Elma and Lucil Ch. 04byVampLover69©
We rose all day in silence and no matter how many time I stole a glance at my captain I never found her looking back. We paused briefly at Djose to rest the Chocobos and break the day's fast in silence as well. Both Syven and Lucil seemed perfectly content with the quiet but I had already lost count of the number of times I'd had to bite my tongue. I found the unnatural calm to be disconcerting. I'd been raised on a noisy Chocobo farm and had spent most of my adult life marching with raucous soldiers.
I couldn't help but notice the tightened security in the Mushroom Rock Road area as we rode through it but I didn't even bother questioning my traveling companions. I knew neither one would give me a satisfactory answer or wasn't at liberty to tell me so I didn't even bother breaking the silence.
We didn't stop again until we reached the Travel Agency on the Mi'ihen Highroad. Many Crusaders shunned the establishment, since it was owned by the Al Bhed but this was not the official Crusader stance and none of us in our small group carried any grudges against the Al Bhed. Personally I had grown up in this area and knew the owner personally. In fact, they had been the ones to buy my parent's Chocobo farm once I had joined the Crusaders. I was still on very good terms with them but I saw no reason to revisit the farm. It wasn't my home anymore.
The Crusaders had already set up a payment account for the upkeep of our Chocobos while we were on leave and one of the Al Bhed would be riding with us to Luca so he could lead our Chocobos back here to be stabled for the three days. The mounts that we had ridden here were already stabled and new ones were to be brought out for us to ride to Luca.
When a man rounded the corner leading four Chocobos by their reins I didn't recognize him immediately, but he did recognize me.
"Muhk desa hu caa, meddma lrelepu!" He called out in his native tongue. I had learned the Al Bhed language in my childhood but I was very rusty.
"Pa dryd oui, Ropp?" I asked, stumbling over the forgotten words.
He gave a hearty laugh and started handing out the reigns. "You haven't been practicing, Chicibo."
I gave a faint laugh in return. "Not much use for Al Bhed working for the Crusaders."
"So how have you been? Happy with soldiering?" He handed me my reigns and glanced over at Lucil and inclined his head. "You seem to be keeping good company. Captain Lucil, a pleasure as always."
I turned to look questioningly at Lucil, who waved a hand in dismissal. "We purchased several Chocobos from this farm a few months ago."
I blinked. "Really? Daddy would be happy to know his Chocobos finally made it into the Chocobo Knights."
"Ra't pa rybbo du ghuf rec tyikrdan tet yc famm, Amsy." Ropp chimed in.
I felt my cheek blush a bit at the praise and struggled to translate my answer to his previous question into Al Bhed; without grammatical errors this time. "Meva yc y cumtean yknaac fedr sa... Yc famm yc paehk y Lrulupu Ghekrd. Um... E ryja vuiht... so haf rusa rana."
"Kmyt du rayn ed, Chicibo!" He beamed, using the Spiran version of my own childhood moniker.
This time it was Lucil's turn to chuckle at my nickname. "Chicibo?"
I gave a slightly nervous laugh. "Well, that's what happens when you're the baby around a Chocobo farm." I glanced back at Ropp, who was doing one final check of the mount's saddles. "Ruf yna Dessic yht Netam?" I asked softly.
"Dessic ec uh dra bnyldela cxiyt vun dra Luca Goers, eh y vaf oaync ra syo ajah syga dra days." Ropp beamed and then frowned. "Netam... fa cdemm ryjah'd raynt vnus."
I just nodded once, digesting this and then turned to Lucil. "Ready to depart, Captain?"
She glanced at Syven, who nodded and then answered in the affirmative. We all mounted up, Lucil and Syven taking the lead while I fell in beside Ropp, catching up one what had been going on while I was away in the army. He answered each of his questions in Al Bhed and I was surprised just how quickly the language returned to me.
In the company of my old friend, the last leg of the journey seemed to pass swiftly and all too soon we dismounted at the end of the Highroad. We weren't allowed to take the mounts into Luca, so this was as far as Ropp could go. He bid me farewell with a crushing bear hug and good wishes before mounting his Chocobo once more and leading the other three back down the Highroad towards the Travel Agency.
Lucil and Syven seemed especially subdued as we made our way down the stairs into Luca, and after Ropp's exuberance the silence seemed even more unnerving.
Some off duty Knights and Crusader Infantry crowded the upper walkway of Luca's entrance. At first I thought we were going to have to force a path through them but then one of the Knights spotted Lucil.
"Captain!" His cry rang out, bringing all the Knights to attention. After a moment the Infantry soldiers followed suit, stepping out of the way to make a path for the captain.
"As you were." Lucil commanded with just a hint of fondness in her tone. The babble of conversation and laughter resumed almost immediately, as if nothing had happened.
"I guess your men really do respect you, Luci-Lu." Syven commented, without venom for once.
Lucil declined to answer and simply began descending the second set of stairs. There was no similar grand reception when we emerged in the Luca Square, not that any of us expected one. I noticed some more off duty Crusaders off to my right; this group was practicing Blitz, however. I was just about to call out a greeting when one lost control of his Blitzball and sent it spinning across the square to hit Lucil square on the shoulder. Syven deftly caught it on the rebound and kicked it back to the players. One caught it but none of them dared to breathe as one of Lucil's hands curled into a fist and then slowly relaxed.
"As you were." She growled simply before stalking across the square and disappearing into the Luca Café. Syven opted to join the Blitzers while I followed Lucil into the café. She had already claimed a booth so I waved the waitress away and slid into the seat across from her. She didn't say anything so I leaned across the table and rested my chin in my hands.
"So, what do you want to do with our three days off, Luci-Lu?" I asked with a teasing grin.
"Don't call me that." Lucil snapped as her only answer.
I was slightly taken aback by this. Where was the woman who'd woken me with a kiss? "Captain...?" I questioned softly, only to have her look away from me and into the city.
"Sorry." She muttered, glancing over at the approaching waiter. We both ordered simple lunches and waited in silence for their arrival. Something was definitely bothering Lucil and she obviously wasn't going to confide in me. I wondered idly if it was something Syven has told her while I had been talking with Ropp. I sighed quickly and nibbled disinterestedly at my food when it arrived. My appetite had suddenly finished.
After Lucil finished her meal the waiter returned and took the plates away but Lucil didn't rise. She seemed intent on studying Luca's square and ignoring me.
"Who's Ropp?" She enquired abruptly, making me blink in surprise.
"What?" I sat back, frowning.
"Who's Ropp?" She repeated, without elaborating.
"Ropp was Dessic's best friend growing up. He and his family bought the farm after I moved away." Surely she wasn't jealous of Ropp, I though with more than a little disbelief.
"Dessic?" She inquired blandly. I crossed my arms over my chest. My captain wasn't the most talkative of people but this was ridiculous, even for her.
"Timmus' name in Al Bhed. Since he and Ropp were inseparable most of their childhood, his Al Bhed name stuck." I explain, my own tone turning just a bit chilly.
"I see." Was her only reply.
I fought the urge to spit curses. Three days with Lucil all to myself and she had to go colder than Gagazet during a snow storm. Without waiting for her I rose and left the café. I didn't have to worry about paying for my meal since the Crusaders would be picking up our tab for the next three days. One of the perks of being a soldier. I didn't feel like doing anything at the moment so I passed all my old haunts in this town and went straight to the inn. Because there were so many Crusaders in town at the moment they had doubled us all up. Any other time the news that Lucil and I would be so conveniently sharing a room would have made me grin but right now I just didn't care. I took one of the room's two keys and headed up the stairs to draw a bath. This was going to be a very long three days.