Cuttingmoon57here, and back with chapter twenty-eight 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

Adelle shielded her eyes as the rod was coated a vibrant red aura. She could feel the flame magic building up at her feet and prepared for the worst to occur.

Then, in a split second, she felt a strong force shove blow her way from her position, causing her to land a dozen feet away. The action was so quick that she hadn't the time to register the object, catching only the familiar feeling of calloused skin.

It was at that moment that she realized what had just happened.

Her head snapped up and her eyes could not have grown wider.

Sir Loin stood on his knees, completely immersed in a series of gargantuan pillars of fire. The flames surrounded him on all sides, and had already begun to completely eradicate some of the flesh on his body. A river of tears flowed from Adelle's bright yellow orbs.

She could see the outline of his body amidst the ocean of fire. His defiant stance, his burning flesh; even the large gash on the middle of his stomach. An attack that he had taken for her.

And most of all, she could see the simple, confident smirk, plastered across his face.

She released a horrid scream into the air, the last thing he would ever see as the fire incinerated his eyes and took the remainder of his body with it.

I wanted to tell her "Everything'll work out", but…forget it…

My throat burns like hell…so I quit…

After protecting Adelle, Loin falls, burned to a crisp!


The surface eases

The ripples subside into the murky darkness

Though still I remain


Chapter Twenty Eight: Shaken

"I…I don't understand, Crow." Luso began weakly, looking up to the Black Mage. "I…I thought we were friends." The spellcaster dared neither to speak nor meet the boy's eyes, opting rather to stare at the ground a few feet to the right. He gritted his teeth. "Answer me, Crow!"

The Mage turned slowly towards him, then spoke.

"Perhaps…in another life…we could have been the greatest of friends, Luso Clemens." He paused as Luso's eyes went wide, let out a heavy sigh, then continued.

"Unfortunately…there is no room for friendship in Khajma."

Adelle could not move her body.

It wasn't that she was particular restricted by any object, or that she did not want to move. Her mind instinctively sent the command to move to her muscle fibers, and they failed to perform their instructions.

Even as Raven slowly directed the rod at her direction and began gathering Mist for a second magical explosion, she made no inclination of movement. She simply continued to stare at the smoldering, disfigured carcass that lay helpless just a few feet in front of her.

"He was a fool to throw away his life..." The Paladin remarked, a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth. His fingers tightened their coiled grasp around the wooden rod, and the fiery magic began to build up violently once more. "More so for a dead woman."

The Firaga spell erupted once again in a coagulation of red-orange flames, brimstone, and billowing smoke all deafened in comparison by the roar of the explosion. The roof shook with the impact of the spell, leaving large cracks in the solid concrete at the site of the magical attack. Raven smirk devolved into a simple stare, devoid of the previous delight it once held.

It was as the flames died down that the Paladin's eyes narrowed in confusion. The smoke waved away gradually, and through pockets in the billowing gray cloud he could make out a shimmering silver object. Within a few moments, he could see its full form; a humanoid figure coated head to toe in the most pristine armor. A royal blue cape waved in a wind that blew away any excess smoke and ruffled his brown locks.

Raven's eyes wandered down to the roof floor, taking note of the small pockets of flames that littered the charred region around the Judgemaster's feet. The kind of magical power it would take to ward off a direct Firaga without so much as the smell of smoke on your armor eluded the Paladin's thoughts. He watched the Judgemaster warily.

It seemed there was some backing to this 'Strongest Man in Jylland' claim after all.

"Don't move an inch."

Raven's eyes snapped wide as the familiar feeling of a frigid steel edge lightly pressed against the right side of his neck. Even more chilling than the blade was the voice of the man wielding it, so writhe with subdued intensity that it caused even the seasoned Paladin to flinch. Raven turned his head enough so that he could make out the man's face in his peripheral vision, then performed an amused smirk.

Ensei Rou pressed his katana even harder against the Hume's neck, managing to nick his skin. His eyes returned from the sight of a smoldering Seeq body to the back of the Paladin's head.

"You have ten seconds to explain yourself, and then I'll kill you."

Even from behind him, the Parivir could feel his smirk widen.

"And what makes you so sure that you c-"

Ensei hadn't even given him time to complete his sentence before he swiped his katana back, leaving a deep, prominent gash along his neck. Raven's body tensed with the movement simultaneously; then his entire body relaxed and he slumped to the ground, both Knightsword and Rod hitting the roof with a clatter.

In the same motion, Ensei turned to the Black Mage that had stood a dozen or so feet away, bearing grave piercing eyes and a malevolent grimace at the Hume. The spellcaster, in spite of all this, stood perfectly still, unfazed by the killing intent the man gave radiated.

It was as Ensei drew closer to Crow that Cid looked down at the fallen body of Raven, and noticed a slight twitching in his hands. At first he thought nothing of it. Some corpses still performed small muscle spasms within a recent time frame of their death; though, as he continued to watch, he could his movements were much more than mere twinges.


The Judgemaster shot an armored hand to the Knightsword at his side just as the Parivir spun around on his heel at his call. By this point, Raven had already begun dashing towards the black haired man, his SavetheQueen gripped tightly in his right hand and Crow's rod in the left, already swinging his sword in an arc at him. Ensei brought his katana up, opting rather to go on the offensive than parrying. The two weapons rang off each other in sequence as the two men traded blows, until a heavy collision locked the two weapons in place.

Both men locked eyes, pushing against each other's weapon with all their might. Ensei's eyes widened as he noticed Raven pointing Crow's rod at him. He looked back to the Paladin, who held a wide smirk on his face.

Cid increased his speed as noticed the amount of Mist building up near the rod. This was no bluff. He was really going to ignite a fire spell at point blank range.

The Paladin chuckled under his breath.

"We'll cross swords another time, Ensei Rou. You can be sure of that."

Ensei grunted loudly, simultaneously shoving off of him as the Firaga spell exploded, capturing the surrounding area in a blast of scorching flames, ash, and brimstone. All on the rooftop shielded their eyes from the light of the explosion except for Cid who squinted as he hurried, not wanting to give Raven even a second more than he had to.

The irregular pillar of fire soon settled down into a billowing column of raven-black smoke, completely shielding both the combatants from view. The Judgemaster stopped just short of the explosion site, unsheathed his blade and, in the same motion, swung the blade in a horizontal arc. The movement was so swift that Adelle, with her heightened eyesight, hadn't even been able to catch a single, minute trace of a blur. It was as though his sword was sheathed one moment, then in his outstretched hand the next.

It wasn't until a split second later that a potent gust of wind blew horizontally across the roof, not only carrying away the smoke of the fire spell but the residual fire along with it, leaving nothing but the burnt remains of the rooftop floor. Ensei, who had managed to jump back just enough to avoid taking the full force of the spell, lay sprawled on the floor, his clothes radiating smoke and his lungs coughing up any foul air. Cid walked calmly over to Ensei and held out a hand, which the samurai took accordingly.

"Seems as though your sword arm hasn't faded since I last saw you." He dusted off his clothes and released a second small cough.

"They're both gone." The Judgemaster remarked blankly, scanning the surroundings while making his way over to Luso and Maria.

"Looks like it." Ensei responded, his eyes stopping and narrowing on the charred form of his former Seeq companion. "I doubt we would be able to track them now."

Cid stopped just above Maria, whose eyes were currently welling up in tears. He struck the ice that bound her feet lightly with his sword's tip and watched as it cracked apart. She took the hand he offered her, remaining silent all the while.

"Thank you, Judgemaster." The girl spoke meekly, not meeting his eyes as she wiped her own with her wrist. "Please, if you would, follow me." She began walking towards the northern railing, the one overlooking the courtyard. Her eyes darted back and forth every so often, taking in the sight of Luso, who lay defeated with his arm encased in ice up to his shoulder, Vaticus, who lay silently on his back, Adelle, who sat with a vacant look in her eyes, and the disfigured burning body of Sir Loin.

She peered over the railing and looked down, taking in the sight of the battle nearing its end a hundred or so feet beneath her.

Cid adopted a gloomy frown, eyeing the girl's back as she sighed heavily. Though he could not see them, he could feel her tears as she spoke.

"It's time to end this senseless violence."

Sothe crossed his two knives above his head and caught an overhead strike from a Hume Soldier between the blades. The man, gripping his blade tighter, placed his weight on his broadsword and pressed down, creating a struggle of strength between the two warriors.

"Do you even want to do this?" The green haired thief asked between breathes, managing to heave the weapon off of him and create some distance between them.

"Not really." The Soldier replied, causing Sothe to raise a curious eyebrow. "There is nothing I despise more than having to fight my countrymen, whether he is in the right or the wrong, but…" He bit his lip, and raised his sword once more. "We have a job to do, to our Archbishop and our faith."

"I see." Sothe replied disheartened, though he managed to subdue it well. He brought up his knives and narrowed his eyes.

They took a step forward, preparing to charge when suddenly a bright ivory light burst from the summit of the cathedral, easily dominating the sun in intensity. Both men stopped and raised their hands in an effort to shield their eyes, as did every one of the combatants around them and throughout the courtyard. The ringing of metal gradually began to die down, and all eyes were directed towards the source of the light.

There, balancing comfortably on the railing was a Hume outfitted in the finest silver armor. He held the Knightsword Excalibur high into the air like a beacon, the traces of light from using the Holy Blade technique receding as the courtyard's attention was drawn to him. He sheathed the weapon, then held out an armored hand to his side. A slender feminine hand grabbed onto it, and hoisted her body up, using the Judgemaster to assist her in balancing on the railing.

Sothe's eyes widened considerably.


"Cease, all of you." Cid's booming voice carried throughout the area, causing a deafening silence for a few moments. Confused stares proceeded compliance with the Judgemaster's command. "I believe this young woman has something to say."

He turned to Maria and performed a quick nod, which she returned. She filled her lungs with air sharply, then exhaled, steeling her eyes, then spoke.

"What are we fighting for…?" She began breathlessly, though just audible enough to hear. "Tell me what we are fighting for! Someone please tell me! What purpose is there for blood to be spilled? What will it solve to kill our own brethren?" Her voice had escalated into sorrowful shout. Whether rhetorical or not, none dared answer her question. She paused for but a few seconds. "I ask you now, not as the governor's daughter, but as a fellow follower of Elianto. Lay down your weapons; lay down your strife…" She looked in Sothe's direction, and gave a weak smile, continuing. "Throw away your revenge, toss aside your hatred…"

All eyes were mesmerized by the woman, her wedding dress flowing in a slight draft, giving her the appearance of a benevolent goddess.

"…and let us put an end to this meaningless conflict…"

Silence continued to prevail throughout the courtyard, nearly all faces frozen in her direction. Judgemaster Cid eyed the stationary crowd warily, placing a hand subtly back onto his Knightsword's handle. He preferred not to use force, though he would if need be. The brown haired man turned his head sharply as he picked up the sound of metal clanking, though relaxed as he laid eyes on the culprit.

Sothe Fragin de Pervenche sat on his knees, his head down in an apologetic fashion and his knives tossed harmlessly to the side. Those around him stared curiously, but both Maria and the Judgemaster looked on with a contented smile. It wasn't long before the Hume guard captain he had been battling mirrored the thief's actions, moved by his willingness to end the conflict.

Other Heretic members soon followed suit, descending to their knees with weapons laid down to the side, until gradually but surely the entire courtyard was enveloped with the sound of bodies stooping down and armor clanking.

A single drop of liquid crystal escaped the corner of her eye, traversing the length of her cheek and passing the broad, genuine smile that dominated her face.

Never, in all her life, had such a sight so moved Maria Savoy de Pervenche.

Unbeknownst to her, as the masses in the courtyard began to assist each other and noises filled the air, tears much akin to her own flowed freely, silently down the faces of both Adelle and Luso. The former at seeing the smoldering husk of flesh that had been her adoptive father for most of her life; the latter, at seeing the tears of the silver haired girl, and for the first time in his life…

Realizing how powerless he truly was.

(Two Days Later, Galleria Hospital)

Kanin Heldig walked along through the placid halls of the St. Galleria Hospital, whispering greetings to each staff member she happened to pass. A large bouquet full of vibrant cerulean flowers was nestled comfortably in her arms. A somewhat melancholy smile gradually began to form over her features as her thoughts wandered, though she brushed off those musings and refocused her attention on her goal.

On the left side she noticed room twenty seven and, quickly perking up, crossed through the hallway traffic at a diagonal, weaving in between groups of people while muttering small apologies. Upon reaching the door, she straightened her posture, corrected any loose strands of hair with her free hand, smoothed out any wrinkles in her White Mage outfit, and finally performed a soft series of taps on the entryway. She waited no more than three seconds, then heard a man's voice signaling her to enter.

Kanin gave the room a quick scan as she softly closed the door behind her. White tile stretched to all edges of the room, stopping at walls covered with a coating of ivory from floor to ceiling. Both small and large paintings hung two to a wall, meticulously straightened to perfection A window dominated most of the far wall, decorated with royal blue drapes tied back to allow sunlight. Perhaps the most prominent though strange of ornamentations of the room was the menagerie of bouquets, cards, and other physical representations of gratitude.

Luso Clemens sat along the edge of the bed, completely disrobed from the waist up and staring longingly out the window in silence. Kanin winced slightly as she laid eyes on the deep scar that ran horizontally across the upper area of his back, still covered in dry blood though no longer enflamed. In a stool next to him sat Vito Ricerca, thoroughly mixing the contents of a bowl with a wooden teaspoon.

"Here, drink this. It should help with the healing process." The Hume ordered kindly, handing the bowl to Luso, who stared at the concoction with a curious eye. He found the stench revolting, and the taste turned out to be no improvement as he muscled through the swallowing process.

"Hello, doctor." Kanin remarked with a smile, making her way over to the two.

"Ah, greetings Kanin. I trust you're doing well?" Vito replied, standing from his stool and retrieving the bowl from Luso. The girl responded with a small, optimistic nod. "Good, good. Luso, you should be clear to leave any time now. Excuse me if you will. There are patients to tend to, after all." The doctor said in a joyful tone, exiting the room a few seconds later. The blonde haired mage waited for the soft click of the closing door before speaking.

"You must have just woken up?"

"Yeah, and my head is killing me." The boy grunted back curtly, placing both his index fingers to his temples, rubbing in soft, circular motions. "How long have I been out?"

"Almost two days." Luso's eyes widened at the revelation as Kanin's own orbs dared not look into his directly, and he held a look of bewilderment about him. "We've been mostly resting ourselves. You haven't missed much. " The brown haired fighter directed a glance downwards after his bare foot brushed against a small ceramic vase full of bright yellow flowers. He then looked at the bouquet in his clan mate's hands, and quirked an eyebrow. "Oh, these are for you."

"What are all of these for?" The boy asked in a pleasantly confused manner, awkwardly receiving the collection fauna from her delicate hands. The girl shifted on the bed, bringing her legs up and facing him in the Indian sitting position.

"Judgemaster Cid and Governor Aquila held a joint city-wide conference yesterday, explaining everything that Vaticus had done in detail. Most had a hard time believing everything, though Vaticus himself actually came forward and supported the accusations." Luso stared at her curiously, which she noticed, though allowed her to continue with her explanation. "As for the gifts, Maria told everyone of your valiant victory over the Archbishop." She smiled, blushing a bit and averting her eyes in a cute manner. "You're pretty much a hero."

A few moments of silence passed as the girl waited for the boy to reply. She turned back towards him as the quiet prevailed, and saw his blank, subtly downtrodden face staring out of the window distantly. He seemed to be biting his lip, and she barely picked up the sound of his fingers gripping the starched bed sheets. He calmed down rather quickly, though, readopting his normally cheerful demeanor.

"That's great." Without even a shred of effort, Kanin could tell he was completely falsifying his sense of happiness; it was most evident in his eyes. She said nothing regardless, taking on a more reserved smile. "I'm going to take a walk around town. I'll see you later."

Luso stood up slowly, his legs shaky from disuse, though gradually began to regain his normal footing, using the walls as ballast. He made his way towards the door as Kanin stared silently at his retreating form. She gathered up the courage to speak as he placed a palm on the door handle.

"We're having a barbeque at the Pub tonight."

He turned his head and gave her a warmhearted smile.

"Don't worry, I'll be there."

A serene silence followed the click of the door behind him, and Kanin did nothing to disturb it. Her eyes wandered to the bouquet she had purchased him, then she released a saddened sigh, picking them up in her arms and placing them on the window seal, the warm late-afternoon sunlight pouring over the cerulean petals.

"I wasn't told all of what happened on the roof, Luso. But, one thing is for sure…" She laid eyes on the snow white cathedral in the distance, towering over the other buildings around it.

"That isn't the smile of someone who's won."

The late afternoon sun beat down upon the cobblestone streets and city goers of the city of St. Galleria, though its warmth was nothing that couldn't be tolerated. Most of the city's activity had died down since the Vaticus incident, leaving the streets populated solely by working men, women on shopping errands, children too young to have properly understood what had taken place, and Luso Clemens, who had been wandering from street to street for some time now.

He had not even bothered to retire the clothes lent to him by the hospital, merely strolling around in the wool pants he had been outfitted in, and thin white robe, which he had requested from the receptionist on his way out, who had been more than willing to oblige.

He stumbled upon on a sort of pavilion, with a wide circular fountain comprising its center. Crystal clear water flowed from the trumpet of a masterfully carved stone angel, who stood in the center, surrounded on all sides by a pool of shallow water. Almost mesmerized, he approached the fountain gradually, eventually stooping down so that his face was as close to the water as possible. He stared absently, as if gazing into some deep abyss…

Silently recalling the pained expression on Crow's face.

"Perhaps…in another life…we could have been the greatest of friends, Luso Clemens."

He winced in anger.


He raised himself once more, turning towards the towering Cathedral, its shadowed form clearly silhouetted against the orange sky. He held the same pained expression on his face as he made his way down the wide cobblestone street, every once in a while dodging a chocobo-pulled cart lugging packages or the occasional pedestrian not considerate enough to step to the side.

He looked to his right, noticing a frozen treat shop. His legs stopped, turned towards the establishment, and walked in, the makeshift air conditioner made from ice magic giving his skin a refreshing tingle. He gave the store a once over, making note of the wide variety of flavors available behind the counter's protective glass. The wooden ceiling was just high enough so that the ears of the Viera customer at the counter just barely brushed against it, and the matching wooden floors and white walls did well to compliment it. A few small tables were sparsely spread out, the majority of seating resting outside the entrance in a small, fenced pavilion.

It was then that he noticed one of the inside tables, positioned in the far corner next to the shop's main window, and the familiar brown hair of the Judgemaster who sat at it, leaning in his chair against the wall for support, reading through the thin stack of papers in his hand.

Almost as if silently led, Cid's eyes raised up, locking with the chocolate haired fighter. His face seemed to brighten as he registered the boy's face in his memory bank, soon motioning for him to take the seat opposite of him. Luso heeded his request quietly, showing neither excitement nor disdain, which the man found odd. Nevertheless, he decided to speak, placing the papers in his hands onto the table face down.

"Luso, it's good to see you up and about. We were lucky Sothe and his followers had such a seasoned healer among them."

"Thank you, Judgemaster." Luso paused for a moment, looking down at the Judge's odd manner of dress, a simple pair of tan, rough pants, a pair of battle boots and a nicely fit tunic. His outfit wasn't so much odd as much as a far stretch from the immaculately polished silver armor that he so regularly adorned.

"What? Sometimes even I need an escape from the formality stuff." Cid spoke, noticing his quirked eyebrow and explaining his silent question. "It helps me to blend in." Luso's confused look dissipated within moments, and the Judgemaster leaned his chair forward, inevitably propping his head up by his arms on the table. "What brings you here to this area of town?"

"I was just taking a walk really." He paused, his eyes not meeting Cid's once. "Do you…mind if I ask you a question?"

Cid could sense the hesitance in the boy's voice as he spoke, and nodded, permitting him to continue.

"I…I…Why did you tell everyone that I was a hero…?" The Judgemaster's eyebrow rose even more, though eventually settled back as he correctly speculated the reason behind the boy's somber mood. He decided to play along. "I couldn't stop Raven and Crow, I couldn't save Sir Loin…" He lowered his head. "…I could not save my sister or my grandfather…"

The Judgemaster remained silent, his face remaining placid though his heart going out to the brown haired adolescent. He reached across the table, placing a comforting hand on the boy's right shoulder.

"Something tells me that this isn't the first time you've experienced death. Luso…people are going to die; it is the iron law of this world. That is a fact that even I have trouble overcoming, but that does not make it any less true. There is one thing that you must learn, preferably earlier than I did."

The boy's head remained down, quiet.

"Some circumstances are simply beyond your control. You say it's your fault that Sir Loin died? What about me, then? Is it not also my fault for not arriving on time? Is it Vaticus Finch's fault for starting this entire ordeal in the first place? Is it Raven's fault for committing the murder? Do you understand what I mean?" Luso nodded quietly, finally lifting his eyes up to meet Cid's own. "Do not become hindered by your self-conceived failures. You are young. You still have much more improvement in your future, and much more room for it. Besides, I'm sure Maria, Sothe, and the remainder of the Heretics would definitely consider you as a hero."

He placed a hand on the boy's head, rustling his chocolate-hued locks and eliciting a genuine smile from the child for the first time that day.

"If I were you, I would get going." He removed his hand, angling his head through the window towards the top of the Cathedral. "There's still one more person that could use 'saving'."

It took Luso only a second to catch on to what he was saying, giving a firm confident nod. He shot out of his seat and made his way towards the counter, the Judgemaster watched him with a smile on his face.

(Cathedral, Rooftop)

Adelle stared out into the atmosphere listlessly, her hand folded in her lap and her legs dangling off the rooftop, moving slightly with each of the recurring breezes. The shadows all around her had begun to grow bolder as the day continued to finish its course, the dim orange sun now more than three-fourths below the horizon and the growing population of stars sparsely obscured by cloud cover.

Below her feet, perhaps a hundred feet or so, the remnants of what was once a beautiful wedding ceremony was now completely ruined. Chairs, cobblestone, and decorations lay strewn about, either by the pounding of hand-to-hand combat or the aftermath of spells.

She found it hard to believe that so much had occurred in such a small amount of time.

Her head turned around towards the rooftop floor, eyes focusing on the small, charred crater that held nothing but a distant yet painstakingly vivid memory.


She looked up, watching as Luso Clemens traversed the expanse of the roof from the stairwell on the far side. She took silent note of his manner of dress: the simple hospital gown and woolen pants that suggested he had just exited said establishment. More so she noticed the two treats he held in each hand: a blue snow cone in the right, and in the left, a small glass of milk.

"Mind if I sit here?"

"Go ahead."

He proceeded, shifting himself into the most comfortable position and placing his legs over the banister in the same fashion she had. He handed her the milk and she smiled weakly at his considerate gesture. The pallid, warm fluid soothed her as it flowed down her throat, causing her to lose track of the thoughts that had previously raced around in her mind.

And so they sat as a peaceful silence took over. Luso turned his attention up to the evening sky, and Adelle lowered hers back down to the city skyline, watching as smoke billowed out serenely from chimney stacks. The first few seconds soon evolved into minutes, the area completely devoid of sound besides the cawing of birds in the distance and the white noise of the city below. After what seemed an eternity, Adelle spoke, her eyes still down towards the city.

"Aren't you going to say anything?"

"Would you like me to?" Luso shot back innocently after a momentary silence.

"Everyone else already has." She retorted dejectedly. The brown haired fighter smiled.

"We'll I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I'm not like everyone else."


Adelle couldn't help but giggle as she spoke, and soon the boy joined in her momentary chuckle. They settled down, both now looking up into the sky, where the faint traces of a full moon could be seen.

"When my dad died, I didn't want to talk to anyone else that much either." The silver haired girl's eyes widened and she brought her attention toward him. He continued to look up. "I didn't want some lecture on moving on, and I didn't need people repeating that'd it be okay. None of that made it hurt any less. I just needed someone to be close." A small smile played at the corners of her lips. "So I'll sit here and wait as long as I need to."

"And what if I don't want you here?" She responded, a smile playing at the corners of her lips as she turned back towards the sky. Luso chuckled.

"Well, then I guess you're just out of luck."

A pleasant silence came between the two, both with genuine smiles on their faces. Luso gulped down the rest of his snow cone and licked his lips as he crunched the paper cone between his fingers.

Suddenly, he felt a lightweight object land in his lap. He looked down, only to find a small sack, tied together at the opening with a small string as well as his vibrant red hat he had loaned to her. He turned to Adelle, who was now looking in his direction, smiling as he realized what it was.

"I believe both of these belong to you."

He picked the sack up eagerly after placing the hat on his head, and pulled on the string, loosening the bag. Upon peering into the sack, he stopped then turned back to the cat-themed thief, his eyebrow quirked accusingly.

"Where's all the gil?"

"I…may have spent it all."

Luso could do naught but sigh dejectedly, causing Adelle to laugh once more. She waited for a few seconds, then placed a finger to her chin.

"Do you mind…if I ask you a question?"

Luso quirked an eyebrow.

(Galleria Tavern)

"Ahh, now this…this is a feast."

Cid burrowed head first into the gargantuan, sizzling, greasy behemoth steak that completely smothered his plate, much less a quarter of the table he sat at. On his right sat Ensei, enjoying a similar morsel of meat, his attention wholly focused on its consumption.

Normally, the two men's actions would garner a plethora of both disgusted and amazed looks from passerby's, though tonight no one else in the pub paid them any ill looks, except for one blonde-haired White Mage, astonished at how easy her father could embarrass her.

"They've been at that for the past hour…" Claire of Clan Falzen remarked, gazing in wonder as she wrapped her lips around the top portion of a chic kabob, dotted with all sorts of grilled meat, poultry, and vegetables. "How can two people…?"

"I warned him not to make everything 'on the house'." Cheney spoke, sighing.

In celebration of the victory over Vaticus Finch, the pub owner had declared that all orders made by Clan Gully, Clan Falzen, and any Heretics were to be subsequently free of charge for that night, after Ensei had asked him if they could host the Clans' victory barbeque here. The barman was beginning to understand the severity of his boss's decision as he and his staff struggled to keep up with orders, multiplied in full by the co-leaders of Clan Gully.

"Hey Cheney." The Hunter turned towards to the side, only to look up at Andie Kelt, her hand extended. "Come on and dance with me."

The brown haired young man hadn't even the time to answer before the young woman yanked him from his seat and figuratively dragged him into an area devoid of tables, where a number of Pub regulars were dancing. Upon the stage sat Hurdy, who sat upon an oak stool and blew a jovial tune upon his Aona Flute.

"Seems like the captain is in good spirits." Said Belinda, giggling. Kanin, who sat at the Falzen Clan's table, giggled alongside her. A frown soon came to her face, though, as she offhandedly wondered whether Luso would show up or not.

As if on cue, her eyes turned towards the entrance of the pub. There stood the boy in question, outfitted in his normal yellow overalls, brown boots, and red hat. His two blades, Atmos and Sweep, rested comfortably in their sheaths on his right side, accompanied by the journal-sized book he always carried around. Adelle stood next to him, her silver hair partially tied back by her cat eared scarlet bow. Beside her feet, her black coated cat strolled forward on its four paws, its purr fading into the hum of the establishment.

In a matter of seconds, all noise in the pub gradually died down into a silence, and every eye turned towards them. They were quite taken aback by the attention, though eased up a few people began to cheer, eventually turning into mass of victorious shouts and applause. The two teens pelted down the minute staircase and joined in with the rest of the pub-goers, who all continued with their activities.

Kanin stood to her feet as Luso approached her, a vibrant genuine smile on her face.

"Kanin!" The girl's visage turned beet red as the brown haired wonder enveloped her in a large embrace. She turned her head just enough to catch the Clan Falzen members in her peripheral vision, all giving her winks and signals of approval, increasing the force of her blush. "Thank you for the flowers you gave me."

"G-Glad that y-you made it, L-Luso." She began to stutter as he released his hold, keeping from direct eye-contact.

"Excuse me for one moment."

She looked at him with a confused expression as he ran back up to the bar and requested a non-alcoholic drink. He raised the mug into the air, and motioned for Adelle to join him on top of the bar counter. His actions once again caused everyone to turn towards him, and soon the room fell silent.

"I'd like to propose a toast." His words were met with a variety of comments and shouts, everyone lifting their respective glasses into the air. Luso turned to Adelle. The girl gave him a silent nod and a smile. He mirrored that smile, turned back to the crowd, and finally placed a hand on the girl's shoulder.

"A toast to the newest member of Clan Gully!"

It took only a moment for the room to be fully enveloped in a menagerie of positive cheering. Luso subtly turned to Cid and Ensei, who both gave him a thumbs-up, signaling their approval of the gesture.

Adelle snatched the boy's hat from his head and placed it on her own, jumping down and dashing into the crowd. And as he muttered protests at her action and began to chase after her…

A genuine laugh escaped from her mouth, and tears of joy flowed freely from her eyes.

A heart shaken, a soul mended!

(End Chapter Twenty Eight)

Okay, sorry for the long wait. Just wanted this chapter to be really good. It's not exactly like I envisioned it, but it worked out a lot better than I had first thought.

And so ends the St. Galleria Arc. It's been a long time coming and a fun ride for me personally, and I hope you have enjoyed as well. Next chapter will be final goodbyes for the clan and the citizens, as well as heading off for their next destination.

There's going to be some pivotal developments coming up in the next few chapters, as well as the introduction of a few new…and old characters.

Until next time!