Aaron looked across the desolated scenery of Zanarkand. It was beautiful in spite of the ruins that seemed to fill the distant horizon. The almost monstrous buildings that even now stood irregardless of the heavy hand of time. The plant life that had slowly reclaimed the City of Machina. He would almost say that it was kind of poetic that the world had slowly took ahold of this place. His smile revealed the depression that he carried on his shoulders. 'Ha... ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Spira reclaims that which once belonged to her.'

The Thief looked below from his perch on top of the cavern that they were using for a temporary residence. His ears twitched as he picked up the small pitter-patter of footsteps coming from inside the cave. Caryn wasn't heavy enough to make that much noise. Naomi was comatose. The only other person that they had in there was the Ronso. His curiosity was peaked at the notion. What was the Doctor in need of that he would leave the side of his patient?

"Aaron."

At the sound of his name, the blond dropped form his perch and landed soundlessly behind the Ronso. The large and imposing blue creature turned to regard him with a calm facade on his otherwise animalistic features. Eyes the color of gold carried the wisdom that came with age and experience. The Thief questioned how much the Ronso had seen during his lifetime. In that same instant, he was just as calm and serious. Any distraction that still lurked in his mind was discarded. "Yes?"

"Ronso Kirano need ingredient."

He had a feeling that was the case. But the question remained...

"Where can I find this ingredient?"

"In Zanarkand. It is small yellow flower with orange leaves."

In all honesty, that probably wasn't the ingredient that the Ronso would've normally used. He probably would've asked for something on or at least near Mount Gagazet and had probably adjusted the list to suit their surroundings and the circumstances. Which meant that his afternoon would be spent in search of... a flower. De Maria nodded in understanding and casually activated his dressphere. The familiar weight of his weapons settled on his thighs, offering him a measure of comfort.

"I'll come back as soon as I can."

Aaron watched the Ronso disappear into the depths of the cave before he left in turn. He had no idea where to start the search and the Ronso had left him with no clues in which to follow. He had to start from square one! Not that he truly cared. It was the perfect excuse to get away and search the settlement for anything of value... or to see the rest of the scenery. Whichever one he preferred at that point in time.

XxX


Aaron leaned into the rocky surface and put all of the strength into his legs as he jumped, his hand barely able to grasp the next stone. He pulled himself up and up still as he climbed the face of the decayed building. While the top of cave was fairly tall, it wasn't enough to give him a good feel for the area. He needed somewhere high up that could let him see just how much land he had to search for the ingredient. As he pulled himself over the ledge, the Thief gave a sigh of relief.

Finally.

De Maria lay there to catch his breath.

Seconds. Minutes.

He just stayed in that position, no longer recovering and instead enjoying the view of the sky from his perch on top of a building. It was beautiful and he could better imagine the clouds in different shapes. One of them even reminded him of the Dragon that his esteemed employer had summoned. What was the creatures name? Bahamut! He smiled happily as he recalled the name perfectly. Then he was reminded of his task.

Aaron rolled over onto his front and pushed himself to his feet, using his right hand to shield his eyes from the bright rays of the sun. The desolate scenery of Zanarkand greeted him once more. Only there was more than he had ever seen before. In the back of his head, the blonde realized just how expansive the settlement was before it was destroyed. He had quite the search ahead of himself!

Now to climb back down.

The Thief grimaced as he looked over the edge, weighing the consequences of going back the way he came. Doubtlessly, it'd take just as long to as it'd taken him to ascend the side of the building. And he would have the added burden of not being able to see where he was stepping. He had been forced to step in small crevices and holes in the wall to complete his ascent. To see them from above? Difficult.

De Maria looked over to the building adjacent to the one he was standing on and calculated just how long the gap was.

He wanted to say around nine feet.

Yeah.

Aaron made his decision.

Parkour it was.

No one saw the Thief leap over the edge.

XxX


Aaron stopped on top of one particular building as something he saw interested him from the corner of his eye, no doubt because of the shine that it was emitting. It was probably the sunlight reflecting off something metal. But that was good. He had begun to suspect that everything worth looting was removed from this once populated city in the centuries that preceded him. "I can spare a few minutes to check."

He paused as he felt something lurking in the shadows of the monolithic buildings that surrounded his current position, the hair on the back of his neck standing on end as he felt his fight or flight instinct kick in. He had long since mastered the ability to resist this urge because of his former "occupation". The Thief shrugged and slowly approached the object that had caught his attention. Imagine the surprise he felt when he saw a chest! The lock was glimmering in the now fading sunlight.

His smile revealed that he was more than pleased by this find.

De Maria tried to open the container, only to discover that it was locked.

Predictable.

He unsheathed one of his daggers and stabbed it into the locking mechanism, forcing it to unlock and open by itself. It was terrible and barbaric but the fact remained that he just didn't care. Finesse wasn't needed right now. He could afford to skip the pleasentries. His eyes widened as he saw the contents of the chest, however!

In the chest, lay a matching pair of gladius.

Aaron picked up the weapons almost reverently.

Then he looked at the daggers that he was using at that point in time.

Shrugging, the Thief switched them. His old weapons just weren't as good as the ones that he'd found. It was as simple as that.

He put his old daggers in his waistband, reminding himself to put them in storage whenever the Triple Point returned.

Until then...

De Maria leaped over the edge of the roof.

XxX


Aaron landed on the soft sand of Zanarkand's beach, chocolate brown eyes locked onto the surface of the water and the plant that was floating underneath. It was the ingredient the Ronso Docter had requested. He had finally found what he was looking for! In hindsight, the fact that it was so easy to maneuver the ruins of Zanarkand should've bothered him. Because... in all honesty, when did his luck just that good? Never.

His suspicions were confirmed as something large and heavy landed behind him. The shadow it was casting was easily twice his height and more than four of him in width alone. The Thief closed his eyes and sighed wearily. He looked over his shoulder and spotted the Nashorn that had stalked him since he fought his new weapons.

Wonderful.

"I needed a reason to use these in battle and you provided the perfect excuse. Thanks, I guess?"

Aaron unsheathed the pair of gladius on his thighs and turn to present his full profile to the Fiend, his eyes narrowed and a calm smirk on his face. The Nashorn snarled angrily at him in challenge. Aaron just kept looking it in the eyes. The Nashorn charged. "I can't say I wasn't expecting that."

The Nashorn reached him in just seconds!

It was futile but the Fiend tried to run him through with it's claw, giving the Thief the perfect oppurtunity to retaliate. De Maria leaped on the creatures arm and raced up, leaping the rest of the distance. Slink!

Aaron plied his weapons from the skull of the Nashorn and kept moving, already feeling the surface he was standing on begin to quiver as the Nashorn moved to retaliate. He needed to put some distance between them! Lady Luck denied him and he tripped. The blonde cursed as he took a second to right himself, giving the Fiend ample enough time to move. His eyes widened and his lower back exploded in pain as he was sent flying ahead, almost smacking into the wall in front of him if he hadn't managed to adjust himself and land on his feet.

He dropped to the ground and eyed the creature once more.

"... okay. You want to put the big boy pants on, don't ya'? By all means... let me help you!"

The Thief and the Nashorn clashed.

XxX


In the aftermath of the encounter, only one was left standing.

His name was Aaron de Maria.

And he had a mission to complete.