Code Fantasy - R0: Warriors of Light - Chapter 10 - DarkFusion (2024)

Chapter Text

AN: Welcome back, folks, as the chapter count reaches double digits! Hope you all enjoy the conclusion to the Rogue arc, are having a good summer and doing well all around. Before we get to the story, a few quick review responses:

TalonScythe: Thank you very much for the kind words, especially in getting why I had things start with ARR for Lelouch and Kallen and oh boy you have no idea how many scenes of Lelouch and Emet interacting I’ve had running through my head since playing Shadowbringers and the number only grew after a certain point in Endwalker. The one downside is knowing how far away those scenes are.

Des Shinta: Kudos for noticing Lelouch’s inner turmoil as that’s going to be a thing for a good while *glances at a certain future job’s Soul Stone*. Also, I’ve been quite the fan of Super Robot Wars since V came out all those years ago and have enjoyed all the ones I’ve played which include, V, X and T. I will say X’s Code Geass related stuff has given me a few ideas, though the point where I may use them is pretty far away. I’m currently playing 30 on and off and liking that too, its slower pace makes it more a game I play to chill out. I may pick up the pace whenever a new mainline game is announced, but I can’t help but wonder if Bamco is putting that off until the PS6 so they can have it ready as a launch title (no basis for this guess, just a random thought).

samurai seven: It’ll be a little while until we get to battles involving knightmares, but hopefully when we do you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Disclaimer: The following is a fan-based writing, Code Geass belongs to Bandai Entertainment, Sunrise, MBS, Crunchyroll, Goro Taniguchi 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 Studio III for its continuous great quality. Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals belongs to Madhouse (and whoever else owns the rights). Please support the official release.

Chapter 10: Of Codes and Daggers Part 3

“I’d say ye’ve both done a bene job practicin’ yer dance steps, Lelouch an’ Kallen.” Jacke commented. “An’ the timin’ couldn’t be more benar, ‘cause we’re about to run rings ‘round Captain Milala an’ her swads.”

“I see…” Lelouch nodded as he considered the past few days since their last job with the guild. It hadn't taken long to learn that mugging skill from Jacke with some help from V'kebbe and Perimu; Kallen had actually learned it quicker than he had, which was to be expected given she was more experienced with hand to hand to combat. "So what is the situation regarding this little treasure hunt?"

“The Yellowjackets’ve been pressin’ their investigations into the treasures what was cloyed from that Maelstrom tub,” Jacke explained. “But, as ye both know, we’ve got our own network o’ coves what don’t miss naught o’ the goins-on about town. As for the sharp end o’ the job, it’ll be the both of you, me, Underfoot, an’ the Stray. Let’s get down to business, eh?”

The three took a seat at their usual table, and in a few minutes, Perimu arrived and took his seat. The assembled rogues waited a few more minutes, but the red haired miqo’te still hadn’t shown up.

“V’kebbe’s late to the feast, so I’ll just make sure we’re all on the same page for the now.” Jacke said. “When ye get down to it, we have two goals for this job: bite back them three treasures, an’ mill the coves what cloyed ‘em in the first place. Ye can be sure that that Yellowjacket shrew’ll be doin’ her damndest to beat us to the marks - -an’ seein’ as the fate o’ the guild is at stake we’d best not drag our dew beaters on this one. I say we grabble them baubles afore she’s even lifted anchor, an’ give her a proper reason to rage against us rogues!”

“Ye seem awful keen on this contest all of a sudden, Jacke.” Perimu noted.

“Yeah, I thought this wouldn’t be something to get too worried about.” Kallen commented before looking to Lelouch. “At least, that’s what you said.”

“Aye, well, here’s the thing…” Jacke spoke up, somewhat sheepishly, regaining the redhead’s attention. “I sent me a grievance to the thalassocracy regardin’ the shrew’s challenge, but them paper-shufflers don’t care a whit as long as one of us gets the job done.”

“Is that all that they said, or did they mention anything about this contest officially being endorsed?” Lelouch asked.

“Yes to the first part, lad.” The green favoring guildmaster answered. “Now I know what ye may be inferrin’, but it could go the other way too.”

“Perhaps, but I find it unlikely.” The former prince said. “As you’ve told us before, the Rogues’ Guild has been around for quite some time, and we’ve seen plenty of examples of its place as an integral, and largely well regarded, part of Limsa Lominsa’s system. I have my doubts its removal would be considered on the word of a single Yellowjacket captain new to the position, let alone that the proposal would even make it to the Admiral’s desk.”

“Ye may have a point, Lelouch, but dependin’ on how things go it could make the guild look bad if we lose.” Perimu pointed out.

“I wasn’t suggesting we let Captain Milala win.” The former prince replied. “I’m just saying that this doesn’t seem to be something worth stressing over so much as retrieving the items." He then turned to regard Jacke. "You were of similar mind just after we were given the challenge, has something changed?"

“Not really, but thinkin’ on the matter, if that Yellowjacket shrew does win it could mean trouble later even if she doesn’t get her way.” Jacke explained. “She’d have a right story to prattle to convince other culls to her cause, and that could mean the next time she brings up the matter of gettin’ rid o’ the Rogues’ Guild, it might have support from folk the Admiral might have to at least hear prattle from.”

      Lelouch blinked in surprise before conceding that the guildmaster had a point while privately noting to better consider long term consequences in the future.

     “Well, that’s more than enough on why we need to win this.” Kallen commented. “So, what’s the plan?”

“Sailwith the wind rather than against it.” Jacke answered. “Besides, we wouldn’t want to shirk our duties an’ force poor Captain Milala to blunder about in the scary darkmans, now would we?”

“…How very gentlemanly of ye.” Perimu commented dryly.

“Well, them’s the cards what we’ve been dealt, ain’t they?” The green favoring guildmaster replied. “Now stow yer quips an’ let’s hear what ye’ve learned about them bloody treasures already!”

“Aye, the treasures…” The lalafell rogue’s face became serious. “Accordin’ to the manifest o’ that Maelstrom vessel, we’re lookin’ to bite back the ‘Cerulean Star’, the ‘Silver Sorrows’ an’ somethin’ called the ‘Black Sarcophagus’. Aside from the fancy names, I was able to whiddle a few more details. The ‘Cerulean Star’, for starters, is a big ol’ blue diamond what shines like…well, a star, I s’pose. Then we’ve got the ‘Silver Sorrows’ - - a pair of earrings what once graced the whattles of a sultana of Ul’dah. There’s a tale there, but one what don’t concern us at present.”

As Kallen wondered to herself whether to ask Nanamo about whatever this tale was the next time she saw her, Perimu continued.

“Lastly, this ‘Black Sarcophagus’ thing…” The lalafell rogue shook his head. “I’m afraid that one remained a mystery no matter how much I poked an’ prodded. …In any case, all three o’ these trinkets was recorded as spoils from official privateerin’ raids.”

“Have you found any leads on any of them so far?” Lelouch asked, mainly to banish the mental musing on the last treasure possibly being a black coffin with an ancient Egyptian design containing some primeval undead being.

“Aye, as ye’ll soon hear.” Perimu answered. “Now, as ye know, a pirate’ll usually sell his plunder through a reliable fence. Sometimes, though, holdin’ an auction is the only way to off-load goods what is too extravagant or just too bleedin’ rare for the average cull to deal in. Our three wondrous treasures fell into the 'auction only' category. When the biddin' began in Aleport, the thalassocracy weighed in with its ample purse, made some unmatchable offers, then organized a tub for the merchandise to be shipped back to Limsa..."

“An’ that’s when our marks swooped in an’ picked their transport clean…” Jacke surmised, and when Perimu nodded in reply he turned to Lelouch and Kallen. “I had a few whids with them Maelstrom sailors as survived the attack, an’ they pointed the finger at the Grinnin’ Curs. Problem is, not one cull’s seen hide nor hair o’ the Curs - - not to mention their bloody ship - - since the raid.”

Before anymore could be said, there was the sound of the door to the Rogues’ Guild being shoved open, which prompted a look in that direction from the table’s occupants. The sudden entrant was none other than V’kebbe, who had clearly rushed to the “convent” on account of the miqo’te rogue being bent over and out of breath as the door closed behind her.

“Sorry I’m late, Jacke…But ye’ll want to hear this!” V’kebbe uttered in between huffs and puffs of breath. She took a moment to finally catch her breath and stand up straight before continuing. “Some o’ the cargo what was cloyed from that transport was just found durin’ a routine inspection at the La Thagran Checkpoint!”

“La Thagran!?” Jacke exclaimed. “…Have the Curs made landfall, then? An’ what o’ the treasures? Any mention o’ them?”

V’kebbe shook her head before answering, “Naught I’ve heard. But the Jackets ain’t done shakin’ out all the boxes yet.”

Jacke was silent for a moment as he considered this new information before turning to the other three rogues.

“Then we’d better get eyes out there, quick-like.” The green favoring guildmaster said. “Lelouch, Kallen, Underfoot, yer fresh for a run, ain’t ye?”

“You have no objections here.” The former prince answered before a thought came to mind. “Is there anything we should know about this new pirate crew we’ll be dealing with?”

“Ye’ve never heard o’ the Grinnin’ Curs?” V’kebbe asked and when the other shook his head, she continued. “They’re a pack o’ rabid buccaneers what used to belong to the Salthounds.”

“That’s a name I recognize.” Lelouch commented. “According to some documents Mealvaan’s Gate has on privateers, they had quite the large crew prior to the Calamity.”

“Yer correct. Back in the day, the Salthounds had the crew to fill more’n a few ships…” The miqo’te rogue nodded. “Aye, there was no other pirate gang what could match ‘em when it came to sheer numbers.”

“So, what changed?” Kallen asked.

“When the Admiral came to power an’ passed her famous law, most of the Hounds chose a life on land.” V’kebbe explained in answer to her fellow redhead. “…An’ those what spat on the law became the Curs. Simple as that.”

As their conversation ended and he and Kallen made for the meeting spot with Perimu, Lelouch couldn’t help but wonder if Staelwyrn or any of his people had been part of the now defunct crew.

----

Middle La Noscea

The pair found the lalafell rogue standing behind a large rock a short distance away from the La Thagran Checkpoint’s entrance.

“I won our race! Ye owe me a pint, Lelouch!” Perimu declared upon turning to the two approaching rogues. Before the male half of the pair could voice any objections, the lalafell rogue gave a lighthearted laugh and gave a waving gesture to show he was kidding. “…Japes aside, though, it looks like V’kebbe was right about the cargo. From what I’ve been able to catch from them swads at the gate, it seems a peddler was boned for carryin’ goods what was known to be aboard that transport. They carted the poor sod away in chains, but the cargo itself is still here.”

“Did they happen to say where it might be?” Lelouch asked.

“No, but I saw a pair o’ Jackets carryin’ boxes up that wooden ramp.” The lalafell rogue answered. “We need to know what’s in them crates. I get the feelin’ they won’t open their gans for the askin’ though - - not while this fool’s challenge is goin’ on? Do the two of ye think ye could skulk over there an’ see if they’ve found them treasures yet?”

Lelouch was considering offering the option to inspect it by using his position as an arcanist, but quickly reconsidered. Even if Milala hadn’t advised any of the guards there to keep an eye out for him, the deception would still be too easily found out whichwould likely mean trouble for Mealvaan’s Gate. That was something the former prince wanted to avoid, for while his statement to Milala days before had been to confuse her, the part about not wanting to trouble his initial guild was true.

With that, Lelouch and Kallen both used the Hide skill to vanish from sight and proceeded to sneak into the check point. The slow and steady pace required to maintain invisibility aside, it didn’t take the pair long to find where the crates were being stored on account of seeing two Yellowjacket guards that had been assigned to go through the boxes. Being completely sure of their checkpoint’s security, said guards were openly chatting to one another about their current job.

“This’s all junk. No diamond, no earrings, an’ no bloody Black Sarcophagus.” A male hyur Yellowjacket said with clear frustration. “Looks like we’ll have to lean hard on that skinny peddler if we’re to find them treasures.”

The second guard, a roegadyn woman, replied. “The sergeant says the merchant’s still pleading ignorance. Claims he was hired to carry the goods through the checkpoint and naught else.”

“What a pile o’ pugil sh*te!” The other exclaimed, the news obviously not helping with his stressful day. “I’m guessin’ the pirates’ve split the cargo an’ are tryin’ their luck at every checkpoint. Captain Milala’s already given orders to double the guard and inspect every cart an’ wagon what comes through.”

That proved to be the end of the conversation, at least pertaining to work as the two Yellowjackets’ soon began discussing the weather, and having gotten the information needed, Lelouch and Kallen made their way back to where Perimu was waiting.

“Hmmm, so they found naught o’ value, eh? Bene.” The lalafell rogue commented after hearing the pair’s findings. “Thought we’d lost the contest afore we’d even properly started.”

“That’s nice, but where should we start looking now?” Kallen asked.

“Only half o’ what we need to find out, lass. Y’see, somethin’ don’t add up here…” Perimu gave his answer as he looked deep in thought. “Why would ye order a cull to carry the goods through the checkpoint? No smuggler is that daft, surely! An’ even if by some miracle o’ the gods ye squirmed through La Thagran without raisin’ a fuss, why would ye risk takin’ merchandise back to the city what ye cloyed it from?”

“About the only way I could see the part with the merchant making sense is if he were to be a decoy.” Lelouch suggested. “That merchant drew a good bit of attention from the guards, which could create a window of opportunity for whoever has the items to slip through some blind spot with the guards distracted.”

“Even if you’re right that doesn’t explain why they’d go to all that trouble to bring the stuff back to Limsa Lominsa.” Kallen pointed out. “If you’ve stolen something valuable, wouldn’t you want to get the hell out of the city and put as much distance between you and the authorities as possible?”

“Aye, there’s a bigger picture here, an’ we need to take a step back to see it…” The lalafell rogue paused before an idea came to him. “Assumin’ the Curs hired this peddler to do their dirty work, there’ll be someone in the shadows as brokered the deal. An’ I just happen to know a cove what makes it his business to oversee these kinds o’ shady arrangements.”

The “cove” Perimu was referring to turned out to be an aged man wearing a black outfit with a hood drawn over his head to at least partially conceal his face. The meeting was at a storage shed near Summerford and had started with a brief tussle with two Quiqirn bodyguards the man had hired, made brief on account of both Lelouch and Kallen’s fighting skills. According to Perimu, this was apparently something the informant did regularly to test new members of the Rogues’ Guild that came to him for information. The pair decided to just let the more experienced rogue do the talking for now so as to move things along.

“There was this peddler what was caught at the La Thagran Checkpoint movin’ merchandise for the Grinnin’ Curs. Pleaded innocence even when he had the screws put to him.” Perimu explained. “Ye wouldn’t know aught about that deal, would ye?”

“Every last sordid detail. Not a single grain of stolen sand passes through the shadows without my knowledge!” The black marketeer declared in answer. “…But such prickly wisdom lodges tightly in one’s throat. What have you brought to ease the pain of its passage?”

“Spare me the theatrics, granddad. Here’s yer usual purse.” The lalafell rogue said sarcastically as he took a coin purse out from one of his pockets and held it out to the aged informant, who quickly took it.

“The sum is paid! The deal is made! May my answers sate your fickle hunger.” The black marketeer gave a light bow as he made his declaration. “Your hapless peddler was indeed innocent. He was but a beast of burden employed by associates of the Grinning Curs, and likely knew naught of his freight’s tainted nature. …A pawn, if you will; a convenient decoy. There are those amongst my acquaintances who specialize in providing such services.”

“Aye, that’s what I thought, especially given one of our colts figured as much too.” Perimu glanced at Lelouch in acknowledgment, to which the former prince gave a light nod of appreciation. “The Curs wanted that cull to get caught. An’ now the Jackets have had a taste, they’ll waste their time yafflin’ every sh*te-pie what comes through their checkpoints. Meanwhile, the real treasures are hidden away in the darkmans, along with the Grinnin’ Curs.”

“Not the darkmans, master rogue. The mist.” The aged informant spoke, and seeing he had the trio’s attention continued. “Aside from the traveling merchant, the Curs associates have spent coin on another piece for this little game…” He paused and raised his right index finger for emphasis. “… A navigator. One who is practiced in piloting a vessel through Doxy’s Pull.”

“The Doxy’s…!?” The lalafell rogue exclaimed.

“I’ve heard that place come up a few times at Mealvaan’s Gate.” Lelouch commented. “Apparently it’s a difficult water course to navigate, to the point only desperate pirates and smugglers use it to elude pursuit.”

“Aye, the gods only know how many ships’ve sailed into that fog soup an’ never come out again…”Perimu added before turning back to the aged informant. “An’ that’s where ye say the Curs have gone to ground!?” At the other’s nod, he considered the information before saying, “Now there’s a trick what took some bollocks. Once their hunted tub was sittin’ dimber in the mist, though, it would’ve been easy to have these ‘associates’ o’ theirs ferry the junk goods to La Noscea. Then the canny coves just wait for the peddler to get boned, an’ draw the glazes o’ the Yellowjackets inland. We need to strike now… As soon as they learn the coast is clear, they’ll flee for open waters!”

“A fair appraisal of events.” The black marketeer commented before the other two rogues could say anything. “Now that you know the location of your marks, however, it will not be so difficult to track them down.”

“Really? Is there some trick to finding them?” Kallen asked.

“The Doxy’s Pull was once an impenetrable shroud, but ever since the Calamity the mists are far less…constant.” The aged informant answered. “Narrow your search to the heaviest banks, and you will soon uncover those who wish to remain unseen. But now, a warning: the mists conceal other dangers besides the dogs you seek. A careless step may land you upon the chopping block.”

“The ‘chopping block’!?” Perimu exclaimed with clear surprise. “You can’t mean…” The lalafell rogue then stopped and forced himself to calm down so as to take in the news and what that could mean. A moment later, he turned to look at Lelouch and Kallen. “…Seems I’ve found meself another lead to look into. You hurry on back to Jacke an’ tell him what we’ve learned so far.”

After a quick agreement the trio split up, with Perimu headed off to begin his investigation while Lelouch and Kallen teleported back to Limsa Lominsa. Upon their arrival to the city, the former prince couldn’t help but notice the redhead giving him an amused look.

“What is it?” Lelouch asked.

“Nothing, just that the old guy’s theatrics kinda remind me of someone.” Kallen answered lightly, her look making it clear who she was talking about. “Could be you in sixty or more years.”

“Hardly, I would have been at least more subtle at the start.” The former prince began.

“Is this going to lead into you rating how the guy said it?” The Japanese rogue asked dryly.

“As a matter of fact…” Lelouch stopped as that answer had prompted the redhead to touch the greater aetheryte so as to teleport closer to the “convent” housing the Rogues’ Guild. He quickly followed suit before exclaiming, “Would you at least allow me to finish?!”

----

“About time.” Jacke commented as he saw Lelouch and Kallen enter the guild and make their way to the table that he and V’kebbe were at. “Ye was gone so long I almost sent the Stray after ye. What happened to Underfoot?”

It took a couple of minutes for the pair to explain, but afterwards the green favoring guildmaster gave a nod of acknowledgment as he considered what he had been told.

“…So our marks an’ their bitten baubles are snug inside the Doxy’s Pull, eh?” Jacke summed up. “I’ll not discount the old man’s warnin’, but we may not have a benar chance to crash the Curs an’ grabble them treasures. We board their ship right now - - the both of you, me, an’ V’kebbe.”

“Okay, how are we getting there?” Kallen asked. “From what the old guy said we need a skilled navigator along with a boat of our own.”

“…I s’pose we’ll be needin’ ourselves a tub for the voyage.” The guildmaster conceded in answer. “I’ll have whids with Swarsynt, an’ see what the Drydocks can spare us by way of a ship an’ reliable crew. Get yer kits together an’ meet us there.”

----

It didn’t take Lelouch and Kallen long to prepare and they quickly followed their fellow rogues to the Drydocks. After a quick conversation with Jacke, all four boarded the boat that had been arranged for them and were soon off to where the ship owned by the Grinning Curs pirates was supposedly anchored.

Upon reaching the pirate ship, followed by a stealthy boarding using the Hide technique’s concealment, the four rogues set about eliminating the Grinning Curs crew. Jacke opted to go for the captain, while V’kebbe, Lelouch and Kallen would target the rest of the crew, taking advantage of the confusion at not expecting to be attacked by the Rogues’ Guild while out on water. The fighting took only a few minutes thanks to that advantage and by the end, there were only three surviving members of the Grinning Curs: the captain, who was a blonde hyur man with an eyepatch, plus a roegadyn and lalafell man who had both opted to surrender rather than fight to the death. All three were tied up at the ship’s main mast.

As Lelouch and Kallen had assisted Jacke in securing the prisoners, V’kebbe had volunteered to search the ship. When she returned, the miqo’te rogue was carrying something in her right hand which she then held out to show her fellow rogues.

“Jacke, I found me one o’ them treasures!” V’kebbe declared as she held out a noticeably large blue and glittering jewel. “Unless there’s another fist-sized blue diamond on board, it’s gotta be the Cerulean Star.”

Upon looking at the large jewel, Lelouch and Kallen couldn’t help but each privately consider what Britannian nobility they knew who would literally kill for something like that. That quickly led to the Earth born pair each having their own private and pleasant fantasy of some very much disliked relations and/or associates engaging in a battle to the death over the jewel ending with no survivors. Said fantasies were interrupted as V'kebbe continued to report her findings.

      “As for them other two baubles…” The red haired miqo’te said. “I’ve tossed the cabins an’ been through the hold ilm by ilm, but there’s naught else here.”

Jacke nodded in reply before turning his gaze to the captured pirates and said, “Well, we’ll just have to ask all sweet-like, won’t we? Spit it out, Cur: where’re ye keepin’ the rest o’ yer treasures?”

The Grinning Cur captain shook his head with a derisive laugh before answering, “Ye think I’d spill me guts for the likes o’ you, rogue?”

“Maybe ye wouldn’t at that.” The green favoring guildmaster admitted. “…But what about this partner yer workin’ with?”

“ ‘Ow’d ye - -?” The eyepatched man gave a start, having been caught off guard by the other’s casual tone, before attempting to correct himself. “We don’t need no partner!”

“So, yer tellin’ me this was all yer own idea?” Jacke asked with clear skepticism. “Ye woke up one day an’ decided ye’d attack a Maelstrom transport right off the coast of Aleport, then disappear into the lovin’ embrace o’ the Doxy’s Pull? …Not exactly yer style, is it? The Grinnin’ Curs are too bleedin’ famous for bein’ the crew what turned their snouts up at privateerin’ in favor of keepin’ to the old ways. Ye’ve only escaped the Yellowjackets’ grip this long by crawlin’ on yer bellies an’ snatchin’ scraps what fell from the table. Ye ain’t the type to sink yer teeth into a navy-owned vessel, no matter the prize.”

As the Grinning Cur captain lowered his head, seemingly in defeat, Lelouch privately couldn’t help but appreciate how well the guildmaster had outwitted the pirate captain simply from having and utilizing such thorough information on the man and his crew. The former prince made a mental note to make it a priority have up to date information on any Britannian military leaders he was likely to face when the time came for the rebellion.

“…Aye, well, maybe there ain’t no profit in bein’ cautious no more.” The bound pirate captain grumbled. “The age o’ pirates is swift comin’ to an end. Merlwyb won’t be stopped - -not by a piddlin’ little crew like mine.” He then looked up at Jacke and gave his chief captor a victorious grin. “That’s why we’ve thrown our lot in with the Executioners.”

Jacke’s expression didn’t change, but V’kebbe gave an audible gasp in response.

The latter reaction had apparently been what the Grinning Cur captain had been wanting as he seemed to forget the losses of the day entirely and spoke in a more confident voice, “That blue rock was just our share o’ the loot - -‘the scraps from the table’, like ye said. If ye want them other trinkets, then ye’ll ‘ave to take it up with our new mates.”

“Are these Executioner guys supposed to be a bigger deal than the other pirate crews we’ve taken down?” Kallen asked Lelouch in a lowered voice.

“Possibly.” The raven-haired rogue answered, his tone equally lowered. “It depends on whether this is a bluff or not.”

Jacke had apparently heard them as he stepped over to them as his conversation with the Grinning Cur captain had ended.

“…One job at a time, now.” The green favoring guildmaster advised, his tone light despite the apparent significance of the information that the captured corsair had revealed. “First, we need to get those stinkin’ coves an’ their tub back to the docks.”

----

It hadn’t taken too long to get the captured ship towed to Aleport, and from there the four rogues got off the ship with their three prisoners and the recovered jewel. As the captured ship was taken to a different area to be inspected by both the Yellowjackets and shipwrights, the three captured corsairs were made to sit on the ground and guarded until they were to be taken into custody.

“Puttin’ aside the issue o’ who gave the orders, there’s no doubt that these was the coves as raided that Maelstrom ship.” Jacke spoke as he regarded the prisoner trio. “Now for a punishment what fits the crime…”

Before he could continue, there was the sound of someone approaching, and look in that direction showed the newcomer was Yellowjacket Captain Milala Mila.

“I was informed that a certain well-known pirate ship was spotted weighing anchor at Moraby Drydocks.” The lalafell Yellowjacket captain said in a neutral tone. “…I assume this was your work?”

“Aye, ye missed all the excitement, Captain.” Jacke answered lightly with a victorious smile. “But never ye mind; the Cerulean Star is back an’ bob in our sneaky little fambles.”

Milala looked away from the Rogues’ guildmaster with a simple “Hmph!”. Her gaze then turned to the three bound pirates.

“And these must be the Grinning Curs…” The lalafell Yellowjacket captain said in a voice rife with contempt before walking over to stand near the apprehended trio. Rather than begin to take them into custody though, the bluenette proceeded to yell at the captured corsairs. “Degenerate fiends! How dare you ply your filthy trade in Lominsan waters! How many innocent sailors were massacred that you might sate your vile avarice!? Every one of your kind ought to be lined up and shot! A musket ball is the only answer for this rampant display of lawlessness!”

Fully aware of the pistol the Yellowjacket captain had at her side, Lelouch was worried she might actually make good on her words personally, especially since there seemed to be something behind her words besides mere moral disapproval at their choice of lifestyle. The former prince was about to say something, but Jacke, likely noticing the same, spoke first.

“Wait, wait, wait, do ye mean to just execute ‘em here on the bloody docks!?” Jacke asked incredulously, hands raised in a stopping indication. “At least take the buggers into custody first. Handin’ ‘em over to ye for lawful punishment’ll satisfy the demands of the code just as well. We’ve already got the answers to our questions, so feel free to take ‘em away.”

“Do not presume to give me orders, rogue!” Melala rebuked, her ire and attention turning back to Jacke. “You only managed to capture these villains and their ill-gotten treasure by employing unsavory and unconscionable means. Why, you’re naught more than pirates yourselves!”

“These bastards ain’t worth a true pirate’s spit!” The Grinning Cur captain suddenly spoke up, riled up by the bluenette lalafell’s statement, and catching all present’s attention. “The Upright Thieves was formed to protect us from ourselves! Now they’re just ‘untin dogs for the Admiral!” The captured captain focused his resentful glare on Jacke. “Merlwyb yanks the leash, an’ another buccaneer disappears. You rogues are traitors to yer own kind! If it hadn’t been for you…”

“Aye? Go on, then. Blame me an’ me coves for yer own failures.” Jacke cut the man off before giving an uncaring shrug. “Ye knew what ye was about when ye defied the code; ye knew that we’d be after ye.” He then gave a dismissive wave of the hand before turning to his fellow rogues. “We’re done here.”

As the Rogues’ guidlmaster began to walk away, Milala called out to him.

“There are still two treasures left, rogue!” The lalafell Yellowjacket captain reminded. “And I mean to claim them both!”

Jacke stopped and glanced back at the other before saying, “I’d reconsider this contest of yers, Captain. Turns out this fish we’re tryin’ to hook is a shark… an’ it might just swallow ye whole.”

Milala simply looked away as the Rogues’ guildmaster proceeded to leave and the others followed suit save for Lelouch, and just a bit later Kallen as she noticed her Britannian associate’s sudden stop.

“I must ask, you do remember that you're a Captain in the Yellowjackets, correct?" The former prince asked lightly with thinly veiled sarcasm.

“Of course I do!” Milala practically shouted back, noticing that this time the boy wasn’t feigning politeness as much as before. “If you’re questioning my dedication to my earning that or my role in seeing to our city-state’s…”

“I am not questioning your accomplishments, dedications, or personal honor. Not even your competence, at least not directly.” Lelouch’s tone as he gave his response was as serious as the look he gave to the bluenette. “I’m questioning if you’re aware of your position as a captain concerning the consequences of the actions you take as one.”

Milala flinched slightly under the other’s gaze, despite herself, but quickly recovered before replying in a determined voice, “…I’m prepared to take full responsibility for those actions, good or bad.”

“I believe you, but there’s the possibility that even if you did it might not solve every problem that emerges as a consequence.” The raven-haired rogue replied. "For example, let's say you had gone through with your words and hastened our captured pirates' sentencing to the literal speed of a bullet. What if your superiors were counting on the captain's apprehension because he had important information that could be obtained through either interrogation or in exchange for his life? Then, of course, there’s the matter of how your actions could affect morale…"

“And which rogue did you get this advice from?” Milala retorted, clearly resenting this impromptu lecture.

“None of them, actually.” Lelouch gave his reply with the same sardonic smile that Kallen was glad not to be on the receiving end of this time. “The foreseer of the Arcanists’ guild guild who was in charge of overseeing my training impressed upon me the importance of considering consequences, even from the best of outcomes.”

“Be that as it may, information obtained through unsavory means…” The pint sized bluenette began to argue.

“If you’re going to be picky about getting an advantage and using it, then I hope for the sake of your subordinates that you only end up dealing with stupid pirates.” Kallen spoke, finding herself annoyed at the lalafell Yellowjacket whose responding glare she simply shrugged off, before turning to her Britannian associate. “Anyway, shouldn’t we be heading back to the guild?”

“I suppose so; I’m guessing this conversation is over.” The former prince half inquired and half supposed, which got Milala to turn her glare to him in response. “Until the next round, Captain.”

With that, Lelouch turned and walked away with a more pronounced dismissive wavehe reserved for one of the more self-absorbed chess opponents he’d had back on Earth, almost always of the wealthy bunch, unable to take their loss and demanding a rematch only for the day’s schedule to necessitate a later appointment. He then headed over to where Kallen was standing and the two teleported back to Limsa Lominsa.

----

Limsa Lominsa

“Bene work on that ship, Lelouch, Kallen.” Jacke said in a congratulatory tone once the pair returned to the ‘convent’. “First blood is ours!”

“Thanks, but let’s not get too excited, that’s only one round out of three.” Kallen advised, while privately recalling how her older brother Naoto had given her similar advice concerning martial arts back before Japan’s conquest and she’d learned enough to compete. That suddenly brought some less welcome cautioning but supportive words from another to mind, but the voice of her Britannian associate ironically helped in mentally pushing those away.

“Do you believe we’ll be dealing with more combat aboard ships in the remaining retrievals, Jacke?” Lelouch asked.

“That’ll depend on what the thievin’ culls’ next move’ll be.” The green favoring guildmaster answered. “Speakin’ o’ which, how’d the two of ye take to fightin’ a-sea? There are few as can drop an opponent as quick as a rogue, but mind ye don’t exhaust yerselves just flailin’ yer blades at the tougher coves.”

Jacke provided some more advice concerning knife combat while part of a team, which both Earth born rogues mentally noted for further reference and use, before concluding, “…I’ve said it afore, lad an’ lass, but I’ll need the both of ye sharp enough to carve steel for what’s to come. I’m afraid this’ll be more of a challenge than even what that little shrew was bargainin’ for.”

“So have you confirmed what that pirate captain said was true?” The former prince gave the guildmaster a serious look.

“Not yet, but assumin’ the Curs wasn’t lyin’ about the Executioners…and the Executioners are who you and I bloody think they are.” The other answered, concern plainly written on his face. “‘Twixt you and me, though, I’m hopin’ the name is just some laughable coincidence…”

“Okay, can either of you explain to me who this new pirate crew is that’s got you worried?” Kallen spoke.

“If you need to get to confirming the matter, I can answer.” Lelouch volunteered to Jacke. “I may not have dealt with them myself, but Mealvaan’s Gate has a large collection of extensive write ups on that bunch.”

After the Rogues' guildmaster took his leave, the former prince sat back before turning to the redhead.

      "Would you like me to start with details before or after the Calamity?" He asked.

----

It was the following day when Lelouch and Kallen returned to the Rogues’ Guild and Jacke was waiting for them at their usual table.

“Ho there, Lelouch an’ Kallen.” The guildmaster greeted them in a tone that was meant to be light but did little to hide that something was troubling him. “We’ve a rough job ahead of us, an’ that’s a fact. Matters are tangled enough with that Milala mort snappin’ at our heels, but we still managed to grabble that first trinket without too much fuss. Bitin’ back them other two treasures, though, that’ll be a different story…”

“So, I take it our prisoners from yesterday weren’t bluffing.” Lelouch surmised.

“Once the Stray gets here, I’ll explain what - - or more to the point ‘who’ - - we’re up against.” Jacke replied. “I know the two of ye likely had a good prattle on this yesterday, but this is just to be sure…”

Only a few minutes passed before V’kebbe arrived and joined the three at the table.

“All right. We’ve two baubles left on the list: the Silver Sorrows, an’ the Black Sarcophagus. Let’s see where we’re at.” Jacke began.

“Oi, where’s Perimu got to?” V’kebbe suddenly asked, noticing the lalafell rogue’s absence.

“Underfoot? He’s still lookin’ to whiddle the tale behind that bleedin’ sarcophagus. We’ll not be cloyin’ that stickler until we’ve at least an inklin’ as to what the bloody thing looks like.” Jacke answered the miqo’te rogue before turning back to the other two. “Treasures aside, I’ve been doin’ some diggin’ o’ me own into these ‘Executioner’ allies of the Grinning Curs. An’ I’m afraid, as ye’ve guessed, the name weren’t no coincidence.”

“So, this proves to be one of the rare cases where I hate being right.” Lelouch sighed.

Turning to Kallen, Jacke said, “Kallen, ye’ve been told a good bit o’ the Bloody Executioners from Lelouch. It seems them Curs was feedin’ from the famble o’ one o’ the nation’s greatest pirate powers.”

“Yeah, these guys are supposed to have about as much power and influence as your admiral does and it goes back to before the Calamity, right?” Kallen asked in reply. "And from what Lelouch had to say, they haven't really been on good terms."

      "Aye, they was none too fond of Merlwyb, or her prohibition on piracy, an' it was only the overwhelmin' threat posed by the Garlean Empire what eventually convinced 'em to play nice with the thalassocracy." Jacke answered before giving a sigh. "...But pirates ain't one to play nice for long. Now that Hyllfr ain't around to helm the ship, the solidarity o' the Bloody Executioners has begun to show cracks. All the strongest captains an' lieutenants've begun formin' their own factions an' scrabblin' to claim the top chair for 'emselves. ...'Course not one bloody cove can agree with another on which way the Executioners ought to sail."

      "So are we dealing with the strongest of these factions?" Lelouch inquired.

“They’re a distance from the top, but they ‘ave enough strength to be pushin’ to break free o’ the Admiral’s grip completely.” The green favoring guildmaster explained. “Turns out these ‘Reformists’ as they call ‘emselves was the ones as took the Grinnin’ Curs under their wing.”

“…Which means they’ve got possession o’ the last two treasures we’ve yet to cloy.” V’kebbe added, a worried expression on her face. “Rumors ‘round town say that, even for Executioners, these coves’re bloody an’ ruthless an’ not to be crossed.” She then turned to Jacke. “We should sit this one out, Jacke. Piss on Milala’s contest - - it ain’t worth this kind o’ grief! We’d be invitin’ the wrath of a crew so large an’ dangerous that even the Admiral ain’t keen on comin’ to blow with ‘em. If they ever came after us…”

“Large or small, it don’t much matter - - they broke the code when they hit that Maelstron tub.” Jacke replied firmly. “Aye, the Grinnin’ Curs are payin’ for that crime, but we’d be poor soddin’ excuses for rogues if we let the real culprits carry on unpunished. I mean to see this job to the end - - an’ that means bitin’ back them treasures, an’ handin’ out proper justice to them as deserve it.”

“But, Jacke - -!” The miqo’te rogue began to object, her tail standing up in trepidation.

Turning to fully face V’kebbe, Jacke said in a reassuring tone, “Listen, with all the infightin’ goin’ on at present, us stabbin’ a shortblade into one faction’s toe ain’t like to bring the whole Executioner crew down on our heads. Besides, them Reformist buggers are so far split from the main mob that they’ve been avoidin’ the city altogether.”

“Is there any way to confirm that?” Lelouch asked. “Aside from assuaging V’kebbe’s concerns, I can’t deny I would like solid assurances that these Reformists won’t get any backup from any other Bloody Executioner factions.”

Jacke was silent for a moment as he considered the raven-haired rogue’s words before replying, “There might be, I’ll need to have a whid with a certain dove first. For now, it’s about time we got to work. Lelouch an’ Kallen, yer to track down our black market contact. I set him to lookin’ into the Curs’ new allies a while back, so he should have some answers for us by now.”

With that, Jacke directed the pair to look for the man in a region of southern La Noscea held by the kobolds where he'd be at a location known as the House of Sticks. As expected, this came with a warning to be prepared for the man to have hired bodyguards itching for a fight, this time composed of kobolds paid in the ore they so fancied before handing the pair a bag containing the informant’s pay. The two were about to leave, when Lelouch couldn’t help but notice, V’kebbe’s worries didn’t look to be abated at all.

“You still look concerned about this, V’kebbe.” The former prince pointed out. “Do you have reason to believe Jacke might be wrong?”

“And would these Executioner guys really be that hard to handle?” Kallen asked. “I get there’s a lot of them, but you guys have shown us how good using surprise as an advantage can be and- -“

“No…I know full soddin’ well what it means to be a rogue.” The miqo’te rogue replied, mainly to her fellow redhead’s inquiry. “But as deadly as our guild is, we’d not survive a war with the bloody Bloody Executioners…” She then turned to look at Lelouch. “An’ I’ll admit I don’t ‘ave one, but sometimes the risks just ain’t worth the gamble.”

      "Perhaps, but hopefully we'll get confirmation if there's any risk at all." Lelouch said.

  ----

Southern La Noscea

The House of Sticks turned out be a shack, with wooden crates in various stages of disrepair strewn about. There were several Qiqirn attending the place, along with the informant the two Earth born rogues had been sent to meet.

“Welcome to the House of Sticks, young rogues!” The black marketeer greeted Lelouch and Kallen with a light bow. “You must excuse my hirelings’ enthusiasm for greeting visitors.”

“Speaking of whom, I hope you’re compensating them for this.” Lelouch said in reply as he gestured back at the group of now injured kobolds that he and Kallen had fought through to get to this meeting.

“They asked for extra material as we awaited your arrival, and that’s what they’ll receive.” The aged informant said simply with a shrug.

“Well, that makes me feel a little better about the fight, pointless as it was.” Kallen commented with a light sigh, having felt a little sorry for the armor-clad ROUSes on account of how easily she and Lelouch had beaten them. “Now about the information…”

“Firstly, have you any cumbersome baggage of which I might relieve you before we begin our conversation in earnest…?” The black marketeer trailed off slyly with a hand motioned forward palm up. As he received the sack of coins, the hooded man gave a wheezing laugh before saying, “The sum is paid, and the deal is made! Let us speak of these Reformists.”

“Let’s hear it, then.” Lelouch said, while privately hoping the old man’s further words wouldn’t lead to some kind of commentary from Kallen later.

“The faction that so wronged the code now seeks to peddle one of its stolen treasures: the earrings better known as the Silver Sorrows.” The aged informant explained. “The deal, it is said, is set to take place at Costa del Sol. The buyer? A moneyed merchant from the golden sands of Ul’dah.”

“That reminds me, I hear those earrings have something to do with the royal family from there.” Kallen spoke, while trying not to sound too concerned about it, partially because she was worried this guy might try charging extra if he saw the information had some worth to her and the other part due to the weirdness of being friendly with any kind of monarch. “Is there anything to that or is it just a story to make the jewelry more valuable?”

“Oh, I assure you it is very true, for it was a much spoken of event in those days before the Calamity.” The hooded peddler of information smile turned wistful as he spoke. “When the late parents of the current sultana were wed, they naturally went on a honeymoon only for said journey in celebration of their matrimony to be met with disaster in the form of pirates led by the dread captain Mistbeard. There are many stories of what happened that day, from simple to bawdy, but the one that they all agree upon is that the earrings you now seek, which adorned the ears of Nanasha Ul Nasha, were used to purchase safe passage for the royal couple to return from their ordeal.”

After a brief and nonchalant thanks from Kallen, the black marketeer continued, “The earrings will be out in the open. Vulnerable. I would target the moment of transaction, were I so inclined… As the gentleman up there by the cabin appears to be, for he purchased this selfsame information.”

The aged informant then looked back at the cabin and Lelouch and Kallen followed his gaze to see a roegadyn man in red colored armor with a battle axe at his back, talking to one of the Qiqirn.

“Though he attempts to disguise his identity, the stench of a soldier yet lingers.” The hooded old man commented with amusem*nt. “I know not where one such as he came to learn of my existence, but I suspect he works for a certain yellow-coated captain.”

“There’s also the telling parts of his uniform shirt peeking out from the neck and wrists of the armor.” Lelouch noted as he got a better look at their fellow buyer. “Also, there’s markings on the axe blade meant to show who forged it, and they have a contract to make weaponry exclusively for the Yellowjackets and Maelstrom.”

The black marketeer laughed in approval of how quickly the raven-haired rogue had seen through the guard’s disguise. “Brave, she is, but foolish! Stumble blindly into the underworld, and your groping hands will not save you from the holes at your feet. Sudden shall be her fall…”

“I get the feeling we’re going to be the ones to have to catch her when she does.” Kallen half grumbled as she and Lelouch left the aged informant behind.

“Well, she may be annoying, but far from enough to wish death upon.” The former prince admitted as the two of them prepared to teleport back to Limsa Lominsa. As they waited for the spell to complete, he then looked at the redhead before saying quickly. “Also, I’d give our informant’s presentation seven points out of ten on account of decent storytelling.”

“Oh, come o-!” Kallen’s exclamation was cut off as the teleportation spell completed.

----

Limsa Lominsa

“…Lookin’ to unload them earrings, are they?” Jacke said after hearing what Lelouch and Kallen had to say on the information they’d received. “An’ to an Ul’dahn, no less. Can’t say as I’m surprised to hear the buyer’s from out o’ town. Ye won’t find many Lominsans willin’ to melt coin on aught them coves’re sellin’ …Only the daftest of sods would go about fundin’ them as means to pull down the Admiral.”

“Oh, by the way, Jacke, you’ll never guess who we saw meeting with your informant of choice…” Lelouch added and proceeded to tell the green favoring guildmaster a few words later.

“…Eh? One o’ Milala’s lackeys arrived at the House afore ye!?” Jacke exclaimed in genuine surprise. “How did they know to - - Bah, them Curs we captured must’ve cackled durin’ the shrew’s interrogations. We’ll have to assume the Yellowjackets know what we know. An’ that means we’d best get our arses to Costa del Sol right bleedin’ now!”

Whatever acknowledgment the two were about to give was interrupted as V’kebbe spoke up.

“I’ll handle this one, Jacke.” The miqo’te rogue volunteered suddenly. “You three can wait here for Perimu.”

Not waiting for an answer, V’kebbe turned and quickly headed for the door.

“Oi, V’kebbe!” Jacke’s vocal attempt to stop her went unheard as the door closed behind the senior rogue. “What in the hells is she playin’ at?” He then turned to Lelouch and Kallen. “After her, you two. She knows this ain’t a solo job…”

“You know where she’s headed?” Kallen asked her Britannian associate as they made to leave.

“It’s a beach resort in Eastern La Noscea near the town of Wineport.” Lelouch answered before the two walked out the guild’s door. “Don’t ask me how or where the Spanish name came from; I have no idea…”

----

Eastern La Noscea: Costa Del Sol

      Costa Del Sol proved to be just as extravagant a resort as Kallen had expected, even comparing it with ones she’d seen shown on TV or pictures back home. While the rebel turned adventurer couldn’t call herself a good judge of these sorts of places, this one was at least better than the ones in Japan on account of it not being built on stolen land with the only way its people could have access to it would be as barely paid employees. A lesser, but still good benefit was not having to see advertisem*nts showing Viceroy Clovis with a gaggle of swimsuit clad supermodels at his arms. That gave way to ideas of how to potentially vandalize/destroy the billboard advertisem*nts and get away with it using the Hide technique, but Kallen pushed those aside for the moment so she could focus on finding V’kebbe with Lelouch.

It didn’t take too long for the pair to find the miqo’te rogue; she was standing in one of the garden areas near a variety of palm trees and a rock placed for visitors to sit on. To anyone simply passing by, V’kebbe looked like any other visitor casually taking in the scenery, but to anyone who knew her well and was taking a closer look it was clear she was keeping an eye out for something and only doing a moderate job of concealing that.

A look of annoyance came across the red haired miqo’te’s face as she spotted the junior rogues as they approached her.

“I told ye to wait at the guild. I don’t need - -.” V’kebbe stopped herself to consider things before saying, “…Well, it might be as I could use an extra cove an’ mort in the shadows, after all.” She paused again before looking at the two seriously. “Jacke has his mind set on punishin’ the Executioners, but me? I just want to skulk in, cloy them silver bits, an’ skulk out. I reckoned that if I could manage that with no one the wiser, then they wouldn’t know who to come after. Finish the job without drawin’ me daggers, ye know?”

“You’re that worried about the safety of your group, huh?” Kallen commented, feeling some sympathy given this was reminding her of how her brother, in every planning of a raid, had stressed the importance of ensuring it could be pulled off without inviting a retaliation from Britannian forces that their cell wasn’t equipped to deal with.

“It ain’t exactly true to the code, but the shield of underworld honor won’t stop them bloody killers from cuttin’ me mates’ throats an’ settin’ the Sisters a-glimmer.” The miqo’te rogue explained, her expression going from troubled at the fears she had voiced to determined. “The guild’s the only place what offered to take in a pirate stray like me, an’ I’ll not see it burned to the ground…”

This time it was Lelouch’s turn to feel something in common V’kebbe as prepared words of reassurance prematurely died as the senior rogue’s words triggered a realization. Of course V’kebbe would be worried about the danger despite prior reassurances of how low it was; he would be of similar mind if doing a necessary task like right now meant even a slight threat to Nunnally. The latter part of the miqo’te rogue’s statement briefly got him to consider if he could say similar regarding Milly and her grandfather Ruben on account his friendship with the former and the latter’s decision to shelter him and Nunnally all those years ago in the aftermath of the invasion. The former prince quickly decided yes, if the danger was that great, though he would be hard pressed to admit it mainly because the Ashford heiress would certainly never let him hear the end of it.

“That is understandable.” The former prince said in agreement. “What say we help make sure your desired outcome becomes reality?”

V’kebbe blinked in response and then gave Lelouch a light smile.

“K’lyhia really has rubbed off on ye.” The red haired miqo’te commented and seeing the look of surprise on the other’s face continued. “Done some work with the lass over the years. She’s a good dove, even if some of her whids are hard to figure out.” She seemed to want to say more, but suddenly stopped and turned to look in the direction of the resort’s main structures that stretch out over the water. “The deal’s about to start. Say the whid when yer both bene to head in...”

“Anything we should know?” Kallen asked.

“The rich merchant what’s come over from Ul’dah is some old mate o’ Master Gergeruju, the cull as owns Costa del Sol.” V’kebbe answered. “Gergeruju’s taken his guards an’ dancin’ dells an’ pranced off down the beach someplace, givin’ over the use o’ the entire resort to this friend. Seems she didn’t want an audience for her bargain with the Reformists. Which, as it happens, works out well for us. We’ll wait until they’re busy hagglin’ over price, then snatch the Sorrows an’ hop the twig afore they realize aughts amiss. Sound like a plan?”

As the pair gave their affirmations and prepared to start, Lelouch couldn’t help but wonder about what steps Jacke was taking to determine whether or not there was any danger from the main crew of the Bloody Executioners. It would at least help to put V’kebbe’s mind at ease.

----

Limsa Lominsa

At a bar near one of the docking areas of the city state, a tan hyur man in his mid-twenties with short teal hair, hazel eyes and dressed in the typical pirate garb received a tankard of the drink he’d ordered from the bartender before looking back at the red haired hyur woman who had bought it for him.

“So, tell me, what’s the captain of the Queen Faris’ Fire, and one o’ the Sanguine Sirens’ associates got to do with me?” The man asked with only mild suspicion as he knew the woman professionally, but a partner for a rival crew was close enough for discomfort in his eyes. “Also, I don’t see yer husband, an’ he’s usually with ye.”

“Valkus is overseeing the last bit of ship maintenance before we head out to see in a few days. He’s as good at making sure our ship is both in shape and supplied as he is with a blade…and other things.” Rouge said with smile that was both appreciative of the man she was speaking of and the mild look of annoyance from the one in front of her. “As for your main question, there’s something I need to confirm, and I figured I might as well ask Sicard Spence, given his faction is the likeliest to take charge of the Executioners sooner or later."

After a brief scrutinizing look, the man, Sicard said, “Yer words would be more flatterin’ if ye was askin’ fer somethin’ big, so what do ye want to know?”

“About the Reformists…” Rouge answered.

A frown came across Sicard’s face, and it was clear to the other this was a faction he wasn’t fond of. The Bloody Executioner leader then took the mug containing his order and took a long drink of it.

“Buy me one more an’ I’ll ‘ave whatever answers ye’d like on that pack o’ bilge rats.” He said with a sigh after finishing.

Rouge nodded before making the order and passing the gil to the bartender.

“It’s been going around that they’re the ones behind the attack on that Maelstrom ship several days ago, with the Grinning Curs being duped into assisting them.” She explained. “From what I hear, the cargo they were after and plundered was some valuable jewelry and if they’re brazen enough to go after a Maelstrom ship, that puts my crew at risk. I just want to know if there’ll be any trouble from the rest of the Bloody Executioners if we cross swords with them.”

“There won’t be.” The other replied. “That trouble makin’ lot are due to bein’ lopped off from the Executioners like a diseased limb soon enough.”

“Does that include the other factions?”

“Aye, the Reformists ‘ave set enough bridges aglimmer with the others ye’ll be hard pressed to find any who’d even bat an eyelash if that lot ends up bitin’ off more than they can chew.” Sicard gave a light laugh. “Anythin’ else ye need to know about ‘em?”

Rouge began to provide a couple more questions just to make the conversation not seem suspicious, but she’d gotten what she’d been asked for by Jacke. She just had to make the arrangements so the information would reach the Rogues’ Guildmaster without it being able to be traced back to her and her crew.

----

Costa del Sol

V’kebbe had finished looking over the areas of the resort would lead to their target by the time Lelouck and Kallen were ready to begin.

“There. The players’ve arrived; the Reformists coincounter an’ the Ul’dahn buyer are settin’ up on the southeast platform. The earrings ought to be nearby.” The miqo’te rogue directed the pair before noticing something and frowning. “Hang about. Who’re all these other culls? The place was meant to be empty…”

“What do you see?” Lelouch asked.

“I see some nasty lookin’ folks in Uldahn garb an’ …are those mammets?” V’kebbe voiced her observations and the growing frustration at the changes they implied to the plan. “Ugh, that merchant’s brought along a whole bloody entourage!”

“Mammets…those are the miniature robots popular in Ul’dah, correct?” Lelouch asked, looking over to Kallen.

“Yeah, people who can build or afford them tend to use them for different things.” The Japanese rogue answered. “They’re not the best choice for attack drones, but I’ve seen a few designed well enough that they can pack a punch if they hit you.”

The raven-haired rogue nodded at the other before looking back at V’kebbe, who was turning to look at them with a grave expression.

“I’ve gone an’ got ahead o’ meself.” The senior rogue admitted. “I should’ve realized the job’d never be that easy…”

Kallen was about to comment on how often she’d both said and heard that herself, when a familiar male voice interrupted that.

“We’ll have to mill a few o’ them bodyguards first, I reckon.” The newcomer said. “Ye don’t want to fight through a forest o’ blades should ye get caught sneakin’ about up on them narrow walkways.”

V’kebbe gave a start as she, along with Lelouch and Kallen, turned in the direction of the voice to see it was Jacke Swallow approaching them.

“Jacke! I was just…” V’kebbe stammered, for once (as far as the other two knew) lost for words with the green favoring guildmaster. “I mean, I thought I’d - -“

“Stow yer excuses, love. I know full well what ye were about.” Jacke said with a light shrug before pointing his right index at her. “Ye start goin’ soft on us, though, an’ it’ll be like losing one o’ me arms! I can’t take on the Bloody Executioners all by meself.” He then lowered his hand, gesturing at the Earth born pair. “It’s only cause I’ve got rogues like you, an’ Underfoot, an’ Lelouch, an’ Kallen here that the guild can take the jobs it does. When our coves walk the shadows, it’s the bleedin’ pirates what do the tremblin’.”

Gazing at V’kebbe fully now, Jacke gave an encouraging pump of his right first before saying, “Remember that, V’kebbe! We ain’t some two-gil robbers what piss our breeches when their daddles’re caught in the honey pot! We’re the knives in the darkmans, an’ no bastard wants to go blade to blade with the likes of us!”

V’kebbe’s gaze lowered for a moment before turning back up to look at Jacke, her distraught expression replaced by a determined one.

“…I see ye’ve not changed yer mind, then.” The red haired miqo’te said firmly. “Ye’ll need all the stabbers ye can get…an’ I promise mine’ll be there when ye need them.”

“Bene! Now let’s carve a path to that platform, an’ bite back them earrings!” Jacke declared. “V’kebbe, you hide yerself down by the docks in case the marks escape durin’ the fightin’.”

With a nod, V’kebbe turned and ran in the direction of the resort’s docks.

“Lelouch, Kallen, the three of us’ll split up an’ mill the guards as we go.” Jacke began to give the pair instructions on what their part in the retrieval would be.

----

Getting to where the deal was to take place proved to be a matter of time than anything else on account of the mammets not being among the tougher variety Kallen warned about. Whatever was installed in the small robots for them to detect enemies, it didn’t look to be much better than normal sight as Lelouch and Kallen found the Hide technique still made it that they could sneak up on and strike the mobile contraptions from behind. The short automatons also proved to be less durable compared to the hired guards they were paired with, which led to the simple approach of wrecking the pint-sized machines before bringing down the actual guards as quickly as possible.

This approach got the pair to the meeting place, where they were reunited with Jacke. As the trio began to take down the guards there, an unfamiliar voice cried out a short distance from the fighting.

“This is a private meeting!” A pompous male voice declared. “Remove these rats at once!”

Spared glances by each of the rogues as they did their fighting revealed the speaker to be a fancily dressed blonde lalafell man with an axe at his back identifying himself as part of the Bloody Executioners, though the unusually fine condition of the weapon along with decorative inscriptions made it clear it was for ceremonial purposes instead of combat along with it being clear this man would probably have difficulty even swinging said axe. This finely dressed bystander observed the fight with annoyance as he watched the three rogues turn the mammets to scrap as he considered the cost to repair or replace them that the merchant that he was making the deal would inevitably use to bring down the price. That annoyance turned to concern as the number of active guards started to fall and by the time the captain of the hirelings, an armored roegadyn man with a good deal of battle experience, fell, the blonde lalafell was gawking in shock as the three rogues approached him.

“Rogues!? No one mentioned aught about rogues!” He then glanced over and looked at the buyer he was to make the deal with, a red haired lalafell woman with dark skin with blue eyes and wearing a monocle at the left one, dressed in finer clothing than him and had been keeping herself concealed during the battle for personal safety. This reminded him of the prospect of the great amount of gil at stake in this, and it was through that he found enough courage to yell at trio, “Wh-What in the hells do you think you’re doing!? I am conducting a business transaction on behalf of the Bloody Executioners as their chosen professional accountant! Do you understand what that means!? Do you know what they’ll do to you!?”

Jacke stepped forward, about as impressed with the implied threat as Lelouch and Kallen were.

“Aye, I’m all a-frighted. Odd, then, that yer the one who’s shakin’.” The green favoring guildmaster said sarcastically. “It doesn’t matter to me who ye work for. Yer bosses broke the code, an’ we’re here to collect.” He then looked over at the lalafell merchant and noticed a small container she was carrying. “Those’d be the Silver Sorrows, then? I’m sure ye paid a caravan o’ coins for them shiny baubles, but I doubt they’re worth yer life. Let’s have ‘em then.”

As the lalafell merchant backed away with a startled look, the Reformist Accountant cried out, “Wait! Wait, damn you! You should know that this personage is an extremely influential member of the East Aldenard Trading Company! Surely you’ve heard of it!”

“I have, and I’ve heard of the guy who runs it.” Kallen spoke and paused just long enough to give the lalafell accountant the idea she was going to give advice on his behalf. “Jacke…if you’re not afraid of dealing with the Bloody Executioners, then just be prepared to deal with whatever hired thugs Lolorito Nanarito is willing to send your way. Doubt it’ll be much to worry about though, they’re only good for bullying people who aren’t able to fight back.”

“So, more ruffmans to mill, got it.” Jacke gave a nod at the redhead.

“If the threat or reprisal will not stay your hand, then consider the political ramifications of interfering with a foreign dignitary!” The Reformist Accountant added, clearly not liking that his second implied threat had been just as easily dismissed as the first. “The Admiral would not desire you to damage Limsa’s relations with Ul’dah!”

It was at that moment the other lalafell spoke up, having been emboldened by the pirate bookkeeper's statement.

“Y-Yes, exactly! I am very highly placed in Ul’dahn society!” The wealthy lalafell insisted. “I have powerful friends who would not be pleased were you to mistreat me in any fashion!”

Lelouch gave a subtle glance to Kallen, who gave a light shrug to show she didn’t recognize the lalafell woman.

Whether or not the buyer noticed that was unclear, but she continued, “And you must understand, the Silver Sorrows are a historic treasure - - a gift once bestowed upon Sultana Nanasha Ul Nasha by her champion. The earrings were later stolen from the royal vault, and we’d lost hope of ever recovering them. That I might so easily purchase them thus is a miracle!”

“Yeah, and I’m sure it's even better for your interests that the current Sultana would really want a memento of her late mother back.” Kallen commented, doing her best to keep her sarcasm down and sound neutral. She was so focused on that, she didn't notice the light twitch from her Britannian associate at those words.

The Japanese rogue’s attempt at subtlety proved successful as the wealthy Ul’dahn let slip, “Indeed, the return on these trinkets will be - - …Er, that is to say, the Sorrows must be returned to Ul’dah! Can you not look the other way for the sake of my nation’s pride!?”

Before either Kallen or Lelouch could make some snide comment at that, Jacke beat them to it.

“…Ye must think me some dull-witted thug.” The Rogues’ guildmaster commented. “If this deal was bein’ made on behalf o’ yer country, then why’re ye sneakin’ about an’ consortin’ with pirates!?”

“An excellent point.” A familiar female voice came from behind the three rogues. “One might doubt your quality of character were you to continue with these feeble fabrications.”

A quick turn around confirmed that the new speaker was none other than Yellowjacket Captain Milala as she strode towards the group accompanied by the same roegadyn man who had earlier been buying information at the House of Sticks, only now in proper guard uniform.

Ignoring the rogue trio, Milala stopped to regard the two lalafells before saying, “You need only entrust those earrings to me… should you truly wish to see them returned to Ul’dah, that is. After all, ‘twas to fulfill that very purpose that the thalassocracy bid on the Sorrows in the first place.”

“Bit late there, aren’t ye, Captain?” Jacke asked lightly. “I think ye’ll agree this round belongs to us…”

      The Yellowjacket captain turned to Jacke before replying, "On the contrary, my dear scoundrel. I made the winning move the moment I knew we were dealing with a merchant of Ul'dah."

      Lelouch couldn't help but arch an eyebrow with interest at that statement as the lalafell bluenette turned back to the deal making pair.

      "I come bearing an official order of seizure, authorized by the Admiral herself." Milala said. "You will not be harmed, but I must insist that you cooperate with this reclamation of unlawfully obtained goods. Though Costa del Sol is private property, it nevertheless lies within state-governed territory. Come along quietly, and we need not inconvenience Master Gegeruju any further..."

      The two lalafells looked at each other, and the realization that the jewelry in question being confiscated meant no financial gain for either of them, very much the opposite in fact, dawned on them. The Reformist Accountant could only hang his head in mortification while the wealthy Ul'dahn looked about ready to burst into tears. Given all she would have to show for things upon returning to Ul'dah was a bunch of injured hired guards who likely had it in their contract for medical expenses to be at least partially paid for and thoroughly broken mammets that would need to be repaired or replaced, one could hardly blame her for that.

      Seeing things were going as planned, Milala declared, "These suspects will be taken into Yellowjacket custody." She spared a glance at Jacke before giving him a victorious smile. "And do not concern yourself with the Silver Sorrows - - they'll be quite safe with me!"

      With no real options on the matter, Jacke had Lelouch and Kallen reconvene at the same spot where they'd met V'kebbe in the outer area of the resort. Moments later all four rogues were present.

      "Aye, I heard the news from Jacke." V'kebbe said after a quick greeting. "I don't think that was the Admiral choosin' to side with Milala, though. Probably just eager to reclaim the Silver Sorrows. Anyway, that bit about them earrings bein' cloyed from the royal vault turns out to be true. Seems some famous burglar went after 'em once he heard about the 'godlike agility' they was said to bestow upon the wearer."

      "So much for that pirate abduction and ransom story." Kallen commented and out of curiosity asked, "Did anything like that actually happen?"

      "There's a few rums about them royals runnin' afoul o' the pirate Mistbeard an' gettin' away through some longboat deal." The miqo'te rogue shrugged. "But with the Calamity makin' a right bloody mess o' things, who knows if any of 'em are true or not?"

      "Well, regardless of the old man's story, the information supplied concerning the jewelry's current state was good enough for Captain Milala to get them." Lelouch commented.

      "Bah! The hells take that canary-colored harpy!" Jacke exclaimed. "We might as well've handed the things to her on a velvet cushion."

      "Consider the bright side, we still have one more shot at victory." Lelouch offered. "And at the very least we know our 'canary-colored' captain is more mentally flexible than she first seemed, so we shouldn't underestimate her this time."

      "I'll go find Underfoot an' help him with his diggin'." V'kebbe offered. "Like Lelouch said, there's still that last treasure out there, an' ye can be sure the Reformists won't be givin' it up without a fight."

      Jacke gave the miqo'te rogue a nod before saying, "Aye, you do that. Bene luck to ye, love."

With that, V'kebbe took her leave to make good on her words. It was only seconds after her departure that the trio was suddenly joined by another.

"Ah, there you are." Milala said as she approached them. "You left before events had truly been decided, and I thought you deserved to know the score." She gave a mock curtsy to Jacke before continuing. "The Ul'dahn merchant has acquiesced to our request and surrendered the Silver Sorrows into our keeping. We've also apprehended the Reformists' accountant and will be holding him for further questioning."

Jacke's response was a light clapping before saying, in a congratulatory tone equally as mocking, "Oho! Bonin' an associate o' the Bloody Executioners? You Yellowjackets don't flinch from yer duty, I'll give ye that! An' what's this I hear about you buyin' information, Captain? I thought ye'd sooner die than associate with elements o' the underworld?"

“I will do what I must to stay ahead in this challenge, and that marketeer’s knowledge was vital to the case.” Milala answered. “ ‘Tis true I might find his practices… distasteful, but he is no pirate.” She then turned to Lelouch. “And if you intend to claim credit for inspiring my choice due to our prior conversation, then I will say you are sadly mistaken.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it.” The former prince replied before gesturing at Kallen. “After all, Kallen said much the same that day, so the credit should be properly shared.”

As the redhead rolled her eyes and gave a sarcastic thanks, Milala chose not to dignify any of that with a response and turned her attention back to Jacke.

“My point is it is the fading era of piracy which I mean to consign to the history books.” The lalafell guard captain stated. “And that chapter will never be fully closed until every pirate-spawned relic - - including you and your guild - - becomes a thing of the past.” A determined look came upon the bluenette’s face as she spoke in a more forceful voice. “Valiant and forthright! These are the words by which the Yellowjackets live; it is the manner in which we protect Limsa Lominsa! I swore an oath on the graves of my sisters: no more shall the innocent suffer at the hands of these savage buccaneers, these…unrepentant killers!”

This time neither Lelouch nor Kallen had anything to say outright; there was no vanity behind the lalafell’s words this time and it was clear she was being truthful. In fact, they could sympathize each in their own way.

Jacke seemed to as well as his next words lacked the mocking tone he had before.

“And a grand oath it is. Me, I’ve got me fambles just keepin’ the code intact.” The Rogues’ Guildmaster said. “But the code is a kind of oath, too, when you get down to it. An’ I’ve sworn to uphold it, I’ve no intention o’ steppin’ aside an’ lettin’ ye trample all over me or me coves. In fact, ye’d be better off givin’ in now afore matters get proper serious. Just say yer sorry, admit defeat, an’ we’ll leave it at that, eh?”

Lelouch was about to comment how the last part of Jacke’s statement may not have been the best choice of words for dissuading Milala but said lalafell bluenette beat him to it.

“You - - Your audacity knows no bounds! I am done wasting words!” Milala fumed. “I shall reclaim that last treasure, and then I will look on victorious as your guild is dismantled brick by brick!”

With that the Yellowjacket captain stormed off and Jacke gave a merry laugh before calling after her.

“That’s the spirit, Captain! Just don’t forget to keep an eye on them earrings!” The green favoring guildmaster taunted. “The city’s crawlin’ with rogues, ye know! Ye could keep the Sorrows in a bloody lockbox in the Coral Tower, but look away for a moment an’ one o’ me coves’ll bite them beauties right back!”

Jacke turned to speak to Lelouch and Kallen only to find the pair each giving him an odd look.

“I’m hoping you were intending to egg her on from the start, because if not that was one of the worst attempts at peacemaking I’ve ever seen.” The Japanese rogue commented.

“There are some strategies that I can think of that involve warning your enemies of your intent.” The Britannian rogue gave his own commentary. “But they involve a great deal of complex planning to ensure success. Are you sure that was necessary?”

“Ye’ll soon see.” Jacke replied to the pair with a lighthearted grin. “…Come on, Lelouch an’ Kallen. It’s back to the Sisters for us.”

----

Limsa Lominsa

A couple of days passed before Lelouch and Kallen were notified to return to the Rogues’ Guild.

“Bugger me if the two of ye don’t look ready to mill an entire crew o’ sods together.” Jacke commented after greeting them upon arrival. “An’ bene that ye are, ‘cause we’ve finally uncovered some hard facts about the last treasure. Won’t be long now afore we cloy the winnin’ piece an’ put this daft challenge to bed.”

“That’s good timing, Baderon mentioned something about an important job coming up in Gridania, he just needs to finalize some things with his counterpart there.” Lelouch said.

“I’m just ready for this contest to be over.” Kallen admitted.

“All right.” Jacke nodded. “I’ve gathered the other coves for a meetin’, so let’s get down to it.”

A few minutes later, V’kebbe and Perimu joined the three at their usual table.

“At long bloody last, the Black Sarcophagus has given up its secrets.” Jacke declared as the meeting began before turning to Perimu. “…Underfoot, ye’ve some news for us?”

“Aye, Jacke.” The lalafell rogue nodded. “I think half our troubles in whiddlin’ the truth of it lay in callin’ this nasty thing a ‘treasure’.”

“If this Black Sarcophagus is something that the Reformists believed is worth stealing, but not for financial gain, that narrows things down a little.” Lelouch surmised. “Is it some sort of weapon?”

“Aye, the Black Sarcophagus ain’t no dimber bauble…it’s the Mark L1 magitek mine.” Perimu replied, affirming the other’s guess. “A bleedin’ prototype explosive what was bitten from an imperial transport vessel!”

Both Jacke and V’kebbe looked surprised at the revelation, while the other two were more interested than surprised.

“So, a bomb, then.” Kallen said trying not to sound nonchalant about it, having some familiarity with explosives. “How much damage could it do?”

“Lots, ‘cause even though it ain’t that big - - maybe the size of a small cargo box - - they say the blast’d have enough kick to incinerate a bloody behemoth.” Perimu answered gravely.

That turned Lelouch’s expression to a mixture of surprise and concern since he had read about the creatures despite not encountering them, and the former prince looked over to see the redhead’s questioning look.

“I’m guessing from the name that’s a pretty big monster?” Kallen asked, noticing her Britannian associate’s look.

“Yes, though from what I’ve read on the species, size isn’t the only factor that makes them so infamous. It usually takes a team of experienced adventurers to kill one.” The raven-haired rogue answered. “Let’s just say if one had an explosive of this grade, one could easily take out at least an entire squadron of those big mechanical contraptions the Empire is so fond of.”

“Seems the Garleans meant to start the production in their factory in La Noscea, then distribute the mines through Castrum Marinum.” Perimu continued while the Japanese rogue took in that information. “Lucky some plucky privateer cloyed the prototype en route, then, eh?”

“An experimental weapon…” V’kebbe mused. “That explains why the thalassocracy was so bleedin’ eager to bid at that auction, an’ so reluctant to share details with us.”

“Not just us, Milala didn’t seem aware this thing’s a bomb either.” Kallen noted.

“At least we know the ‘what’ …but there’s still the question of ‘where’.” Perimu said. “The Curs delivered their bitten goods to the Reformists, that much is certain. What happened to the sarcophagus after that, though, we ain’t so sure. There’ve been no reports of huge explosions or the like, so either the Executioners still have the mine, or they’ve peddled it to some other buyer…”

“The Reformist faction came together out o’ shared hatred for the Admiral an’ her ways. I’m guessin’ they didn’t cloy that bomb just to sell it.” Jacke surmised. “An’ our informant was able to get it from one o’ the faction leader’s mouth; the other Bloody Executioners ‘ave washed their hands of the Reformists.”

“Which aside from being a relief of worry for us, it also means the Reformists only option will be keeping the bomb close until the time they intend to use it.” Lelouch added before giving an appreciative smile at the guildmaster. “Do give the informant my thanks.”

“I’ll let Rouge know at the next opportunity.” Jacke nodded looked at Kallen. “If ye like, lass, I can also give…” The sudden noise of the guild’s door being shoved open interrupted him, and Jacke turned in that direction to see the guild’s eyepatch wearing doorman, Loenword, come rushing in. “…What is it, Lonny?”

“A letter for ye, Jacke.” The eyepatched roegadyn answered. “Says it’s urgent.”

“A letter?” Jacke asked in reply. “Who’s it from?”

“The old man.” Loenword handed over an envelope as he answered. “I found it while I was sortin’ through our daily deliveries.”

The eyepatched roegadyn then returned to his post while Jacke opened the letter and began to read.

“Let’s see now…” The guildmaster said. “Come to Thalaos, I have urgent news.”

“I’ve never known the old man to summon a customer!” Perimu exclaimed. “No one’s seen him at his usual haunts since ye all last bought information from him, so do ye reckon this’s some rum morsel he’s dug up just for us?”

“Aye, it could be...” Jacke paused to think for a moment before coming to a decision. “Lelouch, Kallen, the two of you an’ me are headed to Thalaos. Underfoot, V’kebbe, yer to take another stab at pinnin’ down the location o’ the sarcophagus.”

----

Upper La Noscea

When the trio arrived at the designated meeting point, the old man wasn’t there waiting for them. It was decided that Jacke would check for any signs of the aged informant in one direction while Lelouch and Kallen would check in the other. Within minutes, the Earth born pair found the black marketeer, but it wasn’t a relieving sight.

The old man was lying face down in a clearing just up ahead and his two Qiqirn bodyguards were also lying motionless nearby. Even from the distance from where the pair were standing, it was clear that all three were no longer among the living. Still, it bore checking out if only to get a clear idea of how and why they died, even if there was a very likely pirate crew's worth of suspects.

“Wait.” Kallen said in a lowered voice as she noticed Lelouch step forward. “This is a pretty basic setup for a trap: leave the body out for the victims’ comrades to find and then pull an ambush when they reflexively check on them.”

The former prince muttered a quick thanks while mentally chiding himself for almost falling for that before asking, “So, how should we do this?”

“I’ll go first, you come out close behind me so it doesn’t look like we’re onto them.” Kallen answered. “Since you’re the better knife thrower, you keep an eye out for anyone sneaking up on us. I’ll take whoever comes from the front, you use the knives to throw off whoever comes from the side or back.”

“That’s a sound strategy.” Lelouch commented as he quickly ran the idea through his head.

“Comes with the territory.” The redhead found herself smiling slightly, appreciating the compliment a little more than she would have guessed. “Let’s do this.”

Kallen’s prediction quickly came true as the moment the pair reached the bodies, a miqo’te woman dressed in garb that clearly marked her as a pirate burst out of the bushes ahead of them with a sword drawn.

“Yer done for, rogues!” The miq’ote corsair cried out as she charged at Kallen, who quickly dodged her enemy’s blade before striking back with her drawn daggers.

Lelouch, meanwhile, had noticed movement from the surrounding brush and also caught the sound of movement from behind. He quickly whipped around and cast a throwing knife in the direction of the latter movement, and was rewarded with a scream followed by the quick sight of a lalafell man similarly dressed to the pirate Kallen was fighting fall over with the blade embedded in his chest.

The former prince didn’t have time to relish the lucky hit though, as he noticed two hyur men of the same crew, one coming from the left and the other from the right and each of them brandished an axe. Seeing the one on the left was coming up faster than his partner, the raven-haired rogue threw a knife at him first, catching the man’s lower leg and causing him to stumble before making the next throw at the pirate on the right. That one made a reflexive move to deflect the thrown knife, only for it to sink into one of his hands, causing that pirate to lose his grip on the axe.

Seeing an opening, Lelouch drew his daggers and dashed towards the pirate on the right and upon reaching him struck with a Spinning Edge before swiftly moving along his enemy’s side and executed the Gust Slash. Using the momentum of the follow up attack, the former prince pivoted to the pirate’s unprotected back before finishing the corsair off with the third and final of the attack sequence he had learned from the rogues, Aeolian Edge.

As his immediate foe collapsed, Lelouch turned his attention to the remaining pirate, only to see the Kallen had long since taken care of her first opponent and had just about finished bringing down the remaining would-be ambusher, ending her fight with the same finishing move the ex-royal turned adventurer had used. After a quick look to see that there weren’t any signs of anymore hidden pirates, it was decided Kallen would inspect the bodies while Lelouch would keep lookout for any newcomers. Yet, the former had only just begun to look when she heard the latter give a quick warning alongside the sound of him redrawing his daggers.

The newcomer was approaching them from the road with a confident stride, and it was a roegadyn woman with long red hair and wearing a better kept version of the outfit the now dead pirates had sported. She had an axe at her back, but didn’t look to be ready to use it, not looking the least bit intimidated or troubled at her fallen crewmates.

“Yer wastin’ yer time darlins. We opened that scrag’s wrinkled throat bells ago.” The roegadyn woman said with a laugh before pointing in their direction. “Ye cross the Bloody Executioners, an’ ye get what’s comin’ to ye… Did ye like our message? Wasn’t sure ye’d fall for it, but a little mystery goes a long way. Eh?”

“Why, thank you for the confession.” Lelouch replied coolly as Kallen drew her daggers, as prepared to fight as he was. “And you’re confident that you aren’t about to end up like your late compatriots back there, because…”

“Aw, now don’t be like that, darlins.” The Bloody Executioner mock begged. “Me an’ me mates didn’t have much choice - - when the boss says ‘go play wiv the rogues’, then we gotta go play wiv the rogues.”

“Play, huh?” Kallen spoke while glaring at the corsair before them. “Well, dangerous games are fun, but you’ve only got yourself to blame for getting hurt, or worse.”

The roegadyn pirate, unperturbed by her fellow redhead’s implied threat, simply gave an exaggerated shrug before saying, “We never asked ye to come ruin our game, now, did we? An’ don’t give me no long-winded speech about yer precious code…”

“If this is the prelude to a long-winded speech of your own on whatever merits your pirate crew has in comparison then it isn’t a very good one.” Lelouch commented dismissively. “It certainly doesn’t help that the rumor going around is your particular faction are already pariahs within the Bloody Executioners.”

A look of irritation came across the lone Bloody Executioner’s face at those words.

“The Reformists’ vision stretches far beyond what both yer tired old rules an’ them lily livered fools is good for!” She declared as her expression became crazed. “Once Cap’n Aisibhir takes command o’ the Executioners, ‘e’ll give us back the teeth we lost when we submitted to the Admiral’s leash! We’ll be the terror of the sea once more! Free to rove an’ plunder in a new age o’ pirate glory!” It was then in which the crazed corsair drew her axe as she regarded the two rogues. “…An’ I’ll bathe in blood to see that age come to pass! I’ll kick down yer sh*te-stinkin’ code, an’ ave all yer sneaky ‘eads on a choppin’ block alongside Sicard an’ ‘is ilk!”

Before either Lelouch or Kallen could give reply, let alone start fighting, a familiar voice spoke out from behind the now battle eager Bloody Executioner.

“Like hells you will! The only sentence what’s bein’ passed today is yers!” Jacke declared as he seemingly appeared right behind the roegadyn pirate.

This sudden appearance didn’t seem to bother the crazed corsair, who simply glanced behind at this new fore before saying, “Well, ‘ello there’ darlin’. Ain’t you a fine-lookin’ lad?”

“I’ve heard all this prattle afore. Free to pillage an’ plunder, is it?” Jacke asked rhetorically, ignoring the other’s insincere flirtation. “Aye it all sounds grand, but ye don’t think o’ the price. That ‘sh*te-stinkin’ code’ is the only thing what keeps you bloody coves from millin’ one another! Without it - -without Limsa Lominsa to call home - - ye’d be adrift in an ocean o’ quarrons!... But if yer so keen to keep company with the dead, I’ll be soddin’ happy to oblige!”

“You was prettier wiv yer gob shut…” The Bloody Executioner sighed, seeming to calm down from the battle lust. “But I can see I’m outta me depth ‘ere.” She then dropped her axe in surrender. “As much as I’d like to lop off yer noggins, I’ll ‘ave to be satisfied wiv draggin’ the three o’ ye out into the wilds. Kept ye well outta the way, ‘aven’t I?”

“Out with it, then!” Jacke shouted, his daggers still ready for use, as were the Earth born pair’s.

The yielding pirate gave a triumphant laugh before asking, “Ain’t it obvious? You stubborn scrags is lookin’ to swipe our new toy, an’ my job was to stall ye. The cap’n ‘as the mine wiv ‘im now. ‘E’s set to show the rest o’ the Executioners that ‘e’s got the stones to sit in the leader’s chair an’ not Hyllfyr’s favorite boy!” A deranged grin came across her face as she continued “…An’ what better way to do that than executin’ the bitch what snapped the chains on our crew!”

“He’s targetin’ the Admiral herself!” Jacke exclaimed, showing genuine shock for a moment before quickly regaining composure. “…Yer plannin’ to blow up the command room, ain’t ye?”

“Aye, you ‘ave me permission to panic!” The Bloody Executioner answered mockingly. “’Course, if ye’d rather steer clear o’ the city, I’d be glad to keep ye company right ‘ere, sweetmeat!”

As the captured corsair laughed in triumph, Jacke took only the time necessary to bind her hands before turning to Lelouch and Kallen.

“We’ve got this mad mort at our mercy, but she seems to be enjoyin’ herself…” Jacke half muttered. “I’d better drag her back to the guild an’ see what other information she’ll spill. I’ll need you back in Limsa as well, but ye’ve business at the Foremast first. Ye should find Captain Milala at her post there. Forget about the soddin’ challenge an’ tell her everythin’ we know. Unless me judgment's off kilter, she’ll do what needs to be done.”

As the pair gave their affirmations and began to leave, the captured Bloody Executioner blew a kiss their way with another mocking laugh.

As Kallen replied with a raised middle finger, Lelouch simply looked at Jacke.

“Do make sure she gets a visible reminder that we can teleport back to Limsa Lominsa.” The former prince said off handedly before beginning the spell along with the Japanese rogue.

From the looks both Lelouch and Kallen could see before the teleportation, the corsair’s smile dropped as she realized what was happening. Apparently she hadn’t considered that for some reason.

----

Limsa Lominsa

Upon arrival, Lelouch and Kallen wasted no time in using the Greater Aetheryte to get to the lesser one nearest the headquarters for the Yellowjackets. As luck would have it, the guard captain they were looking for was standing right outside the building.

“So, is it to be another disagreement over how I do things?” Milala asked her tone almost casual before a look of realization came upon her face. “…You’ve come to steal the Sorrows, have you!?” The pint sized bluenette took a step back before gesturing at herself. “Well, you shan’t have them. As you can see, they’re safely clasped upon my very own - -.”

“This isn’t about the damned earrings!” Kallen interrupted.

“You’re not here for the earrings?” The lalafell Yellowjacket captain blinked in confusion as she looked to see both rogues had a serious look about them.

“I’m afraid circ*mstances have turned matters into something larger than both our groups.” Lelouch began before proceeding to explain what they’d learned regarding the Black Sarcophagus and the Reformists’ planned use for it.

“…The Admiral, you say!?” Milala exclaimed, looking as shocked as expected at pirate crew’s bold assassination plan. “And you are sure these fiends are in possession of the sarcophagus?”

“None of Jacke’s informants could find any sign of the Reformists ever putting it up for sale.” The former prince replied. “That and the recent matter of our late informant would make little sense if they didn’t have it.”

“Let’s not forget you got info from the guy like we did.” Kallen added. “I know what that psycho bitch said, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they also merc’d him to keep him from selling anything about this to either of us."

“I must deploy more sentries at once!” Milala declared and was about to turn to make her way into the Yellowjacket headquarters but stopped to regard the two. “Do not think this voids our challenge, rogues! And you can relay as much to your impudent guildmaster! …I suppose you can thank him for the warning as well.”

With that the lalafell captain turned and dashed into the building behind her.

“At least she took the warning seriously.” Kallen commented as she and Lelouch made their way to the lesser Aetheryte to take them to the Rogues’ Guild.

“Yes, though how one is to continue pursuit of this contest after all this is anyone’s guess.” The raven-haired rogue said as they reached the glowing crystal. “And I doubt Jacke would be so gauche as to rip those earrings off Milala’s ears.”

“Yeah, that is a nasty way to injure someone in a fight, though I can name a few who’d deserve it.” The redhead said as some noble born Ashford students, her stepmother and most of her maids came to mind. She reflexively stopped her thoughts from drifting to the one exception in the last category with a quip as she glanced at her Britannian associate. “One of them definitely uses the word ‘gauche’ a lot.”

“So long as it’s not me, I will not argue.” Lelouch replied with a shrug.

“Implying you wear earrings?” Kallen asked with a raised eyebrow.

“The clip-on sort, on more occasions than I would like, and the answer is ‘Milly’.” The Britannian rogue answered humorlessly.

The Japanese rogue could only give an “Oh” of understanding before the pair proceeded to use the lesser aetheryte.

----

“…So the Jackets are on the move? Bene.” Jacke said after hearing the news before explaining how things had gone on his end. “I’ve been listenin’ to the addled pirate cackle since I got her back to the Sisters, but she’s given us naught we didn’t already know. An’ we know more’n enough. I say we rally the rogues an’ go after that mine…afore it blows up in ours muns.”

As the two gave their affirmations before checking to make sure they had all the equipment they needed, an idea came to Lelouch.

“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about bomb disposal, would you?” He asked Kallen.

The redhead quickly pushed off the misgivings given the situation before answering, “Not really, just know where to place them and how to set them off. Besides, from what Jacke had to say, this sarcophagus is probably a more complicated thing than your typical make it yourself explosive.”

After the former prince conceded the other’s point, they finished setting up and returned to Jacke to begin discussing the plan.

“If the leader o’ the Reformists - - this ‘Captain Aisibhir’ - - is plannin’ on millin’ the Admiral with a bang, then my guess is he’ll be aimin’ to demolish the entire command room.” The green favoring guildmaster looked at the pair. “Ye know the Mizzenmast, aye? The tower that holds the Drownin’ Wench an’ Bulwark Hall. The Admiral’s Bridge - -an’ her command room - - are right at the top of it.”

“Yeah, we’ve been there before.” Kallen said. “Any way we can evacuate that building without the Reformists noticing?”

“I’m afraid that would be easier said than done, Kallen.” Lelouch spoke up. “At least on a short notice like this.”

Jacke nodded in agreement before explaining, “Aye, ‘cause ye’ve got the district what surrounds the Mizzenmast - -that’s the busy beatin’ heart o’ the city. Even with the threat of an attack, ye can’t just seal it up in the blink of an eye an’ call the whole thing bob. Try to explain the danger to the culls what live an’ work there, an’ then ye’d have a frightened, stampedin’ mob on yer fambles. Nay, lass, our only option is to have eyes snilchin’ every approach to the tower. I’ll put the whid out to as many coves as I can, an’ spread ‘em through the streets.”

It was as Jacke was explaining things to Kallen that an idea came to Lelouch, and he spoke up right after.

“Excuse me, Jacke, but if you’re going to do that, I have a suggestion.” The former prince said, and at the other’s affirmation, explained his idea.

“Not a bad one; I’ll be sure to let him know.” Jacke said after hearing the younger rogue out, and with that he looked at the both of them. “Yer job’ll be to cover the Aftcastle. Just wait an’ see, Lelouch an’ Kallen - -we’ll get this Aisibhir…an’ his little bomb too!”

----

Night had fallen over Limsa Lominsa well after Lelouch and Kallen had taken up their position not too far from the Maelstrom’s headquarters. Naturally, the city’s night life had long since started, and the two had yet to find any sign of activity from the Reformists. As this was happening, Perimu and V’kebbe were making a sweep of the area around the Culinarian’s Guild in case the pirates were using the transportation of the various foodstuffs that part of the city utilized for cover of sneaking anything into the city. While they, and other rogues continued their search, Jacke had paused his near one of the docks as he stopped to look out into bay, having noticed a change in the weather. He stepped out of the way of a drunken blonde roegadyn man before taking in the view before him.

“Ugh, the fog picked a grand night to roll in thick.” The Rogues’ Guildmaster uttered as he saw the tell-tale signs of said fog settling in. “This’ll make things interestin’…”

Meanwhile, Milala was addressing her roegadyn assistant as she made her own preparations for the coming pirate threat.

“Our presence in the streets is far too thin! Where are the reinforcements I ordered!?” She asked, clearly frustrated by the growing tension of the situation. “And what of the adventurers from the guild?”

“My apologies, Captain. There just aren’t enough soldiers to spare.” The roegadyn Yellowjacket explained. “The bulk of our forces has already been assigned to guard not only the Admiral, but a number of other high-ranking personnel, as well. As for the adventurers, what ones that could be found on such short notice are on standby until the pirates are located. Most of them just aren’t experienced enough to support a patrol.”

“Unacceptable! What could Commodore Reyner be thinking?” Milala exclaimed. “There are dangerous criminals stalking the city as we speak! Call in squads from the outposts if you must, but I want to see our security tightened and the populace properly protected!”

“But Captain… We can’t be certain the pirates’ plan hasn’t changed.” The other said. “If we consider the possibility that they’ve switched to a target outside the walls it would be folly to weaken those defenses. Especially in light of the recent incidents in the Satstasha caves.”

Milala fought to hide her irritation, partially because she had no arguments there and also because she knew from reports that two particular individuals had been involved in that incident just prior to the matter with the rogues.

“Hmph! You’ve made your point, Sergeant. Return to your post!” She ordered.

After watching her subordinate give a salute and take his leave, Milala lowered her head as she began to feel the weight of the day’s events alongside the growing feeling that this contest that she’d proposed may have done more harm than good.

“Once all is lost, it is far too late to question what one should have done…” She murmured to herself. So deep in thought was she, that it took several seconds more than normal for her to notice the sound of approaching footsteps coming from her left.

A quick turn in her direction, revealed the newcomer to be a lalafell man with dark skin, white hair and wearing a dark tunic. The man had stopped just short of the lamps, his head lowered for some reason, so it was hard to make out more specific features.

Instinctually, Milala walked towards the man.

“You seem troubled, sir. Perhaps I can be of assis- -“ The bluenette stopped as upon a closer look, the lalafell in front of her was wearing more than just a tunic as there was a visible glint of chain mail beneath, gauntlets on his hands but most significant of all a battle axe at his back which he swiftly reached for.

Milala quickly jumped back and avoided the downward cut as the lalafell man swung the axe downwards at her with a gleeful grin. She drew her pistol in that time, and took aim to fire at her attacker, only for the axe wielding lalafell to close the distance quicker than anticipated. He swung his axe’s flat side upwards and smoothly knocked the pistol out of her hand and into the air as it discharged.

Milala grit her teeth and glared at her attacker, who only smirked in reply.

“I’ve been dyin’ to meet you, lass.” The axe wielder said with a sinister smile. “Aye, keen to set eyes on the bold Yellowbelly what cost our crew a fortune in Ul’dahn coin.”

Knowing full well what the man’s words meant, the bluenette stated, “You… You’re an Executioner! One of Aisibhir’s men!”

“Aye, the one our Cap’n trusts to navigate the winds.” The Reformist Windward declared with pride as he leered at the Yellowjacket captain with mix of mockery and bloodlust. “Ye’ve strayed too far into a world ye don’t understand, lass. Yer eyes is fixed on the light o’ justice, leavin’ ye blind to the chasm openin’ up at yer feet…”

Milala’s red eyes glanced to her right, spotting where her pistol had landed on the stone ground a good distance behind her. Returning her gaze to the pirate before her, she saw the Windward ready to himself to attack and made her decision. Putting all her energy into it, the bluenette made a dash backwards to grab her gun…only for it to be in vain for the Reformist navigator had been ready and made a smooth downward and diagonal cut that struck Milala’s left shoulder as she turned around.

The Yellowjacket collapsed to the ground on her back, and the lalafell pirate stepped over to gaze down at his fallen foe.

“At least they’ll say ye died with yer boots on.” The Reformist Windward jeered, appreciating the sight of blood oozing out from beneath his enemy’s back.

There was the sound of more approaching feet, and the pirate turned and saw who he was expecting. A large muscular and scar faced roegadyn man with coal grey skin, pale eyes and wearing elaborate armor with a wicked looking multi-edged battle axe at his back strode forward followed by a spear bearing hyur man wearing an outfit similar to the Windward, who gave a deferential smile at the former.

“The Yellowbelly won’t be botherin’ us no more, Cap’n.” The lalfell pirate declared proudly, confident that it wouldn’t take long for the guard captain to bleed out from the wound that he’d inflicted. “As for the mine, the lads’ll ‘ave it primed in front o’ the Wench by the time ye get there.”

The roegadyn pirate captain, Aisibhir Badwind, grinned in satisfaction before saying, “Good. Not long now afore we drag that bitch Admiral, her pretty tower, an’ all her simperin’ curs down to the bottom o’ the sea…” He then punched the gauntlets at his hands together in anticipation. “Then I’ll raise our flag on the ruins o’ the Mizzenmast, an’ lead our brethren in a return to the old ways o’ blood an’ plunder!”

With that the three pirates turned and strode away, fully confident in the success of their murderous mission. So lost in their delusions of blood-soaked grandeur that they didn’t notice Milala was still alive, even if she was struggling to stay conscious. She then heard the sounds of unsteady footsteps coming towards her from the left.

“Should not’ve ‘ad that lasht bottle…” A slurred voice came from that direction followed by an audible hiccup. “…Bottlesh? The wife ish gonna… kill me…”

There was the sound of feet briefly shuffling before the obviously drunken speaker said, “…Eh? What’sh that, then?”

Turning her head in the direction of the voice, Milala forced her eyes open and saw that this newcomer was a blonde roegadyn man, face flushed from the great amount of drink he’d consumed. Given this was the only person who might be able to deliver a warning about the Reformists’ plan, the bluenette had no choice but to try with this one.

“...Not after...the command room…” Milala uttered, voice strained. “They mean to bring down...the entire...tower… If the Mizzenmast falls… The bridges will follow… Half the city will…” Fighting down a gasp of pain, Milala reached out her right hand towards the other in desperation. “P-Please … You must help me… The danger… Far greater than we…”

Unfortunately, Milala’s hopes were dashed as the drunken roegadyn citizen let out a high pitched shriek of fright before exclaiming, “Bloody hells! It’sh alive! Oh no, no, no, I didn’t shee nuffin’! Didn’t. Shee. Nuffin’!”

“Please! You must...send word…” Milala implored the cowardly drunk as he began to back away from her, only for the plea to fall on deaf ears as the inebriated roegadyn turned and ran away.

The injured Yellowjacket captain felt her heart sink as she desperately tried to call out, “Someone...must be told…”

Milala felt what strength she had left start to leave her body, and her outstretched hand fell. Her eyelids were feeling heavier by the second as she tried desperately to remain conscious, and almost gave in, only to hear the sound of another approaching her. The footsteps were lighter, but sounded far steadier than the first.

She looked to the side to see none other than the leader of the Rogues’ Guild himself, Jacke Swallow, looking down at her with a reassuring smile, knelt to one knee.

“You...How did you…?” Milala began.

Jacke looked over to where the bluenette’s pistol lay before answering, “Yer ‘valiant an’ forthright’ weapon - - ye could hear that single pistol shot from malms away. Weren’t hard to guess what’d happened.”

As if to reinforce that statement, Milala could hear the sounds of more approaching people and a couple of glances in the directions revealed Lelouch and Kallen running towards them from across a nearby bridge and Perimu and V’kebbe around a nearby corner.

As the four rogues gathered around their leader and the fallen Yellowjacket captain, Perimu was the first to speak.

“I’ve poked the Yellowjackets on me way over. A healer’ll be along shortly.” The lalafell rogue reported.

Jacke gave a nod before replying, “Bene. That means we’ve only one last thing to do.”

“We have never… been allies…But I beg of you...” Milala uttered before fixing her gaze on Jacke and held out her right hand to the Rogues’ Guildmaster. “You must… You must stop them! ...Save the city!”

“Ah, lass, ye know ye don’t need to ask.” Jacke replied, giving Milala a comforting smile. “Takin’ down mad coves an’ bitin’ back what was bitten is our job.”

A look of relief came upon Milala’s face at Jacke’s reassuring words, and she lowered her hand, eyes closing as she began to drift into unconsciousness. It surprised the bluenette how assured she felt at entrusting the safety of Limsa Lominsa to Jacke and his group of rogues, and she felt strangely lighter as she acknowledged her grave misjudgment of the man before her consciousness faded.

After quickly seeing to it that the Yellowjacket Captain was in a more comfortable position to await the healers Perimu called for, Jacke stood up to regard each of his teammates, ignoring the varied looks he was getting from them.

“You all set, then?” Jacke inquired with that same confident yet lighthearted smile they all knew him for.

“Ready, Jacke.” V’kebbe answered seriously.

Perimu met the green favoring guildmaster’s smile with one of his own before answering, “Always.”

“Indeed.” Lelouch nodded before looking at Kallen. “Shall we ensure the Reformists’ little gunpowder plot goes up in smoke for them alone?”

“In this case, hell yes.” Kallen answered, getting the other’s subtle joke, before turning to Jacke and palming her fist. “Just give the word…”

With that, Jacke started in the direction that the Reformists had gone, with the four right behind them.

“Then let’s go cloy that sarcophagus - -,” The Rogues’ Guildmaster declared as he drew his daggers and the others followed suit. “- -an’ fit Aisibhir for a new coffin!”

----

In an obscured section of a walkway located just below the Drowning Wench tavern, the Reformists’ Navigator glanced at the cylindrical metal object he was guarding, mentally pushing aside the growing worries he had started feeling as the sounds of battle within the city grew closer. From his hiding place, he’d glimpsed Yellowjacket guards, the occasional Maelstrom soldier and even a few adventurers taking the fight to his fellow crewmates. The whole of their faction’s crew had been brought in and charged with attacking so as to keep all of the Admiral’s lapdogs busy until the time to set mine to explode. The ‘sarcophagus’ had three remote detonators connected to it and they had each been well hidden and guarded by three of Captain Aisibhir’s loyalist and most skilled crewmen. So long as even one of the devices was still active by the time the countdown finished, it would trigger the explosion.

Yet despite the success of their plan seeming assured that wasn’t enough to banish the apprehension the lalafell pirate was feeling ever since the thought occurred to him that he probably should have finished off that Yellowbelly he’d cut down earlier. Even thinking of all the wealth that he was to gain when he would be standing at Aisibhir Badwind’s side at the top of the Bloody Executioners wasn’t enough to reassure him.

Almost as if on queue, the roaring voice of his captain came down from above along with the sounds of intense fighting.

“Ye can’t stop us now, scrags! Only three minutes until the show begins!” Aisibhir’s voice echoed and a second later the beeping sound of the triggering mechanism activating could be heard.

The Reformist Navigator took a moment to take that all in before getting to attention and keeping an eye out for any approaching interlopers. After seeing there were none, he decided to make a quick check in with the crew’s linkpearl to the other two assigned to guard the other detonators.

The first line rang for several seconds with no answer, and with a frown the lalafell pirate tried the second one only for that too to go unanswered. Biting back a curse, the pint-sized corsair was about to try the first one again, only to notice movement out of the corner of his eye. He brought his axe to bear just in time to block the charging attack of a raven-haired young rogue.

“How did ye find me?!” The Reformist Navigator exclaimed as he took a swing at his opponent, who nimbly dodged.

Lelouch regarded the nefarious navigator with a mocking smile as he answered, “The answer is as obvious you and your crew are as malcontent pirates, good sir. Not too long after one of your crew so helpfully shared your plan with us, it was clear which part of the city that you would set that stolen bomb in. All that was needed was a simple call to the Drowning Wench’s proprietor to keep an eye out for any unfamiliar sailors doing anything unusual in the immediate area. Your lot did a commendable job sticking out like a sore thumb, and it made finding and destroying the other two detonators all the easier for us.”

“Stubble it!” The lalafell pirate snarled as he charged forward, only to have his axe strike parried and only managed to escape the other’s follow up lunge with a nick to his right forearm. He pressed his attack, knowing even if what this rogue said was true all he had to do was keep this rogue away from the detonator and the plan would succeed. “Yer theatrics an’ code don’t mean sh*te to me! Ye can keep runnin’ yer gob until - -!”

The Reformist Navigator’s words were cut off by the sound of a small explosion behind him, causing him to whirl around to see another rogue, a red haired one, standing over the wrecked remains of the detonator.

Lelouch as about to call out a quick thanks to Kallen, but another voice coming from above interrupted that.

“The light on the mine went out!” Perimu’s voice declared, likely for Jacke and V’kebbe’s benefit as last Lelouch and Kallen had seen all three were engaging Aisibhir and the handful of his crew that remained behind to guard him.

“Lelouch an’ Kallen ‘ave disabled the sarcophagus!” V’kebbe’s voice called out.

“That’s the bomb taken care of, then.” Jacke’s reply came. “Now these bastards get our full attention!”

The Reformist Navigator was gaping in shock as he heard those words. So shocked in fact, that he didn’t even notice Lelouch and Kallen close in on him and from both sides cut him down in an almost synchronized dual slash of their daggers.

“Nice distraction.” Kallen commented as they stepped away from the now deceased Reformist.

“And a nice and quickly done wreckage of the detonator to you.” Lelouch replied pleasantly and noticed the other arch her eyebrow slightly. “What?”

“Nothing. Just hard to tell if that was sincere or had some kind of joke behind it.” The redhead said before picking up speed. “Come on, let’s deal with that scar faced bald guy.”

“You wound me, Kallen.” Lelouch called back in a mock dramatic tone as he moved to catch up.

By the time the pair reached where they had left Jacke, Perimu and V’kebbe, the senior rogue trio had long since dispatched Aisibhir’s underlings and only the Reformist captain remained, visibly wounded in many places but still more than willing to fight. With a quick nod between each other, the two Earth born rogues made to join the fight.

Lelouch struck first with a Spinning Edge at the roegadyn prate captain’s back. Aisibhir roared in rage as he whirled around on this new foe, swinging his multi-edged axe in the Britannian rogue’s direction. The former prince had been expecting that and dodged out of the way, and Kallen took advantage of the opening to strike at colossal corsair with her own Spinning Edge. Before the pirate could make another move, the other three rogues followed suit with dagger strikes of their own, ending with Jacke landing the killing blow.

“This wasn’t…part o’ me plan…” Aisibhir uttered his final words as he collapsed to the ground. “I could’ve been a king among pirates…”

(I’m sure you’ll make fine company with my late relations that bear the title of ‘ruler that never was’.) Lelouch thought grimly as he sheathed his blades before turning to inquire of Jacke what was next.

----

Milala gave her thanks to the last of the healers who had helped her, a hyur brunette who had been part of one of the adventuring parties that were hired to help bolster the city’s defenses once word of the Reformists’ plot had come to light. The girl stammered her own thanks at the recognition before leaving to rejoin her party, who had left her with the reserves to go to battle themselves for some reason.

From there the Yellowjacket captain proceeded to the Aftcastle, where the secured sarcophagus had been taken to await transport to a location where it could be properly disarmed and then dismantled for study. Upon arrival, Milala found two of her men giving the large black box of explosives a look over, as expected. What she wasn’t expecting was the crowd of people gathering in the square not too far ahead, with a few standing as close as the other Yellowjacket guards would allow. Deciding to deal with the more pressing matter, the bluenette quickly spotted her roegadyn sergeant and approached him.

“Status report?” She inquired.

The sergeant gave his captain a salute before answering, “The mine has been disabled, and the engineers should have it safely removed. Our soldiers sustained some injuries on the battlefield with the Reformists, but none were fatal. ...Also the Admiral sends her sincerest gratitude.”

“Hm…” Milala paused to consider this, only for her thoughts to be interrupted by an entirely unexpected source.

“Look, there she is! That’s Captain Milala!” A female voice from the crowd called out in an enamored tone. “The hero of Limsa Lominsa!”

Surprised at the sudden words and praise, the lalafell captain instinctually turned in the direction of the voice with a reflexive step in its direction. This prompted the other Yellowjacket guards to allow a few of the crowd forward, mainly those they could identify or recognize as safe for that.

“Are you recovered from your wound, Captain!?” A concerned hyur woman with silver hair asked, the worry plain on her face.

“We heard how you nearly lost your life stopping that horde of pirates from blowing up the Mizzenmast!” The first speaker, a blonde roegadyn woman, exclaimed.

“Three cheers for the Yellowjackets!” A blonde hyur man proclaimed. “Our city’d be lost without ye!”

Taken aback at this onrush of praise, and knowing what actually happened Milala could only stammer, “But, wait…that’s not how it…”

Realizing her words were being drowned out by the crowd, the bluenette turned back to the sergeant.

“Sergeant! What of the rogues?” She inquired. “Did they survive the battle?”

“I don’t rightly know, Captain…” The roegadyn guardsman answered with a shrug. “All we found near the sarcophagus were Reformists - - either dead or strung from the rafters.”

Milala paused to consider that and looked away to avoid showing her relieved smile before saying, “…Alive, then. ‘Twould seem we are deeply in their debt.”

“…Ah. Captain?” The Yellowjacket sergeant spoke as he remembered something. “Might I have the Silver Sorrows from you now? We’ve been ordered to hand them over to the commodore, along with the Black Sarcophagus.”

“Why, of course, they’re right h- -.” Milala automatically reached her left hand towards the corresponding ear, only to stop as she couldn’t find the earring that she’d put on hours ago and immediately made the same check on her right with the same result. “…The earrings! I could’ve sworn I was still…”

The bluenette stopped, first considering the possibility that the jewelry may have come off when she was attacked only to quickly rule that out as not only were her ears uninjured but in the struggle even her very hat had remained where it was. Then a far more likely scenario came to mind, eliciting a gasp of realization as her eyes widened.

“…He wouldn’t have! He stole them from me while I lay dying!?” Milala’s exclaimed incredulously as her voice raised an octave. Her fists balled before giving a jump in agitation, surprising the crowd of onlookers as she declared, “That…that cad! I knew he was not to be trusted!”

Yet despite those words, the lalafell Yellowjacket captain found herself calming down quickly, finding herself more amused than outraged.

“ ‘Keep an eye on them’ indeed. I should have known…” Milala said, recalling the Rogues' Guildmaster's parting words at Costa del Sol over the earrings, as she felt a smile creep up on her face.

Meanwhile, in the town square not too far away, a group of five rogues had watched the whole thing.

“And with that, we stand somewhat corrected.” Lelouch commented to Kallen with an amused smile.

The redhead sighed, recalling their earlier conversation, before giving an exasperated look at Jacke, now wearing the Silver Sorrows himself, and saying, “Yeah, and a certain someone just upgraded their relations with Milala from complicated to obnoxiously complicated.”

“Are ye sure about this, Jacke?” Perimu asked. ‘We should’ve cloyed the sarcophagus as well.”

“Eh, I think she’s earned it, don’t you?” Jacke asked in answer. “If it bothers ye that much, think of it as a trade.”

V’kebbe, who had been looking at the new additions to Jacke’s ears, gave a giggle before commenting, “If ye ask me, they look a bit daft.”

“Well, I didn’t ask ye!” The green favoring guildmaster replied to the amused mi’qote in a somewhat sheepish tone and quickly changed the subject with a palm of his fist. “So, the Jackets ended up with the mine, an’ we got the diamond an’ earrings. Which means… Victory belongs to the Rogues’ Guild!”

That was enough for V’kebbe as with that she and Jacke engaged in an impromptu celebratory jig with one another while the other three watched on.

“Well, given what just happened, this probably won’t look too out of place.” Kallen said to her Britannian associate, hoping this wouldn’t draw too many weird stares from passersby.

“It shouldn’t, especially since…” Lelouch paused as he realized something. “Oh, that’s right, you haven’t been in Limsa Lominsa for very long. Let’s just say some festive activities around where the Greater Aetheryte is located can rival the ones at Ashford when Milly’s in a really creative mood.”

As Kallen pondered those implications, a thought came to Perimu that he decided to voice.

“Do ye think Milala’ll leave it at that, then?” The lalafell rogue asked Jacke. “I get the feelin’ we ain’t done with her yet.”

The two senior rogues stopped their victory dance, before the green favoring guildmaster answered, “I’d say we’re done with her challenge, but ye never know when our paths’ll cross again. We’ll just have to see what Limsa’s underbelly spits up next.”

“Aye. This city ain’t ever quiet for long…” Perimu agreed before turning to face the Earth born pair. “Well, it’s been a pleasure workin’ with ye both, Lelouch an’ Kallen. If I ever need a trusty pair o’ stabbers by me sides, I’ll know who to ask.”

After hearing a quick thanks from each of them, the lalafell rogue turned and took his leave. This prompted V’kebbe to speak.

“I’m off as well. Bloody starvin’, I am…” The red haired miqo’te said casually before giving the pair a friendly smile. “Don’t forget to yaffle a bite when ye can, eh, Lelouch, Kallen?”

With that V’kebbe turned and headed off in the direction of the Bismarck, which to both junior rogues sounded like a good idea after a long evening’s work.

“We’d best head to the Sisters, too, afore the shrew decides she’d rather hear us cry co*ckles.” Jacke suggested.

Lelouch glanced back to see that Milala was still in the middle of directing the Yellowjackets over at the Mizzenmast. He was about to say that she looked busy enough, only to notice the green favoring guildmaster had already began walking away. The raven-haired rogue turned to Kallen, who shrugged, and the two were about to follow when Jacke suddenly stopped and turned around to look at them.

“Bene work, Lelouch, Kallen.” He congratulated the two in an appreciative tone. “Be seein’ ye soon.”

As Jacke turned to walk away, a passerby walked between him and where Lelouch and Kallen stood and in that instant the Rogues’ Guildmaster vanished, leaving the pair staring at the open space where he should have been.

“I didn’t see him use any of the signs to activate the Hide technique…” The former prince said, not bothering to hide his surprise.

“Me neither.” The redhead concurred before turning to her Britannian associate. “Okay, I know it’s coming, so go ahead and rate that vanishing act.”

“Now that just lessens the fun of it.” Lelouch commented. “Though I suppose nine and a half points out of ten would do, the deduction only because we both know he’s going to be there waiting for us at the ‘convent’.”

Kallen nodded part in agreement and partly to move things along when a thought came to her and she asked, “Wait, you’re not also making the deduction because you want to figure out how to pull that disappearance trick off yourself, right?”

“Don’t you?” The other asked in reply.

“Yeah…still doesn’t answer my question.” The Japanese rogue said as she and Lelouch began their way back to the Rogues’ Guild.

----

“Ho there, Lelouch an’ Kallen. It’ll be nice to finally have a bit of a rest, eh?” Jacke greeted the pair as they came in. “The job never ends, but even a dimber damber like meself needs to breathe every now an’ again. An’ yer ‘venturin mates must be wonderin’ where ye’ve got to! That was a proper long assignment, but I’m glad ye both decided to see it through.”

“Glad to hear it, and I’d say doing so has yielded some benefits for us both.” Lelouch replied.

“Yeah, in fact I…” Kallen caught herself in the middle of her agreement. “…I think I’ll have something to show some friends of mine real soon, thanks to this.”

“Ye’ve both proven to be stalwart protectors o’ the code… even if this ain’t truly yer world.” Jacke’s words unintentionally got the pair’s attention as they each mentally reminded themselves the green favoring guildmaster was being metaphorical. “When ye walk back into the lightmans, ye’ll have to find yer own code to uphold. An’ when ye do, ye’ll have the skills ye learned in the shadows to help ye defend it.”

Kallen gave her thanks, privately feeling she’d already found that with her rebel cell in their goal to free Japan. Lelouch gave his own, though Jacke’s statement had him lapsing into his own thoughts on it. As far as the morality of his path was concerned, the former prince saw bringing an end to the Britannian Empire and making his world a better place for Nunnally was more than enough of a just path. Making some codified version of that just seemed like an unnecessary complication…and yet his time working under Jacke was actually getting him to reconsider that opinion.

The leader of the Rogues’ Guild had several qualities Lelouch could respect, especially in intelligence and charisma, which his time working under the man had shown he knew how to properly utilize them. The former prince even felt a good deal of gratitude to Jacke that extended towards V’kebbe and Perimu too for demonstrating that the path of physical combat wasn’t wholly barred from him.

“Oh by the way, Jacke, is there any way you can make sure those earrings get to their rightful owner?” Kallen asked, unknowingly interrupting Lelouch’s thoughts. “Whether it’s a memento or not, I’d prefer if Nanamo got it instead of some Monetarist who’ll probably try using it against her.”

“Ye don’t have to worry about that, lass. The Admiral’s far fonder of the Sultana than the gil grubbin’ culls of Ul’dah.” Jacke reassured before turning his gaze to the both of them. “Well, that’s more’n enough prattle prattle out o’ me. Yer travels take ye far an’ wide, Lelouch, Kallen, but know yer both always welcome here at the Sisters!”

As the two Earth born adventurers said their farewells for the moment, Lelouch decided to put off the matter of personal codes for now. As the former prince saw it, there would be plenty of time for that later. He wished he’d asked his mother about this years ago, if only because that would have provided him with a good example for if any knight had ever actually upheld any of the good parts of the parts of the codes they swore too, it would have been her. He could only give a mental sigh as he considered that being the thing with hindsight.

----

It had been two days since, the matter with the Reformists had been resolved, and Yellowjacket Captain Milala Mila was already dealing with the consequences of being considered the hero of it. An appointment she had not asked for and had even confessed to Commodore Reiner that she didn’t deserve. The conversation that followed hadn’t done much to brighten her mood, neither had dealing with some arrogant young adventurer who had stopped at the guards’ headquarters to demand extra compensation of some sort for his party’s participation in the battle. After having that one escorted off the premises, she’d then had to see to the interrogation of the Reformist’s Accountant, given he was the highest ranked member of the crew still alive.

Said interrogation turned out to be more an exercise in patience than a pressing for information, as the reason it had taken till the second day for it to happen was because the accountant had suffered something of a nervous breakdown upon being informed of how his captain’s plan had gone. Fortunately he was coherent enough at the moment to volunteer whatever information he had available as the one in charge of the crew’s coffers to avoid execution, a matter he frequently and nervously kept asking to confirm in between giving answers to questions. That and fervent prayers to Nald’Thal to avoid financial ruin.

All that done for the moment, Milala made her way to the Drowning Wench tavern, partially to enjoy a much needed break, but also there were two members of the Rogues’ Guild in particular who she wanted to speak with. Luck turned out to be with the bluenette as she spotted Lelouch and Kallen seated at the table nearest to the spot where the guildmaster for Limsa Lominsa’s Adventurers’ Guild, Baderon Tenfingers, usually stood yet it appeared he was attending to something else at the time.

“Excuse me…” Milala spoke as she approached the pair, getting their attention. “Am I interrupting anything?”

“Waiting on Baderon to come back; said he’d be a while, though.” Kallen answered casually.

“From what he said it had to do with some communication between the guilds in the other city states. Also to confirm a job for us in Gridania was still open.” Lelouch added. “So, what did you wish to speak with us about, Captain?”

The lalafell guard captain gave a sigh before saying, “I suppose we should start with the most immediate topic…are you all truly fine with not receiving your due credit?”

“Hey, Jacke’s the one who was in charge of things on our end, and if he’s fine with it and the others are too then I’ve got no complaints.” The redhead remarked. “Besides, Lelouch and I have been dealing with asshole pirates since we got here, so what’s one less crew off the official kill list?”

“Aptly put, Kallen.” The former prince commented before returning his attention to the bluenette. “Also, call this a hunch if you will, but I assume any superior officer you’ve spoken to of this arrangement has advised this story be kept as is.”

“How did you…?” Milala’s eyes widened in astonishment before quickly lapsing into thought and the likely answer came to her. “The upcoming ceremony…I remember it being mentioned that the two of you delivered messages to the other city-state leaders about it.”

“Commodore Reyner, I presume?” Lelouch guessed, to which the other nodded. “To be honest it isn’t really hard to see why. The ceremony’s purpose is to reassure the citizenry of all three of the city-states, and it wouldn’t be good to create a potential harm to the Yellowjackets’ reputation at this time. Especially over a matter where the other party in question fully consents to you and your subordinates having the credit.”

“Not to mention you guys are actually respectable compared to most of the Brass Blades.” Kallen commented. “And live up to your good reputation a hell of a lot better than any the Wood Wailers have.”

“I…thank you…” Milala’s cheeks reddened slightly at the frank praise. “I will apologize that my behavior during the contest was less than ideal…” She paused and a look that was a mix of bashful and annoyed came across her face. “Could you please relay that to your guildmaster for me in my stead? I have a strong suspicion if I do, I’ll never hear the end of it from him.”

“We can do that, but fair warning, given there is a good chance you’ll work with the guild again it may not help all that much.” The former prince said sympathetically before a thought came to him. “If you want to talk with us some more, you can take a seat if you want.”

The bluenette took the offer with a quick thanks, but upon taking her seat was silent for a moment as she contemplated her next words. Finally, she spoke.

“To be honest, this whole matter has given me a good deal to think about.” Milala admitted and turned to Lelouch. “For example, your words back after my…actions upon receiving the prisoners… it did give a better perspective once the matter with the Reformists came to a close.” She paused. “You have probably guessed, but I received the promotion to captain a little over three months ago. I put all the work and dedication I could to attain it so I could help to ensure others would not lose family or anyone they loved so senselessly as I did. Yet realizing the path to doing so is not as straight and simple as it sounds…”

“Yeah, once you find yourself in the position to start making a difference, the complex stuff starts piling up.” Kallen commented sympathetically. “Don’t know if this helps, but the guildmaster for the Adventurers’ Guild in Ul’dah basically said the more you deal with them, the better you get at it.”

“I suppose so.” Milala sighed. "Speaking of which, in light of things, our levy will be taking on more responsibilities for the upcoming ceremony. I'm certain the paperwork awaiting me upon my return will be comparable to a pirate crew in size."

      "Welcome to the realities of promotion, then, Captain." Lelouch said, sympathizing with full awareness of the clerical tasks that came with leadership positions. "Given you are the face of the Yellowjackets' recent feats, would one of your additional tasks for the upcoming day be a speech?"

      "Yes, though a short one, thank Llymlaen." The bluenette replied. "I should have time to compose one."

      "You know, if the whole accepting credit thing is bothering you, why not just include some kind of 'thank you' to the adventurers who helped in all that?" Kallen suggested. "Not sure if Jacke, V'kebbe and Perimu are adventurers, but since Lelouch and I are, it'd at least sort of count, right?"

      Milala blinked as she considered that before saying, "That isn't a bad idea, thank you."

      "Don't mention it, in fact..." The redhead paused as she considered something and after a look at the bluenette, asked, "You wouldn't happen to have any relatives in Ul'dah, would you?"

      "Not that I'm aware of, why?" The lalafell Yellowjacket captain asked in reply.

      "It's just you're the second newly appointed guard captain I've met under sort of similar circ*mstances." Kallen shrugged. "The guy's also a lalafell with blue hair... I mean it's not exactly the same, but it's just weird it's happened twice now."

      "Well, if it happens again, do let me know." Lelouch commented, looking interested, while Milala pondered the redhead's words for a moment.

      "Wait a moment... Are you saying you've met an honest Brass Blade?" The bluenette commented with genuine surprise.

      "Hard to believe, but yes." Kallen nodded. "Last I saw him he was an acting captain after the current captain of his unit managed to screw himself over enough on the corruption front to lose his position. Hopefully he's able to turn things around for his unit."

      "Could you perhaps introduce me?" Milala asked curiously. "I would like to speak with this captain friend of yours, if possible."

      As Kallen proceeded to give the name of her friend, Fufulupa, and then agree to ask him the next time she was in Ul'dah, Lelouch glanced over to where Baderon's usual place at the bar was, but the man hadn't returned yet. Returning his attention to the others at the table, the former prince decided to offer to cover whatever Milala wanted to order. The Yellowjackets were proving to be worth remaining on good terms with, after all. Even this particular captain had been willing to admit to being wrong and doing something about it. That was certainly better than some he'd encountered in life.

AN: And with that we are finally done with this story arc and can return to the MSQ! Yeah, I’m sure some of you are probably wondering why I covered an entire job quest storyline so early in the story, but you’ll understand why come next chapter. I knew this would be a long chapter, but thankfully it didn’t turn out as long as the monster of chapter 4 like I feared...it was only a little over half as long. That’s partially why it took a while to get this chapter out, the other being that with it being summer that is also when things inevitably become a good deal busier at my workplace.

Still, things haven’t been all bad, at least on my entertainment front. Hunter: The Parenting’s spinoff, Norfolk Wizard Game, has been interesting from story to offering a look at how Mage: The Ascension is played. The anime of the season like Kaiju No. 8, Spice and Wolf, I Was Reincarnated as the 7th Prince…, and the latest seasons of Yuru Camp, Chibi Godzilla Raids Again and Konosuba have been a delight, as has Boonboomger on the Sentai front. Also been watching Kyoryuger after some recommendations, plus finding out Buggy’s VA, Shigeru Chiba, was not only the narrator but even guest starred convinced me (and Torin being voiced by Toshiyuki Morikawa was a pleasant surprise...come to think it, that’s another winged swordsman he’s played). Having nearly finished it (just finished episode 43), I can say it’s been a great watch with stand out character performances all around; everyone’s giving 110% to their roles. After that (and maybe that Korean sequel/spinoff), I’ll probably either check out King Ohger as that one looks to be as loved as Gokaiger or focus more on watching Kamen Rider Geats (watched a few episodes, it’s interesting as I was not expecting “What if Kamen Rider was Future Diary?”).

Also in case anyone’s curious, I have played a little bit of Dawntrail and been liking it so far (except for taking away Plunge from Dark Knight). I admit part of the reason is while waiting for it, I decided to try making progress in the Legend of Heroes Trails series a try by continuing into Trails From Zero and got as far as the Intermission chapter in between Chapters 3 and 4.

Anyway, rambling done. Hope you all enjoyed the chapter (and hopefully the little early appearance cameo I gave to a certain character), appreciate whatever reviews and/or kudos are left, stay healthy and safe out there. Catch you all later when the next chapter’s ready!

Code Fantasy - R0: Warriors of Light - Chapter 10 - DarkFusion (2024)
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