Freya and Fratley’s journey to Lindblum was uneventful and they soon found themselves at the gate to the grand city, heading up the last flight of stairs and into the bustling Business district. Looking upwards towards the grand castle, Freya could see the many airship hangars lining its walls and one particularly distinctive shape stood out to her.
“The Red Rose is here,” she said pointing up towards the front of the airship visible in one of the hangars.
“The airship of the royal family of Alexandria, right?” asked Fratley.
“Indeed, which means Zidane and Garnet are likely here as well,” answered Freya with a slight smile, looking forward to meeting them again. She then looked out over the bustling crowd in front of them, “But we don’t need to head to the castle just yet, let us see the city first. Been a while since I have been here.”
Lindblum’s streets were bustling with activity and Freya and Fratley could only slowly make headway through the crowds and leapt to the roofs instead to get around more easily.
Getting rooms was no problem as Freya had managed to reserve rooms ahead of time at an inn in the business district.
They quickly got settled in, leaving their supplies at the room, before settling down for a brief break.
Fratley moved to the window, looking out over the bustling street. “So many people,” he said sounding slightly awed.
“It is rather extreme, even for the Festival,” agreed Freya as she walked up next to him, looking out the window. “I am glad we won’t have to make our way through that crowd,” she added in relief.
“So am I,” said Fratley in agreement and then, after a brief silence, “though I think it would be better if we split up now.”
“What do you mean?” asked Freya a bit confused, having expected to be wandering with Fratley.
Fratley smiled again. “I know you would stay by my side if I asked you to, but there is really no reason. You know the city; you know the things you wish to see here, while I am just going to try to get a sense of its layout ahead of the Festival. You don’t need to tag along with me for that,” he said his gazing dropping as he continued; “in fact I think it would be good for me to explore this on my own.”
“How come?” asked Freya a little nervously.
Much to her surprised, Fratley drew her into an embrace and held her for a moment. “Because, if you are near I would have a hard time focusing on the city,” he said with a smile as he looked her in the eyes.
Freya smiled, her heart beating faster as Fratley let go of the embrace. “If you think that is for the best,” she said slowly. “Just remember how to find your way back here.
Look for the main gate if nothing else, if I get worried I will find you there.”
“Understood, but it won’t be a problem, I promise,” said Fratley confidently.
They parted ways shortly after that, leaping effortlessly to the roofs of the houses around the street and avoiding the crowds.
To Freya the first stop was the industrial district, which had almost completely been destroyed in the attack. Now it stood rebuilt and even if the layout was very different from the district Freya remembered, the smoking chimneys and the working sounds from all around them told them that the district still stayed true to its name.
The mass of people were less there as well, making it easier to get around. It also allowed Freya to catch sight of a sign she recognized quite well. “The Doom Pub,” read the big letters over the entrance to a familiar looking building.
She headed towards the building, wondering only briefly whether the building had survived the destruction of the district or if it had just been rebuilt. Ultimately, she concluded it did not really matter. Instead she wondered if perhaps she was not the only one who had noticed the pub had been rebuilt…
She headed into the pub, the long bar desk stretching from near the entrance door and towards the back, just as she remembered it. However, what caught her attention was a young man in a bright blue vest and blue jeans sitting at the bar, a monkey tail trailing behind him.
As she watched, he ordered another drink from the barmaid, simply placing his order and going back to looking at something behind the bar. This interaction amused her in how different it was to how he had acted when she meet him here last time.
She walked up to the seat next to him, sitting down and before he could really react she spoke, “not going to flirt with the barmaid this time, monkey-tail?” she asked teasingly.
He looked at her with surprised and then with a broad smile, “are you insinuating I hit on every pretty girl, rat-face?” he replied in faked outrage.
Freya simply smiled and he did the same, before he spoke again. “Good to see you again, Freya,” he said.
“Likewise, Zidane,” answered Freya with a smile, “I hoped you would be here for the hunt.”
“Would not miss it, got a title I need to take after all,” said Zidane confidently even as he signaled the bartender. “Besides, can’t just let you win by virtue of being the only one of us to show up.”
Freya ordered a beer, before continuing the conversation. “So, no one else from our journey who will be joining the hunts?” she asked a bit disappointed, “Steiner? Beatrix maybe?”
“Sadly no, both are keeping an eye on Alexandria while Garnet and I are here,” told Zidane, before looking thoughtful for a moment, “though I did see Amarant earlier at the castle. Did not get a chance to talk to him, said he had business to attend to, but maybe he will be joining?”
“Would make things more interesting, certainly,” said Freya confidently taking a large sip of her drink. “Long time since I have seen Amarant as well. Eiko and Garnet as well, looking forward to seeing them again as well.”
“It has been a while since so many from our party has been in the same place, has it not?” said Zidane with a pondering expression, “I think the last time we all saw each other was in Alexandria when I returned.” His voice dropped a bit as he glanced down, “well, most of us anyway.”
“Yeah,” said Freya slowly before raising her mug. “To Vivi.”
“To Vivi,” replied Zidane as he raised his mug as well and they sat in silence for a moment before Zidane broke the silence.
“What about Fratley, will he be joining us?” asked Zidane and with a slight note of concern continued, “and has there been any developments?”
Freya was silent for a second before she answered. “We are still together after I found him again some two years ago, and he is here in Lindblum to join the hunt as well. He remembers…more, but not much and I have noticed he has problems with his memory regarding new stuff at times as well,” told Freya in a somber voice.
“I see,” said Zidane, before giving her a confident smile, “well I am sure you can figure something out. You have helped one broken case before after all,” he added with a slight chuckle as he quickly pointed to himself.
Freya simply smiled and took another sip, before switching topics. “What brings you to the pub here, thought you could just find some better food or drink up at the castle?”
“Castle food is not really my style, but I must admit Quina has made some amazing meals while at Alexandria castle,” told Zidane, “but you know s/he, always searching for new food and rarely stays at the castle for any length of time, so I have just had to live through it. No idea where s/he is right now, but I am sure s/he is fine.”
“As for why I am here, I have been visiting the old gang over in the Theater district and decided to see how the Industrial district was coming along,” he added as he took a sip.
“And how are you and Garnet?” asked Freya.
Zidane’s face was practically beaming as he looked blissfully into the air for a moment, his tail standing almost straight up behind him.
He soon looked down again with some embarrassment through and quickly took a big sip of drink. “It has been a little difficult to adjust to the life at the castle,” said Zidane slowly, though still smiling, “quite a few things to learn that I have had no real experience with and some of the clothing is beyond impractical.”
“But I can always slip into town, visit Ruby’s theater or similar when it gets too much for me and Garnet does not mind, even coming along at times when she needs a break as well,” he told, “not that we have had too much time for a break, what with the reconstruction effort across the continent. And we likely won’t have a break just yet afterwards either.”
“How so?” asked Freya curiously.
Zidane looked up for a moment, the same smile from before on his face, before turning to Freya. “We are getting married.” Zidane got a mischievous grin on his face, “I guess we technically already are, but I don’t think she ever considered that proper.”
The grin vanished as he spoke more seriously, “but we long wanted to have a proper ceremony, make it official, but we did not want to do it while the scars of what happened still lingered on the three nations. And now, as repairs are finishing, we can start planning it.”
“Congratulations then, Zidane,” said Freya as she lifted her mug to him.
“Though speaking of Garnet, where is she right now?” asked Freya, Zidane’s obvious happiness also making her joyful and she hoped that Fratley and her would find similar happiness soon.
“Probably somewhere in town with Eiko, she dragged Garnet off with her shortly after we arrived, energetic as ever,” said Zidane with a smile, “you will probably be able to meet her once it is time to sign up for the hunt.”
“And the feast afterwards,” added Freya.
“Indeed,” said Zidane and then continued, “though, regarding the hunt, any thoughts as to the prize you will ask for?”
“Not really, not anything that is really needed,” admitted Freya, “just here for the challenge.”
“Much my own thought, but I think I will end up asking for a card,” said Zidane, “mostly for symbolic reasons.”
“It was what Vivi asked for, was it not?” asked Freya, remembering that hunt those years ago, “that actually sounds like a great idea for a prize.”
“Garnet thought so as well,” said Zidane with a smile and raised his mug, Freya meeting it.
Elsewhere Fratley was walking along the roof of a building, moving carefully as his eyes took in the city around him.
He look around himself. The houses rose upwards behind him, up towards the main castle and turning to his right he could see the grand gate of the city in the distance, airships coming and going through it. It was awe inspiring to look at, a completely different scale to city of Burmecia and far more people as well.
Yet he knew it could have been the first time he was here, at least it was highly unlikely. A city as big as this, the biggest city on the mist continent, there was no way he had not visited it during his journey in the past, or heard about it, at least that is what Freya had told him.
However, as he looked around at the grand walls, the airships gliding through the air and the grand castle behind him, he remembered nothing.
Right beneath him was a large open square, a market of some kind ongoing down there and people crowded around the stalls, weaving among each other to try to get a look at the goods at display.
It made Fratley happy that he could watch it from the rooftops instead of being down there among the crowd as there mere thought of trying to navigate it made him shiver…he had enough problems navigating the city from up here.
He sighed as he slumped down against slanted tiles of the roof. He has insisted on going alone and he did not regret it, Freya needed her time alone and he needed to get out of her comfort zone, at least he felt he needed it.
He looked at his hands, opening and closing them a few times even as a small smile crossed his lips. It was not a smile of happiness, but one of mild amusement as he ruminated on the strange nature of his life as it had been recently.
He remembered the people of Burmecia, at least as he had come to know them now, the praise they heaped upon him filled him with pride, his strength and skill obviously impressive to them. Yet, most of the time all he saw was the back of Freya.
Her strength was far beyond his and even if she insisted it had not always been that way it was still all he remembered. Moreover, she was the one who guided him in trying to recover a life he had lost. She was guiding him and he had no doubt she would like nothing more than to do so for the rest of her life if she had to…
Nevertheless, he had seen the sadness in her eyes as well, those moments when she clearly remembered what they had before…it pained him. He did not want to see her like that and while he did not know if he could ever recover his memory, he could at least try to move on from being guided by her, let her know that he would be okay even without his memory.
However, he was getting nowhere regarding that if he kept letting her guide him around the world and the first step to that would be to seek to learn on his own.
He stood up with renewed determination, looked around…and was immediately unsure which direction he had come from before he arrived there. The houses looked the same on both side and the market beneath him…which way had he arrived at the market from?
He quickly took a deep breath and looked around for the two landmarks he knew he could usually see, the castle and the main gate. The castle towered up behind him and to his right was the gate, as he had done before, and he knew they had their room in an inn near the main gate, so that had to be where he had come from.
He calmed somewhat as he leapt to the next house over on his left even as he silently cursed his own memory. Learning to navigate Burmecia had been hard enough…remembering Freya, even if that came easily enough to him now, had also come slowly…whatever had cost him his memory had left a lasting mark.
He moved a bit randomly through town, leaping from house to house until he spotted a larger open area up ahead. He headed towards, but found not a plaza, but a small park. A large reinforced wagon stood parked at the edge of the grass, a number of guards around it, keeping a small group of people at bay of the wagon.
Fratley leapt to the ground and approached the wagon, slightly curious as to what it was. He had seen similar wagons around town, but none had been as big as this one and as he watched it shook slightly, a loud roar rising from it.
The roar triggered something in him as he instinctively reached for his glaive, not realizing at first that it was not with him and slowing down as he approached the wagon.
As he got closer, he could see large bars near the front of the wagon and through them he could see a massive four legged hulking monster. Thick orange hide covered its body with a bright blue line of fur running across its back. Its head was long, dominated by two massive tusks set on either side of its toothy mouth even as two yellow eyes gazed out at him.
For a moment, his gaze locked with those beastly eyes and he once again found himself instinctively reaching for his glaive, his entire body tensing up, ready to leap out of the way when it charged.
Charged? How did he know it would charge…he was confused, not really sure where he was for a moment.
“Please step back, Burmecian,” said a powerful voice and he was snapped back to find himself standing in front of the guards around the wagon, “for your own safety, please stand back.”
“Sorry,” he said briefly and stepped back, still watching the monster as it roared again, rattling the wagon.
He turned around and headed back through the small gathering of people, before an elder near the back stopped him.
The elder man stood hunched over and wrapped in a green blanket, but his voice was strong. “It is an impressive specimen, is it not?” he asked and Fratley looked at him confused, still a bit rattled by his reaction from before.
“Excuse me?” mumbled Fratley finally.
“The Zaghnol,” said the elder man gesturing to the cage, “one of the finest I have managed to bring home if I do say so myself,” said the old man.
“You caught that?” asked Fratley skeptically.
“Not alone, but I know where to look, how to trap them!” said the old man firmly, “and if I was 20 years younger I would be fighting it as well.” The old man then looked up at Fratley, watching him through his spectacles, “but you have faced one before, have you not? I saw how you reacted to its roar, like a tightened spring ready jump.”
“I…would not know,” said Fratley as he glanced back at the cage, “my memory is not as it has been.”
The old man regard him for a moment more and then smiled. “Lucky you.”
“What?” asked Fratley confused.
“To be able to experience such a fight as if it was the first time all over again, what I would not give for such a chance,” said the old man with obvious regret.
“Losing one’s memory is not really such a blessing,” said Fratley dejected.
“Maybe not, but focus on the positives. You get to experience everything all over again, the same wonder we all had at one point, you can experience again. Few have that blessing,” said the old man firmly.
Fratley did not answer, but simply looked at the Zaghnol again and sighed.
“Hey, if it bothers you so much, participate in the festival and fight the thing. If you fought a Zaghnol before like your reaction implied, you might still remember it on some level. And if that part of you experiences it again, maybe you will remember,” said the old man with a slight smile, “watching people test their might against the monsters I capture is always a joy.”
The old man started walking past Fratley as he pondered this, but he did not have to think for long.
“Then keep an eye out for me during the hunt old man, the names Fratley, ‘Iron-tail’ Fratley,” he said confidently.
“No need to tell me your name young one, ill be able to remember you quite well,” answered the man with a dismissive wave of his hand, though he soon turned around and smiled, “but good luck in the hunt, you will need it.”