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"= Yelling

(Blah)= scene change


A single Moogle Gunner stalked through one of the more desolate alleyways of the Grazton High Town, keeping eyes peeled for any source of life. The solid black rifle slung over his shoulder blended into the bleak shadows the moon's luminescence created, and his worn, earthen clothing proved a match for beige stones that comprised most of the buildings around him. Two scarves, one scarlet and the other a deep cobalt, rested around his neck, ruffling under the slight breezes that would occasionally pass through the alley.

He located his quarry within moments, a metal drainage pipe that cascaded down the side of the building from the roof. Giving a last skim of his surroundings, he began at the pipe, using the metal fasteners that secured it to the wall as makeshift ladder rungs. It was times like these that he was glad to be a Moogle; the clasps holding this duct together would no doubt buckle under the weight of any other race.

Upon his ascent, he moved quickly, hugging the edge of the roof before plopping down behind a thick chimney sprouting from the shingled rooftop. It was at that moment that the strand of Whisperweed nestled around his ear projected a hushed female voice from its opening.

"This is Shadow. Roof is free of hostiles. What's everyone's position and status?"

"Dazzle and Null. Four guards in the main foyer. Nothing we can't handle."

"Good. What about your end, Gatekeeper?"

The pompom sporting gunman dug his paw into the faded, leather satchel at his side, retrieving a handful of pink-tipped bullets and slipping one into his rifle's opening. Then, after a quick calming breath, he raised himself and began to bolt up the roof towards the top, keeping his steps as quiet as possible. Once at the apex, he looked over the parapet, spying the main gate of the Beltorey Manse a good fifty to fifty-five yards away. Four guards stood at attention, two with swords, one with a polearm, the last with a bow, and all with vigilant eyes.

After placing the weapon on the roof, he responded, speaking into the tipped, leafy strand that curled down near the side of his mouth. "Gatekeeper reporting. Four at the gate, though there may be others patrolling around."

"No problem. The larger commotion you create, the better chance we have. I'll handle stragglers." A quick pause ensued, followed by what seemed to be movement mixed in with the background noise, before the speaker returned. "Alright, then everything's set. Open fire when you are clear."

With that, the conversation ceased and Moogle returned to his onyx rifle. He lifted his left paw, the muzzle of the gun rising accordingly, and leveled its opening towards the far left guardsman. His lungs gathered a deep breath, his muscles tensed, and his mind muttered a small apology as his finger pulled back on the trigger.

The beginning of the longest night!


Baron Beltorey

Deception

Deeper than the earth's core

More abundant than the stars

Shrouded in the veil of the night

Chapter Forty Eight: Night Without Melodies 2 (Dissonance)


The harmonious strums of violins accompanied the bellows of wind instruments and pounding of percussion equipment, filling the manse's dance hall with suitable tunes for its primary purpose. Feet shuffled and dresses twirled around the dance floor as a plethora of esteemed guests moved about, most notably the familiar forms of an elegantly dressed Feol Viera and her dashing Moogle escort.

Kanin was wholly surprised at the Bard's dancing prowess, more because he had never actually mentioned anything about it before. As she expected, his sense of rhythm was phenomenal, most likely a byproduct of his musical lineage. Cheney's dance lessons on the way to Grazton had given her a basic grasp of ballroom dancing, though she had not expected to be tested on that knowledge so soon, and her current partner's moves were all above an intermediate level. It was a struggle to keep up at times, but pleasant enough and she couldn't help but enjoy following his lead, always wondering what move would appear next.

A particular flicker of his paw sent her into a series of spins, each marking a decrease in momentum until she finally came to a graceful stop on the very edge of the dance floor. A number of party patrons began clap lightly at the duo's show, and the White Mage hid her embarrassment in a curtsy.

"Beautiful finish, kupo." Hurdy remarked cheerfully, taking a bow after reaching her position, to which she performed another curtsy in response.

"Only with the help of an excellent dance partner." Her warm smile and comment lifted his already high spirits. "Where did you learn to dance like that anyway?"

"Back in Rabanastre, Penelo would teach me sometimes on breaks or days off from work, though they were few and far between, kupo." As Kanin raised an eyebrow in wonder, he offered further explanation. "Vaan never did like working there, so she would pick up his shift from time to time."

"That explains how you move so well with someone twice your size." She held out a hand to him. "Let's get something to eat. All that dancing made me hungry."

The Bard smiled softly and accepted her request, grasping her delicate palm. The duo weaved in and out of the crowd, some making way for their path, others grumbling as their bodies brushed against each other. So as not to cross any of the more easily offended nobles, they managed to keep up a steady stream of apologies while drawing upon their destination, where they spotted none other than her father, Ensei Rou, sitting at one of the apportioned tables.

Two things dawned upon her as she and Hurdy approached. Firstly, not a single morsel of the food on the plate before him had been touched. That in itself was probably the greatest mystery in her experience. Her parent always finished what was in front of him as soon as he received it, much to the dismay of their finances and several all-you-can-eat establishments of the past. The second was much more subtle though equally as perplexing. His eyes were focused, enraptured by something on the other side of the room, though at her position the masses bodies blocked its form. That was, until part of the crowd unintentionally opened.

Long, ivory hair flowed and swished with the minutest of movements she made. The two, furry ears sprouting from the peak of her white locks only managed to add to the impressive height she commanded, a height swathed in the finest of green linens that comprised her dress. Kanin could only stare at the beauty that was this Viera in a mixture of awe, wonder, and something akin to petrifying terror.

"Are you okay, kupo?" The concerned voice of her Moogle clansmen and subsequent tug of her arm plucked the blonde from her thoughts. "You stopped moving for a second."

The absent look gradually withered from her face, and at length, she responded, lips formed into a reserved smile. "Yeah…yeah I'm alright."

Hurdy watched her carefully for a few moments, then shrugged before joining Ensei at the table, who had by now noticed their presence. As he called over for Kanin to join him, she casted one last glance in the Viera's direction. She wasn't quite sure what had brought about her reaction, though despite the female's beauty and presence, one thing stood out.

The normally Mist-sensitive Kanin could not sense a single particle around her.

Unbeknownst to the blonde, the same eyes that she had just stared at for the longest time gazed back at her, a twinge of uneasiness buried within the confines of their light brown irises surfacing only for a moment. That single instant was easily recognized by the Nu Mou who stood at her side, a playful grin on his face as he looked up to her and spoke.

"Are you not going to go greet them, Lady Francesca?"

She said nothing in response, simply shifting her pupils to his form for a moment, then promptly taking a sip of the wine glass in her hand. The Viera turned around just as silently, making her way into a more populated area of the hall. Coryn followed soon after, though not without eliciting a sigh.

….

Illua von Zoldycke.

Luso Clemens had never heard that name before the Baron had introduced her. He was sure, though, that it would be a name he would not forget for the remaining duration of his life. Everything about her presence screamed power; the kind of power that was implied, not requiring a demonstration to verify its intensity.

Lezaford's Thundrake Gilmunto had forced this terror into his mind on their first encounter, though eventually even it dissipated. This woman subtly planted it deep within his soul, and he was sure it would remain there for quite the longest time.

"A pleasure to meet you, Lady Zoldycke." Penelo's voice drew Luso's attention back from the inner workings of his mind, the boy's eyes watching as the blonde performed a suitable curtsy towards the woman.

"A pleasure indeed." Vaan tacked on, making a small mental note to attend any future Beltorey parties if in any need to barter with the wealthy. "I imagine the head of a shipwright company like yourself should have a few….more affordable airships in your hangars."

She leveled a cool smirk at him. "If you're looking to purchase, I'd be glad to have you visit one of my establishments sometime. Bear in mind that company policy only accepts full down payments from Sky Pirates."

Vaan sipped lightly at his wine, eyes averted to the side and a slightly downtrodden gloom cast over him. "Fair enough…"

"What brings you here, Illua?" Beltorey remarked with a snicker as Fasullo returned with a glass of wine, which he promptly handed to her. "You rarely come to me just for a chat."

"Regardless of your arguably justifiable preconceptions, I merely came to talk. The 'noble' swine of Grazton are much too frivolous company for my tastes." She retorted with a smug look of her own, before her tone took on a serious quality. "I prefer the presence of those more grounded in the hardships of life, those who have had to struggle against the weight of loss." Her eyes shifted back towards Luso, slightly unnerving the boy, though he quickly managed to steel himself. "Such as you…"

"What are you talking about…?" Luso retorted defensively.

"Do not intend to fool me. Your eyes speak clearly what your lips do not." Her tone was calm and near indifferent. "You've lost many things, haven't you boy…"

Attention reallocated onto the chocolate haired fighter, blue eyes angled slightly downward and now dancing with a somber mirth. He quietly began to clench his fist, which earned quirked eyebrows from both Baron Beltorey and the two Rabanastre natives.

"Do not hesitate." Illua's sudden statement caused him to lift his eyes towards her once more. "Your past is who you are, but it is not who you will become. If there are things you have lost, regain them with your own power. Those with power decide their own destiny." Her near monotone, matter-of-fact tone did nothing to hinder the effectiveness of her words. "Remember this well. No matter the events of your story, its end lies in your hands."

Moments of silence passed after she uttered her last words, filled in only by the sound of clanging utensils and background chatter from the partygoers in the distance. At last, he responded quietly, a weak smile playing at his lips and hand scratching the back of his head. "Tha…Thanks."

"Hey, Luso."

His eyes refocused on the source of the voice behind him, a silver haired girl doused with the red and black hues of her dress angled yellow eyes down to the polished floor. To his confusion, Adelle's voice was strangely weak, much more reserved than the confidence it usually projected.

The boy raised a curious eyebrow in response, answered only by a quick grabbing of his upper arm and a borderline audible command from her lips. "Come dance with me."

As she swiftly dragged him off against his vocal protests and confusion, Baron Beltorey and Vaan couldn't help but send each other knowing glances with Penelo throwing in a hushed giggle for good measure. Seconds later, Fasullo's hand flew up to his right ear, where a Whisperweed strand lay wrapped around his auricle, and his stoic composure faded instantly as he processed the words being transferred into his ear. Beltorey and Illua both looked over to him, the first with a perplexed gaze, the second with a calm stare.

"Understood. Contain it as best you can." His curt reply over the communication plant preceded stepping over to his charge, leaning his mouth in close to Beltorey's ear and performing a whisper inaudible to the others gathered around. "We must leave this room. Immediately."

The Baron, not visibly fazed by the man's comment, nodded without question before turning to the three guests around him, a convincing smile on his face. "It seems a minor problem has surfaced that I must attend to. Fear not, I shall return momentarily."

Vaan and Penelo's confused faces otherwise nodded, and with that he departed with purpose, Fasullo maintaining pace with that same vigilant aura around him. The Sky Pirates watched him for a few moments, moving through the crowd before ascending the grand staircase that led into the deeper recesses of the estate.

Pupils performed a quick scan of the room upon his full departure, finally fixing themselves on a duo of guards traversing the space's periphery on the other side of the room. Both walked with haste while mouthing something he couldn't quite make out, though their countenances clearly displayed concern.

"Something's off." The male blonde remarked after some time, voice no higher than a whisper. Penelo didn't face him and her response matched his volume.

"Follow the guards? Keep an eye on Beltorey?"

"Both sound good. We'll split up for now."

The corners of her lips upturned into a smirk. "Sure you can handle yourself?"

"I'll do what I can."

With that the two were already moving as they exchanged a quick high five upon passing the other. Their pace was a purposeful walk, eating up ground as fast as possible without drawing too much attention. The now solitary Illua von Zoldycke eyes shifted between the two, the male heading for the staircase and the female encroaching upon the hall's exit. The blue haired woman merely sipped at her wine for a few more quiet seconds, eyes not directed at any particular thing.

"Do not fail me, Ewen."

"So to what do I owe this dance?" Luso queried sarcastically, managing to keep pace with his golden-eyed partner. His unwilling participation in Cheney's mandatory lessons had given him the basic tools to hold his ground, even more with someone who possessed an identical skill set.

Adelle remained silent at his question just as the music emanating from the hired quintet gradually decreased tempo. It was over the course of the next minute that the boy noticed a greater number of dancing couples decreasing the distance between their bodies, and before he had time to react, the girl's chin was already nuzzled in the crook of his neck. To say this unexpected contact left him uncomfortable was an understatement. In all the soon to be fifteen years of his existence, he couldn't remember being this close to a female for an extended period of time, save his older sister. Moreover, the strange behavior the girl was exhibiting gave him confusion and a slight bit of concern, which he eventually overlooked in favor of enlightening the situation with humor. "Did you run out of rich bachelors already?"

"Actually yes, and they're as jealous as I thought they'd be, but that's not why I brought you over here." He released a sigh at her response, mostly because he hadn't expected to be right and that he could almost feel the piercing gazes on his back from what he believed to be quite a number. Her decreasingly confident tone soon convinced him to adopt a more serious demeanor. "Something…something strange is going on."

"What do you mean?"

She leaned in closer to him, arms firmly encasing his upper torso, which couldn't help but elicit an embarrassed blush from his cheeks. The subtle nervousness in her voice brought his attention away from their close proximity. "I'm not sure. Just…ever since we've been here, I've just been…sensing something."

"Sensing?" Luso was confused, but figured further elaboration would help. "Are we talking magic or aura?"

"No. I can't say it's close to either of those." Her voice devolved into a whisper. "I don't know what's going on right now. Just this morning and afternoon I was fine, then a few minutes after we entered the party, the feeling began."

Their bodies were on an autopilot of sorts, stepping and shifting as necessary without any elaborate flair or flourishes. The boy's eyes traveled beyond her form to the ground a few feet away, moving as needed, before proceeding with further questions. "What exactly are you sensing?"

"It's hard to put in words …." She forcefully moved his body so that his face was directed towards the room's grand staircase, then released her grasp of his midsection, turning to face the same direction. "Up the stairs. Something is definitely happening up there."

….

Belmont Orlandeau Beltorey and his ever watchful guardian Fasullo moved with honed purpose down the ritzy hallways of the Chateau, footsteps muffled by the extensive sapphire carpets that lay overtop darkly stained, cherry wood floors. Bright sconces shared their illumination at intervals, providing visibility that would otherwise be shrouded by the peaceful darkness lying just outside the occasional window. The duo kept conversation between each other nonexistent as they marched, the sandy blonde keeping just ahead his seemingly troubled benefactor, continuously issuing orders over his Whisperweed.

"Exactly what is the situation, Fasullo?" The Baron demanded, causing the man to halt his conversation. "And for that matter, where are you taking me?"

"I apologize, sir." He responded before beginning his explanation, neither breaking stride. "From what I've been able to gather from reports, it seems a small squad of guards near the front gate has begun to indiscriminately attack others within range."

"What? Have they gone mad?"

"It is hard to discern at this point. Magic's influence may have hold upon them. Regardless, I've ordered a few troops from the dance hall to assist with containment." He paused, making a sharp left near the end of the hallway, before continuing onward down its length. At the end of this corridor lay a wooden door with two elaborate, golden B's fixed upon it. Fasullo stepped out of the way, allowing the Baron to place a palm on the handle. "I've deemed it best that you remain in an isolated location for now. Please remain here until the situation is resolved, my lord."

Beltorey reluctantly complied, pushing open the door to his bed chamber. Carpet of the same hue and material as the hallway rugs sheltered every corner of the floor, stopping at ivory walls embellished with all manner of paintings, lanterns and banners. He unceremoniously kicked off his shoes, discharging a groan while shutting the door behind him, before beginning a slow trudge towards the massive canopy bed on the room's far wall.

"I apologize, sir. Your safety must come first, though." Fasullo called out from behind the door. "I will resolve the situation as fast as I can."

Footsteps accompanied the last of his words, growing ever more distant as the seconds passed by. Seeing nothing better to do, Beltorey sat along his bed's side, the piece so high that his feet could not touch the ground. The room garnered an eerie silence in the following minutes. He was frightened, per say, more concerned for the well-being of his guests. Of course, their lives were the primary issue, but one could agree that an injury sustained on those which such influence could have ramifications in future negotiations.

Sometime after this, the Baron calmed himself and moved towards a particular landscape painting, a majestic, sand-weathered town in Jylland's only desert region, the Kthili Sands. He frowned for one near indiscernible second and quickly tucked the discomforting thought away. The raven haired man gave one last glance around the room before reaching out for the edges of the frame. With a heave he took on its weight, then struggled to set it down against the wall.

An empty stare focused on the built in, metal safe that occupied the painting's former space, and flood of memories rushed into his head.

Fine dining. Words never expected to be uttered from the confines of Jylland taverns though all too common a sight for the pubs of Sant D'alsa Bluff. Among other places of similar ilk, it was here at this semi-open air establishment that those who found their way above middle class came to commemorate the fruits of their good fortune, share meals of the highest quality with friends and coworkers of similar stature, or drink away the problems of their personal lives.

It was here amidst the glass tables, metallic walls and floors, the various decorative pools and the waterfalls that were allowed to outlet into them, and civilized prattle that Belmont Orlandeau Beltorey and Alberio Augustus reservedly chatted over their meals.

"Do you still have it?"

Beltorey's eyes moved up from his plate at the professor's words, and he greeted them with humor. "Alberio, I preside over the third largest city in Jylland. I have and deal with many things. You'll have to be more specific."

"You know what I refer to, Belmont." The Nu Mou's voice was subdued, devoid of the cheerful quality it usually held. The Hume released a soft sigh after a few moments of silence.

"Yes. I still have it. Why do you ask?"

There was a momentary pause, and Augustus turned his head upward, placing a comforting hand on the head of his Dreamhare. "This went unpublished in the many newspaper articles of the incident, but a peculiar stone came into Judgemaster Cid's possession following the St. Galleria debacle. Its hue is like none I've ever witnessed before and its power stranger still."

"By stone I assume you refer to Magicite." The Baron cut into the Ewohl lobster occupying his plate and consumed a subsequent bite of the scrumptious flesh underneath.

"Possibly, though it is hard to determine its constitution. I hadn't the time to properly study it." The professor's eyes traveled back down to Beltorey, leveled evenly at the man. "However, two Khamja operatives were sent to retrieve it from Vaticus Finch. I'm sure you've heard of Raven and Crow."

Beltorey dropped his knife immediately, looking up grimly towards the Nu Mou.

"Are you implying that-?"

"I could not think of a better reason for them to send such high ranking members." Auggie's voice grew quiet and he leaned forward slightly. "I do not mean to ruin your pleasant evening, Belmont. In truth, it is only speculation at this point, though if my line of thought is true, you will be their next target. When you return to Grazton, be wary of everyone. You must not allow it to fall into their hands."

A knock on his door snapped the Baron out of his reverie, causing him to shudder at the same moment. Recovering, he made steps towards the entrance, keeping an even, wary pace while occasionally considering the merits of covering the safe with the painting. Eventually this thought won out, and as he backtracked towards his wall mounted kist, he called out.

"Is that you, Fasullo? Do not open the door just yet."

The pounding stopped for the space of two seconds, then before the Baron even had time to react, the crashed inwards, hinges snapping like clothespins. It hit the carpet with a powerful thud, and Beltorey's head whirled around towards the scene.

A darkly dressed Viera, a solid white ponytail pouring down from the dark blue wraps that disguised her head and lower face, stepped in with the practiced movements of a traditional Assassin. One of her two long, thin knives lay gripped between her fingers, the other sheathed in a holster at her waist.

"So you came for me after all, eh?" Beltorey somehow managed a smirk even through the fear evident in his voice. "And on the night of my party, too. Your sense of decency is quite lacking."

"You'll have to forgive us for that."

The Baron's sight traveled past his most immediate attacker toward the door where a Hume-like figure lay at the room's entrance, leaned against its doorframe. Eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat upon recognizing messy, dirty blonde hair and brown irises. "F-F….Fasullo?"

"Actually, the name is Ewen." He spoke through the dark facemask now wrapped around his mouth; words clear despite the distortion of the fabric. "This may come at an inconvenient time for you, but I'm afraid I'll have to resign as your bodyguard now. Prior commitments and all, you know."

The blonde's eyes darted to the Viera Assassin for a moment, then shifted back to him. She began to advance on the Baron, and Beltorey gritted his teeth as the man spoke once more.

"Please forgive us for that too. Timing's never been my forte."

A critical deception!


(End Chapter Forty Eight)

Character Corner

(Belmont Orlandeau Beltorey)

Job: None

Race: Hume

Hair Color: Black

Eye Color: Brown

Skin/Fur Color: Tan

Likes: Peace, Fine Wine

Dislikes: War, Monarchies

(Description)

Head of House Beltorey, Baron of Grazton, and one of the three members of the Coronet, Loar's highest power save the Queen herself. Beltorey is responsible for much of the economic expansion Grazton has seen in the past decade. A jovial, yet careful man, never one to let his position inflate his pride.

'Sustain yourself and your countrymen however you can'; is that not the Grazton way, my friends?"

Baron Beltorey, speaking to a crowd during the Acqua Alta

(Trivia)

-In FFTA2, Beltorey was only mentioned in passing, never actually having a character sprite. This gave me liberty to devise my own interpretations.

-The game also touched on the subject of the Five Lords of Jylland, though never explored the idea past a few of their names and supposed influence. The idea was adapted and elaborated on in this story in the form of the Coronet (Old French for 'Crown'). As to why only three out of the five are a part of this group will be a future plot point.


(Author's Notes)

Phew okay I may be wrong, but that was the fastest I've ever gotten a chapter out, considering that my computer destroyed my jump drive which actually had half this chapter already written on it, so I had to rewrite it. In the end, it turned out for the better I believe.

Anyway, yeah I was going to make this longer, but found this scene was a good stopping point. Next chapter promises explanation on info that may have been confusing this time, plus a little action. We haven't had a fight scene since Vieg Town, if you don't count the Acqua Alta. With school winding down, chapters should be cranked out much more steadily

On a concluding note (because I have to get to class in thirty minutes), thank you guys so much for the feedback last chapter. Six reviews for one chapter is just awesome. I'll definitely make sure not to disappoint. Anyway, kudos to all of you.

P.S. For those who haven't seen it, there's a poll on my profile. Check it out if you wish.