Epilogue: To Far Away Times
Luth had mixed feelings about visiting the grave of Althier Ultima. The thought of his best friend buried under the name of his best friend's son-turned-mortal enemy was disconcerting, at best. Then Luth had to remember that it wasn't the first false tombstone Boss planted-just his last.
The funeral was insufferable, though at least it was outdoors, where the grass of the graveyard smelled damp and bitter and the sun was bright and hot enough to be distracting. It was a brief, sparse, shallow ceremony, where most who tried to mourn could not, but they went through the motions anyway. Gribbo rubbed his eyes; Sheryl blinked back stoic tears; Berto bawled like a broken toy. Pat was gone-he lost the bet, anyway. A man Luth had never seen before offered the eulogy. His suit was sharp and his words were smooth and glancing, like a perfect stranger. All were so shell-shocked, buried in rubble and fraught with the injured and dying that their hearts were empty to those already gone.
People crawled out of the fractured woodwork and drainpipes to wash the closed casket with hollow tears. "First Don, then Pevy and Leo, now this," Gatortown lamented. Then they cried for all the homes and lives Bahamut smashed and scattered like ashes. "It's a shame." Sometimes it looked like crying merely for the sake of being sad. Because it was supposed to be sad. It was a shame.
They talked about him in the past tense, about how generous and outgoing and young he was, even at forty-seven-ain't it a shame. Luth couldn't speak; he didn't know how to say that they had the wrong name, and the wrong man.
Faces blurred by him. He bumped into the Owlson family, and was glad to see them all alive and well, under the circumstances. Maria promised Luth a pot pie. He thought he saw Arpy, fleetingly, though the moogle was uncharacteristically quiet (he certainly helped himself to the mini sandwiches at the reception, though.) Julia was there, working. He couldn't blame her for doing her job, but he resented the media attention regardless.
Armond had the gall to show up. "Ultima was a good colleague. I'm here to pay my respects." Luth couldn't articulate exactly why or how, but he was furious, and he let it be known with a hard, malignant stare that made even the rising slumlord flinch away.
Sheryl was strangely contrite-and the only one besides Julia and Arpy who suspected something closer to the truth than "an accidental death."
"I should have done something."
Her fiancé obliviously consoled her. "It was no one's fault. You can't blame yourself. You couldn't have done anything."
A frighteningly bitter part of Luth wanted to snap, "Yes, you should've," but his heart was immediately sorry for even thinking it; it wasn't true at all. It was inevitable; it was something Boss wanted, and if Luth had learned anything about Boss, it was that he always got what he set his eyes on.
Later, Sheryl asked him furtively, amazing him with her perception, "It's not Althier either, is it?" Luth could only shake his head. Then she asked the next thing, and in four hushed syllables he told her. If there was any other soul in the world that deserved to know, it was her.
"Tribal?" Her consort overheard the tail of it anyway. "Same as that terrorist leader?"
Luth could've been sick. Decades of obscurity, and then that's how history was going to relate the name: to terrorists. No one would ever speak well of a Tribal again. If Maroon weren't already dead, Luth would've strangled him himself-he settled for glaring daggers at Richard.
Sheryl just tipped one subtle eyebrow and pulled away. It was a fun fact-an exotic token-but in the end the name didn't mean anything to her. Luth couldn't and wouldn't explain; she couldn't and wouldn't understand, anyway.
The King of Thieves was dead. Nobody even knew who he was.
By the end of the day, Luth hated funerals, too.
Julia took him to a pub afterwards, where they talked and drank to everything except their losses. It was late when Luth got back to his flat and noticed the old blood still on his floor. He didn't have enough tears to wash it out.
The next week was too blurry and weird to feel like Luth belonged in it. He didn't particularly want the attention, but thanks in no small way to Julia, Lindblum (and then the whole continent) wouldn't forget his "selfless heroism," as the news stories called it. There were people he'd never seen before and wouldn't remember again asking him questions, but he couldn't even recognize himself on the TV. A small Burmecian child stopped him in the street and asked for his autograph, and he was too amazed to refuse.
For a depressing while he considered going home. He missed it. Those days under his father's roof, as sometimes cold as they were, felt humble and simple compared to what he faced now. As he learned, however, the saying was true: you can never go home again.
Not that he didn't try. The King of Burmecia recognized his valor, but it was hard to shake his hand without "prick" flashing through his mind, almost visibly, like a banner. He bit his lip and said, "Nothing, Your Majesty," when prodded. His mother assured him that she was, "very proud," while his father threatened to, "slap that disrespectful smirk clean off." Luth politely shook his heels at him for farewell.
Out of the grungy ashes of Gatortown rose Don Weedle, better-known topside as Judge Welder, formerly of Leo's persuasion. Together with Armond (and many pulled strings), the old Undertown was reborn. "Greasy" Ricky shortly approached Luth, aiming for a partnership. "Business is bloody boomin'! Together we can branch out, make the world ours," he swore, though Luth vowed nothing to do with it.
The only thing left was the company. Luth took its reins easily-it felt like the natural thing to do. Boss was right; the business practically ran itself, and Sheryl helped him through the sticky parts. The only hard part was cleaning out Boss's room. The picture album was one item in particular Luth cherished, and he found a snapshot in the back that he was so enamored of that he eventually framed it: a greyed, polished group photograph, labeled quaintly on the back, like a signature, "Alexandria, 1820. 20th Reunion." He could point out his famous great-grandmother in the front row with a measure of pride.
Julia brought him lunch every day. Their courtship was funny and free of tangles, and Luth was a married man before he knew what hit him. They bought a nice whitewashed house in the suburbs, just like one from a family TV show, and it didn't take long to fill it up: a daughter, and then twin boys.
He kept Milda's summoning stone safe (though he never saw the silver dragon again, so he never got to ask where she came from and how Boss met her. Perhaps, Luth figured, it was the same way Kuja got his silver dragon-the world would never know), along with the rest of the treasures in the vault. He considered donating the antiques to museums or auctioning them off more than once, but in the end he couldn't bear to part with the things that made the King of Thieves a legendary bandit. What he had didn't matter as much as how he got it.
He once made the mistake of selling the Gastro Fork to a famous restaurant run by Qus, and immediately regretted it-so much that he stole his way onto the premises the following night and took it back-leaving the money they paid in its place, of course. He denied everything to the owner's face, and didn't feel an ounce of remorse. It just disturbed him a tiny bit, how good he was at sneaking about and filching. He had an unexplored knack for stealth, innately knowing which corners and shadows to exploit, and even the best colors to wear to blend in with his surroundings.
He didn't want to condone his actions; trespassing was against the law, after all, and he'd never let his children hear of his "excursions," but he couldn't deny the thrill of going in places he was not allowed and emerging undetected. He made repeat trips to the King mansion after-hours, just to admire the paintings. It took him a while to find the best way to out-maneuver the motion-sensor alarms and afford him the most comfortable entry (and escape), but it was effort well spent, as far as he was concerned. He never broke, removed or disturbed as much as a single brick.
"What have I become?" he once asked himself while resting his legs over the eaves of a plantation house on the outskirts of the Lindblum Plateau. The owners had a shiny moonstone that he wanted to see for himself, so he waited for the cover of the stars to get a private viewing-so private, nobody knew he was there.
As he gazed at the blue and red crescents sailing along the horizon, he already knew the answer: he was the King's successor, the benign bandit-going everywhere, seeing everything, leaving nothing, taking nothing.
It was years later, after everything had settled down and the city of Lindblum had recuperated, more-or-less, when Luth sat down to write a journal. It would be like his renowned grandmother's, only without the big words (literary artistry was one thing he did not inherit, unfortunately.) He didn't have to be a poet, though. His journal was going to be just enough to record a part of Lady Freya's story that she didn't live long enough to see for herself.
He knew just how to start it, and end it.
I never expected to end up where I am, but looking back, there's not a thing I would change about my life. When I first arrived in Lindblum, I was looking for my way. Turns out it's just like my boss once said, "Sometimes you don't find the things you're after most until you stop looking for them."
I'm still not sure where we go when we die, but I like to think that wherever he is, he's with my great-grandmother, Queen Garnet and all the others. I think that's all he ever wanted.
But once I overheard my children telling ghost stories, and they say nowadays, if you visit Lake Cleyra on a full red moon, you might see a white dragon standing vigil out on the water. Sometimes I wonder...
My name is Luthane Crescent.
My great, great-great-grandmother was the legendary Dragon Knight, Freya Crescent.
I'm the CEO of Ultima Express, the largest and most successful shipping company on Gaia.
My friends call me Luth, though most who work with me just call me Lu.
The rest call me the Prince of Thieves.
A/N: Annnnnd roll credits.
Thanks for sticking around and reading my longest fanfiction-or anything written, really-to date. This story is for all the Bosses out there, the ones who challenge you to take a chance and do something batshit crazy once in a while, even if it gets you into trouble.
Special thanks to Kas, Christy, Corey (for the bank robbing idea in chapter 12), Weeper, spider (for Tami), Drew (for himself), Arpy (for helpful feedback), Clayton (for the line about letting hookers into your home, among others) and all my reviewers.
KASLiNN, Charlett, Weeper, Guardian1 and The RPGenius write lovely fics, and you need to check out their profiles.
I had a lot of fun with this, especially with all the wacky OCs (props again to Arpy, Tami and Drew. And Liaf, oh, little Liaf.) Milda and the White Dragon in particular are (mostly) harmless refs to Chimera Quest (my webcomic) that I don't expect anyone to recognize (considering I haven't drawn/written that far yet). Nonetheless, you can find the comic in my profile, as well as the other stories in my Phoenix Chronicles.
(By the way, if any of my fellow crazies want to read the extra racy version of the end of chapter 13, go back and check it again. By damnit, if this fic's going to be stuck with an M rating, it's going to earn it.)
I hardly expected a silly plot bunny like this to get so out-of-hand, but I'm happy with the results. I hope everyone else had as much fun as I did!
Until next time,
the neiphiti dragon