Cuttingmoon57 here, and back with chapter twenty-five of The Tainted Grimoire. Sorry for the EXTREMELY long wait. Been super busy what with college just around the corner.

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


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

Ensei Rou 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.

Saishuu Kirihana roars! Ensei's destructive technique!


Johannes Tetzel

Hatred, corruption, deceit, greed

These are the branches

Wealth

This…is the root

Chapter Twenty Five: Root of All Evil


A strained tremor shook Professor Augustus's body from the tips of his bleeding, bandage-wrapped fingers to end of his aged, lengthy tail. Both his solid white eyes shifted to the left and scanned across the Mist-scorched floor of the Cathedral balcony.

Lingering trails of smoke continued to billow from the floor, shielding from view either of the two combatants that had been fiercely battling only moments before. The smoke's golden hue began to fade as seconds passed, until the Professor's Mist-perceiving eyes could not longer register its presence.

He looked back at his hands as they began to tremble once more. The glow enveloping them grew thinner with each passing moment. His eyes widened. The Stop spell he had cast over the Judgemaster was beginning to wear off.

"I…can't hold him any longer, Ensei." The aura around his palms and his elaborate staff faded entirely as performed a regretful shake of his head. "I can only pray that was the final blow." He lifted his head until his eyes see a clear outline of the Judgemaster and his three Templar bodyguards. All was quiet for a time; then, the old Nu Mou mentally sighed as armored plates shifted and clattered amongst the four males.

Cid blinked his eyes repeatedly, as if waking from a long slumber, before examining his surroundings. It took his mind a few seconds to register where he was, as he was still rather disoriented from the Professor's spell. His eyes scanned the battle scarred balcony, still mostly covered in traces of Mist, before settling on a katana-wielding black haired man on the far side. The man began to approach the Judgemaster one step at a time, his eyes livid. A katana he held loosely at his side exuded Mist-like steam. The three Bangaa guards each held their spears at the ready.

"You act as if I'm some sort of enemy." Ensei said with mock innocence. All three took a step forward before an outstretched hand from their superior signaled for them to cease.

"If you're unable to justify your actions here today, you might as well be."

The Parivir could tell that the brown haired man was serious, even though his tone was full of reluctance. Ensei chose to get directly to business. He reached into his vest and retrieved a stack of four faded sheets of paper, crinkled and slightly torn from the battle he had been fighting. He gently placed them in the Judgemaster's armored hands.

Cid brought the documents up to a fair reading distance and warily scanned them over. All stood quietly as he read, though the sounds of battle taking place in the courtyard below did more than enough to fill the silence. His face remained stony for a full thirty seconds, before his eyes widened considerably.

"Where did you find this information?" Cid asked, his voice still cloaked in disbelief. Ensei responded with a smirk, resheathing his prized katana and turning around until he completely faced the Cathedral.

"You can ask Sir Loin once we find him."

The Judgemaster stood stunned for a few moments, before a wide grin played at his face. That old Seeq had done it. He reached back without turning around, handing the papers to his quietest Templar, Nivus.

"Ogma, Gerland, Nivus." The three stood at attention, right hands in salute position. Cid turned his head and looked over the expanse of the courtyard. A large circle of guards surrounding what seemed to be the Heretic militia at the far end caught his eye. All three Bangaa turned and instantly readied their elemental spears. "Bishop Finch and all his associates are now enemies of the state. Assist every Heretic you can."

He raised an armored arm above his head, and snapped his fingers. Instantly, all three Templar leaped from the balcony, their feet hitting the earth with a dull thud, before dashing off in separate directions. Cid turned his head back to Ensei, placing his hand on his own sword's handle.

"I'll stay here and see if I can do something about his condition. I should be safe enough up here." Auggie stated, motioning over to the twitching corpse that was Ignatius Loyola. Burns covered the length of his armor along with exposed portions of his scales. The faint hiss that escaped his mouth signaled signs of life in the reptilian carcass. Cid nodded at the professor's suggestion, then stepped forward to follow Ensei to the stairs.

(Cathedral Interior, Upper Floors)

"I'm going to kill him."

Adelle twirled a knife around her fingers before gripping it tightly and slashing at the right side through the thin, cheaply-made chainmail of a Hume Soldier. She paid no heed to his panic stricken visage after the blow; not to mention his cries of surrender before. At the moment, he was merely an obstacle in her path. The path leading to the heels of Bishop Finch and his brown haired hostage.

The soldier dropped to the ground, his right abdomen bleeding through the interlinked chains of his armor and the red fabric of his shirt. He looked up to her, and shuddered. Her furious, yellow eyes pierced right through him. He wished to stay silent, though his efforts proved fruitless as he was hoisted from the floor by his neck. Their eyes remained locked.

"Where is he? Where is Vaticus Finch?"

Her grip tightened, her yellow orbs brightened, and her pupils adopted a cat-like slit. Where a girl of her age and size garnered such strength, the soldier had no earthly idea. He shakily brought a hand up to a stair down the hall. Adelle released her grip on his neck, and his body fell to the ground with a dull thump. She dashed down the hallway with utmost speed.

"I'm going to kill him."

She pelted up the spiral staircase, skipping every other step in an effort to save time while dragging a knife across the stone wall's surface. It created a horrible screech, though she paid it no heed. Her eyes looked ever forward towards the top. Sunlight began to gradually illuminate the walls as she advanced. She reached the top step and laid her eyes on an old wooden door, colorful light peaking through its open crease. Adelle stepped forward, placed a slender, battle trained hand on the iron handle, and entered the room.

The space was nothing short of breathtaking. Whoever had designed this cathedral stopped at no expense. Everything, from the ornate, evenly spaced pillars that lined the wall to the polished tile floors was completely covered in the purest white. Though, this white was hidden under a wave of multicolored light that filtered through the gargantuan, circular stain-glass window that dominated the north wall. All the colors of the rainbow mixed together to enlighten most of the room.

All the pent up anger and hatred that had governed the silver haired girl immediately left her. Her face and eyes softened. Adelle, both stunned and awestruck, advanced step by step towards a side window next to the larger, stain glass window. Judging from how far below the courtyard seemed to be, she surmised that she was at the uppermost part of the Cathedral interior. She had always loved heights.

"It's absolutely magnificent, isn't it?"

Adelle's eyes widened instantly, and she furiously swung her body around. Her cat-like pupils rested on a man stepping out from one of the few shadowed parts of the room. He was covered in flamboyant, white robes decorated with gold and forest green. In his right hand, he held a golden, Nirvana staff and Maria Savoy de Pervenche lay limp in his left arm, completely helpless. Both were illuminated by the rainbow of colors washing over them.

The silver haired girl knew that, in this situation, even attempting to rush Vaticus Finch would prove quite deadly for one of the three.

"Are you sure taking me on is a wise decision, Bishop Finch." The words dripped from her tongue like liquid poison. Her eyes narrowed, yet held a malevolent, bright-yellow glow. "We cats are fearsome fighters for more than just our nine lives."

"I have no need to take all of your nine lives…" He raised and shifted Maria's body until her pale face was only centimeters from his own. He smirked, then licked his lips in an animalistic fashion. "…just…one. So come and try me, Ms. Adelle, and see how lucky you are. But just remember…cats aren't known for their good luck." His eyes shifted back to Adelle, his smirk still present. "Now…drop the weapon."

Adelle stood paralyzed in her battle stance, unconsciously biting at her lip. She shut her eyes regretfully, then released her grip. The knife clattered to the tile floor. The cat themed girl raised her eyelids slowly, and steeled her gaze at her opponent.

"What is it that you're after, Vaticus Finch? Tell me that much."

The red haired priest smiled darkly.

……………………………………………

"Let's try this way." Sole Calabrone remarked, directing his index finger towards the right. Hurdy breathed a sigh of exasperation, but promptly followed him as he began down the hallway.

"We have no idea where we are going, do we?"

"Not a clue."

Hurdy sighed once again. The two reached the end, and cautiously peered around the corner to the left. There was nothing to be seen, other than a faint orange glow radiating from underneath one of the doors of the dimly lit hallway. Curiosity hit them both, and the quietly drew themselves upon it. Sole turned the knob carefully, making as little noise as possible. He peeked his head in, and instantly his eyes grew wide.

The black haired boy recalled this as the Archbishop's office, though the room was a lot more disorganized than it had been in his last visit. Papers littered the expanse of the floor. Chairs and pieces of furniture were overturned. His eyes moved to the Moogle in the center of the room, dressed in robes of the highest quality and standing over a pile of documents that stood out amongst the other papers. In his paws, he held a lit match, which was the source of the orange glow presiding over the room's light. Sole recognized him at once.

"Johannes Tetzel."

The two stepped into the room, Hurdy bringing out his War Trumpet and Sole raising his fists. Initial surprised, Tetzel turned to face them, carefully holding the match between his paw's fingers.

"Stop right where you are." Hurdy barked out, his fingers already in position on his instrument. "Don't make any sudden movements."

"Same to you, little Moogle." Tetzel responded, eyes directed at the match in his paw. "The papers in this room are highly confidential, all things the Heretics would love to get their hands on." He took a casual step forward. "Try anything, anything at all, and I'll set this whole room on fire."

"What in the world do you people want?" Sole half asked, half exclaimed.

"What do we want, you ask?" Tetzel began to chuckle darkly, and a malevolent smirk crossed his face. "It's quite simple really…"

……………………………………………

"Money." Vaticus responded curtly, throwing Adelle off for a moment. The confused look on her face prompted him to continue. "What's the most valuable resource located in the Galleria Deep?" Adelle eyes opened slightly wider. "Not long ago, we discovered something in the mines of this area."

……………………………………………

"That's right. Magicite, Nethicite, precious jewels; I'm talking about natural resources. Tons of them ripe for the taking…" Tetzel continued to talk, unceremoniously licking his lips at the thought. Sole and Hurdy kept their battle poses up. The Moogle grinned. "…not to mention…ripe for the selling."

……………………………………………

"You see, Ms. Adelle, raw materials like those found in the Galleria Deep are core to weapon manufacturing." Adelle continued to stare down Vaticus Finch. "And with weapons, comes power. It turns out there are a lot of people; organizations…even whole countries that are looking for power. They need the vast array of raw materials at our disposal…"

……………………………………………

Johannes Tetzel grinned maliciously, the glint in his eyes unnerving the musical Moogle and young Hume to the core.

"…and they will pay any price to obtain them."

(Cathedral Interior, Lower Floors)

Cama Leonte nudged the door open slowly and peaked cautiously through the crack. Two guards, one a decent Hume soldier and the other a burly Bangaa White Monk, conversed about which direction to search for the intruders next. The Warrior watched on as the Monk directed his thumb behind him before taking off with a slight jog. The Hume watched his cohort off, before breathing a sigh of relief and retrieving a map from his side. Cama cheered inwardly.

Hume's always were easier to take down.

The soldier turned around to the Warrior's benefit, marking on the map with a quill pen. Taking advantage of the soldier's naivety, the Bangaa pushed the door open wide enough for his hulking body to squeeze through. His foot steps were nothing short of completely silent, most likely borrowing from his slithering ancestor.

The unsuspecting guard hadn't even a chance.

The Bangaa's scaly arm wrapped around his slender neck then hoisted him off the ground and squeezed with all his might. The map floated down to the ground, and the Hume kicked violently in an attempt to escape. Soon, his vision began to grow dark, and his violent kicking gradually ceased. His body went limp, and as Cama loosed his grip, he fell to the floor.

Cama leaned down and picked up the map the guard had dropped. Then, grabbing his wrists, he dragged the body back into the dark room he had occupied previously and placed it down. Lastly, he closed the door behind him.

"How's he doing so far?" The Bangaa asked seemingly no one in particular, walking through the darkness to the wall and grabbing the only lit candle in the room.

"I believe he's stabilizing." A female voice responded. The Warrior continued to follow the wall, until he located another candle. He shared some of his own candle's fire, and within mere moments both had a healthy flame atop their peaks. "Breathing is steady. That first aid kit you had really came through to stop the bleeding."

Cama continued the patter of passing on fire to the other candles until all had been set aflame. Everything in the room was much more visible now. From what he surmised, they were in some sort of storage closet, if the crates and other items in the corners were any indication.

He walked towards the middle of the room, the place where the other voice was loudest, and held his candle up. The orange glow danced and flickered across the form of Kanin Heldig, her face slightly shaded from the angle of the light against the brim of her white wizard hat. The large form of none other than Sir Loin lay sprawled out next to her, his heavy snoring being the only noticeable sound in the room.

"Alright." The Bangaa remarked, letting out a breath as he took a seat on the floor next to the two. He reached over and grabbed the guard's map, placing it in his lap and bringing the candle as close to it as he could. "These markings must be where they've already searched. We should be safe for now-"

Cama ended his sentence abruptly as a loud coughing fit erupted from Loin. Kanin instinctively readied herself for treatment, though relaxed as the burly Seeq raised himself, placing his weight on one hand.

"Are you okay, Sir Loin?" Kanin asked worriedly. He grunted sharply, but a jolly chuckle accompanying the grin on his face gave her comfort.

"Never better, lass. All thanks to thee."

"That's good to hear." Cama added with a chuckle. "Why don't you get some rest? Seems we'll be stuck in here for quite some time-"

"No can do, Cama." Loin interrupted, using Kanin's shoulder to help himself to his feet. He bent down to lift his Xankbras from the floor, then placed it in its appropriate holster. His voice grew more serious, and his eyes adopted an unyielding, protective look. "Not until I find Adelle."

"But, your wounds are still very fresh, and-" Kanin protested, but was cut off by Cama's stern voice.

"She took off after Finch, who was headed upstairs. You should be able to find her up there. Just promise me you'll come back alive."

Loin chuckled, then turned to face the dimly illuminated door.

"Don't worry. You two stay put. If I'm in too deep, I'll probably quit and come back. "

He placed a hand on the handle, and with a little bit of force, slowly pushed it open. He poked his head into the hallway, and seeing it devoid of all life, stepped lightly down it. Kanin waited until his footsteps were completely out of earshot to speak.

"We're following him, right?"

Cama smirked.

"Naturally."

(Cathedral Interior, Upper Floors)

"…and they will pay any price to obtain them."

Johannes Tetzel smirked at the stunned, frightened faces of his two small adversaries. He noticed the Bard tensing his fingers on his War Trumpet, and promptly began to dissuade any premonition of a successful attack.

"Remember, one move...put me to sleep, strike me down; either way, I drop the match… and all these documents go up in smoke." He chuckled mockingly. "You couldn't possibly afford to loose all this information against us."

His grin intensified as he stretched his arm out to the side, holding it parallel to the floor. Hurdy and Sole stood, frozen in hesitation. Both knew that neither of them was fast enough stop the match. The room grew silent, and the match began to slip gradually from his paws.

Then all of a sudden, Johannes Tetzel felt a horrible chilling sensation on his arm.

His eyes turned sharply but warily. A solid sheet of ice encased everything from his shoulder to the tips of his paws. Feeling was slowly draining from his arm, leaving only a cold, deadened sensation.

Hurdy and Sole stared at the Moogle in confusion, before the dark haired boy turned his eyes upward. A Black Mage sat above the top shelf of one of the aged, towering bookcases in the room, his brown boots dangling off the edge. He held a simple rod in his left hand, and his free right palm was open, directed in Tetzel's direction as if finishing a spell. Directly to his left, a Hume Paladin stood, leaning his back against the wall.

Tetzel turned up to look at the pair as well, and his eyes grew wide with fear.

Crow tipped his hat. Raven smirked, then drew his Knightsword.

……………………………………………

"Any price, huh?" Adelle asked following a drawn out silence. Her voice was emotionless, though firm. "And in order to legally mine these minerals, you would have to be governor…but…surely there must be more to this?"

"Whatever do you mean?" Vaticus narrowed his eyes, and tightened his grip on Maria's neck, causing the silver haired girl to flinch inwardly. She decided to choose her words more carefully.

"The Archbishop of St. Galleria is already be one of the richest men in the Galleria Deep. Wealth shouldn't even be of any concern." She continued, slightly cocking an eyebrow. "You're not telling me everything-" Adelle's eyes flashed open wide for a split second, though she quickly schooled them back, hoping that the priest hadn't seen her surprise. Her face was serious once more, though inwardly, she couldn't help but give a laugh.

He was here.

The Archbishop let out a malevolent, secure chuckle, too focused on Adelle to be aware of his surroundings.

"Then beat me, and I'll fill you in and give you Maria."

"Can do."

Before Vaticus Finch even had time to look towards the source of the voice, a sharp, lightning bolt-shaped blade pierced his left side. Pain swept through of his nerves, resulting in losing his grip on his bride-to-be. Adelle, taking advantage of his moment of weakness, burst forward, securing Maria and creating some distance as the Bishop fully turned to his assailant. The attacker brought his blade around for a second strike, though Vaticus successfully blocked it with his staff. Both added force and shoved each other backwards a few yards.

The red haired man stared down the brown haired, blue eyed boy opposite him with a subtle hatred. The boy tightened his grip on his Atmos Blade. Adelle smiled, laying Maria gently on the ground before approaching the two adversaries warily.

"What took you so long?"

"The hero always arrives late, right?"

Luso Clemens, a faint blue glow enveloping his entire body, flashed a confident smile in her direction, one which she returned in full force. Vaticus brought his Nirvana Staff to the ready. Adelle reached and grabbed a spare knife on the back of her belt, then smirked.

"Let's give him some bad luck."

United Front! Adelle and Luso!

(End Chapter Twenty Five)


(Author's Notes)

Alright, wow I must personally apologize for the extremely long wait for this chapter. I've been extremely busy in really just all aspects of life, mostly college preparation. Also, no character bio this time. Hopefully next time, though I won't make promises. Hope this was enough to tide everyone over until next time.