Summery: What if Zidane knew the existance of Kuja waaaaay before the game? Things may not always be as black and white as they seem...

AN: This chapter was revised on November 10th, 04. No plot change.


Disclaimer: Characters ain't mine, don't sue. (I'm too lazy to type up a standard disclaimer.)

Burmecia: A long time stranger

The rain poured in torrents, always neverending in the realm of Burmecia. Freya looked upon the fallen statues of a Burmecian wargod, a single thought in her mind. What if I was here to help?

Zidane looked at her, sympathy in his aquamarine eyes. He knew how it felt to return home only to find it in ruins.

"Geez, this is terrible..."said Zidane. He felt saying something was better than saying nothing at all. "Freya, I'm sorry, but from the looks of this, I don't think the king made it."

Freya said nothing back, only kneeled in front of a half-smashed warrior statue, seemingly lost in her thought.

Zidane felt like kicking himself. Now why did he just say that? Things may look hopeless, but saying it was hopeless was definitely the wrong way to cheer up a friend. "Let's go look over there," he said to Vivi before he says something even more stupid.

Just as he was about to walk away, Freya gasped. She immediately leaped up high into the air to the open halls overlooking the inner courtyard.

"Freya!" called Zidane. Now why in the world did she just go up there?

"There's someone inside the palace!" yelled Freya. "What are you waiting for? Get up here!"

"You make it sound so easy..." Zidane muttered under his breath. Freya may be a Burmecian dragon Knight, but the rest of them weren't. Jumping three stories in one leap was definitely not something the rest of them were born to do. "I guess I'll start here," he said to himself, hopping onto one of the protruding parts of the statue.

"Come on!" Zidane waved, motioning his friends to follow.

Vivi looked at where Zidane had landed. "Oh...."It was only three feet high, but Vivi was afraid of heights. Still, he gathered his courage and attempted the leap "Alright." Vivi shifted his weight then jumped...and fell flat on his face.

Zidane winced, more for their situation than Vivi's face making sharp contact with cold stone. Then there was the Qu's round stature. This isn't going to work... Nevertheless he had to go make sure Freya didn't do anything rash. "Oh, man. I'm gonna go on ahead. Try to find a way up here. I'll meet you up top."

With that, the monkey-tailed boy jumped, landing on a ledge perfectly each time. He barely heard Quina's last words.

"I meet you after I eat food inside palace!" declared the Qu cheerfully.

Inside, Zidane found Freya ducking behind the statues that overlooked the main courtyard.. He followed her in suit and hid himself behind a statue. Below was the fat queen Brahne and a fit woman with a silver eye patch.

"Who is that?" Zidane asked, more in question of the eyepatched woman than the elephant lady. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew her, but could not recall her name.

"I knew she was behind all of this!" Freya almost shouted.

"What do you mean you knew?"

"I decided to return to Burmecia because I heard rumors that Brahne had set her sights on our kingdom," explained Freya hotly.

Suddenly, it dawned on Zidane. "Then that girl standing next to her must be Beatrix, Alexandria's general."

Freya stared at the slender woman in amazement. "That's Beatrix? The cold-blooded knight who knows no mercy?" Impossible! That woman had the bearings of a nobleborn. "Beatrix... Beatrix? Yes... Beatrix. I heard there are many fierce warriors out in the world-some more powerful than even I... ...Beatrix of Alexandria, in particular. They say her swordsmanship is the best in the land..." She fell silent, lost in thought.

"Are you alright?" asked Zidane after a while. Freya drifted into thought often, and Zidane knew better than to interrupt.

"Yes...I was just thinking...about the past..." said Freya.

"You can't get over him, huh?"asked Zidane. Sometimes, Freya could be the saddest woman in the world. She was too gentle, too kind to allow even the smallest atrocities. For love, she devoted an unbearable importantence to. Then Zidane saw a another being moving. "Who is...that?"

Freya turned her attention to the now three people below. Beside Beatrix and Brahne was a man, a stange pretty man. He looked too tender, to soft, too much like a spoiled adult child of an aristocratic upbringing. But something about him made Freya's blood run cold.

Zidane widened his eyes. He could not believe it. After all these years...Everything had stayed the same and not the same. He certainly had aged, hair white and taller now. The regal demeanor and poetic flair all stayed the same.

"This is a great victory for us, Kuja...." began Brahne as she continued to delineate her plans for conquest. To Zidane, only the name of the man stood out to him.

No! It can't be! He could never....

The trio below kept on talking. From what little snippets Freya could gather, she learned that the Burmecians had taken refuge in Cleyra.

"I will present you a marvelous display of my power. I am certain that you will be most pleased," said Kuja.

The words ran over themselves in Zidane's head. Bad possibilities began to germinate in his normally carefree mind.

"Sounds like we got trouble," Zidane croaked. He had to use all of his will power not to bolt down there and demand an explanation.

"That sinister man, who is he?" asked Freya.

"Beats me..." Zidane paused before continuing. "I've never seen him before." It's not right to lie to her, thought Zidane. But I have to be certain. He had to turn the attention away from Kuja. "Well, it sounds like they're going to Cleyra. I've always wondered why people call it the 'City of Illusion."

"I don't know, either," answered Freya. "Cleyra has remained in isolation for a hundred years. If my people escaped to there, they'll be safe, at least for a while."

"What is that place like?" Zidane was genuinely curious.

"The people of Cleyra are originally from Burmecia. Long ago, they severed ties with Burmecia over a trivial conflict. Now the kingdom is at peace, shielded by a large sandstorm."

Another movement caught Zidane's eyes. "Look, there's someone else coming!"

Freya saw it too. It was a Burmecian soldier feeling uncharacteristically brave. "What is he thinking!?"

"Geez, he's gonna get killed!"

The two knew they had to interfere. Simultaneously, both jumped the ledge to the courtyard, right as Quina and Vivi found their way inside.

"Hold it!" yelled Zidane at Beatrix, though his eyes were dead set on Kuja's. The returing gaze made Zidane wither. There was a spark of recognition in the eyes, but nothing else.

"You'll have to deal with us, first!" announced Freya. She was intent on saving the soldier at all cost.

The soldier ran to Zidane's group.

"We'll take care of this," Freya ordered. "Go find the king. Protect him with your life."

The soldier nodded, recognizing Freya as his superior officer. "Thank you..Freya." He left without looking back.

Zidane still kept his gaze on Kuja, seemingly concentrating hard on looking into Kuja's eyes. The taller man never moved, only smiled in faint amusement.

Beatrix's laughter brought Zidane back to the present situation. "Ha ha ha. I've never been so humiliated in my life. I once killed a hundred knights single-handedly..." She gave a condescending glance at Freya and Zidane. "To me, you two are nothing more than insects."

With out any further warning, Beatrix lunged at them, offering the shock. Quina fell immediately.

Freya gnashed her teeth as she jumped. The Burmeican knew without a doubt that it would be nearly impossible to overcome Beatrix. What they had done was sign their own death warrents. Yet, Freya wanted to do something. She had done nothing when Burmecia was at the hour of her greatest need, so this was the least she could do.

And what was Zidane doing?! He seemed like he was attacking the general, but his blade never touched the women. In fact, he seemed distracted by that pretty looking man over there. The monkey boy kept looking back at the man, his expression the most serious Freya had ever seen on Zidane's face.

The group of four attacked Beatrix over and over, but it didn't seem to harm the general in any way. The general moved fluidly, always raising an an well braced arm just in time to block any attack, always giving them her triumphed smile.

"Ignorant fools." Beatrix set off Stock Break, instantly knocked everyone into the ground, numbing their whole bodies. Quina and Vivi were facing down, barely breathing. Freya found some strength to attempt propping up herself, but failed. Zidane managed to fall back on his bottom, and closed his eyes, nodding his head as if unable to keep it up.

"How ridiculously weak..." mused Beatrix "Isn't there anyone who is worthy of facing me?"

"Come, Beatrix." said Brahne, "We must prepare to attack Cleyra."

"Yes, Your Majesty." The general thumped a fist to her chest, always swearing fealty to her queen when given a command.

The two Alexandrian left, leaving Kuja and the battered group to its own devices. The tall man tilted his head in observance of the four. Quina, and Vivi were all unmoving now lost to unconsciousness. Freya twitched, but momentarily lost all her sense except for her sight. "So...what do we have here...?" began Kuja like he was about to read off a grocery list. "A another filthy rat...and" His eyes traveled to the form of Zidane"...this boy...."

With speed of lightning, Zidane's hand sprung to the dagger he always shealthed at his side and hurled the blade toward the man. The blade flew soundlessly through the air, only to be caught by a slender white hand. The tip was a hair away from the tender throat. become a problem," finished Kuja, a look of trifle annoyance on his face. He looked down to examine the dagger. "Hum...An Orichalcon. I am honored."

"So it is you. No one other than the Dark Messenger had ever caught the dagger of the Night Blade," Zidane stood up. He looked different from the cheerful Tantalus member that he was. The regal air rolled off him like the the source of the mist. His physical features where shockingly similar to Kuja's. The rain had soaked both men through, but both ignored it.

"And as I recall, it was one of the reasons you stopped throwing daggers at anyone...except for me, of course." Kuja swung the blade into the air toward the monkey boy's direction. The knife spun in the air like a shuriken before getting caught by a rapid sweep of a gloved hand. Zidane gave Kuja a look before he jammed the dagger back into the sheath.

So, long time no see, my dearest little brother, said Kuja in Terran. How long has it been? Half of a Gaian Standard century, I believe.

Zidane sweeped his excessive wet bangs away from his angry eyes. Oh spare me your platitudes. Why all this!?

Boredom, Kuja offered.

The Black Mages. Manipulation of officials. Even Maturity. What were you thinking!?

Now, isn't that the grandest question of all? said Kuja in his infuriatingly superior calm voice. He gave another speculative look at Freya. The Dragon Knight had fought the lure of unconsciousness. She attempted to prop herself up, but the Stock Break had shocked the nerves, making her numb all over.

No more revenge on the Gaians, stated Zidane in his uncharacteristicly clear voice. We have agreed.

Kuja sweeped his straying strands of wet hair back. I would give you a year's worth of lecture about how far this is away from our agreement, but, I must go. My flight is here.

The sound of beating wings was heard. Zidane's eyes bulged in suprise.

Kuja strolled to the White Dragon, gracefully mounting the creature. With one powerful sweep of silver wings the dragon was airborn.

Silver Dragon? He even brought back the silver dragon!? Zidane looked back to his party, Freya still trying to get up. This is definitely not good news.