Cuttingmoon57 here, and back with chapter twenty-two 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)= scene change
"You three are still overreacting to everything, I see."
The trio of Templar turned their heads westward, to find a hunchbacked elderly Nu Mou walking towards them with a Staff of the Magi being used as support. Next to him, a taller, Hume shaped figure stood. Cid could just make out the outline of a katana hanging at the belt under the brown hooded cloaks the pair donned.
"It's good to see you again, Judgemaster." The Nu Mou lifted his hood ever slightly, allowing only his piercing white pupils and irises to be seen. Cid's demeanor instantly brightened.
"Likewise, Professor Augustus." The Judgemaster's eyes shifted to Auggie's accomplice, who had not yet revealed himself. He sent him a look, as if gesturing for him to divulge his identity. With slight hesitation, the man pulled his hood up ever so slightly, and Cid stared at him in mild surprise.
"It's been a while, Ensei Rou."
Maria Savoy de Pervenche
That sun, setting along the far off horizon
Will never awaken from its slumber…
Chapter Twenty Two: The Sun Already Gone Down
"Indeed it has…" Ensei responded, placing a hand on the wooden chair in front of him. He promptly brought it back and took a seat in it soon after. Professor Auggie followed suit. "Though now isn't the time to reminisce. There's something you should know about the wedding taking place tomorrow."
The Judgemaster quirked an eyebrow, before letting out a depressed sigh.
"I know what you're going to say, Ensei. And there's absolutely nothing I can do about it." Both Ensei's and even Auggie's eyes shot open at his statement, and the samurai stood from his seat, slamming his hands onto the table.
"What do you mean there's nothing you can do!? And how do you even know anyway?"
Cid gestured for the man to return to his seat, lest he face the wrath of the trio of Templar bodyguards, each with his spear on standby. The brown haired official rested his chin on propped up hands, and began to explain.
"You see…Governor Aquila has already informed me of the events that have transpired here…including the reason behind this." He held up a dingy slip of paper, the word 'wanted' dominating the upper half of the piece while descriptions of various people filled in the bottom. Ensei scanned it, and noticed that every description seemed oddly familiar. "It seems Clan Gully, Clan Falzen, and the 'Heretics' have been accused of criminal acts in this city."
Ensei was taken aback by the revelation, mentally cursing though managing not to show it on his face.
"Though, placing that aside for now, this wedding is not something I can prevent with my own power." He cleared his throat. "You see, being founded as a semi-independent state of Jylland, St. Galleria has a unique governmental system that is very much detached from the remainder of the country. As such, it is forbidden to influence any affairs deemed internal by the city, this wedding falling under that category."
"Now, Judgemaster," Professor Auggie began. "An internal affair is overruled if it poses a clear and present danger to the..."
"I am aware. I mentioned that to the governor during our talk earlier today. Though such requirements, in this situation, were not met. From what he told me, there is no clear and present danger here. My hands are tied..." Ensei stood from his chair once more, slamming his hand on the table and interrupting the blue eyed man. The black haired man's smirked stretched from ear to ear.
"Did you ever stop to think that these 'requirements' weren't met because the governor was unaware of them?" Cid locked eyes with the Parivir for a moment, and then motioned for him to continue. "Tell me, Judgemaster. Do you recall a man by the name of Jacobus Sicuro?"
Cid eased back in his chair, his eyes wandering to the ceiling as he prodded his mind for any memories of the aforementioned name.
"Jacobus Sicuro; one of the only two criminals to have escaped the illegal arms bust in Grazton all those years ago. His whereabouts have completely disappeared since then. Haven't heard that name in a long time…" Cid quirked an eyebrow. "Though I don't see how a dead man has to do with anything?"
Ensei answered his question by reaching into his pocket, and retrieving a folded slip of paper. He slid it along the rough table surface with his index finger, until it was but a few inches from the Judgemaster's breastplate. Cid eyed him as his armored hand gently picked up the paper and unfolded it carefully.
Upon opening the slip and scanning its contents, his eyes widened considerably. Ensei's demeanor turned somber.
"Look familiar, doesn't he?"
"I will admit…the face does seem identical, but he has already been ruled deceased. This alone is not enough to convict anyone…" Cid replied.
An uncomfortable silence developed between the two. The Judgemaster stared at Ensei for a moment, his demeanor waiting for any further discussion. Finally, he sighed, and stood from his seat.
"If you have nothing else to show me, I believe it is time to take my leave." He gestured for Professor Auggie to stand, to which the Nu Mou cooperated in tandem with his own three Bangaa guardsmen. "Now I am going to clear whatever misunderstanding made Augustus a wanted criminal, find a way out of this lockdown, and then we will depart from this city. I wish you the best of luck, Ensei Rou."
The armored man strolled around the table with perfect posture, passing Ensei on his left. The Parivir stayed silent before whispering over his shoulder.
"Would you mind giving that to Sir Loin for me?"
The Judgemaster exited without saying a word, gripping it in his metal covered hand.
(St. Galleria, Governor's Mansion)
Maria Savoy de Pervenche ran an ornate silver-lined comb through her beautiful brown locks, making sure to pick out as many tangles as possible with each stroke. Her eyes face forward towards her vanity, staring listlessly at the reflection gracing the mirror's surface.
"I brought you something to eat."
The man's voice was enough for Maria to recognize who had just entered the room. Aquila walked slowly over the polished wooden floor, boards gently creaking with each step. In his hands was a silver coated tray, topped a bowl of soup, two bread rolls, and a steaming hot cup of tea.
The room lay quiet, the governor fumbling with his daughter's food being the only sound breaking the silence.
"Tomorrow morning is the day I lose my only daughter..." Maria ceased combing her hair at the man's statement, placing it down on the table's surface.
"Oh father," she began with a smile and a small giggle, both of which were forced. "Don't you think you're being a bit overdramatic? I mean…"
The seriousness lying deep within his eyes caused her to trail off. She swiveled fully around in her chair towards him, both of their eyes locking.
"You have no idea what this man is like…"
"Yes, father. Yes I do." She paused, and his eyes widened. "He is the man that has caused the most pain this city has ever encountered in its history, and yet even so, the citizens rely on him for support."
She stood from her seat and daintily made her way over to a window, staring out at the black dome that comprised the sky, sprinkled throughout with bright white stars and a moon that pierced through the darkness.
"Whether I marry him or not, he will eventually gain this position. At least with this way, I will use what power I have to stop him from using this city. I will do whatever it takes for my people."
Aquila nodded, and then turned around to the door. Despite the situation, a small smile graced his lips as thoughts of his late wife resurfaced in his mind.
"It seems she's taken after you..."
(St. Galleria, Heretic Headquarters)
"What exactly are you doing, Luso Clemens?"
The boy, who lay limp with his abdomen towards the ground, wearily brought his head up at the hulking dark-skinned being a few feet in front of him. The blonde Revgaji stared down with arms crossed, surveying the bruises that covered the adolescents body.
"Do you even know what it means to be a fighter...?"
The brown haired teen grunted before barely managing up to a knee, his facial features indicating the toll of Cid's last blow. He coughed up a few drops of blood, subsequently wiping off the trail with his glove.
"A fighter relies on his sword arm and the volume of his Aura, but above all else his resolve. Blades may be broken and Aura overcome, but while your resolve is strong, no battle is lost."
Luso gazed with strained eyes at the Rev's now retreating form. The man reached the door, placing a hand on the wall and glancing over his right shoulder.
"…It seems to me you still haven't found yours yet."
"How is he doing?" Ensei questioned as Cid entered their makeshift meeting room. The burly Rev merely shook his head in a negative fashion, causing the man to grunt before gesturing over to the empty seat next to Andie Kelt.
"This is probably the worst possible scenario we could have been placed in." Sothe commented, switching the topic to the more present matters at hand. "Without the Judgemaster's assistance, our chances of success are slim to none."
"Do not count him out just yet," Ensei commented, propping his feet upon the table. All eyes turned to him as he explained. "The only thing holding him back is the lack of concrete evidence, though that can be fixed quite easily. You see, I asked him to deliver that page you showed me to Sir Loin; the page about Jacobus Sicuro."
A smirk graced his features as others looked on with puzzled faces.
"That Seeq has been lodging in the Cathedral since we came here; directly in the middle of enemy territory. If somehow he realizes the Archbishop's identity, he might be able to get us the proof we need."
(St. Galleria, Cathedral)
"Ah, this is one of the best jobs we've ever had," Adelle commented, clad only in a nightgown as she stepped out from the bathroom and ran a towel through her silver hair. She spied her father on one of the two beds their bedroom contained, laying back and with a thoughtful look about his face.
The girl stared then sighed, trotting over and placing herself gently next to him on the bed. She tapped him on the shoulder, causing his head to turn and face her.
"Is everything alright?"
"…I'm…I'm not sure anymore…"
Adelle was about to respond to his answer, when a soft rapping on their bedroom door resonated throughout the room. The cat themed female leaped over the Seeq and landed easily, before slowly approaching the door and unlocking the handle.
Her jaw opened wide in wide in surprise as she stared at the man in front of her, clad in armor of the finest caliber from head to toe. A horned helmet was tucked under his left arm, and in his right hand he held a worn, folded piece of paper.
"Thank you, young lady," Judgemaster Cid remarked, entering the room and flashing the bewildered girl a sincere smile before turning to the Seeq that had just risen from his bed. "It's been a long time, hasn't it, Loin?"
"Too long. Heard you were in town, the Lanista responded with enthusiasm, taking the hand the esteemed individual had offered to him. "So to what do I owe this visit?"
"I need your opinion on something." Loin looked down at the paper in his hand, noticing that its worn faded color looked eerily familiar. He reached and grabbed it from the Judgemaster's fingers, quickly opening the document. His eyes widened considerably while scanning it, before they shot back to the brown haired man. "Something important…"
"Adelle, leave. Now."
The girl, sensing the intensity in her father's voice, promptly made her way to the bathroom and shut the door behind her. Once he had assumed she was out of earshot, Loin bent down and thrust his hand under the bed, recovering a book. He flipped through the pages with haste as the Judgemaster stepped towards him.
Cid narrowed his eyes as the Seeq placed the paper into the middle of the book, its torn edges matching perfectly with the books binding.
"It seems I've found our missing page," Sir Loin commented with a grin, before his expression turned more serious. "Now the only question is who disposed of it in the first place."
"This book seems to be Federal Offenders," Cid said, taking the book and flipping to the contents page. "Every major library has a few copies of them, but only in a restricted area…off limits to the general populace. Only certified officials would even have access to this…"
"Like the Archbishop of a city." A long silence developed between the two males. Loin promptly closed the book softly, and turned to the Judgemaster. "Think about it. He's the only one with both the means and a significant purpose to dispose of that page. I think its time we confront him about this."
"Jacobus was ruled deceased by the Jylland Defenders of Peace. I'd need more evidence than this to justify an arrest."
Sir Loin grinned and then performed a sharp whistle. Adelle's black cat came trotting over, and with one bound, gracefully landed on his right shoulder, releasing a soft purr.
"You just leave that to me."
"Thank you for stopping by, Judgemaster, even if it was such a late visit," Vaticus Finch remarked, releasing a yawn while leading the revered individual through the main lobby of the cathedral. The large expanse of the room was ornamented with flowers and wedding décor in honor of the marriage ceremony taking place the next day.
"I must apologize for that; barging in on such short notice." He scratched the back of his head in an embarrassed fashion whilst smiling and chuckling. The red haired priest joined him in a laugh.
"If it wouldn't trouble you, do you think you could attend my wedding? It would be a great honor for such an individual to grace us with his presence."
"I would be honored," the Judgemaster replied, earning a smile from the Archbishop. Cid performed a final wave, and as he exited the door, his mind couldn't help but wander back to Sir Loin.
"I hope I've bought him enough time."
Two guards walked briskly down the dimly lit hallway, illuminated by the scant few candles lining the walls every ten feet. With such late working conditions, both their eyes were already conditioned to low light sources and both could see fairly well, even at such a late hour.
One guard stopped abruptly, causing his partner to take a few steps ahead of him before pivoting around. Silence dominated the corridor for the space of a few seconds before the guard, deeming himself to simply be hearing things, continued with his patrol. And once both guards had rounded the corner at the end…
…Sir Loin's camouflage skill faded, and the portly Seeq chuckled inwardly to himself.
He stepped quickly yet lightly in the opposite direction of the guards, forsaking any of the boisterous movements that his Lanista position flaunted in favor of the subtle movements skills of his second job: a Ranger. Behind him, Adelle's cat scurried along the wooden floor, its dark fur blending well with the shadows of the night.
The duo reached their destination seconds later, Loin immediately wasting no time in testing the door to Vaticus Finch's bedroom. He breathed a small, relieved sigh upon finding it unlocked, and with gentle turn of the handle coupled with a nudge, he found his way in.
The Lanista dashed in, finding cover by a nearby dresser and using it as a vantage point to perform a quick survey of the room. It was dark, as were all the other rooms; the only light source being the radiance of the moon beaming down through the windows, giving the area an ethereal glow. Absorbing most of the moonlight was a large desk on the far side of his position. The Seeq figured it was the most logical place to store any encrypting evidence.
The Lanista/feline duo silently crept to the back of the desk, and with a snap of his fingers, he signaled for the cat to bite off the padlock of the bottom-most drawer. The space was filled to the brim with documents, and it took the male quite a while to sift through all of the useless ones.
A quick glance of glance of something remotely useful caused him to backtrack and retrieve a few pieces of paper. He slipped out the miniscule stack with ease and leaned back, closing the drawer with his foot.
"Alright, what do we have here…?" He performed a quick scan, borrowing as much of the oncoming moonlight as he could. His eyes widened more and more with each passing second. "To think Finch here was involved with them of all people. Looks like we found what we needed…"
Loin gathered himself and stood to his feet after placing the documents in a small shoulder bag on his person.
"Well, well…looks like we've got us a spy."
Before the Seeq even had time to register the voice in his mind, a sharp edged object swung down from above, leaving behind a huge, diagonal gash across his stomach in its wake. The Lanista stumbled back as a grunt escaped his mouth, the sound of blood splattering across the floor the only other noise.
His vision began to go hazy for a moment, though it was enough to accurately recognize the Bangaa Defender, who's Knightsword had the appearance of being dipped in crimson fluid.
"I thought you of all people would be professional enough to keep your nose out of places it doesn't belong." Ignatius Loyola took a few steps forward, sword at the ready.
"What is Vaticus Finch planning, or should I say Jacobus Sicuro…?"
"So you know, huh? Looks like I can't let you leave this place." He brought his edged weapon above his head, the moonlight causing the weapon to shimmer and his eye to glisten. Loin inwardly regretted not bringing a weapon with him, and brought his arms up to hopefully protect his face.
The weapon came down, though before it could complete its path towards Loin, it was intercepted between two knives held high. The ring of the metal colliding resonated throughout the room.
Adelle stared up at her Bangaa opponent, her yellow eyes icy cold.
"You should know better than to leave me out of things, father."
Loin hadn't the time to respond to her statement, as he watched the Defender roar and bring his leg up, delivering a muscled kick directly at her abdomen. The blow sent her rocketing backwards, though a certain wounded Seeq managed to jump behind her, using his stomach as a cushion to absorb the blow. His split second action didn't stop the momentum from propelling both of them through the large glass windows, and the Lanista skidded to a halt in the middle of the balcony, his back covered in shards of broken glass.
"If you don't want to be left out, you can just suffer the same fate." The Bangaa, unable to fit through the hole the two had left, slashed the glass with his sword. He stalked towards them slowly, working the kinks in his neck.
"Adelle, don't say a word. Don't ask questions. Just listen to me." Loin took the girl's silence as confirmation to continue. He struggled to remove his shoulder bag from around him, though eventually succeeded and placed it on his daughter. "I need you to take this bag to Clan Gully. You have to find them. Use your cat; he should be able to smell them out. They'll know what to do with it…"
He stepped forward in front of the silver haired girl, the blood from his wound dripping onto the balcony surface.
"Bringing Vaticus Finch down now falls on you getting that bag to them…"
He smirked, a proud glisten in his eyes. Adelle stared at her father's back as Ignatius drew ever closer.
"Show them what happens when a black cat crosses your path."
The girl nodded, clutching the shoulder bag to her chest, turned and leapt over the side of the balcony. Using cat-like reflexes, she managed to land from the twenty or so feet in an easy crouch with minimal strain on her body. She rocketed forth, making a bee line through the cathedral court and towards the exit. Her feline pet caught up within seconds after mimicking its master's daring leap over the edge.
"Do you really think that will accomplish anything with the wedding so close?" Ignatius queried, dragging his sword's tip across the ground and creating a few sparks. Loin assumed a battle stance as best he could.
"Let's hope so…"
(St. Galleria, Heretic Headquarters, Morning)
"I'm sorry…" Luso whispered distantly as he and Ensei walked side by side through a run down corridor. The black haired Parivir let out a comforting sigh, placing a hand on the boys nearest shoulder.
"Don't worry about it. It was a little much to expect you to learn aura so quickly."
The two rounded a corner and proceeded down a second hallway, before encountering a set of double doors to their left. A single nudge allowed the access into the room beyond, where the remainder of Clan Gully, Clan Falzen, and the majority of the Heretic personnel were grouped.
Sothe was stationed in the middle of the group, standing atop the center table with arms crossed. Along with his usual attire, a long brown cloak was draped around him, billowing down to right above his knees. Everyone else matched him perfectly in this regard.
Ensei grinned then, chuckled.
"So we're really going to go through with this without any evidence, huh?"
The green haired man nodded, and was about to speak when one of the guards positioned outside burst through the double doors behind them.
"Sir! We've found someone outside!"
Everyone's head turned to the door, and puzzled looks crossed their faces as a single black-hued cat daintily entered the room, purring and licking the underside of its paws as if they were sore. Moments later, a yellow eyed girl with flowing silver hair stumbled in, physically exhausted from what they could tell. A shoulder bag was still clutched to her chest, and tear stains dominated her cheeks.
Luso Clemens was the first to bolt to Adelle, catching her as she dropped to her knees. He gestured for Kanin to come over, and the White Mage immediately began casting cure spells. It was a few seconds later, after everyone had gathered around, that she began to speak.
"I was told to give this to you." She weakly released her bag, and Luso managed to grab a hold of it with his free hand, tossing it at Cid's feet.
"What happened?" Andie asked, stepping up and making her presence known. The girl let out a few stifled coughs, and regained some of her composure.
"Dad and I were attacked late last night…by Ignatius Loyola. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think it has something to do with that bag." She pointed to the sack. Cid was a step ahead of her, having already located the documents. His eyes widened considerably at the content, and he passed it on to Sothe. The Heretic leader mimicked the Revgaji's surprised face and then looked up at Adelle.
"This…This is exactly what we need."
"Adelle…where is your father?" Ensei queried in a serious tone, his hand settling on the handle of his katana.
"He…was at the Cathedral. He let me escape, while he…" Her eyes wandered down to the floor, on the verge of tearing up. All was quiet for a fourth of a minute, before Luso stood to his feet and placed a hand on his scarlet colored hat.
Adelle looked up in surprise as she felt the soft fabric of the boy's hat rest atop her silver locks. A bluish-white glow began to emanate from him, which caused Ensei's eyes to widen. Luso spoke in a soft voice.
"Give that back to me when we find him." The boy walked forwards towards the double doors, as both Adelle and Kanin turned to stare at his retreating form in amazement. Ensei was second to follow behind him, gesturing for everyone to start moving.
And he couldn't help but smirk in proud surprise.
"It's faint…but it looks like he found something after all."
(St. Galleria, Cathedral)
I…really hate this man…
Maria Savoy de Pervenche strolled down the white velvet pathway set down before her, her steps full of the grace of being raised in a high-society setting and in cadence with gentle music playing.
I have always held a strong feeling of disgust for him …
The courtyard of the St. Galleria Cathedral was fully adorned for the occasion. Snow white flowers decorated almost everything, from the altar to the pillars that surrounded the area. Even the Archbishop guard, who were running patrols around the area, wore armor decorated for the occasion.
I still remember every ounce of fear that I held, ever since the day we met…
The wedding ceremony had already reached its climax: the walk of the beautiful bride down the extent of the walkway. Leading her down was her father, Governor Aquila, a bright but false smile adorning his face. On either side of her, droves of important people, from the wealthiest men and women to even a few political officials, stared in wonder as the girl drew closer to her fate with each passing second.
Even when the sun was at its highest peak, shining at its fullest… around him, it was as blackest night.
She traveled through the breezeway, and headed for the winding set of stairs that led up to the open air balcony, taking each step one at a time. The girl and her father reached the top of the stairs, and she schooled her thought process and demeanor. Aquila released her arm, and with the grace of a young lady, she breathed out a sigh and walked forward.
The sun has already gone down for me…
Ignatius Loyola stood at the right side, though as to why his arms and face were covered in cuts and bruises, she knew not. To the left, Riccio Vento gave a hearty salute, a giant metal ball attached to a chain resting inches from him. Johannes Tetzel seemed rather bored, repeatedly flipping a coin in the air without the slightest attention towards it. In the far corner of the balcony, Judgemaster Cid, Professor Auggie, and the three Templar guards stood as the guests of honor.
Her eyes wandered over to the man of the hour, and instantly she froze in her walk. Vaticus Finch raised an eyebrow curiously then, smiled. Maria's eyes widened in fear, and she began to tremble as his sincere innocent smiles subtly morphed into the most sinister grin she had ever seen in her life.
I had steeled my resolve…forsaken all my personal feelings for my people…
Judgemaster Cid placed a hand on her shoulder and gently urged her forward, much to his personal dismay. With every step she took, her fear of him grew greater.
And with a single look, he completely wiped out my resolution…
She stepped on the raised platform, allowing the masses below to have a perfect view of the soon-to-be wed couple. Vaticus took both of her delicate hands as one of the church bishops began to recite the vows. The red haired priest spoke his half of the vow, and all eyes fell on Maria to finish her part.
"Well, Maria…will you take me?" Vaticus repeated the Bishop's question, his smile being a cover for the malevolent smirk she knew he was performing inwardly. She hesitated.
I…don't want to marry this man…I don't want to be chained down by duty…
"I….I…." Small drops of water began to fall from her eyes, traveling the length of her cheeks and allowing gravity to deliver them to the platform surface beneath.
I want to fly freely in the sky as well…
"Hold on just one second…"
Time seemed to stop as the voice of a teenage boy rang out over the expanse of the area. Maria lifted up her eyes to see a brown haired adolescent male atop the wall of the courtyard gate, sporting two blades that hung from his yellow overalls. A coffee brown cloak fluttered behind him in a breeze similar to a cape. Next to him, a silver haired girl knelt with same cloak around her neck, twirling around a red hat on her index finger.
This setup continued around the wall, a pair of Heretic or temporary Heretic members standing on top of a major part of the stony barricade, all looking down on the wedding scene taking place.
Vaticus's eyes traveled to the two men just to the right of Luso. Forest green locks and pitch black hair ruffled in a small draft that passed by, also giving life to their respective cloaks.
Ensei Rou gave an almost malicious yet confident smirk as he drew Saishuu Kirihana from its scabbard. Sothe's eyes drove into the crimson haired priest with violent intensity. Luso continued to speak as he stared Vaticus Finch down. The bluish white glow he had gained previously returned once again as the boy recalled all of the horrible things that the man had done.
Showdown! The Heretics have arrived!
(End Chapter Twenty Two)
Alright, extra long chapter this time, though unfortunately no character corner. It'll be back up next chapter, just gathering information for it. Hope you enjoyed, because next chapter starts the action.