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


"Looks like it was a wise decision to follow you after all."

Ewen, Beltorey, and the Viera Assassin tensed at the smooth male voice, and all three's heads snapped around to its source. There, leaned against the doorpost that Ewen previously occupied, stood a tanned skin young man with sandy blonde hair, both eyes and visage holding an unamused quality. The Viera wondered how the boy had even managed to enter the room undetected, and as he moved forward she realized that just like her, his steps lacked sound.

Vaan's right hand unbuttoned the upper portion of his collared shirt and retrieved two daggers from within before dexterously twirling them in his hands. "I'll help you out for now, Beltorey, though keep in mind that my services don't come cheap."

The most reliable pirate in the sky! Two chapters in celebration of the fifty chapter mark!


Vaan

Gun-toting, sword-swinging

Treasure stealing, freedom chasing

That's the way we live

Chapter Fifty: Shakin' Edges, Smokin' Barrels


"Here. Just grab whatever you'll feel comfortable with." Beltorey's guard commander pulled at the door's handle at the same time as he spoke, and Ensei and Adelle filed in to the estate's weapon supply closet. Each of their eyes roamed the cramped space, lined with little more than the simplest of blades and knives, though in honesty they weren't expecting much.

The Parivir spied a simple Iron Blade to the left on the far wall and, not seeing anything else that caught his interest, grabbed it by the handle and snuck it into the belt around his waist. Adelle decided on the weapons most familiar to her, a pair of Kards set on a small table in the corner. She spied a peculiar object on that very table, a worn bag stuffed with an assortment of flash bangs, smoke bombs, flares, and other useful items. Figuring no harm could come from keeping it around, she hoisted the strap over her shoulder so that it ran diagonally across her body, then stepped out to join Ensei and Hurdy, who had acquired a Blueleaf Flute from one of the party's musicians before leaving the dance hall.

"Alright, everyone set?" A unified nod from all came as an answer to his question, and with that the commander started down the interior hallway at a neutral pace, the three keeping stride just behind him.

The quartet slowed down as the sound of slashing swords and male grunts came within earshot, wary of what could lie beyond every door and around every corner. The thought of that supposed sniper didn't ease their vigilant movements either, and whenever they would pass through an area with even the smallest bit of access to the surrounding buildings, their velocity came to gradual crawls.

Slowly but surely, the sounds of battle from the front courtyard drew upon them, and Adelle did her best to give Hurdy reassuring pats and smiles whenever the group would come to a stop. She could tell being in the thick of a battle like this was, for him, a mostly foreign concept, especially with Luso nowhere in sight. The boy seemed to have some sort of calming effect on the Moogle; on everyone really, though she herself would never admit it to him. Maybe that was why he was the first one she had sought out just minutes before in the dance hall.

"Shape up, everyone." The commander's voice snapped the girl out of her thoughts. "The courtyard's past the next hallway."

"What's the plan?" Ensei queried, matching the man's pace so that he was parallel with him.

"Confirming that sniper's position is top priority. Once we find him, someone will have to take him out somehow. Afterwards, we can mop up any stragglers."

"That'll be harder than it sounds." Adelle chimed in. "Unless you have a few surprises for us, none of us have any significant ranged capability. We'll be hard-pressed just trying to get close to him."

"Then we'll have to manage somehow." Ensei responded. "It's not like we have another choice."

Within the minute, the party reached their destination and halted, the commander and Hurdy sticking close to the wall on the left of the two double doors while Ensei and Adelle managed to make it safely across to the other side. All took a few moments to calm themselves, despite the escalating chaos that, from the noise, was sure to lie outside. Ensei's hand found its way to the handle of his blade, drawing it slowly upwards and revealing part of its silver-hued length. Hurdy pursed his lips and placed his flute to them, playing a few quick notes for good measure and ignoring the disturbing thought of blowing into someone else's instrument. Adelle in particular flipped off the heels she had purchased earlier in the day, deciding that her bare feet would provide easier mobility. As much as she regretted tossing them aside, they would do no good if she somehow didn't make it out of this in one piece.

The commander drew his own weapon, a buster sword, its blade glimmering from the chandelier light upon release. Then, with a few hand gestures which Adelle admittedly didn't understand but neverless got the gist of, the four bolted into motion.

…..

"And just who might you be?"

Vaan kept a careful eye on Ewen as a strange mix of apathy and venom fused with his words. He didn't fully comprehend what had signaled his body to watch the man carefully. All he knew was that something had, and he wasn't one to ignore his instincts, especially in the face of a seemingly powerful enemy.

His eyes quickly darted to the Viera Assassin, the grip on her set of knives and position of her feet indicative of her readiness to move should the need arise. He made sure to keep any threatening gestures at bay for now. It was highly unlikely that he'd be able to take them both on at once; he knew that much, but there was no chance that he'd let them get away scot-free. "Just a wandering Sky Pirate looking to loot the Baron. Same question for you."

"None of your concern."

The moment the dirty blonde had spoken, the Viera shot forward, knives bared and eyes cold, unflinching. Vaan brought his own up, blocking her first stab at the left side of his neck and parrying the next at the center of his abdomen. With both of their arms knocked away, the blonde brought his leg up for a swift shot at her exposed chin. The Assassin's quick reflexes were the only thing that allowed her to lean backwards in time, his heel swiping by just by a hair's breadth.

That moment, that single instant where she was slightly off-balance, gave Vaan the opportunity he needed to steal the upper hand. He stepped forward, cocking that same leg back as he spun into a tight pirouette, and delivered a swift, straight leg kick at her sternum. Even managing to bring her arms back up in time to block the brunt of the damage wasn't enough to kill the thrust that sent her flying across the room. She hit a canopy beam of the Baron's bed, its polished wood cracking on impact and her knives clattering onto the floor beside her.

"Sorry, that answer doesn't sit with me." Vaan lowered his leg as he directed a smirk towards Ewen. "Try that one more time."

"Good effort, though you're not in a position to be making demands of me." As the man responded, his right arm jerked and a small dagger dropped into his hand from under his sleeve.

Vaan, face showing desperation, was already tossing one of his knives to intercept the dagger soaring to Beltorey's position. The weapons collided with a metallic clang, bouncing off each other onto the floor, far from the Baron's vicinity. As the elder teen reared his arm back from the pitch, his gaze trailed to the direction he had kicked the man's underling. Two knives lay in the same position they had fallen, though their wielder had mysteriously vanis—

Vaan immediately ducked into a half crouch, taking no time to analyze the situation further. Looking upwards, his eyes caught the near untraceable flicker of a chop swiping horizontally over him, and he could tell that his neck would have suffered a nasty wound had he not dodged. The Viera gave him no time to congratulate himself, however, as a horizontal kick seamlessly accompanied her momentum and bashed into the side of his head, sending him skidding across the floor before the nearby wall terminated his slide.

"Never take your eyes off the enemy, boy. Not even to save a comrade." Ewen remarked as the blonde groaned, hand on his now bleeding temple and trying to return to his feet before the next wave of attacks. The Assassin strode to him, catching his throat between her fingers, then hoisted him up and held him in a tight chokehold, turning to face as her commander barked out an order. "We have no need for him. Kill him."

The Viera gave him a sharp nod, and try as he might to struggle, Vaan knew he had no chance against an Assassin in this position. With his back pressed against her chest, he could feel something hard against his vertebrae. He cursed under his breath, realizing it was some sort of body armor, and that it was surely how she retained consciousness after slamming into the bed. Her arm muscles flexed, and she began contracting around him, an airless breath shooting from the boy's throat.

"If he dies, I won't open the safe. I'll take the combination to the grave."

Ewen shot a glare over to Beltorey, and could tell from the look in his eyes that there was no hint of a bluff. "We don't need it. We can do it ourselves."

"Yes you do." The Baron's grin caught Ewen slightly off guard. "I had this safe custom built to withstand nearly any form of punishment. If you could get in the safe by yourself, you would have done so long before tonight. You knew where it was. I'm sure of it."

Both men regarded each other for a few moments, neither breaking their cold stare. At length, Ewen snapped his finger, and the Assassin relaxed her hold just enough to allow air to flow into Vaan's lungs, which he partook of exceedingly, face returning to its normal color after deep successive breaths. The male's hyperventilation soon petered out and gave way to a stagnant silence of which Ewen was the first to break.

"Our only objective is the safe, Beltorey. Both of you will keep your lives as long as we have what's in the safe."

"Is that a promise? I find that hard to believe, considering you deceived me for the better part of a year."

"You have my word. I can give no further assurance than that."

The Barron kept a wary eye on his assailant, searching for any hint of malice or deception in his dark brown eyes. There was none to be found, but his offer would only have short-term benefit for his organization. Letting the Baron live would definitely bring about swift retaliation on his part, and there were only two reasons why he wouldn't fear such action: they were suicidal, or they thought they could take it.

At this point in time, he reasoned that his best shot at coming out the victor was to give them what they wanted. Despite their confidence, you could count on one hand the people powerful enough to stand against a Coronet member, and it was with that bet that the Baron trudged over to his safe and placed a hand to the cool metal of the dial. All looked on as the man speeded through the combination, pausing occasionally to recall numbers but otherwise proceeding without a hitch.

A final left twist of the black knob, and a deep popping sound echoed throughout the room, breaking the quiet that had settled over them. Hinges squeaked as the safe door eased open, the shadows cast by its walls concealing what lay within. Beltorey's hand slowly moved in, and the rustling of papers sounded as he retrieved the fairly thick, soft cover book inside.

"Slide it over."

He hesitated for a moment, but eventually complied with the man's order, setting the manual on the floor and pushing it with his foot. Ewen leaned down to grab it, then skimmed through a few of the front pages. As he did, Beltorey spoke. "There, you have what you came for. Now release the boy and leave."

"Hasty aren't we, Baron." His eyes scanned over a few more pages. "It seems authentic enough, though something just isn't quite right here." From what Vaan could see from his position, various schematics and two dimensional cutaways covered most of every page, followed closely by detailed paragraphs. He moved his head slightly to see more, and just as he did, Ewen closed it, staring cryptically at its cover for a moment. He didn't look up as he continued. "You know as well as we do the consequences of this manual falling into the wrong hands, yet here you are agreeing to our terms."

"What are you implying?"

Ewen's eyes finally rose to meet Beltorey's. "Either this entire manual is a fake, or it's only a fraction of the entire thing."

"Preposterous." The Baron spat back. "I'm no fool to try my hand on an easily recognizable forgery when you hold a hostage."

"We'll see about that." Ewen tucked the manual under his armpit, then began a calm stroll in Beltorey's direction. "Since you were so cooperative, I'll honor the deal and release the boy; however we'll have to take you into captivity. Comply, and no more harm will befall you or any others here."

The raven-haired man's lips parted as if to speak, but he remained silent, giving the man a chilling glare which went purposefully unnoticed by its target. He could see Vaan just on edge of his peripheral vision, the blonde sending him a clear message through a stare of his own. His vision returned to his future captor once more, and with a defeated sigh, he grumbled.

"Fine. I'll go with you."

"Wise decision." The dirty blonde faced the opposite direction and began walking, the Baron regaining composure and following soon after. The sharp snap of Ewen's fingers resounded throughout the room as he passed by his Viera accomplice without stopping, and after a quick nod, she released her hold on Vaan's neck.

The Sky Pirate dropped to the floor upon liberation, knees hitting the carpet with a muffled thud before hands found their way to the remaining knife he had previously dropped. The Assassin immediately picked up on this despite his attempts to remain subtle. His body shot up while at the same time swerving around, knife bared full in his right hand and moving towards her throat. Having lost her own weapons in the boy's previous kick, her corresponding hand flared out with only the hopes that she could catch his wrist in time to prevent a critical blow.

Then suddenly, he halted, momentum slowing down so quickly that it was near undetectable to the untrained eye. The Viera managed to see it however, and after initial confusion noticed that his sight traveled past her to where Ewen and Beltorey stood. She craned her head slowly, only to find her superior's hand clenched around the man's neck, and his tone was just as firm as his grip. "The Baron right now is only a convenience, not a necessity. One move; just one and I'll kill him. "

The Assassin backed away after a few minutes of stationary silence, watching the Hume for any semblance of retaliatory action. Ewen released his grip on Beltorey, the man gasping for breath before being caught by the Viera in the same headlock she had restricted Vaan with. The duo and their captive moved forward as Vaan lowered his arms, a scowl stretching across his face as he realized there was nothing else he could do.

"A shame, Belmont." Ewen's head shot forward and Vaan's eyes traveled past the departing duo towards the voice's source near the end of the hallway. A whirl of deep black hair was all he could see, though that was all it took for him to recognize the newcomer. "I hadn't taken you as the type to leave a party unattended."

"Al-Cid, get out of here! What are you doing?" The Baron barked out, voice a sharp swirl of concern and anger.

"Another intruder?" Ewen asked, less than pleased, another dagger falling from his sleeve and into his grip. "I suppose I'll have to kill you now. Can't have too many witnesses, now can I?"

"You throw threats around quite easily." A grim stare came to the Rozarrian's face, eyes cold enough to send an unnoticed chill up Ewen's spine. "It would do you well to reign in that tongue. If any peril should befall me, House Margrace would no doubt be swift in retribution."

A heavy silence fell, both men staring each other down. After some time, Ewen broke their lock, strolling over to the interior wall and regarding the landscape painting swathed over its canvas. As he gazed upon it, running a hand over its frame, he responded. "A Margrace, huh? Unfortunately, I haven't the time nor will to deal with Rozarrian nobility."

Before Al-Cid could register what had happened, the painting that the man had touched just seconds ago whipped through the air towards the window on the other side. The glass shattered into innumerable shards, some landing on the floor though most spraying into the thick, winding tree just outside. A sharp snapping noise sounded out, presumably Ewen's finger, and as the prince gathered his breath to yell, the two assailants leaped through the newly created opening, the Baron struggling in the Viera's hold.

Vaan darted to the window, arriving just moments after Al-Cid, and looked out into the nearly black void. Straining, they could just two silhouettes beginning a leap from a branch on the far side. Considering the width of the tree and how fast they must have been moving to achieve that distance so soon, the two that any further chase would be fruitless.

"They used us as hostages against each other." Vaan whispered crossly, his fist pounding once on the window seal. "I couldn't fight and protect the Baron at the same time."

"There is no reason to dwell on failure." The royal placed a comforting palm on the Sky Pirate's shoulder. "We must warn the others for now. Hope has not yet been lost."

…..

Two seconds into their headlong sprint towards the center fountain, Adelle's most basic sympathetic impulses went off and her eyes shot forward to a few of the buildings past the courtyard wall. It would be a split second later that she fully understood what set her off, the same moment a strange whizzing sound preceded a powerful grunt from Ensei, the dark haired man stumbling in his steps before falling to the ground.

"The sniper's live!" Ensei called out, already muscling through the damage and leaping back to his feet. However, a strange sensation began to wash over him, and for some reason he could feel his body temperature rise almost instantly. Before he grasped what was happening, he found his hand moving towards the hilt of his blade. Adelle, who had stopped to help him after ordering the commander and Hurdy to find cover, noticed this immediately and became confused after the Parivir's eyes locked onto her, void of life and gaining a pinkish tinge as the moments sped along.

Her attention was diverted as a second impulse ripped through her spine. On instinct, just as Ensei's blade was halfway drawn, she charged him, wrapping her arms around his torso and tackling him to the ground. She could hear that whizzing sound once more, then suddenly a sharp pain exploded on her left shoulder blade. Her head arched back as a strained cry escaped her mouth, a cry soon quashed by the need to get herself and Ensei to safety. As she dragged him, the man began to recover from her tackle and stood to his feet with her assistance, both making a jog to the safe spot behind the fountain where the commander and Hurdy awaited their arrival.

"You two alright?"

"He got me in the shin, but otherwise I'm fine." The Parivir's attention traveled downward to his right leg, the width of the fountain providing enough cover against the sniper's assumed vantage point for them to relax. A thin trail of blood leaked from the darkened impact site, where a bullet lay lodged in his skin, but otherwise the wound was nothing serious, the same proving true of Adelle's shoulder blade.

The commander took advantage of the pause in combat to scan their surroundings while Hurdy removed the bullets on each of his two clan mates and checked for further complications. The grounds lay completely silent other than the conversation of his group, and impressed upon him exactly the scale of battle that had taken place during the initial attack. A number of still bodies laid strewn about the courtyard, nearly every one of them a man that reported to him on a daily basis. He winced upon spying a few with swords sprouting from the abdomens, and could only mutter a hushed curse at the sight. He was glad to see that his men were able to take out a few attackers, as evidenced by the couple Hume and Moogle thieves dotting the grass every once in a while. He didn't recognize any of them from the initial attack, though assumed they were most likely a small follow-up wave.

"I think I understand what happened, commander." Ensei began to explain, opening his closed fist while the man brought his attention around. The bullet he had pulled out lay in his palm, covered in the blood from Ensei's leg from which he had retrieved it. "Our sniper up there is using charm bullets. I've been hit by a few in my past, so I knew the moment I started feeling the effects."

"So that's what it was. He must have been using them on my men."

"Where did this guy get charm bullets from?" Adelle asked, flabbergasted. "Didn't the JDP outlaw their production a few years ago after the Goug Consortium incident?"

"There's a black market for everything." Ensei answered, flicking the metallic piece away. "Regardless, he has them, and we have to deal with them fast."

"What about your Moogle?" The commander suggested. "You asked him to come along to dispel the hold on my guards. Couldn't his playing prevent the charm from having an effect?"

"That was before I knew it was a charm bullet. They embed themselves in your skin and pump in a hallucinogen-like compound. It would just continuously override the music unless we physically remove the bullet. There has to be something else we can do." The blade-wielding warrior's eyes traveled downward to the stone beneath, fixing a hand to his chin. Then suddenly, a curious look came to his face, and he directed it towards Adelle. "Wait, weren't you shot also?"

"Yeah, why wasn't Adelle charmed, kupo?"

"I…have no idea…" The girl wondered herself. "Strange things have been happening to me ever since I came here. I don't know where any of it is coming from."

Ensei's eyebrow rose. "Strange things?"

"It's hard to explain, but I kept getting…premonitions during the party, like something bad was about to happen. Just now, even, I got another one right before you were shot in the leg."

Her answer made the Parivir pause, and he stared incredulously at her for a few moments. Then, he shook his head and moved towards the side of the statue, leaning his head until he could just see the buildings across the street without moving out from the fountain's protection. All was quiet and still, though he was willing to bet the sniper hadn't changed position after his previous shots.

"Adelle." The girl, like the others, had already been looking at him before he spoke. "I think we might have a shot at rushing that sniper if what you're telling me is true. I'll need your help."

A light breeze blew about the shingled rooftops near the Beltorey chateau, ruffling the two scarves wrapped around the base of a certain Moogle Fusilier's neck and causing his pompom to sway about with the draft. His eyes remained completely focused; he wasn't about to let that or the mysterious creaking of the roof distract him for even a fraction of a second from his current quarry.

His rifle, its pitch black form barely visible in the dark night, rested comfortably in his paws, one finger not daring to leave its place on the trigger. Its barrel stayed transfixed on the fountain at the courtyard's center as it had done so for the past ten minutes. The four figures he had spotted had not moved since that initial charge from the front door, and their silence had tipped him off that his charm shot had been effectively negated by one of them. He reasoned they were obviously plotting something, either awaiting reinforcements or devising a plan to come at his position, but from this location it was impossible to see anything behind the fountain.

The Moogle moved his trained eye from the scope, sighing once, then briefly considered the merits of moving to another nearby roof. If he moved now, he might be able to take them by surprise from the side before they even acted. Though there was also the chance that they would move during his relocation, reaching a closer vantage point before he'd manage to get off another clear shot. He discarded the idea soon enough. If anything they were probably waiting for him to lose focus. He would wait for them to make the first move, then pick them off as needed, and with that renewed sense of dedication, he moved his eye back into his scope.

His choice paid off almost immediately as within seconds a figure leaped to either side of the fountain, beginning a dash before curving back around and bolting towards the front gate. The gunner immediately picked up what was happening and was already popping off a shot in hopes of preventing them from reaching the courtyard wall. His bullet soared towards Adelle, her silver hair making her an easier target to follow through the scope lens. In addition to that, the black haired Hume was moving nearly twice as fast as she was, and if he had seen correctly, the girl went unaffected by the charm shot he had planted in her shoulder blade prior. He had heard of a resistance to certain conditions, whether by innate ability or artifact, and he was determined to confirm her status upon a second helping.

At the exact moment his rifle went off, however, the female had forcibly jerked her body horizontally without breaking stride, causing his eyes to widen in disbelief. It was already too late to readjust the shot by that point, and he quickly fumbled to insert another bullet as the shot collided with the grass to her left.

By the time he had prepared his rifle for another shot, Ensei had made it to the wall, effectively out of his range. The girl still had a few yards left, but instead of singling her out, he decided to hold his fire and stock up on three more bullets. Wasting that shot here could give them time during the reload to make it past the gate and into the cover of the buildings on the other side, and if that evasion maneuver she had just performed was any indication, it would be a wasted shot indeed.

Speaking of that dodge, it was completely nonsensical. In order to pull that off, she would have had to have been moving near the same time that he pulled the trigger, which would in turn require for her to have been able to see him doing just that. They were much closer now, but at that point in time he was sure that he was out of their sight range. Adding in the time of evening, and the prowess of sight required for that feat seemed nigh impossible. He was sure there was some trick to that stunt.

A heavy cloud of grayish smog erupted at the front gate, unfortunately depriving him of the time to figure out her ruse. His barrel trained itself on that entrance immediately, then he waited. Visibility was completely obscured by its smoke, which began to spread out over the canal water in front of the gate, but from here he could hear the creaking of its iron, and it was enough for him to warrant taking another shot. A sharp clang resounded a split second later, and he understood that he had missed. This time, he would wait until he had a clear target.

His chance came. A figure, the raven-haired male, emerged from the cloud and made a bee line towards his position. He didn't even bother to look for the girl, especially if she would be a waste of bullets. The man's eyes locked onto the Moogle's position as his barrel returned the favor. Then, the gun went off, just as the man threw himself into a tight roll to his left. The bullet flattened itself against the cobbled sidewalk. As the man recovered from the maneuver, the Moogle was already bringing his rifle over to fire again. A sharp whizzing followed the light recoil, and the Gunner's lips curved into a smile as he heard the resulting grunt of pain.

This satisfaction was soon outlived though. Quickly losing himself to the bullet's sway, Ensei caught sight of a ritzy ground level bakery, and jumped towards its polished front window with reckless abandon. The Fusilier was initially surprised by this action, though as realization reared he cursed under his breath. The shock of crashing through the glass would surely be long enough to distract his mind, at least to pull out the bullet.

Glass shards clattering against the shop floor preceded a second lull in the action, which lasted for a shorter period than the previous one had. The Moogle took time to retrieve a few more bullets from the pouch at his side, though kept his eyes firm on the bakery's second story balcony. If anything, the man would act from that point. Admittedly and unfortunately, he had lost sight of the girl, though, and he could only guess at what she had in store for him.

Unexpectedly, there was movement on the ivy-covered balcony, and without heed he cocked the bolt of his rifle while moving it around. A split-second reflex kept him from squeezing the trigger the rest of the way. He had almost fired upon the makeshift white flag sticking out from the balcony door, a simple broom and a smudged white washcloth no doubt from the shop below. He sighed once, wondering since when had he become so used to pulling the trigger before bothering to analyze a situation.

Steeling his face once more, his voice was hard as he spoke, as far as a Moogle's naturally high pitch could muster. "Come out slowly, kupo. Hands and weapons high, where I can see them." The man moved according to his orders, blade gripped overhead in one hand and a strange canister in the other. The Gunner didn't trust him as it was. After all that effort coming this far, it was strange to surrender so easily, and that canister didn't help to appease his mistrust.

"I give up." The man said in a languid manner. "The moment I jumped into the bakery, I was cornered."

"I don't need your explanations, kupo. Just answer my questions. Where's the girl? What's she planning?"

"She's still behind the courtyard gate." He timely responded. "I told her I'd take you myself."

The Fusilier watched him for a few more seconds, failing to see any hint of nervousness or the like in his face, then shifted his eyes over to the gate. The smokescreen billowing from its center was just now beginning to recede, but it was still far from visible enough to confirm the Parivir's statement. He turned back to the man, and just as he was about to speak, a voice began to emit from the Whisperweed strand nestled in his ear.

"All units fall back. We secured the blueprints, and were forced to kidnap the Baron as well. I repeat, all units fall—"

He stopped listening at that point, and despite the feeling of relief washing over him, he could not bring himself to even grace a smile. His full attention returned to Ensei, who had not yet moved from his spot. "Alright, listen up, kupo. You can't reach me, and you know I won't be able to kill you with my gun, so here's the deal. I can pump you with so many charm bullets that no amount of pain will snap you out of the charm state, or you can drop your weapons and walk back to the Beltorey Manse." A near empty bluff on his part, but what the Parivir didn't know could save them both. "Your choice, kupo."

"That last one sounded more ethical." The Hume responded with a joking chuckle. "So I just drop my weapons and walk back?"

"Right, kupo. Drop them right now, and walk."

A few seconds passed of complete silence, then a wolfish grin came to Ensei Rou's face. "Well since you insist…"

The Parivir's thumb flicked the top piece of the canister so hard that it broke off, and the Moogle's eyes could only widened as it plummeted to the ground. Pure, unfiltered light burst forth in every conceivable direction, leaping straight into his eyes which had been so closely studying the Hume. The shock of the action caused his finger to pull on the trigger as he reeled backwards in agony, hands soon finding their way to his assaulted pupils and balance momentarily lost. He could hear the muffled sound of someone shouting out an order, presumably the Hume, though he could not understand any of the words.

For the next few moments, everything was white, as if staring out into a raging blizzard. Blinking his eyes repeatedly did seem to soothe the otherwise searing pain, if not only a fraction of it, and it would be five seconds later that his vision would gradually return. As his eyes began their recovery, he found himself facing the direction to the northeast of his position, atop the roof of the same bakery.

He quickly scrambled to bring his rifle around, ignoring that the fullness of his sight hadn't returned. A sole figure stood on that roof, wet silver hair and soaked dress clinging to her petite frame. Some sort of thick, pistol-shaped object in her hands, but he didn't waste time analyzing it. His gun went off twice a second after hers, and a sparkling red mass hurtled towards his position.

Moving solely on reflexes, he jumped up and off the side of his own roof just as the flare exploded, sending sparks out like elaborate fireworks. Wind caught beneath his bat-like wings in no time and all, and his precarious fall morphed into a haggard glide down to the canal surface. He looked up just in time to see the girl gripping her shoulder, apparently not having the time to dodge either bullet. He was sure that would be enough to charm her.

"Where do you think you're going?"

His head whipped over to the balcony right before he passed it, spotting the male Hume with blade drawn and reared back. A silver glow radiated from every inch of its length, and a look of horror crossed the Moogle's face. At the cost of ruining his stable glide, he rotated his body to bring his rifle around for a shot at the man, but by that point it was already too late.

The compressed wave of Aura rushed forward from the Parivir's swipe in the form of a crescent, the Air Render smacking into the Gunner. His light body was completely overwhelmed by the power of the attack, and its force slammed his back against a building on the far side. The air flew out of his lungs on impact, eyes rolling back into his head. Then, his body peeled off from the collision site and he fell, excess Mist trailing behind his descending form before plunging into the canal below.

Ensei resheathed his blade into his belt, then looked over the balcony banister. The black wood along Moogle's rifle allowed it to float on the surface, but his body began to sink underneath the water. Without hesitation, the Parivir dove in, swimming over to the ripples on the surface. Adelle looked down from her position on the roof, watching as Ensei emerged a few seconds later with the Moogle's limp body in tow, then sunk to her knees in relief.

….

"You guys got him. Great." The commander declared in high spirits, coming out from behind the fountain with an equally ecstatic Hurdy.

Ensei and Adelle walked side by side through the courtyard gate into the area proper, both soaked to the bone with the occasional bleeding wound in a leg or shoulder. The Gunner's body lay thrown over the Parivir's right shoulder, equally as wet and coughing every few seconds though clearly still alive.

As the group gathered around, Ensei set the Moogle's back onto the ground, then took a seat beside him. The Fusilier coughed a few more times, then craned his head over to the silver haired girl, a small smirk on his face. "When did you get up on that roof?"

"The smoke bomb by the gate." She responded, unconsciously gripping the wound on her shoulder. "After Ensei rushed through, I dove into the water and worked my way through the alleyways, then climbed a fire escape on the outside."

"Who are you, what are you doing here, and what was the real purpose of this attack?" The Hume asked, not even bothering to recognize the Moogle's appreciation. In response, he looked up at the night sky for brief period, considering something, then began to speak.

"The name's Barley. As for who I work for, I shouldn't tell you here. There could still be others around." He reached up and plucked the Whisperweed from his ear. "I'm not sure why, but my superior said a while ago that he was forced to kidnap Beltorey."

"The Baron was kidnapped?" The commander exclaimed breathlessly. "Where? Where did you take him?"

"I'm sure the JDP is on their way here after all the commotion we caused." The Moogle replied instead. "If you can keep me from getting arrested by them, I'll be willing to tell you everything I know." The commander gritted his teeth, staring at the furry creature with disdain.

"Fine." He turned to Ensei. "I'll alter the story a bit for when the JDP get here. Ensei, take your clan and get the Moogle out of here for now. I'll meet up with you later tonight, then we can all decide on our next course of action."

"Alright." The man's eyes shifted to Adelle and Hurdy. "I'll go ahead and bring this guy to the hotel. Find the rest of the clan and tell them to meet us there. Bring the Sky Pirates too. We're going to need all the help we can get."

A battle far from over…


(End Chapter Fifty)

Alright, so longer chapter this time around. Hopefully it was alright. Chapter fifty one will be posted within literally twelve hours of this chapter, if not shorter. As always, if anything didn't make sense, it will most likely be touched on or explained later.

I fiddled around with the Fusilier job a bit, as you can tell. In game, their shots didn't do too much damage, and having actual lethal guns so readily available made swords and bows seem starkly out of place. The gun's power was toned down to the point where bullets only break the skin and have about the same effect of a real-life gunman using rubber bullets. Also, as I wanted to remove any semblance of magic from that particular job, so charmshot and confuseshot were changed to administer hallucinogenic compounds. Other Fusilier abilities will be altered in similar ways.

That should be about it for now, unless I forgot something. Until next time!