By: Danyal Herder

“Ah, I see. So in Burmecia the custom is to actually pledge allegiance, and then try to prove yourself. The two are reversed in Alexandria.” Beatrix finished the sentence.

“Yes. It is a sign to show that loyalty comes before everything, even before strength and speed.” Freya said.

Steiner and Beatrix had spent the entire ride on the Invincible engrossed in a conversation with Freya and Fratley on a wide range of subjects, but mostly it had remained close to the two kingdoms to which they belonged.

The four soldiers continued chatting until they saw Baku emerge from the control room. “Hey, the ship’s gettin’ ready to land,” He said in a gruff voice. “Get yerselves ready for some action.”

The four saw Baku slip past them and into the others rooms to tell the others the news. An angry look was on Steiner’s voice.

“Who is that ruffian to tell us what to do!? I answer to no one but King Zidane and Queen Garnet! Why, if I didn’t know him, I’d report him immediately!”

The others looked at him, clearly startled.

“Calm down, Adelbert. He’s being as polite as he knows how.”

The anger on the knight’s face turned to confusion. “Well, can’t he do any better?”

“Probably not.” Fratley piped up. “From what I’ve heard about that group, they’d slit their mamas’ throats for a nickel.”

“Fratley! How rude!” Freya nudged him in the side. Hard. She then turned to Steiner and Beatrix. “You see, Fratley still hasn’t fully recovered from his amnesia, and sometimes his brain seems so slip away as well.”

“Don’t worry about it. We thought the same thing about them all at one point, mind you.” Beatrix said.

Fratley started whispering into Freya’s ear. “What did I do wrong?” He hissed.

“You don’t go around telling people that their friends are thieves.” She hissed back.

Steiner, thinking to himself, drew his sword silently. The others stared.

“Umm...Steiner, why are you unsheathing your blade?” Freya asked.

“If Beatrix is right and Baku truly knows no manners, he must learn them sometime. After all, Zidane is King now. He will be expected to perform formal and traditional activities.” Steiner started toward the room Baku had entered.

“Well, what’s the sword for?” Beatrix called from behind.

“Simply motivation.” Steiner said, not turning back.

“Oh...WHAT!?” All three pounced on the Lord before he could get into the door, and Excalibur II was wrestled away from him. Baku reentered the room, with Vivi and Amarant following behind him. They stared at the jumble of bodies on the floor.

“Did we miss something?” Amarant smirked.

The knights scrambled back to their feet, muttering to try and cover up any hostility or tension that may have occurred. Baku shrugged and walked past them into the announcement room, a small room that had a microphone attached to a loudspeaker system throughout the ship. With that he wouldn’t have to walk around the entire ship.

Back in the hallway, the six stood around uncomfortably, each searching for something to say. Finally Vivi spotted Steiner’s sword laying on the ground.

“Mr. Steiner, is something wrong? Your sword is on the ground.”

Steiner pretended to act completely shocked. “Why, so it is, Master Vivi! Thank you greatly for pointing that out for me!” He grabbed the sword from the floor and drew it behind his back.

“So, Amarant, what were you doing back there with Vivi?” Freya asked.

Amarant stood silent, a bit surprised someone was talking to him. “I was...just playing cards with him.”

“Ah.” Freya said suspiciously.

Normally Amarant would have let it rest at that, but for some reason the way Freya had said that triggered something in his mind. “What do you mean, “Ah?” I was playing some cards with the kid. Big deal.”

“Huh? You must be confused, Amarant. I didn’t say anything.”

Amarant snorted. “Whatever.”

Fratley leaned to Beatrix. “Did something happen between the two of them?” He whispered in her ear.

“I don’t think so...Maybe they’re just tired.” She whispered back.

At that moment they heard Baku’s voice booming from the room, telling everyone to report to the deck. Not long had passed before Eiko dashed into the hallway, catching up with the rest of the group.

“Hey, everyone! What’s going on here?” She asked with more flair than usual.

“Nothing special, Lady Eiko.” Steiner said.

Zidane and Garnet were next, holding hands. They came from downstairs and were busy whispering sweet nothings to each other to notice any of the others.

Baku walked out of the announcement room and joined the rest.

Ruby followed, stepping out of the control room. She didn’t want to see Blank, Marcus and Cinna fighting again.

Mikoto was after, walking rather slowly and in deep thought to herself.

Quina tumbled in from downstairs, licking his lips and savoring the last of the steaks he had eaten. His belly looked just a bit bigger from his meaty meal.

Finally the three final members of Tantalus emerged from the control room.

“We’ve landed the ship.” Blank said.

“Yeah, so everyone, get off.” Marcus replied.

“The cave is right next to us.” Cinna added.

With that the group began to descent from the ship, dreading a possible showdown with Kuja and more killing. Unfortunately, every single one of them knew that it must be done, or even more killing would take place. The thought made all 16 shudder, and began filing out of the Invincible.