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

The night was still amongst the trees. Only the shrill cries of birds sounded in the distance, grounded leaves disturbed by the occasional Dreamhare or other miniature creature that passed by.

At this time of evening, despite being able to see Cheney perched on a thick tree branch some twenty feet up, darkness still pervaded. Luso Clemens closed his eyes, choosing to concentrate instead. He breathed deeply, in and out slowly through his nostrils, taking in everything around him. If he could not see them, then he would feel them out.

Everything became clearer the moment he began his focus. Every shallow gust of air that ruffled his chocolate locks and whipped past his ears. Every controlled breath of the Viera Assassin next to him, knife gripped firmly in hand. Every step of the Worgen pack that stalked them from the front, barely restraining their low menacing growls.

"Steady." Cheney whispered for no benefit but his own. "A little closer." He drew a fresh arrow from the quiver on his back, eyes locked on the front most Worgen as he pulled back on the string and squinted his eye.

"About…twenty feet ahead, Vili." The Viera nodded at Luso's estimation, bunching her legs.

The front most Worgen shifted its head from side to side, then suddenly its ears perked up. Its head drew upwards to Cheney's tree, and its eyes widened in fear.

Cheney's arrow let loose, screaming through the air to slam just above its snout, between its eyes. It collapsed to the ground immediately.

Then all at once, chaos erupted, and everything seemed to happen in an instant. The worgen behind the downed lead barked in surprise, leaping up and making a full turn before bursting into a run. Vili was already dashing from her cover behind a bush, quick enough to catch the very last canine. She ducked her shoulder, slamming into its side and rolling into a stop, both tangled in each other's limbs.

The assassin managed to come out on top, holding the beast's neck down as it flailed and whined. She plunged the blade straight into the base of its neck, and its body tensed for a moment, before falling quiet. Luso and Cheney came out from cover and dropped from the tree respectively, and just watched her softly coo it to its eternal slumber. She seemed to close her eyes in reverence, but when she came up, she was smiling at their victory.

The Fighter and Hunter matched her grin, the latter speaking. "Great job. Let's get these back for dinner."

An evening hunt with comrades!

Micaiah Soeur de Pervenche

Interconnected, we are

So close, within a hair's breadth

Yet our heart does linger elsewhere

Chapter Sixty Two: Contact

"We're back."

The heads around the campfire turned at the sound of Luso's voice, forming smiles as they laid eyes on the venerable bounty the hunting party had returned with.

Ensei was the first to arise, making his way over to the trio who had just stepped out from the tree line into the small clearing of their campsite. Kanin remained in place with Crow and Hurdy, helping the former with the finishing touches on their fire spit. Adelle laid lazily off to the side, feigning disinterest with her eyes in a novel she had purchased back in Grazton, but her growling stomach revealed all.

It'd been four days since their departure from the port city, admittedly more eventful than the entire trip had been thus far. There'd been a few attacks from wild animals searching for a meal, but in comparison to their struggles in Grazton, the ordeals seemed no more than trifles.

Most were honestly just glad to be within a week's reach of Camoa. The short rest coming back up through Vieg Town had been a nice touch of nostalgia, but from there it was sure to be nothing but camping, riding, eating whatever they caught, and repeating the cycle in no particular order as they would push through the Bisga Greenlands. Adelle, Hurdy, and Kanin longed for the promises of warm beds and their choices of confectionaries, all privileges they'd taken for granted during their month with Beltorey. Camoa was no Grazton, for sure, but anything was better than the grass-dwelling critters they'd often awake to find tucked in their sleeping bags.

Cheney turned the worgen flesh over on the open spit, and he and Ensei set to work on dividing out the portions. The meat was tough regardless of the Hunter's best culinary efforts, but cockatrice and wild chocobo meat wasn't an everyday find out here in the grasslands.

"So what are we heading to Camoa for, anyway?" Luso queried as Crow passed him a second helping.

Ensei swallowed down his own portion before answering. "Well we've got some time to kill while we wait for Cid to heal up. Might as well hit up some work in Camoa." He paused, and spoke evenly. "Also, there's something I need to check up on."

Luso blinked, and asked the question on everyone's minds. "And that something is…?"

The corners of the Parivir's mouth formed an almost indiscernible smirk. "You'll see when we get there."


The sound of mail shod feet echoed through the high-ceilinged corridors as the armored individual went about his business, receiving a salute from every standing guard he passed by. His long cape, a rich cobalt embedded with gilded embroidering, cascaded down from their fixed position around his neck. His face concealed by passing workers and housekeepers by a horned helmet.

Eventually he veered from the crimson rugs that lined the hallways and in through a set of oak double doors. Within lay an ivory-walled study. Lined with full bookcases, windows with clear access to the bright cloudless sky outside, and sconces. He approached his desk, a large piece made of the same wood as his bookcases, positioned his suit of armor in the chair behind it, and lay his helmet off to the side.

Just as he took one breath of relaxation, a female attendant entered through the doors he'd left open, bowing respectfully. He acknowledged her, and in return she spoke.

"Judgemaster. Baron Beltorey contacted your office earlier today during your absence. Shall I return his call?"

The Hume quirked an eyebrow at that, but schooled his surprise back soon enough. "No, thank you. I will return it myself." She nodded, and within the second she was moving out, closing and locking the door behind her. They'd learned quickly that answering calls himself meant it was a matter of utmost privacy.

His armored hand reached over and grabbed the Whisperweed line, a device comprised of an actual strand of the plant branching off into metal cup-shaped devices. He held one against his ear and spoke into the other. "Judgemaster here. Please connect me to Baron Beltorey's home. Grazton, code 01914."

"Of course, sir. Please hold." The operator replied. Minutes passed before his voice would once again fill the Hume's ears. Phoning was by no means a quick process yet, but it still easily outshined letters and personal travel. "Here you are, sir."

"Yes, Beltorey here."

"Greetings, Baron." Cid said with an uplifted spirit. Unlike most politicians he had to deal with, it was never a chore to talk with him. "Forgive me for missing your earlier calls. I've been quite busy what with the festival drawing upon us in the next few months."

"Ah, Cid. It's no trouble at all."

The Judgemaster leaned back in his chair, armor clanking with the movement. "So, what can I do for you?"

There was a curt pause, and then he heard. "This line is private, correct?"

"Yes. It is. You know I would take precautions for that."

"Good." He sighed in relief. His concern put Cid a little on edge, but he chose to refrain from questioning for now. "Before he departed, Ensei Rou asked if I would relay details of their mission to you. And a few requests as well." Cid's face grew somewhat grim at the Baron's somber tome, and he pressed for Beltorey to continue.

Beltorey spoke what Ensei had told him, coupled with information from his perspective. When finding out information about the stone, their leader Cid had been betrayed and kidnapped along with the Baron in a separate incident. The rescue attempt had been successful, but they lost the stone in the process. In addition, they'd successfully convinced Crow to defect from Khamja.

The Judgemaster couldn't help but manage a small smile at that. They'd lost the stone, but gained something important as well. An informant. Provided he could give some credible information on Khamja as well as riding on Gully's good word, Cid didn't mind considering the request for some sort of pardon.

And then, the man's next revelation made even him flinch. "They stole the schematics."

He was quiet for some time, so much that the Baron thought they had been disconnected, but at length he replied. "What exactly was in it, Belmont?"

"A number of things, so many that I couldn't be sure what they were after."

Cid sighed again, exasperated. Not at the Baron or anyone else, but at this accursed group he just couldn't figure out. Knowing there was nothing else he could say to remedy the situation, he decided to forgo it and move on. "I've heard whisper of tension between you and Reighlard recently."

"Word does get around court hastily." The Baron seemed to chuckle at that. "I assure you of no open hostilities, but it is true we are at an impasse of sorts."

Beltorey chronicled the situation briefly, playing on what he assumed the Judgemaster would already know. Reighlard was looking to expand his territory over the newly reforming St. Galleria. He and the Baron could not reach an agreement yet that would leave both sides tolerable. Beltorey proposed an all or nothing bet, which Reighlard had just recently agreed to through his correspondent in Grazton. With one condition. He was allowed to choose the contest.

"That is what he chose?" Cid asked with a shaken visage, eyes widened and growing livid. "And you agreed to that term, Belmont?"

"I had no option. He would not accept my deal otherwise, and you know the ramifications of a conflict between two Coronet."

Cid grunted in agreement. He knew it was the Baron's best and only option, but it was still an almost completely one sided endeavor. "Have you decided your next course of action?"

"No." He admitted. "I plan to discuss it more with Ambassador Pervenche. Reighlard wants a finalized answer soon, though, so we haven't much time."

"I wish you two the best of luck in that." Cid said. "If there's anything I find that may help you, I'll be sure to contact you."

"Thank you, my friend." He could feel Beltorey's smile in his words. Just as he was about to utter a goodbye, the Baron's voice stopped him. "Oh, and Cid."


"Before he passed away rescuing me, one of the defected Khamja operatives mentioned something that I think you should be aware of." He paused, which for Cid seemed to be the longest time. "I cannot say how far up, but both he and later Crow confirmed that there are Khamja operatives within the ranks of the JDP."

Cid also paused, even longer than the Baron had, just staring blankly at the set of double ahead of him. Then, when he spoke, his voice was detached. "I've…had my suspicions. I'll look into the matter."

"Very well. Take care then."

"You also."

The Judgemaster returned the Whisperweed device to its stand, and he ran his fingers through his brown hair, breathing deeply. Silence filled the gap, leaving him to ponder the past, his current actions, and all of their futures.


"There it is, kupo!"

Everyone within the wagon immediately perked up from their seats, scrambling over to Hurdy's side to get a look at their destination.

A week's travel through the Greenlands had finally placed them just outside the sprawling metropolis of Camoa, the largest settlement in the Loar Republic, overlooking it from a shady hill less than a mile from its thick stone walls and the two climbing pillars that signaled one of its main gates. Structures large and small, quaint homes intermingled with towering buildings spread out for miles, nearly all fashioned from a sun bleached, sand-blasted stonework. The party wasted no time veering onto the main dirt road and joining into the steady stream of travelers pouring in and out, their beasts of burden kicking up mouthfuls of dust.

It'd been such a long and eventful time away from the city that it felt nearly brand new to Luso, and he couldn't help but marvel at its scale as they stepped through the gates, past a contingent of peacekeepers, and arrived on one of its main roads. Outside of all the main roads, there seemed to be no set order to how the back ways traveled. Less than half the city could claim to stand on flat ground, conglomerations of uneven terraces linked by dusty stone steps and alternating in height across the city's expanse.

The market districts of Grazton seemed to pale in comparison to the plethora of shaded stalls lining the street before anything that wasn't a door or an alley and the wily denizens dealing from them. Animal pelts, pungent spices, assorted rugs and tapestries, figurines and art pieces, not even counting how many of the streets would be selling actual necessities. Sizzling sounds radiated out in tandem with delectable smells from eatery stalls, occupied in full by hungry clansmen and laypeople.

Workmen and prosperous types alike diffused cleanly together in the street procession moving in both directions, the costly silks of the latter bringing about shocks of color to an otherwise sea of practical garbs. While in varying degrees of saturation, the clan could not travel the length of a block without passing by at least one member of every race; though Hume, Bangaa, and Seeq seemed the most prevalent. Out of every Bazaar he'd been through, Camoa's was by far the largest and most exuberant.

As they made their way through, nostalgia couldn't help but creep upon them at times. Luso, Cheney, and Hurdy spotted Baron Popple's estate from some distance, recalling their failed endeavor against Vaan and Penelo. The boy had a mind to eventually ask the two Sky Pirates what they did with the stolen jewel. Crow recalled his first meeting with the clan, along the road housing the St. Galleria bound caravan. Ensei and Adelle kept quiet through the reminiscing, talking at times but carefully avoiding any place associated with memories of a certain Seeq. The others unconsciously avoided the subject as well.

However, one thing of note did catch Vili's eyes, enough to bring out a verbal inquiry. "This place seems so colorful. Is something going on?"

The group looked around at her statement, and a few were surprised they hadn't noticed it before. The city was slightly different from the last time they'd visited. Lights and vibrant flags stringing across gaps between rooftops, the abundance of stalls compared to before, selling not just wares but even having games as well. And the influx of pedestrians seemed to be much larger.

"Ah, it must be time for the Great Land Festival." Cheney offered, piecing everything together. Most nodded in agreement, but Luso and Hurdy couldn't help but stare, prompting more. "Camoa's yearly citywide festival. A celebration of the earth for providing good crop yields and harvests. It always coincides with the Palace's festival every fifth year."

Adelle's eyes shifted outside the wagon, hand absentmindedly stroking the fur on her black cat, and most of the group's eyes followed with them as she spoke. "But more than that. There are a lot of clans here too. Way more than usual."

"Well it is Camoa." The Hunter offered a shrug. "It's the one place you can be almost guaranteed to get some kind of work. Or maybe it's the clan tourney. Who knows?"

"We'll figure all that out tomorrow." Ensei remarked, maneuvering their cart around a sharp corner. "Let's worry about getting an inn first, before they're filled."

The thought of spending a night in sleeping bags in the dusty confines of some back alley brought about unified agreement. The wagon rolled along for the next few hours or so, moving from inn to inn as the afternoon sun began to dip into early evening, crowds not thinning in the slightest. Adelle and Vili had been onto something before. It hadn't been this hard to find room and board during their first visit.

Eventually though, the group pulled into a dusty tavern like building on the outskirts near the city walls, close enough for the guards atop them to chuck a stone. Still, it was affordable, and it was something. Once Ensei had cleared the initial fees with the proprietor, everyone set about unloading all their belongings and carrying them to two rooms on the structures second floor, one for each gender.

"I say we head back into town and find a nice restaurant." Adelle said aloud, she and the other girls pedaling down the steps to meet the boys in the lobby area. "I'd like a meal with some class after being on the road for so long."

"I'd just like one we don't have to catch ourselves." Luso tacked on.

"Sounds good. All of you can go on ahead." Ensei said, heading for the door on his own. "I've got a few errands to run. Just bring me back a plate or something." They all nodded, perplexed as to what could be so important at such a late time in the day. Still, they wished him the best of luck and set off as well minutes later.

"So…any suggestions?" Adelle asked.

Luso and Cheney blinked, turned their heads to each other, and smiled.


"You're always around this place, aren't you?" The Seeq's head angled downwards at the sound of the voice, eyes peering through the evening gloom to spot a raven-haired bearded Hume, katana at his hip and a corked jug held loosely in his right hand. The Parivir remained quiet as he approached the end of the narrow lane, lit only by a single streetlamp and overlooked by a small shady grove area on a tier above.

The portly being chuckled at the appearance of his visitor, pupils savoring what he could assume the contents of the jug were. "Don't like to relocate often. Puts customers off a bit. Ensei Rou, right?"

"Surprised you know me, Ribs." The Hume admitted, noting the Seeq's browner skin as compared to the blue he was accustomed to seeing. Ribs leaped down from his high position, landing in a stagger that he had some trouble recovering from, but eventually he waddled over to stand a few feet from him.

"Course I do. You been around during a couple of Cid's visits." He made a belly chuckle again. "Besides, streetears can't afford ta be forgetting people. Never know when new information gonna rear its head."

"Speaking of information." Ensei tossed him the jug, which he caught easily. "Payment."

"Ooh, boy." He couldn't help but contain a piggish squeal after downing a sip of its contents, beady eyes widening. "Dis some expensive drink right here."

"Complements of Grazton." The Hume nestled his now free hands in his pockets.

Ribs immediately dropped his gluttonous glee and raise a calm, curious eye at that. "Grazton, huh? Your clan had quite an adventure dere recently, I been hearing. Saved da life of da Baron, of all people."

"You could say that." He replied casually. "Guessing you heard about Cid's condition then too."

"Course." It was the first time that the Parivir had ever seen the Seeq drop his perpetual grin. He could sense the faintest trail of relief in his voice. "Out for da count, but he's still got his life. Dat's good enough."

Ensei quirked an amused eyebrow. "Who knew you were so sentimental."

Causing the Seeq to spit at the ground in an embarrassed outburst. "Hogwash! Cid be paying good for my information, is all. Ribs' all business, hear?" The Parivir did his best to conceal his bemused chuckle, and the thick beast changed the topic after he'd calmed down. "So what you want ta know anyway?"

"The general stuff. Jobs, events, anything I need to keep an eye open for."

"Well, everything be pretty different recently, on account of da Land Festival. Let's see…" Ribs took another swig, leaning his back against the wall behind him, and turned his head to the sky as if going through some mental list. "Pickpockets be gettin' ova eager wit all de non-locals swarmin' in, so watch your gil. Works harder to grab on to. All de clans tryin' out for the Camoa Cup rakin' in some extra coin and makin' it harder for da rest of us." The Seeq seemed to have some epiphany, bringing his sight back down. "Your clan here for de tourney too?"

Ensei shook his head. "Not a chance. We're not exactly a 'tourney' clan. Cid would rather us keep as low a profile as possible. Not that Grazton helped any."

"You okay with that, though?" The Seeq asked without bluntly. "From what I've heard of ya, you're not da 'simple life' type."

"That was in the past. Life has a way of showing you what really matters." The Parivir answered, and both went silent. After a time, he continued. "Besides, even if we had Cid with us, our clan's way too small. We'd barely place in Camoa Cup, much less do anything substantial at Bervenia."

"S'pose your right." Ribs offered a shrug of his own. "Clans be coming from miles around dis year, though. Even da big local clans are getting in on it. Magick Edge, Camoa Braves, even Acidwire."

"Acidwire? They've never joined a tourney before." Ensei remarked in surprise. "What's so special about this year?"

"Oh, you haven't heard yet?" Ensei's suspicion grew with the return of the Seeq's wry smile. He shook his head carefully, and Ribs laughed a bit. "Figured your group of all people would know, seeing as ya just came from Grazton."

"Know what, Ribs?"

"It was de strangest thing, and nobody saw it comin'." The Seeq considered milking it for further payment, perhaps another jug of wine, though conceded at the look on the Parivir's face. "But just last week, Baron Beltorey himself contacted de tourney directors. Says he's promised to fully sponsor one of de winners of the Camoa Cup. Meals, equipment, de works."

At first, Ensei backed off the Seeq a bit. He wasn't quite sure how to handle the revelation. It was odd, surely, and more than that completely random. Not that the Hume held any strange thoughts of entitlement to the Baron's goings-on, but he figured the Beltorey would have at least mentioned plans of something like this before they had departed. He stayed silent for a few moments longer, and then his pupils dilated as it hit him.

His voice came out in a whisper. "That's…is that what he chose?"

"What's wrong?" Ribs queried, confused at the rigid state of his companion.

"Nothing. I…I have to go." Ensei's head turned sharply to him, and before the Seeq knew it, he was jogging back down the street leaving him to his own devices. Ribs watched him disappear from his view, still as confused as ever.

Then, his eyes wandered down to the jug of wine as he shrugged in surrender. He unceremoniously licked his lips in anticipation, and began to drink his cares and attention away.

Adelle gazed cautiously into the bowl of food set down before her. Steam from the thick brown soup, filled with various floating pieces of meat, billowed lazily into her face and eyes, causing her to turn away and blink her yellow orbs clear. When her vision returned unburdened, she glanced around once more at her surroundings.

All around, the raucous laughter of easygoing travelers and swarthy fieldworkers filled the restaurant, which to her seemed little above a tavern or mess hall. Rough stone walls encompassed a field of evenly spaced, unevenly sized hewn tables sporting matching wooden stools for patrons and their companions. Ale flowed freely: from waitress' mugs into empty glasses, from glasses into slobbering mouths, and much to her disdain, from intoxicated clientele into a bathroom far too close to her table for her comfort.

Worst of all, Luso and Cheney had decided to pick up where the absent Ensei would likely have provided for all of them, and join in the merriment. She knew the former couldn't garnered alcohol if he'd even asked for it, but his brazenness gave her doubts. That or the juice he'd been drinking had been unknowingly spiked. That made more sense.

Luckily, she found solace in the calm demeanors of her remaining clanmates. Hurdy did his best to corral Luso and Cheney when they got a bit too wrapped up in the mood of the place. Crow and Vili sat controlled, somehow managing to have a conversation between them amidst the earsplitting volume level.

Leaving her with a content Kanin next to her. Her and that ghastly meat stew anyway. "We'd been eating off the road for nearly two weeks, and they decided on a place like this..."

"There, there." Kanin tried to console as the girl's head sunk in defeat.

Adelle's voice was muffled, but still recognizable. "How are you so cheery?"

The Feol Viera shrugged. "I've been with father and Cid almost my entire life. I basically grew up in these kinds of places."

The silver haired girl paused for a moment, then sighed again. "I miss Grazton already." Kanin patted her back once more, finding words not adequate to console.

An hour passed before Luso and Cheney's energetic spirits had been calmed, satiated, or just overdosed on drink, and with that the party found reason to depart, much to Adelle's delight. Cheney had to be propped up on a side by Vili and helped out, but Luso seemed fine enough to walk, if a little sluggish from the meal.

The group meandered out into the street, populated but scarcely the crowd it commanded earlier in the day. It was much easier to cross streets now, but the party chose rather to stick to alleyways than main roads.

One such alley dumped out into a large communal square, an octagonal space conjoining roads at the four cardinal directions. Still water sat in a large pool of similar shape at the center, disturbed only by the flowing fountain at its own core. Numbers of people occupied the area. Women in simple garbs dunked clothes in its crystalline waters, shimmering under the light of the moon and stars above, while children did their best to wade through and splash each other while waiting for their mothers to finish the chore. A truly harmonious sight for all of them, the kind they hadn't seen since walking through Grazton.

One group around the fountain caught Kanin's eye in particular, if only for the young rambunctious voices emanating from the far side. Interest piqued, she circled around at a distance so as not to attract their attention and laid sight on a group of three boys, perhaps no older than seven years, surrounding a figure sitting on the fountain's edge.

A Bangaa, his physique a perfect mixture between the wiry and bulky extremes she'd seen on occasions. A long beige cape descended from leather around his shoulder, draped to the side so as not to fall into the water behind him. Padded leather and some metal clad his lower half to his waist, where his belt separated it and his open chest baring its share of dried scars. By the full helmet resting on the wall beside him and the blade he held up for the children to admire, she could tell he was some sort of Gladiator.

Chita's Weaponers Clan Commander: "Mastersmith" Chita Wayland

"Aye, boys. That's enough for today. It's time I start heading home." The Bangaa's voice was gruff, but he spoke with a parenting tone. All three voiced their dissatisfaction in pouts and grunts. "Don't worry. I might swing by tomorrow night and show you an even better blade."

He rose as their mouths did into eager smiles, and they parted open a path for him to walk through. He waved over his shoulder to them, walking straight, and crossed just before the clan's own path.

By chance he caught sight of them out of his periphery and stopped in his tracks, remarking as he laid eyes on Kanin. "Hmm. You don't see a Feol Viera every day." The group stopped at the comment, Kanin actually taking a defensive step back as Luso moved forwards, palm reaching for the handle of one of his blades.

"If you have a problem with it, you should keep it to yourself and keep walking."

The Gladiator quirked an amused eye. "Oh, no don't get me wrong. Just an observation, lad." Luso watched him carefully for a few more moments, then retracted his hands and relaxed. The Bangaa voiced his earlier amusement in a small laugh. "Were you really going to fight me over that?"

"If it came down to it." Vili admitted, the Bangaa now noticing the hand at the throwing knives around her waist. "There are those not so willing to lay aside their prejudices."

"Indeed." He affirmed with a solemn nod. Then, he moved towards her, and everyone tensed as he placed a comforting hand on her head, ruffling her blonde hair. "I am not so close-minded as that, especially knowing your father, Kanin Heldig."

She gasped before anyone else could, shirking away from his hand. "How do you know my name?"

"Like I said, Feol Viera aren't too common. You're the only one I've ever known. " He answered with a small shrug, before bringing his attention back to her. "I was a comrade of Ensei back in the day, before he quit the service. Chita Wayland is the name."

Something in the blonde's mind clicked at that moment, registering in her eyes. Slowly after a time, she stuttered out. "Yes…Yes I think I remember hearing that name before. A few times actually." Kanin's words eased the clan of any lingering doubts, but hidden by everyone else, Adelle continued to stare in his direction, face trying to decipher something she couldn't place a finger on.

"Really?" He seemed pleasantly surprised. "I didn't think you'd remember me. You were such a tiny thing back when we first met. Always used to hide behind your dad's legs whenever I came to talk with him." Luso and Adelle paused their other machinations to give Kanin wry smiles. That was her alright. "Ah, it grows late. If you could, tell your father to meet me at The Pranching Chocobo around noontide. I'd very much like to catch up with him a little."

Kanin nodded in agreement, promising to relay his request, and he flashed a warm smile before turning and waving everyone off.

"Come on. Answer." Ensei gripped the metal cup fixed onto the Whisperweed strand tighter in agitation, whispering to himself.

Crickets and insects chirped and buzzed all around the Camoa Communication Bureau building, a structure erected to provide Whisperweed access over long distances to those who couldn't supply the expensive fee to have one installed in their own home. The place was usually packed with citizens making calls during the day. But this late in the evening, the Parivir found himself alone in his own open stall, simply staring out into the gardens within the surrounding fence, waiting for the recipient to pick up on the other end.

The system wasn't perfect by any means, he mused. It took minutes for the signal to even reach the other end, and those without a home receiver would have to have personnel notify them of a call through a quickly mailed notice.

Luckily, Baron Beltorey did, and for Ensei was fortunate enough to be up so late. "Hello?"

"Beltorey. It's Ensei."

"Ah, yes." He sounded…cautious, for some reason. "Is everything well, Ensei? Do you need anything?"

"The Camoa Cup. I just heard word that you're going to be sponsoring the winner." Ensei replied deftly. He brought a single flyer up to his eyesight, reading it again carefully.

The Baron played innocent. "Yes, I'm allowed to sponsor what I want. Is there a problem?"

"There's not a problem. It's just…the timing leads me to believe this wasn't entirely your choice." Ensei waited for some sort of response, and the lack thereof affirmed his suspicion and brought about the next question. "Does this have anything to do with the Reighlard situation?"

There was silence for quite a length. Then finally, he heard a sigh. "I had wished to leave you and your clan out of this, but I doubt you'll let this pass. Get comfortable. This may take a few minutes."

(Author's Notes)

Alright, first chapter of the new arc! This one will be on the smaller side, followed by another small, and even some one-chapter arcs. (After the nineteen chapter Grazton Arc, I feel we need some small things). All of it is preparation for the large arc after them. Some long awaited things are coming soon, so stay tuned!

Also, if it seems like I update my other story more than this one, don't worry. Chapters in my other one are just easier to write because they have fewer scene transitions, so I churn them out faster. Tainted is still and will always be the main focus of my writing, no matter how long it takes to finish.