He darted through the narrow side streets of Alexandria like a bullet.
"It's that monkey kid!"
"Catch that kid!"
Zidane turned into a side alley. There was no one there. Crap, a dead end. He smirked as he spotted a ladder up ahead of him. There's no way they're catching me.
He scrambled up the rungs of the simple wooden ladder and swung himself onto the red tiled roof of a small house. Pressing his body down to the roof, he spotted his pursuers; a bunch of noblemen who looked absolutely ridiculous running. Their big, pompous tophats bobbed up and down on their heads and their fat cheeks were flushed.
"Where'd that peasant go?"
"I'm sure I saw him turn into here!"
While the group of men caught their breath and looked around the alley in confusion, Zidane chuckled.
"So long, noble sirs," He said under his breath, as he turned.
Zidane ran along the rooftops, jumping over gaps and being careful not to get too close to the sloped edges. He was always a nimble little one, much to the chagrin of Baku, the closest thing he had to a father figure. Even at fourteen, he was as fast, perhaps even faster, than he was when he was a little boy. The skill came in handy, as Zidane wanted to be a master thief, but a just one. Stealing from the rich, giving to the poor (and flirting with a few chicks along the way) was all in a day's work for the boy.
He reached the end of the rooftops and, deciding there was no danger of the noblemen being anywhere near close, decided to jump down. He was never one to "look before he leapt" (both figuratively and literally), so he simply propelled himself off the edge of the roof…
And right on top of a passerby.
Zidane closed his eyes as he collided with the small person. "Oof!"
The person let out a high-pitched yelp and Zidane found himself pinning down a very pretty girl.
"Well, hello there," He said in a joking tone. "Just thought I'd drop in,"
"I-I, er," the girl stammered. Zidane studied her closer; she had long, dark hair pulled back into a braid that matched her dark eyes. She wore a simple white tunic, brown skirt and boots. Her flaming cheeks were very apparent, thanks to her pale skin. He concluded that she was up there on the list of prettiest girls he had even seen.
"What's wrong, sweets?" He pulled out his deadliest weapon; his smile. It was well known that his smile could make any girl's heart melt, which definitely came in handy for Zidane.
"Y-you, um," the girl said, swallowing and looking anywhere but Zidane's face. "You are too close,"
"Oh?" Zidane moved his face closer with a grin. "This makes you uncomfortable?"
"I, um, er," The girl turned a deeper shade of crimson. "I-"
"Hm?" Zidane moved his face even closer, so there were only mere centimeters separating them. He always liked the shy ones.
Just then, the girl formed her hand into a fist and aimed it into Zidane's stomach.
"Ha!" She let out a little war cry as she drove her hand into his abdomen, effectively taking him by surprise and pushing him off her.
He felt the air leave his body as he skidded backwards. Zidane was stunned.
"Ow! What the hell?!" That trick's supposed to make girls like me, not punch me!
The girl sat opposite of him, looking a little unsure of what she was doing.
Zidane let out a laugh that made her jump. She's so cute! He thought.
"Okay, okay," he said. "That was too much," He held out his hand. "I'm sorry,"
His blue eyes were met by her dark ones in a gaze filled with uncertainty. He felt a tightness in his chest.
After what seemed like an eternity, she took his hand. Zidane was surprised by her soft skin and long, delicate fingers. Almost like a princess' hands. He mused.
Getting to his feet, he helped pull the girl to a standing position. "I'm Zidane," he said, letting go of her hand (though he didn't really want to).
"I'm, er, uh-"
Zidane chuckled. "What, you can't even remember your own name?"
Just then, there was a clamor from the other end of the narrow street.
"He's here! He's over here!"
"You're not getting away this time, boy!"
Zidane swore under his breath and the girl looked at him with a mix of panic and curiosity.
"Follow me," he said, taking the girl by the hand.
Her eyes widened with surprise. "Wha-"
The two set off down the cobblestone street, with Zidane pulling the girl behind him. They made a left onto a side street and then a quick right.
Crap, Zidane said to himself. They had ended right back up in the same alley where Zidane had been before. He spotted the ladder and pointed to it.
The girl seemed to understand from his limited instructions and began to climb up.
"Hurry!" Zidane said in a loud whisper, lest he be heard by his pursuers. She got to the top and moved to the roof.
"Now lie down!" He instructed, swiftly scaling the ladder. "And don't move a muscle!"
Zidane reached the top and lay down next to her, their stomachs pressed to the sun-warmed tiles. They caught their breaths as they peered onto the street below. He felt pinpricks all up and down his right side, where he was just inches away from the girl.
Right on cue, the group of noblemen showed up at the end of the alley.
The girl let out a gasp, then immediately covered her mouth, not wanting to be discovered.
"Are you sure he went this way?"
"No, he went down this street!"
"Really? Lead the way!"
The group hurried away and Zidane let out a sigh of relief.
He rolled over onto his back. "That was a little too close for comfort,"
The girl pulled herself up so she was sitting upright. "I'll say,"
Zidane looked over at her with a raised eyebrow. "Anyways, you seemed surprised when you saw them,"
"Well, of course," the girl said, matter-of-factly. "There was the Earl of Leighton and Baron Hillshire in that group, not to mention the Duke of Edward, Viscount Campbell and Lord Colby!
Zidane sat up. "How do you know that stuff?"
The girl looked taken aback. "Isn't that common knowledge?"
"Common knowledge?" Zidane tipped his head, confused. "I don't know anyone who knows that kind of stuff,"
"Well, I, ah," The girl stammered. Zidane continued to stare at her.
"Why were they chasing after you anyway?" She asked, changing the subject.
"Oh," Zidane said, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out an elaborate change purse. It was a deep blue, embroidered with tiny pearl and onyx beads. It was very full and held shut with a tiny gold clasp at the top. "This," he said.
"Y-you stole it?!" The girl asked, incredulous.
"Well, yeah," Zidane said, nonchalantly.
"But stealing is wrong!" She said, with conviction. "It is wrong to take what is not yours,"
Zidane shrugged. "How else am I supposed to get money?"
"I do not know," said the girl. "Get a job, perhaps?"
He snorted. "No one's going to hire a street urchin like me,"
"How do you know if you have not tried?" She asked.
"Oh, believe me, I've tried,"
"Well, there has to be somewh-"
Zidane looked at her with a weary expression. "Look, the world's not as black and white as you might think it is," He sighed. "Stealing may be wrong but is it wrong for someone to steal from a rich guy just so he doesn't starve at night?"
The girl looked shocked and turned away, looking at the skyline. Her expression softened into one of confusion. "I do not really know,"
"See?" Zidane said. "Not so easy, is it?"
They both looked out onto the city. The roof was pretty high up, giving them a view of the maze of cobblestone streets and red-tiled houses. The sun was beginning to set, turning the blue sky shades of orange, pink and purple. Beyond the smaller buildings, the stately Alexandria Castle rose high in the distance.
Zidane let out a low whistle. "This place sure is pretty. Don't get this view back home,"
"Back home?" The girl said. "You do not live in Alexandria?"
"Nah," Zidane said. "I'm from Lindblum. Been there all my life,"
"I have been to Lindblum before!" The girl said, perking up. "It is so beautiful there,"
Zidane chuckled. "Yeah, but the girl's here are much prettier,"
The girl's cheeks turned a little red. "I-is that so?"
He burst out laughing.
"W-what is so funny?" She asked.
"Nothing, nothing," Zidane said. He realized how he liked her voice. It rang sweet and melodic. She had a certain way of talking that was very precise and proper. It almost made Zidane feel like he was unworthy of her presence.
"So, what brings you to Alexandria?" The girl asked.
"Oh, just visiting," He answered. Baku had wanted to come to the city to get his sword fixed (he swore all the weapons shops in Lindblum were run by crooks). Zidane had just decided to accompany him on a whim.
"Do you travel a lot?" The girl asked.
"Eh, I guess," Zidane said, shrugging his shoulders.
"You are very lucky," She said, her voice lowering to a whisper. "I would love to see the world one day,"
"You don't get out much?" Zidane asked.
"No, not often," She answered. "My mother is very, er, protective,"
There was a pause as they continued to watch the sun set.
"I would like to see more of the world too," said Zidane. "There's a lot out there I haven't been to yet," He turned to the girl and said half-jokingly, "Maybe we'll go together one day?"
The girl opened her mouth to respond. "I-"
Just then, a bell chimed from the direction of the castle. It rang clear, once, twice-
Zidane looked over at the girl, who seemed to be counting the rings in a panic. The bell rang for a sixth time and then ceased.
"Six o'clock?!" The girl exclaimed. "I have to go!"
"What? You have to get home before the spell wears off or something?" Zidane wanted nothing more than for this Cinderella to stay a little longer.
"If I do not attend dinner, mother will be in a fit!" She said, scrambling down the ladder. Zidane decided to forgo the ladder and jump off the roof. He landed on the ground just as the girl did.
She was about to run off when Zidane grabbed her shoulder, spinning her around. "Hey, wait,"
"What is it?" The girl said. "I am in a hurry,"
"Here," Zidane pulled the bills and change out of the purse and held it out to her. "Consider this my apology for landing on you before,"
"Oh, no, I couldn't," The girl said. "You keep it,"
"Besides, you earned it," she said, smiling. The tightness returned to Zidane's chest.
"B-but I can't use this or anything," he said.
"You could sell it," She grinned, slipping out of his grasp. "Or give it to one of your pretty Alexandrian girls,"
"Hey, that's what I was trying to d-"
She had already set off down the alley.
"Wait!" Zidane said.
She turned around.
"You didn't even tell me your name!" He called.
Time stopped for a moment as the mysterious girl threw her head back and laughed. He watched as her beautiful figure was illuminated by the last rays of sunlight, her braid cascading down her back and unabashed smile spread across her face. The air left Zidane's chest, almost as if the girl had punched him again. She had left him breathless once again.
And in the next moment the girl was gone, leaving the alleyway as empty as it was before.
"Hey, bro, did'cha hear?" Blank asked.
Zidane turned to him. "Hear what?"
The two were sitting at the counter in a tavern in Lindblum where Ruby was currently working.
"Apparently, in Alexandria, the queen's lessened the sentence for stealing," Blank said. "Before it was a few months in the slammer and now it's just a little fine!"
"Huh," Zidane said. "Kind of makes me want to move out there,"
"Honestly," Ruby said from behind the counter, where she was putting away clean glasses in the cabinet. "I wish y'all would stop stealin' and focus on somethin' more useful. Like actin',"
"Ruby, that's practically the least helpful thing in the world," Blank said, rolling his eyes.
"Hey, watch ya mouth!" Ruby said. "Actin' is always helpful! Like when ya don't have enough money to pay ya bill at the diner, then all ya gotta do is-"
"Wonder why the queen decided to do that," Zidane said quietly, letting Ruby carry on.
"I dunno," Blank answered, also ignoring Ruby. "But I heard it was the princess' doing. She said thieves were just trying to make a living for themselves and shouldn't be punished as much,"
"The princess?" Zidane curiosity was piqued. He heard she was the most babe-licious beauty in all of Alexandria. Although he had never seen her in person, he was pretty sure anyone who passed a law like that had to have a heart of gold (not to mention, be smokin' hot.)
"And even when-" Ruby whirled around to face them. "Are y'all even listenin' to me?!"
Author's Note: So, I wrote this in an hour or so while I was supposed to be working on my summer homework. This was actually originally inspired by the book I have to read for my Chinese class, in which there's a Robin Hood-esque thief who meets a pretty girl and then gets kidnapped by scary people in black clothes. I really should've taken French instead...
Oh, and yes, Viscount Campbell is a direct Emma reference.
Reviews, as always, are much appreciated! :D
(I'm seriously in the mood to play some Final Fantasy IX now!)