Cuttingmoon57 here, and back chapter sixteen of The Tainted Grimoire.

Credit for making sure this gaggle of words is somewhat coherent goes to Supreme Distraction. Every writer who wants to be taking seriously should have a beta, and now I have mine. Hope you enjoy.

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


Drip….drip….drip….

Sothe raised his head wearily, his dull yellow eyes settling on the small puddle gradually forming in the corner of his grimy cell.

Looking up, he could see the moon's magnificence through the undersized, barred window. From his guess, it was most likely around three in the morning, if the sky beginning to turn an orange shade from the sun's ascending light was any indication.

The rest of the day had been pretty uneventful after being imprisoned. Their only source of entertainment had been shut down when the guards had come for their shift to notice the Animist playing loudly on his flute. The guards had then confiscated all other forms of weapons from the three as well.

The thief crawled across the loose, dirty stones that comprised his cell's floor to the front of the cage. One of the Bangaa Warriors that had brought them in was dead asleep, leaning in his chair against a stone wall and his feet propped up on a worn, wooden table. A ring of rusted keys dangled from a hook on said wall, which the man assumed to fit the cells.

"Hey, Sothe….are you still awake?" A voice whispered to the thief from his right, which he remembered was the Animist's cell.

"How could I sleep, Crockett?" He retorted, his voice low. "Is Micaiah awake?"

"I don't think so." The Moogle answered. "But she might want to wake up really soon..."

Just then, footsteps were heard from behind the door leading to the room, followed by a sharp rapping on the door. The noise startled the guard out of his light slumber, but he managed to stop himself from tumbling out of his chair. Another series of knocks forced the guard to answer the door, and he lazily made his way there.

"…because we should be leaving pretty soon."

The warrior placed a palm on the handle and began to turn it.

"Piercing Blow!"

Gold colored metal exploded through the door, piercing through the bottom portion of the Bangaa's rib cage, before being ripped out moments later. The guard screamed in pain as he faltered head first into the bars of Micaiah's cage, denting them, waking the woman from her slumber, and subsequently knocking him unconscious in the process.

The door was kicked open by powerful legs, snapping the lock as well. A Viera Fencer wielding a bloodied Flamberge entered, followed by a Bangaa Warrior and a Hume Archer. The Archer rushed over to the cages; using the keys he spotted on the wall to carefully unlock all three cells.

"You three look like you could use some help." The Bangaa declared with a hearty laugh. "Sorry I took so long. I had to head all the way back to base to gather some support."

Archbishop Guard soldier and Heretic Member: Cama Leonte

"It is quite alright. We are very much in your debt, Cama." Micaiah replied gratefully.

"Though…you could have been a little less forceful taking us here." Crockett tacked on.

"Well I did have to play the part, little one." Cama let out another laugh, patting the Moogle's pompom. "Somebody has to suck up to that bastard Finch all day to keep him off our trail."

"So what's our plan, boss?" The Viera Fencer inquired. The thief began to stretch out all the kinks in his neck and appendages, before answering.

"First, Micaiah could you please heal that guard's major wounds? I'd prefer to have as few innocent casualties as possible." He pointed to the unconscious Bangaa on the ground. "Second, we need to get back to base. Cama, you carry on as if none of this ever happened. You weren't here, got it?" The bipedal reptilian nodded silently. "And third…"

He began to walk to the door, turning his head back to face his associates.

"In the next few days, we Heretics will stop this wedding and take down Vaticus Finch."

Ensei Rou

Don't be afraid of deception

Because the world is already full of it

Chapter Seventeen: Suspicion 2 (of Deception)

"Of all the places he's making us go…"

Luso thought he had completely escaped a place as this as he trudged along unwillingly behind Kanin, who followed Ensei with a spring in her step.

"…Why this one?"

The streets were very much more crowded than what the boy would anticipate, especially so early in the morning. The throng was mostly Hume, with a large number of Bangaa coming in second place and a few Viera, Moogle, and Seeq dotted around for variation Mixed in with the general populace were armed guards roaming the streets, equipped with their appropriate weapons and equipment.

A warm air passed over him, ruffling the hair sticking out under his hat. The sun beat down endlessly, thanks to what little cloud cover there was. From what he could tell it was definitely a summer month, though he had no idea if Jylland even had official months. He supposed he could look it up when they reached their destination, since he didn't have much of a choice anyway.

"Ah, here we are." Ensei exclaimed. Luso gulped as his eyes ascended to the sign above him.

Galleria Library

"Don't just stand there gawking, move!" The Parivir ordered, getting behind the boy and giving him a small shove. Groaning, the blue-eyed adolescent grudgingly dragged his feet up the granite staircase, sulking all the while. Kanin giggled at the scene while bouncing up the stairs, her feet touching down every three steps.

…………………

Just as Luso had envisioned it, the inside of the library was just as grand as the outside. It was much larger than the library back at school, for sure. Books from almost all imaginable times and places lined all of the countless dusty shelves. Library workers used the rolling ladders affixed to each of the towering shelves to retrieve books or have at it with a feather duster. The entire floor was made of polished hardwood, and the pillars that shot up to the massive roof were solid marble.

The front desk, made of mahogany and shaped like a large octagon, lay in the middle of the floor plan. Ensei approached the counter, Luso and Kanin following behind.

"Greetings." A young Nu Mou welcomed, setting down a rugged book and standing from his seat. His outfit was that of a scholar, his purple coat flowing down to the floor. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Yes. You wouldn't happen to have any books or manuals on the various job classes, would you?" The samurai queried. The white haired Nu Mou pondered for a few moments, stroking his chin with his finger and staring up at the ceiling.

"Ah, yes." He stated while turning and taking a few paces. "Follow me, please."

The Scholar led them past a few aged bookshelves before reaching a spiraling staircase in the corner of the room. The second floor was more of a spacious balcony than anything else, occupying a little more than half the area of the ground floor. The group reached a round table with chairs around it, and the Nu Mou prompted them to sit.

"Here we are. This section over here is everything you will need on job classes, as well as some fiction books as well." He pointed to shelves behind him as Luso and Kanin took a seat. "Is there anything else that I can help you with?"

"No, that's quite alright." Ensei replied. "Thank you for your help." The Scholar bowed before returning to the spiral staircase and leaving earshot.

"Both of you get to studying." He ordered, pointing a finger at the bookcases. "Kanin, you grab some books on magical application and white mages, and Luso, I want you to memorize each and every official job class in these books."

"What!?" Luso asked in an objectifying tone. "But that could take all day!"

"Don't care. This is stuff you don't know that you need to know, so you're going to learn it. Learn their strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and everything else you can find." He turned, and began to walk towards the staircase. "I'll be back."

"Where are you going, father?" Kanin asked innocently.

"I'll be back. Just have to relieve myself." He answered with a laugh. Ensei reached the stairs and took them back to the main floor. More citizens were beginning to enter the library, as the Nu Mou that had helped them earlier was bogged down by requests at the main desk.

The Parivir slipped his hands in his pockets and subtly trekked across the room. He wandered amongst the bookcases, quickly scanning over the titles of books and labels of sections. His onyx eyes locked onto a large black book entitled Governmental Records. He found no important information as he skimmed through pages; the book was mostly comprised of insignificant records and statistics. Sighing, he placed the tome in its proper place, before bringing a hand to his chin.

"This isn't what I'm looking for. Think, Ensei…where would they store…"

His eyes wondered to right, where a Nu Mou in Scholar attire wheeled a cart of books past his aisle. The samurai walked purposefully to the end and careened his head around the shelf. The Nu Mou unlocked an old door and entered cart first as the bearded man watched from a distance. Ensei casually walked towards the door and read the words plastered in its center:

Employees Only

He grinned.

"Bingo."

(St. Galleria, Shopping District)

"Could you hand me some magic fruit, kupo?"

Cheney gave Hurdy a friendly nod before reaching into his bag and tossing the Moogle the succulent morsel. The produce landed in between the musician's paws, and he stared at it in delight, searching for ways to peel the skin.

"I can't wait cook all this stuff. We're going to have a feast tonight for sure." The hunter commented, rubbing his palms together while having visions of finely cooked food. On his shoulders and arms were bags filled to the brim with groceries. Behind him trotted Hurdy, who had finally managed to unpeel the fruit and was savoring every juicy bit of its luscious flesh. In the far back, Cid and Professor Auggie traveled side by side, the former carrying stacked boxes that reached five feet and the latter gently strolling while running his hand over his Braille book. The Professor's Dreamhare skipped along merrily in front of him.

"I can just taste the behemoth steak watering in my mouth at this very moment." Cid added dreamily as they all imagined the delicious meat melting on their tongues. The Revgaji held himself from shedding a tear at the thought. "Aye, tis' a wonderful feeling indeed."

"How would you like yours cooked, Cid? Well done…Rare?" The huntsman asked as the Rev nodded hungrily.

"Who taught you how to cook anyway, Cheney?" Hurdy inquired, finishing off the last of his magic fruit. "You seem to be quite good at it, kupo."

The hunter paused as his eyes widened and a violent chill ripped up his spine, something which did not go unnoticed by Cid. Auggie watched as his Mist signature flared for only a moment, before dying back down, though he paid no more attention to it.

"Just……just a good friend…."

The following silence that ensued was quickly shattered by a loud shout.

"Get out of the way!"

Cheney looked up in time to see a young boy hurtling straight towards him. The boy attempted to veer out of the way, only to trip head first into the hunter's torso. The two collided with a thud, Cheney releasing his grip on the grocery bags and the child dropping a tied bag that jingled as it hit the solid ground.

Without wasting a second, the boy immediately jumped to his feet and took off with the bag, failing to even check the Hunter's condition. Cheney would certainly remind the boy of his presence.

"Get back here, you little...!" The bowman grabbed the pale child's ankles, restricting his getaway and shrugging him down in the process. The boy fell once more and again lost his grip on the bag. The sack spilled out a plethora of gil coins as its tie came loose upon impact with the earth.

"Let go of me!"

"Not a chance. What are you in so much of a hurry for?"

"Like I'd tell you, now let…"

"Perhaps you'd like to tell us, kupo…."

Both man and boy's attention was directed behind them, and they both turned their heads accordingly. There, a Moogle in white robes tapped his foot impatiently and behind him, two Soldiers stood at attention. The boy recognized the offering plate in his paws almost instantly, though it took the Gully Members a few moments.

"Perhaps you'd like to inform me of what you're doing with the church's offering, kupo?"

Minister of Offering and Finance for the Church of St. Galleria: Johannes Tetzel

The boy's eyes widened in terror and he struggled even harder, managing to break free of the Hunter's grip by twisting his ankle. However, his efforts proved futile as Tetzel's soldiers quickly grabbed each arm and hoisted him above the ground. Cheney took to his feet only seconds later, brushing himself of any dirt.

"Honestly, boy…did you really believe you could get away with this, kupo?" Tetzel sighed, not needing to reach down to retrieve the sack of gil. The boy's eyes stayed defiant. The Moogle turned to Cheney. "I suppose I owe you a reward for stopping him."

The huntsman pondered for a moment, before giving a small grin.

"Let the kid go and we'll call it even."

The white robed church official locked his eyes onto Cheney's, glaring. Neither blinked during the non-verbal exchange; both simply stood motionless, the taller in confidence and the shorter in quiet anger at the proposition. Silence reigned, until Tetzel snapped his paws together, and the guards released the boy.

"Seeing as how it would be nigh impossible to imprison such a small child anyway, kupo, I'll honor your request. Though…." He turned to the thief, handing a guard the sack of gil. "…if I catch this lowly peasant stealing from the church once more, I cannot say what fate will befall him."

He snapped his fingers once more, and the two Hume soldiers followed closely behind. With the scene resolved, all the curious bystanders that had formed returned to their respective tasks.

"So what's your name?" The Hunter asked.

"Sole…..Sole Calabrone." The youngster said meekly. "…and thank you."

Cheney hadn't really had time to see the child's appearance during the commotion. The boy couldn't have been more than nine years old if his size was any indication. Messy black hair was shielded by a shoddy beige cap. A dirty beige coat to match his hat covered the top half of his body, with two rows of vertical buttons to secure it. Worn black pants ended right above a pair of Battle Boots, and a black scarf wrapped around his neck.

"Don't worry about it, and my name's Cheney." He reached into one of the grocery bags he managed to salvage and pulled out a peach-shaped fruit. "You look like you'll grow into a strong man one day, so this power fruit should be good for you."

The boy snatched it hungrily and ripped it apart without care for its skin, savoring every bite.

"Just promise us that you won't steal any gil again, kupo." Hurdy commented with a laugh.

"Oh, I didn't want the gil. That was just to throw them off." Sole remarked innocently, before spitting the seeds onto the ground. Everyone gave him a puzzled look, but the boy paid them no heed as he turned and jogged off. "Thanks for everything, Mr. Cheney."

Sole broke into a full on run at that moment, and surprised even Cid at his speed. Definitely…not something a nine year old could achieve on his own merits.

The boy rounded a corner, the ends of his scarf flowing behind him with the wind. He reached into his coat and pulled out a handful of letters, almost losing his grip with the speed he had achieved.

"Now to get back to base. I hope the others found Sothe."

(Galleria Library)

"Alright, here we go."

Ensei dashed across the expanse of the brightly lit hallway with as much speed as his legs would provide him. Of course, the Parivir had become quite used to his current speed, a swiftness that others would consider almost unreal.

Tap tap tap.

Ensei searched for any place to hide as he recognized the sound of distant footsteps. It was times like this that he wished he was a Viera Sniper. That Vanish trick of theirs would get him out of a lot of situations…not to mention bills.

Spying an open door to his right, he shot into the room with a dive and waited patiently. The same Nu Mou Scholar that had entered previously was wheeling a now empty cart back down the hallway. Ensei pushed the door a little further to get a better look through the crack.

The library worker stood infront of the door, fiddling with a ring of keys he had obtained from his coat pocket. The parivir looked on as the Nu Mou scanned every key before placing one in the lock. A soft click echoed and hinges creaked throughout the hallway as the door swung open and the worker entered. The samurai waited patiently and seconds later, the Nu Mou returned with a book and placed it on his cart before wheeling off once more.

Ensei kept still until the tapping of the Scholar's shoes exited earshot. He poked his head out and looked both ways before crossing the hallway, a habit he had picked up as a child.

The small room itself was dimly lit by light filtering in through miniature windows on the far wall, though enough light entered to allow reading. Small book racks sat under them while on every other wall, shelves reached up to the ceiling, filled with books and files. Ensei gave the shelves a once over before grabbing a book entitled Federal Offenders and taking a seat at one of the few tables, which were partially covered in book repair tools and adhesive materials.

"This should be it. Now if my hunch is correct, he should be somewhere in this section."

He flipped a page over and his eyes widened at its contents.

………………………

"I wonder what's taking father so long." Kanin wondered aloud, setting down another pile of reading material for Luso after returning from the front desk. She reached for the top of the stack and handed him a book entitled Mist Theory and Physics.

"Oh don't worry about it. I'm sure he's fine." Luso answered, grabbing the book she handed him. "It is Ensei after all." He stared at the title and breathed a heavy sigh, when suddenly someone's shadow fell over him from behind. He turned his head and stared into their vacant golden eyes.

"The Nu Mou at the desk said that someone had already asked for this book." A Black Mage stated, his voice void of emotion as always. "Might I see it when you finish?"

"You can have it right now, Crow." Luso exclaimed with a sigh of relief. "I can't really understand it anyway."

"I've been trying to help him since we got here, but he doesn't seem to understand it that well." Kanin added, approaching them.

"I suppose in exchange for the book, I could teach you a few things." The black magician remarked. Luso's eyes widened in excitement.

"Would you really?" Crow nodded. "Then what are we waiting for?"

The boy almost jumped from his seat and began to follow the mage. His eyes wandered down to the book Kanin had found, and out of curiosity, he opened the front cover. What instantly caught his attention were the words inscribed on the very first page.

Written by Professor Augustus

………………………

Ensei flipped a page over and his eyes widened at its contents.

"There's….there's nothing here."

Listed alphabetically in Federal Offenders was a detailed list of all criminals noted and encountered by the government of Jylland. Everything from physical descriptions and pictures of criminals to their blood type and relatives was recorded in this log. However, in one particular section of the book, as Ensei had now found…

There's a page missing.

There was clear evidence that said page was physically torn from its bindings. The lack of perforated edges provided quite a hassle for anyone trying to dispose of a page, and leftover ripped edges proved that someone had intentionally ripped the sheet out.

Ensei rushed over to the same bookshelf and luckily found a second copy of the same book. Any well grounded library would know to keep more than just one copy of a book. He hastily brushed over pages to the same section, only to mimic the events that had just transpired.

The same page was missing.

"This is no mere coincidence. Someone or something removed these pages on purpose."

A check in a third copy of the book verified his suspicions.

"You're definitely hiding something, Vaticus Finch. Or should I sayJacobus Sicuro."

He stood from the table and placed two of the copies back into their correct places, tucking the third under his left arm. He'd need evidence like this for the future.

Just as he reached out to turn the handle and make a fast escape, someone beat him to the punch on the other side of the door. Ensei shot backwards and darted underneath a table just as a Bangaa Defender entered the room, its white cape flowing behind it.

Ensei recognized him instantly.

"That Bangaa from yesterday!? What is he doing here?"

The Defender stalked around the room gradually, sniffing the air around him. Ensei's breath halted in his throat and sweat formed on his brow as the reptilian warrior passed by his hiding spot, his hand hidden in the shadows only inches from the Bangaa's armored foot.

Then, the bipedal lizard turned around and approached a bookcase on the other side of the room. Ensei scooted forward enough to get a full view of him. Ignatius grabbed a book from the top shelf and then paused before exiting the room, closing the door behind his scaly tail. Ensei released a breath he didn't even know he was holding.

"That was way too close. I wonder what he was doing here…"He waited around a full minute before crawling from under the table.

"Alright, now to regroup with Luso and Kanin…." He gave the room one last once-over, taking note of a bottle of adhesive glue on a table as well as an old book.

"…but first…"

………………………

"So that Black Mage taught him everything he needed to know?" Ensei asked Kanin as the newly reunited trio made their way to the front desk.

"Oh yeah…" Luso answered for her confidently. "You can ask me pretty much anything."

"I'll be sure to do just that as soon as we get back to the inn."

The group reached the desk and the Nu Mou greeted them with a hearty smile.

"Are you ready to check out?" The three nodded. Luso and Kanin both placed their selections on the counter and the Scholar fluidly performed the proper procedures to check them out. Ensei then handed him his solitary book and the librarian eyed it curiously. "Hmm…that's odd."

"What seems to be the problem?"

"Oh…nothing." The Nu Mou looked at the title of the work. Galleria Wildlife. "Just noticed how worn this book is. I could find you a better version."

"Thank you, but that's quite alright." The samurai stated, retrieving and tucking it back under his arm. "I've always preferred a worn style like this anyhow."

The three made for the door, the parivir subtly moving faster than his daughter and clan mate. The Nu Mou stared at his retreating form, before shrugging his shoulders and returning to his work.

Ensei skimmed to the title page of his book and read the inscription in his mind.

"Federal Offenders…" He closed the cover while grinning subconsciously. "Seriously…switching the covers of two books. They make this too easy."

(Cathedral, Archbishop's Quarters)

Vaticus Finch dipped a spoon into a porcelain bowl of soup and sipped lightly at it, savoring every bit of the liquid in his mouth. He eyed a stunning view of his city from the balcony of his room, where he sat outside at a small table. Crickets chirped peacefully around the floral fauna that decorated the stone rails.

"It seems that a bird has escaped from prison…" He stated to no one in particular. Ignatius stepped out from the corner of the balcony, his armor clanking with each step. "…and Tetzel tells me that a little bee has been stealing from us right under our noses."

"Not only that…" The Bangaa added. "I visited the library today. Seems we have a bear poking its nose in places it shouldn't…"

"That's quite unfortunate." Vaticus took a sip from his tea cup, spying two birds perching on his balcony's railing. "Gather your men for tomorrow…"

He rose from his seat and began to walk back towards his room, a malicious smirk crossing his face. An ominous wind played with his hair.

"It's time that we deal with this animal infestation."

The truth is unraveling before them. Sothe and Bishop begin to move.

(End Chapter Seventeen)


Character Corner

(Sole Calabrone)

Job: None

Race: Hume

Hair Color: Black

Eye Color: Yellow

Skin/Fur Color: Pale

(Description)

A mysterious, nine year old boy that somehow managed to break into Bishop Finch's office in the cathedral. His objectives at this time are unknown, as the gil he stole was just a feint for something else he snagged.

(Likes and Dislikes)

Likes: Running, the Sun, Flowers

Favorite Food and Drink: Honey, Steak

Hates: Cold weather, Rain, Night time

Dreams: To become a delivery man

Favorite Colors: Yellow, Black

(Trivia)

-Sole's character design is based off of a bee. His last name is bumblebee in Italian, and other aspects of him revolve around bees and bee habits.

-His character is loosely based off of the character Lag Seeing from Tegami Bachi.


(Author's Notes)

Surprisingly, I don't have much to say this time.

In the last scene, the bird refers to Sothe, the bear is Ensei, and the Bee is Sole. Just for those who didn't catch it.

See you next chapter.