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Swords for Hire: Challenge of Zero




Hey all. Doc Shinryuu here. Yeah, I know. It's been a long time since my last Swords for Hire. I've made up for it, though. This is my longest SFH yet! Well, enjoy, and try to notice the cameos.


Pit pat pit pat pit pat

It is well known that thieves steal for a variety of reasons...

Pit pat pit pat pit pat

...Some steal to survive...

Pit pat pit pat pit pat

...Others steal for profit...

Pit pat pit pat pit pat

...Others still steal for revenge...

Pit pat pit pat pit pat

...But this thief...

Pit pat pit pat pit pat

...The one you currently hear running...

Pit pat pit pat pit pat

...Steals...

Pit pat pit pat pit pat

...Because it's fun.

Pit pat pit pat pit pat SLAM

--------------------

The door slamming could be heard through much of Lord Bafai's manor, not because it was loud, but because the manor was soundproofed. In this case, soundproofed means that is traps sound in and lets any other sound pass in as well. This was one of the consequences of hiring "master" contractor Bloody Stupid Johnson, but we won't get into that.
Bafai's guards were running about in the manor in a rush, as though they were looking for something. Considering the soundproofing, the door slamming could've been almost any door in the manor. They searched every room, to no avail. The Lionel Castle Night Watch was questioning Lord Bafai.
"Do you know what was stolen, Lord Bafai?" asked a particularly tall, red-haired guardsman.
"Oh, nothing much. Just an heirloom suit of armor and my great-grandfather's sword. Nothing of too much value." Bafai said, as sarcastic as possible.
"Please, sir. No sarcasm." a rather fat guardsman whispered to Bafai. "I'm afraid Captain Carrot here is a bit... simple."
"Sorry." Bafai whispered back.
"Do you have any enemies that might do this to you?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Any clues as to who the thief is?"
"No, not ye-"
Suddenly, one of the manor guards burst in. "Lord Bafai! Lord Bafai!"
"What is it, Reeve? I'm busy." Bafai shouted at the guard.
"We've found something." Reeve said, waggling a piece of paper in Bafai's direction. "A note, from the thief, but you won't like it..."
Bafai snatched the note from Reeve's hands and read it over. He dropped the note, a look of complete shock on his face. "No... I-it can't be... He was caught years ago..."
The note was signed, not with a name, but with a drawn, mischevious grin.
"Zero's loose..." Bafai muttered with what sense he had left.

--------------------

"SILPHY! WAKE UP!"
Silphy, Stanley, and Melissa were at the bar again, this time in the town surrounding Lionel Castle. Silphy was dead asleep, resting on Stanley's shoulder.
"ZzZz- Wha?" Silphy muttered, just waking up. "We gotta job yet?" she was drunk, as usual.
"No, Silphy, not yet." Stanley said, folding his arms into his robe. "Great. Now we're going to need to mooch off Ramza again."
"Don't worry, you two." Melissa said, taking a sip of her Sake, "Something will come up."
"Just like the past week?" Stanley asked, grinning deviously and pushing the sleeping Silphy off of his shoulder.
"Oh, shut up." Melissa muttered.
Just at that moment, a group of soldiers burst in. They pinned a piece of parchment on a bulletin board and left as quickly as they came.
...Unfortunately, they plowed through a few tables along the way.
"What was THAT all about?" Stanley asked.
"I have no idea." Melissa responded.
Melissa and Stanley walked over to the new message, Stanley making sure to loot a few bodies along the way. The note read as follows:

To whome it maye Concerne,

some objects of Grate value have been stolen frome the manor

of Lorde Bafai. Those who wishe to Applye, see Captain Carrot

Ironfoundersson of the Lionel Night Watch.

-Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, Lionel Night Watch



"What unparalleled spelling." Melissa muttered, extremely sarcastic.
"Well, looks like we need to meet this 'Carrot Ironfoundersson,' eh?" Stanley said. With that, the trio left to flag down* a cart, Stanley dragging Silphy behind him.

-----
* - Or, in Melissa's case, fan down.

--------------------

"What a horrendous ride!"
Melissa needed to arch her back to get it back in the right place. Stanley wasn't sure he still had a back. Silphy, who sobered up rather quickly, was aching in places she knew about vaguely, but wasn't sure existed until now.
"What's the price for the ride?" Stanley asked.
"Fifty gil." the driver said, calmly to an odd degree.
"WHAT!? The last cart ride we took only cost thirty!" Stanley shouted.
"Hey, times change, money loses it's value. Pay up."
"Fine." Stanley said, tossing the money to the driver. As the cart drove off, the trio entered the guard house of the Lionel Night Watch.
The place was such a wreck, Melissa nearly passed out.
The floor* was covered with dust. A rather fat man was nursing a metal jug. A tall, red-haired man was sitting at a table, playing cards with what appeared to be a pile of rocks wearing some sort of mechanized helmet. The trio assumed that this was normal, and walked over to the fat man.
"Excuse m-" Melissa began.
"Be careful!" the man shouted, leaping to his feet, "This is a jug of highly volatile beer! It could explode at the drop of a hat!"
Murphy's Law turned and looked, grinning sadistically.
CLANG
The fat man's eyes widened as he stared at the jug, which seemed to be vibrating rather powerfully. The red-haired man flipped the card table toward his opponent and hid behind it. The fat man, Stanley, Silphy, and Melissa quickly followed suit. Just as they ducked behind the table, the jug blew open, drenching the entire room with beer foam. As the spurting fizz died down, the pile of rocks, more commonly known as a troll, said, "Got any... four-ers?"

-----
* - And everything else, for that matter.
--------------------

After a goodly amount of towels had been distributed about the room, the inquiry began.
"So, you're saying a suit of armor and a sword were stolen? That's it?" Silphy asked.
"Yes, but Bafai seemed to take it all in stride." Carrot said, "However, when he saw this note, he clutched his chest as though he was having a heart attack." He slid a folded piece of paper across the table. Stanley picked it up and unfolded it, laying it out on the table.
"Yep. That's Zero, alright." he muttered, staring at a drawn grin. The note was rather short:

          Lord Bafai!

     I've come to steal your treasure!

     If you wish to reclaim your goods,

     they'll be at my lair behind Zirekile

     Falls! Come, if you dare...

                    

               \|_|_|/

 



"Revealing his hideout... I'd know his overconfident style anywhere." Stanley continued.
"You'd know, wouldn't you?" Silphy said, grinning.
"Hey. I used to be a Thief. A good Thief knows all about his competition."
"I'm surprised, Stanley." Melissa said, "I hardly believe you were ever a good Thief."
"Watch it. You wouldn't want a certain dagger stabbing you, now would you?"
"I don't suppose you'd want a certain fan hitting you anywhere?"
"...Crap." Stanley knew he was beaten, so he changed the subject. "Anyway, getting back on topic, we're going to need a way to get to Zirekile Falls quickly."
"Well, we can provide a few Chocobos..." Carrot said.
"What!? After all we've agreed to-" Stanley began.
"That should do." Melissa interrupted, covering Stanley's mouth.

--------------------

Zirekile Falls was a ways north of Lionel. Nonetheless, the Chocobos made for an easy ride. They easily bounded over boulders, dashed across streams, and rushed through forests. The same, however, can't be said for the riders, who were bounced around, soaked with water, and hit with various branches.
Eventually; Stanley, Silphy, and Melissa made their way to Zirekile Falls.
"Gah!" Stanley shouted, "I REALLY want to blast something into a bloody pulp right now. That ride was worse than the cart!"
"Please, Stanley." Melissa muttered, "Save it for Zero. It'll be much more useful that way."
"Good point."
With that, the trio passed under the waterfall, into an odd cavern. It seemed sculpted in a manmade sort of way. The primary tip-off was the fact that the top half narrowed as one went deeper into the cave as the bottom half widened. There were torches on the walls at regular intervals. Strangely enough, the torches were in holes in the walls that were just deep enough to render them completely ineffective. There was an inscription below one of the torch-holes, reading "B. S. Johnson & Co., Contractors for hire." Eventually, the hall came to a door. It was not only unlocked, but slightly open as well. As Silphy went to open it, Stanley stopped her.
"Wait, Silphy." Stanley pushed Silphy and Melissa back to a wall. He pulled the door open with his rod.
BOMF
A blast of fire erupted from behind the door. Silphy and Melissa looked at Stanley.
"See? I told you I knew about thieving." Stanley said smugly, "A good thief traps EVERY door, no matter how unused it is."
Silphy started toward the door again and Stanley stopped her. "Wait for it..."
There was a quiet click, followed by five arrows.
"Now we can go."
After a few more of these doors, the trio came to a large, circular chamber. At it's center was a patch of grass. As they entered, the door slammed sut behind them. They turned to the door and Silphy tried to open it.
"Locked, right?" Stanley asked.
"Yep." Silphy muttered.
"That's right, fools! You're trapped!"
Stanley, Silphy, and Melissa turned toward their mystery stater-of-the-obvious. There was a man standing in the center of the room. He was wearing a green, turban-esque hat with a rather huge, white feather. He was also wearing a green, short-sleeved jacket with a white undershirt and off-white knickers. Matching most of his other clothing was a green cloak. His leather boots were slightly grass-stained, probably from the grass he was standing on.
"You're all doomed! You've entered the lair of the GREAT..."
He took hold of his cloak.
"THIEF..."
He flung his cloak off.
"ZEROOOOOOOOoooooo..."
He began to gasp for breath.
"Listen, Zer-" Stanley began.
"-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" Zero interrupted.
There was a brief silence.
"Are you done?" Stanley asked.
"I suppose, if you really must ask."
"Anyway, Just give us Bafai's stuff." Stanley re-began. "We REALLY want to hurt you, but we can resist the temptation until we get Bafai's stuff back." Stanley took out his staff and dagger.
Melissa and Silphy followed suit with their weapons.
"An interesting proposition, indeed." Zero said. "However, you won't be able to attack me, if you're pinned to the ground, now will you?" a faint glow arose from the grass beneath Zero's feet. "HELL IVY!"
Suddenly, clusters of vines grew and entangled Stanley, Silphy and Melissa. Their weapons were lost in the ensnaring vines.
"Well, well. Look who has the advantage now." Zero said, walking toward the trio.
"You just LOVE the sound of your own voice, don't you?" Silphy asked, spite adding an edge to her words.
"Oh, my. I'm so hurt." Zero said, his voice ringing with sarcasm. "You're rebellious; you shall be killed." Zero walked over to Stanley. "You seem corruptable; you may be useful." Zero finally came to Melissa. "And YOU. You, my pure flower, my beautiful ray of light; you shall be of a special use." Zero chuckled as he whispered something in Melissa's ear. Her eyes widened after a moment.
"Huh, boy." Stanley said, "Here comes the waterfall."
Good GODS, was Stanley wrong!
Melissa's look of bewilderment slowly contorted into a grimace of pure, unrestricted rage. The vines around her began to explode into clouds of plant matter. The +42 Paper Folding Fan of Grievous Bodily Harm flew to the hand of it's owner. Melissa shook off the vines and walked toward the rather surprised Zero.
"N-now, wait a minute. Let's talk this over." he said, bargaining for his very life.
Stanley and Silphy turned their heads to avoid seeing what was guaranteed to come next*. When they looked again, Melissa was releasing them from their viney prisons.
"Wow. Not bad, Melissa!" Silphy said.
"I didn't know you had it in ya!" Stanley said, retrieving his weapons.
"I can't see why it's so surprising." Melissa said, "I just said to myself, 'SCREW the White Mage's Oath. This guy needs some severe pain.'"
There was a small tinkling noise near the door. A note had somehow attached itself to the door, which was mysteriously unlocked:

          Congratulations, fools!

     You have merely managed

     to defeat one of my lazy

     stooges! Next time, you

     won't be so lucky!

                    

               \|_|_|/

 

 



-----
* - They still heard the screams of agony, though.
--------------------

After the ordeal, the trio wound up back at the Night Watch HQ. Bafai was thanking them while the Lionel Night Watch investigated the fully disarmed cavern behind Zirekile Falls.
"Thank you SO much! You don't know how much this means to me!" Bafai said, nearly weeping openly.
"Perhaps you could give us some sort of material value?" Stanley asked.
"Well, I suppose I can give you this." Bafai said, taking a book out from deep in the recesses of his robe.
"What's this?" Silphy asked, taking the book and flipping through it.
"It's the diary of my great-grandfather, Nanai. He was a great warrior, in his time."
"Just a book? Just a frickin' BOOK?" Stanley yelled at Bafai.
Bafai left them with an enigmatic statement. "You never know what knowledge the experiences of others may give you."
A moment of quiet contemplation...
Stanley broke the silence. "Ah, well To the pawn shop we go, eh?" Stanley and Melissa went out to flag down a cart, Silphy trailing behind. As Silphy flipped through the tattered parchment of Nanai's diary, she found an old crystal pendant. There seemed to be some odd carvings on one side of it. Silphy looked a bit closer at them and sa-
"Silphy, hurry up!"
Silphy snapped out of her trance. "Coming, Stanley!" she shouted, running out and putting the pendant in a pocket.

--------------------

Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, Corporal Nobbs, Acting-Constable Detritus, the Night Watch, and all other related characters/locations Copyright of Terry Pratchett.
Phantom Thief Zero, Lionel Castle, Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy Tactics, And all related characters/locations Copyright of Squaresoft.
Stanley, Silphy, Melissa, and The +42 Paper Folding Fan of Grievous Bodily Harm Intellectual Property of Will Kusleika(don't bother pronouncing that). Any use without permission will invoke Prosecution and/or Flaming.
Special Thanks to Weiila for her support, Kenji Kotaro for his Proposition List, and deviantART(www.deviantart.com) for being such a great art community.
For updates and inside info, among other things, go to DocShinryuu.deviantart.com!

Next episode: Deep in Sweegy Woods, or(for all you Yu-Gi-Oh fans) Swords for Hire of Revealing Light!


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