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
Also, a quick thanks to ZemyxDexion for creating a fan art of Crow for the story. Any who'd like to check it out can visit her profile (Wind-Bandit) on Deviantart
"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?"
Is a terrible thing to shoulder
Chapter Forty Seven: Night Without Melodies
There was only silence in the few elongated moments after Raven's words. Cid simply stood motionless without a sound, eyes now locked on the empty space just above Barley's head and retracted from their widened state. The streetlamp in close proximity gave just enough illumination to show the right half of his face, which had now curved into a smirk. Seeing this, the Paladin made a gesture for everyone to halt their gradual advance and as he did, the Rev began chuckling to himself loud enough for his assailants to hear.
At length, the laughter died down into extended breaths, and the White Monk finally issued words from his mouth. "Yes it has. Then again, last time we met you killed one of my friend's comrades." Immediately, his voice became cold and threatening, laced with murderous intent. "You're lucky I don't kill you where you stand."
The other placed a hand within grabbing distance of their respective weapons, though the Paladin made no defensive move at the man's words, instead leisurely walking forward. "It takes more than strength for a beast to slay a bird, Cid. You and I both know any retaliation will result in your death."
"Not that you're planning to let me leave alive."
"You know us too well." He admitted with a chuckle. "Seeing as you understand your imminent demise, it'd be easier if you just hand over the stone." The Hume's face adopted a sinister grin, and he licked his lips. "I have a thing against prying from cold, dead hands."
Cid looked down and chuckled once more. "As much as I care for your preferences, I'm afraid I've misplaced the stone."
"Don't toy with us, Revgaji." The Lanista stepped forward and leveled a piercing stare at the Clan Gully leader. "We got no time to be playin' games."
"Who's playing games?" He answered back rhetorically. "I must have forgotten to grab it before I came. Feel free to search me if you want." Just as the Rev raised his bulging arms into the air, Raven sent a nod to Crow and the spellcaster warily made his way over. A quick inspection followed suit, and the mage could only shake his head after the Paladin sent a questioning look his way.
"So you really don't have it…" The sinister smile that had so far dominated Raven's features disappeared in an instant, replaced by an un-amused scowl and narrowed eyes full of concentrated malice. Even Cid found himself transfixed by the gaze, more particularly as the man's sclera began to take on a shade of solid black, irises a deeper gold than Adelle's own.
The Paladin took a step, then another, keeping a slow pace while gradually drawing his Knightsword from its sheath. Then, all of a sudden, he stopped, just as Crow called out to him. "Calm yourself, Raven."
"You dare to give me orders, pawn?" His voice was low, containing a ravenous, unearthly tone quite different from what it had been only seconds ago. It was as if two separate voices spoke simultaneously, and the Black Mage honestly had no clue as to the other's identity.
"Of c-course not." The spellcaster did his best to keep his words even. "But I cannot allow you to eliminate him. Not when we could use him as a bargaining chip." At his words, Raven seemed to begin at calming down after a period of stillness. His normal eye color returned with as much haste as it had vanished, though the mage still found himself wondering what exactly had just transpired. Either way, upon seeing the man in a stable condition, he finished. "His clan would no doubt offer the stone in exchange for his safe return."
A brief silence emerged, mixing in with the stillness of the midnight hour. Finally, Raven resheathed his SavetheQueen in a quick flourish and spun around, a small gust causing his cape to billow. "Very well. Restrain him; we return to base."
Following orders, Barley approached Cid, a medium length piece of woven rope in his paws. The Rev begrudgingly held his hands out, completely aware of the futility in trying to mount an escape at this point. The other members began to follow after Raven, though Crow stayed behind, watching as the Moogle slowly began to coil the rope around his wrists.
"How could you have forgotten the magicite?" Barley's whisper lacked the biting edge Cid had expected it to have; rather filled with concern, an odd notion considering the betrayal just moments ago.
"You and I both know I didn't forget that stone." The Rev's voice was even, maintaining a matter-of-fact sort of tone. "I just couldn't let Raven get his hands on it."
His reply threw the Moogle off guard, eyes widened in realization. He resumed his tying motions moments later, anger more prevalent in his whisper. "When did you figure it out…?"
"The moment you asked me to drop by the shop. An appraiser like you would have the tools you need at home. You always were a bad liar. Suppose that's why I trusted you so much."
Barley could only pause, tone now strained. "…If you knew it was a trap…then why did you even show up?"
"If I hadn't, they would have killed you."
At the revelation, the Moogle ceased moving, not being able to meet the Revgaji's eyes. Then, he stepped to the right, continuing until he reached the steps of his appraisal shop. The sound of trickling water solely filled the silence of the night, and Crow kept an uneasy eye on him. At last, he spoke, his back facing towards the Black Mage.
"Can you take him back for me…?"
With that, he tugged on the handle and stepped inside, the oaken door closing with a soft click behind him. Crow watched the door silently for a moment, then turned to Cid, whose expression had not changed since his last words. The mage finally placed a hand on the ropes securing his wrists, leading Cid down the street and into the blackness of the night.
The rain fell continuously, driving into the paved flagstones of a solid Grazton sidewalk. The visual density of the clouds above, an unyielding canopy of grey without a break in sight, suggested a thunderstorm, though not a trace of lightning snaked its way throughout. Only the soft pitter-patter of an early fall shower brought sound to the otherwise empty area he traversed.
His gloved hand found its way to the top of his head, ruffling out the water-logged black strands that couldn't seem to stay out of his line of sight. Not that it was easy to see regardless. The rain's intensity, mixed with a shallow morning fog, seemed to block all attempts at spying anything more than thirty feet ahead. Spillover from the now flooding canal nearby did nothing to assist in travel, which was already labored down by the stuffed, burlap sack hung over his shoulder, filled with a variety of living essentials. Nevertheless, he pressed onward, thankful for purchasing weather-protected boots as they sloshed through the walkway's rising water level.
The words were successful in drawing the dark haired man's attention, and his eyes moved toward the dim alleyway to his right. There, leaned up against overflowing trash can, lay a brown skinned, muscular figure. The golden locks that adorned his head were riddled with the mud that covered most of his lower half. The man's lips parted and his eyes widened. Most of his fitted shirt, particularly around his sternum, was soaked a deep crimson, and the hand gripping his left pectoral gave hint at his affliction.
The man finished his previous sentence, breath labored and voice strained.
"You mind…helping me to a doctor?"
Ensei's eyes snapped open and he shot forward, discarding blanket and sheet from his torso. His bare chest, littered with aged scars, rose and fell with each decreasingly haggard breath he took.
Meanwhile, his eyes scanned the confines of the hotel bedroom. Twin, king sized beds lay over polished oak floors, their headboards pressed against the wall to the left of the exit. Early morning light filtered in through the room's only window, dulled somewhat by the closed scarlet curtains. Piled in the corner was gathering of carnival prizes and stuffed toys; presumably won from the many escapades of the night's trip to the boardwalk. Nothing of note seemed particularly out of place.
He noticed the cold beads of sweat that had emerged from his skin, deciding it was best to partake of the local washroom to prepare himself for the day. As he threw the remainder of the covers from his legs and swiveled, he spied the orderly, vacant bed of his clan's co-leader.
And the single piece of Whitesilver Magicite lying upon it.
He paused for only a few seconds, though to him it seemed an eternity, reading the note penned on a crumpled piece of paper beside it.
Leave while you still can. Don't look for me.
Then, without a word, he made his way to the washroom and began on the morning rituals. To their credit, the hotel held many complementary grooming supplies which the Hume made sure to capitalize on. With that and a quick dip in a fire-magicite heated tub, he threw on his signature outfit, pocketed the mystical jewel left behind, and made for the hallway stairs, katana resting at his left hip.
"Good morning, father." Kanin chimed, watching the man pelt down the staircase into the lobby of the Baybold Hotel. She and the other members of the clan sat positioned around a rectangular, wood hewn table, each engaging in conversation or burying their faces into the free breakfast provided by the establishment.
"Morning." A lengthy yawn preceding a smile accompanied his response as he lovingly ruffled her straightened blonde hair. He grabbed the empty seat to her right.
"Hey, where is Cid?" Luso asked in between mouthfuls of whatever he could fit onto one spoon at a time. "Haven't seen him since he left last night."
Ensei paused at the boy's question for a moment, keeping his face locked in its unconcerned manner. "He left earlier this morning. Said something about getting a head start on preparations for our departure. He'll probably be gone all day."
"That's too bad." Adelle remarked. "He'll miss out on the Baron's party tonight. It's not every day commoners like us get invited to something this ritzy." Her eyes found their way to Vili and Cheney, who sat diagonally across from her. "Speaking of which, are you two coming? The invitation was for the whole clan."
"Beltorey, huh?" Cheney leaned back in his seat, a hand finding his chin. "I don't know what you guys did to get invited to something like this, but you can count me in."
"I…think I'll sit this one out…" Vili's response garnered attention from the entirety of the table, prompting an explanation. She averted her eyes, and behind a blush crept upon her unmasked cheeks. "I'm not used to stuff like this, and I don't even have a dress."
"Oh don't worry about that. We're going shopping for dresses right after breakfast. You can come with us." The silver haired girl countered effortlessly, throwing the Viera off guard.
"No buts." Adelle nodded to Kanin and with a smile both girls stood, walking over to the Assassin and grabbing hold of a bicep. With a heave, they lifted her, heading for the door amidst her continued protests, causing Luso and Hurdy to chuckle under their breath. "There's no telling how long this will take. We'll meet you all at Beltorey's front gate."
"That reminds me." Ensei pondered aloud, turning to the brown haired adolescent. "As much as I'd like to wear this, we'll need something nicer too. You and Hurdy go and get the bag of gil on the counter." With a nod, the Hume and Moogle stood and quickly marched up the stairwell, leaving Ensei and Cheney alone at the table. A silence ensued at that point, filled only by the background hum of the other lobby patrons, a higher class than the general swashbuckling lot that was a common sight in the port city.
At length, Ensei spoke, hands supporting the back of his head, eyes staring off at the wall farthest from him. "About what Cid said last night…"
"It's alright." The Hunter replied evenly, bringing a relieved smile to the Parivir's face before switching for a more confused look. "I'm not angry. Things just got a little heated, but I've since cooled down. "
"Good to hear." Ensei's tone adopted a more somber, reassuring feel. "He understands where you're coming from, Cheney, though ever since St. Galleria…he's done his best to be more cautious. Angering a poaching operation could bring retaliation. If we were a clan of adults, there'd be no question about supporting you, but Cid and I are responsible for the lives of these kids."
"I understand." The Hunter conceded with a sigh after a few moments, standing.
"Of course, if we make good time leaving tonight after the party, Cid could wheel the kids out of Grazton and harm's way for us." The raven-haired man's mouth formed a wolfish grin. "I'm sure you and I could sneak back in and…wreak some havoc."
Cheney's face remained placid before a similar sinister look crossed his face, and with a nod he made his way over to the door. Ensei leaned back in his chair, expelling a heavy, somber sigh and pupils wandering up to the ceiling.
"We're not leaving without you, Cid."
(High Town, Beltorey Manse)
"Are they coming? It's almost time." Luso Clemens asked in slight annoyance. He gestured toward his outfit: black pants and shoes, a white long sleeve collared shirt, and a black vest with embroidering the same scarlet as the red cap he had decided to leave behind at the hotel. His male comrades, all dressed in similar fashions of differing colors, gave him their attention. "We were done in less than thirty minutes. How long does it take to buy a dress?"
"Longer than you'd think." Ensei replied in a joking fashion, though noting the hidden truth within the statement at the recollection of shopping with Kanin. "Relax. I'm sure they'll be here soon."
The two Hume sword wielders, Hurdy, and Cheney all stood outside the grand Beltorey Manse's gate, a wrought iron, gold embroidered work of art that towered over their heads at a staggering eight feet. To its left and right, white brick stretched to their viewpoint's horizon, most likely encompassing the garden within. The boys, Luso particularly, grew slightly more impatient with each invited guest that approached, brandishing letters of admittance and handing them to the four guards stationed to prevent any unwelcome entry.
Hearing forthcoming giggling in the distance, Ensei directed his eyes down the canal that led to the front gate. There, mixed in with other future partygoers, walked the three familiar forms of their female comrades, and as they fully arrived before them, Adelle spoke.
"So, my fine gentlemen. How do we look?"
Eyes shifted firstly to the leading lady. Silky, crimson fabric, adorned with black petal designs, outlined her petite figure before flaring out just above her knees. Hands, covered with formfitting black lacy gloves that reached biceps, held onto a matching folding fan. Her hairstyle was more or less the same, with the addition of lacy rose in place of her usual cat-ear bow.
Ensei could not put into words how beautiful his daughter looked. Her dress was simple and elegant, a white strapless satin that hugged her frame to her waist and loosely billowed downward thereafter, shielding her feet from view.
Behind her stood Vili, and if the men hadn't known any better, they wouldn't have even recognized her. Her garment was much like Kanin's, colored a deep mauve with white lily designs placed strategically throughout. A semi-transparent shawl of the same hue wrapped around her shoulders, fixed together by a flower shaped brooch. Moonlight gave deep luminescence to her curled white hair, of which housed a single violet to complete the flower theme.
Mouths gaped open soon after the quick, silent appraisal of the trio, and Adelle performed a twirl-wink combination while Kanin and Vili both averted their eyes in embarrassment. With that, the group joined the line of waiting entrants at the gate, a quick inspection of their invitation and subsequent nods from the officials allowing them entry.
Luso could already hear the sounds inside the manor as his group began their trek through the manse's private gardens. Neatly trimmed emerald grass blanketed the area's entirety, broken only by stone paved walkways and the occasional stepping stones in the most remote reaches. Shrubbery and flora like the boy had not seen in the city littered the yard, providing varying swathes of color to shatter any semblance of monotony. At its heart sat a large fountain, a shallow pool at least fifteen feet in diameter with a conglomeration of marble angelic statues rising from its center, each one pouring water from his respective mouth or trumpet.
Lastly, on the farthest side from the gate sat the Chateau de Sempreverde, more commonly referred to as the Beltorey Manse. Winding tendrils of flowering ivy snaked their way up the white stonework that comprised the building's walls. The same angels that adorned the fountain dotted the mansion's solid grey roof, precariously perched on the edges or leaning against the many chimneys, as if posing for a painting.
Their short stroll through the grounds brought them to the buildings large open double doors, where two male butlers on either side greeted as they and other guests passed into the building proper.
"…W-Whoa…" Was all Luso could say. The sounds of glasses and light conversation washed over them as they entered, much louder than what he had been able to hear from the garden. Green and gold seemed to be the prevailing colors of choice, as evidenced by the wall designs and elaborate chandeliers that hung from the ceiling. A quintet of Moogles and Nu Mou provided background music from their position on a raised stage in the far left corner. To the musician's left sat a grand staircase which formed into a balcony, a portal to the narrow walkways that comprised the second floor.
"Now this…this is what I'm talking about." Adelle commented ecstatically, Kanin swearing the girl's eyes morphed into gil symbols. She swiveled around to the rest of the group, waving and smiling innocently as she walked away. "Well I'm off to chat up rich, handsome bachelors."
"She never changes, does she?" Ensei remarked aloud with a smirk before stretching out his arms, beginning to move right at a diagonal. "If you need me, I'll be over by the buffet stealing tomorrow's dinner."
Luso, Kanin, Cheney, and Hurdy all stared blankly at his retreating form. "You're no better than she is…"
"Guess we'll split up from here." Cheney said, offering a hand to Vili, who only stared at him curiously. "Shall we dance?"
"Oh no. I couldn't d-" The Hunter latched on to her wrist without allowing her to finish, dragging her along towards the center of the room, causing Luso, Hurdy, and Kanin to snicker under their breath.
Following that, Hurdy held out a hand to Kanin in a similar manner after performing a mock bow. "I would be honored to dance with you, Sir Hurdy." She giggled, returning the gesture with a curtsy, then looked over to Luso with a smile. "And you owe me a dance before the night is over, Mr. Clemens."
He sent back a nod of his own, and the Moogle and Feol Viera set out in the same direction as Cheney and Vili. The Hume boy scanned his surroundings for a moment, then shrugged, figuring he could take a walk around until he found something of worth to do.
On his mostly aimless trek, the Fighter took the time to observe the other party patrons. Upwards of two hundred people, all supposedly esteemed guests of monetary or political power, either formed groups to chat or joined partners in sophisticated dances in a reserved space near the gargantuan hall's center. Even from his position near the edge of the room, he could spot the lofty ears of Vili swishing about as Cheney, the most seasoned dancer of the clan, took the lead.
The racial makeup of the attendees was varied, though a notably low number of Bangaa and Seeq persisted, which on further thought was not all surprising. Common consensus proved that the gruff beings were not usually identified as ritzy socialites, further enhanced by the Seeq's fascination of obtaining lustrous trinkets, usually stealing. That was only hearsay to his ears, though. The only portly being he had ever known on a name basis was Sir Loin, and he had rarely displayed such greedy quirks. Then again, it would explain where Adelle inherited her avaricious personality.
Luso was shaken from his internal musings by the sight of four familiar faces standing near one of the thick marble columns that held the second story walkway. The first two were both blondes of different shades, one in a black collared shirt and pants, the other in a navy blue, form-hugging dress that exploded into ruffles right above her knee. Of the latter two, the boy only recognized one face, the benefactor of the party and owner of the mansion, dressed in an unusually light manner for a man of such wealth.
"Ah, Luso. Good to see all of you made it." Baron Beltorey called enthusiastically, gesturing for the boy to join their conversation circle. "I'm sure you already know Vaan and Penelo." After exchanging waves with the two sky pirates, Luso turned the final man just as Beltorey introduced him.
A messy conglomeration of dirty blonde hair adorned the man's head, framing dark brown eyes and the healthy Caucasian complexion of his face. His steadfast poise seemed to match his butler-esque attire, and his eyes always seemed to be moving, constantly vigilant, scanning the makeup of his surroundings.
Personal Assistant and Head Bodyguard of Baron Beltorey: Fasullo
"And this is the leader of my guard division." Beltorey continued. Without a word, the man performed a brief bow out of courtesy, which Luso returned a moment later. "As you can see, he's not much of a talker, though he's the best at what he does."
Vaan smirked, taking a sip from the wine in his hand. "He better be. After all, we're the best at what we do."
"Unable to forgo the temptations of treasures for a night, eh?" The Baron mimicked the young man's gesture. "Feel free to try. I refuse to have the JDP interfere with my gathering, though I won't promise my hired hands will keep their peace."
"Wouldn't have it any other way. What's a treasure you don't work for?"
"Are you sure you should be asking that?" Luso sent him an even stare and Penelo couldn't help but giggle at his statement, earning her a less-than-pleased scowl from her partner in crime. The brown haired boy directed his attention back to the gathering's proprietor. "So what is this party for, Baron sir?"
"A social event, nothing more." He replied in good spirits. "With the palace's festival drawing nearer and the recent addition of St. Galleria into Jylland's fold, I thought it a prime instance to acquaint myself with the various ambassadors that have already arrived." His eyes widened for a moment, and a smile graced his lips. "Speaking of St. Galleria, your clan has been quite the topic since the incident with Vaticus Finch."
"So that was you guys?" Penelo's eyebrow quirked, directing her attention to the boy, who replied with a nod. "I read about that in the papers. What actually happened there?"
"This and that." Luso replied with a lazy shrug. "It'd be boring to go over it all."
"You'll go far with that humility, boy."
The distinct voice surprised him, causing him to twitch. Slowly, he turned around towards its source as did the other assembled group members.
She was beautiful in the purest sense of the word. Porcelain skin gained a sort of luminescence under the chandelier light. The glow of a nearby sconce danced within the confines of her cerulean eyes, enclosed by cropped, shoulder length locks of an even deeper blue. A plum-hued dress, embroidered with various white, elaborate swirls, hugged her lithe frame. She walked with a certain air of pride, higher than commoners but lacking the pompous ambiance of nobility; rather, she exuded one feeling and one feeling only.
Power. Absolute power.
Head of the Highwind Shipwright Company and Carm Mercantile: Illua von Zoldycke
A mysterious woman approaches Luso…
Wow, it really has been this long. College really does drain time I could spend on writing. Apologies on the admittedly long wait. Anyway, I'm beginning the next chapter the moment this is posted, so hopefully it will be updated soon.
Next few chapters will be very influential, so don't miss them!