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


"It seems that a bird has escaped from prison…" Vaticus Finch 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."

Vaticus Finch

The ties that bind us

Are the people we cherish the most

Chapter Eighteen: Suspicion 3 (of Lock down)

Luso spied Professor Auggie sitting comfortably in a chair as he entered the lobby from the stairs and decided to take a seat next to him.

The two were currently gathered in the lobby of their Inn, joined by a cheerful Hurdy and a Cheney, who dozed off in his chair half an hour before. At a table to their right, Andie Kelt mirrored the young Hunter's actions in full force, snoring almost in tune with him. Both had the same exhausted expression on their face, though that was completely understandable.

After Cheney's and Ensei's groups had returned from grocery shopping and the library, respectively, the idea was suggested that both Clan Gully and Falzen celebrate a mission well completed as well as the latter's last night in St. Galleria with a group dinner…

And who else to cook a three course meal for a total of eleven people than the only two cooks in both clans…

"I wonder what's taking everyone so long, kupo." Hurdy said aloud, turning to face Luso who was on the other side of the round table.

"From my experience, girls take forever getting ready in the morning, so that probably includes Falzen and Kanin." Luso answered, an image of him knocking loudly on a bathroom door of his former house crossed his mind. "I'm not even sure what we're waiting on."

"I was simply told to wait in the lobby." Auggie commented, petting his Dreamhare's head. Luso rested his head on the table by making a pillow with his arms, his eyes facing the Nu Mou Sage. It was then that his mind began to recall what he had found at the library the day before.

"Hey Professor. Would you mind if I asked you a question?" The magic wielder kindly shook his head. "Auggie wouldn't happen to be short for…Augustus, would it?" He once again returned the boy's question silently, though this time with a nod. "Have you written any books before?"

"Why, yes. I've penned quite a few volumes in my time." Auggie responded nostalgically and verbally, which pleased Luso. "Have you come across one before?"

"Yeah, at the library yesterday. I'm pretty sure it was called Mist Theory and Physics. I tried to read it, but it was really hard for me. I don't even get regular Physics."

"Ah, yes; one of my award-winning works." He stroked his chin while recalling it fondly.

"But…there was one thing I found in the very back of the book…" The Professor quirked an eyebrow as the boy grew more solemn. "…it said that during your research you encountered people who were physically unable to use Mist, yet you were able to cure them..."

Auggie immediately stood from his seat with the help of his Staff of the Magi.

"Ah, yes….I don't know about people, but there was one person that I remedied."

"So it does work!" Luso exclaimed, hopeful fire lighting in his eyes. "Please, if you could find it in yourself to allow me to…"

"Unfortunately…success comes with a price." The Nu Mou cut him short with a piercing gaze, stunning the boy. His eyes were almost always too spot on for someone legally blind, mist-seer or not. "…the side effects of this experiment weighed much more negatively than the outcome. The boy suffered tremendously in the recuperation process thanks to a miscalculation on my part. If memory serves, the scars should still be evident to this day, and it is something I will never be able to atone for…"

His eyes narrowed as he turned away, his back facing the chocolate-haired fighter.

"Such is the fate of those that tamper with creation…"

Luso stayed quiet for a full half-minute, too nervous and downtrodden to say anything.

"Worry not, child. You will find your own strength in due time." Auggie said with a smile as he approached and gave him an awkwardly placed pat on the forearm. Luso chuckled lightly at the scene. The Nu Mou might know where he was, but he was still blind.

The creaking of the old staircase on the far side of the room alerted the two to the arrival other members of their party. Luso turned his eyes to see the remainder of Clan Falzen making their way down the steps, followed closely by Ensei, Cid, and Kanin.

"I take it that everyone is ready?" Cid proclaimed, giving the room a brief survey and confirming every member's presence.

"Where are we going, Cid?" Luso asked while rising from his chair. Hurdy copied his action, though it was more of a leap to the ground than a stand. In reaction, the Rev pulled out a scroll and handed it to the boy, who then began to scan it. "…a parade!?"

"Seems that the city's throwing a parade for the soon-to-be newlyweds…" Claire answered, her brand new Claymore secured firmly on her back. "We figured we'd head out after it's over."

"Well then what are we waiting for? Let's go!" Luso exclaimed while spinning around towards the door and gesturing for everyone to follow. Belinda, the Falzen Summoner, leaned over to Cid.

"Is he always this energetic?"

"You get used to it."

(Elsewhere in St. Galleria)

Sothe pushed open a set of rusty double doors and stepped briskly into a large storage room, his feet pounding against the weathered concrete. Wide beams of morning sunlight filtered through the broken windows that stretched the length of the room. He passed by stacked boxes and crates that towered over him on either side.

The thief stopped and directed his attention to the large round table that lay ahead of him.

"Greetings, Sothe." Micaiah said in a small, cheerful voice, sending her husband a serene smile and organizing some of the papers in front of her. The man returned the favor while taking the only empty chair. Next to him sat various important members of their organization, and behind him, others sat on the piled boxes that surrounded them.

"What is the meaning of this?" Sothe asked, his tone confused rather than heated. "I did not call for a meeting today."

"I did." She responded. "Because we believe we've come across some information that you would be interested in." The thief raised an eyebrow, and the silver haired woman sent a warm nod to child on her right. The yellow eyed child rushed a scroll over to him before standing back.

"What!" The green haired man's eyes widened considerably as he unrolled it further. "Where…Where did you get this?"

Micaiah simply gestured to the black haired boy that had handed him the document. Sothe immediately picked up the child in a loving manner and ruffled his hair a bit, which caused the boy to give a big smile and Micaiah to silently giggle at the scene.

"Sole broke into the cathedral all by himself and managed to swipe this," another man at the table explained with enthusiasm. Sothe stood from his chair and began to pace around the table.

"This is exactly what we need to convict this man." He stopped at Micaiah's right side and placed a hand on Sole's head. "We three will handle this. There's no need to put anyone else at risk."

"What are you planning to do?" a Viera questioned. Sothe donned a grim look.

"We're going to pay a little visit to the governor."

(St. Galleria Streets)

Few things about this new world he had found failed to surprise Luso Clemens, and this was surely not one of them. The boy sat atop Cid's shoulders in an effort to get a better view of the parade, with Kanin mimicking his actions on her father's and Gertie on Claire's.

The scene was breathtaking to say the least. The main street of Galleria that lead to the Cathedral was filled with elaborate parade floats and waving participants. Citizen's filled every nook and cranny of the surroundings in order to catch a glimpse of the momentous occasion. Children playfully raised their hands to grasp the confetti that fell like fresh snow. Catching Hurdy's eye were the majestic bands, playing familiar tunes and marching in perfect synchronization.

"Wow…this is amazing." Luso exclaimed breathlessly, staring out at the Rocktitans and Great Tortoises that pulled some of the heavier floats along.

"No kidding…" Gertie added in the same tone, her eye catching something only moments later. "Wait…isn't that the cat girl from the other day?" She said, pointing.

Luso and Kanin turned their heads towards the largest float in the parade: a miniature, yet still grand, reconstruction of the Cathedral that stood unopposed in the city skyline. Sure enough at the float's base stood a familiar figure with a cat-eared bow on her head, waving and bowing to the crowd at the sides.

………………

"Um…Adelle…" Sir Loin began hesitantly, tapping his daughter on the shoulder. She paused for a second and turned to him. "…you…do realize that we're supposed to be guarding them…?" He motioned to the balcony above them, where a ceremoniously dressed red haired man and brown haired woman stood.

The girl nodded innocently.

"…And not wasting time waving to the crowd!?"

Again, she gave an innocent nod, which threw the Seeq verbally off guard.

"Why do I even bother?"

"Relax, Sir Loin." Raven stated, appearing behind the Seeq. "Today is a celebration. It's good to take a break and just enjoy yourself every once in a while."

"I know that, but…" Loin turned and began to walk past the Paladin, sighing. Adelle began to blow kisses to the crowd. "…I think she could let up a little."

………………

"Are you alright …?" Maria broke from her trance and turned her head towards the burgundy-haired priest on her right that had spoken. "If something is troubling you, Ms. Maria, I am always willing to help you."

"I'm fine." She cleared her throat and corrected her posture before continuing in a small, reserved voice. "Thank you for your concern, though." He paused, quirking an eyebrow, before smiling and directing his attention back towards the waving masses.

Maria stared out as the float inched closer to the cathedral, where the Archbishop's guards made uniform salutes on either side of the street. She spotted a Bangaa Warrior down to her left, and her forest green eyes locked with his. Ever so subtly, the corners of the lizard's jaw played at a smirk, ensuring her of her suspicions.

(Flashback, Cathedral)

Maria skidded around a corner and ran as fast as her dress would allow her to move, darting in between the priests and guards that she came across. The girl had no time to apologize; she was already late for dinner as it was, and it was never good for a lady of high society to be late for anything.

The girl sidestepped another cardinal to the right, only to plow straight into a Bangaa Warrior moments later. The collision knocked the fragile girl to the ground and caused the bipedal reptilian to momentarily lose his balance.

"You alright, little lady?" the Warrior queried while offering a hand out to her as she came to her senses. Smooth skin touched a scaly hide as she accepted his offer.

"Yes…Yes, I'm quite fine. Thank you." She gently stood to her feet and gave a curt, respectful bow.

"No problem," he remarked with a grin, which the girl returned with a smile before walking around him. "Oh, and don't worry…" The Bangaa stood still as the girl strolled farther past him, paying him no additional heed...until…

"We Heretics will break open this cage of yours soon enough."

She stopped dead in her tracks, eyes widening considerably, before sharply spinning around; only to find the entire hall completely empty. Only one though, one word, played through her mind.

(End Flashback)

"Sothe…"

She directed her gaze at the ever approaching cathedral that lay in front of her, steeling her facial features.

"You can't change the inevitable…no matter how hard you or followers try, this is my fate…"

………………

"I would like to personally thank you all for coming to our small celebration today." Vaticus Finch proclaimed to the masses of citizens that had gathered in front of the Cathedral. He stood at the center-top of the grand marble and stone staircase that led to the church doors, the people crowding at the first step and stretching all the way back to the stores.

The crowd let out a roar that almost deafened him, though he managed to retain his composure. Tucking a stray hair behind ear, he continued.

"It is a great encouragement to me to see all of you in support of our holy matrimony that will be taking place in a few days." Clapping and even a few cat-calls erupted from individuals in the throng as Bishop took Maria's hand. The girl tensed.

"However…" Finch's face and tone grew solemn. "…I also have some unrelated, yet saddening news to make known to you all…"

Everyone perked their ears and tuned in. Ensei narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms.

"What are you up to, Finch…?"

"Yesterday afternoon, it seems that a thief infiltrated the Cathedral and stole a sacred scroll directly from my quarters." Gasps and shouts of aggression filled the area as eyes widened on all present.

Cheney and Cid turned their heads towards each other, both sharing the same look and thought.

"No way….that kid?"

"This particular scroll is of major importance to the foundation of the church." Vaticus projected after waiting for some of the commotion to die down. "After discussing the situation with our dear governor, we have come to an agreement that this document must not be allowed outside of our city's walls. As such…"

The Archbishop cleared his throat.

"…St. Galleria, from now until this situation is resolved, is on full lock down."

A deafening silence ensued. The entire crowd stood motionless.

"No one is to leave this city for any reason, only those of governmental rank are permitted to enter, and as a warning to any who attempt to forgo these restrictions…" Bishop's eyes narrowed, wandering in the direction of Clan Gully. Ensei returned his stare in full force, no one noticing their silent, subtle exchange. "They will be apprehended under the full pretense of the law enforcement of St. Galleria."

The red-haired priest let out a disheartened sigh.

"I know that these restrictions seem severe, my fellow citizens, but they are necessary. When one individual decides to break the law, he is not the only one who reaps the consequences. With the help of our lord Elianto, may this matter be resolved as rapidly as possible. You are dismissed."

It wasn't until half a minute passed that the crowds began to disperse and each citizen began to go his separate way. Clan Gully and Clan Falzen, though, remained fixed in their spot. Noticing this, Bishop approached them with Maria in tow and her hired guards on either side.

Adelle and Crow walked up to Luso, Kanin, and Hurdy and greeted the three individuals, the former engaging in small conversation with the White Mage girl about the parade. The latter stared Luso in the eyes, his piercing yellow circles meeting pools of cerulean, before extending a hand to the brown haired boy. While this was against his better judgment, something about the kid just forced his hand forward, and he found it tiresome to fight it.

Luso simply shook his head, confusing the Black Mage until the fighter held out a fist, smiling brilliantly.

"Sorry, I don't really shake hands."

Luso Clemens could have sworn he felt Crow smirk as the spell wielder met his fist with his own gloved knuckles, but he quickly silenced that thought.

Crow only stared in deep reflection.

"He reminds me so much of you…brother…"

"When did they get so friendly?" Adelle queried to Kanin, who simply shrugged.

"I truly apologize for all the trouble this situation may cause," he apologized collectively to the two clans as everyone directed their attention to him. "This scroll, however, is a sacred object of our city, and cannot be permitted anywhere outside its borders."

"I sympathize, though this proves to be a very complicated situation on our end," Andie remarked after letting out a conflicted yet understanding sigh. "You see…in order to meet with our next mission's client on time, we would have to depart today. We take great pride in our professionalism, and have never been a clan known for missing an appointment."

"The same with us. While we don't necessarily have a specific mission, we must be leaving soon." Cid said in addition.

"I see…this does create quite a predicament…" Vaticus agreed while stroking his chin in thought, remaining unaware of Ensei's studying gaze. "If anything, I do not command the authority to help you, though the governor may be able assist you."

The man reached into a hidden pocket on his priestly robes, retrieving a small emblem the size of a large button. It was circular, made of pure gold, and on its front, a finch perching on a branch was chiseled masterfully.

"Here…" He placed the emblem in Cid's brawny hands before backing away. "This is my personal emblem; proof that you are on official business from the church. If you present this to the secretary, she should no doubt allow you to speak with him."

Cid and the remainder of the two clans spoke their thanks to him before heading in the direction of the governor's building.

"Make sure to say goodbye before you guys leave!" Sir Loin exclaimed, waving them off as Adelle and Maria joined them. Silently, and unknown to anyone…

Vaticus Finch smirked.

"All according to plan…"

(Government Building)

"We're here to see the Governor," Cid stated firmly yet respectfully after clearing his throat. The Moogle seated at the front desk continued to scribble down a few last words on his document, before looking up at the Rev through slightly foggy glasses.

"Oh? And who might you be, kupo?" The secretary used the linen of his shirt to clear his spectacles, before returning them to their proper place.

"Clan Gully and Clan Falzen…we were told to show you this." The Rev retrieved Bishop's emblem and placed it into Moogle's small hands. The short, bat-winged creature inspected, viewing it both with and without his glasses on, before verifying it and handing it back.

"You're clear to go, kupo. He isn't in a meeting, so just head straight in."

Cid nodded, and the two clans proceeded to the left, heading for a set of double doors at the end of a short hallway.

………………

"Hello, Governor?" Andie remarked respectfully as she pressed down on the handle, slowly opening the door to the governor's office and stepping onto the tiled floor. "I'd like to have a word with you about…"

The Falzen Commander paused, her eyes widened, and she clenched her teeth in pure disgust at the sight in front of her. The remainder of her clan filed in behind her, confused as to why she had stopped, only to look up and see a green-haired man with a silver-locked woman on his right and a black-haired boy on his left.

Luso was one of the last to enter the room, and doned the same surprised look as the rest.

"No way….it's…."

"Sothe!"

Andie leapt high into the air with the grace of a gazelle, her head almost brushing the ceiling, and fell onto the thief with the ferocity of a pouncing tiger after drawing her pair of battle knives. The man, not having enough time to draw his own weapon, was forced to the ground, and grunted as he connected with the tile.

"Broke out of jail already, huh?" she asked rhetorically, her voice laced with venom. "Who are you trying to manipulate now!?"

"What do you think you're doing!?" Sole proclaimed as began to help his senior, though the killing intent Andie radiated dissuaded him from continuing any further.

"Andie! Stop!" Ensei and Luso called out in unison.

"I bet this whole lockdown thing's your fault in the first place! Do you ever…!"

"ENOUGH!"

The shout was loud enough to garner the attention of everyone present and direct it to the voice's source. At a desk on the far side of the room, an aged man slowly raised his head.

Current Governor of St. Galleria: Aquila Fragin de Pervenche

"I have no knowledge of what harm he may have caused you, but if you know what is good for you…" His voice grew deep and serious.

"You will remove yourself from my only son."

………………

"Hello…Hello…"

The Moogle Secretary whispered again and again into a piece of Whisperweed hooked around his ear. He hid under his desk, holding down his pom-pom with his free paw to keep it out of sight.

"Yes…Yes…this is the Governor's building. The people that were holding that emblem you told me to watch for; they're in his office right now."

He waited as the voice on the other end relayed instructions.

"Yes…at once, sir."

He leapt up from the floor and proceeded to the front door with the utmost haste, using his wings to carry him farther. The square in front of the building was at this time day somewhat crowded with people. It was the perfect situation.

"Help! Help!" the Moogle cried with all the strength of his vocal cords, causing the present populace to stare curiously at him. "Someone has infiltrated the governor's office." He paused as more people tuned in, taking a deep breath.

"They're trying to kidnap him!"

Whisperings and gasps erupted throughout the sparse crowd as some went to alert any authorities they could locate. The Secretary continued to yell his message, keeping any eye out for any sign of his superior.

"Worry not, dear citizens!"

A deafening voice bellowed as the clanking of armor and padding of footsteps became louder and more uniform in rhythm. Eyes shot around as a single Bangaa Defender marched in time with a company of Soldiers and Warriors, his white cape flowing behind him.

To his right, a Bangaa Gladiator made a simple hand gesture. Cheers followed suit as the team of professional guardsmen made a bee line at the building's doors, the sound of swords being drawn ringing through the air.

"We, the Archbishop Guard, will not allow these villains to taint our holy city!"

A fiendish trap is sprung. What will Gully and Falzen do?

(End Chapter Eighteen)


Character Corner

(Sasasha)

Job: None

Race: Viera

Hair Color: White

Eye Color: Blue

Skin/Fur Color: Brown

(Description)

An old resident of Wood Village that participated in the battle against Marion's Poaching Operation. She first met Ensei when he had asked to borrow one of her Chocobo from her ranch, though he never did return it. She's held him in contempt ever since, though she does care for him and his daughter Kanin in a motherly manner.

"It seems there really is no rest for the weary…Come Magnolia."

Sasasha, mounting her Chocobo Magnolia.

(Likes and Dislikes)

Likes: Chocobo. Taking care of animals and monsters.

Favorite Food and Drink: Carrots. Carrot Juice

Hates: Chicken, animal abusers, poachers.

Dreams: To own a chocobo in every color.

Favorite Colors: Green, White.

(Trivia)

-Sasasha is mentioned early in the actual game, owning the chocobo corral, though no appearance or personality description is given, so I was free to alter her as I pleased.


(Author's Notes)

Sorry about the wait; went to camp for the week so I had not access to type. This was actually finished in about three days (My new record).

Okay, this was pretty much the last build up chapter for a good while. From here, everything should start to be gradually unfolding. Hope you're looking forward to it.