As before, none of the FF9 characters of mine, apart from ofcourse Qon Qon and Axy...then again, i stole the species from FF9 so I guess they aren't mine either. And Mr 163 is just the epitomy of all Black Mages...as well as a way for me to add comedy without having to work at it.

The writing is mine however...well, apart from about three lines in this, which I stole right out of Star Wars. :P If you're a Star Wars nerd, you'll recognise them.


It turned out the Axolotl wasn't the most comfortable creature to ride. In fact, by the time they finally stopped to set up camp at the end of the day, Blank had a large bruise covering the underside of his right thigh.

An hour or so into the journey, Axy had heaved, sending Blank flying off onto what had once been desert sand and was now tough, unyielding rock. Mikoto sat looking smug, as if this proved her theory that the pink creature would be the death of them all.

"Isn't there something to, you know, keep people on this thing?" Blank asked as he re-saddled, wincing.

"Axy no thing! And he not like harness, harness hurt Axy."

"Yeah Blank, don't blame Axy," Marcus gave him a toothy grin," It's your own for fault for wearing hot-pants, you puff!"

"These are not hot-pants! They happen to aid agility in battle!" he took a breath, exhaled, "Not that you'd know about that. The traditional troll combat technique is to just swing 'til you hit somethin' isn't it?" Marcus smile faded.

"What's put you in such a good mood anyway, Marcus?"

He shrugged, "I was just, y'know, thinkin'..."

"Yeah?"

"That Motoko...she's kinda scary, huh? Still, she's got a lot of spirit. I don't know, whadd'ya think? You think a psycho alien girl and a guy like me...?"

"No."

After that nothing much happened, although Blank could have sworn he saw Qon Qon try to unseat Mr 163 from Axy's back, finally tiring of the Mage's incessant questions. It seemed he had developed a new-found fascination with the Qu.

They rolled out sleeping bags, although Mr 163 seemed to have some trouble removing his from it's oil-skin covering, and he shook it around beating up Marcus in the process. Eventually he got sick of "this torment" and trudged a good ten metres away to sleep, apart from the rest of the group. He awoke to Axy licking his face, and felt worse when Qon Qon seemed overjoyed.

"Axy like troll! That good, some passengers mean to Axy." Marcus was so incensed he forgot to protest about the troll comment.

It was part-way through the journey when Mikoto spoke to Blank again.

"On Terra everyone was left to themselves, it's completely different here..." She came out with, unprompted, "It was so strange at first, suddenly everyone took an interest me. No-one had ever asked me how I was, or even started a conversation that was not related to work. After a while I got used to it, it even felt nice to know I was not alone."

"But I was still an outsider. I was different...and apart from Zidane, there wasn't anyone who seemed to stick around. They found better friendship with others of their own kind. Now there's you as well." Blank looked up. "Or am I wrong about that?"

He realised what Mikoto was worried about when she stormed off. That she'd lose another friend, that like everyone else he had found a more suitable replacement. For a while he thought it had been something else. No, of course not.

"You aren't wrong," he smiled, "I promise I won't leave. Even after this journey's over. Hey, you could come and stay with Tantalus if you wanted! If you're made of the same stuff as Zidane, Baku'll be glad to have ya along! (But don't tell him I said that.)" He grinned at her, but despite his happy exterior he couldn't help feeling a little dissapointed. At what? He pretended he didn't know, but making up with Mikoto had made it even clearer she only thought of him as a friend.

While her mood brightened, Qon Qon brought Axy to a slow, and the troupe dismounted, puzzled.

"What've we stopped for?" Blank had been hoping to make their destination before the end of the day.

"Qon Qon must...survey land!" He said, and ran off nervously.

"What's to survey!" Marcus asked, incredulously, "It's like someone dropped a giant dust clod on here! If I see another rock, I swear, someone is gonna find it up their-"

"Wow!" Mr 163 stood over Qon Qon's bag, a look of wonder on his face. As usual, he was excited by what he found, and Blank decided he was getting quite predictable. "Look at these clothes! Qus are amazing..." He picked up the bag and dissapeared from view behind a jutting stone.

"Uh...should ya really be going through the guys bag? I mean I don't like this pink thing that looks like...like...(give me a good insult here, Blank)"

"Some kind of overgrown foetus?"

"Yeah! But we're stuck in the middle of a desert! How the hell are we gonna get outta here if..."

"TA-DA!" Mr 163 emerged wearing what looked like a large tablecloth. The kind owned by 54 year old cat lovers called Edith. Or Manfred, your call. "It's so airy! And really comfortable on your-"

"WHAT IS MAGE DOING? QON QON WEAR THAT ONLY!"

The Qu angrily ordered Mr 163 to get changed, while Marcus and Blank discussed whether black mages even had 'bits'. When he was back in his black robe and buckled pants, looking slightly sheepish, Qon Qon marched in front of the now resting remaining three.

"Qon Qon take no further! Mountain there! Take self!"

"What!" Mikoto couldn't believe what she was hearing, "Surely Mr 163 trying on your garments did not bother you that much? Besides, the foetus-monster was growing on me..."

Qon Qon huffed, turned the other way dramatically, then turned back and said: "Qon Qon bad feeling of land. Had feeling before." The party looked at him inquisitively, and he continued, "Before Mist gone, when Qon Qon in marsh, man came. Man never come to marsh. He wear long cape, ask about Porridgeful Son."

The group stared silently.

"You mean...Prodigal Son?" Blank asked, slightly confused.

"Yes yes! Ask Qon Qon about it."

"Wow, how did you understand that?" Mikoto asked Blank, impressed.

"I have some experience understanding other species," he replied, motioning with his head to Marcus.

"Bad thing happen after that. Other man come, man who look like woman. He killed all Qu who talk to first man. Qon Qon escape." He looked solemnly at the group (as solemnly as a Qu can when wearing a frilly ruff), "Qon Qon sorry. Take no further."

After a short discussion they agreed that Qon Qon's claim was reasonable, and decided to travel the next leg of the journey on foot.

"Qon Qon travel back to Seaways. Maybe see on other journey?" He looked coldly at Mr 163, who whimpered, then mounted his Axolotl and rode off.

It took less time than Blank thought to make their destination, even on foot, and after climbing a steep mountain slope and navigating several crevices, they found themselves at their destination, an hour before nightfall. It was a series of dark caves, and Mikoto looked into them dubiously.

"Should we not wait until morning before we enter? What about Qon Qon's warning?" She scratched the rocky walls uneasily.

"That idiot!" Marcus remarked loudly, "I wouldn't listen to him if he were carrying a 10 foot pole!" The rest of the group looked confusedly at him. "Er...anyway, there's no time like the present, right Blank?"

"Yeah, no time like the present," he said, but he could see what Mikoto meant.