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
Kanin Heldig hummed merrily, weaving in and out between the masses of citizens as she progressed through the Midtown market district. A light, salty breeze intermittently blew at the bodies of her and those walking with and contrary to her, ruffling hair, loose articles of clothing, and the various canvases and trinkets that hung from the colorful curbside stalls lining the sidewalk. A few admittedly stopped to stare at the short, Viera-esque ears sprouting from the top of her blonde locks, but the street was too crowded for her to stand out any significant amount.
She didn't care, though, at least not from this level of attention. There'd been much worse in the past.
Forgoing that thought train, she looked down to the brown paper bag she held against her chest. A thick loaf of rye bread sat at the opening of the sack, sitting overtop an assortment of fruits and vegetables and a layer of fresh cold meats. She'd managed to garner a fair price for it all down the street at a few of the street side stalls, most of it fresh from the wharf.
From what she was used to experiencing, the Market District seemed much more…lively today, as if the perpetually packed region was not already filled to capacity. A particular thick grouping on the corner of a canal intersection piqued the girl's interest, a young, brown-furred Moogle bellowing out calls while holding up individual pages of newspaper.
"Extra! Extra! Hot off the presses, kupo!" A few Bangaa and a Gria tossed him a couple gil coins, and he returned with their respective sheets, continuing to speak. "The Grazton Gazette's run a special extra. Clan Gully finds and rescues the kidnapped Baron Beltorey, kupo. Get 'em while their hot!" At this, nearly every member of the crowd reached for some coins and grabbed a paper. Those who didn't merely looked on at the nearest one.
The Moogle gathered the coins, and as a few people departed with their papers, Kanin filled the gap, catching his attention. "I'll take one too, if you don't mind."
"Not at all, kupo." They made the trade, coins for paper, and with a grateful nod of her head, the girl was moving again down the canal, somewhat of a skip in her step. The brown Moogle watched her for a bit, then shrugged before grabbing a paper of his own. He'd been selling them all morning, but he'd yet to actually read one himself. His eyes widened in momentary disbelief, then surprise, though, as he skimmed down through the descriptions of the savior clan members and read some of them in a whisper.
"…Black Mage…Feol Viera? Kupo, no that couldn't have been…"
His eyes shot up, and scanned around hastily, but Kanin was well out of sight by then.
Let's enjoy this happiness
You and I, just for today
Chapter Fifty Nine: Respite
As Luso's eyes eased open and he stared into the pristine white that was the ceiling above him, he could tell that he'd been out for quite the length of time. For a while, he sat motionless, as still as the white bed beneath and the cotton sheet encasing him, and only his eyes moved around to further inquire his surroundings. It was a hospital room for sure; an overabundance of white, a couple hanging frames of calming scenery, a solitary window with plain curtains on the wall to his far right.
Luso moved to sit up, but found the energy leave his body for a second before flushing gradually back in. Not only that, there was pain in his arms and torso, more heavily in the latter. As he winced, his mind began to play back. Crow had done quite a number on him in their battle, and Raven had not been any easier when attempting to finish them off. Then there was the whole incident at the end with Ewen and—
"Cid." His eyes widened, voice a whisper. Then, his head was moving around, searching, neck ignoring the kinks it worked through. He threw the blanket off him, and as he shifted his legs, his body turned and he took his first notice of the bed right beside him.
He sat there and stared at Crow for a moment. The white haired boy's face was…contorted in a way. A few scars here and there, but his deep snoring opened his mouth far wider than Luso had seen in a person before. Luso could only continue to stare, taken aback at the mage's state and wondering if there was any way to record it.
His wishes were left behind, though, as he twisted around in turn with the doorknob. Kanin Heldig stepped into the room, gracefully, with a pleasant smile.
It grew as she laid eyes on him, and the two watched each other. Luso was glad to see that she was doing alright, but his gaze soon traveled downward to the platter of sandwiches in her hand and remained there for some time. Kanin's eyes also stayed in their general area, tracing the bandages on his shoulders, wincing at what it must have been like to get slashed as many times as he had.
At length, she remembered why she had entered in the first place, and moved to the side of his bed, placing the platter down. "Here, I made you both something to eat." Luso gave her a reserved thanks and grabbed one – a conglomeration of lettuce, some sort of oddly colored tomato, cheese, and cockatrices slices on wheat bread – not bothering to stop to breathe or chew.
"Are you feeling better?" She asked with some optimism. He nodded enthusiastically, stuffing another bite, and she giggled. "That's good. I'm glad."
"How long have I been out?" He asked, wolfing down the last of the meal.
"About a day. You haven't awoken since we got to the hospital the night before last, and Crow's drifted in and out a few hours at a time." She looked over to the slumbering Black Mage, and like Luso managed a snort at his boisterous snoring. "The doctors said they didn't do much to you. Most of your immediate wounds were dressed and sanitized before. You just needed rest."
"Yeah Crow found a first aid kit before we met up with you guys." Luso explained. "He must have dressed us pretty well then."
"Really?" Kanin asked surprised, and Luso quirked an eyebrow. "The doctor said that every one of Crow's wounds had been cauterized. There weren't any bandages or anything on him."
"What? But after he fixed me up we went straight into looking for your group. There was no time to…" Luso's eyes widened and he glanced at Crow's form as Kanin voiced the solution they both came to.
"He sealed his wounds with fire, then used the kit on you." The two fell silent at that, not quite sure what to make of it. Luso felt both a rush of thankfulness and regret at the revelation; it was hard for him to pick one over the other. Kanin just looked at the spellcaster, and a small smile came to her face as she turned to Luso. A half minute of reverent silence passed before Kanin decided to break it, placing a hand on his nearest shoulder. "The doctor's said he'll make a full recovery in time."
"Yeah, dwelling on it won't do much good." He looked up with a reserved smile, though it was obvious to her that he was still concerned about it.
Another powerful snort echoing off the room walls persuaded them against awakening him. Luso levered himself up from the bed, stumbling, and Kanin was quick to correct his balance and posture. Once the feeling in his legs returned, Kanin set the sandwich she had made for Crow on the end table between the two beds and the duo began towards the door. As his hand touched the door handle, Luso spoke, his eyes widening in remembrance.
"Wait…how's Cid doing?"
Kanin's face seemed paralyzed at the question, and her voice came out in a hesitant whisper. "We're…not sure yet. He's been in surgery until this morning."
"So what happened?" Ensei queried, doing his best to refrain from moving. The odd slope of his chair and the smooth fabric of light blue robe did nothing to aid his wishes.
At his words, Belmont Beltorey's eyes rose from the newspaper Kanin had brought for him from her trip to the market. He glanced around at the others assembled – Cheney, Vili, Anrias, Adelle, Hurdy, Al-Cid and his maid, the commander, and the sky pirate duo – all seated in similar chairs and couches along the closely packed walls of the emergency department waiting room. Its grey walls did nothing to brighten their moods, and the morning sunlight filtering in through evenly spaced windows fared no better.
All of their eyes rose at the question as well, interested in what the Parivir meant and what the Baron had to say. Beltorey decided to humor them, sighing while folding the newspaper neatly and setting it in his lap. "As you know, the moment we arrived here at the hospital, the staff called JDP personnel to come right over. All of you were too fatigued to answer any of their questions, so I stepped in and told them everything I knew at the time."
"Did you tell them about Khamja's hideout?" Vaan was the first to respond.
"Yes, though it was already too late." He saw their confused faces, and elaborated. "By the time they arrived, the warehouse was empty, every last room covered by ashes and lingering smoke. No people, no documents or files….no bodies."
Each of them instinctively knew what he meant at that, without him having to go through the pain of saying it. Barley was gone. Ensei lowered his head in lamentation, as did Vaan, Hurdy, Al-Cid, Cheney's group, and even the commander, who seemed especially shaken by the revelation. Adelle remained perfectly still, though, and then stood carefully and walked out of the room and down the hall a little ways before finding a nook to hide herself in. Penelo impulsively followed after her, absentmindedly stepping past the trail of teardrops on her way out.
"So they burned the evidence, huh? They sure don't mess around." Ensei felt obligated to break the unsettling quiet and get back to business. There would be time for proper grieving later. "We should have the Baron and our wounded moved to a safer location, in case of another attack."
"That shouldn't be necessary, Ensei." Beltorey explained. "I spoke with Crow a bit last evening while he was awake. He said Khamja's plan was to evacuate the headquarters once the stone was in their possession. They should be more focused on leaving the city than hunting us down." He set the paper down on the glass coffee table before him for all to see. "Not only that, the press is all over this incident. Crow agreed that Ewen wouldn't risk ordering a move under so much attention."
Ensei seemed satiated by the answer, as did everyone else, some relaxing after not noticing they'd been so tense. Their period of rest was short lived though, as a soft rapping on the door signaled the arrival of others. Luso and Kanin entered in unison, the latter helping the former as he needed, and warm smiles and hugs both great and small were there to greet them.
A Viera White Mage followed on their coattails, sporting a long ivory coat. Her hands and arms cradled a clipboard close to her body. Most recognized her as the physician assigned to Cid, Crow, and Luso, and the room became hauntingly quiet as she spoke.
"The surgery was a success. Cid is in a stable condition." The lack of elation in her voice caused them to wait for her to continue. "Stable, but not good."
"Could you explain, doctor?" Beltorey asked.
"The chest wounds the two boys received missed anything we couldn't repair, but the Revgaji was shot directly in the heart. By the time you brought him here, he was literally on the edge of oxygen starvation." She did her best to eliminate any excessive medical jargon. "The procedure to remove the arrow itself has forced him onto a few life-sustaining treatments, for now. The arrow caused a severe hemorrhage which we were able to clean up, but it left a number of dead cardiac cells and scar tissue around the impact site. The amount of cells his left ventricle has lost would spell death for a normal person. We can only thank the powers that be that his heart was more than large enough to support his massive frame."
"So will you be able to heal it?" Luso queried, hopeful.
Kanin regretfully shut him down. "It's…not that simple, Luso. White magic amplifies cell division and regeneration, but cardiac cells are some of the few that don't divide." She turned to the doctor for confirmation, who returned with a nod.
"The amount of blood his heart is able to pump right now is enough to keep him alive. Serious physical exertion may end up overtaxing it." She paused, and her voice became a little quieter. "In laymen's terms, he will no longer be able to fight, and should retire from active clan service. Immediately."
If the room could become any more quiet than it had been before, it succeeded. None of the Gully members looked around at each other; they were too stunned to say anything. The Viera did her best to keep her composure as she witnessed tears well up in Hurdy and Kanin's eyes, and the despondent faces of the party's remainder.
At length, taking charge of the group once more, Ensei rose from his chair and masked the pain in his voice. "May we see him now?"
The doctor nodded warmly. "Of course, but as of now I can only allow immediate family. Just make sure to remain peaceful. He needs his rest." Ensei looked around at the clan members, and one by one each of them nodded and stood, shuffling towards the door. They kept their faces strong but not indifferent, deciding to be resilient for their leader.
Once out in the hallway, Luso and Kanin agreed to branch off the procession and find Adelle. Fortunately they didn't have to spend much effort, meeting her and Penelo in the hallway, who had somehow convinced her to return to the waiting room. Luso regretfully had to break the current news to her just after she'd recovered some, but this time the girl restrained her tears despite their attempts to break the growing pools at the creases. She nodded, allowing them to lead the way. The boy couldn't help but smile at her, at how they all decided to face him with their heads held high. Perhaps they all knew the first thing he'd want to see didn't include tears.
After Penelo headed back to the waiting room, the trio found the main group outside Cid's room, awaiting them. The door eased open, and they filed in person by person, taking sight of Revgaji upon the bed. Dried blood still stained some parts of his exposed dark skin, which looked a shade or two lighter. Magical globes of oxygen rich air fixed upon standing pedestals surrounded his bedside, the tubes branching off from their heads connected onto the breathing apparatus over his mouth and nose. The rhythmic, raspy sounds of his breathing filled the room, each successive one sapping the mood.
The doctor was the last to enter, explaining. "We've decided to leave him on a breathing apparatus to decrease the workload on his heart. He can't speak, but he should be able to understand what you're saying."
"How long will he be like this?" Cheney asked with increasing despondency.
"Complete and total rest is pivotal at this point. A few days on the machine, at least until some of his body can adjust to the heart situation." She replied. "I estimate about a month of recovery before he'll be safe to do anything substantial."
A few nodded, and with that she left, allowing them some privacy. The group moved around to surround his bed, but his half lidded eyes didn't seem to take notice of their presence. They all stood there for some time, then out of nowhere, Adelle grabbed one of the Rev's hands. She then reached and grabbed Cheney's who stood on the other side of her. The other members followed her cue until they all were linked together, and everyone bowed their heads as one.
They allowed this quiet to reign for a few minutes, and the group stayed as they were as Ensei began to speak. "I am…sorry, everyone. Deeply and truly sorry, for all of this. This was all our fault." No one dared interrupt him. "I…don't know how things would have turned out had we done what we did differently. Maybe nothing would have changed, but I am sure of one thing. It was wrong of Cid and I to not tell you anything. It was wrong of us to treat you like children."
He waited a moment to gauge a reaction, and felt slightly more at ease when Kanin put a gentle squeeze on his hand. "We were…afraid. Not just that you'd go seek revenge for what happened in St. Galleria. We knew that if a fight were to break out, one of you might have been forced to kill someone." He breathed out heavily, calming himself. "You're too young to have blood on your hands, the memories, the never ending nightmares. We wanted to delay it as long as possible…"
"But now it's here." Luso remarked calmly, not explicitly to make a point.
"Yes, it is." He agreed. "As far as I'm concerned, though, every single one of you has proven yourself. You are all adults in my book now, but it's up to you if you want to accept it…and everything that comes with it."
Ensei released the hands on either side, and the others followed suit, everyone's eyes opening at one time. The Parivir looked at each of them, some firm, some indecisive, and one with brown hair and bright cobalt eyes whose mouth began to move.
"Count me in."
"Me too." Kanin jumped in.
"Three." Cheney remarked with a nod.
"I will, as well." Vili added.
"Also me, kupo."
Adelle was the last, pausing for a moment after Hurdy and sucking in a breath. "Too many people have thrown their lives away." She reached for and grabbed Cid's hand again. "I'll do whatever it takes to make their sacrifices worth it." Everyone nodded in agreement at her comment, and the smallest of smiles found itself onto her face as Cid squeezed her hand.
Billowing wisps of steam wafted upwards from the bathtub water, coursing over the burns and wounds Crow had garnered in the warehouse raid. The doctors had ordered him on a systematic bathing schedule, and as the immediate pain began to leave faster and faster with each occurrence, the mage found he could tolerate higher and higher temperatures. The near scalding hot water soaked into his worn, beaten muscles, allowing his face to feel the same effects as he slid down into a fully submerged state.
The small but much needed time of conscious rest caused his thoughts to drift, specifically over all that had happened within the past week. It was over, finally over, and he had come out alive. It was regrettably more than he could say Barley, and that feeling of relief soon turned bitter at the thought. For some reason, what Adelle had said had been gnawing at him for quite a while. Maybe he and Barley really were both scum, but the Moogle had at least redeemed himself, albeit in a way no one would have wished for.
He no longer wished to bear his thoughts, and rose from the tub, stepping out onto the washroom floor. He quickly dried, grabbed a simple cotton shirt, pair of pants, and undergarments hanging on a hook on the door, and headed for the door. He didn't have much of a plan right now. No food, no money; the whole thing was as spontaneous as anything. He just felt like he needed to get out of here, and he doubted he'd be coming back.
As Crow stepped into the hallway, his attention turned to Baron Beltorey, leaning on the wall next to the door, a knowing smirk plastered on his face. The mage paused at the accusation, knowing he wouldn't be getting away. "Just taking a walk. I'd like some fresh air."
"Liar." The Baron remarked as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, then his mood became more serious. "You're really going to leave just like that? Not even a goodbye? To any of them?"
"I don't belong with those people." He responded at length, clenching his palms. "Not after everything I've taken part in. Criminal scum like me know their place at least."
The Baron's eyebrow perked ever so slightly, figuring out what was ailing him. "But even scum can transcend and redeem itself, if given only a chance. But you will never receive your chance, Crow, if all you ever do is run away." Crow opened his mouth to speak, but stopped himself. He knew the Baron was right. He had no excuse. Beltorey let the thought sink in, then walked towards him, giving him a compassionate look. "Whatever you do is your decision to make, I won't stop you. However, know that my doors will be open if you need food or shelter. It is the least I can do for the man who helped save my life."
Crow nodded respectfully, then continued down the hall silently. The baron let him move a couple more feet down, and tacked on another comment.
"Of course, you could refuse my offer. That might convince me into selling you out to the authorities, though. Oh, and since you weren't mentioned as part of my saviors, I doubt anyone would notice if Khamja just happened to pick off a single Hume boy wandering on his own. We don't know where they could be lurking around here."
Crow's feet stopped, and he craned his neck around. "You're quite cruel, just so we're clear."
"How else do you think I run this city?" Beltorey shrugged, rising from the wall himself and growing more serious once more. "Whichever path you decided on, Crow, make sure to help Clan Gully in any possible way you can. Things will only become more difficult from here on out."
The mage was sincerely perplexed by the statement. "Why do you say that? Khamja?"
In response, the Baron flung the folded up newspaper he'd been carrying to him. Crow scanned over the contents hastily. Detailed articles on the incident from the Baron's testimony, inquiries into the kidnappers and their goals, endless praises of the small band of rescuers – nothing he was particularly surprised at. However, as he kept reading, he realized what the Baron was getting at, and exactly what all of this media coverage entailed.
Beltorey vocalized the epiphany the mage had just had. "More than that. Clan Gully just rescued the Baron of Grazton, one of the three most influential people in the entirety of the Loar Republic." He began down the hall, hands held behind his back and a grave tone in his voice. "This incident is going to spread like wildfire, and whether for better or worse, this small eight-person clan is now officially on the map."
Hey, quick update this time. Not a long chapter by any means, but I got through most of the points I needed to bring up.
A few things. Take medical explanations at liberty. It's a fantasy story, but I'm attempting to be semi-realistic with it. Next chapter will be a bit of a…change of pace. You'll see what I mean in due time. Hopefully I'll have it done soon. I've been building up the plot point since around chapter ten. Also, I advise you as the reader not to draw any particular conclusions just yet, but I won't spoil anything.
Lastly, I've noticed the absence of a character corner recently. If there's a particular character you wish to see, feel free to pm me (leave it in a review only if you were going to review anyway).
Anyway, that's all. See you next time!