AN: We're now at chapter three, folks! I apologize that it took so long, but this has been very eventful latter half of the year, especially once the holiday season started and my place of employment has become a 24/7 madhouse. Still, time for more of the Code Geass cast to show up and not just be mentioned. Took a while but when you're introducing a setting as big as FF14's that does require some time to properly set things up. Now without further delay...

Disclaimer: The following is a fan-based writing, Code Geass belongs to Bandai Entertainment, Sunrise, MBS, Funimation and Ichiro Okouchi. Final Fantasy 14 belongs to Square Enix with major props to Naoki Yoshida/Yoshi-P and his dedicated team at Square Enix's Creative Business Unit III for its continuous great quality. Please support the official release.

Chapter 3: Roughening Paths

Earth: Ashford Academy

For Lelouch Lamperouge there were certain reoccurring things at the Ashford Academy that the average person would find unusual that the former prince had become used to in the manner one would regard the local weather. From the bizarre over the top school activities one Milly Ashford would propose and often make real to some that edged close enough to the mundane like the current reoccurring predicament he found himself in: chiding against his gambling chess by one Shirley Fennette.

The two of them were standing at one of the rest areas not too far from where he and Nunnally lived. Speaking of which, off to the side the younger blind brunette with long wavy hair and still in her school uniform was in her wheelchair. Standing at her side was a maid of Japanese descent with short black hair, Sayako Shinozaki, maid under the employ of the Ashford family and Nunnally's assigned and faithful caregiver/protector. Seated at a bench next to Nunnally was a girl the same age as the younger Lamperouge, with long blonde hair named Alice, Nunnally's classmate and best friend. All three were pretty much as used to this as Lelouch and were simply watching and waiting to see how this ended.

"I know you're doing it for Nunna's sake, Lulu, but this time you need to take this a little more seriously!" Shirley asserted, though this time there was evident concern in her voice. "It may have been one student now, but if more start seeing you at any shady places…"

"And I've told you before, Shirley, I make sure to only play at legitimate businesses." Lelouch said, which was mostly true as the gambling that did have bad reputations he avoided unless the match's payouts were really worth it and in those rare instances, he had Sayako with him. While one didn't often see them, the maid's skills as a bodyguard were no joke as the occasional disgruntled match loser or true believer in Britannia's supremacist ideals that dared to harass his younger sister would find out. Usually, and in the latter case always, quite painfully.

"That's not the only reason I'm worried, Lulu." The orangette replied "I mean, that student was the daughter of a minor noble and if her parents decide to use that to make trouble…"

"Earl Stadfelt spends more time in the Homeland than Area 11 due to his duties as head of the family, and Lady Stadfelt is more interested in her personal activities than that of her daughter's." Alice spoke up and flushed a bit as she realized she'd spoken before thinking about it. "I mean…that's what I've heard some girls gossiping about a little while ago…sorry, if I interrupted you."

"Oh, no it's fine, Alice, I know you were trying to help." Shirley said quickly, genuinely appreciating the younger blonde's attempts to be helpful. While Alice wasn't officially in the Student Council on account of age and some extra classes that she took off campus, she was considered a ghost member of sorts as she would help them out with various things when she could. The orangette then returned her attention to Lelouch, but he spoke first.

"Actually, I was going to bring this up later, Shirley, but I'm going to be cutting down on the gambling for the foreseeable future." The former prince said, eliciting the look of genuine surprise on the orangette's face. "This is more due to a sudden scheduling conflict that's likely to remain until further notice, and doing that should keep it from interfering with school."

"Oh? It's nothing serious is it?" Nunnally spoke up, some worry in her voice. It was odd for Lelouch to suddenly cut down on a favorite hobby over a mere schedule change.

Lelouch mentally sighed, cursing himself for not considering his sister's concern, and then decided to fall back on the best cover story he could come up with in case anyone were to ask about his absences during apparent free time if something school or student council related suddenly came up during his time in Eorzea. The thing was he was planning to reveal this later for better affect and also to make sure he had everything for said cover story planned out so it would endure under scrutiny.

"I know this is going to be hard to believe, but…I signed up for an exercise program a few weeks ago, private trainer and everything." He said, quickening his voice at the admission while slightly averting his eyes to better give the appearance he was reluctant to admit this. Very technically not untrue as the jobs the former prince had been taking in Limsa Lominsa had were enhancing more than his magic aptitude, plus a certain miqo'te overseer technically counted as a personal trainer having been assigned to him by the Arcanists' guild.

Given magic users, or Disciples of Magic as the guilds classified them, were as vulnerable to attack as any other adventurer, wore light armor and some their spells could be interrupted in the middle of casting them, being quick on their feet was a must. This was especially true for when their opponents were using a stronger attack which required them to briefly concentrate in some way prior before unleashing it. For Lelouch there was an obvious tell with that orange field of light they'd give off prior to the attack; asking around about it revealed that strangely he was the only one who could see it. Advantages aside, getting out of that field required quite a bit of dashing, which took a little getting used to but wasn't as exhausting as he would have expected. It was at least paying off in making what physical education activities he had to do at Ashford bearable.

"An… exercise program? …Really?" Shirley's expression wasn't as much skeptical as shocked, especially inwardly. Despite her hidden feelings Lelouch (hidden only on account of the intended being the only one not noticing), the orangette was aware that anything more than the basic physical activity was something the Student Council Vice President avoided like the plague. This was practically the equivalent of Nina suddenly announcing she had a boyfriend.

"Yes, during last year's physicals the doctor recommended it… and he pointed out I probably wouldn't be as effective in seeing to Nunnally's health if I didn't see to mine too." This part was a barefaced lie, but a safe one from Lelouch's perspective, letting doctor-patient confidentiality do all the covering for him. "Anyway, it's just basic stuff for now. My assigned trainer is pretty methodical with things, so I'm just following her itinerary."

"Oh, Sayako did mention it looked like you were doing some outside activity when she was getting the laundry yesterday." Nunnally spoke up. "That explains it, but…" The blind brunette's face showed some concern as she faced where Lelouch was, something she had an odd knack for. "You aren't pushing yourself too hard are you, Brother?"

"No, of course not." Lelouch said reassuringly. "You don't need to worry, Nunnally. Everything my trainer laid out has been working well so far, even if she can go a bit overboard with calculating things down to a percentage. I'd introduce you, but the program has this complicated confidentiality agreement, so…"

"Hold on, isn't that a little suspicious?' Shirley asked, an odd intensity to her voice. "Lulu, are you sure this program is legit? How much are they charging for this?"

As the former prince now found himself in a position where he had to add more details to make what was supposed to be a simple basic cover story more believable, Sayoko looked over at Nunnally.

"He probably should have neglected to mention his trainer was a woman." The maid said with a barely concealed smile.

Nunnally nodded knowingly, her blonde friend voicing her agreement too, though privately the former princess did wonder if Lelouch would have saved himself some trouble if he'd asked Shirley for exercise pointers instead. The more she thought about it though, her conclusion was not much if at all. While Shirley was like an older sister to her, similar to her regard for Milly, the younger Lamperouge had to admit that given Shirley's usual interactions with Lelouch the orangette would probably have trouble maintaining consciousness trying to coach her brother.

Eorzea: Outside of Limsa Lominsa

Lelouch paused to wipe some sweat from his brow as the remaining goblins surrendered, dropping their weapons and moving to join their unconscious brethren. This was part of a job from the Arcanist's Guild that he had been assigned to work with K'lyhia on involving a group of goblin peddlers suspected of trafficking illegal goods and the two of them were to meet with said group and inspect their wares near the Summerford Farms. While a number of the small masked creatures were active traders and workers in Limsa Lominsa the miqo'te overseer suspected negotiations with this group of peddlers were likely to turn violent so prior to approaching the goblin merchants, the ex-royal adventurer and overseer proceeded to go over the terrain of the surrounding area and together came up with a plan to deal with the inevitable threat.

Of course K'lyhia's prediction had been right with said merchants turning hostile upon their introduction and order for an inspection. From there it was a simple matter of drawing the goblins from their wagon bearing the goods and then using the terrain to their advantage. While the fight hadn't lasted very long, the goblins managed to demonstrate some ingenuity of their own by having six hidden goblins attempt an ambush by dividing them into two trios that came at Lelouch and K'lyhia in a pincer movement. While the enemy backup had managed to conceal themselves well, their approach did not go unnoticed by either arcanist and basing it off the fall back plan in case the merchants had extra hands along the pair were able to deal with each trio separately before they could come together. After that the duo wasted no time in restraining the defeated goblins for the Yellowjackets to pick up.

"Nicely done," K'lyhia complimented while they were waiting for the guards. "Adaptation, improvisation - - I might have been observing our beloved guildmaster himself in action! This was the perfect example of how the strategy for a given task should be tailored to the abilities of the assessor. In other words, before you begin formulating your tactics it is necessary to fully understand your own strengths and weaknesses."

"That's something I'm growing to appreciate." Lelouch said with a nod of thanks.

"On that note there is another question I would ask you." The pinkette said. "When it comes to improving the probable success of a strategy do you consider it more effective to concentrate on playing to your strengths or shoring up your weaknesses?"

"That's a good question…" The ex-prince paused in contemplation before giving his answer. "I would say I'd focus on my strengths. Between your instruction and our chess matches you've helped me see the value in having contingency plans versus an all or nothing approach. Naturally one would make the plans by adapting one's strengths to a potential change in situation. That isn't to say there isn't merit to evaluating one's weaknesses, it's just to me that's better done off the battle field where I would have the right time and environment to experiment."

"Oho, again you respond as the guildmaster once did." K'lyhia commented with a look of interest on her face. "I must revise the probability for your potential to attain greatness to...97%. You are one to keep an eye on, that much is certain."

(You have no idea on that last part.) Lelouch privately thought to himself with amusement.

"But to return to the subject of battle plans, your calculations must include an accurate assessment of your available techniques and their relative effectiveness." The miqo'te overseer continued. "This requires you to be critically aware of your own limits, the limits of your allies and the characteristics of your enemies."

The former prince made sure to remember that and even paused to quickly write it into the notes section of the blue and gold book with an additional note on incorporating it into his plannings for rebellion back on Earth. While this was adding to the planning stage at least it was a step beyond simply biding his time.

After a few more words, mainly planning their next chess match, the two parted ways with K'lyhia volunteering to stay with the prisoners until the aforementioned guards arrived to pick them up while Lelouch teleported back to Limsa Lominsa to return to the arcanist guild and report to Thubyrgeim on the completed assignment.

"Back from the field, Lelouch?" The acting guildmaster asked as he approached. "K'lyhia contacted me with a summary of events. It seems you were treated to a lecture on 'knowing thyself'. That particular lesson is ordinarily taught only to intermediate practitioners."

"So she determined I'm that far along in the learning process?" Lelouch asked and the other nodded. "That's certainly nice to hear, though thinking about it I'm starting to see why it's that way. Before coming here I probably would have brushed anything on 'the importance of knowing thyself' as rhetorical nonsense one would put forward just to sound smarter. I can say working with and debating tactics with Overseer K'lyhia has opened my eyes to the potential value of introspection."

"Without a sufficient store of combat from which to draw, it is difficult to fully appreciate the profundity of such a seemingly simple truth." Thubyrgeim pointed out.

After exchanging a few more words, with the possibility of another assignment from the arcanist guild likely soon to come coupled with a recommendation from Thubyrgeim to continue to seek improvement in the craft in earnest, the former prince utilized the Teleport spell once again to return to Summerford Farms to see if anymore work was available.

After arriving at the Summerford Farms aetheryte crystal, Lelouch took a look at the gold-blue book's map and saw only one person seemed to have need of his services this time and from the looks of where the indicator was situated it wasn't one of the farmhands. A moment later he saw his assumption was correct, judging from the grave expression on Staelwyrn's face.

"I take it you have a more serious job than usual for me?" Lelouch asked as he approached the roegadyn ex-corsair.

"Aye...I've come to expect a great deal of you, lad, and you've never once let me down." Staelwyrn answered with a nod. "Yet what I'd ask of you now goes beyond aught I've asked before. Would you hear my plea all the same?"

"Go ahead." The former prince said simply.

"It eases my mind to have your ear." The other said gratefully. "You're no doubt familiar with that scoundrel Sevrin by now."

Lelouch quickly bit back a sigh at the sound of that name and the image of a blonde young hyur man in your typical pirate garb and wearing a bandanna came to mind. Of all the jobs he'd taken around this farming area since that strange business with the crystal, the most headache inducing ones always involved Sevrin, a young ex-pirate who hadn't been taking well to the changing of jobs from corsair to farmer well and demonstrated that by being an all-around bother for any and all involved.

"Unfortunately." The ex-prince turned adventurer finally let said sigh go. "What's he done this time?"

"Well, the schemin' scapegrace is at it again." Staelwyrn replied. "Since that letter came for him, he's been skulkin' about in that manner he does when he's up to no good. Now he's rounded up his rogues and buggered off, with nary a word to anyone."

"What was in the letter he received?" Lelouch asked. "It might give us a clue as to what he's up to."

"Wish I could tell you, lad, but when I got around to askin' Sevrin, he wouldn't say." Staelwyrn's hand strayed to his forehead as if he had a headache from all of this, which the other suspected he did. "I've grown accustomed to his insolence, but somethin' tells me this is different. It ain't exactly damnin', but when last I had words with him, he didn't look defiant so much as 'hunted'. I can't help thinkin' he's gone lookin' for trouble and found more than he wanted. So I was hopin' you might hunt his sorry hide down and drag it back here before it's too late."

"Certainly, you can consider it done." The former prince replied. In all likelihood this was an issue of money, given Sevrin's penchant for petty theft so the job would probably just be finding the recalcitrant ex-pirate and sorting the issue from there. "Still...pardon me for saying this, but you seem to be going a little further than expected for a problem employee."

"The ungrateful little cur bites me every chance he gets, but I can't quite bring myself to cut him loose." The roegadyn corsair turned farmer admitted. "I s'pose he reminds me a bit of my younger self. Suffice it to say, I'd rather he didn't come to a sticky end."

"I see..." Lelouch paused to consider that, aside from Nunnally there wasn't anyone he could say that he'd ever felt anywhere near that level of responsibility for, before dismissing that thought so as to focus on the job he'd just accepted. Asking Staelwyrn where he thought Sevrin may have gone got him directed to the last person to see the man and his followers, a female roegadyn farmhand named Grynewyda.

Finding her didn't take long and Grynewyda revealed that she had seen Sevrin accompanied by three other troublesome farmhands that he took to hanging out with. Apparently, the unruly foursome had gotten drunk at some point, having asked her to join them to which she had refused in terms that could be politely described as 'honest'. From there Lelouch was directed to the Woad Whisper Canyon, a shallow valley crated in the aftermath of the infamous Calamity, as the general direction Sevrin and intoxicated company were headed. Having gone as far as The Skylift, a wooden structure built around a pulley operated elevator along the east facing cliffs of said canyon to provide passage for traders, Lelouch knew he would at the very least be able to find witnesses to where his targets were going and proceeded there after giving a noncommittal response to Grynewyda's request to cuff each of the bunch around the ear for her.

As it turned out, the Skylift was as far as the former prince needed to go as Lelouch encountered the first of Sevrin's 'circle of friends', a bearded Hyur man named Aylmer. The man was crouched down and breathing heavily from exhaustion.

"Of all the dirty, deceitful, downright dastardly deeds that sloppery bastard's done!" The man swore as Lelouch approached him and helped him to his feet. "Claimin' to take the lads out for a drink only to lead us into a bloody trap! It don't get no lower than that!"

(A trap? Why would…) The former prince's inner question was answered as he then remembered the kidnappings that had been going on in the city state and he quickly asked the other. "So were you the only one that escaped?"

"I've learned to stay a step ahead of Sevrin, so I was ready." Aylmer answered with a nod. "But the others weren't so lucky. You've got to help 'em!"

With a quick assurance and confirmation of where to go, down a rocky corridor to the right attached to the Skylift, Lelouch sent the man on his way back to the farm. He soon came upon another of the unfortunate bunch, a roegadyn male named Eyrimhus who had little to say on the matter before running to safety other than a fight breaking out with whoever had ambushed them. It was when the prince turned adventurer came upon the last of Sevrin's followers, a lalafell male named Sozai Rarzai who was presently leaning against the left rock wall while clutching a wound to his left side, that something unexpected was brought to light.

"Sevrin might've got us into this mess, but I ain't about to let him give his life for us." The wounded lalafell declared through gritted teeth. "I'd sooner bow to a fishback than be in that connivin' bastard's debt! To arms!"

Despite Sozai's clear willingness to go back to the fight with help, as could be seen in the miniature former corsair's attempt to get back on his feet despite his injury, Lelouch quickly spoke against it.

"No, you head back to Summerford Farms like your two friends and let Staelwyrn know what's going on." The ex-royalty arcanist said firmly and seeing Sozai about to object continued while making his best impression of the few times he'd seen his mother give a serious order to some of the guards under her command. "I don't have the potions to spare to get you back into fighting condition and the only healing spell I know will take more time than we've got. If you get back to the farm, then if need be, some backup from either the Yellowjackets or another adventurer can be called. I'll deal with things in the meantime, now go!"

That had apparently been enough as Sozai backed down with a nod and started to head back down the corridor towards the Skylift entrance. With that Lelouch then headed in the opposite direction towards where the corridor opened up into a large rocky clearing and his walk soon quickly turned into careful creeping as the former prince saw three figures standing around something a distance away. The closer he got revealed that had been a good choice as the three were garbed in a manner that identified them as pirates; the only one of the trio with his face uncovered was a bald roegadyn man with an axe strapped to his back, but the most striking feature was the left side of his face was tattooed in manner that made that part of the face blue. All three were looking down at something and several careful steps revealed to Lelouch it to be none other than Sevrin, lying on his side and clearly struggling to get back up.

"A true knave! You betray even yourself, Sevrin!" The tattooed man loudly declared before roughly kicking the other in the stomach, eliciting a groan of pain from Sevrin. As Lelouch crept as close as he felt he could get without being discovered, he saw that the half indigo faced man's companions were also reogadyn and women, one with a sword and shield while the second had no visible weapons, yet while masked one could see a blue tattoo was on their face different from their male counterpart as theirs resembled claw marks.

"We were prepared to overlook the matter of your desertion on the condition that you provided us with suitable replacements. That was the agreement." The tattooed man continued with clear disdain in his tone. "Yet your latest change of heart leaves your debt to us unpaid. Few are they who betray the Serpent Reavers twice. You will not do so a third time."

Lelouch mentally sighed, this job had gotten a little more complicated now, recognizing the name of the pirate crew the tattooed man had declared himself and his companions for. Regardless of not being particularly fond of the recalcitrant ex-pirate, the man's change of heart aside, the former prince had pragmatic reasons to save him. Mainly this was someone with some solid information on the kidnappers and that was a step closer to fully dealing with them which would mean Lelouch would then have access to the other city states and the magics their guilds had to teach. Second the combination of wasting even a potential source of valuable information combined with what the blonde's fellows had to say on the matter would mean letting him die could negatively affect the growth of his reputation as an adventurer.

Wasting no time, Lelouch called forth his carbuncle and charged forward, prepared to unleash a spell as soon as the fighting started. Naturally both the pirate trio and Sevrin noticed his presence with the leader of the former looking at him and simply shrugging nonchalantly before returning his attention to the latter.

"Cowering behind your protector will only delay the inevitable. Honorless wretch...your life is all you have left." The tattooed man said somberly to Sevrin as the man started to get up before returning his gaze to Lelouch, and the pirate's half blue face turned to sport a sadistic grin. "And worthless though it be, we shall take it!"

As the prince turned adventurer prepared himself for an imminent battle, he hesitated as neither the tattooed man nor his two followers did anything. Instead the former glanced to his left, and on instinct Lelouch followed said glance. Standing near one of the larger rocks off to that side was a figure in a dark hooded robe with blade like markings of a metallic color. The former prince was immediately reminded of the robed figure from the vision that brought him to Eorzea, but this one was wearing a different mask: a black mask that aside from a few indentations was nearly featureless and covered the entirety of its face.

The masked stranger turned its gaze to Lelouch and the former prince heard an unnatural voice speak out from it. "O mournful voice of creation! Send unto me a creature of the abyss, my thrall to command, that I may smite mine enemies!"

A rumbling sound from ahead drew Lelouch's attention back towards the pirates, but another site greeted him upon the returning gaze. A number of rocks were starting to move towards them, clumping together as they advanced until they started to take a humanoid shape. The pirate trio, seeing this as well quickly made a run past Sevrin and Lelouch, the tattooed man shooting the former prince another twisted grin before making his exit.

"Find cover or make for the farm! I don't care which!" Lelouch called to Sevrin, who was already slowly backing away, before advancing towards this new threat.

Lelouch at first made for the masked figure, intent on eliminating the source of the rock formed monstrosity, but it was clear this new foe was no fool as the robed interloper stepped back behind the rocks and into cover while its stone made minion came between them before advancing to attack. The former prince wasted no time and immediately had the carbuncle assume its red form and execute its Glittering Ruby attack, while he cast a fiery version of the base attack spell he'd recently learned: Ruby Ruin.

As the two spells slammed into the lumbering stone construct's chest, the monster faltered under the impact before continuing its march towards its target.

"You are strong." The masked figure's unnatural sounding voice seemed to echo all around the ex-royal arcanist. "But are you strong enough to withstand this?"

At the speaker's last word, Lelouch saw his immediate opponent take a stance and then found the ground around him seem to light up in that telling orange glow. Whatever this creature was about to do, the former prince did not want to get caught up in this mass attack and dashed leftwards outside of the orange field of light. As he made turned to properly face his enemy and continue the attack, Lelouch saw that the charged attack's range had been in a large cone shape before the warning field disappeared and the rock creature unleashed its charged attack: a cone shaped stream of sand and rock propelled forward by a blast of air. The sight of the burst tearing through and into the solid rock in its patch made the prince turned adventurer glad he'd followed the warning signs.

Yet Lelouch had not simply stood there as his stone foe unleashed its attack. He'd cast a regular Ruin while his carbuncle had attacked normally, waiting for the fox-like summon to be ready to assume its red form again, something he'd found he could sense and per the notes in the grimoire this was likely due to some connection formed between summoner and familiar. The time came just as soon as the enemy attack was completed, but before Lelouch could command the carbuncle, the rock creature surprised him in a sudden burst of speed where it quickly turned in his direction and lunged its literal boulder sized fists at him. The raven haired arcanist quickly called forth the carbuncle's barrier to block the attack, which it did, only for the stone fists to break through the barrier and still strike him.

Fortunately, the barrier had absorbed the brunt of the attack, but Lelouch still let out a cry of pain as the strike knocked him back. Glaring back at the creature in frustration, the former prince then had the carbuncle assume its red form and attack as planned while he again accompanied it with Ruby Ruin. This time, the dual attack had a more potent affect as the rock creature was not only knocked back but began to stumble.

"Impossible!" The masked stranger's voice cried out in a mixture of surprise and frustration. "Never has the golem been so sorely tested!"

(A golem…? Should have known…) Lelouch thought to himself, remembering the creature coming up in classes examining the Judaism based mythologies.

Resuming the cast of Ruin on the golem, the creature then moved to pull off its charged attack again, but it never got to as one more cast of the former prince's spell struck. The golem suddenly stopped moving before toppling over, falling apart as it tumbled to the ground in a literal heap of rock and a glowing mass within the chest area that appeared to be its core that within seconds winked out. Not taking any chances Lelouch quickly cast the Physick on himself and while pain subsided some, prepared to cast it again.

That proved to be prudent as his masked enemy's voice came back during the second casting. "That the golem could be vanquished…"

This time the voice didn't seem to come from all around, in fact it seemed to be coming from above.

"That man is no ordinary adventurer." The voice continued, and as Lelouch looked up in the direction he was sure it came from, he thought he saw the black cloaked figure but in a literal blink it was gone.

"Just what the hell…?" The former prince began uttering to himself but stopped as he heard the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps. Lelouch turned left in the direction he heard it coming and saw the newcomer was a familiar face, the miqo'te conjurer Y'shtola. Upon reaching him, she paused to look around the clearing and gave a weary sigh.

"….The snake slithered away." Y'shtola then turned to regard Lelouch and her expression relaxed into a more friendly one. "I am only glad he did not have the chance to sink his fangs more deeply into you."

The former prince was about to make his own remark followed by a question about the golem's master, but was interrupted as a sudden pressure like feeling came from his forehead. Lelouch's right hand reflexively touched his forehead as his vision began to blur and then become enveloped in light.

When Lelouch's sight returned he found himself looking at Y'shtola, but something was off. For starters they seemed to be in a different part of Limsa Lominsa than where they just were, second she was walking somewhere and it seemed as if he were right alongside her but not walking at all. Finally, everything around him that he could see seemed slightly duller in color than normal.

Suddenly Y'shtola stopped as she came upon a trio dressed in your typical pirate garb and quickly hid behind a corner of the hallway they were in.

"Those pirates do not belong to any of the known Lominsan factions…" The miqo'te conjurer observed. "Whom then do they serve? The beast tribes? Surely not."

On reflex Lelouch wanted to voice his own speculations, but found himself unable to speak at all. He tried moving to get Y'shtola's attention but similarly found he couldn't move either.

"But the timing of their appearance coincides all too neatly with the recent surge in Sahagin and kobold activity…" The other continued pondering to herself, not giving any indication of noticing the former prince's presence even though it was as if he was standing right in front of her. "Something is afoot. The question is: what?"

(Is this another vision?) Lelouch wondered. (It's different from the last; I could move. Yet if I'm just supposed to see this, why do I feel like I'm there in some sense?)

"…Could it be the tribes plan to summon their primals?" Y'shtola's voice interrupted the ex-royal adventurer's thoughts. "Twelve help us if it should prove so. Limsa would be hard pressed to keep a single primal at bay, let alone two. But all is yet speculation. I must needs find evidence."

(Primals…) Lelouch thought to himself. Most of the readings he'd done that had touched upon that term described them as either gods or god-like beings that weren't among the twelve deity pantheon and their worshipers were among the tribes that were hostile to the city states. Y'shtola's words just stated they were beings that could be summoned but given nothing in the books he had access to at the arcanist's guild said anything about them likely meant this was different than summoning a carbuncle.

The former prince returned his attention to Y'shtola just in time to see her begin to leave the area right as the pirates she was observing began to depart as well. Suddenly Lelouch's vision turned black only for light to gradually return with an odd flickering across his sight, almost as if he were looking at a faulty video. His vision then cleared to reveal the miqo'te conjurer now standing at one of the city docks and looking out into the harbor.

"The seas continue to rise…" Y'shtola said as Lelouch found himself seemingly right at her side. She then looked up and the former prince's gaze turned up with hers and he was greeted with a truly unusual sight.

High above was a large glowing red sphere that one might have been able to mistake for the evening sun, yet its position in the sky and it clear the time of day in this vision couldn't have been later than midday made that impossible. Also, one didn't have to squint to see multiple jagged protrusions of some sort were sticking out all over this red sphere.

"While the lesser moon continues to fall…" Y'shtola continued. "And ilm by ilm, the world becomes even more unlike itself. It is as Louisoix foretold…"

Lelouch immediately recognized that name from the last words of the one who had brought him to this world. Also while he hadn't been able to get many details about the calamity that had happened due in part to lack of reading material and people generally not wanting to discuss it, but he had heard mentions of a red moon's descent prior to the arrival of the dragon that brought about said calamity.

(…So I'm seeing visions of the past of this world.) The former prince concluded. (This has potential as a source of information, though if it happens randomly like this that could be a drawback depending on the situation.)

"The coming chaos has rendered the laws of nature mutable, blurring the boundary between the material and aethereal planes…Little now stands between us and the primals." Y'shtola continued to sum up the situation of this time before the Calamity and her face took on a determined look. "…But they are not here yet. 'Though time be against us, hope shall ever be on our side.' Never did the creed of Sharlayan ring more true."

As she finished her statement, and Lelouch made a note to find out a little more about the aforementioned country, the vision changed again. This time Y'shtola was sitting on a crate in a different dock, as could be seen with the multiple ships docked there and crowd of people around her. It looked like the device she wore around her neck were indeed goggles, as she was currently wearing them and taking a look around, an odd glow emanating from circular part above the lenses.

"Never did I dream that I would possess the means to see aether…yet now that I do, I do begin to take it for granted." Y'shtola said to herself, unknowingly explaining to Lelouch the function of the goggles. "How swiftly do the wonders of Sharlayan seem commonplace…"

The miqo'te conjurer's musings were interrupted at the sound of a child's voice, causing her to turn towards the speaker, a girl in a flower decorated head and dress carrying a basket full of flowers who looked to be a little younger than Nunnally, while removing the goggles.

The flower girl then took one of the flowers from her basket and offered it to Y'shtola. "Here, for you. Have you come for the festivities? Today the Maelstrom officially makes that great hole in the sea its training grounds. Join in the celebrations!"

Y'shtola accepted the flower with a kind smile and took a sniff at it as the flower girl left and headed into the crowd. She then got up from her seat and after putting the flower away put the goggles back on. The goggles then gave an odd beep sound as they reactivated.

"Wait. A disturbance in the aetheric flow." Y'shtola noted. "But whence does it emanate? …Seasong Grotto, perhaps?"

(Hold on, is this how we ran into each other?) Lelouch wondered, only for his sight to blur and turn dark.

When he came to, Lelouch found Y'shtola helping Sevrin to his feet. Apparently, the former pirate had taken his advice and found cover. Suddenly there was a ringing sound near the miqo'te conjurer and she brought her right hand to her ear, and the ringing ceased.

" 'Tis I." Y'shtola answered simply and gave a pause before speaking again. "Regrettably, no. He eluded me."

(So that's the linkpearl the people of this world use for long distance communication.) Lelouch privately observed. He'd seen some of the guards and some high-ranking ship captains using them and had previously read up on them: linkpearls were the individual devices linked together through a main device called a linkshell which networked the pearls. Something he intended to make use of later since it looked like they couldn't be easily intercepted and if utilized on Earth it would have its advantages given his Britannian foes would be unfamiliar with it.

"Understood. I will inform the commodore." Y'shtola finished the call and turned to Lelouch. "You collapsed from your exertions. Are you suitably recovered?"

"Yes, facing that stone monster took more effort than the creatures I've run into so far." The raven haired arcanist answered, deciding for now there wasn't any need to let her know about the vision he'd just experienced.

"Sevrin has apprised me of all that transpired. His account shed some light on how you came to be attacked by a golem of all things." The mi'qote conjurer explained. "A golem is a mindless automaton, inert save when commanded to be otherwise. Common pirates could not hope to control such a thing, so arcane are its workings."

"That matches with the stories I've heard of them; never thought I'd actually see one for real." Lelouch commented. "I take it this means those pirates' masked ally is a more powerful wielder of magic than usual."

"In all likelihood, though have a strong suspicion I need to confirm before I can say more on that one." Y'shtola replied. "Also, those tattooed wretches you met are no common pirates: they are minions of the Sahagin. As to their purpose…well, I shall get to the bottom of it too."

(It looks like I'll be running into those fish people Brennan mentioned sooner rather than later.) The prince turned adventurer thought to himself, making it a note to find out all he could on fighting them when he returned to town before returning his attention to the other.

"But first I must return Sevrin to his place of employment." Y'shtola continued, turning to the aforementioned. "I daresay Staelwyrn will be wondering what has become of him." She then turned back to Lelouch. "And you too, for that matter. I will bear word to him of your preservation, but I am certain he would like to thank you in person. Pray pay the man a visit."

"Of course, I'll be along in a moment." Lelouch said with a nod, intending to make a quick check to see if either the tattooed pirates or their mysterious ally had left anything telling behind.

"Ah…he told me of you, but perchance he may not have told you of me." The white haired miqo'te spoke as she remembered. "My name is Y'shtola. I am… a naturalist of sorts, surveying the aether in hope that it might offer up some clue as to our predicament."

"Actually, Staelwyrn told me your name, but it's good that we're now formally introduced. I am Lelouch Lamperouge, new arrival to Limsa Lominsa and starting arcanist, at your service." The former prince said politely with a light bow.

A light utterance from Sevrin got his attention and Lelouch turned to see the blonde ex-pirate regarding him with a mixture of awe and gratitude.

"I'd say I owe you my life…but that don't cover it." Sevrin said. "If it weren't for you, my friends would be dead an' all… 'Tis a debt I can never repay. But I'll not make things worse by runnin' away." He then looked at Y'shtola, his expression hardening into a serious one. "Take me to Summerford Farms, an' I'll face the consequences."

With that the repentant ex-pirate strode forward a couple yards and stood there to wait for Y'shtola. Meanwhile, the miqo'te conjurer returned her attention to Lelouch.

"For reasons I cannot fathom you seem…" She paused briefly as if to reconsider something. "Forgive me. Mayhap we shall speak again when I have marshaled my thoughts. Until our paths next cross, farewell."

"And you as well." The former prince said with a nod and with that Y'shtola began heading towards the farms along with Sevrin. Lelouch watched the pair go before turning and making a quick inspection of the area, but found nothing and made his way back to the farms.

Upon arrival, Lelouch found only Sevrin standing next to Staelwyrn at his usual spot, the pair engaged in conversation, but no sign of Y'shtola.

"Lo! I knew you'd return." Staelwyrn called out with enthusiasm as he noticed Lelouch approach from the homestead's gates and continued as the prince turned adventurer reached them. "Y'shtola delivered Sevrin a bit ago. Tales of your heroic deeds precede you!" Noticing the other's questioning expression the roegadyn lead farmer added. "The rest came shufflin' back, too─the lot of 'em sportin' the same haunted expression."

"It's me that's to blame for that –that an' the rest." Sevrin spoke with regret in his voice. He seemed to hesitate for a moment before continuing. "I was once a Serpent Reaver."

"...A thrall to the Sahagin?" Staelwyrn asked with surprise. "Seven hells...Reavers may look and sound and act like pirates, but they're naught but the fishbacks' flunkies."

With a nod of agreement Sevrin continued. "Us pirates ain't much for laws, but there's things we won't do. We've got a code, see─but the Reavers've never followed a word of it. A few years back, they started snatchin' law-abidin' Lominsans." The former pirate's face then took on a haunted expression; whatever he had witnessed back then clearly having disturbed him greatly. "I'd only just taken my oath when our captain bent the knee to his new Sahagin masters. I knew I had to get away. So I crept off one night, got myself a new name, an' found myself a new home: Summerford Farms. Trouble is, secrets don't stay secret for long 'round here, an' word soon spread...all the way back to the sea."

"So I take it that letter Staelwyrn mentioned contained more than just 'long time no see'." Lelouch commented.

"Aye. The penalty for desertion is death, but the Reavers offered me a way out instead: my freedom in exchange for my mates'." Severin's head lowered in shame. "I dunno what I was thinkin'…" The blonde ex-pirate's voice began to choke up and he roughly wiped away forming tears. "I wasn't bloody thinkin'. Too busy soilin' meself."

"Aye, but you got there in the end, didn't you? When the time came, you made the right decision." Staelwyrn said, his tone supportive. "The men say little to me, but I hear 'em talk of how you stood up to the Reavers at the last; of how you tried to give your life to save theirs."

The roegadyn farmers' words had their effect as Sevrin replied in a more resolute voice. "Be that as it may, no deed, however good, can atone for the crime of betrayin' your brethren. I know that─I do. That's why I'm going to hand myself over to the Yellowjackets. I'll bring shame to the farm no more."

Staelwyrn nodded in approval. "Hm. You'll hear no arguments from me. Each man must sail accordin' to his own moral compass. I just hope yours guides you back here someday. There will always be a place for you at Summerford Farms, lad."

"An' I'll always be in your debt, Staelwyrn." Sevrin's voice choked up again and like before wiped his eyes before making his way to the farm's gate to await the guards.

As Lelouch watched the man go he was starting to be reminded of something before Staelwyrn spoke to him.

"I owe you a debt too, Lelouch. Not once have you let me down. Thank you for savin' the men of my farm." The other addressed the former prince with an air of gratitude he wasn't really used to. Before Lelouch could reply though, the former pirate turned farmer then continued. "If I could ask one more favor of you, it'd be this: tell Baderon what's happened, from start to finish. I'm certain he'd put in a good word for Sevrin if he knew the whole story. And he's one of the few people I know who the Yellowjackets'll listen to."

"O-Of course." Lelouch said quickly and after bidding his farewell to Staelwyrn, decided to walk back to Limsa Lominsa so as to clear his thoughts. Something about Staelwyrn and his dedication to those under him, including a troublemaker like Sevrin, was starting to remind him a little of Kyoshiro Todo with how throughout his and Nunnally's time at the Kururugi Shrine the man had always kept trying to get him to physically train and improve himself despite the former prince's numerous and 'colorful' refusals. While not necessarily a bad series of memories they were still uncomfortable to Lelouch partly because his time in Eorzea was making it clear the refusals were likely a wrong decision on his part and lastly in the scenarios he had put together on his planned rebellion they all led to conflict on at least a political level with the Japanese Liberation Front which Todo was a major leader of. When that time came, he couldn't afford to be sentimental.

Central Thanlan

After having completed a pugilist training session involving the slaying of some giant toads outside of the outpost called Black Brush Station, Kallen paused to consider the past week, counting for both worlds' time. Ever since that one unusual job with the pint sized noble, the adventuring jobs were pretty run of the mill ones that were either killing monsters or delivering things, each one taking her further out from the city and northward until it took her to a new aetheryte at the aforementioned settlement. During that time the rebel turned adventurer had also started accepting work at the Miner's Guild, figuring that if she could get access to the metals used to make armor then she could bring the fruits of her labor back to her resistance cell for resources.

This came back to the reason Kallen hadn't yet told anyone about her otherworldly travels, not even Naoto. Yes, she had gotten stronger in terms of physical strength, but that was mainly a benefit for herself. What she wanted was to have something to show along with the reveal that could benefit at least her cell and while the martial arts style of the Pugilists was a strong one, Kallen wanted to be sure she'd mastered it before teaching it to anyone. Deep down she knew this was a pretty ridiculous reason, probably the result of her wanting to contribute more to freeing Japan from Britannia's rule than just spying as a student at Ashford in between raids. A position that hadn't yielded much in information as far as she was concerned.

Ironically after doing some work as a Miner and gathering the ore outside the city, Kallen soon discovered a snag in her plans for the revelation: she had the ore, but no cost-effective way to refine it. Taking it back to Earth for that wasn't really an option as her resistance cell didn't have direct access to any equipment for that; her student facade could probably get access but that would raise too many suspicions from why a sickly student like her was suddenly taking an interest in geology to where she even got so much metal ore. The only option was to learn it herself in Eorzea, but the problem was the guild for that was located in the city state of Limsa Lominsa which the rebel turned adventurer couldn't travel to at the moment due to some local complications affecting air ship travel in all three city states.

Finally there was the issue of whether or not the person she had glimpsed during that weird vision with the giant crystal was the Ashford Student Council Vice President Lelouch Lamperouge or not. There hadn't been any indication of him recognizing her when she'd made some arranged passing by of each other in the hallway, but given how fast all those people in the vision had moved, including herself, he could simply have missed her. Unfortunately getting closer to him without looking suspicious proved harder than the redhead thought as another member of the Student Council, some girl named Fenette if she remembered right, had noticed she had been observing him. Fortunately, Kallen had been able to pass that off with the half-truth of saying she might have seen him somewhere before and the orangette had come to her own conclusions about it being near a gambling establishment to which the undercover rebel saw no point in contradicting and left it at that.

Since this was a bit more complicated than simply the possibility of her cover being blown, Kallen couldn't go with a direct confrontation and interrogation until she was sure so as not to blow it herself for nothing. Then again, the possibility she was right had its own problems. If this guy had been in Eorzea for a while then confronting him would lead to an actual fight when it came to the inevitable silencing him and there was no telling what tricks he may have picked up in this world out of a fantasy novel. That made confronting him on school grounds out of the question so it would have to be either outside of them or in Eorzea. Of course all this was assuming this wasn't a coincidence; she had asked Momodi if she'd seen or heard anything about an adventurer matching Lamperouge's name and/or description but the redhead lalafell hadn't so for now Kallen decided to just drop it and see if there was anything else to the training lesson from Hamon and Chuchuto, the former of whom was now speaking with a lalafell named Nanajapi. Some earlier comments from their teacher had both her and the latter suspecting this training was also doubling as a method to obtain ingredients for the night's dinner so it was anyone's guess.

Kallen joined the conversation with the other two and it quickly became apparent that whatever the plan was for the training had been changed. According to Nanajapi, a gang of some sort had taken up the smuggling of a drug called Somnus in the area around the station. Said drug, created from the refining of some sort of exotic flower, was a concern as aside from its mind warping affects it would cause those who overindulged in the substance to fall into a permanent comatose state. Nanajapi had tried bringing this to the attention of the Brass Blades and the Stone Torches, a different mercenary company that patrolled around Black Brush Station to keep the peace, but as could be expected neither group were inclined to even look into the matter and so the desperate lalafell had turned to Hamon based on the Pugilist Guild leader's heroic reputation.

Naturally the aged martial artist and Chuchuto had accepted, as had Kallen, needing no convincing given she was well aware of how nasty the drug trade, especially of the drug called Refrain, could be to the poor and desperate given there were plenty examples to find in Japan's ghettos.

(Just like back home, gotta do what the rent-a-cops won't.) Kallen thought to her self as she split from Hamon and Chuchuto as they each began investigating where to locate the drug dealing scum.

Said investigating soon revealed that these smugglers appeared to be working with a gang known as the Alacran, a group of criminals with a fierce reputation that were likely to back up the smugglers in a fight. More asking around yielded that the likely gathering spot for the little cabal was an abandoned den of a type of rat-like beastfolk known as qiqirn that was located west of a nearby tavern called 'The Coffer & Coffin'. Kallen had taken a few jobs from both patrons and staff of the establishment so she had a good idea of where to start looking. Rejoining with Hamon and Chuchuto to compare findings showed their gathered intel seemed to match along with the information that a silver haired lalafell who had been acting suspiciously might be a member. That last bit seemed to trouble Hamon for some reason, but the aged martial artist quickly put that aside and with that the trio made their way to the meeting point to await the smugglers.

As the three stopped at the wooden legs of a nearby bridge, the trio spotted a group of four at their destination. One of them was indeed a silver haired lalafell in a purple jacket and brown pants and at his side wore the tell tale knuckles of a pugilist. The other three were hyur men, two shirtless and also appeared to be pugilists, though rather than knuckles they both wore a pair of gauntlets with a set of two blades the curved over and past where there fists would go. The last man wore a purple hooded robe with said hood drawn and had a battle ax strapped to his back. Around his neck was a pendant with markings that identified him as a member of Alacran.

"Thal's balls" Hamon exclaimed, looking in the direction of the lalafell, his voice clearly struggling to be restrained into a whisper. "That's-!"

It was obvious to Kallen from that her teacher recognized this pint sized smuggler and a look at Chuchuto revealed the verdette knew this guy too, as could be seen from her expression and posture. Kallen quickly pushed aside the urge to ponder what god or facet of evolution gave lalafell such an over the top (and most times oddly cute) way of physically expressing themselves to listen to the criminals they'd been tailing.

"Gahaha...We've really outdone ourselves this time." The hooded man said with satisfaction. "Master Weggfarr's bound to be pleased."

"Save the talk." The silver haired lalafell said irritably. "We have crates to move."

"Rurukuta! It is you, isn't it!?" Chuchuto shouted at the lalafell as she emerged from her hiding spot, followed by Hamon.

Kallen was probably more surprised at this than their intended targets and was going to voice her objection giving up the element of surprise but stopped and reminded herself she wasn't in Japan right now and they weren't dealing with Britannian soldiers. The redhead instead sighed and followed the pair, hoping that this bunch wasn't as dangerous as the gangsters in the ghettos back home.

The four naturally turned in the direction of the newcomers with the lalafell now identified as Rurukuta speaking as soon as the trio stood a few feet from his companions.

"Chuchuto...and Master." He said in recognition, though obviously not happy to see them. "It's been a while."

"You vanish from the guild with nary a word, and we find you hear smuggling somnus with those villains!?" Chuchuto exclaimed. "What is the meaning of this?!"

"Rurukuta, my boy. I didn't teach you how to fight so that you could become a pox on society." Hamon addressed his former pupil seriously. "My student or no, you must be held accountable." He then pointed at the four before glancing at his two current students. "Chuchuto, Kallen, your lesson begins! Apprehend the smugglers!"

Kallen quickly got into a fighting stance along with Chuchuto, their knuckles ready for using. In response Rurukuta simply turned away from them.

"You lot, take care of these meddlers!" The silver haired lalafell called out.

Kallen glimpsed some movement from behind a large rock to her left followed by similar movement from behind the brush to her right. Before she could get a better look the sound of moving feet from behind got her attention and she whirled around to see what would have been a pair of pugilists attired similarly to the ones with the Alacran man. Master Hamon had also seen them and was engaging one of them in battle already, leaving only one of them coming in her direction. The redhead nimbly dodged the incoming attacker's charging blow, using this as an opportunity to get behind this noticeably less skilled pugilist's back and swiftly struck with a Bootshine.

The criminal pugilist grunted in pain as he turned around only to get a True Strike to the face, followed by a Snap Punch that landed in the pit of his stomach. The man keeled over as the last blow literally knocked the wind out of him and he collapsed in a groaning heap.

Kallen's attention returned to where she had been looking only to see that the movement she'd glimpsed before had each been another pair of hyur pugilists working for the Alacran as they were now fighting Chuchuto, who was holding her own by using a combination of her skills and smaller size as a lalafell to engage them defensively. Meanwhile Rurukuta and his three associates were standing a safe distance away and watching the battle unfold.

"Show them the fruit of your training, Kallen!" The verdette called encouragingly, seeing her fellow student had dealt with her initial opponent.

"Thought you'd never ask!" The rebel turned adventurer responded with an eager grin, and quickly picking the criminal pugilist that seemed the most focused on Chuchuto and had an opening she could exploit without impairing her friend. She then made her initial strike with Bootshine and followed with a True Strike before the man tried to adjust things to deal fighting more than one opponent while calling to his fellows for help. That proved to be a mistake as Chuchuto was able to find and opening and used a spinning kick technique that was a regular blow to the others, but in his case it was able to knock him off his feet and onto his back. The man gave a groan, but did not get back up.

The remaining hired thugs went down quickly under the pair's better trained fists. Strangely, the gangsters then chose to sic four of the rodent-like creatures called marmots on them, but those were dealt with fairly easily. The two pugilists who had accompanied hooded man charged in only to fare about as well as their prior comrades. As Kallen and Chuchuto dealt the knock out blows to their opponents, two more hyur men garbed similarly to their hooded compatriot joined both him and Rurukuta. It was plain on the three hyur men's faces as they stepped back that they favored retreating and started to do so as the two women approached still prepared to fight only for the smugglers' escape to be cut off with Hamon seeming to appear in front of them.

"Hamon Holyfist?!" The leading Alacran member exclaimed. "Just our luck…"

Hands to his hips and, the bearded martial arts master spoke confidently. "If you know who I am, then you'll know what's good for you. Come quietly or there will be trouble."

Of the criminal foursome it was Rurukuta who stepped forward. He looked at his former teacher for a moment and then looked away, his expression one of disgust

"Holyfist? Don't make me laugh!" He then turned to regard not just his compatriots but also Kallen and Chuchuto. "You're being fooled, all of you!"

"Who's fooling who?" Chuchuto asked, surprised and clearly confused at this being what her estranged friend had to say at essentially being caught. "What in the world are you talking about?"

Rurukata looked down as he answered. "It was a dark night several moons ago. I was out in the wilds, training alone."

As Rurukuta began his story, Kallen noticed that the silver haired lalafell had caught everyone's attention. Enough that she decided to test it by slowly edging away from Chuchuto and towards the backs of the remaining smugglers. The rebel turned adventurer kept her expression neutral as she saw her movement hadn't been noticed and continued, keeping her eyes on the enemy group and whatever it was Rurukuta had to say as it apparently required one of those marmots they'd used as poor attack dog substitutes.

"From a distance, I caught sight of Master leaving the tavern and turning for the city." Rurukuta continued. "Thinking to accompany him back, I followed on his heels and was about to call out when I...when I saw...this."

The silver haired lalafell looked to the marmot and gave a gesture to which it was trained to respond to as it then crawled towards Hamon and stopped.

"Hm? You would challenge the Holyfist?" Hamon addressed the marmot. "You have fighting spirit I'll grant you that, but you'd do well to know your limits."

The marmot simply looked up, seemingly undaunted by the Pugilist guild leader's words, though Kallen suspected it was just because the rodent-like creature just didn't understand more than the commands it had been trained to respond to. She was about to make her move, when Hamon verbally accepted the marmot's challenge and came at it with a war cry...only to miss as the creature evaded the strike with a simple jump. Hamon took another swing to which the marmot again easily jumped out of the away from, and to a follow up kick it simply stepped aside and walked away to avoid.

"M-Master?" Chuchuto uttered, her eyes widened in disbelief as said Pugulist guild leader was now bent over and stopping to catch his breath after his failed attempts to even hit one of what was more common vermin than a monster and something both she and Kallen could dispatch with ease.

Breathing heavily to catch his breath, Hamon eyed his opponent as it simply stared up at him. "You read my every move...You're no ordinary marmot…"

As if in answer, the marmot leaped forward, striking the old martial artist at the chin in a headbutt that sent Hamon flying.

"Master!" Chuchuto cried out as her mentor sailed backwards in a small arc, her face a mask of total shock as he landed unceremoniously on his back. Kallen's eyes were wide in surprise at this too but she kept her composure as she prepared her move to strike.

Laying on his back where he had landed, Hamon gasped before speaking in a mournful voice. "All I wanted...was to be surrounded by scantily clad maidens...when my time came...The gods are cruel…"

Kallen fought the urge to facepalm which would then be followed by a very audible groan at this so as not to give herself away. Oh, she was aware that her new martial arts instructor was something of a lech, Hamon wasn't exactly subtle about his many attempts to woo women during his off time. However whatever skirt chasing he engaged in he kept separate from his work in the guild as from her joining said guild to now the old man had remained professional (if a tad eccentric) towards her and any other female student or guild member. Despite all did not make Hamon's current position and words any less embarrassing.

In all likelihood Chuchuto would have agreed as she rushed over to her fallen teacher's side and spoke in a very stern tone. "Master! What is the meaning of this!? Explain yourself!"

"Now you've seen it with your own eyes!" Rurukuta declared. "Master was beaten by a marmot, a common bleeding marmot! He would remind us how strong he was at every turn, but he was lying through his teeth!"

The silver haired lalafell looked to Chuchuto to see if she had anything to say but then frowned as he noticed something was off.

(Hold on, didn't Master have another…) Rurukuta's eyes widened as he realized what he'd overlooked in his focus on revealing the truth about his master.

Meanwhile, as the pint sized pugilist turned smuggler was in thought, the leading Alacran laughed in triumph. "I can scarcely believe my eyes! Wait till Master Weggfarr learns of this!"

The hooded criminal's mirth was interrupted as he saw Rurukuta whirl around with a serious expression. However, whatever question he had to voice was cut off along with hearing the other's warning cry as Kallen struck the leading Alacran hard in the back of the head and the gangster crumbled to the ground unconscious.

"Thanks for the distraction!" The redhead shouted as she then shifted her attack to Rurukuta, lashing out with a Bootshine that the silver haired lalafell quickly crossed his arms in front of himself to block and maintained his guard as Kallen followed up with a True Strike.

Rurukuta then took advantage of the brief time between the next attack and then proceeded to parry Kallen's Snap Punch. He then made a strike of his own only for the rebel turned adventurer to block the attack by meeting it with a punch of her own. Kallen gave a light grunt as despite the successful block she could still feel the force of her opponent's strike, yet kept her stance ready to continue the fight. The other, however, leaped back in the direction of his remaining two compatriots.

(So that's Master's newest student…) Rurukuta thought as he studied redhead pugilist before him. (She's certainly picked up the techniques well for someone who couldn't have been in the guild more than a month. I'm sure I could take her one on one, but…) He glanced over at Chuchuto and saw his former sparring partner was getting ready to join the fight if he continued.

"We're done here, let's just update the boss on what's happened!" Rurukata said quickly to the two Alacran thugs, who responded with very enthusiastic nods before the three took off, their retreating figures headed in a direction that was neither the city or Blackbrush.

Kallen considered giving chase, but looked to Chuchuto, who was helping Hamon up. The man had a crestfallen look to him that made him look a lot older than the spry and energetic man he had seemed to be just moments before. Hamon slowly walked under the shade of a nearby bridge and sat down, looking from both his students as he hung his head in shame.

"Forgive me, Chuchuto, Kallen...I didn't mean to deceive anyone...least of all mys students…" The aged martial artist said, his voice a mixture of weariness and remorse. "Hamon Holyfist conquered every foe that stood before him, but he couldn't conquer old age. My strength, my reflexes, my endurance...they've all left me. There's nothing here but a decrepit old man."

Kallen found herself unsure of what to say. She'd seen people take humiliating defeats hard, especially among fellow resistance members when a raid went wrong the only option was to run while trying to ignore the jeers of Britannian soldiers or hired muscle as they fired their guns at them, but this situation wasn't one that any pep talk she or ones she could remember Naoto using called for. The redhead looked over to Chuchuto, but before either of them could speak, their teacher spoke first.

"I would be alone for a while. I'll make my own way back to the guild." Hamon said as he slowly got up, still unable to face the pair. "From now on, you're to do as Chuchuto bids, Kallen." And with that Hamon Holyfist walked with a weary gait back to U'ldah.

What followed was a brief conversation between Kallen and Chuchuto in which the verdette said she'd notify the Stone Torches at Blackbrush to collect the Alacran smugglers they'd defeated before going after Hamon to make sure he made it back to the guild all right whilst Kallen would remain to make sure none of the gangsters would get up and try to make a break for it. The redhead agreed and within an hour that proceeded without any trouble. With the business with the smugglers done until further notice, Kallen was considering heading back to the Pugilists' guild, but stopped as she noticed an odd feeling coming from her bag and a quick check saw it was that book she'd received upon coming to this world. Opening it up revealed on the map there was someone at Blackbrush with a job to offer.

(Oh well, maybe a quick job like this will clear things up some.) The rebel turned adventurer thought as she made her way to the outpost.

The job turned out to be escorting a group of prospectors working for a young and upcoming merchant named Wystan who was following rumors of a large vein of ore under some nearby ruins in hopes of claiming it. Well, it was actually just being informed of the open job and that this merchant was at the 'Coffer & Coffin' and would receive hired adventurers there.

Upon arriving she found that Wystan was a bespectacled man who looked to be about the same age as Naoto with black hair and garbed in a primarily blue outfit with white sleeves.

"Come to join? Sorry, but you're too late. Some Brass Blades looking for extra coin volunteered, and the team's already en route to the ruins." Wystan informed her after the red head approached him about the job. The man gave the other an understanding look before continuing. "But look, I know it's not easy to find work these days. If you're interested, there's something else you can do for me. There are these children outside: little ones from Stonesthrow. I look after them when I've time to spare, and so they've taken to following me around, even when I tell them not to. But what with overseeing the search for the vein, I barely have a chance to visit the privy at the moment, much less entertain younglings. Can you give them these ginger cookies and convince them to go home for me? I'll see that you're rewarded for your trouble."

"Yeah, sure." Kallen answered, recognizing Stonesthrow as the name of a refugee camp in the area, a little surprised at the man's generosity as she took the bag of cookies and then exiting the tavern.

As she delivered the food to the children, a group of four who clearly hadn't had as much to eat as what would be considered healthy, something Kallen had seen more than enough of back home, and each of them had nothing but good things to say about Wystan before going home like he'd asked. It seemed the young merchant was something of a caregiver for them, be it insuring the children weren't harassed by any nasty folk like the Alacran or just giving them the time of day to play with them.

Kallen then returned to the tavern and reported the job done, to which Wystan nodded with gratitude.

"Thank you, adventurer. I only wish I could do more. Stonesthrow is no place for a child." The young merchant then sighed. "...Not that my childhood was much happier. Never enough food to go around, nor work to earn it─but no shortage of contempt from the great and the good."

The rebel turned adventurer's eyes widened in surprise at this; the merchants she had come across in U'ldah had seemed pretty well off and didn't seem all that interested in the city state's common residents as anything more than potential customers. Kallen could tell that Wystan was being genuine in what he said as the look in his eyes and expression were all too similar to that of many members of her cell whenever the subject turned to life after Britannia's conquest of Japan.

"I remember thinking things could only get better…" Wystan continued. "Yet now, after the Calamity and everything else...for us refugees to be forced to live outside the gates like bloody beastmen is a disgrace." He paused as he noticed the expression on the other's face. "I see you're in agreement there, Miss."

"Yeah, let's just say I've been finding out this city state has a few things in common with my homeland's current state that I really wish neither had." Kallen replied with a weary sigh, mentally noting the irony of taking this job to clear her head only for it to remind her of one of the many things she wished to remove as part of Japan's liberation. "So I'm guessing this mining stuff you have planned is part of your plan to do something about this?"

"Yes, for they say with enough money you can change the laws here. So I'm going to make a fortune and do just that!" Wystan answered some enthusiastic energy in his voice. "I'll buy the excavation rights and start my own mining business. Then I'll give my fellow refugees the work they're crying out for, and pay them fairly! The mining companies have profited from our suffering for too long. But in their hubris they've grown complacent; presenting us with a golden opportunity." His voice became firm as he proceeded to declare ,"And we will take it, adventurer; we will reclaim our dignity, and with it our place within those walls."

"Well you've got my support for that, believe me." Kallen said in a friendly tone. "And don't worry about the job being taken already; if you have any more later just send a request to the Adventurer's Guild." She glanced back towards the door. "You can even hire me for a lower rate than normal, just use what you would have to make sure those kids from before get better fed."

Now it was Wystan turn to have an expression of surprise that turned into a smile of gratitude, which he was about to further voice when that was interrupted by the tavern door bursting open. The newcomer was a roegadyn male garbed in the typical red and brass colored armor of the Brass Blades with their trademark curved sword at his side, followed by a hyur man in similar dress. The pair walked over to Wystan.

"We found her! We found the vein!" The roegadyn Brass Blade said enthusiastically. "Wystan, ye must come an' see!"

"Already!? Amazing! We leave at once!" Wystan then turned to Kallen. "You should join me, my friend! Come and bear witness to history in the making!"

"Right behind you." Kallen replied as she followed Wystan and the two out the door and lapsed into her own thoughts. (Maybe things aren't as bad here as back home…)

That last thought was soon brought crashing down as soon as Kallen reached the site of the ruins. Wystan and the hired guards had gotten ahead of her in the merchant's excitement at his life goal being realized and the redhead had gone at more typical pace in a combination of not wanting to slow the philanthropist to be down and to keep an eye out for any possible threats planning to ambush Wystan on the way. Upon arrival the rebel turned adventurer saw that the threat had been with the bespectacled merchant all along; the roegadyn and hyur Brass Blades were accompanied by an additional hyur man of their troop, this one of darker skin than his fellow. They were standing atop a ruined staircase and looking down at Wystan, who was bent over on the ground a few feet below them and clearly inured. Kallen could see around them were a number of fallen, but still alive hyur men, likely those helping the merchant's expedition. Using the rocks as cover, the redhead crept forwards so as not to alert the Brass Blades.

"Thal's balls, son! A vein of ore in the middle of a ruined bloody city? Godsdamned idiot!" The roegadyn Brass Blade said mockingly. "What did ye think was gonna happen? That ye'd strike it rich and get cozy with the Order, while the masters of Ul'dah looked on? No one crosses the Syndicate!"

"The...the Syndicate!?" Wystan gasped through labored breaths.

"Hah! Finally sunk in, has it?" The leading Brass Blade gave gesture and both of his subordinates drew their curved swords, clearly intent on using them to finish off the unfortunate merchant and his helpless associates.

"Not on my watch!" Kallen shouted as she emerged from hiding and assuming a fighting stance as she put herself in between the three and Wystan.

The Brass Blade lead was clearly not intimidated at the redhead's arrival. "Well look at this! Not all yer friends've deserted ye and yer unfortunate lot, it seems... Lucky boy! Now ye'll all have some fair company to the tomb!"

"Come on and try it then!" Kallen's reply was practically a snarl as she felt her mounting anger grow at these hired thugs. From the moment she'd arrived in this world the only differences she could find between the Brass Blades and the Britannian Knight Police was looks and weaponry, everything else was the same in their blatant disregard for any life that wasn't their own or their rich handlers. "As far as I can see you're as due for a fist to the face as those Imperial bastards I have to deal with back home!"

That statement had an unintended affect as the lighter skinned of the hyur Brass Blades came forward.

"How dare you compare Lord Lolorito and us to those Garlean dogs!" The hired thug declared in a failed attempt to sound righteously outraged. He was likely trying to score points with the leading roegadyn. "Taste steel, you foreign wench!"

With that the faux outraged Brass Blade lunged at Kallen to make good on his declaration, only for the Japanese born pugilist to easily side step the attack and whipped her right hand out to grab the man's right wrist as its hand held the sword. With a forward yank to throw her enemy off balance , Kallen then struck at the hireling's forearm with as much force as she could muster and was rewarded with snapping sound after her knuckle reinforced left fist connected.

The brash swordsman let out a shriek and stumbled back as his sword fell from his now useless hand. That devolved into a series of hysterical screams and curses as the man automatically brought his left hand to clutch at his now unnaturally bent right arm.

The roegadyn Brass Blade just laughed at the sight of his injured subordinate. "Enjoy spending yer coin to get that fixed, idiot!" He then turned to the remaining hyur. "Just follow me orders and we can take this Doman bitch!"

"You sure? 'Cause I can guarantee I'll break more than just your arm if we take this further." Kallen declared not understanding or particular caring about the first part of the insult, studying the roegadyn as he drew his own sword. It was clear this guy was more experienced than the idiot who rushed at her.

Yet before the next phase of the fight could start, by a strange voice that seemed to come from a little further within the ruins.

"O mournful voice of creation! Grant ye this humble stone a soul, that it may wake to life!" The voice called out in an unnatural sounding tone.

The roegadyn apparently heard it too as he stopped to look around. "Who's that spoutin' gibberish!? Show yerself!"

As if in answer, the ground began to shake around them before the cluster of rocks and fallen parts of whatever structure the ruin had been suddenly began to move. They quickly came together and assembled into a large humanoid shape that towered over the trio of Brass Blades.

"This ain't part o' the plan!" The roegadyn exclaimed, for the first time showing signs of panic. "Bloody hells, does Lord Lolorito mean to kill us too!?"

Once again, as if in answer the rock creature reached forward and grabbed the injured Brass Blade. The man screamed and tried in vain to free himself before the creature dashed his head against one of the rock walls next to it and then hurled the now dead man at the roegadyn, who gave a grunt as the corpse collided with him yet he remained standing. He turned to his remaining subordinate and with a mutual nod ran past Kallen and Wystan in the direction of the city as fast as their legs could carry them.

The rebel turned adventurer wanted to give chase, but not only was it clear this rock creature was the more immediate threat as it advanced towards her, it was also a threat to Wystan and his wounded friends. With a deep breath to calm herself, Kallen looked back at Wystan.

"I'll deal with this thing, you grab your friends and find some cover!" She instructed, to which the injured merchant nodded as he got to his feet. Turning back to the rock monster, Kallen then waited until it had fully come down the ruined stairs before charging at it.

The redhead began by striking at the creature's lower right leg with Bootshine, while keeping an eye on the arms to see what move it would make. She was about to continue the combo when that telling orange light appeared around her as she saw the rock creature take peculiar stance. Heeding the warning sign she'd learned of through experience, Kallen dashed out of the way and made for the back of her foe, who was so caught up in charging whatever attack it couldn't turn around to face her. Not wasting an opportunity, the rebel turned adventurer immediately continued the combo, completing it with Snap Punch as the monster unleashed its attack: a burst of air, rock and sand that tore through the ground that she (and the thankfully absent Wystan) had been standing on.

Starting another combo with the pugilists' signature punches caused the humanoid rock creature to stumble as it turned to face her.

"You are strong as well." The strange voice commented, the sound of it weirdly seeming to come from all around her. "But let's see if there really was power enough to make another…"

Under different circumstances, Kallen would have tried finding whoever this was but she was currently engaged with the monster as it brought its fists down at her in a move to smash the rebel turned adventurer. Nimbly dodging the attack, she then began raining blows on the creatures hands after they made their impact. Kallen was rewarded as the rocks that made those hands started to crack and parts even crumbled under the knuckle enforced strikes. This time the creature drew back as if it had felt the strikes, its movements starting to become less stable as more cracks began appearing along its body and some red light started peaking out from within what would be the chest area.

"This shouldn't be possible!" The strange voice rang out, obviously frustrated at the battle. "That another can push the golem this far!"

This time Kallen lashed out and stuck the knee area of the 'golem' and with strike the entire lower leg of the monster came off. The golem lurched before toppling over backwards, the multiple rocks that it was composed of coming loose and or crumbling and the glow from its chest area winking out.

Kallen stood over the crumbled mass for a moment, pausing to catch her breath, before looking around to see if there were any more hostiles, especially whoever had made the former golem in the first place.

"That's twice now the golem has fallen." The strange speaker said and this time Kallen was able to figure out where it was coming from and looked upward to see a hooded figure in black standing atop one of the ruins. The black robe it wore had a series of metallic designs all over, and the redhead could see its face was fully covered by a black mask. "This woman too is no ordinary adventurer."

"Who are you?!" Kallen demanded. "And…" She stopped as the figure suddenly vanished, completely gone from where it stood in a literal second.

Bewildered at this, the rebel turned adventurer had only just begun to gather her thoughts when the sound of approaching feet from behind got her attention. Knowing it wasn't Wystan, Kallen turned in the direction of the newcomer, prepared to continue the fight if it was those Brass Blades. She then relaxed her guard as she recognized the approaching person as the white haired man she had met at the Sultantree days ago, Thancred. After a quick look at her, the man's gaze then went to where that mysterious masked figure had been standing.

"Damn, seems I've missed all the fun." Thancred commented lightly and returned his gaze to Kallen. "I see you didn't need my help this time."

The redhead had a sarcastic comeback ready in response, but that was cut off as a familiar pressure came to her head and her vision was flooded with light.

As her sight returned, accompanied by some weird flickering, she found herself back in U'ldah and she found herself looking at Thancred, strolling down the streets accompanied by a blonde hyur woman in a pink and red dress on his right and a light brown haired elezen woman wearing a dark blue dress with the front sporting a very revealing V shaped cut in the chest area.

"I would compose a ballad in your honor, but I fear no words would do you justice. The Songstress of Ul'dah herself could not rival your beauty." Thancred addressed the elezen woman with a smile.

"Oh, stop it!" The elezen brunette giggled mirthfully as she brought her left hand to her cheek while doing little to conceal her flirtatious smile.

Thancred then turned his gaze to the blonde. "I have oft heard it said that a blossom's beauty can move a man to love and long, but I never truly believed it until I met you two desert roses. "

As the blonde woman made a similar response as her elezen companion to the flattery, Kallen could only roll her eyes.

(Seriously? It's like I'm making allies of playboys or would be playboys lately.) She thought to herself, only for her to notice Thancred subtly glance back at a merchant and trader talking behind him.

"I hear they attacked another caravan." The merchant, a dark skinned hyur man, said, his words now fully catching Thancred's attention as his two companions continued walking.

"Aye, an' business is sufferin' for it." The trader, a roegadyn man, replied in confirmation. "Bloody Amalj'aa... What's stirred 'em up, do you reckon?"

"Another raid...and I'll wager that caravan was carrying crystals, much like the last." Thancred commented to himself, his expression turning serious. "Another raid...and I'll wager that caravan was carrying crystals, much like the last."

"Are you coming, love?" The elezen woman called back to Thancred, causing him to look back at the pair as they both beckoned him forward.

"You wouldn't keep a girl waiting, would you?" The blonde asked flirtatiously.

"Perish the thought!" Thancred replied as he returned to the two, his jovial expression returning with ease.

As he wrapped an arm around each of them and the trio seemingly strode off on their merry way, Kallen's vision darkened for a moment and as it returned she found herself once again looking upon U'ldah but now in the market area. Once again she was looking at Thancred and given he was alone this time, the vision she was seeing was clearly a different time from before.

Thancred strode along the market, looking at the people buying various things from the many sellers at their respective stalls. His gaze lingered on one particular stall that was selling foodstuffs, with several people haggling prices, and then gave sigh, his expression a gloomy one.

"At this rate, grain will soon be more precious than gold. A result of the uncommonly bad harvests, to be sure…" Thancred's gaze turned upwards and Kallen found herself staring at what she could only describe as a bad cross between the sun and moon: a dark red and glowing sphere hung in the sky before them and everything about its appearance was ominous from the blood-like color to the jagged things sticking out of it. "And we have you to thank for them, do we not? Aye, this weakening of the aetheric flow must surely be linked to Dalamud's descent." He then lowered his gaze. "And, of course, to the primals. A fine mess. But we must not lose hope. Louisoix will know what to do. We need only trust in his judgment."

As her vision darkened once again, Kallen considered what she'd just heard. The one thing she did recognize as a result of her time in Eorzea was the name Dalamud and that it was the name of what apparently had been a moon connected with the Calamity that had happened some time ago. Which would mean what she was seeing now was from the years before her arrival.

Her sight cleared and the next thing Kallen saw was Thancred in what she could only assume was a temple of some sort. He was wearing a strange pair of goggles and was looking around the place.

"Truly a marvel of Sharlayan ingenuity... It's as if I could reach out and touch the aether." Thancred commented and after a few more looks removed the goggles. He gave a quick bow to the statue in the temple's center before turning and exiting the building before stopping outside its doors.

"Time to focus... No more gallivanting about like before. The Scions are counting on you." Thancred said to himself and brought his right fist to his left palm to get better focused. "Have faith, Just have faith. You can do this." Seeming to notice something, he put the goggles back on and reactivated them. "Hmmm... This disturbance is recent. The Sultantree? Maybe Papashan will know something of it."

As Thancred proceeded to make a run down to the street and his intended direction, which Kallen suspected was the time and place they'd met at, her vision began to fade…

When she came to, Kallen found herself lying down a short distance from where she had felled the golem. As she got up she saw that there were several men around her either on the ground or trying to standing up, the former of which were sporting more visible injuries than the latter. These were unquestionably the people Wystan had employed to begin the dig for the supposed deposit, and unfortunately the first in line to the Brass Blade's abuse. Speaking of whom, Kallen soon found the bespectacled merchant being tended to by Thancred and began to approach them.

"Looks like they gave you quite a thrashing." The white haired man said to Wystan. "Can you walk?"

As Wystan got to his feet with a simple nod, there was a ringing sound and Thancred brought his right hand to his ear.

"It's me. I was too late. Our person of interest had already quit the scene." He reported, very briefly pausing to hear from whoever was on the other end. "The General? Very well. I shall be there anon."

Ending the call, Thancred turned to look at Kallen, who mentally noted to later look into the communication device he had employed.

"My colleagues went to great lengths to provide me with the means to detect aetheric disturbances, but every time I find one, you seem to be in the middle of it." Thancred commented. "I'm starting to wonder if it might not be simpler just to follow you around."

"It would probably make some things easier for me too," Kallen agreed. "But I think the biggest problem you'd have is getting our schedules to match up."

"Very true, even now as sadly I have business elsewhere." The other's expression turned serious. "Tread softly, my friend. The carefully laid trap you dismantled was clearly sanctioned by Lord Lolorito. I heard the Blades mention him as they fled. Believe me when I tell you that he is not a man to be trifled with. The sultana's enemies grow bolder by the day, and I suspect they have the support of outside forces."

(So I have to deal with the petty squabbles of nobles here too, great.) Kallen thought to herself but then noticed Wystan approach her.

"Thank you. If you hadn't come along, those bastards would surely have slaughtered us all." The bespectacled merchant said gratefully. "I would speak with you further, but it isn't safe for us to linger here. Find me at the Coffer & Coffin later. Until then, stay safe."

"You as well." Kallen replied with a nod.

"I shall accompany Wystan and his men. They need protection, and I need more information." Thancred spoke before he seemed to realize something and his expression became more relaxed. "Ah, but where are my manners? I have yet to properly introduce myself. I am Thancred, a humble scholar surveying the flow of aether in Thanalan."

"Kallen... Kallen Kozuki." The redhead said, wanting to keep it simple for now. "Just a simple adventurer making her way through a strange land."

"It is an honor and a privilege to make your acquaintance, Kallen. I hope when next we meet it is under more auspicious circumstances. Farewell!" Thancred then turned and began walking in the direction of the aforementioned tavern, followed by Wystan and his men. They had only gone a short distance when Thancred stopped and turned back to look at her. "...Ah. Wait a moment. It occurs to me that we may have…" He then paused to reconsider something. "Never mind. Fare thee well!" And with that he departed along with the others.

Kallen turned around to take one last look at the ruins behind her, checking to make sure the robed figure was truly gone. She briefly wondered if that was the same guy from the vision when she had been brought to this world not too long ago, but then remembered while the outfit was about the same that one had been wearing a red mask and it only covered the upper part of its face.

"So much for a simple job, but it can't be helped." Kallen sighed to herself and then turned and made for the tavern. She cast a quick glance at the crumpled corpse of the Brass Blade and silently wished the local scavengers a nice meal as she continued onward.

When she got to the 'Coffer & Coin', Kallen found Wystan waiting for her.

"Twelve bless you, my friend. You risked your life to save ours." The young merchant said in greeting and then sighed as he seemed to contemplate the recent events. "Betrayed by my own guards... Gods, I was a fool to trust those men."

"Hey, everyone makes mistakes." Kallen said in an attempt to be supportive. "How were you supposed to know for sure that these guys were crooked?"

"Lolorito owns the godsdamned Brass Blades." Wystan answered with clear frustration in his voice, but stopped as he remembered and sighed. "You're clearly a traveling adventurer and new to this city state so it makes sense you wouldn't know. Me on the other hand, I've lived here for years. I should've known and questioned their motives from the start."

Kallen wasn't sure what to say to that as with that context in mind, she had to agree the hiring was pretty foolish.
Wystan just shook his head and continued. "Even so, I could hardly have predicted that the wealthiest man in Ul'dah would want me deadfor the heinous crime of seeking to change the law! I'm just a merchant, for gods' sakes! That ruthless bastard! And what of that monstrosity? Those were his own men! It beggars belief!"

"I hate to tell you this, Wystan, but one thing I'm noticing that's true of any country is that the rich and powerful don't really care about those they consider beneath them and that includes their own people." Kallen said bitterly. "To them they're all things that can be easily replaced."

"Well, that's it. I'm finished. If I stay in Ul'dah any longer, I'm as good as dead." Wystan's voice was firm. "My associates, my friends─gods, even the children may not be safe if I don't disappear. And you...godsdammit, if Lolorito learns of your involvement, you'll be next. I'll speak with the others and make sure your part in this stays secret. Beyond that, I don't know what to suggest... Maybe you should seek the counsel of Mistress Momodi. She's helped countless adventurers in her time. Mayhap she'll know what to do."

"What about you? Are you sure you can get out of here safely?" Kallen asked. "If you need an escort…"

"I've...already made the arrangements, this time with people I know I can trust." Wystan answered. "I've left what I can to some associates to make sure the children are given some care. Go quickly now, my friend. Lolorito's spies may be watching."

After bidding farewell to Wystan, Kallen exited the bar and then used the Teleport spell to get back to the city and upon arrival made for the Adventurer's guild. More because she wasn't in the mood to walk the distance than concern of possible danger along the way. She just didn't want to dwell on the helplessness she was feeling about the situation: despite the strength she'd gained in this other world it seemed she was just as powerless against its corrupt societal elite as she was back in Japan.

As she approached Momodi's desk it was apparent the redhead lalafell had been expecting her . Momodi gave a look at Kallen as she stopped at the desk and having heard what had happened from Wystan's messenger could guess at least some of what was going through the new adventurer's mind presently.

"Settle down, Kallen. You've got nothin' to worry about. No one seems to know you were at the ruins." Momodi said reassuringly and noticed the other's still wasn't one of relief.

"And Wystan?"

"From what little I know, he should be able to get out of Thanlan safely, but…" The lalafell guildmaster sighed. "Wystan, on the other hand, is now a pariah─about as welcome 'round here as a rabid wolf, poor bugger. Suffice to say, that boy risked the wrath of the wrong man. "

"Yeah, a man I'm liking less the more I hear about him." Kallen grumbled darkly, keeping her voice low so as to heed the departed merchant's last warning.

Momodi smirked in amusement at that. "Lord Lolorito: chairman of the East Aldenard Trading Company, generous contributor to the Order of Nald'thal, and member of the Syndicate." There was a note of distaste in her voice from the start. "Didn't get where he is by leavin' loose ends, that one. Which is why he ain't above killin' his own men. Hells, even if those Blades knew what was comin', it's not like they could refuse to do their benefactor's biddin'."

"Somehow I don't think I'll be losing sleep over whatever happens to those guys." The other said sarcastically.

Once again Momodi sighed, but it and the look she was giving Kallen was an understanding one. "Don't let this color your view of Ul'dah, Kallen. It's true that there are some here who ain't afraid to crack a few skulls if it gets 'em what they want. But most of us are decent folk just tryin' to make ends meet."

For a moment Kallen was silent, thinking about the people she'd done jobs for various people since starting as an adventurer and finding the redhead lalafell's advice sound. Heck, even that one lalafell noble she'd helped track down had apparently caused that fuss with Papashan out of a desire to help him and his fellow guards.

"Yeah, you're right." Kallen admitted with a sigh of her own as she sat down at one of the stools for the desk. "It's just...I took up becoming an adventurer to get stronger and find ways to make things better in my homeland when I return to it. I've gotten stronger and am learning new things, but… what happened with Wystan and not being able to do any more just makes me wonder if any of these gains will be for anything in the end."

There was silence for a moment before Momodi spoke.

"You know, a lot of people would call you a damn fool for riskin' your life to save a marked man and his friends..." The guildmaster said, her eyes locking with Kallen's. "But I believe you did a good thing, Kallen, and for that you have my respect."

The rebel turned adventurer at first didn't say anything, thinking back on how the resistance cell Naoto had formed and its initial activities had been helping the people in their part of the ghetto. Partially it was because they needed time to gather the equipment for fighting, but the main reason had been, as her brother had put it, to make sure they all remembered why they would be fighting in the first place.

"Thanks, I...needed to hear that." Kallen said, finally relaxing and with that starting to feel a little tired from the day's events.

"Listen: you've been through a lot lately. Why don't you rest a spell?" Momodi then gestured over to another desk in the guild hall with a hat wearing male lalafell was attending with a quill pen at the ready and behind him was what looked like a series of post office boxes. "I'll have the boys at the Hourglass set you up with a room, my treat. Just have a word with Otopa Pottopa whenever you feel like stayin'."

"Thanks again...wait, did you mean to say all my stays at the guild inn are covered?" Kallen's eyes widened as the other gave her affirmative. "That's...really generous, thank you." It was then she remembered. "I'll do that, I just need to stop by the Pugilist Guild to check on something first."

"Oh, one more thing!" Momodi called to the rebel turned adventurer as she turned to leave and gestured to another desk, this one being manned by a hyur man and had a series of blue lamps shaped like aetherytes around it. "When you've got your appetite for adventurin' back, consider takin' on a guildleve or two. We've a lot of requests from locals lookin' to hire adventurers for various jobs. It'd be a good way for you to earn yourself some extra gil."

After a couple more explanations on leves, Kallen thanked Momodi and headed for the Pugilist guild to check on Chuchuto and Hamon.

Limsa Lominsa

Upon returning to the Drowning Wench and discussing the outcome of the job with Baderon, Lelouch was awarded for his efforts with permission to use the guilds inn free of charge along with being able to take a more readily available selection of jobs known as guildleves. Both the former prince considered useful boons as not only did that remove cost of room and board from the budget, but also gave him the means to acquire more gil which could be used to obtain better equipment and supplies. It was there he decided to use the first of them and rest for the day and the next day try out the guildleves.

While he could only take up to three at a time, Lelouch found the work to be standard fare in dealing with the local monsters. Upon finishing the tasks as requested by the client and then returning the Drowing Wench to report them complete, the former prince found they paid well, especially with a nice bones if completed on the same day they were accepted. Perhaps it was because of benefits like these that it actually gave Lelouch a bit more focus in improving his magic skills, far better than simply going out and using the local monsters as target practice for free.

After finishing another set of these leve jobs, Lelouch stopped by the markets for any better equipment and after finding a few items of better quality than what he currently had paid for them with his newly earned gil before proceeding to Mealvaan's Gate as the book indicated more work was available from them. This led to a brief meeting with Thubyrgeim in which she had him meet with K'lyhia to discuss the finer details.

According to the miq'ote overseer there was a merchant ship scheduled to come to port in the next few days called the Morningstar that was suspected of smuggling contraband. K'lyhia was to lead the inspection but she strongly suspected, based on information on the ship's crew that had been gathered by an informant, that said crew would resist the inspection and violently at that and she wanted Lelouch to be part of the backup that came along with her. The only requirement was that the former prince be able to summon the Topaz Carbuncle, a version of the summon that had used earth type magic in combat as well as an enhancement to defense in the form of a stronger shield than its other variants. Conveniently, acting Guildmaster Thubyrgeim was available to teach him the summon.

It took Lelouch the rest of the day and a little into the next until he felt he had gotten the hang of the summons. Still, with there being time still he returned to Earth for a few of its days so as not to lose track of his life there, not to mention spending time with Nunnally. Upon returning to Limsa Lominsa, Lelouch then proceeded to the Arcanists Guild to inform K'lyhia he had mastered the summoning. From there it was just a matter of waiting for the ship to be spotted and then proceeding to it.

While they were waiting K'lyhia introduced Lelouch to a pair of roegadyn mercenaries who would be part of the back up along with him as they had worked with K'lyhia before, a brown haired and lightly mustached man named Geissfryn and a woman with short blonde hair named Aersthota. The former was carrying a cane shaped staff and garbed in light combat gear which marked him as a Conjurer and the latter was in heavier armor and had a battle ax at her back which showed she was from the Marauder's Guild. Lelouch recognized this setup as that of a typical small team setup adventurers used when working together: the heavily armed and armored fighter to draw the attention of the enemy, a lesser armored fighter or two to deal freer damage to the foes alongside and one skilled in the healing arts to ensure the survival of the others.

"Well met, Lelouch," Geissfryn was the first to speak. "My spells are at your disposal."

"This won't be the first time we're expectin' trouble," Aersthota commented. "But as long as we follow the foreseer's tactics, and keep a clear head, we'll come through just fine."

"You all have more experience boarding and seizing a ship than I do, so I'll do my best in supporting you all." Lelouch said graciously, in hopes of making a good impression. While normally he'd prefer to lead he had been telling the truth sea combat was something he had little experience with even through research as Britannia's might was focused on its knightmare frames, followed by its air force and military with naval combat mainly relegated to the Portman frames. This job should at least give some references he could use for later strategies.

"The Morningstar is preparing to dock in Aleport." K'lyhia announced. "We will meet our first challenge, however, before we even board the vessel. It is almost a certainty that the 'merchant ship' has hire a thug or two to accost us at the pier. I calculate the probability at 98%. The crew wish to avoid attacking us on deck, you see, as that would all but trumpet their criminal intentions to the world at large."

"I take it your information source is how that will happen?" Lelouch asked and noticing the questioning look K'lyhia was giving him, he continued. "Given they were able to get so much information on a smuggler vessel on such short notice, I would assume with their skills at espionage they would be the ones confirming our the criminals' guilt from afar."

"It's fortunate their leader isn't here, your compliment would probably boost his ego even more." Thubyrgeim commented and gave a nod to K'lyhia.

"That's true, the 'Dutiful Sisters' do tend to have an effectiveness of at least 95% and while they're focused on helping the Yellowjackets with investigating the kidnappings they were able to lend us a couple of their number to gather information for this." The pinkette commented. "Back to the main topic, once we do manage to clear the rails, we will face a deck crowded by armed sailors. For a small party such as ours the most effective strategy would be to incapacitate individual foes as possible; each opponent we down is one less weapon raised against us. It is imperative that we do not allow ourselves to become tangled in multiple drawn-out skirmishes and be overwhelmed. I call this Stratagem Hammerfall."

Lelouch and the two roegadyn mercenaries nodded, each of them finding the strategy sound.

" 'Strategy is a tool used to manipulate one's situation into the desired reality'." The pinkette quoted as she looked the former prince. "Keep those words in mind, Lelouch."

"I have since you introduced them to me." Lelouch replied respectfully, deciding to show some etiquette given K'lyhia did outrank him in this guild and addressed her by her title for those not officially part of the Arcanist guild. "What are your orders, Foreseer?"

"It is time we departed." She said, now addressing all three of her companions. "Let us regroup before the main gates of Aleport."

Upon reaching the port town, Lelouch was tasked with speaking with the boatman who would be taking them to the ship and was course warned that the smugglers' hirelings could ambush him right there. K'lyhia, Aersthota and Geissfryn would do a quick check of the rest of the dock to try and spot those hired goons before that but Lelouch knew to stay on his guard and so had his Carbuncle summoned and following him along.

The advice turned out to be well headed as upon speaking with the boatman two axe wielding roegadyn men dressed in cheap leather armor emerged from behind some crates and attacked the former prince. Lelouch had been an extra level of prepared though as on the way to Aleport he'd gathered up all the pepper he'd gotten for use cooking into a paper packet and upon seeing his new foes opened it and threw the contents full into the face of the first of the attackers.

The moment the pepper got into the roegadyn thug's eyes, nose and mouth he let out a cry that was part gag and part scream, instinctively dropping his ax and bringing his hands to his face in a vain attempt to fix what was now a very painful problem. His partner, unperturbed at this, charged past only to be met with a blast of the spell Ruin and the Carbuncle assuming its Topaz form and unleashing its Glittering Topaz attack on its target. The thug went down to one more casting of Ruin and the other had essentially surrendered, begging for water even just being tossed over the dock.

As he was done speaking to the boatman and arranging the passage, Lelouch heard the sounds of people rapidly approaching and turned to see it was K'lyhia, Aersthota and Geissfryn.

"Deftly handled, Lelouch. Once again I am reminded of our guildmaster." The bespectacled pinkette complimented with a clap of her hands. "Thanks to your efficient response, we will be able to commence this inspection earlier than I had calculated. We shall board the merchant vessel out in the bay."

With that, the four boarded and Aersthota took to working the rudder while the boatman took to the steering. Within minutes they were approaching the merchant ship Morningstar.

"Since their welcoming party at the pier failed to deter us, I expect, with a probability of 85%, that our arrival will incite further belligerence." K'lyhia said as she gazed at the ship they were steadily getting closer to. "Our objective, however, is not to trade blows but to gain access to the hold. It may behoove us to employ Stratagem Hardhead."

"And that Stratagem entails…" Lelouch began. While he actually did like the miqo'te's naming sensibilities, Hammerfall for instance he found a fitting name for a strategy to crush an enemy, there was the matter of getting context for them.

"The aim of our opponents is to buy time so that suspect goods may be tossed into the ocean. I do not intend to give them that time." K'lyhia explained. "We will bull our way towards the cargo as quickly as we can."

"That makes sense, but that also leaves us vulnerable to being overwhelmed as you cautioned prior." Lelouch said as he looked from where they were planning to board and where the entry to hold would so as to gauge the distance they would be going to pull this off. "At the very least we should have a secure exit path."

"Yes, this is a tactic fraught with risk, but one that your presence makes possible."

"I'm assuming you want me to hang back with Geissfryn and provide you and Aersthota cover while at the same time protect our healer from possible attack." The raven haired arcanist surmised and the pinkette nodded.

"Correct, plus since you and Geissfryn will be essentially in that same area and close to the boat it doubles in securing a route for escape that with your skill level I calculate at 96% effectiveness." K'lyhia said. "Shall we begin?"

After the other nodded, the miqo'te forerseer directed the steersman to bring the boat in closer. Soon they came up on the bow of then ship and after securing it, Aersthota went up first and the rest followed her up. As soon as they were onboard, they could each see standing atop the stern was a blonde bearded roegadyn man in a green vest and pants, an ax strapped to his back and wearing a black cap with a white flame like marking.

As the four got into formation, K'lyhia looked up to address the man. "I am Foreseer K'lyhia. By the authority of Mealvaan's Gate, I request that you surrender your goods for assessment!"

"Well now, yer timin' couldn't be worse, lass. The old door's rusted up, ye see. Bloody thing won't open." The Morningstar crewman waved his hand (a small compass bound to his wrist revealing him as the ship's navigator) while speaking in clearly mock regret. "Ye'll 'ave to come back after we's fixed the 'inges."

Undaunted by the man's words K'lyhia pointed towards the door in the aft leading to the holds.

"I will see that cargo now." She stated firmly. "Any vessel entering a port of Limsa Lominsa is bound by law to submit a routine inspection."

At her words, three members of the crew came out from behind the mizzen mast, each of them brandishing spears. From further back on the stern an additional group of four crewmen came out from behind the smirking navigator, swords and buckler shields at the ready. Lelouch quickly glanced back and was relieved to find there were no additional smugglers coming from behind.

"The law, is it?" The Morningstar navigator asked mockingly before looking to his underlings. "Lads, I reckon it's time our 'guests' 'ad 'emselves a little accident. Pitch 'em over the side!"

With that, the four got their respective weapons ready.

"Commence Stratagem Hardhead!" K'lyhia ordered as the battle began and glanced over at the former prince. "Lelouch! It's Topaz Carbuncle's time to shine!"

"Got it!" Lelouch replied as he swiftly had the Carbuncle assume its Topaz form, letting it cast its enhanced protective magic before it unleashed its Glittering Topaz at the nearest of the advancing smugglers.

From there things pretty much went as planned with K'lyhia and Aersthota being the vanguard of the attack, while Lelouch and Geissfryn supported them, the former by providing what was essentially cover fire with both his and the carbuncle's attacks and the latter healing their wounds and also casting some attack spells of his own. Eventually some of the smugglers started to try fighting smart and went after Geissfryn but the few who did manage to make it past Aersthota quickly went down to a combination of Lelouch's casting and a wind type spell Geissfryn could apparently cast on command. The last of the smugglers to fall was the ship's navigator, who had pretty much lost all of his previous confidence as his underlings had fallen.

(I can see why this formation is so popular among adventurers.) Lelouch thought to himself as he and the rest finished securing the surviving Morningstar crew to be handed over to the Yellowjackets. What he had seen of his current teammates' actions was already giving the ex-prince ideas for new strategies that he made a quick jot down of into the blue and gold book's notes so he could give them the proper focus later. As he completed that the former prince couldn't help but look over at K'lyhia who gave him an approving look as Aersthota and Geissfryn went to join her at the door to the holds and the thought struck him at how the Overseer's methods were starting to rub off on him. Deciding to ask if she was free for another chess match after the job was officially completed, Lelouch went over to join them.

"A masterful display, Lelouch!" K'lyhia said in approval of his performance in battle before turning her attention to the door. "Now we can finally gain access to their cargo."

As the pinkette made for the door Lelouch called out to her.

"Wait, there might still be crew in the holds." The former prince cautioned as the miqo'te overseer reached the door. "If there are, they undoubtedly heard the commotion of our fight and would be preparing an ambush."

K'lyhia stopped and turned to him, taking on a studious expression as she considered what the raven haired arcanist had said.

"You have a good point, Lelouch." She admitted. "Given the defensive advantages they could have in an enclosed area they know well, we should-."

K'lyhia was cut off as the door roughly slammed outwards, catching her in the side and sending the surprised miqo'te crashing into the mizzen mast behind her with a grunt of pain and dropping her grimoire in the process. Lelouch, Aersthota and Geissfryn immediately drew their weapons, with the former prince glad he hadn't dismissed the Carbuncle after their initial battle, and looked at the open door awaiting their next foe.

"What 'ave we 'ere then?" A voice that spoke with the same accent as the Morningstar navigator. "It's one o' the bitch Admiral's lapdogs, scamperin' about the ship."

A large figure carrying a battle ax in his right hand stepped out followed by three more, all the while continuing to talk. "Yer just like yer mistress: always stickin' yer nose where it ain't invited. Though one of ye seems to 'ave brains enough to tread lightly."

The figure then stepped forward into the daylight while putting his right boot on top of K'lyhia's fallen grimoire.

"N-No, it can't be." K'lyhia stammered in a nervous tone Lelouch hadn't heard from her before as she got a full look at the man and seeming to recognize him.

"Hah, recognized my pretty face, did ye?" The man, a red haired and bearded roegadyn wearing a black tricorne hat with gold trim and an eyepatch over his left eye and wearing a green captain's coat over black armor.

"B-But... you were caught…" K'lyhia looked like she was on the verge of a panic attack. "Exiled…"

Lelouch was about to have the Carbuncle cast its shield in between the two, but Aersthota was quicker as she got to K'lyhia's side and held her ax forward in a defensive stance that was a clear warning to this obvious pirate captain not to come any closer. With that taken care of, the former prince instead decided to keep his eyes focused on this new pirate captain and the three that had followed him out. While their leader had his weapon out, from the casual way he was carrying it showed he wasn't going to attack just yet, and his underlings simply had their hands close to theirs in preparation to draw the moment their captain said so. Lelouch quickly began considering the best plan of a retreating attack so they could all get to the boat safely; abandoning K'lyhia was something he refused as at this point he considered her a friend and while he didn't really know Aersthota and Geissfryn abandoning them was out of the question as both were too critical to the escape. Even if they weren't those informants and the boatman observing things would see it and know, which would completely ruin the reputation he was trying to set up as an adventurer also helped by whatever the pirates had to say to their fellows after this.

"Foreseer! Are you hurt? Can you stand?" Aersthota asked K'lyhia.

Unfortunately, it seemed the miqo'te hadn't heard her companion as her eyes were still fixed on the pirate captain, and she began shaking her head as if to deny the very existence of what was in front of her.

"St-Stay back!" K'lyhia shouted at the leading corsair. "You stay away from me!"

"Foreseer, please, calm down!" If the concern in Aersthota's voice wasn't obvious it was clear from the fact that she was willing to take her eyes off the enemy to face her companion and try to calm her. "What are your orders?"

"I've 'ad enough of yer whimperin'." The captain spoke as he bent over and picked up K'lyhia's grimoire. "An' I've certainly 'ad enough o' these bloody books. It's clear ye ain't learnin' anythin' from 'em." With that the roegadyn pirate simply threw the book to aside where it audibly bounced off the stern's metal railing before falling into the water below.

That did it for K'lyhia, who began backing away futilely in panic, so much so didn't seem to even notice the mizzen mast that was impeding her.

"Reckon it's time ye got a different kind of lesson." The pirate captain said menacingly as he hefted his ax and his three crewmates drew their weapons.

Lelouch glanced over at K'lyhia in time to see his friend let out a scream of fear before passing out. With that the three pirates began their advance, which Lelouch quickly countered by having the Topaz Carbuncle deploy a barrier to impede them. Their leader simply remained where he was so as to watch the proceedings for entertainment.

"K'lyhia!" Geissfryn cried out as he made his way towards her and Aersthota. Giving the roegadyn marauder and Lelouch a quick look he continued. "We must withdraw!"

"Agreed!" The former prince replied quickly as he was waiting until the corsairs broke the barrier and the moment they did he had the Carbuncle assume its Ruby Form to execute its fire based Glittering Ruby but had the summon aim for the wooden floor right in front of them and for good measure followed it up with Ruby Ruin. The fire from both spells immediately took effect and with a sharp order from their captain one of the pirates went for the ships water barrel to put it out while the other two made to quickly find a way around the flames. There was also the sound of commotion coming from past the door to the holds, meaning more of the crew were coming.

"Lelouch, quickly! Back to the boat!" Aersthota called as she and Geissfryn helped K'lyhia up. "We'll carry the foreseer!"

With a nod, and hoping the fire impeded their foes, Lelouch joined the two roegadyn in making a mad dash for the boat. As they were doing so, the pirate captain's voice could be heard calling after them.

"Aye, that's right! Ye slink on back to yer mistress, ye worthless curs!" The roegadyn pirate captain shouted and ending with mocking laughter.

That was the last straw for Lelouch, retreating was enough of a necessary evil to endure but that this wretched pirate had clearly done something in the past to traumatize his friend and was seemingly getting away with it for now was enough that he could not let that parting jeer slide. Going from pure memory of where the pirate captain had been standing the former prince whirled around to cast Ruin in that direction.

Really, Lelouch had not expected to hit anything with that blind shot, the best he was hoping for was it would force the laughing cur to shut up and duck or dodge the spell. Call it karma, mere luck or that the target was not expecting any form of retaliation. The spell bolt struck better than the ex-royalty turned arcanist's highest expectations, catching the gloating corsair in his unpatched eye and his derisive laughter immediately turned to a scream of agony as he fell back and clutched at the wound It also gave the team the opening they needed to proceed to the docked boat unmolested as the pirate crew was briefly distracted in a moment of indecision between helping their fallen captain or pursuing their retreating foes.

Geissfryn quickly began assisting the listless K'lyhia into the boat while Lelouch and Aersthota stayed at the rope ladder to cover them before getting into the boat themselves. Meanwhile, clarity was restored to the enemy crew as their captain's enraged voice could be heard screaming orders to capture the fleeing quartet so he could personally avenge his wounded eye with some very graphic detail of what said vengeance would entail.

"Have a very rotten day, Captain!" Lelouch called back in a mock polite tone as the ladder was cut and the boatman immediately began steering their small boat away from the ship and had the sails drawn to get the boat back to the port and the naval protection it had before Morningstar's crew could organize enough to get their ship to either pursue or line up to fire their cannons at them.

The remainder of the voyage back to Aleport had been a mostly silent one from the party. K'lyhia hadn't spoken at all even when the coast was clear and nothing any of the party had to say seemed to catch her notice. After docking and getting off the boat the three began to discuss what to do next.

"We'll take care of K'lyhia." Aersthota decided. "Lelouch, you'd best return to the Arcanists' Guild and report to Mistress Thubyrgeim."

A part of Lelouch did want to stay and see if there was anything he could do to help, but the logical part of him won out. He currently had no knowledge of the healing arts beyond a minor healing spell, the roegadyn duo clearly knew K'lyhia longer and better than he did and being the only official arcanist that was currently mentally sound meant that he was the only one qualified to report to the acting guildmaster on the day's happenings.

"Okay, just...please let me know when she's awake and can receive visitors." The former prince asked in reply.

"Of course." Geissfryn nodded and with that Lelouch returned to Limsa Lominsa via the Teleport spell.

As Lelouch finished giving the report, Thubyrgeim was silent for a moment as she took all that in.

"That was an unfortunate turn of events." The acting guildmaster said. "But considering the infamous blackheart you faced, you might have fared much worse."

"K'lyhia did mention something about him being exiled." Lelouch recalled from the recent confrontation. "I take it this man is a high profile criminal in this city state, correct?"

"Yes. Have you heard of the pirate Doesmaga?" Thubyrgeim asked in reply and the other shook his head. "He was exiled from Limsa Lominsa some years ago, but it appears he has chosen to defy the Admiral's orders." The roegadyn woman clenched her first, her expression clearly angry. "And once more he dares lay a hand on Foreseer K'lyhia! The poor lass must have been terrified. If I had know Doesmaga was aboard that ship. I never would have assigned her that duty." With a sigh and shake of her head, she continued. "The overseer may require some time to recover; for K'lyhia, that man is a nightmare made flesh."

"I can guess from that and what I saw those two have a history." The former prince commented. "Would you mind telling me what it is?"

Thubyrgeim looked like she was considering it, but then shook her head. "Another time, I need to make the arrangements for K'lyhia's care. Though her physical wounds will soon mend, there is little we can do to salve the hurt to her mind."

That statement got Lelouch's eyes to widen and he reflexively grit his teeth. While not the same condition, that was similar enough to the pronunciation given to Nunnally's condition from the medical staff that had been treating her after their mother's murder. While the culprit for that had escaped unpunished for now thanks to the Emperor's protection, the one for this case far more in reach by comparison.

"You are concerned? Angry, mayhap?" Thubyrgeim asked, noticing the other's reaction. "Harness your energy, and channel it into your training. I predict we shall be needing your skills again before long."

"Count on it." Lelouch replied confidently. "At least I can take some satisfaction in having blinded the bastard."

"Half blinded, I'm afraid." Thubyrgeim corrected and at Lelouch's confused expression continued. "As far as I've heard Doesmaga hasn't lost an eye until today, the eyepatch was mainly for show and there are some, mainly archers and gun wielders, who wear an eye patch with an enchantment to help enhance their aim."

"But with the ax he clearly specializes in close combat, the enhancement would hardly be worth the sacrifice of sight. Even if it did make him look more intimidating I can think of several ways to that without impeding something as crucial as being able to properly see. That's just…" Lelouch felt a headache coming along at the stupidity of what he had just found out and stopped as he noticed the knowing smile the acting guild master was giving him. "That wasn't a joke to lighten the mood, was it?"

"No, the eyepatch part was true," Thubyrgeim answered. "But given both you and K'lyhia have a focus on effectiveness I figured that would be enough to keep your focus from turning into tunnel vision." She then looked at the former prince seriously. "We will get that scum, it's just a matter of time. Just make sure you use the time to prepare wisely."

"Of course." Lelouch nodded and then a thought came to him. "Actually my jobs with Adventurer's Guild has been intersecting with the kidnapping case lately. Is there any chance Doesmaga might be involved with the Serpent Reavers?"

"Not likely, unless his return truly made him desperate for allies." The other answered. "Even before he earned the ire of the Admiral, Doesmaga hated the Sahagin with a passion. Though once it was discovered why...Still, it wouldn't hurt to check should you get the chance."

With that Lelouch exited the Arcanists Guild and made to return to the Drowning Wench, intending to rest at the inn after the tumultuous day. After that he intended to accept some more work as part of the aforementioned training.


Upon arrival at the Pugilists Guild, Kallen immediately went to Chuchuto. Hamon was nowhere to be seen, though it wasn't surprising given the day's events. When asked, the verdette said the old martial artist was resting.

"So what do we do now?" Kallen asked.

"Concerning the guild, I'm just having things run as usual for now. As for your training…" Chuchuto paused before continuing. "I've been doing some thinking, Kallen. While 'tis true Master had been deceiving us, he meant us no harm. Besides, I owe him my life. Had he not taken me in all those years ago, I would have died in some ditch. I could never bring myself to hate him. Even if he were an ordinary old man, I would still respect him."

"I doubt the last part." The redhead said, trying to be supportive. "That guy's training was too sound and taking what I've learned to do plus you into account I'm pretty sure as martial artists go he's the genuine article."

"Alas, with the truth of his condition revealed, Master Hamon has lost his sense of purpose: his will to teach." A pained look came upon the verdette's face. "I cannot bear to see him like this. I want him to regain his confidence, but for this he needs to regain his former strength."

"Okay, and if you need help with that, you can count me in." Kallen said, though a worried look came on her face. "Still, you're sure he's in the right condition for this? I mean...getting old isn't exactly unavoidable and ignoring its effects on the body isn't a good idea."

"Not to worry, given my work in training new students of varying ages, I should be able to design a training regimen that will suit Master Hamon." Chuchuto stated with confidence. "Also Kallen, Master ever said that you remind him of his younger self. Were you to continue showing rapid improvement, I dare to hope that it would rekindle his fighting spirit."

Still looking skeptical, Kallen eventually shrugged. "Well, you're the acting master of this doj-guild. So where do we start?"

"That's the spirit!" Chuchuto nodded with enthusiasm. "To this end, I will teach you a new technique, one which Master Hamon used to great effect during his prizefighting days. Steel Peak, it's called, and it sees you channel your gathered chakra into a powerful attack performed with your entire body."

This definitely got Kallen's attention; a technique that sounded like something from out of a fighting game or manga was definitely something she wanted to learn to pull off. Inwardly she fought to temper her expectations, both to prevent disappointment and also to remind herself she was also doing this to help her martial arts master.

"Sounds like a useful technique already." The redhead said with an enthusiastic grin.

"We'll start with me showing you the basics, beginning with the Meditation technique to bring you into the right state to pull this off." Chuchuto began, shifting into instructor mode as if by instinct. "Once you can do this at will, you're to use it as much as you can during your adventurer duties. Make this technique your own, Kallen, and strive to grow stronger still. When next Master Hamon beholds you, he will surely be moved to action."

"Let's get this started then." Kallen palmed her right fist in anticipation. "I'm in your care, Chuchuto!"

AN: And scene! Boy does it feel good have this chapter completed! I had this chapter planned out with a simple outline, but this one took longer than anticipated due to a combination of real life circumstances, rewrites of scenes and ironically shortening this chapter in terms of content. The original plan was for this chapter to cover most of of the MSQ up to the level 15 quests for both Lelouch and Kallen, but that soon proved to be unrealistic and yet even doing that this chapter ended up at almost twice the length I thought it was going to be. Funny enough the last length affecting thing for this chapter was as recent as a couple of days ago where I decided an entire story segment would work better in the next chapter. Still one odd delaying factor was this thing I discovered while going over scenes to adapt that I feel is better portrayed in this omake. I apologize in advance for my bad jokes.

Omake: Perils of the Retcon

"That's the spirit!" Chuchuto nodded with enthusiasm. "To this end, I will teach you a new technique, one of Master Hamon's signature moves during his prizefighting days: the Touch of Death. By striking at your opponent's vital point, you will be able to inflict agonizing pain that lingers long after you delivered the blow."

This definitely got Kallen's attention. Leaving aside the awesome sounding name, a technique that sounded like something from out of a martial arts movie or manga was definitely something she wanted to learn to pull off. This technique could very useful back home, as it sounded like a way to disable an enemy and also in way that could do permanent damage. Heck even in grab and run raids an enemy soldier crippled with pain could do little to pursue.

"Sounds like-"

- whistle blows -

DarkFusion: Sorry, cut, cut! We have to rewrite the scene a bit here, the Touch of Death was patched out of the game years ago. Apparently it wasn't a very useful attack.

Kallen: Hold on, they got rid of an attack with such a cool name?! Why didn't they just change the attack to make it better?

DarkFusion: Look, I'm not Yoshi-P or whoever's in charge of rebalancing Jobs/Classes. I remember what they replaced it with, let's just try it again from the top.

- scene restarts-

"That's the spirit!" Chuchuto nodded with enthusiasm. "To this end, I will teach you a new technique, one which Master Hamon used to great effect during his prizefighting days. Fists of Earth, it's called, and with it you can shore up your defenses to be as unyielding as the earth itself."

This definitely got Kallen's attention; a technique that utilized the very elements to enhance its wielder's defense could be very useful in a fight, be it one on one or against a group. Perhaps a more advanced version of this technique could stop blades or even bullets. Inwardly she fought to temper her expectations, both to prevent disappointment and also to remind herself she was also doing this to help her martial arts master.

"Sounds like a useful-"

- whistle blows -

DarkFusion: Sorry, cut again!

Kallen: What is it this time?

DarkFusion: turns out Fists of the Earth was also patched out…

Kallen: Oh, come on!

Chuchuto (stares forward with blank eyes): You get used to it.

Kallen (sighs): Okay, fine, what's the current setup supposed to be?

DarkFusion: Hang on...(boots up game and googles the class)...Okay it says at this level your new skill is Meditation…

Kallen: Can I have a different starting class? That ax wielding one looks pretty cool.

DarkFusion: ...So you can use the technique Steel Peak, and if you take a look at how its supposed to work it doubles as foreshadowing for the storyline for Monk.

Kallen: I guess I can work with that. So do we start the next take?

DarkFusion: After I find a video from a playthrough of this class story that's recent.

Kallen: Can't you just use The Unending Journey at your Inn Room?

DarkFusion: You'd think so, but… (turns and looks directly through computer) PSA to all who may not be aware of this: The Unending Journey doesn't feature all of the game's cutscenes. This is why you SHOULD NOT SKIP STORY CUTSCENES otherwise you will either have to use the New Game + feature or use YouTube if you want to view them again.

Kallen: Still, since you've obviously played this Class, shouldn't you have been more aware of this?

DarkFusion: Perhaps, but it's not really my favorite of the DPS classes, so…

Kallen & Chuchuto: WHAT?!

End Omake…

AN: And that's the end of the chapter completely, folks. I thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed it. Hopefully, I'll have time to crank out a new chapter earlier, but until then take care and if this is the last chapter of the year: Happy Holidays!