Cuttingmoon57 here, and back with chapter twenty-four 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


"Now, now…that's my Nu Mou you're pointing your blade at there."

Ensei mustered his strength and forced the Bangaa's sword back, throwing his opponent's balance off, though only for a moment. The lizard managed to recover, before willing leaping back himself this time, creating a healthy distance between the two combatants.

"Ensei Rou…even after all these years, still you haunt us." The Defender brought his sword up vertically, switching to a two handed grip. Auggie could see the mist sweltering around him. "Do you still work for them?"

"No, I'm quite done with that life. I have my own clan to worry about..." His voice was serious with a hint of sadness contained within. A devilish smirk then crossed the Parivir's face, and he brought his katana to the ready, pointing its end at the Bangaa's head.

"Though I do like to finish what I start!"

Ultimate offense versus ultimate defense! Parivir and Defender face off!


Ignatius Loyola

Equality is but a figment of our imagination

Hope is only the deception of our hearts.

Chapter Twenty Four: Miserable Existence


(Cathedral, Courtyard)

Two clothed backs pressed together, one lithe but muscular, the other slender and soft. Both were dampened by the amount of perspiration being excreted from their bodies.

"Are you alright, Micaiah?"

The porcelain skinned beauty exhaled, blowing a stray strand of her flowing white hair from in front of her eye. Her eyes shifted gradually, eyeing the sparse squad of armed guards that had formed around her and her husband. All looked ready and poised to attack, though most held their weapons awkwardly, signifying a lack of proper training.

"Never felt better."

Sothe grinned, and his grip on his knives tightened.

One guard, shivering nervously, opted for a reckless charge, releasing a hearty yell as he darted straight for Sothe. The green-haired thief leaped over the blade with ease as he swung horizontally, bringing his foot forward and connecting his boot to the Hume's chin.

Another came in just as the first fell, brandishing a longer sword in his left hand. Sothe landed with enough time to sidestep the thrust, though consequently opened up Micaiah's back to the guard's weapon. He brought his foot up once again, his boot rocketing upwards and knocking the sword off course just enough for his wife to dodge unscathed.

The white haired beauty followed up, spinning around bringing her foot squarely in the man's groin area. He slumped to the ground, and didn't get back up…not that anyone could blame him. Sothe flashed her a grin.

It was moments like these that reminded him why he was attracted to her.

His reverie was cut short as a pair of guards, one Hume and one Bangaa, rushed towards his back, swords raised. The man shot around, bringing his knives up to parry, when two separate arrows whizzed by, implanting themselves in the Bangaa's shoulder and the Hume's foot just as they brought their weapons down. This action slowed the duo down enough for Sothe to backstep out of harm's way.

The Bangaa guard, his adrenaline pumping, ripped the arrow's head from his shoulder, snapping its wooden shaft between his fist. He glared at Sothe, released a bellowing roar, then surged forward before the blade of a rapier pierced through the lower right side of his midsection. He craned his neck around just enough to view a Viera Fencer narrowing her eyes at him. She yanked her golden hued rapier from his body, and with a gentle nudge of her hand, he slumped to the ground.

Sothe turned his head towards the courtyard wall, where a Hume Archer silently smirked and tipped his straw hat to his leader. The Thief returned the gesture with a nod, before returning his attention to the close-combat battle that still awaited him. The Archer surveyed the courtyard, searching for a niche where his long range support would be useful. His eyes rested on the courtyard balcony at the far end…

And the fierce battle taking place upon it.

(Cathedral, Balcony)

The samurai darted forward, his katana leading as he sped closer to his opponent. Ignatius steeled his stance, and brought the sword high above his head. The two weapons clashed, the sound of reverberating metal filling the battlefield, before sliding off of each other.

Time seemed to slow down as the two locked murderous eyes, Ignatius's with the unwillingness to fight; Ensei's matching his confident grin. The Bangaa was the first to act after this silent exchange, bringing his large Knightsword around in a horizontal sweep. The Parivir ducked under the blade in a crouch while simultaneously lifting his katana above him. The weapons grinded against each other for a moment, and the black-haired man forced his blade upwards, throwing the Defender backwards a step.

Taking advantage of his opponent's off-balance state, Ensei stepped forward, closing the distance between his katana and his adversary's exposed midsection. He stabbed forward as the Bangaa shifted to the side, just managing to knick part of his crimson armor.

Ignatius, attempting to deal a blow in retaliation, released his two handed grip on the weapon and thrust his left hand at the Parivir, successfully grappling onto his lower arm. Using the natural strength of his race, the Defender then brought his sword around in an attempt at the man's neck.

Almost as if challenging the Bangaa's swing speed, Ensei completely ignored the oncoming weapon, opting rather to aim his katana at the arm that currently restrained his own. Ignatius acted more on protective instinct than thought, releasing his grip on the man's appendage just in time to avoid a deadly slash, though he did obtain a shallow cut. The Parivir, having been freed from his clutch, ducked under the momentum of the Knightsword, before leaping backwards, creating a healthy distance between the two.

"This man…" The Bangaa's eyes shifted from the cut on his arm to his katana wielding opponent, who grinned in malicious delight, unnerving him to his very core. It was almost as if he was…enjoying it. "This man is far too dangerous…"

"What's wrong, Ignatius?" The Parivir released a cocky chuckle. "All that armor against a sword as small as mine. What are you so afraid of?"

The Defender chose not to respond verbally, simply grunting as he returned to his two-handed grip on the sword's handle. A small amount of dust kicked up as he spread his stance, and a thin aura of mist began to gradually widen around his body. He looked up, his eyes firm, unyielding.

"From here on out...you will no longer be able to cut me."

Ensei flashed a toothy grin then licked his lips in anticipation.

(Inside the Cathedral)

"Air Render!"

"Sonic Boom!"

A loud, booming sound filled the expanse of the large hallway, followed by the thump of a dozen guardsmen smacking into the polished tile floor and the decorated walls. A silence pervaded the air, broken only by the shallow, rhythmic panting of a White Monk Revgaji and Hume Hunter.

"Come on…let's keep moving." Cid ordered over his shoulder. Cheney nodded, grabbing a handful of extra arrows from a downed Hume Archer before adding them to his quiver. Better to be prepared than sorry.

The Hunter stood from his crouch and the two took off down the hall, caring not for the noise their boots made against the tile floor. The time for stealth had well been over anyway. Whatever guards were not being sent as reinforcements to the courtyard were roaming through the halls; swarming like squads of worker bees searching for pollen. Luckily for the two Gully members, said bees weren't as skilled as they had intentionally thought. Most were novices, most likely only admitted at their posts to fill positions. This, of course, made them easy fodder for creating a disturbance to draw more guards.

Cheney pulled ahead of Cid, his lithe frame easily weaving around the bulky brute. As he rounded a corner, basic reflexes took over when a giant rotating iron ball rocketed straight towards him, screaming as it cut a path through the air. Try as he might, the weapon managed to clip his left arm, and a sharp cracking sound that could only be made by bone resounded throughout the intersection. The Hunter released a roar of pain while gripping the damaged limb, unconsciously dropping his greatbow and falling to the floor. The iron ball, having imbedded itself into the far wall, was yanked back forcefully to its origin point by the chain attached to it. Cid, having witnessed the attack on his clan mate, increased his speed and skidded around the corner, ending up in a battle ready stance. His eyes widened for a moment, then narrowed in anger as they scanned the snickering Bangaa Gladiator that lay in front of him.

"Did you not receive enough of a beating at the governor's mansion, Riccio Vento?"

"This time will be different, Revgaji," the Gladiator replied, the sounds of his chuckling echoed in his metal helmet. He playfully tossed the heavy iron ball into the air repeatedly, catching it perfectly each time. The metal chain rattled with each toss. "I didn't have my weapon before, and now…looks like your Parivir friend is nowhere to be found."

"Cheney…are you alright." The White Monk kept his eyes trained on his opponent. A series of grunts and heavy panting followed a small silence. Even without looking, judging by the shuffling of feet and clothes, he could tell Cheney had already stood to his feet.

"Just a scratch…"

The Rev smirked proudly, then steeled his gaze.

"Let's get one thing straight here, Riccio Vento…"

He took a second to size up his opponent, while he cracked his knuckles. The way he held his weapon in only hand suggested he had a good amount of strength. Of course, if it was a strength contest he wanted…

"…I don't need him to beat you to a bloody pulp."

He was going to get it.

(Cathedral, Balcony)

"Where is it…?"

Ignatius brought his Knightsword down, the light surrounding his body reflecting off of its polished metal surface. The Parivir performed a tight sidestep, successfully dodging the attempt while initiating an upward slash simultaneously. The weapons slid easily off of his chest, and Ensei jumped back to avoid another desperate slash. The two, meters apart, stared the other down.

The metal of his katana definitely made contact with the Bangaa's armor in the last exchange; Ensei could feel it, though the subsequent gash or nick in its plating never appeared. In comparison, his garments were cut in several places, the dried blood of his wounds soaking the edges of the surrounding fabric.

Ignatius watched as the Hume licked the dried blood from the corner of his mouth in an animalistic fashion. He shivered inwardly, though kept his body still.

"Where is his fear…?"

The two charged forward once more.

………………………………….

A young Bangaa, no more than eighteen years old, scurried backward across the hard concrete floor of the warehouse. Soft drops of rain fell outside, accompanied by the occasional flash of lightning and the deafening roar of thunder that followed. Even in the pitch black of the midnight hour, the figure before him was clear.

A sword dangled at his left hip, a blue cape with silver embroidering cascade down his back, stopping just at the back of his knees, and a helmet covered the entirety of his face. Pristine silver armor covered him from the base of his neck to the tips of his fingers and toes. The blood splatters covering said armor glowed with each flash of lightning.

The bipedal lizard continued to back up with each step the armored man took, before his back eventually pressed against a wooden crate. He began to shiver. His eyes strained, and tears began to freely flow down the sides of his cheeks.

The armored man stopped in his tracks, mere inches from his opponent's scaly feet. He brought his hands up to his helmet, placing one on each side then lifted it up gradually. The Bangaa's eyes went wide in fearful awe as the most demonic smile formed on the man's face…

He watched as the Hume licked the dried blood from the corner of his mouth in an animalistic fashion.

It was the first time in the Bangaa's life that he had known such overwhelming fear.

………………………………….

Ignatius increased his pace and rate of attack, sending out several slashes at the nimble Parivir in order to force him into defense. The samurai swiped his katana around accordingly, picking off some attacks with his weapon while allowing others to pierce his guard. He drew closer to the Defender, fresh blood pouring out of the cheek he had managed to slash.

"Don't be afraid. He can't cut you anymore." Despite his reassuring himself, Ignatius began to gradually give ground to him, and his offensive slashes were morphing into defensive parries. Every time the Bangaa would attempt to start a chain of attacks, the Parivir would simply shrug them off, and keep attacking, completely ignoring the protection of his own body.

Ensei stepped forward, preparing a horizontal slash from his right. Ignatius's reflexes brought his sword up slightly, but his split second judgment overruled them. He had to land an attack if he wanted to end this.

His decision not to block would be a fatal one.

His eyes bulged forth from their sockets as the sharp edge of the katana sliced cleanly through his exposed side. Metal rang off metal as the sword pierced the armored plates and chain mail, and a geyser of blood gushed out onto the balcony floor.

He staggered back and then leaned forward, into Ensei's sword as he continued to push forward. His Knightsword managed to nick the top of his shoulder, and crimson fluid poured forth much like his own wound. Heedless, the Parivir persisted, dragging his shoulder across the edge of the blade and thrusting with his katana at the Bangaa's midsection.

Ignatius coughed up a small amount of blood, mixed in with saliva, before pushing himself off of his impalement. The Bangaa dropped his Knightsword while swiping with a claw at Ensei; the Parivir easily jumped back a few meters to dodge it before standing up straight, a confident grin plastered across his face as he rested his katana over his shoulder.

"For someone who specializes in defense, you sure are the most beat up of the two of us."

"How!? How did…" His voice became hoarse and ragged, and his hand was placed over his side, trying to hold back the blood.

"I cut you?" Ensei finished, a raised eyebrow accompanying his smirk. "I guess I could tell you…" His eyes shifted shortly to the katana before returning to the Bangaa, who had dropped to one knee.

"This sword of mine…Saishuu Kirihana absorbs Mist."

(Inside the Cathedral)

Riccio Vento flung his weapon into the air by the chain. The weapon came down just in front of his body, and he thrust his arms forward. The impact caused the ball to rocket forward, rapidly rotating as it tore through the air in its path.

Cid stepped in front of Cheney and firmly planted his feet on the ground. His burly arms came up, slightly bending at the elbow to absorb the blow. The spinning ball connected with his palms, and the Revgaji grunted at the impact. Unfortunately, his strength wasn't alone to halt its advance. He attempted to force the ball to the side as it grinded against his fingers, though a tugging feeling brought him towards the ball's center. His guard broke, and Cheney managed a dodge to the right as the weapon slammed the Rev into the far wall.

"You can't win against my technique with that kind of strength!" The Gladiator brought his ball and chain back, swinging it above his head in a propeller like fashion. "One down…"

The Hunter drew a small knife with his right hand, eyeing the greatbow on the ground longingly before returning to his opponent. With his arm damaged as it was…it wouldn't be of much use anyway.

The Bangaa launched the ball once more in the same fashion, a whistling sound accompanying its rotation. A blue glow enveloped Cheney just as he launched it, and the huntsman opened his mouth wide.

"Bad Breath!"

A dark green gas emanated from his throat, quickly enveloping the area around him and obscuring all vision. The rotating ball, still straight in its course, cut through the cloud of gas effortlessly. All the gas in its wake spun around to its center, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the slowly dispersing cloud.

From the side of billowing gas, the Hunter performed an awkward dodge roll, his broken left arm dangling loosely from its socket as he finished in a crouch. Riccio yanked the ball back, his outstretched arm catching it with ease.

"From what I saw, the rotation of that ball produces a vacuum effect that draws everything towards its center…" Cheney surmised, panting. "I'm guessing that's why Cid couldn't escape from it."

"Seems like you've figured out the trick…" The Gladiator chuckled darkly, once again twirling it over his head. "But knowing and defeating are two different things."

He tossed the ball into the air once again, and once it reached his range, pushed forward with both his hands; the resulting force caused it to spin rapidly, and it began to close in on Cheney's position.

The Hunter, caught off guard by the increase in speed, panicked, shielding his face with his working arm and preparing for the impact. The whiz of the weapon grew louder with each passing second.

"Air Render."

A large gust of wind exploded out from the right of the weapon and collided with the rotating ball just before it reached Cheney, subsequently knocking it off its course. It hit the ground with a large thud, crackling the tile beneath it. The huntsman, surprised, turned to see a burly, blonde headed Revgaji withdrawing his fist from an attack.

Riccio retracted it once more, repeating the process and aiming at the brown-skinned Rev. Though as the ball fell into its proper place, the Bangaa's muscles grew more tensed. A pulse emanated from his body, and he launched his arms forward.

"Rush."

The ball rocketed forward with twice the speed that it had previously. Cid sidestepped, feeling the pull of the wind, and prepared to hit on its side in hopes of knocking it off course once more. He fired another Air Render, though it failed to perform its job. Undaunted, the spinning orb clipped his left shoulder, despite his efforts to overpower the vacuum effect. He released a cry of pain and fell onto his back, his hand gripping the site of impact.

Seeing the Gladiator preparing for another round, the Rev painstakingly rose to his feet, gritting his teeth as his opponent spoke.

"You think that's enough to stop me?" the Bangaa jeered, a wicked laugh escaping his scaly jaws. "I'm not losing here, Revgaji. I'm not going back to that miserable existence. And if I have to kill you to prevent that…" He narrowed his eyes, and his voice became cold. "Then so be it."

The ball descended in front of him, and with another well placed Rush, it burst forward; the spinning so violent that one could visually see the rotation of the air around it. Cid's eyes widened as he viewed the oncoming projectile. Dodging would be pointless anyway.

Time seemed to slow down in that moment, everything becoming slow moving. And as the rotating ball caused even the ground beneath its path to rumble, Cid, in that split second as his eyes locked onto the center of the sphere, he realized something.

"Earth Render."

(Cathedral, Balcony)

Ignatius's eyes widened.

"Absorbs….Mist?"

"That's right. This katana of mine is made out of a Nethicite mixture, forged by the good Professor himself," the Parivir jeered, leaning his head back and releasing a small chuckle into the sky after pointing to Professor Auggie, who continued to struggle holding the Judgemaster in place. "From the looks of it, you cast a Bishop's Barrier spell, and then condensed it around the surface of your body; but those protective type spells don't last very long without a constant supply of Mist."

"You don't mean…" The Bangaa's eyes shifted to the blade of his sword.

"That's right. She's been sucking the Mist from the air ever since I drew her. Without that supply, your spell was doomed to dissipate eventually. You'll have to forgive her behavior…" He lifted the katana from his shoulder and held it in front of him, then continued. A sinister smile crossed his face.

"She always was a glutton."

Ignatius gritted his teeth as the samurai walked forward step by step, a few miniscule sparks igniting on the balcony's cobblestone floor as he dragged the tip of the katana's blade against it.

"I…won't …"

The black haired man stopped just in front of his heavily bleeding opponent, grinning madly while raising his weapon above his head. Images flashed through the Defender's head, and he began to shiver, his hands clenching.

"I…won't go back…"

The Bangaa, shaking madly with fear, threw his arm out, grabbing the handle of his Knightsword.

"I WON'T GO BACK!!!"

(Inside the Cathedral)

Riccio Vento was stunned to say the least.

His Revgaji opponent stood, right arm outstretched in front of him. Engulfed around the lower portion of his arm, the large iron ball of the gladiator's weapon gradually slowed until it reached perfect stillness. Cracks of all sizes covered its tough surface, chips of the ball even falling to the ground beneath it.

Cid, his face covered in sweat, his shoulders heaving with heavy pants every other second, had managed to puncture the ball.

"How…How were you able to p-pierce it? The rotation should have made it impenetrable!" Riccio stuttered, releasing his grip on the chain connecting him and the ball. The Revgaji stayed quiet for a moment, managing to finally catch his breath. Then, he closed his eyes.

"Air Render."

His eyes snapped open, and a mix of chakra and wind burst forth from the core of the ball, causing an explosion that shattered the orb into countless pieces of debris and chunks of iron. Dust and smoke emanated from his still outstretched arm, and from it, blood dripped onto the ground.

"I have to thank you, Riccio Vento. You helped me realize something during this fight." The Revgaji cracked his blood-soaked knuckles, taking a series of steps toward the cowering Bangaa. "Lately, just like your weapon, I've been trying to avoid my past, but that never solves anything. In order to win, you have to hit the problem head on."

"Earth Render. The user sends a devastating blow into the earth that releases a shockwave in front of him." Cheney thought from a distance, watching the scene unfold before realization hit him. "Of course! The axis of a spinning object moves the least. He released an Earth Render right in the center of it."

The Bangaa, his fear over taking him, made an about face and darted down the hall. Not even hesitating, Cid released a final Air Render. The blast collided with his fleeing opponent, the Gladiator's deafening howl of pain a sure signal that he would not be getting back up.

Cid turned slightly to the right, giving his clan mate a thumbs-up, which was returned full force with Cheney's good arm. The Rev then looked up to the elaborate ceiling above him.

"Illua…"

(Cathedral, Balcony)

He released a beastly roar, bringing the blade upwards. His actions were quite unexpected by Ensei and though he managed a dodge, the metal was able to still nick his clothes while throwing him off balance.

"I won't allow you to touch that man! I won't go back!"

………………………………….

"No! No stop!" a young Riccio Vento cried out, trying to fight off the men holding him down as a glowing, crimson colored branding iron connected with his scaly back. An unearthly scream escaped his jaws as the heat seared his skin in the shape of the iron's design.

We were no more than animals to them…

A teenage Ignatius Loyola panted hoarsely, the majority of his face covered in a scarlet liquid. A bloodied shortsword was clasped loosely in his right hand, and he bent over kneeling, releasing the contents of his stomach onto the ground beneath him.

We, mere children, were sent to be fodder for the amusement or goals

A few meters in front of him, a man lay dead upon the ground, his chest cleaved wide open.

To the side of him, a man clothed in white robes smiled sinisterly. Ignatius stared at him in a mix of awe and fear. He could just read the movements of the man's lip.

"This one."

Every day was hell. And then, he came…

Ignatius Loyola and Riccio Vento stared in awe from behind the metal bars of their cells as screams sounded and blood splattered on their faces from afar. Their eyes scanned the ground outside their cells. A dozen or so bodies of nameless guards littered the floor, cut in various places. Blood painted the grey concrete as well as the prison walls.

And all on his own…

In the direct center of all the carnage, a single red haired teenage boy stood, his face turned away from them and his hand clasping a knife. He spun around slowly, and for the first time in years, both of the Bangaa's eyes held hope.

He freed us from that miserable existence.

………………………………….

Ensei parried a subsequent slash by the bipedal lizard, noticing not only the frenzied state of his opponent, but just how forceful his attacks were growing.

"For far too long, we were treated as animals for the slaughter!"

He twirled the sword over his head, before bringing it down in an overhead slash at the Parivir's right shoulder. Ensei brought his katana up horizontally, deflecting the attack before it could strike its intended target.

"That's why I'll crush anyone that dares oppose Vaticus!" Following his previous attack, he thrust the blade forward before following up with a series of slashes and stabs. "I've trained all this time to defend him and his ideals, and if you mean to hurt him…" The samurai haphazardly sidestepped and ducked his way through his opponent's frenzy, before leaping high into the air to avoid a finishing blow. "I won't hesitate to kill you."

"Air Render."

Without giving Ensei time to land, Ignatius stepped forward, swinging his Knightsword in an upward arc so forcibly that it sent a crescent moon-shaped shockwave of air hurtling towards his airborne opponent. The black haired Hume's eyes widened considerably as the attack drew ever closer.

Professor Auggie donned a shocked expression as the blast connected with the man's body, producing an explosion and kicking up a screen of airborne dust. Ignatius's jaws cracked open with a joyful grin.

"That's not going work for me."

The cloud dispersed instantly as a wave of golden-hued Mist blew away the airborne dust screen, the Bangaa's grin fading with it. The Hume landed on the balcony floor, traces of that yellow Mist radiating from his katana. He placed a second hand onto its handle, and within moments a glow surrounded its blade. The Defender watched on speechless as the normally invisible cloud of Mist was hungrily absorbed back into the katana's blade.

"You see…I have an ambition that I need to see through to the end." He stalked towards his adversary, just as the Bangaa readied himself for an attack. "There's someone in this country that I need to kill before I die, so whatever reason you have…"

Ignatius, in panic, rushed the Parivir's position, his sword leading. Mist began to condense around Ensei's katana, coiling around the blade. His face was stony, unmoving.

"I'm not going to die here for you."

He released a deep breath from his lungs and concentrated, holding the katana out in front of him perpendicular to the ground and rotating his wrist, the sword circling with it. Ignatius drew closer with each passing second, his own sword in position for another Air Render.

"Saishuu Kirihana…First Dance…"

He shifted his feet, making sure they were firmly planted on the ground. Then, he retracted his sword arm, and as his scaly opponent let loose an Air Render, he thrust his Mist covered blade forward.

"Namikiri…"

A wave of golden Mist exploded from the sword, rushing forward from the blade and hurtling towards the unprepared Defender. A hoarse roar was the last sound to escape the Bangaa's mouth as the blast completely eradicated his Air Render and, within moments, consumed his body and the entirety of the balcony like a wave of wildfire.

Overwhelming! The deciding blow!

(End Chapter Twenty Four)


(Author's Notes)

Alright, hope you guys enjoyed it. Took me forever, I know. Also, I've got too much homework at the moment to fill out a character bio, so just look forward to it next time. Hope you won't mind.

Also, I will be updating Meister next, as I realized I haven't in a long time.

And with this, I am signing off for the day.