Any beliefs expressed throughout my story are not my own. They are simply unique to the characters and their personalities. Just wish to clarify that.
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy or anything related to it. If I did, FF12 would already be getting a direct PS2 or PS3 sequel. I also don't own any other anime, manga, or game that I take elements or characters from.
"Blah" = talking
"Blah" = thoughts, writing, sound effects, or flashbacks
(Blah)= scene change
"The tunnel's end is just ahead." The guard shouted from his position at the front of the pack, his voice echoing off the walls of the enclosed escape tunnel. Behind him, the numerous bodies of nobles from abroad and within Jylland shuffled along, their footsteps pounding against the stone beneath. Luso, Cheney, and Kanin brought up an area near the back of the line, a comfortable silence between them as each lay enraptured in their own thoughts.
The Hunter's mind couldn't help but wander back to his visit with the Jytras Mercantile president, particularly the helpful information she had provided him with. As he had expected, there had been a shipment whose date and details matched up with Hans's delivery. More than that, he and Anrias were eager to find a second shipment ordered by the same company on the scheduled delivery list coming in tomorrow night, an event he and the Nu Mou had agreed to intercept. Cid's refusal the night before at the pier had put a dent in his plans. After this fiasco was over, he would have to contact Anrias to cancel their arrangement. For some reason, though, he could not shake the feeling that this attack and the poaching operations were somehow linked, and that the clan might be sticking around for longer than they intended.
Luso's eye returned to Kanin multiple times over the space of the escape. He didn't understand why, but the girl seemed…disturbed by something, at least visibly. It was by no means obvious, but after being in the clan this long, he could tell by the look on her face and demeanor of her steps that everything was less than perfect. They had been in plenty of dangerous situations in the past, so he was positive it wasn't this bandit attack. He opened his mouth to speak, and before sound exited, a guard called out once more.
"We've reached the end, ladies and gentlemen." He and his partner, along with a few nobles who didn't mind getting their hands dirty, lifted a thick beam of wood from the latch of two large iron doors. With a unified push, the door's creaked open and the forerunners of the escape party stepped into a high town alleyway, their exit a camouflaged door that blended in with an alley wall. "Thank you for remaining calm."
The line moved forwards, and frightened people formed into groups before departing behind the two guardsmen who volunteered to lead them to the safety of a JDP branch office. The masses began to thin out at this point, leaving only a few stragglers who eventually followed after the guardsmen group, and the three Gully members spread out to encourage others to do the same.
"Please, ma'am. If you follow those men, they'll make sure you're safe." Luso urged with a slight hint of nervousness, approaching a blue haired woman from the side. He flinched slightly as she turned to him, recognizing the woman that had so frightened him just an hour or two before, though made sure she didn't notice.
"Of course." Unlike he had expected, she performed a small, serene bow, then began towards the guardsmen group's direction. "You have my thanks, Luso Clemens. May we meet again during more peaceful times."
She continued walking without pause, and the boy watched her retreating back for a few moments, still not quite sure what to make of this encounter with her or the one before. She was truly and wholly a mystery to him, and true to her parting words, he doubted that it would be their last encounter.
The longest night draws to a close…
On the faraway other end
Lies our salvation and destruction
Chapter Fifty One: Crossing
"Get down! Get do—"
The dull thump of an explosion resounded throughout the area, rumbling the ground and bringing a wince to the small girl's face. From her position behind an overturned mineral cart, her yellow eyes hadn't witnessed the blast or its result, though it was more than obvious the man was beyond saving.
Her body began to shiver from fear rather than cold. The thumps began to grow louder and increased with frequency as her time behind cover trudged forth. Finally throwing caution to the wind, she leaped over the cart, making a reckless sprint for the safety of an alleyway across the sand-blasted street.
No longer in the shade of a colorful overhang, the sun beat down relentlessly in her charge through pockets in the otherwise ash-filled sky. The combined heat was near unbearable, though the haunting shouts from men nearby pushed her tiny body forward at a speed she had never before accomplished. She dove into the alley, her minute frame skidding to a halt over the sun-bleached stone and kicking up dust. A few coughs followed to remove the accidentally inhaled debris, then she pushed her body up.
Suddenly, a heavy boot hit the ground a dozen feet in front of her. Her entire body twitched at the sound, and the next breath caught in her throat. Her eyes traveled upward. A Seeq stood between the two walls of the alleyway, form clearly silhouetted against the sky behind him. A curved, blood-stained knife was grasped in his palm, and she could just make out the maniacal look in his eye and the numerous wounds on his belly, the latter framed by the dirty red and white coat draped over his shoulders.
A horrible deep grunt escaped his maw, and he charged her as the girl leaped to her feet. Her efforts were too late, and struck her down with his free hand, standing over her downed form. He kneeled, and without hesitation his knife shot towards her neck. She screamed.
The silver haired girl's head shot around and her hand followed, fingers erect like a cat's bared claws. Her momentum stopped entirely as a shrill scream returned her to her senses, and her golden irises settled on the now frightened form of Kanin. She immediately brought her hand down, which seemed to at least calm the blonde back to normalcy. "Kanin? What are you doing?"
"Dad said to come wake you up, but when I came in you were just staring out the window." The White Mage responded, a nervous tinge still lingering in her voice. "Is….everything alright?"
Adelle looked at her for a few seconds, then smiled reservedly after taking a deep breath through her nostrils. "Yes. Yes everything's fine."
Kanin sent a weak smile in return, nodded, then exited their hotel room, giving the Hume time to change out of her nightgown before meeting everyone in Ensei and Cid's room. As she did so, her thoughts wandered back to the events of the previous night. She and Hurdy had managed to locate Al-Cid, Vaan, Penelo, and Vili with relative ease, and Luso, Cheney, and Kanin returned to the mansion within the hour. They were met at the back of the grounds, though, as the first signs of the JDP had begun to surface. Without much time to explain, everyone agreed to meet at Clan Gully's hotel the following morning.
Adelle gave one last prolonged glance in the bathroom's full body mirror, then noticed her red ribbon tied around her right upper thigh, having forgotten to remove it the night before. She tied it quickly into her hair after calming down some of the more unruly strands with a brush, then closed the door behind her as she left.
As she entered Ensei's room, everyone tensed up and their eyes came to rest on her. It lasted only for a moment, though, upon recognizing her face, and with that she took a seat next to Kanin and Vili in some of the chairs the group had procured from management.
"Is everyone here?" Everyone seemed to nodded in affirmation at Ensei' question, and with that he proceeded. "Alright, Beltorey's head guard and I have been up most of the night questioning one of the enemy's gunman Adelle and I managed to capture. Right now, he's taking him to get in contact with the attackers through the town's Whisperweed line, so we're just waiting until he returns."
"What have you learned so far from him?" Cheney questioned, the first to speak after the momentary quiet. "It'd at least be nice to know who or what we're up against."
"Basically, the entire attack last night was a diversion; the courtyard battle, charming, everything." The Parivir began to explain. "Their real objective was to steal certain documents from the Baron's private quarters. We weren't able to figure out what those documents were, and for some reason the assailants had to kidnap the Baron himself also, which the Moogle said wasn't part of the original plan." He paused for a second, then continued. "As for who we're up against, he wouldn't give us any names. In the event he returns to the organization, they might kill him for revealing too much as a hostage. He has agreed to help us in any way he is able to, though."
"What is our plan for now?" Vili queried, maid standing poised beside him. "Surely the Moogle knows where our enemy is keeping Beltorey. Could we not inform the JDP of their location?"
"But should we taking that large a risk? If they found out about us contacting the JDP, they might kill off the Baron right there." Vaan countered, voice becoming lower. "I actually fought against the group targeting Beltorey. Trust me when I say they won't hesitate to eliminate the man. The Baron's nothing but a disposable hostage to them."
"Vaan's got a point." Ensei agreed. "I'd rather hold off on something like that until we establish communication."
The conversation came to an effective halt at that point, and within a half hour, Beltorey's commander and his Moogle captive signaled their return to the room with a specified knock. Upon entering, the duo weaved their way around chairs and found their way to the beds, one of which the Gunner stood upon.
"They refused to discuss the details over Whisperweed in fear of being listened in on." Barley began. "Instead, they want a one on one meeting. No tricks or ambushes; just a representative from each side to discuss how the future trade is going to do down. At the least, I was able to get it out of their territory to a pub in Midtown."
"Good. Thank you."
"What are we trading with?" Penelo asked skeptically. "From my knowledge, we haven't got much on our end other than the Moogle."
"That's to be decided tomorrow. We'll meet later tonight on the issue." The Parivir shifted his eyes over towards the commander and the Fusilier. They seemed to hold some sort of hidden message, one that the two picked up on with no trouble. They gestured for everyone outside of Clan Gully to follow them, and led the way out of the room. "For now, I have some business to discuss with my clan." Penelo and Vaan simply shrugged to themselves, and quietly moved along behind Al-Cid and his maid. Ensei waited for a few more moments, and once he was sure all had left earshot, he motioned every one closer, speaking. "There's something all of you should know before we head any deeper into this lion's den. I wasn't entirely truthful with you yesterday morning, and I haven't been since we arrived in Grazton." Puzzled faces prompted him to continue, and he did so after a deep breath. "Cid was kidnapped."
"Cid was what?" Luso proclaimed, near breathless. "What do you mean he was kidnapped?"
"The night at the pier. Cid left to go meet one of his old contacts, and he hasn't returned since." He paused, averting his eyes. "I found out just last night when we interrogated the Moogle. The same people that kidnapped the Baron also have Cid."
"I can't believe this, kupo."
"Why would they even kidnap Cid? Dad what's going on?"
"Hold on one second." Cheney spoke calmly, the others attention drawing upon him. "What did you mean you haven't been truthful with us since we arrived in Grazton? What do we not know, Ensei?"
Holding off on the response, the Hume turned to Vili. "I'm sorry about this. From here on it'll be hard for you to understand, since you just joined recently."
"I'll pick up what I can. Go ahead."
After a reserved nod, he reached inside his pocket, retrieving a small bag tied at its opening with a string, and subsequently revealed the lustrous white jewel within. Eyes widened almost immediately. Luso and Adelle performed a double take, looking at each other to confirm the sight, while the rest of the party eventually settled for stares of confusion. "I'm sure Luso and Adelle recognize this jewel."
"Yeah, that's the one that Vaticus Finch tried to keep from Raven and Crow." Adelle said, voice strangely calm. Only Luso and Ensei noticed the subtle twitch in her voice at the two names. "But how did you get that? I'm sure I saw Maria throw it off the edge of the cathedral."
"The Judgemaster and Professor Augustus searched and found it soon after. For some reason, this jewel is very important to the organization that kidnapped Cid. The Judgemaster asked Cid and I to find out why, and Cid figured the best place to get information on jewels was at Galleria Jewelers in Grazton." He paused, levering himself down onto the bed and keeping his head down. "It was supposed to be a quick and easy job. We weren't planning on staying long. If I had known his contact worked for them, I wouldn't have let him go."
A silence followed, broken only by the sounds of flowing canal water and shuffling pedestrians just below their window on the second story. Kanin's voice was near a whisper. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"It's not that simple."
"How much simpler could it possibly get?" Adelle pressed, slightly on edge and with Kanin's same quiet intensity. "'The Judgemaster gave us a mission to find out about this stone. Be careful when we're in Grazton' seems simple enough to me."
"You don't understand." Ensei's head rose slightly, but his eyes stood fixated on the wooden floor. "This was to protect all of you."
"Well it didn't, Ensei Rou. It didn't, because now our clan leader is just one of our mistakes from being killed." The Parivir didn't have to raise his head to feel the growing fury on her face. He sighed quietly as she continued. He knew what was coming next. "Vaticus and his men nearly killed my father because no one told us about them. Raven and Crow finished the job because we didn't know anything about them. But you actually knew about this, Ensei." Her voice grew slightly more strained. "You knew about this."
Ensei's head sunk into his palms, and he could hear her near silent footsteps just before the hotel door opened, then slammed shut. No one was willing to break the quiet this time; none could find words effective enough to do so. Finally, after an eternity, Kanin stirred. "I'll…I'll go talk to—"
"Don't. I'll handle it later, after she's calmed down." His voice stopped her in her tracks, and he rose up from the bed, trudging towards the door. As he placed a palm on the handle, he heard the squeaking groan of a chair behind him, and the firm voice of Luso Clemens followed suit.
"At least tell us why we couldn't know."
"We'll talk about it another time."
"No, Ensei." The chocolate haired boy shot back in an intense whisper. "Let's talk about this now, because apparently we're not all on the same level in this clan. Despite how you and Cid see us, we aren't just kids anymore. I think we've been through enough so far to prove that."
Another pause ensued, then at length Ensei answered, not turning around. "Luso, Hurdy, Kanin. Have any of you ever killed a human being." Raised eyebrows accompanied his seemingly random question until all shook their heads. Ensei's hand turned the handle, and he stepped out into the hallway. "Then you are still children, and Cid and I will do whatever it takes to keep it that way."
With that, he exited, footsteps growing dimmer the farther he moved away. All five began to look amongst themselves, confusion evident on their faces and a deafening silence still lingering in the air from their leaders words.
(Grazton Wharf, Warehouse Thirteen)
A lonely figure sat atop the lowest ceiling rafters of Warehouse Thirteen, his eyes gazing listlessly out into the row of windows that lined the upper portion of three of the four walls encapsulating the main floor. The moon shone brilliantly through the transparent glass, casting a glow over most of the floor. He always found this one spot, a good thirty feet above ground level, the most comforting area of the warehouse. No one would ever bother with scaling the ladders or attempting the feats of parcour necessary to reach the spot; it was the one the one place here he felt at peace with himself.
Hearing voices below, he looked down past his dangling feet, covered toes a dozen or so feet away from the highest point of the medium-sized, weather beaten airship below, its span pilfering nearly half the floor. Peering, he could just make out two shadows walking side by side, and instantly pinned their identities from their respective voices.
"So Dazzle and Null failed to return." Raven spoke in a contemplating tone. "Do you think they were captured along with Barley?"
"Those two were more committed than most members." Ewen responded. "I trust they won't reveal any information if they were. Rather, I'm more than concerned about the Moogle's loose lips. He doesn't know much, but he's served us long enough to know headquarter locations, layouts, and member abilities."
The Paladin stopped, smirking as the dirty blonde turned to face him. "Gully will most likely use him to barter for Cid. Are we going to make the trade?"
"Yes. I care nothing for the Revgaji's life. We instilled fear within him long ago. He wouldn't reveal anything about us." He paused, facing away from the other Hume. "If you suspect treachery from the Moogle, you have authorization to kill him when he returns."
Raven nodded in confirmation, then performed a sharp snap with his middle finger and thumb. The figure, recognizing the signal, leaped from his seat with a push, plummeting down before landing on the top portion of the airship. As he worked his way over to them through a series of flips and jumps, the moonlight chased the shadows from his form, revealing the blue cloak and wide-brim hat of a Black Mage. He landed in an easy crouch, just feet behind the Paladin, and stood as Raven spoke.
"I've got a task for you, Crow."
(Baybold Hotel, Rooftop)
The evening was cool and calm, with a silent breeze playing upon the surface of her skin every so often. Thousands of gallons of water rushed in the canal some way below her feet, though from her height, it sounded as nothing more than a trickle. Silver hair glittered in the moonlight, near crystalline, and the golden hue of her eyes would have seemed feral if not for the grief buried deep within their hues.
This was how Ensei found Adelle as he eased the rooftop access door open, her form a fragile set against the backdrop of the moon. Below and to her side, the unmistakable form of Luso Clemens sat on the stone floor of the roof, back leaned against ledge she was seated upon so that they face opposite directions. Kanin and Hurdy lay in the same position on the boy's left, both with eyes closed and light snores escaping from them. Cheney and Vili were mysteriously absent, though he didn't pay it much attention.
The squeak of rusted hinges clearly gave away his entrance, but neither made a move at the sound, not even as much as a twitch. Breathing out a sigh, he began to traverse the expanse of the roof, bird flocks of the more nocturnal variety bolting from his path as he crossed their gathering spots. He stopped behind her, just less than ten feet away, then sat on the solid floor beneath. Luso's head was inclined towards the floor, and his signature red cap shielded his eyes from view. The night once again returned to its peaceful silence, no one saying a word for a few minutes, before Adelle spoke without warning.
"Don't say it." The Parivir cut her off with a whisper. "You don't have to say it. I'm the one at fault here."
There was a second pause, this one much shorter in length. To them, though, time seemed at a near standstill, the sparse clouds above even halting to watch their encounter. Ensei just then noticed the black cat laying in her lap, tipping off its existence with a comfortable purr, its pelt providing little contrast against the night sky.
"I don't really blame you for what happened to my father. If anything, I blame myself for my own weakness. Maybe I even blame him for taking that attack and leaving me behind." Her voice was at the edge of wavering when she continued, and her cat took to the roof ledge as her legs came up, body curling a loose ball. "Do you remember what you said at the funeral?"
Ensei nodded, even though she couldn't see him, then began to recite from memory as best he could, voice low. "Everyone has bonds that they create during their lifetime, friendships they mature. Even if they are gone, there is evidence that they were once here among us. Whether it be lessons they taught, objects, or even a will to inherit…"
"Nobody ever dies without leaving something behind." She finished, her tone melancholic. "There hasn't been a night when I didn't wake up crying or sweating. Not a single one where I didn't see his flesh burning right in front of me, or where that horrid smoke filled my nostrils." Her head craned slowly around, and as his gaze met hers, a trail of liquid escaped the corner of her eye. "Is this supposed to be what he left behind for me, Ensei?"
Her crying was the only thing that filled the silent void, a few tears managing to hit the solid stone beneath before she had time to wipe them out of existence with her hand. The question was rhetorical, of course, but he couldn't have said anything otherwise. He hadn't really understood how deeply his old friend's death had wounded the girl. Even more, the manner of his end probably hadn't given her proper closure, much less a chance to say goodbye. The most confusing trait to him was how she was able to remember the scene so clearly. It was an extremely traumatic experience in every sense of the word, but to have such vivid dreams of it every night…
Then there was the battle with the sniper the night before. Those strange premonitions she described to him on their way back to the Baron's Manse sounded extremely familiar. From the years of service he had spent with her father, he had more or less learned his fighting style and abilities, and one thing stuck out to him during their brief talk that night.
Her premonitions, and the feelings associated with them, sounded nearly identical to Sir Loin's ability.
Discarding those thoughts for assessment at a later time, Ensei looked up sometime later from his thoughts and spotted the bright red, trademark ribbon atop her hair. At least he had managed to figure out one of her mysteries. "Where did you get that ribbon Adelle?"
"Oh, umm…." The question caught her off guard somewhat, and feeling it with her fingers, she responded. Her voice took on a warm reminiscent quality halfway through. "Dad got it for me when I was a little girl. It was the first gift he ever got me. He told me to never take it off." She untied the scarlet fabric and let it lie in her gripped palms, a weak smile on her face. "It's like a good luck charm to me now. I don't really know; it's almost like it protects me or something."
"You don't even know the half of it." Ensei couldn't help but try to hide his grin. "That's good. Keep wearing it like you've always done, and don't take it off. Whenever you have those dreams, remember the things about him that you hold close." The Hume rose to his feet, smoothing out the front of his sleeveless yukata. "I haven't completely figured it out yet, but Loin did leave something behind for you, Adelle, and I have a feeling it's more than either of us could imagine."
His words, if but just for the night, brought comfort to her, and she averted her eyes with a smile after nodding in agreement. Then she turned back around to stare into the moon, just as he himself began moving back towards the door.
"Ensei." The man in question stopped halfway to the exit, then looked back at Luso, who had spoken for the first time since he arrived. The boy rose to his feet, making sure not to disturb the sleeping White Mage or Bard beside him, then gave his clan leader a determined stare. "The people who kidnapped Cid. It was Khamja, wasn't it?"
"How did you know?"
"We all talked about it after you left. If you had told us, we probably would have tried to take revenge on them for St. Galleria. The only thing I don't understand is what you meant by still being children?"
The Parivir didn't reply for some time, turning back to the door before inclining his head up to the dark sky above. Then, he breathed out and spoke in a low mutter. "After this mess is sorted out. If we make it out of this, I'll tell all of you."
Luso accepted the answer with a nod, though not seeing it anyway, Ensei started at the door again after a few more seconds of basking under the moonlight. As his hand touched the handle, Luso called out one last time, voice even but loud enough for him to hear.
"Tomorrow morning for the meeting. Let me go."
(Midtown, The Haven)
The morning mist was thick and heavy, almost enough to where Luso's hand could fan it away like smoke. As Grazton was well below sea level, even higher areas like midtown were victimized by the haze on the occasional chance day such as this one. Visibility was shot past twenty meters or so, though the lack of numerous pedestrians made the wayfaring more easygoing and allowed the boy to get where he needed to go with little interference.
Glancing up at a signpost on the other end of the street, he looked down at the rudimentary map Barley had drawn up for him. He stepped out onto the canal, this time not even hesitating when his foot touched down on the water surface. It would be a shame to leave Grazton so soon after finally becoming accustomed to the southern city's way of life, but he knew it was for the best. He'd get the details from the representative, lay down the conditions, trade later that night, and then leave the city behind, most likely never to return.
The boy admittedly had been in only a handful of pubs since his arrival in this world, though much less by himself and virtually none during his stay in Grazton. Most pubs he had encountered held a similar design, even if the dimensions varied greatly, and a comforting familiarity washed over him soon after stepping through the open doorway into the dimly lit room. Unlike the taverns of other cities, this one smelled distinctly like a mixture of fish, rotten or otherwise, and sea salt. It was none too pleasant, but he supposed he would adapt; forcibly, if the stench wafting from the three Seeq fishermen at the bar counter held any sway.
He passed even more swarthy dock workers as he moved inward into the pub, each paying no more mind than a curious glance before returning to their conversations, mostly complaints about the morning, the solid mist, an employer, or a combination of all three. Most tables at this time were empty, and the ones that weren't were fully occupied. However, there was one sole exception. A small table stood near the center of the floor, its edge propping up the leather boots of a Hume Black Mage.
Luso gulped once, then proceeded with caution towards him, slowly. As the boy approached, the mage looked up at him, and the brown haired fighter could just make out those soulless yellow eyes from underneath the wide brim of his hat. The spellcaster watched him for a few moments, neither saying a word in their deadlock, then spoke suddenly.
"Take a seat, Luso Clemens."
(End Chapter Fifty One)
Okay, finally done with this chapter. For some reason this one took a lot longer than I had intended. First, I ended up rewriting the whole thing (willingly at least), so hopefully this second draft came out superior. Then after that, the document wouldn't upload to the site, so i copied and pasted it over another file already uploaded.
This chapter set up some things concerning Adelle that will make more sense later down the line. I read over it three times to make sure it made enough sense as it was, but if it still seems too iffy, let me know and I'll try to fix it. Also, that line she said was from chapter twenty nine I believe, if anyone was curious. Even I forget where stuff is, and I write the thing.
Until next time!