Cuttingmoon57 here, and back with another chapter of The Tainted Grimoire. Hope you enjoy!

P.S. I've finally found someone that took me up on a beta reader position. Here's looking forward to working with Supreme Distraction in the hopefully near future. If you haven't already read some of her works, I encourage you give her a try.

Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy or anything related to it. If I did, FF12 would already be getting a direct PS2 or PS3 sequel. I also don't own any other anime, manga, or game that I take elements or characters from.

Suggestion: Head to Final Fantasy Wikia for information or images of the main cast if you'd like to see pictures of their appearance. They remain virtually unchanged in my story. (Other non-canon characters will be described.)

"Blah" = talking

"Blah"= thoughts, writing, sound effects, or flashbacks

"BLAH"= Yelling

(Blah)= scene change

"Blah"= quote or short poem (cause I thought it would be nice. Poems are in Kubo Tite's blank verse style and are heavily influenced by him).


"Alright. Kanin, you know the way so you're in front. Loin, Raven, and Crow… proceed how you see fit." Cid glanced over his shoulder while cracking his knuckles. "The rest of us… let's move!"

Separated by this vast ocean

Spread across this never ending night

And all it took to reach you was a single drop

Chapter Fifteen: Tears in the Twilight

(The Clearing)

"That man will continue to pillage and consume our beloved land in order to satisfy his unquenchable greed and all in the name of some benevolent power….."

Another pause ensued as her eyes traveled downward. He continued on.

"…He has already taken my only child…He shall not have my sister…"

The shorter figure, still hidden by its hood, approached Sothe and gently touched his arm.

"There is no more time to waste, dear. We must be off immediately." Micaiah beckoned, removing her hood with her free hand and allowing her temporarily messy white hair to cascade down her back.

"Of course..." Sothe brought his arm up and offered Maria a hand. The girl's eyes remained down. "Will you come with us, Maria?"

The entire field lay quiet for a few, sparse moments; the harmless chirping of crickets being the only interrupter of silence. Maria raised her head slowly after swatting away her sibling's outstretched palm.

"I refuse…"

Sothe's eyes widened along with Micaiah's and the Animist's.

"W-What….What did you say!?"

"You heard what the lady said…!"

Suddenly, an explosion of ivory smoke erupted at Sothe and Maria's feet, sending both reeling back in surprise and shielding their eyes. The brown haired girl stumbled backwards and tripped, only to be held up by a pair of slender, strangely feminine arms.

"She'll be staying with me."

Maria careened her head upwards as the smoke began to clear.

"Ms. Adelle!"

The silver haired girl scanned everyone present, most notably the Animist that had kidnapped her client. She growled subtly at the thought, though managed to keep calm. Her eyes eventually wandered over to the two previously cloaked figures, their faces in perfect view from the radiant moonlight.

"Never would have expected it to be you, Sothe…"

"Things are hardly what we expect them to be…" He retorted seriously, raising his hand and snapping his fingers. The Animist atop the Luchorpan commanded his beast of burden forward and the duo approached Adelle.

"… and that goes double for people."

(Elsewhere)

"Alright…. it's that way." Kanin commented, inspecting a shallow divot she had noticed previously in the bark of an old tree. She pointed a slender finger northwest of their group, directing all eyes towards the direction where jaded trees shielded all view.

"I've got to hand it to you." Andie began between breaths as the entire group resumed their sprint. "You've found yourself a pretty decent clan, Ensei."

"Your girls aren't bad fighters either." The Parivir responded, looking back at them. "Looks like you've trained them well."

"Of course..." The Falzen commander added jokingly, before changing the subject. "So what have you been up to these past few years? I wasn't aware that you were the small-clan type."

"Nothing really worth mentioning. I've just been trying to keep a low profile until it blows down some more. From what he's told me, Loin's been doing the same." He answered with a chuckle.

"You mean…"

"Yes… that…."

Andie paused, taking on a more solemn look.

"I see… you do realize that you won't be able to just put this problem off forever." Her eyes shifted towards him, though his stayed straight ahead. "You, Loin, and I are some of the only few left that still know the truth, and he's not the type to let loose ends lie… one day he's going to come for you, and not just you, but everyone associated with you will be a target."

Ensei stayed silent.

"Are you ready to take the responsibility of protecting them when that time comes?"

The Parivir increased his pace.

"Without a doubt."

"The path to the pool should be straight ahead." Kanin called out to the rest, interrupting their conversation. "There should still be some Baknamy roaming around, so be ready."

A few quick, yet precious minutes passed by as the clan coalition rushed and darted around trees with the utmost haste. Occasionally, Auggie would grow tired and trail behind, but a boost from Luso and Cheney would help him keep their pace.

The group eventually spotted the edge of a small pool, the rest hidden behind tree cover. Ensei and Raven rushed ahead of Kanin, who lead the way, and sliced a path through the shrubbery barricade with relative ease.

They burst into the watery clearing without missing a beat. Just like Kanin had warned, a dozen Baknamy were alerted to their presence and, sensing the difference in ability, began to step back warily. Raven and Ensei, still holding the lead, struck down two of the green colored goblins within an instant; the Paladin jumping and slashing from above, the Parivir performing a quick horizontal slash. Blood gushed forth from both creatures before eventually dying down.

"Cid, we're going on ahead. There's no time to waste with these guys." Raven declared over his shoulder, Crow nimbly keeping up with his rate.

"Got it." Cid responded, relaying a right jab straight into a goblin's grey breathing mask. "Hurdy, Luso; you're on cleanup here. Cheney, guard the professor. Kanin, you keep leading the way."

"But…" Luso began to protest, though Cid cut his sentiments short.

"No buts, Luso. That's an order."

"Kirsa, Claire; the Hunter's in charge." Andie added to the command, hastily leaping off with the rest of the rescue party and tossing one of her Swordbreakers to the weaponless Claire. The Falzen Archer and Soldier skidded to a halt and performed a one hundred eighty degree turn, both readying their weapons for the onslaught of Baknamy to come.

Several more Baknamy began to appear out of the woods, most likely reinforcements set up by their controller. The remainder of the party was already well and gone before this time, their footsteps only a faint rumbling in the distance.

"I should be there backing them up." Luso muttered regretfully, inwardly cursing his own weaknesses.

"If you believe you should be with them…then by all means go on, child." Auggie commented, earning a surprised stare from the boy.

"Well what are you waiting for? Get going." Cheney barked, a devious smirk gracing his face. Luso picked up on the hint moments later, and made off in the other party's direction. With a nod of approval from Cheney, Hurdy also followed after him, knowing full well the dangers of letting Luso go these woods on his own power.

"Can we really hold them all by ourselves?" Kirsa asked as the goblins began to encircle the remaining five. Cheney pulled back his bowstring and brought his bow level with an enemy.

"As long as we have to..."

(The Clearing)

"How….?"

The Luchorpan rushed his cat themed opponent with his right fist leading, its knuckles hoping to connect with her face. Its hopes proved futile as she sidestepped the attack with the minimum amount of movement possible, its purple fist missing by only a hair's breadth. A second, follow-up attempt with his left also missed with a shift to the right.

"How does she keep avoiding me…?" The Animist pondered internally as Adelle dodged yet another fruitless kick. He directed his attention to Maria, who clung to her back. "Even while carrying that girl, not a single punch can get through."

"What's the matter?" Adelle jeered as she closed in as best she could with the extra weight that Maria provided. The purple Baknamy let a fist loose in surprised retaliation, though she ducked just in time. From that position, she hammered her foot directly into the goblin's midsection, earning an audible crack from his ribs and a cry from the beast itself. The kick was enough to send the monster tumbling over, and the Animist seized the opportunity to hop from its shoulders. "Am I too fast for you?"

"This girl…it's like she could see through all my movements."

Her eyes came into the Moogle's viewpoint as gravity slowly took its course. Piercing, yellow eyes…and in place of dark, round pupils…

Slits.

The grey furred Animist landed with a stumble while quickly retrieving his instrument and placing his lips to it.

"I've got to get off a Sheep Count if I…."

"Didn't we already try that back on that caravan trail?" Adelle observed, knocking the flute out of his paws with a sharp kick. With his only weapon gone, he began to stagger backwards, looking up to her form in fear. She continued to gloat, placing Maria down onto her feet before walking ever closer to him. She had some unfinished business to take care of.

"I remember you said something along the lines of 'I don't believe in luck'. I suppose that's a good thing for you, because if you did…"

She paused, the corners of her lips playing at a smile.

"… You'd know your luck's just run out."

The Animist made an about face and bolted towards his two comrades, screaming out cries for help. She chased him down, eventually capturing the Moogle but subsequently made one mistake:

Leaving Maria completely unguarded…

"Gold Veil."

Magical energy gathered above Micaiah's head within the second before exploding in a brilliant flash of yellow light only moments later. The entire clearing was illuminated in its entirety, causing Adelle to shield her yellow orbs with her only free hand. She inwardly cursed at having been born with oversensitive eyes.

"What the…? There's no way a veil should be this strong. This girl must have been a mage to get it to this level."

As the feline thief cracked open her eyes, she could barely see a figure pass her by at a high speed, her feeling compounded upon by the sound of rustling grass next to her. The light faded almost as quickly as it appeared and Adelle spun around, holding the Animist around the neck.

"I'll be taking her." Sothe remarked, throwing Maria over his shoulder. He prepared to make a quick escape, before he focused on Adelle. The curve of her Khukuri knife snaked its way across his neck, cold steel brushing lightly against his fur.

"Not a single step, you two."

The couple paused momentarily. Neither had anticipated this.

"The same could be said of you, Ms. Adelle. It seems we've reached a stalemate." Sothe placed Maria on the ground and mirrored the silver haired girl's actions. "And remember...we still outnumber you."

"I wouldn't be so sure of that, Sothe."

The voice of an unknown presence alerted both Sothe and Micaiah to their surroundings. A few meters to his right stood Raven and Crow, the Paladin brandishing his pristine SavetheQueen and the Black Mage with his sturdy rod at the ready. To his left, Ensei, Cid, and Loin looked prepped for combat. Behind him…

Andie Kelt burned with quiet ferocity.

(Deep in the Woods)

"Hurdy!"

The Moogle heeded his partner's call without responding, playing him the tune to initiate Battle Chant as the two continued their full on sprint. The boy's calf muscles defined themselves, and he gained new found vigor to press on.

Half a minute of running passed on before Hurdy noticed that Luso's hand was still wrapped around the Atmos Blade's handle.

"Does it still hurt kupo?"

"What are you talking about?" Luso asked feigning innocence, though the pom-pom sporting musician saw straight through it.

"Don't play dumb with me. I know full well of the side effects of Resonation, kupo." Luso remained quiet, giving Hurdy the opportunity to continue. "The vibrations don't just affect your opponent, but you as well. By the way it's dangling, I'd bet your arm is completely numb."

Silence reigned for a few moments before he spoke with a sigh.

"Yeah, it's shot at the moment, but it usually comes back on its own."

"How long is that, kupo?"

He scratched his head with his working hand.

"An hour or two at the most."

"What will you do if you run into trouble?" Hurdy's voice seemed to be acquiring a scolding tone over time. "Do you realize how much danger you'd be in for, kupo?"

"I know what I'm getting myself into, Hurdy." He snapped back, voice low, catching the Moogle off guard. "Ever since my first fight with Ensei, when he showed me just how powerless I really was… I knew what was in store for me. I knew it'd be dangerous, I knew it'd be difficult, and I knew that there'd be a chance that I could die. And do you know what…?"

Luso drew his Rush blade out with his left hand and increased his pace.

"For my family and my precious people…it'd all be worth it."

Hurdy stared dumbfounded at his retreating form as it grew farther away. It was at that time that the musician realized two things. One, he would one day need to compose a song about this boy; and two…

Luso Clemens was destined for great things.

(The Clearing)

"You….. bastard…."

The words seemed to echo out from Andie's mouth, surprising most people present. Ensei and Loin weren't even aware that the Falzen commander was capable of such language.

"If you know what's good for you, Andie Kelt; you'll stay right where you are." Sothe tightened his grip on Maria's neck, causing the rescue party to halt in their advance. "If not, who knows what will happen to her."

All others stayed perfectly motionless and silent as she approached Sothe slowly, walking with an air that exuded killing intent. Even the green haired thief himself was quite taken aback by her rage.

"Even Ms. Adelle, with all her ability, could not have held the three of you by herself. You could have done away with her easily at any time before we arrived here. It's obvious that your objective isn't to kill her." The blond captain retorted seriously, stopping only feet from him.

"I've been attacked by a swarm of Baknamy; I've been ordered to capture an innocent Moogle; my clan and I have been thoroughly defeated; and worst of all…I've been betrayed by my own employer. So let's make one thing perfectly clear, Sothe."

She narrowed her eyes.

"As of now, she's the only bargaining chip you have, and I have no intention of being merciful. If she were to somehow be leaving this life tonight…"

Andie retrieved a Swordbreaker from her holster, as everyone watched on.

"… I promise you she won't be going by herself."

Sothe hesitated for an instant, a small bead of sweat rolling down the side of his face. There was no indication of a bluff on her part. This woman was completely serious, and both she and he knew it. The thief glanced around out of the corner of his eye. They were completely surrounded on all sides; there was no chance of escape.

"There's no need for extra casualties, buddy." Loin remarked, inching closer to the caravan leader. "We can settle all of this very peacefully, Sothe."

"Simply put Ms. Maria down." Raven coaxed as well.

He hesitated, unsure of which action to take… until he looked down at his brown haired sibling. Tears completely stained her red tinted face and her fear was obvious to everyone.

"Haven't we hurt this poor girl enough, dear?" Micaiah placed a hand on her husband's shoulder.

A few moments of complete silence passed as he meditated in thought. Then, he brought his knife hand up, causing all to flinch slightly, before tossing it the side, the blade embedding itself into the grass with a small thud. He removed himself from Maria and took a step back.

"Is trying to save my sister from a hopeless future so wrong?"

"If you have to hurt her in order to do it, then it is."

Everyone turned to the origin of the voice, only to eye Luso and Hurdy walking out from behind the thick tree line. Cid considered yelling at the two as they passed him, but decided against it for the moment.

"Don't even think for a second that what you're doing is right. Circumstances or not, you not only held a knife up to a girl, you held a knife to your own sister."

"What do you know?" Sothe shouted back. "This was the only way to keep her from that man, and if she wasn't going to do anything, then I was..."

"WILL YOU STAY OUT OF MY AFFAIRS!?"

All eyes turned to the previously silent Maria, who exploded in anger and tears.

"None of this is about you Sothe!! None of it! Whatever I choose to do is my business. I know the risks involved with what I am about to undergo and I have mentally prepared for all of them."

"But, Maria…"

"This does not just affect me, Sothe. This is about our entire home… our city…" She dropped to her knees and cupped her face in her hands, small droplets falling through the gaps in her fingers. "When will you understand that….. When…….. when….?"

Sothe took to his knees as well, enveloping his flesh and blood in a tight embrace. He said nothing; only letting her release her pent up sadness and frustration. There was nothing he really could say anyway.

"…. You just left without a word…. not as much as a goodbye…. how could you leave me all alone….. how could you…."

Raven began to walk towards them, but was halted by an outstretched rod from his Black Mage partner. Crow simply shook his head, indicating not to interrupt them, and whispered.

"We should deal with this in the morning. For now, let them have their moment."

Luso's thoughts began to drift as he watched the scene unfold before him. He looked up to the black dome that was the sky, sprinkled throughout with white stars.

"Maybe you're out there somewhere…Frimelda…"

Two siblings reconciled, but his thoughts are towards his own.

(End Chapter Fifteen)


Character Corner

(Crow)

Job: Black Mage

Height: 173 cm

Weight: 130 lbs

Race: Hume

Hair Color:???

Eye Color: Yellow

Skin/Fur Color:???

(Gear)

Weapon: Rod

Helm: Black Hat

Armor: Samite Coat

Shoes: Germinas Boots

Accessories: Magic Ring

(Likes and Dislikes)

Favorite Animal: Birds

Favorite Food: Fruits

Favorite Drink: Water or fruit juice

Fears:???

Association: Part of a duo of adventurers

Favorite Color: Black

(Trivia)

-Crow is, of course, modeled after the bird of the same name. These birds are known for having high intelligence, which would only be fitting for a Mage.


(Author's Notes)

Phew, finally done. I managed to get this one out pretty quick as opposed to the other ones. Next time, the caravan finally reaches its destination, but the journey is far from over.

See you soon.