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.
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.
"Blah" = talking
"Blah" = thoughts, writing, sound effects, or flashbacks
(Blah)= scene change
The sound of leather soles scrapping across the ground echoed through the narrow hallways of Warehouse Thirteen. A lone Moogle Fusilier traversed the confined corridors, the color of his fur indiscernible with the overarching darkness present. Every so often, the onyx hued metal of the Chaos Rifle slung over his shoulder would glisten as he passed by an open window, the light of waxing moon pouring through whilst reminding him of the lateness of the hour. A muffled yawn escaped his throat as he rounded a corner, and he quickly steeled himself.
No matter how exhausted he was, he had a job to do, and an urgent report to deliver.
The marksman arrived at his destination shortly, a simple wooden door, and upon entering stepped into a small office-like space, complete with the typical desk, chair, and unending stacks of paper strewn about. From what he could see, which other than what the candles in the corner illuminated wasn't much, two men lingered around the desk, one reclining in oak hewn chair, the other leaning against the far wall.
The two noticed the Fusilier enter, and their eyes held a certain hopeful quality, regardless that their faces remained callous and indifferent. The Moogle stopped just before he reached the desk, raised the newspaper he had been carrying in his hand, and looked up at them.
"Ewen sent me. Says he might have found something you're looking for."
He set the paper on the desk, then backed a few steps away. In response, the man sat up straight before leaning forward, simultaneously reaching for a spare candle. Said candle switched hands, and he stretched it towards the leaning figure. A sharp snap resounded through the room, and a fire instantly lit, floating just above his fingertips, which he used to light the candle. With this added source, the Moogle could more clearly see the recipients of his delivery.
A Hume Paladin, using the candle's light, read down the front page article. The Fusilier noticed his eyes holding a disinterest quality up until the very end, where they widened. A deep, raspy chuckle escaped his throat, and he passed the paper to the room's other occupant, a Black Mage, before speaking.
"Either they're confident, or stupid." Dread Raven turned to the spellcaster with a commanding voice. "I want every informant in the Mid and Low towns on alert by morning. Get moving. I'll gather up a squad for when they're located."
Crow simply nodded obediently, and underneath the brim of his wizard hat, none could see the regretful tone his eyes adopted.
The duo begins to move in force!
The only thing we have to fear
Is the lack of it
Chapter Forty Six: The Approaching Danger
Warm sunlight, the kind only prevalent as the summer months inched closer to the mild temperatures of fall, cascaded down upon the head and bodies of the Midtown pedestrians as they made their way to each of their respective tasks. The center of Grazton in-city trade and commerce bustled about with people of all races, from mothers visiting street-side food vendors to procure food for the day's meals to swarthy adventurers and fishermen heading out for another morning's hard labor.
One of such note was familiar, blonde Revgaji. His wide back, burly arms, and the heaviness of his steps gave the appearance of a man who had weathered much in his life. Betraying that, however, were his eyes, bearing a distant, some would say frightful weight. One could not properly ascertain such depth at first glance; though no matter how strong his stern façade, a close inspection of those cerulean orbs displayed all.
He moved with purpose, in and out through canal-faring vessels transporting goods and passengers, subtly making sure not to attract too much attention to himself.
A habit, despite his size, he had picked up rather well throughout his lifetime.
His intended path brought him to the housing district, with street upon street was littered with nothing but homes of varying size, though nothing of the splendor located in the high town. These abodes held a more rustic quality and none climbed over the two story mark. In additional contrast to the wealthier borough, the children of the Midtown played openly in the watery streets, splashing each other with water and playing games of hide and seek. He could do no more than smile at them as he passed, waving and patting their heads whenever they would come up to him. He had always held a fondness for children, despite never having any to call his own.
It was within a few minutes that he arrived at his objective, a one story stone house with an old oaken door. Unlike its neighboring buildings, there seemed to be no attempts at sprucing or anything beyond needed cleanliness, and it was that quality that Cid knew he had located the correct house.
That and the prevalent smell of alcohol as a Moogle opened the door, his voice gravely.
"Go away. I don't want anything you're..." His voice caught in his throat, and its harsh tone all but disappeared as he looked up in surprise. "K-Kupo... Cid? Is…is that really you?"
"Aye." Cid replied with a warm smile, taking in the sight of the Moogle. From what the White Monk remembered, he had certainly changed since they last met. His brown fur had adopted ever the slightest tint of grey in places, more a show of aging than a genetic discoloration. The way he walked as the two entered his house to continue their chat provided the Rev a glimpse of the waist high creature's limp, and Cid decided to forgo questioning it.
The interior was similar to its counterpart: sparsely decorated, only essentials like a couch, coffee table, desk, and a simple dining table occupied the open living room/kitchen combination room. The bat winged individual offered the Rev a seat, which he gladly took. The Moogle traveled to the kitchen, grabbing something from a cabinet, then sat in the adjacent space, placing some sort of strong drink and a few small glasses on the coffee table.
"No. Thank you though."
The pompom sporting being shrugged then proceeded to fill a cup, taking a sip before engaging in some light conversation. He chuckled a bit to himself as he finished off the rest of the glass. "Always was a lightweight."
"Trust me, I'm no lightweight, Barley." Cid replied lightheartedly, easing back into the couch. "Being where we are, I can't afford to have dull senses at any given time."
"I hear ya." Both the Moogle's visage and tone grew more sullen. "I've somehow managed to get by though; luck, if anything." He placed his glass down on the table, and both men stared forward at the opposite wall. "There were rumors that you'd survived, though last thing I'd expect is you showing up in Grazton again."
The Rev managed a hushed snigger, though his mood remained melancholy. "You're not alone there. Unfortunately, you've got to go where business takes you." He leaned forward, opening up the bag he had set on the floor in-between his feet, shuffling through some items.
Barley eyes twitched for a split second and he let out an astounded whistle as Cid unwrapped the brown cloth surrounding one of the most beautiful gems either of the males had ever seen. An entity of complete purity shining in all its white-silver glory, devoid of any and all impurities rested in Cid's calloused hands. The unseen energy emanating from it still surprised Cid when he held it, even now.
"Quite a jewel you have there." The Moogle stated, his eyes somewhat glazed over. "This what you looked me up for?"
"Aye." He handed him the Magicite, the pompom sporting creature scanning its surface with a practiced expertise. "My client wants every type of information you get on it: properties, structure, location. You were the only jeweler I felt could give me the answers I needed."
"I've never seen a stone like this before." Barley admitted. "It's rare. Good clean cut as well. Unfortunately, I couldn't assess it any better here. Can you drop by the shop later on tonight?"
"Suppose I have to now." Cid breathed out a sigh, then lazily stood to his feet. The Moogle remained on the couch, handing him the whitesilver crystal before pouring himself another drink. After carefully rewrapping it, the Rev stuck it in his bag and made for the door. "Oh, and good to see that you're okay."
Barley gave him a weak smile after a few moments.
"What did you expect? They may control me, Cid, but they can't brake me."
The White Monk returned the smile in response, then turned the door's handle and walked back out into the street.
(Jytras Mercantile Office, Grazton Branch)
"So this is it, huh?"
Vili and Anrias, both of who stood to either side, gave him a quick silent nod in reply. The Hunter in turn performed a calming breath, and all three made their way towards the door of the Grazton Jytras Mercantile Building. Situated within the business district of the High Town, the trading and financial center of the city, its exterior was as extravagant and classy as the buildings around it. It rose into the air at least twenty stories from what Cheney could tell, and was dotted throughout with glass windows.
The trio passed by the attendants at the doors and entered, laying eyes on the two spiral staircases at the back corners. On the left and right sides, desks and booths stood side to side, each accompanied by clerks and a few of the numerous customers traveling over the marble floor. If its size was any indication, what Anrias assumed was the main desk sat in the center of the far wall, and it was with a gesture that Cheney and Vili followed him towards it.
"Hello." A male, Hume clerk at the front desk greeted them upon their approach. "How may I help you?"
"Yes, we're from the Grazton Gazette, and we have a few inquires on a particular shipment brought in a few days ago."Anrias moved forward, retrieving a folded piece of paper from a side pocket on his messenger bag and handed it to the man. "I would be grateful if you could retrieve this file for us."
"Very well, sir." The Hume replied. "However, Jytras Mercantile goes to great lengths to keep client confidentiality as secure as possible. I will have to obtain clearance from a supervisor."
After cursory glances to his two companions, Anrias nodded in approval, and the clerk exited the booth at the right side, quickly pedaling up the spiral staircase to the second floor. The Scholar turned, sending them unsure glances, which they both returned in full and all simply decided to stand and wait for his return. That return came a few minutes later, and the clerk, breath slightly heavier, ignored the desk and walked straight up to the group.
"I do apologize for the wait, sir. It seems that Ms. Francesca herself would like to meet with you before any information is presented."
Both Anrias and Cheney's eyes widened at that, though Vili donned a confused visage. The three followed the clerk back up the stairs and down the left hallway before stopping at the door of one of the many meeting rooms. The clerk presented one last bow, gesturing for their approval to enter, then made his way back down to continue his work. Cheney's hand reached out at the golden knob, and after a little twist and tug, the three walked inside.
The room was simple, as one would expect a meeting room to be; plain walls with simplistic paining as their only adornment, a medium sized golden chandelier, a few file cabinets here and there, and potted plants in every corner. At the center of the polished oak floors lay a large rectangular table with leather lounge chairs positioned all around. Strewn about the table were a number of piles: an endless sea of documents, files, and writing utensils. A single Viera sat at the head of the table, just a few feet away from the large window that completely comprised the far wall. She could be described as a beauty like no other. Hair of the purest white stopped around her lower back, nearly the exact same saturation as her ankle length sleeveless dress. She sat with the poise learned from noble upbringing, though to the three at least, there was more a serene air about her.
President of Jytras Mercantile: Francesca Isabella Halvdel
"Please, come in. Take a seat."
Unlike the usual interactions Cheney and Anrias had with the higher class, nothing in her voice even seemed to suggest an assumption of superiority. All three immediately followed her command, making sure to close the door softly behind them before taking the three seats nearest her, the Hunter and Assassin to her left and the reporter to her right. At some length, she spoke once more.
"My employee has told me you require records from our company. Of course, such an action is quite the offense to our company policy, even for a reporter such as yourself."
"Of course. We are aware of this, Ms. Halvdel." Her attention moved to Anrias, who cleared his throat. "An acquaintance of mine has been wrongly imprisoned for possession of poached animals he had no knowledge of. As of now, the only lead we have been able to find on his supplier is that the creatures were delivered by your company." His eyes gained a pleading look. "I ask you not as a reporter, but as a man. If there is anything you can give to us, it would be generously appreciated."
Francesca studied him for a moment, not even a twitch coming to her face. Then, she spoke callously.
"I'm sorry. There is nothing I can do."
"But you must!" His voice grew more strained. "We have nothing else to go by. We must catch this man."
"You would have me violate one's rights to catch a criminal?" The Nu Mou had to pause at that, and as seconds passed on, he grew more visibly caught off guard. He parted his lips to retaliate, but Cheney intervened, standing from his chair and giving the Viera a hardened stare.
"No, to save a life."
The president gave him a momentary look, and quiet reigned in the room once more. With a sigh, she rose from her chair and walked towards the glass wall, causing the two males to wonder if they had struck some sort of nerve. When she did finally speak, her tone came out even, though it did little to abate their fears.
"There is a file room down the hall that contains most of the paperwork for the past few months. You should be able to find your quarry there." The three all cast glances between each other before Cheney gave an approving nod, and all stood quietly, making their way towards the door. As she heard the doorknob turn, she spoke and the three stopped in their tracks.
"However, let me make something very clear to you. This is a very cutthroat market, gentlemen, and what you are about to do could cost me the trust of my client base, and in turn my company. My competitors would stomp me into the ground in a second if they were to learn what happened here today." She paused only shortly. "That said…should this event ever enter the public eye, Mr. Reporter of the Truth, be sure that I have the resources to crush both you and everything you've ever cherished. Are we understood?"
None of the trio moved a muscle, and Anrias wasn't sure whether to be more frightened at the threat itself or at the intensity in which she recited it. Vili ended up answering reservedly.
"Yes, we are."
She opened the door softly, and they stepped out, making quick strides to the right. Francesca didn't turn around, and sighed after she was sure they left earshot.
"For your sake, I hope so."
(Lowtown, Grazton Pier)
"Alright, kid. Let's see if you have what it takes this time."
Luso Clemens drew in a deep breath through his nostrils to calm his nerves, then narrowed his eyebrows. His focus was completely and wholly drawn towards the target in front of him; unblinking eyes would not so much as wander away from it. A bead of sweat rolled from his hair down the left side of his face. His grip tightened, his arm cocked back, and in the following moments it shot forward.
The white ball spun through the air with an accompanying whizzing before crashing into the pyramid of empty milk bottles. The stacked crumpled under the force, landing with a clang on the table they were positioned on, some rolling down to the wooden floor.
Luso breathed out a sigh of relief just as the stand proprietor discharged a disheartened one of his own. Grudgingly, and on direction from the victorious brunette, he grabbed a plush, yellow stuffed Dreamhare from the top shelf and handed it to one of the boy's companions, a plucky blonde in white robes with two small ears protruding from her head.
"Thanks, Luso. I knew you could get it eventually." Kanin expressed with an attempt at subtle enthusiasm. The Fighter, only having half heard her gratitude, stared with a deadpan expression at their other companion, Vili, who did her best to keep hold of the five similar dolls she had won with little visible effort.
"…Don't mention it…"
"I wouldn't worry about it too much, Luso." Vili stated as the trio began walking. "The bottles were all fixed anyway. You would have won on the first try if it had been a fair contest."The boy managed to find some solace in her words, though it was short lived as he realized that she was still able to succeed the first time regardless. He insightfully gave it no further word, and offered to help her with her prizes, which she accepted.
The small group began to travel deeper into the heart of the Grazton Pier, one of the most beloved and well known of all Grazton's spots of interest. The recently refurbished, third-mile long stretch of raised wood housed many a wonder, and they made sure to partake in all the sights and sounds on their way towards the meeting place with Adelle and Hurdy. The byways were filled with people of all kinds, just like the city's own streets, and confetti swayed back and forth from the displaced wind of their steps. Teams of Moogle Jugglers poured their souls into their trade, balancing and tossing Molotov Cocktails in the air while wheeling around on odd contraptions. Gathered audiences gasped as beastmasters performed dangerous stunts with their tamed Worgens. Strings of colored flags and lights crisscrossed above their heads, from lightpoles, rooftops, or anything else high enough to house them. Most of the illumination originated from the gargantuan, water-powered Ferris wheel the pier was famed for, and the three had to careen their heads back as they drew closer to their meeting point with their two clanmates in the line at its base.
"There you are." Adelle remarked, spotting the three amidst the overbearing crowd. "Come on, it's almost time to get on." She allowed the three to skip in front of her, and she turned around as a woman behind her voiced a grunt of protest. The next cart rolled around, and the girl simply smiled at her. "Sorry, they're with us. Catch the next one." Before the woman could reply, the group of five had already climbed aboard the spacious cart, and the moment its door locked, it lifted up in its familiar circular pattern.
Vili and Luso set down the stuffed toys, and the latter leaned against the back of his seat, letting out an exhausted sigh. The former, along with Hurdy, gazed in wonder as the cabin drew higher into the air, marveling at the sea of lights beneath.
"Grazton is always so beautiful at night." Adelle commented in what to her comrades was a rare moment of serenity. Her eyes gazed upon the ascending flickers of lanterns and lights all across the city. "I always loved coming here when I was little."
"It will be sad when we have to leave, kupo." Hurdy added. "Tomorrow's party with the Baron will be our last night. It all just flew by so fast."
"Tomorrow?" Luso's eyebrow rose. "That soon? This is the first I've heard about this."
"Cid told us during your race yesterday." Kanin explained. "Even I have to admit, it is pretty soon."
"Something's not right…" All eyes moved to Adelle, who had hence turned back in her seat, a ponderous look in her eyes. "Grazton's the kind of town that's full of jobs for freelancer clans like us. It makes no sense for us to spend all those weeks traveling here only to stay for a few days." She shifted her focus to Kanin. "And speaking of Cid, is anyone else getting a weird vibe from him?"
"What do you mean?" Luso asked.
"I mean he's just seemed…off ever since we set foot in Grazton. Granted, I've only known him for a little over a month now, but still."
"Maybe he's upset or tired kupo."
"No, it runs much deeper than that." Vili spoke. "Even with my limited knowledge of him, Cid's signs speak for themselves. He is…distraught over something. Fearful, even."
"Cid, afraid?" Luso's voice became slightly more reserved. "It's hard to imagine. He and Ensei are always so confident."
"No one is invincible. Everyone has something they are afraid of, Luso." The Assassin countered solemnly before turning to face the starry, night sky. "The question is…what in this city could affect him so deeply…"
The group grew silent at that, everyone captured by their individual thoughts. Luso faced in the direction of the city, just as the cabin reached the peak of the Ferris wheel's rotation, and stared out at the glimmering lights just as Adelle had before.
"Here you go, sir."
Ensei grabbed the glass of shaved ice from the young woman's hand, and in response placed the required gil coins on the counter. With a hand in his pocket, he made his way back over to the waiting Cid and Cheney, who stood near a trash can at the middle of pier walkway. With that, the three veered into the flow of pedestrian traffic and began to move down the wooden boards, away from the Ferris wheel.
"Have you already packed up our belongings?" Cid asked of the black haired Hume after a period of silent walking. He nodded.
"Yeah, I managed to get most of it loaded this afternoon."
"Packing up our belongings?" Cheney's eyebrow rose. "What for?"
Ensei continued to face forward, replying. "Oh, I guess you and Vili weren't with us at the time. We're leaving Grazton after tomorrow night."
"Leaving? But why? Did we not just arrive here?"
"This is what Ensei and I have decided is in the best interest of the clan." Cid's impassive voice effectively silenced the Hunter. "We are leaving after tomorrow night. This is final."
"But we can't." The huntsman's voice came out in a strengthened whisper, enough for the three to halt in their steps. "I've found a lead on a poaching operation here. This may be the breakthrough I need to gain information on the main poaching rings. There's no way I could possibly leave when I'm so close."
"You can, and we will." Cid stated darkly after his eyes widened in realization, catching the Hume completely off guard. His form, although unchanged, seemed much more imposing than normal. "Cheney, I will tell you this only once. The advances you've made so far have been trivial at best. You are about to enter the dragon's den, and I assure you that once provoked, she will spare no mercy."
After several, drawn out seconds of silence, Cheney responded just short of a full whisper, his tone more betrayed than angry. "No matter what you say, Cid, this is the goal I have dedicated myself to. I must go, and I will."
"I am a leader, Cheney. I cannot subject my responsibilities to such danger. You will do so alone."
The Hunter cast one last lengthened glance at the Rev's back, who had by now already faced away from him. Without so much as a sigh, the bowman turned away and began taking slow steps away from the other two. Even amidst the overbearing sounds of the activities and people around them, Ensei could clearly hear the young man's feet drawing farther away, as if they were the only three there.
Sometime after that period of complete stillness, Cid looked up at a light pole to the left and took note of the analog clock. "I best head out. It's almost time to meet with Barley." He didn't face Ensei, though it was clear his words were directed towards him. "Make sure to check on everyone after they fall asleep." The katana-wielding warrior remained transfixed, and with that the Revgaji began back towards the main boardwalk.
"Hey Cid." The White Monk stopped immediately, though didn't turn around. His silence prompted Ensei to continue. "Do you need me to come with you?"
"I'll be alright." Was his only reply after a lengthy interval, followed by his last words as he walked off into the night. "I'll be back before morning."
The Rev soon left eyesight, disappearing into the multitudes of people. Ensei continued to stand there, still searching for the man's retreating form. He breathed out a heavy sigh and, after gathering his composure once more, looked up at the Ferris wheel that dominated the pier before beginning the grudging walk towards it.
(High Town, Galleria Jewelers)
Cid arrived in the High Town in relatively good time. What normally would have taken hours by foot was neatly sliced in fractions by the purchase of a gondola ride by one of the city's many vehicles for hire. The Rev had just noticed how much faster the faring seemed to be once most of the area's denizens had turned in for the night, allowing most craft to zoom through the canals at optimal speeds. The water-bound cab docked near the side of the short walkway that gave access through an adjoining staircase to an arching bridge, and with the deposit of a few silver coins in his hand, the gondolier set back down the waterway. Cid pedaled up the stairs, his burlap sack swaying with every step, and took to the right.
No matter how much he'd hate to admit it, Grazton was truly a sight at nighttime, especially the High Town. Candles and sconces brought illumination to the otherwise dark alleyways he was obliged to pass through, giving light to the beautiful fauna that grew out of suspended pots or that covered earthen walls. Moonlight always gave an ethereal shine to the canal water, almost enough to convince one drink from it. Cid definitely knew better.
The Rev soon found himself at his objective after traversing many downward staircases, a lone alley positioned between two rows of adjacent shops. A bridge cut across the middle, casting a dark shadow underneath to which the Monk couldn't peer through. He decided to ignore it upon seeing the familiar form of Barley in front of a door on the left hand side. The Moogle noticed him just as he stopped a few feet away and nervously turned to the much larger being.
At first, Cid was confused by his demeanor. To his recollection, Barley rarely if ever showed any outward uneasiness, and it wasn't until a few moments passed and the old Moogle's voice sounded that he realized the extent of the situation.
"Sorry, Cid. They broke me."
Before the Rev even had time to blink, he immediately grasped that he was surrounded. He turned his head slowly around, so as not to give off any sign of sudden attack, and gathered the sight of his captors that the light of a nearby streetlamp allowed: A Seeq Lanista covered in winding black tattoos stood next to a Bangaa Bishop. To their right, a Viera Assassin, her garbs dyed the darkest blue, stood with arms crossed. Lastly, two forms walked out from the shadow underneath the bridge. The first, a traditional Black Mage with gnarled, wooden rod in hand; the second, a Hume wrapped in the white cloths and robes of the Paladin.
Cid's eyes widened unconsciously as Crow and Raven approached, and the latter did no more than smirk before uttering his words.
"Been a while, hasn't it Cid?"
Cid betrayed! What will become of him?
(End Chapter Forty Six)
Job: Sky Pirate
Hair Color: Sandy Blonde
Eye Color: Brown
Skin/Fur Color: Tan
Likes: Freedom, Adventure
Dislikes: Prisons, Archadia
Final Fantasy XII's leading man. Tempered by his many adventures, Vaan has matured in the intervening years, but he remains spirited and carefree - some might say careless. Now famous sky pirates, he and his partner, Penelo, traverse the lands of Jylland in search of adventure and wealth.
-Vaan's animal during the Tour de Grazton, an Ewohl Flying Fish, was a nod to his fascination with the sky (as a Sky Pirate).
-The Vaan in the story is the same of FFTA2. Considering I did not play Revenant Wings, I'll do my best to allude to past occurrences and keep him somewhat close to character.
Alright, folks. Sorry for the wait on this chapter; I was caught up in some planning and what not for another project, along with the general time consuming nature of college. As stated before, things will really be picking up in this arc from here, so thanks for reading and stay tuned!