Chapter IX; "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City"

Dark City Treno & Gargan Roo

Treno was a confusing city at best. Although it was technically a part of the Alexandrian Kingdom, Dagger never thought that Treno was a part of it. Rather, she was glad that it wasn't. The number of noble households in this city easily reached the hundreds, and they were constantly getting into hierarchy problems. It would have just given her a massive headache if she were called upon her line of duty to sort these problems out. Or at least, that's what her ancestors thought, and what a wise decision they had made. They had given Treno nobles control over the entire city long ago, allowing the nobles the chance to sort themselves out. It was actually rather surprising that they haven't destroyed themselves yet, and to this day they had managed to coexist without bloodshed – well, not regularly anyway.

That still didn't change the fact that the entire political structure of Treno was complex beyond manageability. The city took forever to get things done. In one recorded case, there was one man who filed a complaint that his neighbor's cat was rummaging through his precious prized garden. When the city counsel finally got around to it, the man had passed away, and the house he had occupied had been taken over by the grandson of the very neighbor the man had complained about.

That's why it wasn't so surprising when Treno started to show its dark side. The slums in the city expanded, and Treno soon became a sanctuary for the men and women who wished not to be found. The crime rate was always high, and nobles avoided the slums at all costs. It was only a place you wanted to go if you had a death wish. Murders, betrayal, and theft were commonplace. Walking there in the night was almost like an invitation to the thieves and cutthroats to come and get them. Even if you were armed and traveling with companions, you still had the risk. There were plenty of crazy people who were willing to try anything in this city. That is how Treno had gotten its nickname: "The Dark City".

However horrifying it might have sounded, Treno still had some good sides. The architectures in the district the nobles inhabit are magnificent structures by their own right. The city was also rich with money, making it the most valuable trading partner to Alexandria – which was the major reason why the city still was sort of under Alexandrian rule. If Alexandria should grant Treno its independence, most of the trading that occurred between the kingdom and Treno would grind to a halt, resulting in a major economic disaster on both sides. Treno was the place to gamble the future of your life. If you were lucky, you became rich and perhaps even become a noble. If you were unlucky, you'd just end up as another corpse in the gutter or become one the many of the miserables in the slums.

Zidane Tribal was one such person to hit the jackpot in Treno. When he opened up the auction house, which was a revolutionary concept never attempted before, it quickly gained popularity among the nobles and Zidane soon become one of the many richest men and women in Treno. When he was finally granted noble status, he quickly rose among the ranks at a rate never seen before, and it didn't take long until Zidane Tribal was granted the title of Duke of Treno, effectively becoming the figure who held the highest authority in the ruling counsel.

So it was this very city that a group of four very strange travelers eventually found themselves in.

"So, this is Treno, the 'City of Nobles'." Ruby said as she took a quick look around. "What a creepy lookin' place."

"We need to find out which noble has the Supersoft." Dagger pointed out. "We don't want to be here for long."

"It shouldn't be too hard. The nights in this city is long." Cinna pitched in. "Heh, this is a great place for thieves."

"So, it was people like you who turned this city into a slum…" Waltz mumbled. Cinna purposely looked hurt at the sarcastic comment, clutching his heart as if in pain.

Ruby just rolled her eyes at their behavior. "Why don't we all just steal the Supersoft and get this over with?"

"So you wish to steal?" Waltz looked at Ruby with a rather distasteful look. "Are you going to commit a crime before her majesty?"

Ruby's eyes were getting tired from rolling it constantly, but she did it anyway. "How else would we get the Supersoft?"

"I will not allow such disgraceful behavior." Waltz replied rather simply.

She couldn't take it anymore. Ruby laughed, making Waltz's frown, which caused her to laugh even harder. It was so strange, Ruby thought, that the assassin that had been sent to kill them could be such a gentlemen! Then Ruby thought about Kuja, and noted that perhaps assassins have some sort of gentlemen code of honor.

"Heh, I never asked you to come along, Waltzie." Ruby replied after her laugh finally died down. "Quit complaining."

"Do you dare talk back to me? First of all-"

"…Uh-oh." mumbled Cinna.

Waltz was getting irritated. "Do not interrupt me while I'm talking, you-"

"Look behind you."

Both Ruby and Waltz turned their attention to Cinna, who was pointing his finger towards Dagger. She was already was well on her way towards the noble districts.

Waltz sighed and shook his head, and slowly proceeded to follow Dagger to protect her from whatever dangers she was heading into. "This is all because of you scoundrels…" Waltz mumbled just before he disappeared from view.

Ruby and Cinna both looked at each other, and started to laugh.

***

Dagger wasn't the least bit concerned. Nor did she know that she was strolling down the alleyway that was voted the 'most likely place to lose your money' five years in a row. But even if she did know, perhaps she would have walked down it anyway, the curiosity within her getting the better of her rationality.

And, as if to confirm its acclaimed title, it wasn't long until a slim figure suddenly ran up a pair of stairs, followed closely by a crimson-faced noble.

"Come back here, you thief!" the noble shirked, as the accused thief was shaking the stolen wallet high up in the air as he ran, as if daring the noble to catch him if he could. They soon disappeared out of Dagger's sight and into the night.

"Was that a pickpocket?" she looked around, making sure no one was near her. "I should be careful."

However, the curiosity proved to be Dagger's undoing, as a fat Burmecian brushed past her and headed up towards the other direction. It was only a minute later until Dagger realized what had happed.

"Hey…! My money's gone!"

That is how Dagger came to lose a 1000gil and gain an important lesson in life.

***

Waltz, after giving a short chase to the queen, gave up rather quickly in the search. Besides, he realized that he had really no obligation towards the queen. So why did he become so protective of the queen back there? He sounded so… noble.

He laughed at that thought. Him, the scarecrow of death, a noble heart? He slowly shook his head sideways and pushed the insane thought away. There wasn't a chance of that happening, not even in a thousand lifetimes. He was born to kill, and will die killing. But now that the queen had presented him an interesting proposal, he was willing to stick to her till the end to find the answer. He had nothing to lose from it anyway.

So, he decided to do some exploring, something he had never done. He was preprogrammed by his creators the knowledge of various cities, so he knew what Treno was like. One could almost say that Waltz knew the city by heart. Besides, the 'Dark City' fascinated him. It had a nice ring to it, and the atmosphere suited him perfectly. Waltz was already beginning to like the place. It was a place that gave him comfort.

"Listen carefully, Mario." Someone whispered in the dark. Waltz stopped as he noticed a small girl and a boy huddling together in a dark corner by the Inn. Hm, this could be prove to be interesting, Waltz thought. After checking to see anyone was looking at him, Waltz silently jumped on roof on the Inn and decided to eavesdrop on the conversation. Perhaps he could obtain some information about this 'Supersoft' that they were seeking.

The girl continued on. "This city used to be called the 'City of Nobles'. But you know what? It's a lie!"

"The nobles pushed us around, right, sis!?"

"Sssh, not so loud, idiot!" The older girl hastily covered the little boy's mouth, scanning the area to see if anybody heard them, failing to locate the eavesdropper that was hovering above.

"Anyway," the girl continued in a whispered tone. "That's right. They hogged all the waterfront property and forced us up into the hills."

"So they exploited us to make their money, right, Natalie!?" the little boy called Mario replied in a rather voice again.

"Dammit, didn't you hear what I just said to you?" she hastily covered her noisy brother's mouth again. "Do you promise not to shout?" the girl referred as Natalie glared at her brother, who was bobbing his head up and down.

"Good." she released him. "Now, but we can't just sit here and complain, or we'll end up spending the rest of our lives in this miserable place."

"Power to the people! Right, sis!?" the boy shouted again. But this time the girl didn't care.

"That's right! Power to the people!" she shouted. "We'll never go hungry once we become nobles!" she raised her hand high in the air, pointing at the night sky.

"Follow me, Mario!"

"Yes!"

The two strange children ran off, with ambition burning in their eyes. Waltz, still staring at the piece of sidewalk they had just only recently occupied, was feeling rather strange.

"…What's this world coming to…?" he mumbled to himself, very much confused.

If he hadn't been so observant, Waltz would've missed seeing Ruby and Cinna walking into the Inn.

***

"This is not a very nice city…" Dagger mumbled, still angry at being so careless back there. "I'd better find Supersoft fast and get back to Alexandria."

Dagger proceeded to walk up the stairs, not knowing where it would lead her. She tried to give chase to the thief that had lifted her money, but that rather obese Burmician was surprisingly fast. She soon lost the thief and in the process lost herself in the city. The next best thing she could do now, she decided, was to ask for directions to find the Supersoft.

However, as Dagger finished walking up the stairs, all she found was a drunk that burped and hiccuped at the same time, making Dagger wonder if what she just heard was even possible. She stared at the man for a while in silence, but seeing as the drunken man was not to going to be sober anytime soon, she gave up and turned away.

"Ah… um… maybe not this way." Dagger said to herself. "Yeah, I won't find the Supersoft over here."

She left the drunken man after carefully placing a 100gil note in front of him as a gesture of kindness. It was the least she could do to help the poor man. She continued to walk in a random direction, hoping to come across some person that could help her in her search. Dagger sighed. Perhaps it wasn't a wise idea to leave the three behind and explore the city alone.

It was when Dagger was starting to lose hope when she spotted a elderly man that looked like a distinguished gentleman, or at least, she thought she did. "Oh… maybe he can help me!" she ran up to the old man, hoping that he might be kind enough to offer he assistance.

"Excuse me," Dagger began. "Have you heard of a thing called Supersoft…?"

"Huh?" the old man looked up and stared at Dagger. He looked much older than Dagger had originally thought. Wrinkles were etched all over his elderly face, and he carried a silver pocket watch he was staring at before Dagger had bothered him. "My wife? She died three years ago." the old man informed her.

"No, I'm looking for an item that cures all petrification…"

"Oh really?" the old man brightened, and he flashed Dagger a crooked smile. "I'm doing fine, but thanks for asking. I may be old, but I'm still healthy." the old man jumped up and down to prove the point. "See?"

Dagger stared at the old man in silence for a brief moment, but she soon snapped out of her trance and bowed in front of him. "Um, thank you… very much."

She started to walk away when the old man called to her. "You're still young! Don't give up! Good luck!"

Dagger was really beginning to loathe this city. Her only comfort now rested in the fact that Zidane ruled this place. Perhaps she could give him a nudge on the side to clean it up a little once she resumed her role as Queen in Alexandria.

***

"Hiya there!" Ruby called out once she made herself into the Inn. "Is everythin' a-ok?"

"What the heck are you talkin' about…?" the barkeep started to argue, thinking it was another typcial late-night drunk customer whose only purpose was to cause some trouble, but he immediately brightened when he saw the two familiar faces.

"Hey, it's you!" the barkeep greeted then, this time in a much more joyful tone. "Where have you been, Ruby, Cinna?"

"You know, around." Cinna replied.

"Heh heh heh…" the barkeep chuckled rather darkly. "The man's waitin' for you." he tilted his towards the Burmecian in the corner who was already on his third mug of ale.

Ruby and Cinna both thanked the barkeep and walked down the stairs, only to be greeted by a large sneeze from their boss.

"Yer late." Baku spoke up as he cleaned his nose up with the handkerchief. He noticed his lead actress standing behind one of his loyal thieves. "Hey Ruby, long time no see."

Ruby waved her hand in dismissal. "Same to ya."

"Is that why yer were late?" Baku questioned.

Cinna just shrugged. "A lot has happened." he plopped down on the nearest chair. "I'm kinda tired."

"Figures." Baku smiled at his sarcastic comment.

"Aw, please." Ruby rolled her eyes.

Baku grunted in response and turned to Cinna. "You're ready to go."

"You found it?" Cinna said, rather excitingly. "You found the Supersoft?"

"Yeah, in a noble's mansion." said Baku as he chugged the remainder of the ale. "You'll go by boat and break in tonight."

"Leave it to me!" Cinna pounded his fist into his chest. "I'm the one who'll save our loot!"

"Yeah, it's just that you've got two liabilities comin' along." Baku put down the ale and looked right past Cinna and stared at the entrance of the Inn. "An' I see one of them is already here."

Waltz simply nodded towards the leader of Tantalus in silent agreement and walked out of the inn as fast as he came in. He only needed to take one look at that man to see what he wanted, and what he wanted was for him to search for the queen and bring her here. It worked to his advantage anyway; he wanted to finish this as fast as he could.

Ruby was amazed at how her leader could make a stranger he had never met before to do his bidding for him. It was then Ruby noticed the most peculiar object on the table littered with empty bottles of ale. It was a wallet, but a wallet she recognized.

"Hey Baku," Ruby said as she picked the wallet up. "Where did ya get this?"

"Ah, I lifted off a pretty little miss. She gave me chase too, kinda frightened me."

Ruby sighed. "Congratulations, Baku." she put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "Ya have mugged the Queen of Alexandria."

"Yeah." Baku smiled sheepishly. "I know."

***

Interestingly enough, it didn't take long for Waltz to find the queen this time around. He had guessed that perhaps she would head to the place owned by the only person she knew in Treno – Zidane's auction house. However, Waltz knew that the auction house was a place of nobles; he couldn't just jump in the midst and drag the queen away. He looked strange enough as he was already. He would need a disguise.

After excusing himself with a cloak that was worn by a drunk near the weapon shop, he cloaked himself rather awkwardly. When he looked at his reflection in the nearby lake, he had to struggle to contain his insane laughter. All he needed was a lamp and a small knife, and he would be a perfect resemblance of a Tonberry.

Eventually, Waltz worked his way towards the famed auction house. A temporary Sleep spell silenced the guard that was screening the guests that entered the door, and Waltz went in. And there she was, the queen, right there in the middle of the hallway, snooping around the auction as if she were a child.

"Oh… so this must be the auction house…" Waltz heard the queen say. "Maybe I can find the Supersoft here…?"

"So, there you are. I was beginning to worry." Waltz spoke up right behind her, which caused the queen to jump up a few feet in surprise.

"W-Waltz?" It took for a moment for Dagger to realize that the cloaked figure behind her was Waltz. He was wearing a brown cloak that covered him from head to toe. The only recognizable features she noticed was his large straw hat and the sinister yellow eyes that stared right beneath the hood of the cloak. "You scared me there! Don't you ever do that again!"

"Of course. But we should hurry."

"Hmph, how can I ever hope to find the Supersoft when I keep having to listen to your complaints?" Dagger demanded.

"Such harsh words…"

"Well, I don't think it's here anyway." Dagger took a quick look around. "Where's Ruby and Cinna?"

"They are back at the Inn, waiting for you and I." Waltz replied to her question humbly.

"What, did they find it already?"

Waltz nodded.

"Well, why didn't you tell me that sooner!" Dagger ran right past Waltz and headed for the exit, but stopped right before the door and turned back to the black mage.

"Are you coming? I'm going, with or without you." with that, Dagger exited the auction house for good, not even bothering to look behind her to see if the mage was coming.

Waltz sighed. Did she even know where the Inn was? Shaking his head, he headed out of the auction house to escort the queen to the place where her presence was required.

Both of them, however, failed to realize that a figure was staring at them from above in the lobby balcony during their entire conversation. Zidane smiled. He had found her.

***

An hour later, both Waltz and Dagger managed to find themselves in the inn. Waltz was feeling drained at this point – why did he have to baby-sit the queen so much? Was this the punishment that had been bestowed upon him for his sins?

Torture felt better than this, Waltz thought as he tugged on his disguise. What was this smell? The previous occupant of this cloak must have not washed this often.

"We're ready to retrieve the Supersoft." Cinna said as the last of the preparations were completed.

"Good!" Dagger exclaimed enthusiastically. "At last, we can save your ship! When do we leave?"

"We can leave right away." Ruby smiled. "So, yer coming along, eh? Are ya ready?"

Dagger nodded. "Let's go."

"Alright then." Cinna grabbed the gear and hoisted on top of his shoulder. "Boss's waiting at the dock."

"Boss? You mean…"

Cinna nodded. "Yep, there's only one man we call 'Boss'."

The party of four departed the Inn and headed into the night towards the dock. The trip was short and uneventful, and soon they caught the sight of the Tantalus leader that was snoozing besides a rowboat.

Ruby kicked him awake. "Wake up, ya stupid old man."

"Hey, I can deduct the share of your bounty if you don't watch yer mouth." said Baku in a rather jokingly tone.

Waltz turned towards Dagger. "Are you sure about this?" Waltz inquired. "It may be a trap. You cannot trust criminals."

"Waltz, don't be such a worry wart." said Cinna.

Waltz ignored him. "Think of the consequences. You are a queen. If your kingdom hears about this…"

"Waltz, that is enough." Dagger cut him off. "Don't worry, I trust them. Everything will work out fine."

"Yer majestry," Baku spoke up. "Do you know that breakin' and enterin' is a crime?"

Dagger giggled at his remark. "I need to make sure you don't steal anything else."

Ruby laughed at this. "Let's go, then!" She looked at Waltz. "What about you? Ya comin'?"

"Of course. I believe there is a need to protect the queen from bad influence." Waltz replied, almost not believing that he had just said those words.

"Do whatever you want…" Baku said. "Ain't you got thoughts of yer own?"

"I did not until a short time ago."

Baku stared at Waltz for a moment. "I've heard your story from Ruby and Cinna. I thought you might've changed after travelin' with them, but…" Baku paused for a moment. "…you ain't changed. Heck, do you even know why you're here?"

"What do you mean?" demanded Waltz.

"Let's just go, okay?" said Dagger rather impatiently. Her suggestion worked, and everyone climbed on board the rowboat in silence. They had a job to do.

***

"How was Burmecia?" the Auctioneer asked his master. Zidane was in his private chambers, looking at the Dark City through his balcony. The Auctioneer had come in to report on today's gains from the auction house, but Zidane seemed tired. The Auctioneer was considerate enough to attempt a casual conversation with his master.

"It wasn't bad…" said Zidane. "It would have been better if I didn't have to see Rusty." he shrugged. 'Rusty' was the nickname Zidane had placed on Captain Steiner of the Knights of Pluto, due to the fact that he always wore rusted armor that clanked every time he ran. "He's so stupid, it's irritating, you know?"

"You must be tired."

"It's not over yet." Zidane sighed. "I have to take care of the rest."

"Will you be heading to Cleyra, then?" the Auctioneer asked.

Zidane nodded. "You'll deliver them, right?"

"Certainly." the Auctioneer bowed before his master. "I shall prepare now…"

The Auctioneer was about to leave the room, but Zidane stopped him. "By the way, did you see a pretty lady in the crowd today?"

"A pretty lady? Shall I arrange a meeting?"

This caused Zidane to laugh, which somewhat startled the Auctioneer. "There's no need." said Zidane. He put a palm in his face as he struggled to contain further laughter that was boiling inside him. "The princess I've been searching for… she flew into my arms of her own free will."

"…Master Zidane?"

"I still can't believe that I ran into her in a place like this… it must be fate." Zidane straightened and looked up into the black, moonless sky.

"But you can't rest yet…" Zidane mumbled silently to himself. "Fly home to your kingdom, my princess… I too, will welcome you home with open arms."

***

What in the world am I doing? Waltz thought to himself. The five of them were now on the small rowboat, about to embark on a quest to rob a noble of his treasures. Waltz was sitting on one end, staring off in the distance to nowhere in particular. The queen, on the other hand, was sitting on the other end. It wasn't really that surprising, now that it has been discovered that Waltz was, although rather instinctively, acting as if he were her guardian.

But still, what the heck was he doing? He was assisting thieves in committing a crime! He was a murderer, but he never figured that he would sink so low to become a thief! Why couldn't they just march into this noble's house and take the treasure away from him? It would have saved a lot of trouble, like stealing this boat for instance, or preparing all the lock-picking equipment. Besides, barging into a house was a style that fitted him perfectly. But protecting the queen right now was his priority, as she held the key to his very own reason of existence. He must be patient. He must protect the queen, then escort her back to the castle. He must focus on his duties…

Duties? What duties? Did Waltz still have the preprogrammed sense of duty? One of his original reasons for existence was to rescue Queen Garnet… perhaps that was the reason why he was so overprotective of her? However, the more he thought about it, he liked the idea. The scarecrow of death, mindlessly obeying the orders of his mistress… it was a sense of duty that fitted Waltz rather well.

Then Waltz remembered Zidane, the master of his masters. He was the one who ordered his masters - Zorn and Thorn - to bring him into existence. Somehow, Waltz thought that he would never see his masters again. But this Zidane… he must meet him, one to one. He was the culprit of his existence. He was the one that pulled the queen and him straight into his intrigues, whatever they might be…

Meanwhile, Dagger was thinking rather the opposite. She had placed all the blame on Cid. It was his fault, she decided. If he hadn't treated her like a child, maybe she would have stayed in Lindblum like he had suggested.

But why was she doing this? Because Ruby was her friend? Yes, she was her friend. She even saved her life… the least she could do is return the favor… but she had never thought about things like this before…

The rowboat, ever so silently, continued to row its way towards its destination.

***

Ruby didn't take long at fumbling the lock. Even through she was a full-time actress, she was also a part-time thief. Abilities like this came naturally. It took her less then thirty seconds to pry off the last lock as the door swung open, as if it were inviting them in.

Ironically, the one who had opposed the most in breaking and entering was the first one to step in. Waltz, followed closely by Ruby and Dagger, carefully creeped inside the mansion. Waltz chanted a weak fire spell and spread out his palm, providing illumination inside the dark room. The first thing they all noticed was a pile of boxes neatly stacked all over the place.

"How do you go about suggesting finding this Supersoft in this mountain of boxes?" Waltz asked silently.

"Just find it." Ruby replied. Ruby saw the Waltz shrug as it mindlessly obeyed her order. She smiled, realizing that she liked that part in Waltz's strange personality. Then see too started to rummage through the boxes in search for the forsaken item.

Dagger was about to reach for the nearest box to inspect its contents when she heard a noise. Both Ruby and Waltz froze at what they were doing and listened to the sound. And there it was, the unmistakable sound of footsteps that were undoubtedly headed towards their direction.

"Someone's coming!" Dagger whispered. Waltz quickly extinguished his fire spell. The three quickly crouched behind a small counter, hoping it would provide the necessary space to hide them from the approaching stranger.

It didn't take long until the owner of the footsteps walked down the circular stairwell. He was a small, scholarly man, with a very large nose. In a sense, he rather looked like an overgrown parrot that wore clothing normally suited for the nobles. Carrying a lantern, he waddled over to the very counter that the party of three thieves were hiding behind. Placing the lantern on the counter, he exchanged it with big, thick spectacles and walked over to a shelf in the corner, seemingly looking for something.

"Oh, I can't believe I ran of ink on a night like this." the scholarly man said to himself. "I must find more ink and go back to the observatory…"

"Should I take care of him?" Waltz whispered as he started to conjure up a Blizzard spell, prepared for anything.

Dagger was continuing to stare at the stranger, when her expression suddenly changed from fear to joy. "…No, wait!"

Before Ruby and Waltz could do anything, Dagger willingly revealed herself from her hiding spot and ran up to the scholarly man. The man was slow to react, as he was in the process of readjusting his glasses, so it took a while for him to focus on the mysterious person in front of him.

"Hmm?" the realization soon dawned upon the man. "Y-You're…!"

"I've missed you, Doctor Tot." said Dagger as she embraced the man, much to the awe of Ruby and Waltz.

"Y-your majesty! Queen Garnet!"

By this time, both Ruby and Waltz came out of their hiding spaces. Ruby had no clue as to why Dagger knew this man, but the mage companion beside her seemed to show signs of recognition. "You know him?" Ruby asked.

"Doctor Tot is the highly respected scholar who tutored the queen when she was young." Waltz replied. "My creator had bestowed me knowledge of people of great importance to the queen."

"Ah." was all Ruby said.

Tot put a finger on his mouth. "Ah, you must be quiet, or you'll wake the shopkeeper.' Tot then turned his attention towards his old pupil. "But, your majesty… what on Gaia are you doing here?"

"It's a long story." she replied. "We're looking for Supersoft right now."

"There is a proper reason for this." Waltz tried to explain. "We are not here to steal, or commit any form of crime-"

"Somebody down there?" A voice echoed through the house.

Tot only had to take one look at the three faces before him before he understood the situation. They were obviously not welcome here.

"Run along!" said Tot. "I will give you the Supersoft later. Go left from the Treno entrance, and continue until you find a large tower. The tower is my home. It's locked, but I shall unlock the door and await your arrival."

"Alright. Let's go back!" said Dagger. She turned to Tot and embraced his hand gently. "Thank you, Doctor Tot. I'll see you later!"

They were out of the back door just in the nick of time when the shopkeeper walked down the stairs and into the room.

"Oh, it's you, Doctor Tot." the shopkeeper looked relived. This wasn't the first time thieves have entered the store.

"Ah, great timing. I ran out of ink."

The shopkeeper sighed. "You should've called me. I'll get yelled at if our inventory's wrong!" the shopkeeper walked over to the nearest shelf and handed Tot two bottles of ink. Without waiting for Tot to thank him, he walked up back the stairs to correct the contents of the inventory.

Tot stared at the two bottles of ink in his hands.

"Your majesty…" Tot murmured to himself.

***

"So, this Tootsie's gonna give us the Supersoft?" Baku asked.

"It's Tot." Ruby corrected him as Baku sneezed.

"Whatever. I can't believe Tantalus is at the mercy of some old man." Baku grumbled at the thought. "Hmph. I guess we gotta keep babysittin' her majesty over here."

"Still?" Cinna asked, immediately regretting the moment he spoke those words. A quick glance at Ruby's glaring face soon confirmed that. Cinna wished that he knew an invisibility spell.

"He ain't gonna give you the Supersoft unless you're with the Queen." Baku continued as he turned towards Dagger. "That's the deal, your majesty. I'm askin' you to take Cinna to this Toot."

"…It's Tot." Ruby corrected him again, somewhat annoyed.

"I was going to, anyway." Dagger replied. Baku nodded, looking rather satisfied.

"Well, get some rest before you go. I'm sure Ted needs time to pre-"

Baku never got the chance to finish. "It's Tot, ya stupid old man!" Ruby shouted.

Thus another victim was claimed by the 'food stuffing of death'.

***

It was almost midnight when the party finally arrived at Tot's house.

"Doctor Tot…"

"Ah, your majesty!" Tot greeted them in front of the tower. "Thank you for coming. Welcome to my humble abode."

Dagger, along with Ruby, Cinna, and Waltz, was escorted into the house. Dagger took a quick look around. Numerous gadgets and gizmos were scattered throughout the room. Books were piled up into columns all over the place. But what had grabbed her attention the most was the large globe that was situated in the center of the entire tower. It appeared it was still under contraction, but the structure was already shaping up into something amazing.

"This is your home?" Dagger asked.

"I traveled quite far in search of a sponsor for my research after I departed Alexandria. I finally found one here in Treno." Tot said proudly. He looked at her for a while. "You have grown into a fine young woman. I am pleased to see you again."

"You look quite well, Doctor Tot." remarked Waltz.

"Thank you, Master… uh…?"

"Waltz."

"Well, I appreciate your concern, Master Waltz. You are escorting the princess?"

Waltz nodded. "I apologize on behalf of all of us for our earlier actions."

Tot laughed. "You are a straight arrow, aren't you? You remind me very much of Master Steiner… if he hadn't changed, you two might get along well. Besides," Tot waved his hand around. "I'm sure you had your reasons, but I won't ask why. The Supersoft is in the box right there. Please take it."

"Don't mind if I do!" Cinna said happily as he opened the box and quickly pocketed the item.

Waltz sighed. "Have you no manners? Do you not wish to thank the good doctor?"

"It's quite alright, Master Waltz…"

Dagger couldn't help but stare at the large globe at the center of the room. "Master Tot, is this Gaia?"

Tot smiled. "Yes, it's a globe of our planet, Gaia."

Dagger walked up to the globe and brushed it with the palm of her hand, feeling the the cold, but smooth surface of the massive object. "I remember your lessons."

Tot's grin got wider. "You remember the ramblings of an old fool…"

***

It was such a long time ago, but Tot had remembered the day as if it were yesterday. Tot was rather proud of his memory, but it always mystified him why that particular conversation between him and the very-young princess in the Alexandrian library remained forever etched in his mind.

"Two phases are commonly found in documents more that 500 years old…" Tot remembered him saying to himself. "One is 'jewel'. The other is 'summoner tribe'. But 500 years ago, the phrases mysteriously vanished from history…"

Tot had paused as he looked at a young girl entering the library, gleefully looking around. It was Princess Garnet. He had been so proud to be able to tutor the princess of Alexandria, and he had accepted the job the moment it was presented to him. He, a simple scholar, would be able to leave behind something valuable in this world. What he will teach to her here would eventually have a significant impact to the Alexandrian people when it was time for the young princess to assume the throne. He must teach her everything he can.

"The archeologist Frederick Ash theorized that 'jewel refers to the pendant passed down to the ruler of Alexandria." Tot had continued as he returned to his book. "But the pendant… it is much too small to be referring to the same 'jewel'. Other research suggests a relationship between 'eidolons' and magical 'stones'…"

"Doctor Tot!" Garnet had exclaimed as she noticed him sitting in the table.

"Ah, Princess!"

"Were you reading big book again?"

"Ha ha ha…" Tot laughed. "I've already read every book in this library." he paused as he looked around the room. "But I think better when I'm surrounded by old books."

Garnet looked confused. "Really? I don't like books."

"You are a person of dignity. It is imperative that you study hard."

The princess shrugged. "I know, I know… Oh, but I was quite taken by that book you gave me. What is it called? It was…"

"Was it 'I Want To Be Your Canary,' by Lord Avon?" Tot offered helpfully.

"Oh yes, that's the one! So there is a book I like after all."

"My, my."

Garnet had then turned her attention to the circular object that was on the desk. "What's this, Doctor Tot?" she asked as she pointed to the object.

"That is a globe of Gaia. It's a model of our planet."

"A Gaia globe?" Garnet looked at Tot as if she were confused. "I never knew our castle was shaped like a sphere."

Tot couldn't help but laugh at the child's remark. "Ha ha ha… we live on the surface, Princess. Ah, yes, the stars! They inspired the theories relating stones and eidolons. That is why…" Tot looked at the princess, her mouth hanging wide open. "Oh! I'm sorry, I was lost in thought again."

Garnet giggled. "It's okay." she pointed at the globe again. "Where is my room on this globe?"

"Oh, your room is much too small to point out on this globe…"

"What about the castle?"

"That, I can do…" Tot smiled once more as he proceeded to teach the young princess the knowledge of the world.

***

"How long has it been? Eight years?" Dagger asked.

Tot nodded. "Time passes quickly. But I haven't changed. I continue to collect and research these items."

Dagger peeked inside the globe, noticing a giant telescope inside. Tot had converted the insides of the Gaia globe into an observatory. "Where did you find this globe?" Dagger asked her old teacher.

"It's an antique." Tot replied proudly. "It's broken, as you can see, but I use it as an observation deck. Ironic, isn't it? Looking up at the sky from inside a globe."

Dagger couldn't help but agree. "It sure is…"

"Your majesty, I don't mean to meddle in your affairs, but… I am on your side, now and forever. Please tell me if there's anything I can do."

Dagger struggled to hold back the tears that were about to erupt from her eyes. She embraced the good doctor once more. "Doctor Tot… thank you."

***

It took a while to explain things to the old doctor, but after Dagger silenced everybody else to stop talking at the same time, she went over step by step what has happened. Although more protests followed from her other three companions, Dagger still knew how to exercise her authority. Soon, Tot was informed of everything that had transpired ever since the young queen had left the castle.

"I see…" Tot said after taking everything in. "So Master Steiner's forces have already grown quite powerful…"

Tot seemed to be engrossed into some deep thought, but soon snapped out of it. "Okay, then. It may be dangerous, but I shall see to it that you reach Alexandria."

"How?" Dagger asked.

"I had an old transportation device remodeled in the case of such an emergency." Tot started to waddle away from the four. "This way, please."

"Finally, we can return to Alexandria." said Watlz, seemingly relieved.

"I'm coming with you." Ruby and Cinna said in unison.

Waltz looked annoyed. "Why?"

"I can reach the ship more easily from Alexandria." replied Cinna. Ruby nodded in agreement, then added: "An' ah'm not letting Dagger fall to yer hands so easily."

"Yes, please come with us." Dagger agreed. She looked at Waltz. "Is that alright?"

Waltz crossed his arms over his chest and turned his back to her. "Fine."

"Alright!" Dagger clapped her hands. "Let's go save the Prima Vista! And restore Steiner to his former self!"

***

Everyone was wondering exactly how Tot intended to make them return to Alexandria from here, especially because he was leading them downstairs. After Tot urged them to climb down a ladder, their suspicions mounted as they found themselves in a strange underground cave.

"This is Gargan Roo." Tot explained. "An ancient travel route between Treno and Alexandria."

"Why was this thing built under a tower?" Cinna asked.

"Actually, Gargan Roo was in use long before the invention of airships!" Tot continued to explain. "The tower was built on top of the disguised tunnel."

"Gargan Roo… wasn't this how Zidane traveled to Alexandria before the play started?" Dagger asked Tot, who nodded.

"Mr. Tribal convinced me to keep this place intact. The last person to use it was him, but before that it hasn't been used since it since it was remodeled, mind you."

"That's reassuring." Waltz commented.

Tot didn't seem to hear him. "We must first activate the tunnel-connection sequence and call the gargant inside." he scratched his head. "Let's see… where was the sequence trigger?"

"So, all we gotta do is find the sequence trigger?" Ruby asked. "C'mon, Dagger, let's find it!" Ruby grabbed Dagger's wrist and dragged her over to search for the lever they were looking for. Waltz sighed and simply stayed put, while Cinna followed Tot that was heading towards another direction.

It didn't take long until Ruby found two old, rusty-looking levers, one of the left, and the other one on the right. Ruby signaled Dagger to pull the left one and she pulled the right. The result was disappointing.

"…Nothing happened." said Dagger.

"Ah, this is it!" someone shouted gleefully in the distance. Ruby and Dagger both looked at each other, and ran towards the origins of the voice. The voice, they discovered, had belonged to Tot, and he was standing proudly before a lever as if it were the most prized possession he owned. And, in a sense, it was true.

"Ah, your majesty!" Tot exclaimed as he saw the two figures approaching him. He pointed at the lever. "This is where we call the gargant inside."

"What do you mean?" asked Dagger. By this time, both Cinna and Waltz had caught up with them and were standing behind the two.

Before Tot could answer the question, however, Waltz cut him off. "Gargan Roo Treno station is shaped like a circle." he explained. "If I recall correctly, when you pull on that lever, the gargant circles around the station continuously."

"That is correct." Tot said. "I am impressed, Master Waltz."

"Thank you."

"What the heck are ya folks talking ab-" Ruby tried to ask, but Waltz cut her off again.

"Better to show than tell. Doctor Tot, may I?"

"By all means." Tot moved away from the lever as Waltz approached it. With one mighty heave, Waltz yanked the lever downwards. Suddenly, a big bug-like noise echoed through the underground cavern.

"Wh-what was that!?" Cinna asked nervously.

Suddenly, a huge spider-like thing, walking upside down, with seats like a Ferris wheel hanging from it, streaked past the group. Everyone but Tot and Waltz jumped back from it nervously.

"That's the gargant!?" Ruby demanded as she pointed her finger at the spider-creature.

"Ah, perfect timing! Yes, that is the gargant, a giant insect that pulls this trolley." Tot helpfully explained. "Next, we must halt the gargant. Now, if you would please, follow me." Tot waddled over to the direction where Dagger and Ruby had earlier discovered the two levers. It didn't seem to do anything at first when they pulled on it, but when Tot pulled the lever, they noticed a small device with a stalk of corn that started to lower itself from the ceiling. The gargant soon appeared once more, but instead of streaking past them like before, it eyed the stalk of corn and started to feed itself on it. Everyone could now see that corn was the gargant's favorite food.

"Now, please hurry." Tot urged. "It'll resume once it's finished eating."

"Are you sure it won't keep going around in circles?" Dagger asked, just in case.

"It won't. I will reverse the connection sequence and let the gargant out of the station."

Dagger nodded, and along with Ruby and Cinna, they climbed aboard the gargant seats. Waltz, however, remained on the platform, held back by Tot.

"Please look after her majesty, Master Waltz." said Tot, slightly worried.

Waltz nodded. "Of course." He meant it.

"Her majesty is bright, but she is still young and naïve." Tot whispered. "I am concerned about her safety. I trust you will make your own decision on the matter at hand and protect her."

"Doctor, I am but a humble wizard. I cannot exceed my capabilities for what I was created for."

Tot started a Waltz for a moment. "Is that an honest answer?" Tot asked. Waltz slightly winced at the comment, avoiding Tot's gaze for a brief moment. "You may endanger the queen if you keep telling yourself that."

"…I shall take note of your counsel."

Tot laughed. "You really are an splitting image of Master Steiner, Master Waltz. I bid you good luck."

Waltz nodded as he too, boarded the gargant seats. He could see that the gargant was finishing its meal.

"Fare you well, your majesty!"

"Take care, Doctor Tot!" Dagger called out to him. The gargant seats jerked forward as the gargant finally finished licking the last of the corn from the device and proceeded to wander its way forward. They were leaving.

"I must hurry!" Tot said to himself as he hastily returned to the lever. "I just pulled this lever… ugh!" with all of his strength the elderly man yanked the lever upwards, allowing the gargant to travel a path towards Alexandria.

"Be safe, my queen…" Tot whispered.

***

"Finally!" Cinna exclaimed as he lay conformably back in the chair.

"Yes, we can reach Alexandria now…" said Dagger, slightly worried.

"Ya can't even see Treno anymore." Ruby observed.

I wonder how long it's going to take? Dagger thought to herself. I never dreamed of going home in a vehicle like this. I hope I make it there in time…

Waltz glanced to his side. "Doctor Tot remains a unique charact-"

He never got to finish the sentence. Without warning, inertia kicked in and everyone was thrown forward. When the seats finally stopped swinging, they all noticed that the gargant above them had stopped moving.

"What is wrong with it?" asked the annoyed Waltz.

"It seems to be hesitating." Dagger observed. The gargant was now starting to creep backward. "What is-"

"Whoa, what's that!" Ruby shouted. She pointed a finger towards an abnormal creature that seemed to be hiding under the Mist on the floor of Gargan Roo.

Dagger, realizing what must be done, jumped out of her seat. Clutching her scepter tightly, she ran forward to meet the creature. Ruby, Cinna, and Waltz followed closely after her. Waltz sighed as he ran forward. Couldn't he take an eye off of her a second before she runs forward to trouble?

Soon, the four of them were face to face with a big purple snake. The snake looked genuinely angry, as all snakes seemed to be, and hissed at them threateningly. Dagger, Ruby, and Cinna prepared their weapons, but Waltz, on the other hand, simply stepped in front of them all.

"Do not bother me. I shall handle this by myself." he said without turning back.

Dagger was about to protest when Waltz took another step forward. "So, Ralvurahva, how have you been?" he stated as he threw off the cloak, relived to find the horrible itching it had caused was gone when he disposed of the clothing. The snake stopped hissing and looked at Waltz rather strangely. Then it hissed a series of hisses that could almost be considered as some sort of language.

"So, you are not going to move? You know I am far more superior than simple Mist-born creatures like you." Waltz replied.

The snake hissed at him, poising itself for battle. Waltz steadied his staff in front of him.

"I am annoyed right now, Ralvurahva. Do not tempt me. This is your final warning. Cede your actions, or be cast into eternal darkness."

The snake didn't hesitate a moment. It charged straight for Waltz, but the snake did not know that the black wizard had already prepared a spell for him.

Waltz thrust his mage staff forward. "Thundaga!"

The air suddenly crackled with electricity, and bolts of energy started to concentrate on top of Waltz's staff. The snake was just about to sink its claws into the black mage, but electricity was faster. The white energy screamed from the staff right into the mouth of the menacing snake. The snake, having forcibly consume bolts of pure energy, was thrown backwards, emitting such a piercing scream of agony that one thought its origins did not lie in this world. The charred, smoking snake fell down to the floor, twitching slightly from the electricity still dominant within its scaly body.

"You are still alive?" Waltz asked as he took another step forward towards the fallen snake. "Impressive, but it means nothing. I shall put you at rest now…"

Waltz was about to chant another spell when the snake suddenly reacted. Swinging its tail, it knocked Waltz right off his feet and he fell down face first into the Mist-covered floor. The snake emitted one periling battle cry as it regained its stance. Behind Waltz, everyone else readied his or her weapons for the upcoming onslaught, but the charge never came. The snake slithered away from them, disappearing from their view.

Dagger walked over to Waltz, who was struggling to stand up. "Are you all right?"

"I am fine." he spat out. "Ralvurahva simply caught me off guard, that is all."

"How did you know the snake's name?" she asked.

"Ralvurahva is a spawn of the Mist." Waltz replied. "I am also a spawn of the Mist. The only difference is that he was created naturally, whereas I was refined. However, that does not change the fact that our origins are the same. You tend to know certain things about each other when you come from the same place."

"Can we get going here?" Cinna's voice echoed through the corridor. "This place is really starting to give me the creeps."

This time, everyone agreed.

***

"We're finally here!" Ruby shouted happily as she exited the gargant seat.

Dagger looked back at the gargant. "I think the gargant is tired, too." As if to confirm what she just said, after everyone exited the seats the gargant proceed to leave them behind to head back towards its nest.

"I never knew such a place existed in Alexandria…" Cinna said as he took a look around the platform. "Where are we, anyway?"

"Well, we'll soon find out." said Dagger. "Let's keep moving!"

They followed Dagger down a long corridor, its features bleak and cold. Up ahead they could see a grand stairwell that led upwards, most likely to the surface of Alexandria. But the architecture around them mystified them. Alexandria was known to be grand and mighty, so why did this place look so bleak? It reminded them somewhat of prison chambers that were, too, kept underground.

"Is this really Alexandria?" Cinna asked.

"Well, it must be." Waltz replied to his question rather impatiently.

"How do we get out?" Cinna asked again.

If Waltz could roll his eyes, he would have done so. "I believe those stairwells up ahead could lead towards an exit. Do you have any other bright ideas?"

Cinna shut up. Waltz ignored him and continued to walk forward rather quickly, trying to distance himself from the others. It wasn't long until Dagger stopped him. "Wait, Waltz! I know this place!"

That got his attention. Waltz stopped dead in his tracks and turned back to stare at the queen. He folded his arms in front of him as if demanding an explanation.

"Steiner told me about this place." Dagger continued. "My ancestors built this place to keep enemies from invading. He also said…"

"We can hear your stories later, your majesty." Waltz replied rather coldly. "The stale air in here cannot be good for you."

"And we gotta save our loot!" Cinna pitched in.

Dagger nodded. "Right. We need to hurry. Let's go!"

They proceeded to head to the stairwell that was ahead of them, but without warning, a huge, spiked gate popped right in front of them, blocking their way forward. Everyone jumped back at the sudden change in their already awkward situation. Ruby glared at Waltz.

"You!" Ruby shouted as she pointed her finger towards Waltz. "What kind of trick are ya pullin' this time!?"

"I have not done anything. Do not be so quick to place the blame on me." Waltz shot back.

"Ya really didn't do anythin'!?" Ruby continued to interrogate him.

Waltz narrowed his eyes. "You do not believe me?"

Ruby was about to agree with what Waltz had said, but she was interrupted when another gate appeared, this time right behind them. They were now trapped.

"Look, we missed our chance to escape." Waltz pointed out. Ruby was fuming, but she didn't say anything.

"That was rather easy." a voice suddenly echoed through the corridor. Everyone turned to look up. There, preached on top of one of the walls, was another Black Waltz.

"F-First?" Waltz asked, seemingly in disbelief.

"It is good to see you, Third." the first Black Waltz sighed. "I wish we could have met under different circumstances. Too bad it had to be like this."

"Indeed." Another voice echoed. Everyone turned to see someone floating down from the stairwell, and soon yet another Black Waltz appeared before them all.

Waltz was stunned beyond belief. "Second? W-Why? I thought you two were…"

"Dead?" the second Black Waltz finished the sentence for his younger brother. "Yes, I suppose you can say that. But our Mist still existed. Our master decided that we could be used for another purpose, so he brought us back."

"Then what are you doing?" Waltz shouted at his older brothers. "You can see I have brought back the Queen safely. Let us out at once!"

"As much as we would like to have you return to us, I'm afraid I cannot do that." the First coldly replied.

Dagger stepped in front of Waltz, relieving him of questioning. It was now her turn. "I do not know how you have returned, Black Waltzes, but your brother here speaks the truth. I have returned to Alexandria to speak with Captain Steiner. You must take me to him at once!"

The Second shook his head. "I'm afraid we cannot do that either. Instead we will take you to see Master Zidane… whether you like it or not."

"Zidane?" Dagger asked. "Zidane is here?"

"He ordered us to capture you, Queen Garnet." the First explained.

Dagger covered her mouth with her hand in shock. "What!?"

"Yer lying!" Ruby shouted.

"What is going on!?" Waltz demanded.

His two brothers continued to regard him with silence.