To A Thief - Chapter 18: ReunionA Chapter by Jobyn
Moku has returned! Today's rest and relaxation would be wise to savor, as the next round of brutal training will test not only Stiff and Draven's limits, but the entire Brigade as a whole.
"Everyone. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the name, but I would like to introduce you to Moku; the Brigade's trusted 'outside source'." Vincent introduced the tarutaru as he walked over to him. "And he's also an old friend of mine. We go way back. Don't let his appearance fool you; you will find no better mentor nor knowledge base in Vana'diel. I think it would be safe to say that, as it stands, Moku here is one of the smartest mages out there."
Moku chuckled humbly and removed his tunic's hood, revealing his head of shaggy brown hair. "Hehe, pretty words.. they don't mean a thing to these fellows. I'll have to show them first hand tomorrow morning."
Vincent gave a pursed smile and nodded, placing his great sword on his back and looking across the room. "You all have the rest of the day off. You'll need it for tomorrow. I shall be joining this regimen alongside you all. Do not disappoint me. Okina, that means you." He said, walking towards the door way and shooting a glance at the monkey girl.
"Ye'siree!" Okina saluted him playfully.
"Stiff." He called out as he walked down the hall leading to his quarters. "With me. Now."
Stiff bit his lower lip for a moment, but proceeded reluctantly. "Yes, sir." But before he reached the doorway, he felt Claire brush past him in a hurry after Vincent.
"Just a moment, sir. I would like to speak on Stiff's behalf on the matter of the enemy. He has gathered a decent amount of intel that I believe would go to the Brigade's favor." She reported, glancing briefly at Stiff.
Stiff blinked in response, but quickly nodded to her. He didn't have any complaints about it, since Vincent would probably have been too busy giving him hell.
"Hmph.. interesting. Very well, I'll be in my quarters." Vincent responded with the arch of his brow before walking into his office. Claire immediately followed behind.
Stiff let out a deep, relieved sigh and let his back hit the wall. "Man.. that wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. Besides Veronaut beating the snot outta' me.."
Draven just shrugged his shoulders, looking across the room. "You're just lucky he resorted to using his hands. Although, if that's the case.. that means he wanted to personally hurt you."
"Why does everybody I meet try to kill me..?" Stiff muttered grumpily shifting his gaze across the common room in discomfort.
Draven couldn't help but give a small grin. "You're just easy to hate, I guess.. what with that stupid smile you got going."
"Oh, you mean the one you perfected back at Ghelsba?" Stiff scoffed as the two chuckled.
"Hehe, so it is true.." Moku grinned as he wobbled over to the two of them. "My little Warchief Wreckers have joined the Brigade. I must say, I wasn't expecting that from Stiff. You must have improved a lot over the last month. Both of you."
"Knock it off, Moku.." Draven frowned in embarrassment as he looked to the side. "I still can't believe such a minor feat even granted us a title.."
Moku just chuckled at his response, but knew deep down that it couldn't have been any easy feat. Not against the warchief that he saw.
As Stiff laughed, he suddenly stopped and pointed accusingly at Moku. "Hey, wait! What do you mean 'wasn't expecting that from Stiff!?'"
"He means you sucked." Draven smirked. "So suck it up."
"Ohh, keep talking blondie.. we'll see who has improved the most tomorrow! You hear that, Moku? You'd better keep score."
Moku tapped his chin in thought, liking that idea. "Hmm.. interesting! I, for one, would love to see that. It would be quite fitting, in fact.. and is the perfect test for such an occasion. You'll see why.."
"Bring it on, loser." Draven snorted, accepting Stiff's challenge. "You haven't made the best impression as of yet, so I'm not intimidated."
Stiff flinched at that remark.
The truth hurts. Seriously, what *have* I done lately that is even worth mentioning?
Let's see.. I got blown to s**t by a buncha goblins.
I got my a*s kicked by a tree which Draven basically saved me from..
I sort of passed the Brigadier course after getting my a*s crushed and bitten by worms and man-eating pugils.
Uh.. I disobeyed my leader's orders.
I got my a*s kicked by the men in black.
Then I got my a*s kicked by Veronaut.
I got a piggy back ride by a girl who's a year younger than me.
Oh, that reminds me.. she tried to kill me too! Then a giant plant tried to kill me, WHICH the enemy saved me from!
I sure have a lot to make up for..
And on top of all that, I didn't even have my own airship pass.
Stiff blinked as that thought hit him. Turning to Moku, he rubbed the back of his own neck and gave a modest grin. "Hey, Moku.. about the airship pass. I seriously appreciate it, but.. why did you do it? That's a lot of money.. and we're not exactly 'old friends'."
Moku just shrugged his little shoulders and gave a casual smile. "Eh, I felt like helping you get your feet off the ground. Wouldn't want you pestering anyone else to take you across the continent by foot like I did." He chuckled jokingly. "Besides, you'll pay me back eventually. Don't thank me just yet."
Stiff slumped his shoulders with a grunt. He knew it was too much gil to go unpaid. "Yeah, yeah.. figures." He was about to open his mouth to say something else when suddenly he was tackled onto the floor by a strong force.
"Stiffy~!" Okina exclaimed as she tumbled around the floor with him. "Look! I look just like you now!" She giggled, tugging at his brigandine armor and then at her own as she loomed over him.
"Ungh.. yeah, so? Mine is still better.." Stiffy groaned as he looked up at her, feeling a little dazed by the force of the tackle. But he quickly sat up when he realized she was sitting on top of him, hoping people wouldn't get the wrong idea.
"Huuuuh?" She tilted her head curiously, blinking at his armor. "But they look exactly the same, the same.."
Stiff gave a smug grin, pushing his chest out. "Well, you see.. mine is um, specially reinforced.. for thieves. Light as a feather and durable as.. an adamantoise!"
Draven ran his hand down his own face. "'Light' and 'adamantoise' shouldn't even be used in the same sentence.. your stupidity amazes me." He muttered towards Stiff.
"Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh?" Okina drew out, leaning in even closer with her big, curious eyes examining the armor closely. She tugged at it gently with her hands. "Wow, that's cool Stiffy!" She smiled wide, pulling his armor hard and attempting to stretch it all over.
"HEY!" Stiff cried out, grabbing onto her wrists. "W-wait! You're gonna stretch the material! *CRRRRK!* WAIT! I think I just heard it rip! Okay, okay! Stop!"
"Woooo, Stiff.." Flint whistled as he walked over to them, cocking his left brow multiple times with a grin and snapping and pointing his finger towards the young thief like a total douchebag. "She's already trying to get ya outta' your clothes, huh? Even I'm not that quick."
"Mrrroww.. need some help?" Nanaa smirked playfully at Okina, swishing her tail from side to side. "I do like wherrrre this is going.."
"Hey, come on guys..! It's not like that at all!" Stiff shifted his eyes at them all in a panic. "I was just - she was just - with the armor-"
"Quit being such a pervert, Stiff." Draven sighed, shaking his head. "You're practically glowing.."
"Guuuhuhuh.." Stiff slumped and lowered his head down towards the floor in misery and defeat.
Moku couldn't help but laugh as he looked on at the sight, a sincere smirk cutting across his face. "Seems like you two have made quite a few friends already.. that's good." He thought to himself in content.
"I must admit, things were a lot quieterrr before he joined the Brigade." A familiar voice giggled behind Moku.
Moku turned and was pleasantly surprised.
The one who stood before him was a young mithran woman with a delicate face like that of a newly-bloomed flower. The ends of her short blonde hair just barely met with her shoulders, the bangs over her forehead resting just above her brows. She looked down at Moku with a pair of gentle blue eyes and a friendly smile on her face.
The way she wore her linkshell armor was a lot different than most of the members in the Brigade. In fact, the only thing she wore that resembled the Brigandine armor was the checkered insignia that ran along the center of the body piece she wore. The rest of the body piece consisted of a black and light-gray sleeveless and thin leather jacket with small guards above her shoulders. She had a pair of long gloves with a similar design and material as the rest of her set. A pair of short leather trousers that she wore exposed much of her smooth thighs, or at least up to her thigh-high leather boots that were folded down a bit at the top and fastened by a few buckles. Of course, her tail poked out and responded with a dainty swish.
All in all, she looked very fashionable compared to the other members.
"Well if it isn't my apprentice mage! It's good to see you, Mel." Moku smiled, walking over to her and admiring her getup. "Oh, the new look suits you!"
"Well, I drrress to imprrress!" Mel held her arms out jokingly, letting out another giggle. "It's good to see you too, I missed you. So you'rre back for another rrround of your famous training, eh? It's about time."
"You know it." Moku gave a humble smile. "I'm looking forward to seeing how well you've progressed your magicks since our last course. I know for sure you've got a new trick or two up your sleeves!"
Mel smiled contently as she rested a hand on her hip. "Look forrrward to it, sensei. I think you'll be utterrrly surprised."
Moku gave a pleased smile and turned his gaze back towards everyone else. "This month has been so hectic for me lately, I could use some time to be amongst familiar faces. I think I would have gone crazy otherwise." He chuckled. "Where is Annie, anyway? She's usually with you, is she not?"
Mel gave a helpless smile. "She's knocked out in her dorrrm room.. poor thing got overrrworked this morrrning during one of our assignments. So much so that she's been going into ditz mode a lot more today. I guess herrr mind just can't keep it at bay when she's mentally tirrred as well."
"I see.." Moku chuckled, thinking of Annie's random personality outbursts when under stress. "Believe me, I could relate."
"She was actually up and about for a few minutes earrrlier.. she decided to break up a fight between Stiff over therrre and Veronaut." She sighed, holding her hands up in a shrug. "I told herrr boys will be boys, but she rrrefused to let them interrrupt her nap."
Moku's eyes widened a bit in surprise, turning to Stiff who was still on the floor being bullied by everyone. "You mean.. Stiff and Veronaut got in a fight? Why? How?"
Mel pursed her lips in thought. "I hearrrd the details from Nanaa, but it's kind of a long storrry. It involves that cute little monkey girrrl."
Moku blinked, feeling a bit confused about it. "Oh? I noticed her and was wondering if she was - you know.."
Okina's stomach suddenly rumbled fiercely. Bringing two hands and pressing them against her belly, she looked up at Stiff with a pout. "Stiffy, I'm soooo hungry, hungry.."
Stiff stared at her in disbelief. "Again!? Okina, you stocked out the entire airship to Jeuno of its snacks about two hours ago! How can you be hungry already?"
Okina just poked her fingertips together in response, lowering her head and sticking out her lips innocently. "I know, I know.. but you promised me you was going to show me mithra bobs.."
Stiff continued to stare in surprise, but eventually felt himself snicker at how hard it was to say no to her. Maybe that's how she won Vincent over. She was just too cute.
"They're called meat mithkabobs.. and you kind of forced me to promise." He sighed, reaching for his money pouch and feeling the bit of gil he still had. She had definitely burned off a hefty amount of it during the airship ride.
Suddenly, an idea hit him.
"Hey, Moku.." He turned to the tarutaru with a grin. "Since you've got so much 'pocket money' lying around, how about you take us out for lunch?"
Okina's face lit up with excitement, dashing over to Moku and nabbing him up in her arms and holding him up with a big smile. "Please, Mr. Moku? Please?"
"Whoooa!" Moku squirmed, tensing up as he was held into the air by the opo-opo girl. "Yes, yes, fine! If it'll get you to put me down!"
Okina giggled and brought Moku in for a tight hug, nearly crushing him with her ridiculous strength. "Thank you so much, so much! I want mithra bobs, bobs!"
Moku struggled to breathe, choking out towards Mel as he looked at her. "You can.. tell me about it.. over.. lunch!"
Mel laughed and nodded her head. "Sounds good."
"You all coming then?" He caught his breath as he was let down by Okina.
"Alright, count me in." Flint grinned, crossing his arms behind his head. "I haven't eaten anything either, but since you're paying.."
"I'm going!!" Okina exclaimed, shooting her finger at the heavens.
"Yes, Okina.. I-I am aware." Moku tapped the side of his head.
"Hmmm.. I will have to pass up your offerrr this time." Nanaa waved her hand in the air with a sigh as she strutted off. "Business beckons."
"Draven?" Stiff smiled, patting him on the back. "You coming with?"
Draven gave a disgruntled look at Stiff as he patted his back, but shoved himself off the wall and shrugged. "Tch.. Yeah, why not."
"You're actually going to join us?" Moku asked Draven in surprise as they all began making their way out into the bustling streets of Lower Jeuno. "That's a first! Broadening your social horizons, I see."
"Shut up. Keep talking and I won't." Draven snorted, staying behind the chatty group.
"Hehe, you don't have to tell me twice." Moku chuckled.
"O-Okina, will you not latch onto my arm like that..? People are going to think we're like.. d-dating or something." Stiff's voice grumbled among the group.
"Um.. have you met Draven yet, Okina?" Stiff suddenly smiled evily.
"Don't even think about it." Draven growled.
"Draven? Who's he, who's he?" She asked curiously, looking at Stiff and then at the blonde male hume at the back of the group. Letting go of Stiff's arm, she smiled wide and hopped over to him, looking him straight in the eyes in that acknowledging manner of hers. "Hi Dravy!"
Draven pulled his head back a bit as she got really close, blinking at her and then looking off to the side. "Stiff.."
Flint nudged Stiff with his elbow and grinned; Stiff snickering in response.
"Do you mind if I walk with yous, walk with yous?" Okina asked innocently, tilting her head to the side.
"..." Draven remained silent, but was unable to hide a small hue of pink that crept across his face.
"By the gods.. is that a blush?" Mel asked in disbelief as she looked at Draven with a playful smile.
"Yes, I believe it is!" Moku responded, clapping his hands. "Bravo, Okina!"
The group laughed at the display; aside from an angry Draven who swore out loud that he would kill Stiff and kept his face hidden.
As well as Okina, who simply asked, "Huuuuuh? What did I do?"
So we made our way down to the Merry Minstrel's Meadhouse down by the Auction House for lunch. Up until now I hadn't really had a chance to visit some of the many hot spots in Jeuno, so it was nice to sit down and relax amongst friendly company for once.
To my pleasant surprise, I ran into a couple of more familiar faces once arriving at the Merry Minstrel.
"Whoa, hey guys!" Stiff called out and waved to Salnar, Jakky and Horis who sat at a round table near the right wall of the tavern. "Am I surprised to see you all here.. how ya been?"
"Oi! If it isn't the Stiffmeister!" Salnar responded with a wide smirk, holding up his pint. "We was wondering where ye' be!"
"So you made it afterrr all.. that's good." Jakky replied shyly with a wave. "It's good to see you again."
"Why so surprised? Like I said, everyone bumps heads in Jeuno more than twice.." Horis muttered with a nod.
"Oh yeah.." Stiff chuckled, rubbing the back of his head. "Guess I forgot. There's just been a lot going on, that's all."
"I ran inta' Jakky and Horis 'ere earlier when I was sellin' goods down at the auction place.. they's just arrived then. We decided ta' hunt some worms down at Qufim fer a bit before catching up 'ere and having us some good drink. Why dont'cha join us?"
"I see.. I'm glad you guys could make it too, heh." Stiff smiled, but pursing his lips as Salnar invited him to join. "Actually, I was just about to ask if you guys would like to join me and my friends over there for something to eat.."
Salnar blinked and leaned to the side looking at the table Stiff had motioned to where everyone else sat. "Whoa, yer with them? Jeez, ya runnin' an expedition or somethin'?" He snickered.
Stiff snorted and shook his head. "Nah, they're just some of my linkshell members is all. So how about it?"
We spent a good portion of that afternoon stuffing our faces and having some normal conversation. I hadn't sat down and talked to people like this since I was back in the dunes with Salnar and the gang. Those sleepless nights of laughter and merriment.. it felt just like that.
Can't say we were all here.. but what're you gonna do?
The remainder of our time at the Merry Minstrel was used up making fun of my embarrassing endeavors, unfortunately..
"Defeated by a little mandragora? Boy, Stiff.. even outside of Windurst those critters get the best of you.." Moku sighed, crossing his arms and leaning back on his seat. "I'm embarrassed for you."
"Oh, shut up..! I was just too focused on the temple to notice the thing suddenly burst out of the ground singing." Stiff grumbled as he rested his head on his hand.
"Oi, how about the time ye' ran amuck the Jugner Forest screaming yer knickers off like a lil' girl?" Salnar grinned widely, nudging Stiff hard on the side and causing him to flinch at the sharpness of his elbow.
"What!? That's.. that is not true." Stiff quickly replied, shaking his head.
"Heh, I can vouch for that.. I was there." Draven smirked.
"At least it wasn't as bad as Aki running around from tree to tree when those orcish lancers were coming after us back at La Theine.. he was so scared he didn't even know when to stop." Stiff chuckled, leaning back on his chair and resting a hand on the table. He kept his gaze down on the wood with a faded smile.
Upon gazing back up, he saw that Salnar and Jakky had done the same, growing a bit silent.
"Yes.. I've never seen a tarutaru run so fast before." Horis snorted, trying to break the tension and succeeding in at least making them grin.
"Who's Aki, Aki?" Okina asked curiously, munching on the last section of meat from her twelfth mithkabob.
"Just a good friend of ours.." Stiff smiled, fiddling with his half-filled glass of thundermelon juice.
"Where is he now? Now?" Okina blinked, looking around all over the place. "Is he here?"
"He's.. on a grand adventure." Jakky replied with the shift of her mithran tail.
"Aye, one ye' only get ta' go on about once in yer lifetime." Salnar nodded.
"Huuuuuuh? He sounds like a brave person!" Okina exclaimed, dropping the empty kabob on the plate in front of her with the rest and smiling wide while patting her belly. "Yuuuuuum! You was right, Stiffy! Mithra bobs taste soooo good~"
Stiff chuckled and shook his head. "Try not to eat the entire restaurant's stock next time.. sheesh. Oh, as well as the airship's stock of snacks." He said jokingly.
"It's not my fault they're so good.. hmph!" Okina whined grumpily.
"Try not to eat too much, Okina! You don't want to become a fatty, do you? Then you won't fit in prrretty clothes.." Mel snickered, her feline ears pulling back deviously before standing up. "Well, I'd best get going. Much to do.."
Flint quickly stood up and wrapped his arm around Mel's waist with a hearty grin. "Yep! It's about time we went on our date."
"In your dreams, loverrr boy.." Mel muttered, unwrapping his arm. "You know I preferrr a man who spends morrre time and money on his appearance than on his weapon.." She smirked, shooting a glance at Draven as she made her way out the exit. "Maybe if *he* was a year older.."
"What? That's bullcrap.. I got both of those things." Flint grumbled, tucking away his rifle and looking over at the table with a smirk. "Girls are all over me. They think I'm sexy.. unlike Stiff over there. He's just a brat."
Stiff furrowed his brows as he stood up and shot a glare at Flint. "No way! Girls.. do like me! They think I'm.. cute!" He protested, feeling like the lesser man of the group since he was so young and had a small frame compared to them.
"Aye, cute like a moogle.." Salnar snickered as he waved off Stiff's statement.
"Shut up Salnar.. look who's talking! Who would want a lanky jerk that talks like redbeard the pirate?" Stiff snorted.
"I'll tell ye' who.. Oi, Jakky? G'ahead and tell him." Salnar grinned smugly, scooting next to the idle mithra. "Tell that child o'er there about Salnar's dashing good looks."
"Wh-What? I-I.. But I wasn't.. " Jakky stuttered, her face growing red as she brought her hands to her chest.
"Nuh uh!" Stiff frowned, making his way to Jakky's left and leaning forward pointing at his own face with a devilish smirk. "Aren't I the better looking one, Jakky? Tell him!"
"S-Stiff.. S-Salnar.. wh-what - how.. I can't-" Jakky continued to stutter, beginning to tremble as her ears perked up and down.
"Sorry Stiff, Jakky isn't attracted to children." Salnar mocked, bringing his hand over to Jakky's head and scratching behind her right ear. "Besides, what woman doesn't find a rebellious pirate sexy?"
"Well, Jakky sure doesn't! She likes cool, strong, and charming heroes like me!" Stiff replied as he made a face at Salnar while mocking his funny accent. He brought his own hand over to the mithra's left ear and began scratching behind it as well.
Jakky sat there completely paralyzed, trembling all over and breathing in gasps as her face turned as red as a tomato. Her tail curled up around her waist tightly as she whimpered to herself before fainting right there and then, her face hitting the table top.
".. Woops." Salnar blinked, pulling his hand away.
"Way to go, redbeard.. you poisoned her." Stiff grumbled.
Horis sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose with the shake of his head. "Why must you two always mess with her.. you know she doesn't do well around that kind of pressure."
You know what? I never really thought about it up until now, but.. the thought of me finding a nice girl hit me today.
Finding happiness in love with a mate.. is there such a thing for a guy like me? I've been so focused on my goal that I kind of lost sight of everything else besides making friends and scaling the open world to think about such things.
So eventually, the others made their way back to headquarters, but not before Moku took my dagger with him promising to return it to me tomorrow morning. He also took Okina back to headquarters in order to receive a brief run-down of her time in the Temple of Uggalepih. I made sure to let him know she was rather sensitive about that place.
As for me, I helped the others return Jakky to her mog house so that she wouldn't be found unconscious at some tavern and receive the wrong idea from onlookers. I'm sure she doesn't drink, after all. Afterwards, I bid farewell to my dunes gang and decided to get some sleep for tomorrow's big day.
Or at least.. I tried to get some sleep.
Stiff laid tensely on his dorm bed in the dark, looking up at the ceiling and unable to go to sleep due to a pair of arms and legs wrapped tightly around him.
Okina laid there at his side, entirely sound asleep with her little sleeping face pressed against his shoulder. She mumbled and grumbled in her sleep, occasionally tightening and pressing herself against Stiff's side.
"This.. this isn't right. How could they let her sleep in my room?" Stiff muttered to himself in silence. "Just because the other girls didn't want to share their dorms and because I brought her here is no excuse to put a growing boy and a growing girl in the same room together! Why is it always me? What if I end up feeling up on her in my sleep!? Why isn't she sleeping in her own bed??"
He felt his face grow even redder as Okina pressed her face against his neck, breathing over his skin. "Nmm.. Stiffy.. chuu~"
"By Altana.. At least.. one of us is getting some rest.." He chuckled nervously.
The next morning.. to my complete and utter dismay, some of the members happened to sneak into the room to witness me and Okina laying in the worst possible position to be walked in on.
It's like they set this up on purpose.
"Aww.. they look so cute togetherrr~" Nanaa whispered as she leaned over the bed.
"I knew it.. he wasn't able to keep his hands off after all." Flint snickered under his breath as he watched from the doorway.
Draven walked by the doorway and glanced inside for a moment as he brushed his teeth wondering what they were gathering for, raising a brow and squinting his eyes before briefly walking away mumbling, "I don't even want to know."
"Pervert.. figures this is why he wanted her here." Annie muttered as she nudged Mel's arm.
"I can't wait to see the look on his face when he wakes up." Mel giggled silently, winking at Annie and fiddling with her own tail.
What does Moku exactly have in mind to weed out the Brigade's weakest?
Find out on Chapter 19: Garrison
© 2011 Jobyn
Added on April 23, 2011
Last Updated on October 31, 2011
Tags: adventure drama comedy brotherly
To A Thief