In case there is any doubt, I do not claim any ownership of the FFIV characters or settings! Please enjoy…

Chapter 1: Rydia

She trudged slowly up the steps to her home thinking somewhat longingly of the site she had witnessed the day before. Oh, how happy they seemed! Cecil and Rosa's wedding was truly a remarkable event. Hundreds of guests, decked out in their finest finery, attended the first major ceremony since the end of war on the Blue Planet. All were celebrating not only love, but also peace.

Rydia let out a deep sigh of relief as she walked down the stairs leading to Queen Asura's chamber—if the basement of the library could really be called a chamber. It was good to be home, good to be back among the creatures in the Land of the Summoned Monsters. They understood her, especially Queen Asura.

Stopping mid-stairway, Rydia paused to ponder her relationship with the queen. She does always understand me…usually too well, mused Rydia. Maybe I shouldn't go see her just yet…Happy as she was to be back after her short visit to Baron, Rydia couldn't shake an unsettling feeling, a feeling akin to disappointment. Something was definitely different about Rydia now, and it probably had nothing to do with her monster-related self. In fact, Rydia was pretty darn sure it was a human emotional thing.

Well, thought the young woman, maybe this one time my surrogate mother won't notice.

Queen Asura noticed a change in Rydia right as the young woman entered the room. Though she wore a smile, Rydia's eyes lacked their normal sparkle. She looked tired and somewhat careworn. Yet, pensive mood and all, Asura felt relieved to see her. After all, she was a rather protective parent, and though Rydia was not really her daughter, she loved the beautiful child like one of her own. Lifting herself out of her favorite cushy library chair, Asura gracefully stretched her arms and each of her tentacles as she stood to greet her daughter. "Oh Rydia, you are home so soon," she commented. "Not that it is a bad thing, though. I rather missed you!" She extended a friendly tentacle and pulled Rydia into an embrace with her human-like arms.

How do moms always know when to give hugs! I will not cry! I will not cry!

Rydia attempted to steel herself against the inevitable flood of human emotion brimming in her eyes. All the same, poor Rydia fell helplessly into Asura's arm-y, tentacle-y hug. Sensitive to her child's distress, Asura simply held her while she sobbed. She held her for quite a few minutes until an annoying damp spot on her shoulder forced her to let go.

"Why, what is it my little one? Did something happen?" Asura stroked Rydia's long, emerald green hair waiting for her to calm down and speak. "The wedding went all right didn't it?" Asura placed a finger on Rydia's exposed cheek, stroking it gently while its mate rested on her shoulder. It was a diversionary tactic—here she was, trying to be motherly and kind, yet several of her little tentacle suction cups had become entangled in Rydia's hair. I am the one who encouraged her to grow her beautiful hair out, and look what I've done, she thought hopelessly. Well, if I do this right, Rydia won't even notice. Thus she continued to stroke Rydia's cheek with one hand, and use her other to gently undo the tentacle mess on Rydia's head.

Fortunately, Rydia did not feel the commotion in her hair. Drying her eyes on the loose sleeve of her traveling cloak, Rydia finally felt able to talk. In her raspy, post-crying-fit voice, she began to speak with surprising energy about her trip. "Oh Asura, the wedding was beautiful. I saw all of my friends, well, all of them except Kain. He was off on some mysterious quest, something about building up his Dragoon capabilities. But, the ceremony was beautiful. The castle was alive with music, color, and laughter. Cecil and Rosa look so happy together, and I just know that with the two of them reigning together, Baron will continue to be a great power."

Hmm, that's odd. Something didn't fit. If all was so wonderful in the overworld, why is this child crying on my shoulder? "Aha!" she said rather forcefully. The last tentacle was now disengaged from Rydia's hair. Rydia abruptly stood up, and seeing confusion on the young girl's face, Asura quickly recovered from her personal moment of celebration and said, "It sounds magnificent, as I knew it would be. I do hope you sent the newlyweds my and Leviathan's regards."

"Of course I did. They were ever so thankful for the gift!" Secretly Rydia chuckled. What in the world are my friends going to do with a collection of rodent tails? They used a rat's tail once, but now what are they supposed to do with them? "In fact," commented Rydia, "Rosa claimed she would put it on display in the entry to the castle." She actually claimed she was going to hide the box of carnage in the dungeon alongside the thirty-three sets of china, sixteen silver tea sets, and fifty-one blenders sent by her friends and family.

"Well that is lovely! I am so glad that our small gift was so appreciated." She hesitated, afraid to send the girl into tears once more. "And how are your other friends. You mentioned Kain was not there, but what about Cid, the twins, Edward and…"

Rydia cut her off. I am getting somewhere, thought Asura. I may be wrong, but I'll bet it has something to do with that self-absorbed, pain-in-the-butt, yet strangely attractive, Eblanian king!

"Oh they are all doing so well! Cid is back in Baron helping to re-equip the airship fleet. Of course in this time of peace the world doesn't need them for battle, but Cid just needs something to keep him occupied." She giggled. "I think he just likes an excuse to order the young engineers around. He always tells me how headstrong they are and how they lack the control and skill of superior craftsmen!

"And the twins are growing up so fast! I guess they had a lot of studying and whatnot to catch up with after the stone incident, but the Elder told me that they finished all of what they were behind in and are still ahead of any of his other students. They are such bright children, and oh how they make me laugh. To think that in human terms, the three of us are nearly the same age. Strange!

"Edward too, is doing well. Things have been difficult for him since losing Anna, but I think he is recovering. He still talks of Ana and wears a ring in remembrance of her, but he did bring a female friend to the wedding.

"Yang was there too, with his wife. They…" She rambled on aimlessly about the reparations at Fabul and some other stuff that Asura soon lost track of.

She had to know. This is ridiculous. "And what news of Edge?" Queen Asura cut off Rydia's update. The sparkle in Rydia's dark eyes disappeared. Her body tensed and a long moment of silence followed Queen Asura's question.

"Uh, he was there," was all she could muster before the tears came again.

"Oh, my child, hush," crooned Asura. She again held the girl as she cried.

"He, he wouldn't talk to me," sobbed Rydia. "I don't know what I did to him, but I went to say hello, but he started making all these hyperactive gestures. He manhandled me to my seat for the ceremony, and then he turned the other way, refusing to even look at me. Not even a lousy 'Hello!'" She mopped her face with her sleeve, a look of defiance crossing her face. "He's such an immature, hateful jerk!" she shouted before a fresh set of tears rushed from her eyes.

Edge's reaction only mildly surprised the queen. Just days before the wedding she had received a note from Eblan's chamberlain. It seemed that the young king had been somewhat reclusive and moody, definitely not his snotty self since the defeat of Zeromus. He came home to a great celebration in his honor, and all he wanted to do was hide in his room. When the chamberlain approached him, Edge only tried to send him away. He sat brooding in the window as the chamberlain told him about the many lovely ladies downstairs just waiting to meet his highness. Edge still just sat, fiddling with a colored object in his fingers. Before the chamberlain left the room, he caught a glimpse of what Edge was holding.

It was a lock of green hair.

"Rydia, look at me child." She looked up, tears still running down her cheeks. "Edge does not hate you, and he is not mad at you. You are young, as is he, and you both have much to learn about your emotions." Asura stopped. She knew that her next words were likely to upset Rydia further; however, she knew she had to say them. "What you must do now is be honest with yourself. Why are you so upset? There was a time when you wouldn't have cared an ounce about how Edge treated you." She paused, giving Rydia a moment to process what she had just said. "Rydia, what has changed? How do you really feel about the young ninja king?"

Almost immediately Rydia lost eye contact with the queen. She stared at the floor while Queen Asura watched her child knowingly. Inwardly Asura smirked. I've got this human thing down!

Asura rose from where she had been kneeling with Rydia. Looking down at her forlorn child she said, "I think we both know the answer."

Rydia was left alone to think…and to cry.