Cuttingmoon57 here, and back with chapter twenty-six of The Tainted Grimoire. And as a side note, any beliefs expressed throughout my story are not my own. They are simply unique to the characters and their personalities. Just wish to clarify that.

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


"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."

Tag Team!


Luso Clemens

Wherein there is distress, there is a story.

Wherein a story, there is resolve

Wherein there is resolve, there…

Lies the soul

Chapter Twenty Six: Soul


(Cathedral Interior, Upper Floors)

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.

The Hume leaped from his position into a front flip before gracefully landing next to the Moogle. His Black Mage partner joined him moments later, while Hurdy and Sole stayed perfectly quiet and still, simply watching on in wonder and relief.

Tetzel stumbled backwards, the weight of his ice-encased arm disrupting the balance of his lightweight body. He fell to the ground with a soft thud before scooting back across the tile as Raven dragged the tip of his weapon along the floor. Fear overcame the Moogle as his eyes locked with the Paladin's. Then, as his fur-covered back met with the bookcase, a malevolent grin crossed Raven's face, and he spoke in a barely audible whisper.

"We've come to collect what's ours."

The treasurer's fear mixed in with confusion, before his eyes widened considerably in realization. He began to yell, his voice quivering in terror.

"Y-You…You! You are K…!"

A blast of ice shot out from Crow's gloved hand, instantly surrounding the Moogle's frame. A soft crackling sound accompanied the next few moments as the ice hardened, before a cold silence enveloped the room. Raven gazed at his reflection off the mirror like frost, bending down and performing a warm-hearted smile.

Hurdy, watching from a few yards away, couldn't help but feel the smallest bit unnerved. Something…just seemed off to him. Undaunted by the coldhearted display, Sole walked forward in cheerful spirits.

"T-Thank you, sir." The Paladin turned his head toward the black-haired boy, standing to his feet and meeting him in the middle before kneeling down once and ruffling his raven locks. He turned to Hurdy with a serious but well natured stare.

"We need to get moving." He sheathed the majestic steel of his SavetheQueen into its scabbard; keeping a ready palm on the handle should the moment call for spontaneous action. "I know the layout of the castle fairly well. Follow me if you wish."

All nodded there heads in close succession, before briskly exiting the door in single file. Hurdy, who brought up the rear, couldn't help but cast a fleeting glance at the frozen body of Johannes Tetzel. The four had exited the door and continued down the hall to the left. His eyes rested warily on the Paladin's form ahead of him.

And he couldn't help but wonder what exactly the Moogle was going to say.

………………………………………..

Adelle lunged forward in reckless abandon, spinning her spare knife between her fingers. She lowered herself as she ran, partly to streamline herself as well as grab one of the knives she had dropped previously. At the same time, Luso sped towards his enemy as well, his Atmos Blade leading.

Vaticus Finch gritted his teeth, then performed a confident smirk.

"Alright, brats, time to learn your place in this world."

The red haired priest instinctively twirled his Nirvana staff in his right hand as his two opponents approached before continuing it above his head. Adelle, being the more seasoned warrior of the duo, managed to reach him first. Vaticus used the momentum of his spinning staff and arched his arms back before bringing them back in a powerful overhead swing.

With split second reflexes, Adelle sidestepped in mid-stride to the right. Vaticus didn't give her enough time to counter attack, as he quickly brought his staff around in a sweep at her direction. Catching herself in time, she ducked, then performed a frontward barrel roll in order to reach his back side.

Meanwhile, Luso had finally joined the fray, and upon reaching his enemy, performed a direct stab at his midsection. Vaticus calmly moved out of the way with a simple backstep, then brought his staff around to smack into the blunt side of the blade. The brown haired boy immediately stopped the force of the blow and regained his control over the weapon, bringing it back in the opposite direction towards him. Adelle recovered from her barrel roll at the same time, progressing to one knee and preparing for an attack.

A vicious cycle of quick slashes and parries then erupted between the two adolescent battlers and their scarlet haired adversary. Though through the exchange, Vaticus managed to hold his own despite the fight's unbalanced proportions. His motions were steady and fluid, calculating, though Luso's initial slash at his left side pained him like a thousand devils. Splotches redder than his hair staining his wedding robes only confirmed the damage done.

Luso decided to double the hand count on his blade's grip before performing a combined attack with Adelle on opposite sides of their opponent. Both slashed simultaneously with in a horizontal arc, though the priest leaped above them at the last to evade. While airborne, he extended both feet while pushing off, placing each foot perfectly against their chest area and causing them both to stagger backwards and fall over. He reacted quickly to fall and landed in an easy crouch.

"What's with this guy?" Luso muttered aloud, clutching his chest while retrieving his blade with the opposite hand. He clutched his teeth as the glow surrounding him began to slightly more vivid.

Adelle watched him cautiously as she gathered herself. He casually twirled his staff around him just as he did before, not even paying attention to its movements. Albeit a few unnecessary movements, every muscle, every reaction flowed together, as if on instinct. She curiously narrowed her eyes.

"Where did you learn your technique from?" Vaticus continued to twirl the staff as his eyes met with hers. He remained silent, and she continued on. "Your movements with that staff are much too fluid for any magic user. Control like that only comes from many years of experience."

"You are correct, Ms. Adelle." He replied with a smirk after a moment's silence. He flipped the staff into the air, then caught it with the opposite hand. "My instructor, while nothing short of a vile man, was nonetheless an excellent teacher." Both Luso and Adelle sensed the distinct disdain in his tone, though it soon changed into mockery, directed at the brown haired fighter. "Judging from your skill level, though, your teacher could be considered anything but." Luso's anger flared up in an instant, and Vaticus smirked once more. The man charged in a straight line at the boy, turning his back towards Adelle though staying aware of her.

The blue eyed teenager reached down to his side and retrieved his second weapon, the Sweep Blade, clasping it firmly in his free hand. He widened his stance, bracing for the heavy impact Vaticus delivered as he brought his staff down in an overhead swing. Luso blocked with minimal effort, crossing his blades above his head. With an arduous push, the boy managed to shove the hefty staff to the side, and took into account just how much it actually weighed.

From the way Vaticus wielded it, he would have never even guessed it. The man spun it around before delivering a horizontal strike. Luso brought his right hand blade up accordingly, and he once again revisited the weight of the staff as metal collided with metal. A sharp ringing sound filled the air as he was shoved in the direction of the swing, temporarily loosing his balance. Vaticus took advantage of this, quickly closing the distance between them and retracting his arms for another blow.

Just before Luso shrunk back and closed his eyes in fear of the upcoming attack, he caught a sharp movement from Adelle in his peripheral vision. A split second later a large smokescreen exploded from under his feet, causing Vaticus to halt in his tracks. The smoke soon spread wider and enveloped him and the fourteen year old boy, shielding the eyesight of both combatants.

Adelle watched from afar as the smoke continued to spread, covering a large portion of the room. A small hissing sound emanated from the center of the cloud, in tune with the expanding of the clouds. She was thankful she had managed to find the last of her smokescreen balls in time. The silver haired thief returned her knives to her palms.

Suddenly, a feminine grunting sound to the southeast of her position alerted her to the stirring of one governor's daughter. The brown haired girl stirred slowly, gently and unconsciously caressing her head. Her eyes cracked open and took in the surroundings as she sat up, adjusting to the multicolored light that pervaded the room. She caught sight of Adelle from the corner of her eye.

"Ms. Adelle, what's going on? What are you doing?"

The cat themed girl stared at her for a few moments, then flashed a confident smirk before turning around to face the smokescreen. Her eyes grew a bright yellow, and adopted a dark, cat-like slit.

"Freeing a bird from its cage."

She dashed forward from her position, picking up speed as she angled her body closer to the ground with each step. The smoke billowed slightly out as she entered, forming an opening which closed moments later.

Maria stared in remorse as she peered deeper in the cloud of smoke. Her eyes settled on a particularly tall silhouette, shadowed by the light-grey fumes. Almost immediately, she recognized his form, the form of the man who had haunted nearly every waking moment of the past few months. She soon realized the situation taking place. Steeling both herself and her voice, she called out.

"Vaticus Finch."

Her words carried like an echo through the room, and succeeded in capturing the attention of all three fighters hidden among the billowing fumes. All motion, all noise, ceased at that moment. A few seconds passed before the subject of her call responded in a most sinisterly joyful voice.

"Why, my dear Maria Savoy de Pervenche." To her, just the mere sound of his voice seemed to coil around her like the most vicious snake. "How unfortunate that you've awoken from your slumber. It seems you will now have to witness firsthand as I completely obliterate your troublesome guards."

Adelle restricted the urge to pounce recklessly, opting rather to continue her search through the smoke for the elusive priest. The lull in combat provided her the time; she could slowly close in on his voice provided the Maria kept the conversation going.

"How befitting of a holy man such as yourself." She snapped back in a half whisper. "How can we possibly lift up the name of Elianto when his own Archbishop is so morally corrupt?"

A moment of silence followed, then out of nowhere, a small chuckle sounded. It began to grow with each passing second before topping off in a malicious laugh. Vaticus breathed out a hearty sigh, then grinned wickedly.

"No…don't tell me…you actually think I believe in all that rubbish!?" Maria's eyes widened as a few more breathy chuckles escaped his throat. "This position, Archbishop; this was only a stepping stone on my way to the top. Everything I said, every charity I funded; I didn't mean any of it. I didn't care for any of it." He paused, and his voice grew dark. "I simply needed the people on my side."

Meanwhile, Luso peered through the smoke and caught sight of Adelle, stalking around in a feline manner. He picked up on her idea after a few moments, and set out to search for him, doing his best to follow the voice.

Maria clenched her fists, her body shaking as a single tear welled up in her right eye. She raised her head as the tear broke free, leaving a clear, damp stream down her cheek. Her voice was soft, just audible enough to be heard, and yet…penetrating.

"We…trusted you…"

All the previous silences dwarfed in comparison to this one. The entire room, everything from the near silent footsteps of Luso and Adelle to the sounds of battle outside, was enveloped in a pure stillness.

Even Vaticus was taken aback for a second, though he quickly regained his composure, shaking his head as a familiar yet unpleasant image flashed in his head.

"I trusted you!"

He shook his head once more, tightened his grip on the Nirvana staff and soon brushed off Maria's words as if they were nothing.

"I never asked you to trust me. Same with my subordinates; I told them to follow me. Never to rely on, never to depend on…never to trust…simply…to follow." His voice was stern, and held almost a sorrowful quality. "I understand that it's human nature to trust in something greater than yourself, and using that logic, I can understand why you placed your trust in me. Though…allow me to make one thing clear, Maria Savoy de Pervenche…"

The smoke around his form was now beginning to clear, and within moments Maria could see the vibrant red hair and piercing green eyes that had haunted her day in and day out. She was surprised to see not a grin or a smirk, but an actual remorseful look on his face. He continued to speak, his tone shifting between emotionless and anger.

"You cannot depend on anyone. People will always let you down. That is a lesson I learned earlier in life…"

……………………

"You are no longer a human being."

A young boy gazed blankly into the hungry eyes of a Bangaa Master Monk. The bipedal lizard gave him a toothy grin, placing a scaly hand on his vibrant red locks. He knelt down, meeting the green eyed child at eye level.

The boy's jade orbs traveled past the reptilian warrior to the brown haired female Hume standing at the entrance to the one room house, her form clearly silhouetted against the cloudy, evening sky. He noticed that her terror filled gaze was directed past him. He curiously yet cautiously turned his head, and his eyes widened slightly, yet his face retained his vacant composure.

A violently mangled body lay against the stone walls, blood splattered aimlessly around its perimeter. The boy took note of what was left of the man's red hair and familiar facial features after a few weeks of deterioration and rot.

"You are nothing but a possession that I've purchased." The boy's head shifted back to the Bangaa's own, and they locked eyes once more. "Be obedient, Jacobus. You've been sold to me."

When I was five years old, my father committed suicide from the despair of being unable to provide for our family. My mother sold me off to pay the debts.

"Again."

An eleven year old Jacobus Sicuro twirled a staff in his hand, bringing it up to block the oncoming swing of a grown Hume Soldier. His effort succeeded and he allowed the sword to slide off his staff before he brought it around for a strike at the man's midsection. A violent cracking noise resounded through the spacious warehouse room, and the man fell to the ground with a thud, and didn't get back up.

"Good, very good…" Jacobus walked calmly toward the same Bangaa Master Monk. He held out a loaf of bread, and the child retrieved it silently yet eagerly. The Monk placed a comforting hand on his head, and he could just faintly make out what seemed to be a smile on the child's face.

Both turned to the other half of the warehouse after a few noises caught their attention, Peering through the scarce light, they saw a teenage Ignatius Loyola panting 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.

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

To his side, 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."

Jacobus' demeanor remained neutral, and he continued to munch quietly on his loaf of bread. However, as he watched the young Bangaa, he couldn't help but feel a small bit of remorse for him.

We were trained as fighters, soldiers only for their profit. Freedom did not exist. Every day was absolute hell, and I came to detest that place with all my heart. The only kindness I was ever shown was from my owner, Grant.

and even he could not be trusted…

A seventeen year old Jacobus Sicuro limped painfully down a dark, short hallway. A fresh, crimson liquid oozed from his sleeve, his forehead, and stained various other places of his clothing. Despite his wounds, he showed no signs of pain or anguish on his face. It was blank, like it always was, but hid a fierce determination…

To uncover the truth.

Jacobus placed a hand on the old sliding door, and with one heave shoved it. The slamming sound resonated throughout the room it revealed.

Jacobus breathed heavily, using the doorpost as a support to stand. His eyes followed the green hued wood of the floor to the other side of the room. There Grant sat on the ground behind a coffee table, outfitted in the traditional Master Monk clothing. The candles that lined the wall every five feet seemed to flicker as both men's eyes met. The Bangaa then spoke hesitantly.

"W-What are you doing here?"

"Surprised to see me, Grant?" Jacobus asked with a bitter smirk. He took a laborious step forward, almost buckling under his own injuries. "I suppose you thought your little set up would work."

"What are you talking about?" Grant's eyes widened considerably, yet he did his best to upkeep an innocent façade. He instinctively reached for his pole under the table.

"Don't you try to fool me!" The normally placid-faced male was now seething with anger, and his tone reflected his change in attitude. "Our exchange with the clients; the warehouse meeting was jeopardized! The Jylland Defenders of the Peace captured them." He paused, taking another step and narrowing his gaze. "They knew we would be there."

There was a long silence following his words, both men not breaking their stares. The candlelight danced across their faces. Finally, after fifteen seconds, Jacobus spoke.

"You told them we would be there…didn't you? You sold us out. They told us as we ran for our lives that in exchange for half the reward money, you would tell them where the deal was taking place. They said you came to them. Why would you do this? Tell me why?"

Grant said nothing, making no gesture, but Jacobus understood completely. His face returned to its normal, placid state, and a single tear rolled down the left side of his face as he drew his sword and adopted a battle stance.

"I…trusted you…"

The one man I had trusted more than anyone else on this earth had betrayed me. He escaped that night. Our organization soon learned of the events, and sent me and a few underlings to the Galleria Deep, where we were to take part in a new, long-term mission. However, I had my own plans in mind…

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.

I would take control of that area, accumulate all the wealth I could, and finally…

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 had acquired. He spun around slowly, and for the first time in years, both of the Bangaa's eyes held hope.

The boy looked up to the ceiling blankly.

"Just like I thought…this world, no….this organization is rotten to the core." There was a brief pause, then in a flash, he charged at the cell's lock and slashed with his knife, ending in a flourish. A second successive slash eliminated the restraining device, and with a nudge the door swung open.

Ignatius Loyola and Riccio Vento stared in wonder. Jacobus Sicuro held out a hand, and smirked.

"Shall we destroy it together?"

Take my revenge

……………………

"The only thing you can trust…is money. Money will not let you down, money does not choose sides, and whether to your benefit or not, money is always consistent. That was what I learned that night."

Maria stood speechless, her eyes locked on the form of terrible man in front of her. She inwardly sighed, not in exasperation but in remorse. The brown haired girl locked eyes with him, and spoke in a calm voice.

"Have you fallen so far that you've lost your own soul?"

Vaticus paused, then smirked assuredly.

"There's no such thing as a soul-"

Acting on finely trained instincts alone, Vaticus Finch sidestepped to the right, just as a lightning shaped blade came down behind him, cutting a downward, horizontal swathe through the smoke. Luso Clemens emerged from the opening, glowing brighter than he had previously, and without missing a beat brought his blade up for a second swing at his abdomen.

The priest brought his staff up accordingly, successfully parrying the boy's efforts. Their weapons locked together, and both pushed with all their might. Suddenly without warning, a silver haired girl leaped from the smoke behind Luso, twirling a knife in each hand. The blue eyed teen pushed off, giving Adelle enough room to land in between the two.

She leaped forward, and ducked as Vaticus made a horizontal retaliatory sweep of his staff. Luso cheered inwardly as the girl slashed his chest with her knife before rotating her body into a roundhouse kick. Her leg slammed into his unguarded side with all the strength she could muster, and the breath left the man's body as he went flying into the wall. A large thud and cracks in the stone accompanied the collision.

Adelle and Luso stared at the resulting cloud of dust and debris that emanated from the impact site, watching for any sign of movement. They relaxed after a few moments of waiting, then Luso's eyes wandered over to Maria as she approached them.

"Is…is he…" She stuttered, unconsciously grabbing onto Luso's arm as she stood behind him.

No sooner had the words left her mouth than the sound of shifting rubble drawn their attention back to the damaged wall. Vaticus slowly rose from his position, using his staff as a support. The pain that wracked his body did nothing to quell the anger that fueled him, and this anger was felt in full force as the three teenagers' eyes met with his own. He smirked sinisterly.

"Dead? No." He twirled his staff around in front of him at a fluent, consistent pace. As the trio looked on, a blue glow began to surround his body. Luso's eyes widened considerably as it grew brighter with every passing moment. His demeanor grew grim. "It seems it's about time I stopped playing around."

He lowered his staff up to waist level, spinning it until it was parallel with the floor. His eyes grew wide as he brought it around. He directed his gaze towards Luso, the boy's glow flaring as he took a battle position.

"Allow me to show you how to use that Aura you so wastefully radiate." He closed his eyes for only a moment.

"Air Render."

Vaticus stepped forward, swinging his staff in a wide horizontal arc. Maria, Luso, and Adelle eyes shot open as blue-white, crescent shaped shockwave formed in the staff's wake. The wave whistled as it cut a path through the air and closed in on the trio.

With the few precious moments before collision that was allowed to him, Luso instinctively grabbed onto Maria without hesitation, held her tight, and spun around so that his back was facing the attack. Adelle simultaneously leapt into the air, clearing the attack by a safe number of feet. Luso was not as fortunate to avoid in time. The shockwave slammed into his back with full force, and he let out a horrid, almost unearthly scream as his eyes rolled back in his head.

"Luso! Maria!" Adelle called out, looking back in horror as dust filled smoke from the resulting explosion enveloped their area.

The fumes dispersed quickly, revealing the boy and girl to be still mostly in tact. A large crimson gash ran horizontally along the upper part of Luso's back. Blood dripped down and stained the back of his yellow overalls, and lingering smaller trails of smoke emanated from his clothing and damaged skin. Maria's eyes widened in horror as his body became limp and he slumped forward, his blades slipping from the grip of his relaxed hands. She caught him and, struggling, laid him down on the floor.

Adelle mentally cursed as she turned to see Vaticus Finch, grinning like a madman and slowly advancing towards them. His aura grew brighter with each passing moment and each step he took. She held her knives at the ready, and he stopped completely a dozen feet ahead of her. Silence reigned for the next few moments, the only audible sounds being Maria's frantic yelling.

Vaticus charged suddenly, switching to a one handed grip on his Nirvana staff. His speed was not like the speed he had previously, and the silver haired girl realized that as their weapons made contact, his general force had increased dramatically. It took both of her knives to match his staff's strength. She shifted her eyes to his face and the wide grin accompanying it.

Before she noticed his free hand, pulled back for an attack and glowing brighter than the rest of his body.

"Rush."

His hand shot forward in an open palm strike, scoring a direct hit at Adelle's abdomen. Blood gushed from her mouth upon impact, her eyes dilated, and all breath left her lungs. The attack was so forceful that it created a shockwave of air that burst in all directions.

Momentum sent the cat themed thief flying back and into the air, and she was too overwhelmed from the pain to focus on landing on her feet. She collided with the ground, bounced slightly, and rolled over before coming to a stop.

"Adelle!" Maria called out, turning as she saw her bodyguard's body lay motionless. She ran to her as fast as she could, stumbling frequently, and dropped down beside her. Vaticus snickered in amusement at the sight of her desperately pleading with the unconscious body. He walked over to her at a slow pace, savoring the look of terror on her face.

"It will do no good, Ms. Maria." His voice held an apologetic, sincere quality, though she knew that couldn't be further from the truth. He stopped just beside the girl, and looked down, performing a wide, comforting smile. Maria's eyes grew wide as that smile morphed into a malevolent smirk.

"There's no one to save you now."

His free hand shot out, and his cold fingers snaked their way around her throat. She let out a strained cry as he hoisted her from the ground. Breathing became an effort rather than an unconscious action. Vaticus simply continued to smile. His attention turned to the large glass window which dominated the northern half of the room and, carrying Maria by her neck, passed it, making his way over to a door on the other side of the room.

He twirled his Nirvana staff in his free hand and, upon reaching the door, slammed it into the brittle wood. The door broke apart instantly, torn from its hinges. Successive attacks allowed the red haired priest to step over the remains, and he continued up the staircase behind the door, dragging the struggling Maria in his wake.

……………………

Darkness.

That was all that surrounded Luso Clemens, as far as the eye could see. He seemed to be floating through the nothingness. He could feel absolutely nothing. His eyes wandered down as he lifted his hands closer to his face. His skin, his clothing; everything about his body was drained of color, leaving only shades of gray. The boy lowered his hands and returned to staring out into the empty blackness. Not a sound emanated from the void. He offhandedly wondered if he had died.

That thought was further enhanced as he laid eyes on a blue, shimmering, crystal like woman with glowing red eyes and flowing, snow white hair. A white aura radiated from her body on all sides.

His currently gray eyes remained unmoving, simply staring at her without emotion. She spoke in a soft, ethereal voice.

"Do not leave this world yet." He made no attempt at responding. She continued after a brief pause. "Your task is not yet finished. Your assistance is still needed."

She inched forward at a gradual pace, and stretched out her stunning porcelain arm. The tip of her crystal finger gently touched his overalls, the spot right above his heart. A pocket of light shone through there, spreading steadily over his body. The gray that had covered him now began to dissipate, replaced by the bright colors that his form and clothing had dominated him previously. Breath returned to his body, evidenced by the up and down motions of his chest.

"Go forth, Luso Clemens."

……………………

Adelle stirred, gripping her stomach in pain as she rolled over slightly. Vaticus had dealt a solid blow to her. She felt as if the organs in her abdomen had been critically wounded, but she grunted and fought through the pain.

Her vision was hazy, and as she looked up she could just see the blurred image of a teenage boy struggling to stand. The image became clearer with each passing moment. He held an Atmos Blade in his right hand, and it seemed to be crackling with energy. The large gash that ran across his back had stopped bleeding altogether. His body was surrounded with a blue white glow the likes of which she had never experienced before. Though among all of that, perhaps the thing that captured her attention the most…

Was that, for only a split second, his eyes had flashed a bright golden color.

"Luso! What are you doing, Luso!?"

The boy ignored her completely, walking towards the broken down door. The aura which surrounded him grew more powerful with every single step. He ascended slowly, silently, and made his way towards the top.

Where Vaticus was waiting.

Where Maria was waiting.

He stopped and glanced over through a window along the staircase wall, and a surprised smile stretched across his face as he caught a full view of the Cathedral Courtyard.

………………………………………..

Vaticus Finch kicked open the door that impeded his path, causing the barrier to fly off its hinges. As soon as he left staircase's exit, a cool wind blew through his hair and caused him to wince ever so slightly. He glanced around at the white concrete floor and decorative railing that enclosed the large, level square that was the Cathedral's rooftop.

He began to walk from the doorway, Maria's neck still clenched in between his fingers. She continued to struggle to get away from him, but his strength proved to be too much for her alone. She just barely managed to communicate despite the lack of oxygen.

"Where…are you taking me?"

He chose not to respond, and instead heaved her to the ground. She fell onto her side, then turned and looked back at him in disgust. He performed a reserved smile, which through the girl off guard.

"Agree to marry me right here and now."

"W-What!?" Shock enveloped her face, but was quickly replaced by pure anger. "Are…Are you insane!? Why would I-"

"Because if you don't, your brother will die." Another draft blew past them, and silence reigned for a moment. The puzzled look on her face prompted the priest to continue. "The Heretics, your brother and his wife, Clan Falzen…Clan Gully…they are all enemies of the state, and for their actions here today, they will surely be put to death."

She remained silent, uncertainty welling up inside her. He continued, noticing her doubt.

"As the Archbishop, I have only so much power, but if we were to unify…I could see to it that all of the crimes these people have committed would be pardoned. All it would take is a verbal commitment from you, and they could once again live peaceful lives. So…"

He paused, looking into her eyes.

"What do you say, Maria Savoy de Pervenche? Will you marry me?"

Silence prevailed for the next few seconds. She was completely unsure of what to say. The mere thought of marrying this man that had tormented her very existence from the first moment that she had laid eyes upon him, heard his voice…realized who he truly was; it was all too repulsive for her to imagine. There was no way that she could any semblance of an adequate reason to marry this man. And yet…

She knew her duty to her people. She knew what she must do.

He held out his cold hand to her. She hesitated, staring at it as if was the most disgusting thing every created. She only hoped that her family would forgive her. She inwardly thanked all the people that had tried to save her…so desperately hard, and mumbled a small prayer for them. She steeled her eyes. She reached out slowly, unwillingly. This was the right choice.

She would make sure to tell herself that lie every day of her life.

"Wrong answer, Maria."

Both the brown haired girl and the red haired man's eyes shot over to the rooftop entrance. There, with a lightning shaped blade clasped firmly in hand, stood Luso Clemens, basked in the blue white light of his aura.

"Let her go, Vaticus. You can't win."

Vaticus clenched his teeth as the boy took a few steps forward, bringing up his Nirvana staff. The glow around him also flared up at the sight of his opponent.

"You've been a thorn in my side for far too long, boy." Luso took a battle stance as he continued, grinning. "And what makes you think I won't win? As far as that Judgemaster is concerned, you're the criminals here. I'm simply defending myself." He adopted a battle stance as well. "The odds are all in my favor, boy."

Luso stayed silent, a grin playing at his lips.

"You're not a very good bluffer, are you? I know you saw it through the staircase window too. That's why you're in such a hurry to marry her, am I right?" Vaticus's eyes widened at the boy's statement, and that was all the confirmation he needed. Luso shifted his eyes towards Maria, then spoke. "Go have a look down at the courtyard, Maria."

A perplexed look crossed the girl's face, but she obeyed his command. She placed a hand on the railing of the roof and peered over into the courtyard, gasping at what she saw.

(Cathedral Courtyard)

"Finally some action!"

Ogma soared into the air, drawing his spear from its fixture on his back and twirling it dexterously above his head at a high speed. He angled his head down as his momentum continued to lift him higher, and gazed at the large platoon of Cathedral guardsmen that had assembled below him, all having drawn their weapons.

The Templar grinned.

Hopefully they would provide a challenge.

He ceased spinning his Gae Bolg above his head, and gripped it comfortably between his hands so that the pointed end was facing downward. Upward momentum stopped at the point and within seconds he was descending at a much faster rate than any object normally would.

The guardsmen's faces were enveloped in awe and horror as they recognized the signature Jump ability of a Bangaa Dragoon.

Ogma slammed his spear into the earth while simultaneously landing in a crouch. The impact produced a colossal shockwave of air and electricity that ripped the concrete from the ground. The guards surrounding the impact site were literally blown away, the armor and parts of their flesh exposed to the blast wholly scorched. Dust and debris vaulted into the air reaching heights higher than that of the Bangaa's jump. A large, smoking crater formed was left in the attack's wake.

The few guards that were left watched warily, holding their weapons up with trembling hands. Only a shadow could be seen moving through the smoke, drawing closer. An armored foot stepped out onto the edge of the crater, and a moment later the Bangaa Templar emerged, his armor slightly singed. Small electrical impulses danced around his frame, more so around the golden dragon that was emblazoned across his breastplate.

Ogma grinned once more, this time unconsciously licking his lips.

"Who's first?"

………………………………………..

"Who's that, sir?" A Viera Fencer asked as she ripped her rapier from the abdomen of a Hume guard. He fell to the ground with a thud, and she paid him no more heed.

Sothe Fragin de Pervenche turned to her, feeling safe enough to give her his attention during the apparent lull in combat. She pointed towards the near opposite end of the courtyard, where a Bangaa Templar was laying waste to a group of guardsmen; and unbelievably enough all on his own.

"I have no clue. But from the looks of it…" He responded, just as three guards surrounded the two of them, preparing to lunge in at a moments notice. Sothe's smile widened considerably.

"They seem to be on our side."

………………………………………..

Gerland scanned his surroundings, sizing up the guardsmen that surrounded him. They approached him with caution, each taking one step, and one at a time. He twirled his Lava Spear around ever so slowly. A trail of flames generated in the path it left behind, dancing and flowing wildly.

"Oh great Belias… the wellspring of flames…" The guardsmen stopped in their tracks, not daring to inch closer. Fire began to wrap not only around his spear, but also around him in a circular pattern. "…unleash the gates of the furnace…" The fire started to travel upwards, climbing his body. Much to the guards' confusion, the flames did not injure him. They simply flickered in place, not even leaving burn marks on his armor or scales.

His body was completely ablaze, as if he had just stepped out of a furnace. Fire radiated from every nook and crevice of his armor, as well as the ground around him. To the guards, the actual flames themselves looked almost ethereal. Gerland's voice grew darker, and he narrowed his eyes. A flame seemed to burn within his irises as he pointed his Lava Spear at his opponents.

"…and turn all creation into smoldering ash…"

………………………………………..

"I don't believe it."

Andie Kelt stared in disbelief as intense, magical flames erupted in the distance, hurling bodies up and into the open air. She could just barely make out the Templar in the center of the fire, wielding his spear more like a staff than a combat weapon.

Kirsa appeared next to her, her bow slung neatly over her shoulder. She gazed along with her captain, her eyes growing wide.

"I've…only heard rumors about the Judgemaster Personal Guard…I've never seen them in combat before…"

"I have fought with them a few times, back when I was apart of the Jylland Defenders of the Peace." She paused, marveling. "They are quite a sight to behold…" She began to explain, not taking her eyes off the Templar aflame in the distance. "First, there is 'Firewyrm' Gerland. His alias hails from his elemental spear and his proficiency with spells. He's an oddity among his race…"

"How so?" Kirsa queried.

"You see…on top of his race's natural physical stamina, this Bangaa has more magical capacity than the average Nu Mou. He is the offensive mage of the trio." She turned her head and laid eyes upon a series of electrical blasts to the left of Gerland's position. "Then there's 'Thundrake' Ogma, the youngest brother and wielder of the Gae Bolg, a lightning element spear. A Templar in uniform, and a Dragoon at heart; his Jump skill strikes as fast and hard as a lightning bolt. Not to mention his physical fighting skills are all high class."

She then backtracked, pointing a gloved finger over to right of Gerland from their perspective, but much closer to their location, so much that they had a clear view of the area. All was perfectly still there, and for good reason.

Kirsa gazed in awe at the sight before her. A single Bangaa Templar strolled wordlessly over a circular patch of frozen ground that stretched dozens of feet in diameter, using his Ice Lance as a makeshift walking stick. His armored feet crunching against the ice was the only sound that permeated the vicinity. All around him, many Hume and Bangaa guardsmen stood, encased in ice from head to toe. Some had shocked expressions on the face, others were frozen in mid run, and others still stood defiantly with weapons raised.

All had met the same icy fate.

"And that...is the eldest brother, 'Icedrake' Nivus, as silent as falling snow and deadly like the fiercest blizzard. He is highly proficient in defensive techniques and abilities, and wields ice element spells." She paused, then continued. "Not a single attack has ever touched the Judgemaster since he was hired."

"They're…They're on a completely different scale…" Kirsa remarked in wonder, almost shaking, which was quite uncharacteristic of her normally tough demeanor.

"Indeed." Andy responded. "Everyone in the upper echelon of the Jylland Defenders of the Peace is at this level…or higher." She turned to her comrade and smiled. "But don't worry, we'll catch up with them soon enough."

Kirsa returned her smile, and prepared her bow as a few more guards happened upon them.

(Cathedral, Rooftop)

Maria gasped and smiled widely, causing Luso's grin to grow considerably. He turned to the red haired priest.

"It seems as though you've lost your trump card." The boy schooled his face back to a more serious demeanor, raising his Atmos blade up. "I suggest you surrender now."

"Me! Surrender?" Vaticus gritted his teeth, clenching his Nirvana Staff tighter in his hand. The aura that surrounded him now began to flare up exponentially, mirroring his rising anger. Luso watched him warily, and Maria stayed where she was, her fear growing. "My boy, I won't ever stop! Not until I've crushed this city, that organization…and you…under my feet. I'll have my revenge on everyone who dared to cross me!"

He calmed a little, and released a chuckle before pivoting on his foot and dashing off towards Maria. He held his staff high as he charged, preparing to bring it down on the brown haired girl.

"And I'll start with you."

He reached her within moments and swung the staff in a downward arc. Maria closed her eyes, waiting for the pain to come. Rather, a dreadful screech resonated throughout the area for a split second, confusing the girl as she felt no pain.

She opened her eyes, only to see a brown haired boy in yellow overalls standing between her and Vaticus, holding back the man's staff with his Atmos Blade. The aura that surrounded him was now at the brightest it had ever been; enough to warrant shielding her eyes. The scarlet haired priest's eyes widened as he realized that he was no longer able force the boy back. It was then that he focused on his eyes.

A golden yellow.

"I won't let him lay a finger on you, Maria." Luso stated, his voice low yet firm as he gave the man a piercing stare. "Just sit tight. This will be over in a minute." The girl stared at his back in wonder, and the smallest blush crept up onto her cheeks.

The boy built up his strength and heaved, forcing Vaticus's heavy Nirvana staff away from his brown haired charge. He swung horizontally, his blade just barely making contact with the staff's metal as Vaticus leapt backwards.

"Can you not find it in your soul to stop this!?" Luso continued.

"Like I said…" Vaticus brought his staff around, gripping it with two hands, his aura still flaring. "Souls don't really exist! There is no genuine compassion! This whole world is run on money and power, and everyone is out to get there share…don't be deceived into thinking otherwise-"

"That is not what my father told me." Luso interrupted, his own aura flaring and eyes shining in all their cobalt glory.

"Then your father is a fool, just like you!" Vaticus brought his staff around in a wide arc. The motion once again generated a crescent shaped shockwave of air that hurtled towards the boy, and the governor's daughter that stood behind him.

……………………

"Dad, what does my name mean?"

Francis Clemens placed the large cardboard box he had been carrying on the kitchen table and looked down at his eight year old son in a confused manner. He smiled as he lifted up the scruffy brown haired child in his sizeable arms.

"Now where on earth does this come from?"

"Some of the other kids were talking about their names, but I have no idea what mine means." The boy shyly averted his gaze, and his father let out a small chuckle.

"Alright, let's see." Luso's face instantly brightened, and he instantly focused on his father. "Well, I think I heard somewhere that our last name, Clemens, means peaceful." The boy stared unblinking at him for a few moments, causing Francis to wonder if he had accidentally said something wrong.

"Peaceful?"

"Umm…yes?"

"But that's not cool at all." The boy whined, sighing dejectedly. Again, his father chuckled under his breath, patting his son on the back as he slumped forward in his arms.

……………………

Luso eyed the attack as it came closer. Its whistling growing louder and louder with each passing moment, and he more than once gave into the thought of dodging for his life. Even though he knew that was the smartest option, something, something deep inside him urged him to take it head on.

At that same time, his eyes grew a deep golden color once more, this time retaining the hue.

……………………

"Well what does my first name mean?"

Francis simply smiled for the next few seconds, then decided to answer, staring his only boy right in the eye.

"When you were still in your mother's stomach, I had to start working two jobs to make sure we had enough money for you. I was constantly working and always tired. I started to change. At some points I felt as though my own soul was fading away." The boy's eyes seemed to sadden, and he looked down disheartened fashion. He placed a fatherly hand on the boy's chin and lifted his head up, so that they met eye to eye once more.

"But then, one night I came home, and your mom was fast asleep in that rocking chair of hers. Her belly was as big as your sister's bean bag chair." His exaggeration elicited a laugh from the boy. "And I knew…that you were inside of it, and it reminded me of why I was doing all this in the first place." He quieted down to a whisper. "Even though I could see you or hear you, it felt like you were sharing apart of your soul with me. Your peaceful soul."

……………………

He decided to follow that instinct, and raised his Atmos blade high above his head, gripping it with both hands. His aura grew from just a bright layer around his body, to a large mass of blue white energy, radiating off his frame like fire. The floor of the roof cracked under his feet, and the air couldn't help but waver under his energy output.

"I knew you would grow into a man that, no matter who it was, could share his soul with everyone, and protect them whenever they needed it. Of course, I wanted to name you 'soul', but your mom made me…reconsider, so I switched some letters around."

Luso swung down his Atmos Blade with all his might. From the tip emerged a bright white light, which morphed into a crescent shaped shockwave of air and aura, a mixture so pure that one could have confused it for the moon itself. Its size was double, nearly triple the size of Vaticus's air render, and as the two attacks collided, it proved its dominance.

"That's what your name means, Luso Clemens."

It tore through the priests attack with no strain on itself, and rocketed forward towards the red haired man, leaving a gash in the rooftop as it pressed on. Vaticus hadn't enough time to react, and as he scrambled to escape, the gargantuan air render collided with his body, exploding in a fusion of dust, debris, aura, and air.

"Peaceful…Soul."

Luso swings down the blade of his soul!

(End Chapter Twenty Six)


(Author's Notes)

Alright, this turned out sort of how I envisioned it, but I'm extremely tired. Again, no character corner this time. I think nearly nine thousand words validates not getting one done. Maybe next time, but for now, I bid you all good night.