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


"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!"

The reptilian Defender turned to the Gladiator as the platoon reached the steps and began to bark out orders through a strand of Whisperweed.

"Team A…are you in position?" A voice of confirmation from the team's leader assured him. "Good, be ready to enter and secure the governor on my signal." He turned to the company of various warriors behind him. "The rest of you form a defensive perimeter around the entire building. Riccio, you and your ten strongest men are to infiltrate the building. I will manage the operation from here."

"Ten?" The Gladiator scoffed. "I'll only need five." He continued up the marble stairs, his feet pounding with each step as five of his combatants trailed in a line behind him.

"Have it your way. I care not as long as the job is completed. It's time we deal with them once and for all."

Sothe Fragin de Pervenche

We are all so mislead by this concept of freedom

That we do not realize

It is by that same concept; we are chained in this cage.

Chapter Nineteen: Prisoners in Paradise

"You will remove yourself from my only son."

Eyes widened all around the room at the burly man's comment. Andie gave the emerald haired thief one last look of spite before picking herself up off of him and resheathing her knives. Sothe followed suit.

"What are you people doing here?" The Heretic leader questioned with a stern face, his eyes fixed mostly on the Falzen commander.

"We're here to request exit out of this city." Cid pointed out, stepping in front of the group. "What is a verified criminal doing in the office of the city's governor?"

Sothe, taken aback by the Revgaji's statement, remained silent for a few moments. The governor let out a heavy sigh before standing from his seat and walking around his desk in a dignified manner. The ends of his long robe brushed the along the solid tile that stretched the expanse of the floor.

"If I am not mistaken, you people must belong to Clan Falzen and Clan Gully, the groups that protected the caravan a few days ago." Nods were given for confirmation. He stopped and turned to face the two clans.

"My name is Aquila Fragin de Pervenche, father of Sothe and soon to be wed Maria..." He paused. "…and I deeply apologize for all the trouble that our affairs have caused you people."

"Are you aware of the activities your soon has been involved in?" Andie half questioned, half stated; apparently having calmed down though still containing some spite. "He even tried to kidnap you own daughter."

Aquila stood perfectly still, a stunned look crossing his face for only a moment, before turning and facing his grown child.

"Do you ever know when to quit, Sothe? I told you to stay away from her from now on."

"And give my sister and my city away to that greedy lunatic? Not a chance."

"By 'greedy lunatic', I assume you're referring to Vaticus Finch?" Ensei stated sternly, coming to the forefront of the group and standing next to Cid. All eyes turned to him. "I have a few questions about him myself."

"How much do you know about him?" Sothe questioned, a hopeful spark igniting inwardly.

"Enough to know that he's not from this region…" The Parivir crossed his arm and spoke in a low but audible voice, his eyes narrowed. "…and that he's not who he seems to be."

Aquila silently locked eyes with Ensei for a few moments, as if reading him, before breaking away and returning to his seat behind his desk.

"Even before my time, our city has always followed Eliantism, though it was never as prominent as it currently is now." The governor coughed before continuing. "The former Archbishop took on a number of teenagers, preparing to raise them for his position. All were born and raised in this city, all except for one young man that had come to practice the faith…" He looked up at them.

"Vaticus Finch."

Luso could almost fill the rage burning inside of Sothe every time the current Archbishop's name was mentioned. Ensei remained focused on the tale.

"That Archbishop was my father, and Sothe and Maria's grandfather. It was a few years ago that he passed away, and Vaticus took his position. The people were at first skeptical of a new Archbishop's leadership, but he has since proven himself as a capable man of the faith."

"Or so we're led to believe…" Sothe whispered under his breath.

"Tell me, Governor; would you happen to know at what age he came to this city?" Ensei asked while pondering.

"If memory serves me correctly, he was eighteen years of age."

Ensei's eyes widened in realization.

"So it was after? It all makes sense now, Jacobus." He schooled his face back into a stern demeanor. "I see. I have one last question, how does all of this fit into marrying your daughter?"

"Though I hold the title of governor, the leadership in this city is more of a monarchy, headship being passed down through birth." Aquila began to explain. "As the oldest, Sothe was due to take the throne soon, as thanks to an incurable disease I am nearing the end of my life; but through some very…unfortunate circumstances, he is currently unable to do so." The governor's face grew grim, as did his son's and Micaiah's. His hesitance sent raised eyebrows throughout the group. "This leaves only Maria to assume my position, and our city law dictates that the governor must be of the male persuasion, so…"

"…she's forced to marry a suitable candidate." Professor Augustus said, finishing his sentence.

"Indeed." Aquila confirmed. "A unification of the religion and state sounds quite appealing to the people of this city, and his former activities in public relations only serves to boost his support. To somehow interfere with this unification would cause nothing short of a riot, and Maria knows full well of it." He paused, a solemn look crossing his face.

"She is choosing to sacrifice her own happiness for the happiness of the people."

"But I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen…" Sothe stated, pulling out a scroll and patting Sole on the head with his free hand. "…by using this. It contains all the evidence I'll need to prove that Finch is a fraud." He placed the scroll back into his pocket. "My sister is a truly selfless girl, but…" The thief tacked on while turning and staring out of the dominant window. "…what she doesn't understand is that by allowing this monster into office, she's dooming us all."

"You actually don't know how right you are, Sothe." Ensei chided in, his tone grave.

………………

"They should be this way, Master Riccio. I previously informed whatever guards were on duty today to take the day off." The secretary confirmed as he walked up a flight of stairs to the second story. He pointed down to the end of the hall where the doors of the governor's office lay.

The Bangaa Gladiator made a small nod and gave a whispered word of thanks before signaling his five men to the door. All began to prep for combat as the secretary turned and exited the building.

"Once Team A has secured the governor's safety, you are free to use whatever means to apprehend the perpetrators." Ignatius spoke through the Whisperweed to Riccio, who gave a grunt of confirmation.

………………

"You see…I've met this Vaticus Finch character before, and it wasn't exactly the greatest first impression." Surprised faces and raised eyebrows focused on the samurai. Undaunted, he continued.

"….and the thing is…if he's already recognized me, then we might be in a lot of danger…."

Ensei paused, his mouth agape as he stared beyond the governor's head and out through his office window. On the balcony, two Hume Ninja with faces completely concealed stood outside, each with Kunai in hand. An elaborate cross was emblazoned on the front of their identical outfits.

"GET DOWN!"

The giant window shattered in an instant, glass shards bursting forth and nicking the skin of the occupants inside before harmlessly falling to the ground. As screams filled the air and without missing a beat, a small grey orb was through the opening amidst the panic. It exploded moments later, instantly filling the room with a harmless smokescreen and inducing coughs.

The assailants vaulted into action, leaping through the glassless window and landing on the governor's desk. The governor let out a grunt as a blow was delivered to his abdomen, subsequently knocking him out. The two Nin hoisted him from his chair and leaped, with some effort, out of the second story window.

They landed on the ground in a rough crouch, staggering a bit before setting the governor down moments later. One of the ninja began to speak into his Whisperweed as some of the troops that surrounded the building began to rush to their position.

"Governor secured. You're all clear, sir."

………………

"What…What was that all about!?" Kanin asked, bellowing out coughs left and right from the smoke still lingering in the air. She helped prop up Professor Auggie, who had slumped down due to his inability to handle such smoke at his age.

"From the insignia on those Ninja, I'd say Finch has something to do with it." Sothe stated, grabbing Micaiah's hand. The two separate clans also grouped together with their members.

"Is everyone alright?" Cid asked his clan mates, receiving a unanimous nod.

Suddenly, the two office double doors burst open, slamming into their respective walls and cracking the rusty hinges. Five muscular Hume and Bangaa filed into the room, their weapons at the ready, followed by a single Bangaa Gladiator.

Sothe stared with burning rage at the figure before him.

"Riccio Vento…I guessed right after all."

"Silence, you traitorous worm." The bipedal lizard ordered in a low voice. The smoke in the room soon began to make its way out through the broken window, providing ventilation. "For high crimes against the governmental and religious powers of this city, I place Sothe Fragin de Pervenche under arrest."

He scanned the room, taking note of the bewildered faces of Clan Gully and Falzen.

"And as his accomplices in this particular crime, I also condemn Clan Gully and Clan Falzen as well." Gasps erupted throughout the room.

"What!? On what grounds?" Andie spoke for the entire group. "We've done nothing wrong!"

"That's exactly the point." Ensei said while placing a hand on her shoulder. "They have nothing on us, so they created something. Of course, I'd expect nothing less from him." The Gladiator grunted as he continued. "I suppose Finch and Ignatius didn't get enough of a beating when I took you down all those years ago…"

"How dare you speak so lowly of Lord Ignatius!" The Bangaa Gladiator called out in fury, charging straight for Ensei. He came barehanded, as his orders were to capture them alive and the blade at his right side would serve no purpose in that area. Ensei, deciding to take up his challenge, forsook his katana and met him head on. A strength contest ensued as they reached each other in the middle, attempting to push the other back.

The Gladiators reckless charge resulted in the rest of the room exploding into battle. The privilege of first attack fell on Cid, as he quickly followed Ensei's lead and laid out the nearest Bangaa Warrior with a flurry of punches. His victory was cut short as a Hume Soldier made a slash at his exposed back, though such a notion was instantly dealt with by Andie Kelt, who stepped in and blocked his strike.

Successive arrows from both Cheney and Kirsa downed the remaining three guardsmen, piercing them in their knees. They fell to the ground gripping their legs.

"What's wrong, Ensei Rou!? Having a little trouble!?" Riccio jeered as he began to force Ensei back, the Parivir's boots scraping the ground. "Maybe I'm too big for you?" The samurai smirked, and despite struggling to keep his footing stayed perfectly still. Auggie, who was closely guarded by Luso, turned his head to the two.

"The Mist in the room is decreasing." He remarked distantly and quietly, causing the boy to look in his mentor's direction.

Ensei's muscles began to grow more defined, though as Luso noticed to a greater extent than his Battle Chant combination with Hurdy. Without warning, the Parivir broke free of the Gladiator's scaly fingers and spun, landing a kick straight into the Bangaa's groin region. He followed up instantly by grabbing his outstretched arm and performing a one armed shoulder throw.

The Bangaa let out a yelp of surprise as he soared the short distance to the window before plummeting onto the street two stories below, scraping off some of the loose glass still left on the pane. His yelp turned into a grunt of immense pain as he met the pavement.

"The bigger they are, the harder they fall." Ensei cracked his knuckles as well as the muscles in his neck, before revealing a strand of Whisperweed in his palm. Sothe stared mystified, wondering just how he had managed to snatch it during the entire ordeal.

The samurai brought the weed up to his mouth and began to speak into it, grinning.

"Greetings, commander. It seems we've taken down your little lapdog and his underlings."

"I wouldn't be so confident yet, Ensei Rou. We have this building completely surrounded, though my job here has been completed all the same." The Defender let out a small chuckle. "The real main purpose here was to convict all of you as criminals…and by resisting arrest and attacking my men, you've done all the work for me."

"Is that so, Ignatius?" Ensei narrowed his eyes, recognizing the voice. "Are you too much of a coward to come face me directly?" The Defender on the other end chuckled.

………………

"Why face a beast alone when you have an army to do it for you?" He raised his hand into the air and brought it down in a straight chopping motion, speaking to the men in front of him. "Attention all units! Vice Captain Riccio has been defeated. Storm the building at once and secure all inside."

Numerous guardsmen saluted before rushing into the building. Ignatius smirked as he brought the Whisperweed back to his mouth.

"You may have defeated us in past, but this time there is no victory in your future. No matter how ferocious the beast, it is not invincible…"

His voice grew more sinister.

"You cannot hope to escape, Ensei Rou. I win."

Silence followed as the Defender reveled in his victory, imagining the look of despair on his adversary's face. Though, to his confusion, the Parivir began to laugh hysterically.

"Have you gone mad? What…What are you laughing about? You're finished!"

………………

"Look, I don't know who you guys are…" Luso began to speak into the Whisperweed after having taken it from Ensei. "…but I know that the ones in the wrong here are you. Forcing Maria into doing something against her will, framing innocent people; I won't stand for any of it."

Luso turned his head to Sothe, Micaiah, and Sole, giving them a comforting and confident smile.

"Just you watch…I'm going to take you guys down and save her."

He handed the plant back to his katana wielding mentor, who gave him a proud smirk.

"Well you heard the lad, Ignatius. If you think you can defeat us then go ahead and try. " He paused, and took a deep breath. "We of Clan Gully and Clan Falzen now formally declare war on Vaticus Finch."

He released his grip on the plant and let it fall to the ground. He then proceeded to squash it under the weight of his boot, before turning to the others and putting on an innocent smile.

"Now…what's the plan to get out of here?"

All except for Sothe, Micaiah, and Sole stared in annoyed disbelief, before the thief stepped up to provide a solution to their predicament.

"Everyone follow me." He ordered. "There's a secret passage under the building that should get us out of here. Hurry now, with that little display we probably don't have much time."

The group quickly filed out of the room, the last person locking the office on his way out. They rounded a corner and dashed down a hallway, finding a pair of stairs. The footsteps of enemy troops began to grow louder with each passing second. They needed to hurry; to be caught would mean certain death at this point.

Reaching the bottom, the mob encountered an empty dusty room, save for the large manhole in the middle. Belinda, the Falzen Summoner, stared blankly for a few moments.

"Oh you've got to be kidding me."

………………

"Prepare the battering ram!" A Hume Soldier called out as four Bangaa, two on each side, carried a large cylindrical battering ram to the governor's office doors. Men lined up behind them, ready to charge. "Steady! Go!"

The pole rammed the double doors with the speed and strength of its namesake, snapping them right off of their hinges and onto the tiled floor. Troops rushed into the room, blurting out various commands.

"Sir! We have a problem…" The Soldier commented over his Whisperweed, surveying the room. Riccio's men lay injured on the ground, bleeding from the knees and various other parts of the body.

"What!? What happened?" Ignatius yelled back. The Soldier replied grimly.

"Other than our own injured men…no one's here…"

"Scour the building! I want them found now!" The Bangaa was livid at this point. He reached for his Whisperweed and crushed it in his hand before slamming it onto the ground below. He growled lowly.

"Curse you, Ensei Rou…"

(St. Galleria, Heretic Headquarters)

"Remind me never to do anything like that again." Belinda remarked, climbing out of a sewer hole. Gertie offered her a hand up, to which she accepted. "That was completely disgusting."

The group had ended up somewhere on the other side of town. It was dingy to say the least; rotten boards supported broken down houses, rust was sprinkled on what machinery there was, and Kanin could have sworn she saw a rat stare at her before scurrying off.

"Disgusting or not, it allows the 'Heretic' members to move about freely in the city." Sothe replied, adding emphasis. "One of our secret supporters actually cleans the sewers and has lent us maps to use, allowing us access to over seventy five percent of the city including the governor's office. It's why Finch hasn't had any luck in tracking us down."

"That's quite a setup you have there." Cid exclaimed, being the last one to exit. He planted a foot on solid cobble stone and brushed off his clothes with his hands while looking around. "But where exactly did you lead us to?"

Sothe gestured for them to follow him, to which they agreed. They rounded a few empty street corners, the sun finishing its task for the day and resting in the distance, before ending up in front of a building with giant smokestacks as its prominent feature.

"This is Mining Plant No. 3, known by the Heretics as our home…" They passed through the open gate; Sothe giving the two guards positioned there a nod of confirmation which they returned.

The group entered the building warily, noticing the deteriorated appearance. Luso almost tripped over one of the lose floorboards that stood in his path. The former caravan leader pushed open a pair of doors, leading the group into the center of the building, a large storage facility lined with boxes stacked upon boxes. In the center sat a round table with empty chairs positioned around its perimeter.

"Try to make yourselves comfortable as best you can." The green haired thief suggested, taking a seat in one of the chairs. The rest of the group found whatever spot available, and an awkward silence ensued for the space of a minute.

"I'm curious, Sothe…" Andie stated, her voice absent of some of the spite that used to be contained there when referring to him. "…your father seems to have given into the Bishop, yet you remain unyielding. Why is that?"

Sothe's mood instantly turned grave, and he lowered his head in despair. He glanced over at Micaiah, who gave him a nod, before rising once more.

"We 'Heretics' all have our own various reasons for defying that man's tyranny in the church. Conflicting views, unwillingness to submit…but mine is more serious than that." The brigand sighed, and adopted a downtrodden visage.

"You see…Vaticus Finch is the man who murdered my only child."

A startling revelation! Sothe and Vaticus Finch's history revealed next chapter.

(End Chapter Nineteen)


Character Corner

(Marion)

Job: Morpher/ Beastmaster

Race: Nu Mou

Hair Color: White

Eye Color: Green

Skin/Fur Color: Gray

(Description)

Mastermind behind the poaching of animals in Targ Wood, he is the main antagonist in the Poaching Arc. He was last seen in custody of the Wood Village Police.

"This isn't a game we're playing. It's survival of the strongest, and if you can't adjust, then you'll die."

Marion, responding to Luso.

(Likes and Dislikes)

Likes: Money. Puppets.

Favorite Food and Drink: Poultry. Coffee

Hates: Animals.

Dreams: N/A

Favorite Colors: Black, White.

(Trivia)

-Marion's name comes from the word 'Marionette', a term used to refer to puppet controlled by strings. His henchman Ette (from chapters five and six) forms the second part of the word. The name is fitting to the both of them, as they were both manipulated by superiors.

(Author's Notes)

Alright, there's another chapter down. All will be explained in due time if there's a part you don't quite understand.

As for you FFTA fans, I won't say what just yet, but there's a pleasant surprise for you next chapter, so don't miss it.