kiros was getting red
at being left out of the loop. He raised his hands in question.
"This is too funny,"
Jeremy but went on, "I'm going to take my satchel and
stuff it down your throat!"
Ward cackled beside himself, much
to his colleagues dismay.
"Moshi mata chikayotte kitara
ore no paatonaa to futari de koroshite yaru," Stiltzkin
continued without mercy, deliberately overdoing the last syllable
for finality, and then dusted off its paws and walked away.
"Come near me and my
partner again and I'll end you," Jeremy finished up
So much for your bid for public
relations chair, Ward gestured to Kiros who didnt find
that entire exchange amusing at all.
"I think we should leave
now," Kiros whispered to Ward.
That was actually my next move,
As they hurried away, Ward looked
back for a second when he heard an exclamation from Jeremy,
apparently induced by an unexpected whack administered by the mad
moogle with a stick.
When he turned back to Kiros
again, he found that his comrade had stopped. Looking ahead, he
"What do you know?"
Kiros spoke amusedly. "He managed to climb up all this way
Lagunas head was visible
just above the edge of the crevice, but he was having trouble
"I hope you didnt drop
the cat," was Kiros first statement.
"Glad to know where your concerns
lie," Laguna grumbled bitterly. Ow! My hands are hurting
as much as my leg!
"What took you so long?"
Kiros asked him.
"What do you
know?" Laguna rejoined defensively. "There were some
nasty Blitzes down there
you know, those shadow-like
"I hear another
characteristic that have is some sort of invisibility that only
random, nondescript Lagunas can see through," Kiros agreed
A lesser Laguna with an extra arm
would have flagged him off for so crude a joke. As it happened
though, this Laguna had his arms full of cat fur and rope.
He noted to himself to remember to flag Kiros off once he was on
"Holy Shiva!" Kiros
exclaimed. "Look at the cat!"
Laguna and Ward both looked. To
silence the animal earlier, Laguna had clamped his fingers around
its neck. In the past half hour, those fingers had not budged.
"She looks rather pale,"
Kiros stated after surveying the limp figure.
"Its a white cat!"
Laguna returned quickly. "She is supposed to be
"She didnt look like a
white cat to me when you first dove after her," Kiros said.
Not to mention she didnt
look comatose either, Ward added.
"At least I didnt drop
her," Laguna pointed out meekly.
Just give up on this one,
Ward advised him. There is no way you can win this argument.
"Just help me up,"
Laguna said, deciding to deal with one problem at a time.
"Hand over the cat and then Ill
grab your arm," Kiros said.
"Just help me up first,"
Laguna pleaded. I cant hold on much longer.
"Hand over the cat,"
Kiros repeated. If I get the cat, I wont need to help
Laguna was about to comply when
something occurred to him. If he gets the cat, he wont
need to help me up!
"If I hand over the cat
first, you wont help me up," he protested.
"Of course I will,"
Kiros lied. Diablos take him! Who told him? Ward, it had to
have been Ward!
"Of course you will
what?" Laguna demanded clarification.
"Of course I will,"
rephrased Laguna. "Help me or not help me up?"
"Help you," Kiros
"You promise?" Laguna
Kiros swore. Fat chance.
Ward could not hide his grin,
realizing that "Mercenarys Honor" was a standard
term in the Galbadian army handbook to be used by the beholden to
wheedle his way out of 412 possible predicaments without
perjuring himself. If Laguna hadnt skipped class that
day and actually transcribed the notes himself instead of
Xeroxing them and changing the name at the top, he would have
remembered that invoking the "Mercenarys Honor"
ruse as an oath to rescue a domesticated animal from a madman in
a crevice was clearly stated as situation 184, and thus was
Laguna trustingly handed over the
cat. In the process he almost let go of the rope, and had his
timing, attention, and luck been less impeccable, he would not
have been able to find it again.
"Is it still breathing?"
Kiros asked, evidently missing Lagunas near life-and-death
Somewhat galled, Laguna growled in
response, "It had better be."
Are you sure the bartenders
cat is white? Ward deliberated.
enough," Laguna evaded, "now help me up."
"Why doesnt this cat
have a collar?"
Seems like a stray to me,
Ward piped in. Are you sure someone owns it?
Lagunas only response was
"Thats not the right
cat," Laguna muttered grimly, wondering how best to throw a
Kiros and Ward burst out into
laughter and Laguna hid his face behind him hands in shame.
Inadvertently this action left him without any hand with which to
hang on to the rope, and before any of them realized it, he had
begun his blind plunge back into the shadowy depths from which he
had strived so long to climb out.