The cold night air of the Brume is sharp as a blade, the snow unforgiving, and the dark almost as thick as the fog, but a lonely figure walks through it’s alleyways regardless, roaming the land, one step after the other even through the most frigid hours of night. Blood oozes from a wound in his face, globules painting the snow scarlet.
That beast, that monster under cover of the darkness, is currently very busy wondering whether his tail might get frostbite, as he does every time it gets this cold. He’s also wondering what side job he’ll have to find next to feed himself and his young charge, after all, being a vigilante doesn’t quite pay the bills as much as he wishes it did.
Sidurgu Orl lets out a deep sigh, his visible breath making a path as he moves forward, dragging his feet back to the small box he calls “home”.
It won’t be long till the morning comes, he thinks, but his notion of time has been slightly discombobulated lately, nights bleeding together when he has targets to nights where he rests from wounds he couldn’t avoid to nights where keeping himself and Rielle alive are his only concern. It’s still very dark when he finally arrives, not that the daylight will change much this deep down the layers of Ishgard.
A night is a night, and whatever little sleep he can get is more than what he expects to get in this place. He doesn’t bother to wake up Rielle, wiping the blood from his face and discreetly putting the cloth to wash, hoping the stench is not enough to wake her regardless. Already imagining the scolding he will inevitably get when she sees the wound on his face, he shuffles to the shoddy room that used to be reserved for them, but that now shelters his shambling body alone.
He doesn’t bother to get off the armor.
Daylight comes in late that morning, and it will leave early that night. He’s not a man to believe in cosmic deliverance or superstition, but something about that just seems too conspicuous to be a coincidence. Rielle, as he expected, wasn’t happy about the state she found him in, and specifically made clear she wasn’t going to either heal his wounds or wash the cloth, which, put into plain language, meant Sidurgu would have to stay home for the next few days to heal, but most egregiously, meant he would have to remove the blood stains by himself. There are many reasons why he wears his armor at all times, being easy to rid of stains being one of them.
He’s up at the Forgotten Knight regardless, waiting, listening, but mostly, asking himself why were his Master and Fray so much better at the simple things, and why he deigned himself not a part of that puzzle until it was too late… The last time he felt like he might fit somewhere, as thin and tight that niche might have been, was before he started getting his ass kicked by his own “apprentice”.
He might have the experience of a lifetime following The Path, but he knows, deep down, there’s something there about the Warrior of Light, something cunning and obstinate gnawing at the very fabric of possibility, feverishly looking for a chance, an opening to make itself known, something ancient and almost primal in how it wants to succeed.
Does not mean he would ever give up and let Mochi win.
He studies his opponent like he would any other, in a world where no enemy is so small it cannot hurt you. But Mochi isn’t just another obstacle, Sidurgu learned sooner than he would like. He might be “self taught” but he absorbed the knowledge the stone gave him better and faster than he thought possible. And just as such, he devoured whatever Sidurgu had to impart him like a man possessed, reaching farther and farther ahead with every step. It has become clear he will one day soon be beyond Sidurgu’s reach, but that day will not be today.
He might not have the advantage of height for a change, but he has plenty else to compensate for it, his steady pace making sure every awkward, gangling step Mochi takes is accounted for. Mochi never wielded something even close to a claymore, and the weight slows him down even more than it usually would. He tries to compensate by keeping himself occupying as little space as possible, and his attacks are too hard, too heavy, a waste of energy and stamina.
So if all else fails, Sidurgu has certain victory in his hands by way of tiring him out until he inevitably makes a mistake, but it won’t get to that.
Sidurgu commits to a low cut that comes too close to Mochi for his liking, and he sees it in his eyes again, that flash of something. But he also sees the way his feet falther, his grip to the sword becomes far too tight to be practical. He’s at the edge again, and Sidurgu is in the right place and time to tip the scales to his favor. So he commits again, and brings Deathbringer up this time, before Mochi can make another move to defend himself.
He’s thinking idly about the glowering admonishment he’s about to deliver, and even more vaguely about dinner, (something nags at his consciousness asking if Mochi would stay that long for a change, and he completely ignores it) when his ass hits the floor and Mochi’s sword is at his neck, his breath coming ragged and frantic while Sidurgu’s brain catches up to what in the seven hells just happened.
Mochi had thrown himself sideways, skirting close to the floor and then kicking Sidurgu’s midsection, and that combined with the force Sidurgu had put into his attack completely threw him off kilter. He’s still staring blankly at Mochi, refusing to accept that he lost to such a childish move, when Mochi drops his sword to the ground.
“Oh gods, are you alright?” he asks, clearly panicking, like he can’t believe what just happened either, and immediately puts his hand back over his shoulder, jerky movements looking for a staff that isn't there. That breaks him of his catathonic state, because of course, Mochi of all people would immediately try to heal his opponent.
Sidurgu gets up maybe with more than a little effort (but if asked he would never admit it), and offers a sullen “You got lucky this time, but we can’t count on luck alone. Your movements are wasteful, your posture is a disaster. Next time, I’ll teach you how to win twice as fast.”
It’s Mochi’s turn to stare, and Sidurgu just hears him whisper “I won...?” before he regains his senses, and answers in kind “...Thank you, Sidurgu. I won’t waste this chance.” a faint smile crosses his face, mostly visible in the way his eyes shine with renewed vigor. It makes Sidurgu feel something clean and sharp, like the breezes of Gridania, across his chest, and he dares not analise it any further than that.
Mochi doesn’t stay for dinner.
Before he knows, he’s lost in reverie, remembering all their fights, trying very hard to ignore the amount of times he’s lost to Mochi after that, when a small commotion finally breaks him out of his own head.
Mostly, it’s the fact Rielle moves away from his side, like she’s actually excited for whatever this commotion has brought, and when his eyes follow her path, he understands immediately. The Warrior of Light, Hero of the Dragonsong War, has deigned to make an appearance after another long absence.
He feels something leap in his chest when Mochi, still kneeling to be welcomed by Rielle, makes eye contact with him, and simply smiles. A radiant, (almost blindingly so), smile, showing his fangs and dimples both. He’s never seen Mochi this happy in the brief time he’s known him, and it feels almost wrong for him to be smiling like that at Sidurgu. He’s so busy being hypnotized by Mochi’s demeanor, he only notices too late Mochi gesturing to a figure behind him.
A young Miqo’te man stands in the middle of the floor, looking around himself, wide eyed like he isn’t in a shoddy bar in the Brume. His hair and eyes are bright red, like he lit them with a flame, and on his back sits a staff of crystal, though Sidurgu isn’t sure what it’s use is for.
He’s probably staring, because the moment he’s finished checking his staff, he realizes the man is staring back at him, a quizzical smile in his face. He does not like that one bit, and decides to move his gaze towards Mochi and Rielle, who are fast approaching.
Rielle has something new in her hands, a delicately packaged gift, which she opens without even looking back at Sidurgu. Mochi’s smile has subsided, but his face still looks brilliant, like the aura of his smile is still there.
“Sid” he says, and Sidurgu almost tenses for a moment, “it’s been too long.”
Sidurgu huffs, but can’t bring himself to sound particularly annoyed. “As usual, I’d say. Don’t tell me. You went off to save the realm from certain doom yet again.” Mochi has the decency of not looking sheepish at that, but his long tail swishes behind him nervously, and Sidurgu knows he has a story to tell, even if he won’t understand it completely, as is the rule lately.
More importantly than that, though, is the fact his attempts not to look back at the small man observing their conversation are obviously failing, mostly due to the fact someone dressed as garishly as that in Ishgard is something he’s not used to, except when he looks in the mirror.
Mochi’s own eyes gaze downwards back at the man, and Sidurgu might be mistaken, but his smile seemed to flash brighter, even if just a little, for a moment. It doesn’t make him feel any better about what happens next. He puts his all too big hand on the man’s small shoulder, and directs himself back to Sidurgu. “This is G’raha Tia, I wanted to show him Ishgard for the first time.”
The man flashes a smile so bright it could rival the light in his eyes. “As he said, G’raha Tia.” he performs a small bow “I’m a historian of Sharlayan and Scion of the Seventh Dawn. It's an honor to finally meet you, and Rielle.” His eyes are wide and hopeful, his face round and cheery, with freckles speckled sparingly across his nose and cheeks, and he sounds tremendously genuine. A man who hasn't lived the life Sidurgu has might be forgiven for mistaking that for innocence or naiveté, but he knows the signs. Something about the glint in his eye when he looks at him, sharp and observing, his posture, sure and firm, the way he carries himself and every word with heavy meaning, like this is a practiced speech.
Memories of studying under his Master and memories of the same look directed at him under Fray’s helmet flash at the edge of his consciousness, and they taste like bile under his tongue.
“This is his first time in Ishgard, and you bring him to the Forgotten Knight?” is what comes out. Dumbfounded, it takes a moment for him to process, “finally meet you”. This man knew them.
Mochi, in turn, inevitably turns sheepish, fidgeting his thumbs together and pressing them. Before Sidurgu can voice his concerns, however, the other man, “G’raha Tia”, pipes up next to him. “If you will forgive my intrusion, I asked to come. I dearly hoped to meet someone so significant to Mochi, and someone he risked his life to protect as well.”
Sidurgu eloquently sputters something that, if it’s receptor was feeling generous, could be interpreted as “Whu- How-”, Rielle looks up, frowning, holding her gift tight to her chest.
He immediately turns to Mochi, keeping his voice low, but his obvious anger sips through. “What have you told him?” spats out of his mouth.
Mochi eyes go wide, his tail goes up and then coils tightly around his leg, like a kicked dog. His head tilts to one side, horn touching his shoulder, and he says quietly, “Hm, I. Lend him my journal, so, ah…”
He knows everything doesn’t need to come out of his mouth.
No one in the room needs to be particularly good at reading people’s body language to know it was the wrong thing to say, and some already begin leaving or tensing for a fight. Sidurgu takes a step forward.
Rielle speaks up to Mochi, calm and direct, “Is he someone trustworthy, then?” as Sidurgu winces in pain.
Mochi’s eyes clearly move towards where the heel of her foot currently digs in on Sidurgu’s foot, but just as quickly move back to her, “Yes. I trust him with my life.”
The words ring clear, and even G’raha himself looks surprised for a second. He recovers quickly enough, directing himself towards Rielle as well, “If you’re worried about your safety, I shall respect any wishes you might have for me to stay away. But rest assured, I would do anything in my power to help the both of you were such a time come to pass, I owe you both for everything you’ve done for Mochi.”
The realization doesn’t come at that moment.
The realization doesn’t come when Mochi blushes, biting his lip and looking down, and it doesn’t come when Mochi says “Raha.” and pushes him by the shoulder lightly, scoffing as G’raha laughs.
It finally decides to drop on Sidurgu’s head with the approximate weight of an airship when Mochi grabs G’raha’s hand and entwines their fingers, looking back at Sidurgu and saying, “I’m sorry for any concern I might have caused, and I promise nothing like this will happen ever again without your express knowledge and consent. But, Sid… I mean it, I trust Raha with my life, and hope you can come to do the same.”
Sid is too busy internally dying of being crushed by an airship to immediately answer, but when he does, he does with the dignity it warrants. “Oh. I guess?”
Mochi is looking at him puzzledly, G’raha looks confused, but frowns slightly, and Rielle. Ah, The Glare. The glare to show him he’s made a mistake, the glare specifically to signal he will be sorry. The Glare telling him he fucked up. That glare.
She just sighs, and starts to say something to Mochi and G’raha, but what it was, is lost to Sidurgu by the next morning.
He remembers the two of them, talking to them and watching them go away, to sightsee somewhere else. What words were exchanged however, are lost to time, as Sidurgu takes Rielle back home, and despite her protests, goes back to the Forgotten Knight. He thinks about many things, that night. About things that were and could be, between drinks of whatever Gibrillont happened to have in store that was piss cheap and probably tasted like it too. He remembers feeling like a young man again, remembers laughter he hasn’t heard in a long time and won’t hear ever again, about those godsdamn moogles of all things, and at the end of the night, he thinks very clearly, very vividly about how he’d punch them if he had the chance. So vividly, in fact, it’s almost like he’s doing it, fist moving forward in a beautiful high arc, but the feeling at the end of it is nothing like the dreams he’s had in the past. Moogles are apparently very hard, and sound like grown ass men when they’re being punched. Or so they were in this dream, he figures, as his consciousness fades away, deep sleep washing away what he had been and what he was then.