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
Three seconds is all it had seemed to take.
The Moogle was cheering on his clan leader at the top of his lungs, laughing with the remaining assemblage of ten clanmates behind him, all gloating and slacking at their already-decided victory. The Sage had hidden his real talents right up until this fight; they had the element of complete surprise. Nobody had even seen his leader's quick slip of the wire onto the boy's hand when they shook hands. None of them had known which of his many poisons he was going to use in this fight. His bet on which one had actually won him the pool as soon as they all saw the brat's arm sink, no longer usable. Everything had gone better than expected.
His glossy eyes zapped back from his thoughts, body transfixed by a surge of emotions at the sight of his leader's bloody and broken form. Eyes rolled back so far that the irises disappeared. Mouth fixed wide, his last expression before the kid's blade swung down, and in three seconds silenced the arena.
His fur began to stand on end, and a trembling ran across him. The moment his legs buckled and body collapsed to his knees, everything went off.
Every form stood. Every hand moved to clap or wave in the air. Every voice shouted, some until they broke from the strain. Beating, clapping, and screaming poured onto the arena grounds, bathing the victorious teenage brunette and the unconscious Nu Mou in a tumultuous noise that nearly deafened the former.
It didn't let up even as the White Mage team rushed to the center and began treatment. Not as they sealed up what they could, and the boy personally carried his defeated opponent back to their side, accepting a little help when his one arm couldn't quite keep the balance. Not as he even gave them all respectful bow and quietly began his trek back towards his own clan.
The Moogle just continued to gaze at his retreating back, gaping mouth closing into gritted teeth. He stepped up, clenching his paw in anger, and started towards him when a scaly hand grasped his shoulder. The Bangaa clansman who stopped him silently shook his head, and deflated what little fervor the Moogle had left in him. He knew the Bangaa was right. They'd all probably realized it right then.
Three seconds was all it took to spell out their complete defeat.
Clan Gully presses forwards!
Your reach doesn't end at the tips of your fingers
Chapter Sixty Five: Skytop Sentiments
Adelle bounded to the side, leaning her shoulder in to absorb the impact of her lateral roll. The Striborg sung through the air far above her body, and as she came up the sight of her Bangaa Warrior opponent cleared in her vision once more.
Despite her excessive liberty and obsession with trinkets, ornaments, and jewelry, even she had to grimace at just how many piercings riddled the creature's leathery snout. At least ten on each side of his lower snout, a few on his tongue, dark purple tattoos on the softest areas of his face's skin. She didn't even want to think how any of it felt like, if even getting her ears pierced sent a jolt through her all those years back. Then again, that Bangaa hide was more than formidable. Her knives and the sweat sheen on her skin and silver hair could attest to that.
Her opponent's tongue flared out, and let loose an excited hiss, heaving the dark green sword on his shoulder. "You're pretty good, girl. Wouldn't mind havin' you around at all."
"Sorry." She managed a smirk. "My clan already has everything I need."
"Can't blame me for tryin'." He gave a good-natured shrug. "Eh, I hear ya though. That red cap of yours is a monster. Biggest Render I've seen from one that young."
Adelle lowered herself a bit, spreading her feet. "Just wait until you see what I can do." A toothy grin split his snout, and both combatants leapt back into the fray, catching his sword between her knives at times, slashing and dodging where appropriate.
"You can do it, kupo!" Hurdy called out from the clan's corner of the arena, amidst the excited calls of Kanin and Luso as well, whose combined voices easily outshined the Moogle. Their sight and bodies rose, tensed, and fell with every near escape or small cut either party received.
To the Ensei, Vili, Crow, and Cheney quartet that stood off a little ways behind them leaning against the wall, it was gratifying sight. The entire clan's mood, despite their unerring resolve to take the cup, had been rather downtrodden over the first few days. Kanin, Hurdy, and Adelle's eyes in particular had been so…dreadful, they'd noticed. Perhaps they weren't as battle hardened as the senior members. There was the vicious preliminary schedule they had to endure, and the younger ones probably weren't mentally prepared at the time for the challenge, but it was something more than that they couldn't put a finger on.
Then Luso's victory changed them. Acidwire's lingering threat had been lifted from them all. This was the first time Kanin and Hurdy had actually cheered, not just for their battling comrade, but that they were having fun watching the match. Even Adelle seemed livelier now than in any of her previous single matches. Ensei didn't bother to tell anyone, but he knew it wasn't Luso's victory that had sparked the fire.
It was probably just his return. His mere presence.
"She's moving well today." Vili remarked, her eyes trailing every one of Adelle's quick dodge's, reflexes, and counters as best as her eyes could.
"Yeah, she is." Crow agreed with a reserved smile and a light tone. "I'd say too well."
The Viera narrowed her eyes slightly. "Actually…you may not be far off." That comment drew Cheney and Ensei's undivided attention. She drew a finger towards the match, and eyes followed accordingly. "Watch her closely, as carefully as you can." A half minute of analysis transpired, with Ensei's eyes being the first to widen in surprise, something the Assassin caught. "Did you catch it?"
He nodded, and Cheney and Crow prodded him for an explanation. "Look. She's moving at the exact moment that he's no longer able to shift his sword's momentum. It's not instinct or guesses. She's accurately predicting him."
"But…how?" Cheney asked in partial disbelief, peering out and seeing a sense of what they meant. "Is she reading him somehow?"
"It couldn't be that." Crow corrected. "Look. Her eyes are rarely looking at his body. It looks more like she's—"
"Sensing…it." The Black Mage turned in confusion to the Parivir, as did the other two, and he only presented a shrug in return.
His eyes narrowed a little as he returned to watch. This had happened before. In their fight against Barley at Beltorey's manse, she was somehow able to accurately predict and dodge the bullets just before they were fired. Not only that, the way she described it to him sounded exactly like her father's latent ability. When she'd first told him about it back on the roof in Grazton, the thought hadn't really sunk in, and he dismissed it as some momentary strange occurrence. But this, this was just like his time with Loin in the service.
She really did get something from him. The only question was how.
Before he could find an answer, cheers filled the stadium and out of his unfocused periphery, a body at the arena center collapsed onto the ground, sword clattering in the fall. Adelle's form moved the moment the Bangaa stumbled backwards, and as he hit his back on the ground, she leapt atop his torso and pinned his neck between a cross of her knives.
After the initial surprise wore off, the Bangaa chuckled. "Guess you weren't kidding after all, girl. Fair enough, I know when I'm beat." She creased a small smile, and nodded, leaping off him as the referee's whistle blew and the crowd erupted once more, this time larger than any of that day. He took her hand to help him up, then stayed in longer to give it a firm shake for a match well fought. "You rookies sure are gettin' my blood boiling. Good luck to you and your men. We'll see you again at the Palace Tourney."
She grinned, and both shared a respectful nod.
The two separated, but didn't go back to their respective corners. Instead, under the referee's direction, the remaining clan members all joined them out in the arena's center. Everyone in the crowd rose up as one, and even music began to play as confetti started its drifting down from the upper points of the stands. Luso couldn't help but indulge, and waved around in every direction he could manage before all the clans converged.
He turned to the victorious silver haired girl as they met, and the two exchanged a curt hand gesture, grinning like madmen. She gazed into his eyes. Blue, as bright and warm as they always were. A notable far cry from the gold she had thought she'd seen the other day, when he took down Suzuka. This second time seeing it had left more of a mark. Mostly because she'd seen it every single day, whenever she passed a mirror.
The exact same gold as her own.
Despite Lord Eden's boisterous personality, the victor's ceremony was surprisingly short. The massive Bangaa took the time to greet each of the surviving clans personally. Houndforce had scraped out a win earlier in the day, followed by their loss to Gully in the semi-finals. Whiplash also provided an upset over local favorites Magick Edge, but Camoa Braves had put them in their place after a three match battle that came down to the wire. Ensei, Cheney, Vili, and Crow all wondered if they could have toppled Braves in the final round if Whiplash hadn't softened them up first.
Luckily, there were no hard feelings between them. They lost first place, but all four were still heading to Bervenia.
Eden stopped as he shook the tattooed, piercing-ridden Bangaa Adelle had just fought. His hand shielded his Whisperweed, but he spoke loud enough for all four clans to hear. "Can't say I've seen this often. You're the only clan here that's ever been to the Festival."
"I'll try to keep these rookies in line. They've got no idea what they're in for." He joked, causing Eden to laugh.
"Indeed they don't." With a nod, he made his way to his final stop, retrieving the gilded trophy from the man following on his figurative coattails. Ensei accepted it with a firm handshake, and with one raise of the trophy threw the crowd into a last uproar. Eden grabbed the clan's attention in the midst of it. "This clan of yours has been quite the talk around southern Loar. I'm glad to see you've at least verified your reputation." They all smirked. "I'm assume Beltorey won't be surprised when I tell him who won his sponsorship."
A few sideways glances, then a fit of nervous laughing. "Yeah….we're sure he won't."
The ceremony concluded shortly after that, and the stands began to empty. The clans were left to their own devices, some meeting with fans who had come down from the seats. Gully chose a quick exit to avoid all the attention. The front gate spilled them into the pavilion before the coliseum, where they spied a familiar Bangaa sitting down on a stone-wrought bench just a little ways away.
"Ah, there you are." Chita remarked as he rose. "Did you win?"
"Have the trophy to prove it." Luso answered coolly, before cocking an eyebrow. "Where were you?"
"Forgive me. I've been running messenger duty for the Gaelics." He smirked. "They actually sent me here to come get you." Luso's face brightened in a single large wave as he finished. "It's ready."
Her hands ran the buffing towel over its shape, caressing its flawless steel and removing any of the dust it may have accumulated on the way up to Camoa. Lifting it up one last time with a strain on her part, her eyes wandered over its majestic form. She couldn't remember how long it had taken—how many painstaking hours she'd spent on the design, the sleepless nights she spent putting that design to practice, how many suns would rise on her continuously working body.
It had been months for certain. Ever since that day he and the little White Mage had strolled into her quaint shop, eyes so youthful and exuberant. And innocent as well. Looking back, it was comical that she'd started only a day after she'd promised him. How many teens, even around her age, had trodden in her store with unrealistic expectations? Far too many. But there was something, something she couldn't quite place, that had so faintly whispered in her mind.
He'll pull it off.
A smile came to her face. "He did."
"Anna, they're here." Gofannon's voice startled her, and she quickly moved to wrap the sword in its concealing wrap. Then, she pulled the cloth and let her ponytail loose, shaking her hair and raking through it a few times. This was it, their first meeting since that day. As she removed her gloves, she offhandedly wondered how much he'd grown. A few months weren't much leeway, but a simple soldier to a Parivir wasn't a minor change either.
A number of boots and shoes clopped into the establishment, which had been closed off for an extended lunch period, employees more than happy to oblige. She made sure to hide the weapon in the corner, sucked in a calming breath, then bounded into the room proper.
Perhaps it'd been the long absence playing tricks on her mind. That had to be it. There was no way the boy in yellow overalls standing before her was the same one she'd met earlier. For starters, he was no longer pale. A healthy tan pigment coated his skin. Joining it was perhaps his most surprising feature. Numerous scars all across what skin his clothing didn't cover. An aged long one ran diagonally down across his back; the freshest one looked right in the middle of his chest.
The slouch in his step and stand had completely vanished, she noticed. His now stood naturally straight and confident. His cobalt eyes held a little more wear in them, but with it brought along a doubled dose of strength and confidence.
"Hey Anna. It's been a while." Was his voice even deeper? No…no it was the same tone and quality, but it just sounded a lot…older.
"H-Hey." She said reservedly. The nervous stammer and faintest trace of a blush didn't go unnoticed by Kanin or Adelle, the latter amused. She quickly corrected herself and looked around, taking note of Ensei. "It's good to see you guys again. It's been so long." She looked around a bit more. "You've really expanded your clan."
Her comment opened up the floor for more greetings, all of the clan members branching out to formally meet her, Gofannon, and Sasasha who had been standing idly by. Kanin in particular was the first to grab the elder Viera in a forceful hug, burying her head into her shoulder. After the newer introductions had been made, Cheney and Hurdy greeted Anna as well. Even them, she noticed, looked older, though not nearly as evident as Luso's transformation.
She found her answer over the next half hour, when her father asked what the clan had been up to lately. They started from the very beginning for her sake; and as the story shifted from Maria's caravan guard to St. Galleria, from Luso and Cheney's account of Vieg Town to Grazton, her confusion became all the more clear. Cid's strange absence was absolved as well, though its reason had very much dispirited her.
"That's quite the journey you've had so far." Sasha commented evenly.
"And now to top it off, you have to fight a clan hand-selected by the Grand Duke of Moorabella, in the Palace Tourney no less?" Gofannon remarked with some incredulity. He breathed out a chuckle after they nodded. "Well if you're going to do all that, you won't pull it off with the equipment you have right now."
Ensei grinned. "Do you have something else in mind?"
"As a matter of fact, my daughter does." He shifted his eyes towards Luso, who eyed him quizzically for a moment. Then, the boy straightened into his normal stance, and the man nodded approvingly. "Yeah, that's it. That's the look of a fighter. You look like you earned all of those scars, boy. I'd say you're ready."
His neck craned around, and his daughter nodded in confirmation, moving to the back to fetch the weapon. Everyone watched with wide eyes as she returned, bearing a cloth-wrapped piece. Luso swallowed down the lump of excitement in his throat as she handed it to him. To his surprise, and perhaps credit, it was not as heavy as he thought it would be.
"Go on, unwrap it." She coaxed. "You earned it."
He nodded gratefully, grabbed what he assumed was the handle, then tugged at the string and let the wrapping sink to the floor.
The effect on everyone's faces was immediate, most notably Luso, Ensei, and Chita's, whose salivary glands leaped into action. He could only dream of holding something so ornate back in his world.
Its handle was mesmerizing, a midnight black weaving pattern snaking around red metal, between a gold pommel and a golden handguard shaped like a crescent moon. A swirling gilded pattern ran up and down the flat of the blade like an engraved signature. Luso rotated it in his hand, holding it high and low. It's edge was wicked and hard to see straight on, and not a single notch could be found down the length of its steel. Though perhaps the aspect that differentiated it the most was...
"It's so…" Kanin began.
Only to be interrupted by Vili. "Gray. The entire blade is gray." And a deep gray at that. More akin to a charcoal gray than anything else, other than the sheen of light that flashed off the blade proper.
"It's long, kupo." Hurdy tacked on. From what Luso could remember of katana, this was long enough to be a daito.
"And these markings on the side, they look arcane. Almost like a spellblade." Crow remarked of the golden engravings along the flat. "I've never seen a Parivir wielding something like this."
"I have." Chita exclaimed, stepping up and inspecting it closer. "Not in person, unfortunately. These markings are from very old techniques. Centuries back."
"Yes, they are." Anna confirmed proudly. "This sword stores a number of secrets, no thanks in part to the suggestions in Ensei's letters and a donation of very rare materials." Luso looked to Ensei with a smile, and both recalled the letter they'd received from Augustus before they'd left Vieg Town. "But what they wanted was outside the scope of a current katana. So I scrapped my previous designs and looked up as many tomes as I could get my hands on." She walked up to Luso, continuing to explain. "There was one design I particularly liked. Only an artist's drawing of the man wielding it. I asked more about it, and eventually came to find the man's name."
"Wait…" Chita's eyes continued to analyze the sword, and his face soon registered an epiphany. "I can see it now. Yeah, I can definitely see his sword in this work. This is a beautiful adaption, girl, especially off of nothing but sight."
She picked up under everyone's questioning gaze. "Much of Archduke Beaudonis's rise to power three hundred years ago can be attributed to the strength of his army, specifically his most influential crack squad. Their ranks housed the first Parivir to step foot on Jylland soil, and under his banner they conquered tens of thousands of men and rallied his army to unite all of Jylland." She saw a look register on Ensei's face. "This is an adaption of the sword used by the strongest man of that group."
"The father of the modern Parivir. Auron." Ensei and Chita recalled at once, with the latter continuing. "And his Zanbato, Battlefields of War?"
Anna nodded. "But since I altered it alot, it felt right to give it a new name." Her eyes ran over the sword, specifically the crescent moon symbol at the center of the swirling gold patterns. Then to Luso as she spoke. "Yuunagi."
"Yuunagi." Luso's couldn't restrain his widened eyelids. He added his second hand to the handle, reveling in the feeling of finally being able to hold a familiar type of sword again. He took a few practice swings after everyone backed up a little; Chita and Ensei stepping up to correct his posture and give him a few pointers. All the training in kendo from his childhood seemed to be flowing back, and when a memory of his grandfather and Frimelda rushed to the forefront of his mind, he didn't close it off or mourn it. Instead he smiled, and knew that wherever they were, they'd be smiling if they could see him. "It's perfect."
Dinner after that had come on sooner than anticipated, and the entirety of the group had gathered at Gofannon's humble abode to celebrate and catch up further. With the likes of Chita, Ensei, and the homeowner himself around, any notion of a peaceful meal had been dashed to the wayside; though Crow, Vili, Sasasha, and the other quieter members of the group did what they could to reinstate the distant hope. Still, the merriment continued to flow, in part to Cheney taking up head chef duties and Hurdy and strangely Adelle's desire to help out.
Something that, when the three returned to the kitchen after serving the third round of plates, the Hunter felt the need to ask about. "It's odd for you to pitch in like this."
"Yeah." She agreed evenly. "I figured it would be a good time to clear my mind."
"What's wrong, kupo?" Hurdy asked.
She put down the carrots she was chopping for Kanin's soup, then gave a lengthy pause. Cheney and Hurdy glanced to each other for a moment, and as the former opened his mouth, the sound of silverware pinging on ceramic bowls sounded from the dining area. The trio quickly returned to the area, where they found Ensei standing from his chair, looking out over those assembled.
"I'd like to start off by saying I'm proud of all of you." He took a small sip from his glass. "I can't say I didn't expect us to take the Camoa Cup, but you did great job neverless." His visage became a little more serious. "But…from here on out is where our real battle starts. There's a reason why most clans call the Palace Tourney an impregnable bastion. Only the best clans in all of Jylland make it there, and they've held their spots for quite some time."
"Aye, you've got your work cut out for you." Chita warned. "I don't know how far you'll make it. At your current level."
"How long do we have?" Crow asked.
"Two months." Ensei supplied. "By the end of Mistleaf, we need to be boarding the airship in Moorabella."
"So that's two months to work ourselves to the bone." Luso stated. "Is there a place in town where we can train?"
"Moorabella is a fair trip from Camoa. On the opposite side of Loar." Sasasha commented, sipping at a cup of tea. "I doubt you'd get much accomplished before you'd have to depart."
"We're going to do what we can as we travel." Ensei remarked. "Plus, I'd like to reach Moorabella earlier than that. That's why we're leaving in a week."
A number of surprised exclamations and shouts of protest sounded out, but the Parivir made sure to calm them. A more somber mood enveloped the room after that, with everyone dismayed at only being able to see their old friends for such a short period.
After a brief quiet, Cheney felt an opening to stand as well, and all eyes locked perplexingly on his form. "I'd like to add something to what Ensei said. I've been thinking of ways to improve myself, ever since Grazton, and I believe this two month window will provide the opportunity."
He was met with many an inclined eyebrow. He cleared his throat once. "I want to branch off from the clan." Dead silence immediately ushered in, and his hands flew up defensively, hoping to cut them off before they could voice themselves. "Wait, before you say anything, don't get me wrong. I'm not leaving. But with where I'm at now, I'll need to really buckle down if I want to pull my own weight at the tourney." He gave them an assuring smile. "Don't worry. You won't be boarding that airship without me."
More silence followed, but over the minute, faces started to warm up to the idea. Luso eventually asked. "Are you going by yourself?"
"No, kupo. I'm going to go with him." Hurdy stepped up. This if anything brought incredulous stares. "Just like Cheney, I want to be of help to everyone also."
Kanin's voice was more distraught at the Moogle's declaration than the Hunter's. "Hurdy, you're already—"
"I know I help out some already." He admitted, head dipping a little lower. His paws balled up. "But there's not much I can do on my own. I don't want to be only everyone's support, kupo. I want to be able to fight on my own as well." His eyes came up, flushed with determination and focused on Luso. "I want our friends in St. Galleria to know that I fought with all my heart for them, just like everyone else."
Nobody had the gall to defy him after that. Instead, he was met with approving nods and grins first from Luso, then from Ensei, until the entire table had acknowledged him. Adelle watched the Moogle and Hunter grinning victoriously, her expression mostly blank.
Until she heard Ensei's question. "Where do you two plan on going?"
And the Hunter's subsequent answer. "The Aldanna Range."
Her eyes widened exponentially, and everything came rushing back to her at once. Before the conflicting feelings of today. Before her talk with Ensei on that roof. Before the strange sensations during the battle with Barley.
Her hand shot up, and she stepped forward, just as everyone turned to eye her.
The very day before the nightmares started occurring with some frequency, that old wizard had said something right before they left, and it had planted that kernel in her mind.
"You, my child, are indeed a special one."
Lezaford knew something, and he was going to give her some answers.
"Alright, I think everything's secure."
Crow nodded at Vili's inspection of travel pack, a massive conglomeration of burlap sack, items that could not fit within, and a sea of rope binding it all together. Upon her request, he turned to hers and began his own assessment.
The clan had gathered a little ways outside the Camoa city gates—being too crowded and noisy for any proper farewell—at the not too early time of seven in the morning. Or what Ensei considered early. And they found themselves slowly but surely becoming conditioned to the man's scheduling choices.
Having a number of things to do before, he'd instructed everyone leaving that day to get ready separately and meet up at the assigned location. So far most of them had arrived. Crow and Vili had been the first, and had been inspecting their belongings to pass the time. Kanin arrived sometime after with Sasasha and two chocobo in tow. Her white one and the fully outfitted Gull.
Chita followed within the half hour, and they weren't surprised to see him sporting travel gear of his own. The Gladiator had been on unspecified business in Camoa, and was heading Moorabella way like them anyway. He figured it was as good a time as any to catch up with Ensei and avoid a lonely trip.
Cheney, Hurdy, and Adelle arrived, the latter two still in sleepwear. They'd planned for a departure tomorrow instead, given the shorter distance to their objective. Leaving the three behind wasn't as hard as Cid in Grazton given the circumstances, but many hugs and elongated goodbyes passed between them.
Interrupted by the arrival of Gofannon and two teenagers that brought about surprised looks.
Gone were his tattered yellow overalls. Instead, a short sleeve navy blue shirt lay under an unsullied pair of black overalls, dotted here and there with crescent moon symbols and stylistic white flame designs. Boots browned by their travels swapped for a fresh, dark chocolate pair. Fitted, flexible bracers covered most of his right arm and gloved hand. The frayed green fabric that had once formed a makeshift sarong around his waist had been exchanged for a dark purple, bordering on indigo.
A thick belted apparatus wrapped around his upper torso, securing his brand new sword on his back, just underneath the thin hood his shirt provided.
"What do you think?" Gofannon grinned. "Been working on this for a few weeks now, once my daughter informed me about that sword."
"How dashing." Sasha remarked with a bemused chuckle, spotting the wide eyed Kanin.
"Couldn't have our new Parivir walking around in rags." Anna commented. "Especially bright yellow ones."
Luso smirked. "Jealous, aren't we?"
Cheney quirked an eyebrow at the full backpack strapped to Anna's shoulders. "What's with the supplies?"
"We've been debating it for the past week." Gofannon began, his daughter letting the heavy pack drop to the ground. "You can't win a tourney off spirit alone. Your weapons and gear have to be in prime shape at all times, and the ability to make adjustments is pivotal."
"So seeing as you lack a proper weapons smith, I have no choice but to tag along and fill in for now." A warm smile replaced the fatigue of the journey through town. "I've already begun working on a few new ideas, and this will be the perfect opportunity to travel the country and learn from the greats."
"What about compensation?" Crow asked, always skeptical. "We don't have the money to pay for this."
"Don't you worry about that, boy." Gofannon assured. "I'm sure your sponsorship will cover anything we can't afford to give." He crossed his arms and leveled a grin. "Just keep my daughter safe, alright?"
Luso nodded with everyone else, and after a few moments he gave a cursory glance around. "Where's Ensei?"
"Alright, try it one more time."
Arduous, spastic breaths bounced to the room's corners. His sweat nearly made noise as it plummeted to the royal blue carpet beneath. The Bangaa before him didn't flinch; he wasn't at all fazed at the male's straining state. Instead, he watched objectively, like a seasoned White Mage over his patient, as the dark skinned Revgaji lifted the weighted block above his head.
"Good. Hold it there. Thirty seconds." Cid somehow managed a nod through quivering neck muscles, and the unbearable half minute passed with the haste of a drowsy Adamantitan.
His reprieve came before the limit's end, the pleasant chime of Micaiah's voice followed the turning of a door handle. "May I enter?"
Grant nodded, then motioned for Cid to cease. The airless gasp signaled the Rev's appreciation. His back plopped onto the sheeted mattress behind him, and the rise and fall of his chest gradually began to return to its normal pattern.
Micaiah watched the Rev with a reserved sadness, eyes wandering over to the scar on his chest. Near the center, but more towards the left, still on target for his heart. Grant had been working with the physicians over the past month and a half, showing them many of the natural herbal strengtheners his order had catalogued. They'd also placed the Master Monk in charge of his physical therapy as well, though he'd been told quite often to tone down what he thought had been light training. Normal to monks, anyway.
Cid eventually managed to sit back up, sweat sheen glimmering from the window light on the side. "What's the trouble, Micaiah."
"Baron Beltorey asked for you in his office."
Grant offered a hand out to Cid, but the Rev politely refused the assistance, intent on conditioning himself. Micaiah noticed that he seemed to be getting faster every time she saw him moving. He could actually keep up with their stride this time, and signs of exhaustion were contained, if apparent.
The trio found the Baron occupying his desk, tilted back with the Whisperweed phoning device held up to the side of his face. Said face was difficult to decipher—a swirl of acceptance and hidden anxiety, changing with the speaker's every sentence. The voice seemed rather…familiar to Cid, from what he could hear of it.
The Baron perked as he caught them entering, and whispered something into the mouthpiece before covering the receiver with his palm. Micaiah bowed and turned to leave, but his voice halted her steps. "You may stay, Ambassador. This involves you as well." She and Cid glanced at each other, finding no clue in the other. Beltorey set down the receiver and lifted up a fresh newspaper from his desktop, Grant stepping up to deliver it upon request. "Take a look."
And the duo did. A few reports about disturbances in the central Loar, the passing of a few royal bills, the Camoa Cup results and a small announcement for the Grazton Cup preliminaries later that—
Micaiah gasped, as Cid's grasp loosened and the paper slipped to the floor.
Beltorey beat them to it, expelling an exasperated sigh. "Yes. That's really them. I don't believe it either."
"By that I assume Cid knows." The receiver said much more audibly, and Cid finally recognized whose voice it was. Beltorey raised it up so that it was no longer muffled by the desk. "I was hoping he wouldn't find out."
"Ensei, what is the meaning of this!" The Rev blared, the sudden excitement forcing a cough. "Camoa Cup!"
"Yeah, I know, right? Who would have thought we could get first place."
"That's not what I meant!" His yell silenced the room, and when his words returned they were in nothing above a whisper. "You …I thought you promised to keep them safe. What is this, Ensei?"
The silence didn't lift after he responded a few seconds later.
"We're going to save St. Galleria." Micaiah stopped cold, then opened her mouth to speak, but the Parivir continued in her place. "Those were Luso's words. And soon they were Cheney's, and Kanin's, and Hurdy's, and Adelle's, and Vili's, and Crow's. I don't have the right to stop them. I don't want to." He paused for a moment, voice serious. "If you had seen the Camoa Cup, Cid. They're not just talk. It won't be easy, but we can do it. We will do it."
Cid's face fell, and his hands rose to catch it, palms running through his blonde hair. Micaiah and Beltorey eyed him warily, then the Baron decided to interrupt the quiet. "We'll…just pick this up later, Ensei. Now isn't the right time to—"
"No, it's alright. Nothing will change their minds anyway." Cid's eyes rose some time after his voice broke out. It was more subdued than before, almost a small bit of pride and exasperation. "I approve. Go. Go and turn that Palace Tourney inside out." Beltorey couldn't hold in his grin, and neither could Micaiah contain her smile. "Fly so high that nobody can touch us, and I can finally live at ease."
Ensei chuckled. "Fly? Isn't that obvious? Why do you think we named this clan in the first place?" Cid could picture the Parivir know, standing triumphantly, grinning like a mad man. "Like I said, focus on recovering. And we'll drag you to the top of the sky in one hit."
The Revgaji smirked as the man finished.
"Just don't get blown away."
He lives! Sorry about that dead space guys. Seven different papers, practical tests, and upcoming exams have kept me from anything, let alone writing. Plus, transitions were difficult for me this time, since I had so many different scenes to fit in one chapter. But hey, here it is.
Let's see, new things.
Luso's new stuff. A long time ago, back around St. Galleria, reviewer Refia proposed alternate clothing for Luso on becoming a Parivir, and I decided to roll with it after working the details into the story. This chapter is for her/him.
The official sword poll came out with a close 10/7 in favor of the larger sword (sorry normal katana fans). Thanks to everyone who voted! I'll reveal the score on the profile for anyone who wants to verify. Yuunagi, as said, is a close replica of Auron's signature Battlefields of War (with minor tweaks). It is my personal favorite large sword design I've seen, and I just couldn't resist an Auron cameo. The cameo has a point later down the line, as well as the sword's name and appearance.
Anna's tagging along for now, though that was planned since her introduction. Clan is heading on separate journeys, which I've been eager to get started on. Some notable developments in each.
Think that's about it for now. Next chapter is another Tales of Gully, with scenes I didn't have time to put into this arc.
Until next time!