The years passed, and seasons turned, as they should.
Zidane and Garnet celebrated their fourteenth wedding anniversary with a big bash, wherein they announced that they would be leaving for a second honeymoon after. For a whole month, Terra would be living without the watchful eyes of her parents. The thirteen-year-old princess of Alexandria was granted a bit of freedom.
The little girl who always wanted her parents beside her was no more.
Terra had changed, in more ways. Her straight, dark hair now cascaded down to her shoulders, and her fair skin was lightly tanned by her outdoor activities. One thing that Terra did not like was that she seemed too tall for her age. To her it seemed that she had suddenly grown overnight. When she stood next to her mother, they could be mistaken for sisters. Zidane assured her that height would be a great asset when she gained a few more years, but a teenager never believes her father.
When the king first witnessed a daughter's tantrum, which ended with the slamming of doors, he was confused beyond belief. How was he to know that revealing what her favorite bedtime story was, in a conversation with a Treno noble, was embarrassing?
"All adolescents act that way," the good Doctor Tot explained. "She's not a little girl anymore, and doesn't want to be treated like one." Zidane found himself growing further and further away from her.
Garnet, however, assured him that at least she completely understood Terra. At night, the queen would visit her daughter's room, and stay for quite some time, having one of their little "girl talks". This she pointed out to her husband, "you will never understand".
The night they left, Terra kissed her mother and father good-bye, and went straight to bed, not knowing what to do after.
Yet the following day, the sun wasn't even covering the sky yet when Terra sat up in bed. Running downstairs, she passed the office, its heavy wooden door partly opened.
"Good morning, General Beatrix!" She sang, her dark head popping into the room.
Beatrix, already in uniform, looked up from the desk and smiled. "Good morning too, your Highness." The copper-colored curls of the general bobbed. "You're up early today."
She nodded in reply, then dashed to the kitchen where her nurse Quina was still preparing breakfast. "GOOD MORNING QUINA!" Terra hollered, and giggled when the startled cook almost dropped the spoon into her pot.
The princess ran around the whole castle, greeting everyone she met, from the errant Pluto Knight to the old librarian whose glasses kept falling off (and they certainly did when she yelled out in greeting.) She skidded to a halt, however, upon reaching the large arched doorway of the training grounds.
Someone, judging from the heaving sounds coming from there, was training hard. Terra took a quick glance from the side. "Captain Steiner," she called, recognizing the man dressed in full armor.
Steiner stopped mid-strike, and glanced over his shoulder. In one fluid motion, he returned the sword to its sheath, then saluted to her.
"Good morning, your Highness!"
"Good morning too, Captain." She jumped away from her hiding place. "I wish you hadn't stopped. I was having fun watching you."
"Really?" The captain's eyes shone upon her thoughtful words, and he pulled the sword out again. "I am delighted that the princess appreciates her most loyal knight's work."
The jewel-encrusted sword, heavy and broad in form, was mesmerizing. Terra spent a few moments staring at it, then blurted out, "Could you teach me how to use it?"
Steiner looked up quickly, a frenzied look on his face. "Why, your Highness! You must not engage-"
"I want to learn how to use a sword." She said slowly, half-whining and half-commanding.
"Oh come on, Captain. You said yourself that you were my most loyal knight." Terra had to stifle a giggle then.
He quickly assumed a dignified appearance. "Of course, your Highness. I was just…unprepared for your request. You see, how ever hard I try to teach Adela, she will not yield to knighthood."
Terra looked around. "Jeane? Where is she? Is she here?"
"Adela will not carry a sword if her life depended on it." Steiner continued, shaking his head regretfully. "Just as well, she is training hard to become a White Mage."
Jeane, or Adela as she preferred to be called, was the only daughter of the Steiners. Being only three years apart, she was the closest to a friend Terra had, but they still had their differences. They were inseparable during their childhood, yet somehow, they drifted apart as the years went by.
"So will you teach me?" Terra pleaded.
The captain cleared his throat, mumbling. "I am honored, your Highness…" He eyed her uncomfortably. "But it seems I have to get a smaller sword."
Adela Jeane Steiner, dressed in a White Mage's robe with the hood down to keep her wavy, light brown hair uncovered, appeared at the training grounds soon after. "Breakfast is ready, Father." She turned her head and took notice of the Princess Terra, her small hands carrying a sword.
"Your Highness," she addressed her formally, "I did not know that you were interested in the art of fighting."
The princess shrugged. "Just for self-defense, you know." She was acutely aware of Jeane's penetrating gaze.
"Adela," Steiner called. "Has your mother finished with her work?"
"Yes, Father. Is there anything else?" Jeane negligently flipped her hair over one shoulder. The high ponytail kept it from covering her haughty countenance.
Steiner looked at Terra, then at his daughter. "Well…perhaps you would like to join me and the princess…?"
But before he could finish, Jeane had already disappeared from her place.
THE GREATEST CHOCOBO MYSTERIES
Why are the number of chocobos diminishing?
How do the Chocobo Lands (Chocobo's Paradise, Chocobo's Lagoon, Chocobo's Air Garden) sustain chocobo life?
When chocobos reach a higher ability, how do they change color? And why?
Is there really a Chocobo's Dream World?
Where in the world is Chocobo's Paradise?
Terra opened her eyes groggily. She had fallen asleep in the library, her head resting on the desk, the Book of Chocobos lying open in front. Quina was shaking her.
"I'm awake, Quina." She rubbed her eyes, then yawned. "What is it?"
She vaguely remembered what she had been reading before, for the dreams made it hazy. In her dream, there was a chocobo, and she was looking at it from the ground in awe. Now that she was awake, she was sure that it was the color of the chocobo that amazed her. Yet she couldn't remember what was its color. Maybe gold, for it was flying? Then the chocobo - talked to her, surprisingly, and told her of many things, among them the land called Paradise.
Looking at the open book, she read the line again.
Where in the world is Chocobo's Paradise?
"Your parents are back," Quina informed her. "They at the Hall."
The princess tried to stand up, and groaned. Her whole body was sore. "I shouldn't have done so much training today," she muttered.
"Let's go," Quina said. They went out of the library, the book lying forgotten.
Zidane and Garnet stood at the castle entrance. They were holding hands, Terra noticed with a bit of shock. She knew her parents loved each other, of course, but weren't nobility supposed to follow some unspoken regulations on propriety? Nobody else seemed to notice, however. Nobody even took offense at the sight of her parents wearing such clothes unfit for royalty: Zidane had a vest and blue pants on; Garnet in a plain orange jumpsuit.
They looked ten years younger, Terra finally noted.
"Welcome back, Your Majesties." Beatrix was already saying, kneeling on the carpet. Steiner and Jeane were behind her, doing the same. It seemed that the whole of the castle was awake at this ungodly hour just to wait for the king and queen.
Terra was surprised to see a month fly so fast. Nothing much had changed in her daily schedule, except that she had started training with the Captain. Her parents didn't know about this, of course, and she wasn't sure if they would like her playing with swords.
"After all," Jeane coolly remarked, "a princess is a princess - she stays in the castle and learns how to act like a lady of nobility."
She let herself be embraced by her mother.
Nine months later, Kuja Alexandros Tribal was born.
Terra watched the growing crowd attending her newborn brother's celebratory party from her seat at the platform. Her neck, back, and arms itched, what with the stretch of lace the dressmaker used for her turquoise gown. She turned her attention to her mother and father accepting well wishes from some guests, when a shadow fell on her.
She looked up and saw an old man with a long white beard in front of her.
"Why, if isn't the Princess Terra."
From the tone of the old man, and the malicious glint in his eyes, she was absolutely sure she did not like him. But she wasn't one to forget her manners.
"I am. May I ask who you are?"
The old man chuckled, but it sounded more like a cackle to her. "I am a seer of Gaza at your service, your Highness."
"A seer?" She echoed. "Does that mean you can see into the future?"
"Would you like to know your future, Princess?" His eyes narrowed, while his mouth twisted into a sort of smile.
Terra looked at him impassively. "I don't believe in divination much, my Lord, but you can try."
A hit. The old man's smile became a scowl.
"Just like your father," He muttered ungraciously.
"Danger awaits you, your Highness, and it will find you. When it does, you will never sit in the throne."
The old man cackled again, and when Terra blinked, he disappeared.
She had forgotten about the old man by feast time.
Zidane clinked his glass with a spoon. "I'd like to make an announcement."
Gradually, the people in the hall shushed and waited for the king to speak up.
"As you all know, this is the second time Alexandria has celebrated like this. First, it was for my daughter, Terra…" Zidane smiled at the princess, making her look down at her plate, quickly, "and now, it is for my son."
Sounds of clapping filled the feasting hall.
"Before I announce his name," the Alexandrian king continued when the clapping had died down, "I'd like to know if there are any seers in the vicinity who might like to say that 'Zidane' is the proper name for him...?"
A wave of chuckles spread throughout the crowd. Terra's ears perked up at the mention of the word "seer".
"Dagger?" Zidane gestured to Garnet sitting beside him. "Would you like to do the honors?"
The queen nodded and stood up, every inch of her regal and graceful. "His name," She paused, looking at each and every face in the crowd, "will be Kuja."
This time, everyone understood the name. The silence that followed was chilling.
"Kuja?" A voice finally piped out. "Wasn't he the…"
"BLACK MAGES!" A Burmecian aristocrat bellowed suddenly. "Kuja was the bastard who set black mages on our nation twenty years ago!"
Everyone gasped as expected; Zidane held out a hand.
"Wrong." He cocked his head to one side. "It was nineteen years ago, and my brother," his voice suddenly raised to a critical volume, "was responsible not only for Burmecia but the near destruction of the whole of Gaia."
Terra saw her mother take her father's hand. "Zidane…" she whispered.
"I have to do this, Dagger," Zidane moved his hand away. His face was calm and determined, but he would not directly at them. "They have to learn the truth. About me."
The truth? The question rang in Terra's ears.
The Burmecian aristocrat's expression was unreadable. "Your…brother?"
Zidane met their dubious eyes. "Yes. Kuja Tribal was my brother. He and I were not from Gaia, but from another planet. Her name is known to all of you."
Silence, apart from the few whisperings of some.
"Terra," A little girl voiced out quietly, looking at the princess. Terra's eyes widened.
The king nodded with a smile. "Smart girl. Kuja and I were born on Terra, and we were the so-called 'Angels of Death', Terra's helpers in clearing out Gaia. You see, our people wanted to move out of its dead planet, and we needed another place to live. Gaia was found to be perfect for our people to inhabit." He held out a hand to shush them again. "Yet it happened that Kuja and I took different paths. Fortunately for Gaia, I grew up here while he plotted against it. And nineteen years ago, we finally met…on the battlefield."
Her palms hurt, and Terra noticed it was because she was clenching the arms of her chair. First it was saving the world, and now her father, Zidane Tribal, King of Alexandria, was not from the world he was saving. How out-of-this-world could that be?
"I had to fight him, together with friends of mine. Princess Garnet, now your queen, was one of them. For the sake of Gaia, I had to fight my brother…and defeat him." Zidane's voice was breaking. "I watched my brother pass away. But in the end, he finally understood how wrong he was. How being the 'Angel of Death' was a waste of his life. And now, I am honoring his sacrifice by naming my son Kuja Alexandros Tribal."
Terra watched her father closely at the end of his speech. His face was blank, and his arms lay limply at the sides, as if he were resigned to fate as how the people - his people - would judge him.
But she understood. Even if he was an alien, or from anywhere else, she would always love and accept her father.
As the people did. The applause was enormous. The people of Alexandria, Lindblum, Burmecia, Treno - everyone - stood up in ovation. Zidane's face softened, the vacant mask fading.
"Long live the king! Long live the Alexandrian royal family!" they cheered.
Terra stood up and clapped also, her heart joyful. She heard while her mother rocked her new baby brother: "Do you hear that, Kuja? They're cheering for your father. And for you."
Piles and piles of boxes filled one table of the party, gifts for the newborn prince. She was angry at it, but the twinge of jealousy was still there, as her parents and the guests fawned over her brother.
Terra was lonely. All the adults were at one side. Quina was nowhere to be seen; her nurse would probably be needed in the kitchen. Jeane was never out of the dance floor - she was quite the dancer - and right now, she was dancing with a young Treno nobleman Terra found good-looking, but only somewhat.
There was nothing else to do. Lifting her long skirt, she marched towards the table laden with gifts.
She peered over the nearest one. It was a knitted jacket, small enough for Kuja. The next one, enclosed in a very large box was a model airship from Lindblum. Yet another one had new towels of different colors.
Terra sighed. Of course, there couldn't be any gifts made for her. This was Kuja's day. Maybe she could just ask for the blue towel - he wouldn't use all of them, would he? She was about to give up the search and go back to her table, when it caught her eye.
The shape. It was oblong, and was smooth on the surface. A single ribbon was tied around it. Terra had seen such a thing many times: in the Book of Chocobos.
It took every ounce of restraint to keep herself from shrieking out, "A chocobo egg!"
"You've got to keep it in a warm place." Garnet read from a page in the encyclopedia, under the section 'Raising A Chocobo'. Terra kept staring at the egg, afraid that if she took her eyes away it would suddenly disappear.
"Dagger," Zidane whined, suddenly entering the barn, "I can't make him stop crying."
Mother and daughter were sitting around a makeshift nest. Terra's parents were also delighted when they heard of the gift of a genuine chocobo egg. Perhaps somebody - they did not know who, for there was no card - had heard of the princess's longtime wish.
"Oh, you're hopeless." Garnet replied waspishly, putting the book down. "Come here and help Terra, then."
"Don't be mad at me. Beatrix's there to hold him off."
"And Beatrix is supposed to be out today."
"She offered to take care of him!"
"Because you're hopeless."
Garnet left the barn in a huff.
Terra took no notice of her parent's squabbling. She sat beside the egg, stroking it with a fatuous look on her face.
"Maybe you'd like to try sitting on it. You do have to keep it warm," Zidane suggested as a joke.
Terra glared at him, and he put his hands up. "Okay, okay. It was a joke. Sorry?" He returned his daughter's answering smile.
"Tell me about how you raised your own chocobo, Father," The princess asked thoughtfully when he sat down beside her, on the nest of hay.
"I didn't raise Choco, I only trained him," Zidane said. "The moogle, Mene, was his owner."
"So you named him Choco?"
"I didn't name Choco, I only trained him. There's a difference."
"Father," Terra crossed her arms over her chest, exasperated.
Zidane ran his fingers through his blonde hair, grinning at her. "Well…" he began.
Spring was in full bloom. Besides training with Steiner, which surprisingly, her parents approved (or maybe not so surprisingly, considering their own childhood), Terra also had a chocobo egg to take care of. Aunt Mikoto visited once and told her about Bobby Corwen, the first chocobo Terra saw, and how Magdalene Village raised him.
Then one day, Jeane had appeared in the barn, accompanied by her dance partner at Kuja's party.
Terra was surprised to see him again. Reddish-gold hair was brushed neatly up to his nape, and his eyes sparkled while they looked at her. A purple cape covered his doublet and light armor.
"Your Highness, this is Ashton Reginald Knight, second son of the Duke of Treno. Sir Ashton, may I present to you Her Royal Highness, Terra Alexandros Tribal, heir to the throne of Alexandria." Jeane proclaimed, her voice lilting.
Terra flushed. The barn was hardly the place for such formal announcements. She looked down at her old dress and thought of her unkempt hair. Sometimes she wondered if Jeane was just inconsiderate.
Sir Ashton smiled. It was a smile that Terra knew would have made the castle maids swoon, but not her. "Good morning, your Highness. I see that you are living up to the name of the Chocobo Princess." He did not seem to object to her appearance; rather, his sparkling eyes were glued to her face - and just her face. It made her very uncomfortable.
"Thank you, sir." She stood up slowly, brushing the twigs off her skirt. She stole a glance at Jeane, who was looking gorgeous and primped as always.
"I hope her Highness will not take offense if I ask her how old is she?"
The smile was still there, and Terra faltered as she answered, "I don't mind, sir. I'm fourteen."
"Oh, yes. I remember now, I was at your party. If it is so, then perhaps you would call me without the 'sir'?" Ashton said. "I am of sixteen years. Maybe someday, I would be allowed by the king to see you then?"
Terra turned red. She knew what he meant by that.
Jeane, looking bored, saved her by firmly taking Ashton's arm. "Sir Ashton, didn't you say you wanted to see the gardens?"
A surprised look appeared on his handsome face. "Oh, of course Lady Adela." He turned back to Terra, and smiled at her for the last time. "I look forward to seeing you again, Princess."
Terra nodded mutely as she watched them leave. Her cheeks were still burning. Ashton Reginald Knight was attractive, but, boy, was he direct.
Quina received the letter that summer.
Terra knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, but she had seen the Qu crying at the corridor, running towards the study.
"I'm sorry, Quina." That was her mother's voice. Quina's sobbing made it harder for Terra to hear. Hearing those sobs, however, wrenched her heart.
"Master Quale…gone…and I not there…"
Terra's eyes widened. Master Quale was Quina's mentor, the one who taught her everything about being a gourmet cook. "Thank Master Quale!" Quina had said when Terra complimented her latest dish.
"Can we do anything for the funeral?" Zidane asked gravely.
Quina sniffed. "No…it alright, Zidane. But…I no can stay here now. Have to replace Master Quale."
"You're gonna leave us?"
Leave us? The words echoed in Terra's ears. Quina…her nurse, her teacher, her friend, would be leaving her. Her heart stopped.
"Castle have enough cooks. Mullenkedheim make good one."
"But what about Terra?" asked Garnet.
What about it, yes? What about me?
"Terra no need for nurse anymore. Already grown up."
That's not true! She wanted to scream. Don't leave us, Quina!
"I get ready to leave now. Good-bye, Zidane, Dagger."
"Good-bye Quina. We'll miss you. After you pack, come see us first."
The door opened. Terra's eyes were blinded by her tears, and she sobbed, "Quina!", flying to embrace her nurse.
She was sitting on Quina's bed, arms crossed, watching intently as the Qu put her few belongings into a trunk. Both had drained their eyes dry of tears, and Quina was now cheerfully humming an unknown, probably Qu tune.
"That's the knife I broke when I was younger," Terra pointed out. "Why are you taking it with you?"
"Because I want to." Quina rummaged through the drawers. She took out an old worn doll, its straw poking out of the cloth. It looked a bit like Quina. "You know this?"
Terra blinked. "That's…that's the doll I made you a long, long time ago!" She jumped off the bed to look at it. "It's still alive!"
"I remember Terra with this," Quina said. "Now, you." She walked to the corner of the room, and pulled out a long silver object with prongs on one end. A large fork, Terra realized. A weapon. "You remember Quina with this."
"Quina…" The princess felt her eyes welling up again.
"That my Needle Fork. I use it to save Gaia with Zidane." She waggled her tongue. "No more, because Amarant threw other forks away."
The fork was big, taller than Terra when stood upright, but it was light as a feather. Already it was dirty and rusting at some parts. She would clean it later, Terra thought, putting the fork down on the bed. Quina had finished packing, and was closing the trunk.
"I'll miss you, Quina." She said, following as her nurse pulled the trunk out of the room.
"I miss you too, Terra. Remember one thing."
"Keep your fork."
your fork, because there's still more to follow in the banquet of
I really, really want to draw the characters but I have no talent for drawing. Hope you like the second chapter. Yes, I've merged the chapters. I hope to finish the first part with only ten.