Hey, it's me again, and back with chapter three. Unbeknownst to many, I actually did put dividers in this story, but the website keeps deleting them. So from now on, I'm going to start dividing the sections like I did with my other story. 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 or manga that I take elements 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, or flashbacks

"BLAH" Yelling

(Blah) scene change

Today, I have to part with my carefree childhood because there's nothing but hard work ahead.

So with this, I bid you farewell for now. Goodnight, Grandpa. Goodnight, Frimelda, and

Goodbye, Halcyon Days….

His cheerful days of youth are over. Now is the time to start the path to manhood.

Luso Clemens

The Blade

The symbol of pride, the manifestation of my honor, my will

It is with this that I would lay down my life for you

Chapter Three: Sword is my Shield

In an alleyway of the large city of Camoa, a human shaped figure moved at an even pace in the dead of night. His only illumination was the luminous waxing moon in the dark, starry dome that was the sky, and the various streetlamps placed at intervals along the way. Most of the residents of the ancient, dusty city had already turned in for the night, though the city still held much liveliness, with sound pouring from a number of pubs and eatery's that he passed.

He had traveled all the way from Targ Wood for this, hoping against all hope that he would be out tonight. He needed this information as soon as possible.

The man encountered a dead end upon reaching the end of the particular street, a stone wall lying to his north and two dilapidated stone houses on his left and right. Atop the wall lay a higher plane of land, with a branching oak tree.

"Ribs!" The man called out.

A few seconds passed, before a portly humanoid figure stood from its resting place beside the tree, leaping down from the wall and landing a few feet in front of the man. The streetlamps fixed to the wall more aptly illuminated his form; a maroon-skinned pig-like humanoid creature, better known to the residents of Ivalice as a Seeq.

"Well, well; if it isn't master Cheney. What do I owe this honor to?" The Seeq questioned in a sarcastically polite manner, giving his best imitation of a courteous bow as he approached the Hume approached him in the blackness of night. He was dressed in the standard Lanista outfit: a pair of striped trousers held up by woven suspenders.

"What else would I come to you for?" The huntsman known as Cheney replied flatly. He carried a small sack slung over his shoulder. "Just tell me what I want to know. I'm not in the mood for formalities at the moment."

"Now, now, master Cheney. No need to be so rude." The pig like male said with a smug smile. "I'll tell you whatever it is that you require…as long as you give me what I require…"

The hunter immediately tossed the Seeq the sack that he was carrying, almost causing the rotund beast to drop his candle. He opened the bag with haste, and began to almost salivate over the contents.

"Tomato stalks, straight from the critters themselves. Now about that information…"

"Yes, of course, Master Cheney. Name your inquiry." Ribs said eagerly, eyeing the stalks with a greedy glint in his eyes.

"I'm sure such a well informed streetear as you would know about the rare monster disappearances in Targ Wood. Chocobo, Banshees and Fairies, Dreamhares; they're all disappearing without a trace." Said streetear nodded for confirmation. "Lately, I've been stumped as to the reason, but something that happened today gave me a clue."

"Go on." The Seeq urged curiously.

"It seems as though a Mamatrice attacked a young Hume boy and girl without hesitation or reason. At first, I didn't pay much attention to it, but as the more I thought on it, the more it seemed to fit with this mystery." Cheney paused, for a moment, before continuing on. "The Mamatrice and cockatrices in general are normally docile creatures and don't generally attack unless provoked. On top of that, they stay away from Humes or any other race unless they or their environment are threatened…"

"I think I understand where you're coming from…" The streetear interrupted. "…I'm willing to bet that those disappearances were in the Mamatrice's territory, were they not?" Cheney performed a curt nod for verification. "That and the fact that he attacked Hume children, means that, more than likely, a Hume is the one that threatened it." The Seeq finished.

"And I'm willing to bet that Hume is a hunter." Cheney spoke. "And that brings me to why I'm here. I'm hoping you would be able to get me some information on any of the local hunters or hunting clans in Targ Wood."

Ribs searched through the vast amount of information in his brain, trying to find anything involving a hunter.

"Well…I'm not sure if this will give you any leads or not, but there is one particular clan that's been earning quite a lot of Gil and reputation around the Targ area. Their group goes by the name of Clan Fletching." He spoke. "The Clan's leader just so happens to be a Hunter."

"Clan Fletching, got it. Thanks for your help, Ribs." Cheney remarked with a small grin aimed at the Seeq. He spun around effortlessly and escaped the range of the streetlamp's light, disappearing into the night in the process.

(Targ Wood, Wood Village, Tree Bark Inn)

"Hey Luso, time to wake up…" A certain, wizard hat donning white mage whispered to her clan member in the sweetest voice she could muster, nudging his shoulder with her hand in the process. The boy in question rolled around in his sleep a bit, refusing to do as he was told.

"So that's the way you want to play, huh?"

Kanin lifted her wooden staff high above her head in a vertical position over the brown haired boy, preparing to strike down on him. At the same time, Luso's eyes finally cracked open to see what she was preparing to do.

"Alright, I'm up already!" The boy spoke in an agitated tone, using a nearby pillow as a shield.

"Well, come on and get ready then." The girl ordered with a smile. "We were supposed to meet Ensei at the fields by now. Meet me downstairs when you're ready. There's a lot to do today."

Luso did as he was instructed; stumbling into what he assumed was the bathroom while his white mage clan mate made her way downstairs. He looked around, noticing most of the essentials of a washroom. There was a large wooden box in the corner which looked like a tub, the equivalent of a sink lay before him with a mirror over it, and surprisingly there was an actual toilet. Sure, it wasn't the nicest or most elaborate bathroom, but it would have to suffice.

The brown haired male performed all of the necessary rituals as quickly as he could; making a mental note to find out if this world had anything akin to toothpaste. He would definitely need it later.

"Are you ready?" The wizard hat wearing blonde asked as the boy scurried down the dusty, wooden staircase. Seeing as he lacked a fresh pair of clothes to change into, he opted on giving his school uniform another use.

With a quick nod from the blue eyed boy, the two exited the room and went out into the village streets, the door making a soft click as it closed.

(Targ Wood, Wood Village, Shop)

"So was that the clan's house, Kanin?" Luso asked, attempting to initiate small talk between them as they walked sedately to wherever their destination was.

"Well, not our official house if that's what you mean; we rented it out for our stay." The golden haired female answered. "You see, clans usually do a lot of traveling, which means they need a place to stay while in towns. So some businesses and such rent out small inns specifically to clans."

"Oh, I see." Luso spoke, before moving onto his next question. "You guys aren't from this village?"

"Well, I know that both Ensei and I were born here. I don't know much about Cid though." She answered, performing a thinking pose.

The two continued to walk onwards, conversing over menial things and just the land of Ivalice in general. The white mage girl thought it was odd when he would ask questions that she assumed everyone would know the answer to. It was almost as if he wasn't even born in Ivalice.

"So…what exactly does a clan do?" The curious boy asked his clan mate.

"Clans in general can do nearly anything, but specifically, there are many different types of clans. There are hunting clans who specialize in monster hunting and taking down marks; escorting clans who transport items and cargo or escort people and VIPs; and soldier clans that fight for a client. There are also clans who do menial chores and even bard clans who perform for people." She explained as simply as possible to him.

"So what type of clan is Clan Gully?" Luso asked innocently.

"Well…we're none of those actually. We're a Freelance Clan; which means that we basically do anything and everything. Fighting a rival clan, protection from bandits, even weeding your backyard; if you pay for it, we do it….and if you pay extra, we do it better." The girl replied, quoting word for word the words of Ensei from memory.

"Sounds like a great policy." The brunette boy stated sarcastically.

"Oh look, we're already here." Kanin remarked, pointing to the building that lay ahead of them. It was a medium sized structure around the size of a house. It was covered with brown wooden boards and had a green shingled roof with a solitary chimney stack on top.

Without hesitation, the duo entered the shop, opening the old wooden door on their way in.

"Oh, may I help you two?" A teenage girl asked perkily from behind the counter. She had long, red hair that was tied into one braid and sported a plain, green dress.

Luso, unintentionally ignoring the question, scanned the room, noting all the different types of weapons and armor adorned on the walls. He had no idea there could be so much variety with swords. But at the same time, it sort of scared him. Unlike training with his grandfather, this time he would be wielding actual swords.

"Yes, my friend here needs a new outfit. You wouldn't be able to help us out would you?" The white mage asked with an equal amount of pep.

"Certainly, but it depends what he's looking for." The shopkeeper replied.

"Yeah, Luso; what job are you going to pick?" Kanin asked curiously, turning to face him.

"What do you mean? Like a police officer or a firefighter or something?" He asked with confusion apparent on his face.

"No, a job, silly! For example, my job is a white mage." She answered, making a curt spin and striking a small pose.

"Don't worry; I can help you with this. Here's a catalog of all current registered job classes." The shopkeeper said, coming out from behind the counter with a thin hard-cover book in her hands. As she walked towards him, the girl opened the directory and browsed through the pages, until finding the one she was searching for. "There you go; this is a listing of all registered jobs for the Hume. Tell me if you see one you like."

The boy skimmed through the pages of Hume section making mental notes of each job that he passed.

"Archer…never used a bow before. I doubt it'll be useful. Thief…I was never one to steal something. Soldier's a good alternative; I have had sword experience before...wait a minute…" The boy set his sights on one particular job, one that he was very, very familiar with. "This one; this one is perfect." He proclaimed, his finger landing on his selection. The red haired shopkeeper peered over his shoulder to view his choice, Kanin mimicking her action.

"Hmm…Parivir, huh?" She questioned. "I think you might be a little in over your head with that one. That's a pretty difficult and dangerous job, you know. I don't want to equip someone who's had no experience in jobs with those kinds of weapons. I wouldn't have a good conscience about it."

"But…I have had experience with these weapons before." Luso argued. "My grandfather…he's taught me since the day I turned three. Please…I'll pay whatever cost."

"Is he telling the truth?" The shopkeeper asked his White Mage accomplice. She gave a large shrug as a reply.

She considered blowing off his request, as she had seen countless people with great potential throw their lives away with a job they couldn't handle. But…the look in that boy's eye, the one of sheer determination; it was not one she could just simply ignore…

She let out a hearty sigh, followed by an amused chuckle.

"You've certainly got spirit, that's for sure. I'll make you a deal…." The girl walked back behind the counter, pulling out a simple shortsword and setting it down.

"If you can work your way up and meet the requirements for becoming a Parivir, not only will I sell you the equipment for it, but I'll give you a unique katana on the house, custom made by yours truly. How does that sound?"

Luso grinned, a confident glint in his eyes.

"You've got yourself a deal."

(Targ Wood, Muskmallow Field)

"So you finally decided to show up? It's about time." Ensei commented from his seat on a wooden fence post as Luso and Kanin gradually came into his view.

"Yeah, sorry it took so long." The wizard hat wearing blonde said in an apologetic fashion. "It turns out she was completely out his job's uniform, so we just decided to make one with the extra clothes she had."

Ensei stared at Luso's new outfit, thoroughly puzzled as to which job he was supposed to represent. To him, it was as if he simply threw on whatever managed to fit, but if he was willing to fight in it, then he had no qualms.

"Whatever works for you, as long as he has clothes. Though I do suggest you loose the book and book pouch on your right. It'll probably get in the way." Ensei remarked pointing to the appropriate items. "Oh, and move your sword and sheath to your side. It's easier to draw it out that way."

Luso did as he was told, unfastening the book pouch and his book from his outfit, then moving the sword to his side. True to Ensei's words, his short sword was more accessible and the he felt lighter now that the book was off of him.

"Alright, now that you're battle ready, what do you say we start this little show?" The black haired man cracked his knuckles and leaped off of his perch.

"Well, have fun with your training, Luso. Just come and get me if you need anything..." Kanin proclaimed, beginning to walk off.

"Hold it right there, Kanin." Ensei interrupted the blonde stopping dead in her tracks. "You're apart of this training session just as much as he is."

"But…but I'm a white mage. I don't need training with swords and stuff." She argued.

Ensei sighed. Looks like he'd have to explain it to her.

"Kanin, what do you think the white mage's main priority is?"

The girl pondered his question for a moment.

"To tend to wounds and heal them?"

"Yes, any novice white mage would say that, wouldn't they?" He snickered. "So, answer this next question. What happens when that white mage is unable to heal because she's out of commission or the victim of a status ailment?"

Kanin once again searched for the answer, though Ensei decided to answer for her.

"That's right; they lose their ability to heal and continue fighting. To heal the sick and the wounded is definitely a priority, but the white mage's main priority is not that, but to ensure her own safety. You need to be able to dodge attacks, read the movements of your enemies…"

His facial expression turned grave.

"Because if you die…then we die…"

"But Ensei, couldn't she just heal herself when she gets injured?" Luso questioned. Kanin voiced her agreement at his suggestion.

Ensei let out a disheartened sigh. It seemed example would be the only way to teach them.

"It seems that you two still don't understand…" He walked behind the fencepost and grabbed what looked exactly like a Japanese katana in its sheath. Using his thumb, he flicked the hand guard of the one edged sword upwards and drew it slowly out of its sheath, staring down the two all the while.

"Come…I will show you the error of your ways."

"Ensei, you're not serious are you?" Kanin asked with a surprised tone. To think that he was actually drawing his sword against her.

"I am very serious, Kanin Heldig."

At this time, Ensei had fully drawn his katana and was already assuming a fighting stance. Luso noticed in wonder that the bearded man's stance was nearly identical to the one his grandfather used to take during their sparring lessons.

"So Ensei's a parivir, huh? Maybe he could help me become one."

Luso immediately reached for his short sword and fumbled to unsheathe it, but eventually managed. Kanin watched the brown haired boy and finally understood that they were serious about this. Unwillingly, she also assumed a stance and readied her staff and a cure spell.

"What are the rules of this training session?" The blonde female asked.

"It's a two on one battle; you and Luso against yours truly. You win when I say you have." Ensei replied back, before giving them a devilish smirk.


(Targ Wood, Wood Village, Pub)

"Hmmm…what would be a good mission…?" Cid wondered out loud to no one in particular as his eyes scanned over the number of quest bills on the counter that the pub master had brought out for him. "Do you have anything else?"

"I'm sorry, Cid. Targ's been on a quest drought for a while now. Most clan's around here are stuck running delivery work. Not the most exciting jobs, I'll tell ya." The turban sporting old man replied.

"I'm not sure what we're going to do. With the cost of outfitting another clan member, plus the way we've been eating lately, our funds haven't exactly been meeting our expenses."

Cid took another gulp of his drink until the glass was completely empty, placing it back down on the counter after he'd had his fill.

"Unless we get some good paying work in, we'll be flat broke by the end of the week."

"Eh, don't fret so much over it, Cid. I'm sure something will come around eventually." The bartender encouraged him, refilling his glass with another round of a strange clear liquid. Cid took another sip of it, and was surprised by the taste.

"What's this? It's actually pretty good. It's got sort of this lemon-lime sort of flavor." The dark skinned sub human queried in a delightful tone, forgetting about his clan's current financial situation.

"Oh, it's a new concoction that I made up by accident a couple weeks ago. I tried it and I thought I might as well sell it."

"Really? It's not half bad. What's it called?" The blonde Revgaji asked.

"Well, it was really popular with my Viera customers, so I decided to call it Viera Mist."

Cid stared at him for a few moments before shrugging his shoulders and going along with it.

"Eh…sounds pretty catchy."

(Targ Wood, Muskmallow Field)

"This man…" Luso thought as he made effort after desperate effort to somehow guard against the unbelievably powerful opponent that was Ensei. This had been going on for around ten minutes now; how he had managed to last this long even he was not sure.

The bearded man thrust the blade of his katana straight at Luso's midsection. The boy barely managed to dodge by jumping backwards at the last second, lessening the blow but tearing a rip in his overalls in the process.

"He's definitely…"

The brown haired boy strengthened his grip on his short sword, attempting a similar thrust towards his opponent. Ensei, without hesitation or effort, seamlessly sidestepped the blade and twisted around, his own oriental sword heading directly for the boy's ribs.

"Going to kill us…"

Luso flinched slightly as the blade cut through his outfit and barely managed nicked his flesh, though it didn't cut as deeply as he had thought it would.

"He used the back of the blade?"

As Luso fell to the ground from the momentum of the swing, Ensei made a bee line for Kanin, who was busy charging up another cure spell. Just like with Luso, Ensei thrust the blade straight at her body with tremendous force behind the attack.

In a desperate panic, she closed her eyes and jumped to the right, by sheer luck alone managing to escape the stab of cold steel. Luso who had already been charging at him saw this as the perfect opportunity to get in an attack from behind. He swung with all his might in a horizontal arc, only to have it avoided as Ensei leapt into the air in a spinning motion.

With the momentum of his spin, Ensei stuck his foot out, his boot connecting with the smooth flesh of the boy's face. This action sent Luso flying a few yards away from him as the parivir landed gracefully.

"Listen and listen well, Luso Clemens. I'm not here to guide you by the hand and I'm not going to go easy on you because you're new at this, because I can guarantee you that your enemies will attack you just as seriously as I have." The samurai began, holding his katana in his right hand.

A sinister, but grim look adorned Ensei's face as he stalked towards them, igniting fear into the duo.

"Our clan and this world have one very important thing in common. Both do not take kindly to weaklings. Those who do things half-heartedly or aren't focused...die."

Luso and Kanin rose from the ground and made a panicked run in a random direction, the boy leading the girl by the hand.

"So you better shape up, because at this rate…you're going to fall into that category." Ensei charged at them at an even greater speed than he had been before, his deadly katana in hand.

"He's actually going to kill us…he's serious about this…" Luso thought as he continued his frantic sprint into the surrounding tree line. During his run he began to realize something very important. "This is what it feels like…real combat…His killer intent is unreal…"

"No amount of training with grandpa could have prepared me for some thing like this, where your life is on the line...every action brings you one step closer to either victory or death…"

Suddenly, Kanin tripped over her own feet in struggled run, dropping front first to the grass below and releasing her grasp of Luso's hand. He realized that by the time she managed to arise, Ensei would have already reached her.

Strengthening his resolve, he stepped directly in front of her, his shortsword grasped tightly with both hands and a look of determination on his face.

"Running's not going to change anything, he's just too fast. So if I'm going out, I'm going out protecting someone…"

He prepared to swing as soon as Ensei was in range. There was no turning back at this point.

"I've lost too many people already. I'm not losing another."

Ensei brought the blade and prepared for one last thrust, almost in range of the boy. He expected the boy to run off with the girl, but looking up, he was surprised to see the boy not moving an inch. In fact, it looked as if he was prepared to put his life on the line to defend her.

The bearded parivir slowed down gradually, eventually stopping right in front of Luso but out of his sword range. He then sheathed his katana and gave him a bright grin.

"Looks like you finally realized how to win, boy."

To say Luso was dumbfounded would most likely be too light of a word. Just moments ago, this man was truly trying to kill him and now…it just didn't make any sense. Taking the hint from his expression, Ensei decided to elaborate as Luso helped Kanin to her feet, both preparing to listen.

"Despite what I might have said, this wasn't an evaluation of your skill, but of your will. I needed to see if you were mentally prepared for this clan, not physically." He explained.

"There were a few times where you had the courage to come at me, which was nice; but the main thing I was looking for was to see if you were enough of a man to protect my little girl over there. That's why I mostly attacked her."

The black haired samurai walked over to the boy and grabbed his shortsword as the two watched on curiously.

"The job of a soldier is to protect. A country's soldiers are there to shield their country from danger. With every enemy, every threat that he cuts down with this sword, he shields his country from future harm. His sword is his country's shield. His sword is his comrade's shield. His sword is his shield."

He held up Luso's shortsword in front of him to emphasize his point.

"The same principle applies to the both of you. Being a white mage, Kanin can't always protect herself, Luso. Just like today, she may stumble and fall into danger and Cid and I might not be able to help her. Will you take up this sword…and become her shield?"

He held the handle of the sword out to him as he spoke his question. Luso stared at the handle, a menagerie of thoughts buzzing around up in his head. But despite those thoughts, he knew the right choice to make.

"…With this sword, I will protect my family, no matter who opposes them…" He exclaimed, firmly taking the short sword from the man's fingers.

Ensei smirked as Kanin gave him a warm smile and a big hug.

"Then welcome to the family…for real, this time."

Building trust through courage!

(End Chapter Three)

And there you have it, sorry about slow updating. I just have other things to do and can't crank these out like other authors manage to do.

Next time, Clan Gully gets their first mission with Luso, so be looking forward to it.

Oh, and Ensei is not actually my character. He's from an anime called the Story of Saiunkoku. I only took him because he fit the physical characteristics that I wanted for my character, and so I could give you a visual representation so you wouldn't have to wonder what he looks like. I should have a link up of his picture by the time this chapter is posted, for any interested in what he looks like.