Author Topic: Rebirth ~ The Price of Eternity [A Fan Restoration Project]  (Read 1091 times)

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 1
Tentative Title: Of Chasing Daylight
part one of three
---

(A/N): I made only one (slight) alteration, which I am open to critique, and included some details for the sake of smoothing out OOC behavior. Again, I'm open to critique and feedback, especially since this is not the final edit. Let me know how I did writing Tidus. I don't have much experience with him compared to Yuna and Baralai. XD

*

Huddled up over his knees, Tidus drifted inside darkness.

Pictures painted themselves in his mind’s eye. Were they real, a figment of his imagination, or memories? He didn’t know, but he could make out the broad, tan back of a burly man whose long, messy hair and red bandana streamed down his naked shoulders, and a woman cuddled up by his side. His parents. Tidus remembered how father had disappeared one day, and how his mother died not too long after from sorrow.

Tidus remembered how he felt, inadequate and useless, unable to comfort his own grieving mother in her time of need. Pain woke up in his chest as another memory emerged from his mind unbidden; Tidus stood before a crowd in front of his seaside boathouse, answering their cheers with a blissful smile. The sudden sadness began to depart, confusing him. Where did it come from? He gave in to these familiar sensations, going with the flow -- until a wave of questions bombarded him in the chaos.

A terrifying monster attacked his home, Zanarkand. Overcome with panic, Tidus ran for his life, becoming lost along the way.

"Don’t worry. He came here for you."

Tidus couldn’t remember who said that to him or when; Auron came to mind, for some reason, and a strange, little boy whose face hid within the shadows of his purple hood. He remembered them both, before being carried into the eye of the storm, and then hours upon hours of swimming in Spira’s vast ocean, navigating through old, forgotten ruins, deep diving into an enormous, submerged airship, awakening from his long nightmare near a bright and sunny shore. The tropical scenery poured itself into his senses, so different from his native region that it threw him out of alignment. Despite everything he experienced in this foreign land, the kindness and compassion from the island’s inhabitants brought the smile back on Tidus’s face. He made some friends, among them two magical girls, a humanoid beast, and an athlete no different from himself.

He remembered falling in love, too, with a girl he wanted to save. That night they confessed their feelings for each other, making love in a magical, moonlit spring, and the day Tidus finally understood the end of their story would never have a happy ending together. Although he acknowledged it as a losing battle, he put on a brave face for Yuna and forged ahead, refusing to surrender to destiny. Even if it meant him forfeiting his life would spare Yuna from having to forfeit her own, at least his sacrifice would have meaning.

He remembered contemplating over a sea made of stardust and clouds, memories of the last day he spent in Spira. He watched himself from back aboard the aircraft. A shadow of his former self, he sprinted across the deck before jumping off the edge. Losing himself in the motions, his chest exploded with pain, a single thought bursting through his conscious.

‘Yuna!’

This shook him into clarity, his vision no longer obstructed by darkness. Whatever surrounded him and his physical body became sharp and clear all of a sudden, and then he felt solid and heavy, motivating him to pull free from the chaos of his thoughts and emotions, allowing the rapid pyreflies to facilitate his rebirth.

‘I’m back! I’m coming, Yuna!’

His feet propelled him to the surface, to a world where Yuna waited.

He sensed the boundary as he approached, the line between “here” and “there” where a luminous boundary rippled above him. Could it be a symbol, or the gateway to a radiant world? Tidus swam upwards, ever upwards, as he prided himself a good swimmer.

He broke through the wall at long last, into dazzling sunlight. Sea-salt air flooded his lungs, which made him grimace, startled by an onslaught of overwhelming, forgotten sensations. Blinking against an azure, white backdrop of sky and clouds, his eyes adjusted to the new sight, having been confined in limbo.

He found himself surrounded by an endless, teal ocean. Beneath his feet, Tidus felt the massive presence of an abominable being, an invisible force that, if he were not careful, could claim him back into the previous darkness that kept him prisoner. He realized he must have a strong connection to this world, or else why would he be able to return?

‘I won’t let myself pushed around! Not anymore. I just came back, after all. I can’t disappear, not like this!’

Tidus turned around, recognizing an island for its hill that overlooked a verdant triangle of forest life: Besaid. To further confirm this belief, white-washed, blue sea waves lapped over an empty beach, retreating just as slow into the ocean. He brought his fingers up for a whistle, clear and sharp in velocity. Even if nobody else were around to answer his call, the sound still reassured him, and he smiled. His senses did not lie; everything felt real.

He started swimming towards the coast, his mind swamped with hope and a multitude of questions. Who will Tidus run into first? Who would he meet along the way, if not within the forest or near the river?

‘Where are you, Yuna?’

A deafening roar boomed from overhead, as if in answer to his prayers. Tidus looked over his shoulder, catching the crimson sheen of a colorful aircraft, admiring how it sparkled in the hot sunlight, before common sense hit him. That large, frightening machine cut a sweeping circle in the sky, hovering close enough to ground level. A hatch opened afterwards, revealing a young woman.

Without hesitation, she dropped into the opening, and Tidus watched her drop feet first into the shallow edge of the sea. She wore bright clothing he never imagined she would wear, and this cast doubt into his heart. That couldn’t be Yuna; she ran so fast, long skirt dragging along in the water, her arms swinging at her sides, yet perceiving the recognition and joy in her sea-green eyes, all doubt disappeared from his body. She rushed to embrace him with open arms, gripping him so fierce he knew nothing else mattered.

“Are you real? Is it really you?”

“I think so.”

Her timid question sobered his mirth, and Tidus wished Yuna could confirm this for the both of them. She pulled back, examining him, her hands on his chest while her eyes took in his full features before lifting her head back up to initiate eye contact, humbled by his presence.

“So? Do I pass?” he said, nervous at the receiving end of her scrutiny.

She beamed, followed by a confident nod, her eyes lit up with joy. “You’re back.”

Tidus let out a breath of relief. “I am back. I’m home!” No longer able to contain his happiness, he reciprocated her earlier heartfelt embrace with equal force, breathing in the scent of her wind-swept hair. For a split second, he experienced a moment of insecurity he wouldn’t dare confess - the fear of rejection - and squeezed her tight.

“Welcome home,” she said, embracing him in turn. “Yes. Home.”

An obnoxious voice interrupted their moment. “Hey! Get a room, you two!”

That sounded like Wakka! Startled, they pulled apart, turning in direction towards the coast. People swarmed the whole beach, as if the entire village had come out to greet them. Tidus recognized Wakka and Lulu at the front of the crowd, plus the Besaid Aurochs by their matching uniforms, and -- people he could barely remember! There were so many people, cheering and whistling. Tidus couldn’t catch his breath.

Wakka gave the couple a roguish grin. “Whassup?”

Yuna and Tidus exchanged bashful, mischievous looks, and then he scoffed. “Who asked you to watch, Wakka?”

He smirked, shameless, throwing Lulu a knowing look over his shoulder, who simply lifted the purple-wrapped bundle in her arms with an affectionate smile. Tidus couldn’t tell what from this far a distance, so he grabbed Yuna’s hand, dragging her down to the beach, eager to join the others -- until Yuna started to outrun him! Overcome with a sudden burst of speed, she looked back at him, giggling as she led him by the hand this time. Tidus stared, trying to catch his breath.

“You know, you’ve changed.”

“Well, you’ve missed a few things.”

Tidus grinned. “I wanna hear everything!”

Her confidence impressed him, which made him all the more curious to ask what changed her to become this bold, but right now he didn’t care. How could the past be more important than the present, when nothing could compare to the joyous feeling of running by her side?

*

Going by the generous reception, Tidus realized nobody could have known he would make his miraculous return. How could they, when he didn’t even know about it himself until he woke up? No, the villagers had been eagerly  anticipating Yuna’s return, impatient of her long absence… gathering from what Wakka told him, at any rate. Even so, Tidus smiled. He recognized most of the people by face, touched by their kindness, especially the Aurochs. He couldn’t forget about Datto, Letty, Botta, Jassu, and Keepa. So good to see them again after all this time! ‘After how long exactly?’ he couldn’t help, but wonder.

And of course, Wakka just had to steal the spotlight, introducing a baby from within its bundle of blankets. “May I present to you our newest member of Besaid: Vidina! He’s adorable, ya?”

“Absolutely!” He grinned, peering at the quiet, curious baby. From what he could tell, Vidina inherited his father’s wild, red hair and big, fat cheeks - or that could be Wakka putting on some weight. After all, Tidus couldn’t remember this man looking so… pudgy. Unable to discern the features from his mother, Tidus looked up. “But, uh, who’s the mother?”

“Me.” Right on cue, a curt voice cut in between them.

Tidus jumped a little, turning around to come face-to-face with a familiar, large chest. Lulu’s, to be precise. Recovering from the view, Tidus tore his eyes away before the woman could throttle him in her fury of favorite, fire spells. “Well, now I know who he takes after in good looks.”

Lulu laughed, before retrieving her child from Wakka’s arms, fixing her partner a chiding look. “I thought I told you I don’t want Vidina exposed to the wind of the open sea.”

“I know, but he’s a child of the sea, just like his father! What’s the problem with that?”

“You could have at least waited for the tide.”

“But, Lu…”

What a familiar sight, watching those two bicker. Unlike all the other times, though, Tidus could sense a sort of gentleness between them. Lulu toned down the bite in her words while Wakka managed to ease back on his words with light humor. Tidus sensed something missing as well, the belligerence, their clash of opinions, instead making way for warmth to seep into every look and touch, their eyes glowing with tender regard. Tidus smiled, touched by the sight of them, and decided he wanted to intervene.

“Hey, congratulations! You’re finally a couple now, huh? I always knew it’d happen!”

Considering how Lulu still grieved the loss of her lover, and Wakka’s little brother, tensions were always high between them. Despite their obvious differences, though, Tidus could tell they cared about each other a lot, almost as much as they both cared about Yuna. He recalled all the times he encouraged Lulu to cut Wakka some slack, because she kept comparing him to Chappu, unable to see his positive traits past his flaws, and when Lulu still yearned for him in the Farplane, Tidus remembered comforting her to find new love.

Lulu must have thought the same thing, because she conceded with a sigh, smiling nonetheless. “Yes. Marriage is not the most exciting lifestyle in the world, and sometimes even I feel like I’ve had enough--.”

“Gee, thanks!” Wakka protested with a wounded look, yet he recovered quick enough evident by his easygoing grin.

“But it’s what makes me happy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” The tender moment ended as soon as it began, as Lulu seemed more eager to cart Vidina away than to stay and chat. “Say, Tidus, will you be staying here for a while?”

“If you want me here,” he said, worried about imposing. He still didn’t know his place in the world, yet.

“What’s with the look?” Lulu gave him a soft smile. “No need to feel humble. You’re most welcome here.” Looking around them, she watched the crowd filter out the beach, entering the forest to tread the waterfall’s path back to the village, noticing Yuna being swept away by the villagers. “We should go back to the village, too.”

Hefting her child to her chin now, she joined the others, and Tidus frowned, understanding her sudden need to depart, motivated by a mother’s concern for her infant. Regardless, he couldn’t help but feel abandoned.

“Let’s go!” Wakka smacked him on the back, snapping him out of his momentary daze to lead the way.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2017, 11:56:49 pm by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

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Danko Kaji

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Re: Rebirth ~ The Eternal Cost [Restoration Project]
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2015, 03:15:45 pm »
Chapter 1
Tentative Title: Of Chasing Daylight
part two of three
---

(A/N): No real major changes in content. I simply extended/fleshed out certain parts of dialogue, Lulu's in particular. However, I did face some frustration with the redundancy of 'two years' sprinkled throughout the text, so I plan to smoothen that out once I'm ready to finalize the revisions.

*

On the road, each member of the Aurochs approached Tidus to talk with him in turns. They helped him catch up with all the events during his absence; it almost felt like he had never felt. Datto and Keep told him about their team’s progress, as well as their new exercise regiment, and it made him quite proud. New players moved to live on the island in order to join the team -- news which touched his heart. The tournament in which Tidus debuted in Spira two years ago served as the triggering factor to their spike in popularity.

They all walked for about half an hour before arriving at the village, and Lulu greeted Tidus by her tent. “Tonight there will be a banquet directed by the elders,” she said. “It’s to celebrate Yuna’s long-awaited return home, and for returning the three leaders who went missing. This is the best opportunity to show yourself in your best light. Help with the preparations. Make a good impression. But before all that, you can rest there if you like. I know you must be tired trying to absorb everything that happened since you left.”

She pointed to the highest tend in the village, and Tidus recognized it as the Crusader’s lodgings.

“What do they do these days? The Crusaders, I mean.”

“These days? Whatever they want.” Lulu shrugs, crossing her arms. “Yuna’s room is inside the temple, in the same place as always.”

“Oh ho!” Wakka walked by, carrying an armful of wood that would be used for the bonfire.

At the man’s mischievous remark, Tidus felt his cheeks burn hot.

“Honestly.” Lulu sighed, annoyed. “I know what you two are up to. It goes without saying that I forbid you to go there. At least, not yet. Your behavior must not lead to confusion, so it’s be better to wait until Yuna presents you to the elders. Also, keep in mind your attitude will determine the villagers’ opinion of you. And since the temple has become useless, Yuna’s expected to support an idle clergy. You may have heard that Yuna became a sphere hunter for a time. Well, she may have been able to do whatever she wanted before, but only because she left the village without telling them. She knew that if she did, they would never have approved. Now that she has returned, she isn’t free to act on her own anymore. Don’t forget that.”

Lulu ended her long-winded tirade with a shrug, adjusting Vidina in her arms.

Bothered by this, Tidus frowned. “Isn’t she happy?”

“I don’t know. Only Yuna can tell you.”

“From what you’re telling me, that doesn’t sound like her at all.”

She nodded, casting her solemn gaze to the side, as if reflecting on her thoughts. “From what I have seen, Yuna’s feelings about everything are torn and insecure. She feels responsible for the situation, and the village stifles her with their expectations. That is why she flew all over the world with Rikku and her group, the Gullwings, to get away from it all. She wanted to live her own life, if even for a little while.”

“What do they do? The ‘Gullwings’?”

“That’s also something you’ll have to ask her yourself. But in the meantime, please do not do or say anything that can complicate her position.”

Although Tidus didn't understand, he nodded. He didn’t have to understand anything; as long as he cared about her, he would do anything to support her. “Got it.”

Lulu ducked through the flap of her tent, leaving Tidus with nothing to do except join the Aurochs at the village central area. Yuna stood in front of the temple within earshot, yet Tidus could not call out to her. It seemed like everyone wanted to talk to her, and they gave her no choice to refuse. She could always come up with an excuse to leave, she had the authority and the right to, but of course she would never do that. Kindness happened to be one of Yuna’s main strengths; as of this moment, though, it only served to annoy him.

“I’m sure she wants to talk to you, too, ya?” Wakka said, reassuring him. Perceiving the sullen, petulant look, he made an effort to negotiate for a moment of Yuna’s time, yet came back empty-handed. “They sure are keeping a sharp eye on you!”

“Why?” Tidus scowled, feeling impatient. He wondered if they were the same, old stingy ladies who told him to ‘stay away from the summoner!’ two years back. “Did they forget I was Yuna’s Guardian? I stuck by her all the way, even when they stopped her from entering Besaid, calling her a traitor and all that stuff. I deserve recognition and some respect like the rest of you, so how come I don’t see em give me either?”

“Ha! If you say so,” someone said in a sing-song voice. Rikku skipped into view, and then stopped before him to sway on her feet, giving him a roguish grin.

Tidus almost didn’t recognize the Al Bhed girl for her tanner skin and… bolder choice in clothing, or lack thereof. For some reason he could not displace, she seemed more put together in his memories.

“Hi, Tidus! It’s been a long time, huh?”

He would agree, if only he knew how long it had been. Since when did the fifteen-year-old tomboy go around flaunting her bare skin and newly developed curves?

Rikku turned in the direction from which she came, calling for someone to come over. A young woman Tidus never met before stopped beside her, sporting short, smooth hair, a stern face, and wore skin tight leather black clothes that only exposed her shoulders. The contrast between her and bright, sunny, loud Rikku startled him.

“This is Paine! A friend; she worked with us as a sphere hunter.”

“Yuna told me about you,” Paine said. “Well, more like harping, actually. But…” She paused to examine him, which unnerved him.

“Two years have passed,” Rikku said, sounding distant all of a sudden, “and yet…” Stepping closer to invade his personal space, she scrutinized him as well, her nose almost brushing his collarbone.

Tidus resisted the urge to lean back, perturbed by their morbid fascination. This bikini-toting, space-invading Al Bhed wasn’t the Rikku he knew.

Two years? He felt his stomach turn to lead. Throughout his multiple conversations with old friends, he assumed his absence had lasted a good several months, maybe a year at most. But two whole years…

“You’re the same as always!”

Rikku’s chipper declaration snapped him out of his miserable musings. He did not know whether he wanted to laugh or cry, but all the same chose to give them a smile. “Easy for you to say! Look at you!”

She made a noise of discontent, twisting away from him to fold her sleeved arms over her chest, displeased by his observation.

This motion caused him to catch sight of Yuna behind her. “You changed, too,” he said, worried. If her taste in clothing had changed, what else did? It made him wonder what else he missed about her, and whether or not he would like this bold, new side of her.

“Hellooo! I’m right here!” Rikku pouted, anchoring his attention back on her. “Man, you are different.”

“But you just said the opposite.” Tidus frowned, annoyed.

“Before, I was talking about your looks. Now I’m talking about you -- as in, the way you’re acting right now. I mean, back then you were a bit spacey, but at least you were a nice guy.”

Although offended at first, he took her remark in stride, hoping she meant it in a playful, mean way. “Geez, thanks for the compliment!”

They burst out laughing, confusing the quieter woman with their antics, and then Rikku began to narrate the events of the last two years. She told him about “The Movement for the Truth,” a popular new fad initiated by a political group that inspired people to follow, becoming sphere hunters without associations, thus eventually leading to the Gullwings… At first, Tidus flooded her with questions for each new name introduced, but now he grew annoyed by the constant flow of unknown people.

“You sound like you had a lot of fun.”

“What, are you jealous?” Rikku smirked, but then dropped the humor at the upset look on his face.

“That’s because I don’t have anything to talk about on my end. It’s frustrating. I’ve been gone for two whole years, and not a single new thing… What was I doing this entire time?”

“A break,” Paine said.

Her crooked grin made it seem like a joke, but maybe that’s just her unique way of cheering him up. In any case, Tidus knew this much: he wouldn’t learn anything if he stood around stuck in the same spot.

“I’m glad you girls had some fun,” he said, smiling. “If you had spent your days crying over me, I’d have felt guilty.”

Despite his light-hearted tone, Rikku frowned. “I didn’t cry! I was more angry than anything else. I wanted to understand why you had to disappear then, I needed to know what happened to you and why. We went all over Spira, visiting places, but after awhile I gave up, and then…” She drifted off into thought.

Tidus quirked an eyebrow. “And?”

“Yuna looked like she was really enjoying herself with us. But if you ask me, she never slacked off, even for a second. She happily jumped from one place to the next, hunting rare spheres, hosting concerts, but ultimately, her only goal… was you. She wanted to find you again. Or forget you. I don’t know.” She added as an afterthought, pinching her peaceful expression into a frown.

It disheartened him to hear that Rikku would think her cousin wanted to move from him. But then again, he couldn’t blame her. Two years… Just the repeating echo of those simple words were killing him.

“Me?”

“Yeah. She left the village when I showed her this sphere of you.”

“What? I was in a sphere?”

“Well, it wasn’t exactly you. This guy, Shuyin, and the woman he loved, Lenne, they had lived in Zanarkand a thousand years ago. Lenne was this famous singer, and a Summoner, too, just like Yunie. I can’t really begin to explain the horrors they experienced together, but all you need to know is Shuyin’s practically a spitting image of you. Yuna even wondered whether or not it was really you, but she believed it could be her biggest clue to find you again. But after all that, we found ourselves standing in front of an ancient war machine from Bevelle!”

Rikku’s tall tale overwhelmed him, and he breathed. “Are you serious?” Such a crazy story, but then again, the world of Spira often defied common sense (or at least the common sense he grew up with), such as the true nature behind Dream Zanarkand, so he decided to stay quiet.

“I know! It was unbelievable!” Rikku rolled her eyes, bouncing on her heels with barely contained energy, her arms swaying at her sides. “But I’ve seen it with my own eyes, so I can’t deny it. If I stopped to think about the grand scope of things, I would probably be dead! I didn’t have time to think or try to understand. I had to fight, or else Spira would have been toast!”

In order to further illustrate her point, she playfully wrapped her hands around his neck and stuck her tongue out.

Tidus laughed, breaking the solemn air with amusement.

“The machine was called Vegnagun,” Paine said, bringing the two dorks back into orbit.

Tidus raised an eyebrow; he never heard someone call a machina a machine.

“It was enormous, and would have definitely massacred everyone if Lenne hadn’t of stopped Shuyin. Oh, and Lenne was hiding out in Yuna’s songstress Dressphere. For some reason, she chose to communicate through Yuna. Anyway, Shuyin ended up activating Vegnagun once more, and we had to deal with it.” Paine narrowed her eyes on him, making him uncomfortable.

“W-What are you looking at?”

“You.” She relaxed, crossing her arms. “According to Yuna, the Fayth promised to bring you back in exchange for saving Spira again.”

“So, I’m here thanks to him?”

“No!” Rikku said. “Yuna went out of her way to find you, not him!”

At her loud exclamation, all other conversations broke off so that everyone turned towards their small group. The elders surrounding their beloved Summoner frowned at him, and Tidus felt the heavy pressure of their judging eyes. Why, when Rikku had been the one who made that outburst? Through the throng of people, his eyes met Yuna’s. She smiled, mouthing the words ‘sorry’ and ‘later,’ and he smiled in return. For some mild revenge, he decided to demonstrate his disappointment at her show of restraint by acting casual, shrugging. Perhaps she failed to understand his mirth, because she once again mouthed ‘later,’ enunciating the syllables more slow. One of the women who noticed their exchange frowned, looking between them and reprimanding Yuna who simply apologized, before returning to their conversation.

‘Later’ appeared to never come, though, because the elders spoke to her for a long time until a matron declared that Yuna needed to change from her scant attire and proceeded to cart her away into the temple. Tidus preoccupied himself in the meantime, joining in the preparations for the banquet by Lulu’s suggestion. Since the entire village largely contributed in the efforts, Tidus soon found himself with nothing to do, wandering back to Rikku and Paine with a sheepish grin.

Understanding the poor boy’s plight for company, they told him about what happened during his long absence, starting with Kimahri and how the Ronso Elder found that fateful sphere, alluding to New Yevon, the Youth League, and the Machine Faction. Tidus didn’t bother trying to keep up with these new onslaught of names, regardless of how important they might be. The more they embellished the events of Yuna’s concert, first the imposter’s and then her own, the more they were irritating him. How could they make light of such a life-threatening adventure? Maybe he had to be there to understand…

“What’s the matter?" Rikku asked him. “Are you in a bad mood?”

“Wha? Of course not…”

“Yeah, right! You’re lying -- I could tell from the look on your face.” She looked downright upset, pointing her finger at him. “I mean, I did my best to tell you everything, and you… If that’s how you’re going to be, then fine. I’m going to the airship!”

Paine and Tidus watched her stomp off towards the entrance, exiting the village while leaving them in awkward silence, and they exchanged weary looks.

“Don’t take it personally,” Paine said, trying to alleviate his guilt. “I’m sure she only said it out of anger. It’s not just Yuna; Rikku hasn’t see you in so long, she probably got overexcited.”

Tidus gave her a small smile; he appreciated her efforts in cheering him up, even though they haven’t known each other for very long. Paine told him to let Yuna know that the Gullwings were going to leave and that they would come back in a few days. Tidus thought to ask why they didn’t want to stay, but instead chose to mumble some words as his way of answer.

There’s nothing worse than being alone in the middle of a crowd with too many things to do. Not wanting to feel stranded, he sought refuge in the Crusade’s tent -- or should he call it the Auroch’s lodge? -- and collapsed into a vacant bed. Questions and thoughts filled his mind as the day wore on. ‘Soon.” Tidus thought. He closed his eyes and allowed his mind to drift, imagining Yuna’s face the moment they met again.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2015, 11:27:19 pm by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Re: Rebirth ~ The Eternal Cost [Restoration Project]
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2015, 03:18:36 pm »
Chapter 1
Tentative Title: Of Chasing Daylight
part three of three
---

(A/N): Gosh darnit all to hecks, this chapter exceeded the character limitations in the last post. XD Can you believe the word count actually reached 6k?

*

Wakka woke him up at some point. “The boat’s going to return with the catch of the evening. They’ll need help to bring in the fish. C’mon, ya? Let’s go! This is a job for the Aurochs!”

Out past the entrance, Tidus found the team playing blitzball to kill time while waiting for the boat. Keepa proposed a race to the cove, feeling the fore competition, and Tidus accepted, never one to turn down a challenge, rushing through the path alongside the others. He hurtled down the slope with only Yuna in his mind, sparing not a single thought for anything else.

‘She must be wondering where I am. I should’ve stayed in the village.’

“You’re so slow, Tidus!”

Whoever said that brought him back to reality, and he looked around. Although he ran as fast as he could, everyone else managed to outrun him - except Wakka. Had he gotten rusty from two years stuck in limbo or something, or did everyone actually get better through serious practice?

“Be careful, Wakka!” One of the boys ahead of them teased. “It’s nearly nightfall, ya? You’ll risk falling. Slow down or you’ll hurt yourself!”

“Oh, shut up!" he said, laughing out loud, and then he started to slow down, already winded. “Enough, guys! Stop!”

The team were forced to wait so Wakka could catch up,, and Tidus took this as the opportunity to slow down as well, stopping beside him. “Well, Wakka, did retirement do a number on you?”

Out of breath and dripping with sweat, Wakka nodded, keeled over on his knees. Once he caught his breath, he stood straighter and pushed himself to start walking. “You remember the tournament we played in together, two years ago?”

Tidus nodded, falling into step beside him.

“Well, I had planned to stop playing after. I told you about that, right? I wanted to become an actual professional trainer. But then, we lost the next match. It was a bitter failure, different from when we were losing all those times before. We really suffered from it. After that, we worked hard to train every day with all our strength. The villagers were kind enough to release use from our chores in order to give us breathing room for the game. And as you can see, we improved! I was thinking we reached our highest level. By watching Datto and Letty, it made me want to practice again. But then Yuna started talking about the Gullwings, her everyday adventures with them, flailing around in that provocative outfit of hers.” Wakka paused to laugh. “And Lulu’s stomach started to fill out real big, and I became more involved in the affairs of the village for Lulu’s sake. I’m as motivated as anybody. I’m still young, too, you see… and well…”

He shrugged after a moment of awkward silence, as if to say: “You understand, ya?”

‘Wakka, still as indecisive as ever,’ Tidus thought.

“But everyday, Lulu still scolds me…” He scratched the back of his head, embarrassed. Because of their slow, leisurely pace, the rest of the team walked too far ahead, beyond earshot of the last two stragglers.

Tidus trudged forward, stewing in the last two years he lost, when Wakka wrapped his arm around his neck. ‘Were we this close before?’ Tidus wondered. Too busy sorting through his memories, he allowed Wakka to guide him.

The path they were traversing surrounded the whole island, coined as ‘the waterfall’s path.’ Speaking of which, thin droplets rained down on them from over the cliff, and soon enough they found themselves soaked. Falling into a comfortable lull in conversation, Tidus felt Wakka’s fingers brush his neck in circular motions, through his locks of hair, scratching the crown of his head. This started to feel strange, and Tidus exploded, shoving his hand away. “The hell are you going?!”

“Sorry. I just had to be sure…” Wakka ducked his head, apologetic. “You really are real? Not some illusion or spectre of the Farplane?”

“I hope so…” Tidus didn’t feel too sure about it himself, and he scowled. “I mean, of course I’m real!”

Overjoyed by his sudden burst of confidence, Wakka burst out laughing. “Of course, you are!” He clapped his shoulder, as if to make amends.

In spite of the older man’s mirth, Tidus latched onto disconcerting words. “You really are real? Not some illusion?” He thought of the other world, this mystical place where the dead could appear in front of the living in reaction to prayers, talking with their friends and family… Tidus remembered his first trip to the Farplane. When he thought about his mother, she had appeared before him. ‘Am I a ghost, just like her?’

“Aren’t spectres illusions, though? Hallucinations?”

“Well, they’re kinda like real visions.”

“So, in other words?”

“Here’s how I understand things: the pyreflies react to the mind of the one who goes into the Farplane, taking the shape of the person they want to meet. The entire conversation’s made up by the living person. Therefore, the dead can only say what the living wants to hear. If the living wishes for encouragement, the dead will give them some. If they wish for pity, the dead will comply.”

“Really? Is that how it's supposed to work?”

Wakka surprised him. This explanations sounded very lucid and level-headed, something unusual for him. And then Tidus understood: since the earliest days of his childhood, Wakka had believed in and followed Yevon’s teachings without question. Until one day, he discovered it had all been a lie. Without the support of the Fayth, Wakka had been forced to rely on himself to explain the world around him. Tidus perceived the underlying meaning behind his spoken answer.

“But we’re on Besaid, not in the Farplane, right? So, I’m real.” To emphasize this simple fact, Tidus pinched the flab on Wakka’s waist. Wakka’s wonderful cry of indignation echoed like sweet music in his ears.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2015, 11:27:02 pm by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 2
Tentative Title: Of Yevon's Curse
part one of two
---

(A/N): I decided to give the Aurochs some character, since their lack of distinguishing features drove me crazy. While researching each Auroch member, apparently Nojima never thought to include or even acknowledge Vilucha as an official member (you know, the lady who lives with her husband in the southeast house closest to the gate). As for the names Rash, Mesker, and Karam, there's no Wiki page for them at all, nor did I find them in my FFX | FFX-2 HD Guidebook. So, I guess he randomly thought them up to fill empty space. How novel.  ::)

*

Besaid’s waters were always blessed with an abundance of fish, but the inhabitants only made sure to catch enough to satisfy their need for sustenance. In order to earn money, the local fishermen produced a unique textile specific to this island so they could take advantage of the generous influx of people wishing to visit the High Summoner Yuna at her homeland. Since these past several months, they managed to convert a whole wing of the temple to accommodate travelers.

When Tidus arrived at the cove, he wandered to the edge of the beach and watched the setting sun dye the open sky in flaming, warm streaks of orange. Yet the boat he overheard Wakka and the others brag about since his return back lied nowhere in sight.

“Where’s the boat? ...Is that it?” Tidus said, pointing to a skiff moored at the pontoon.
   
Wakka stood up from his relaxed position on the sand and puffed his chest out. “May I present to you the Aurochs Ace!”
   
For some reason, Tidus imagined it bigger, grander, considering how much they embellished it. The figurehead looked like a plaque carved in striking image of their blitzball trophy. Unlike the golden original, they painted it yellow. This messy ensemble cut a pretty sad figure, but he chose to say nothing, not wanting to rain on Wakka's parade when the team worked so hard on it.
   
“Thanks to this boat, the Aurochs have made considerable progress in our profits!”
   
Tidus smiled, pleased by his enthusiasm. Gazing out into the ocean, he traced the shallow water surrounding Besaid, which stretched out so far from the shore that it proved unsuitable for training. It made certain things like jumping and diving too dangerous when close to lower levels. By themselves, the Aurochs lacked the strength to dive in or rise to the surface, but thanks to the Ace, the team could venture into deeper waters to catch larger, more bountiful schools of fish; similar to how they adopted tactics while playing in the sphere pool, utilizing the “deep and shallow kick.”
   
“It definitely revolutionized our game.” Botta winked, pumping his arm out with a proud flex.
   
Tidus grinned, patting the scarred pectorals of his red-haired friend.
   
“Originally, it was used to haul in small goods at Port Kilika,” Wakka said, “But we managed to restore it by ourselves. We financed the purchase and restoration work thanks to the villagers’ donations. We mustn’t disappoint them!”
   
They started to warm up now, under Letty’s orders. Tidus appraised the team in between leg stretches: with Datto as forward, Botta as second to defense, Jassu as main defender, Letty as sole midfielder, Keepa as best goalie, and Vilucha, the only female of the team and their main forward, along with new members Tidus never met, Rash, Mesker, and Karam, that made the total count eleven with Tidus and Wakka. But because Vilucha stayed behind in the village to assist with the lights and decorations, they had an even number of players. Wakka split them up into two teams and Letty whistled to commence the match.
   
They decided to follow the rules of half-blitzball, a version which forbade players to disappear beneath the surface regardless of whether or not they possessed the ball; a penalty Tidus winded up receiving one too many times, because he found it surprisingly difficult to control his movements.
   
“It’s no big deal. Don’t worry!”

Their cheers failed to reassure him, and Tidus frowned, depressed by this newfound power difference between them. Before, it had been the other way around; Tidus hailed from a major city as a lone star player capable of overpowering an entire team from the countryside. He remembered the very day he arrived here, too, forming the best first impression any young, aspiring blitzballer could make. Had the Aurochs really improve this much, or did Tidus regress this far?

“Beclem Clash!” Botta called out, his arm bandages and nose plaster peeling off under the impossible speed of his vertical jump, and his powerhouse kick sent the ball hurtling straight for Tidus’s face.
   
Beclem, the previous trainer of the team, made himself quite infamous for his no-nonsense attitude, discipline, and severity. This unknown, brutal technique, taught by someone Tidus never met, shook him to the core. He decided to play dead, wanting to turn this stinging setback into a light-hearted joke; drifting to the water’s surface, his arms and legs floated like logs until he heard a voice declare:

“We’re going to end this. The team that scores the next point wins the match, okay?”

Propelling himself to stay afloat, Tidus inhaled air and spit out saltwater, cringing from the acrid taste that lingered in his mouth. He noticed Keepa nearby, bounding ever slow to his side until he gave him a sympathetic smile.

“The night’s falling. We won’t be able to see the ball anymore. You get my drift, ya?”

“I guess…” Tidus pouted. No one bothered to comment on his funny, little act. ‘Geez, give a guy a break. I just came back from a two year limbo; at least show that you guys care a little.’ But for all his internal grumbling, he really appreciated that they didn’t walk on eggshells around him, treating him as an existence most fragile, so he took their mean teasing in stride.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2015, 06:54:01 pm by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 2
Tentative Title: Of Yevon's Curse
part two of two
---

Their long-awaited trip back to shore reached port eventually, lit by powerful electric lamps that helped guide the Aurochs Ace to moor, and they unloaded the freight of wooden crates overflowing with fresh fish. Blitzball players and fishermen alike worked together to deposit the catch into tight-woven, rope bags, and the ones who held them out to receive the load proceeded to sling them over their shoulders once full.

When nobody spared him a second glance, Tidus frowned. “What about me? You’re not gonna give me anything to take back to the village?”

“Sorry,” a fisherman said, “Today wasn’t a good day…” The man, who looked to be forty years old from his low voice and facial hair, paused in the middle of his task to stare at him. He stood at an impressive height, exemplifying his strong stature while sporting quite the unique, handsome mustache. His skin looked so pale, he couldn’t possibly be an islander from this side of the world with that kind of complexion, Tidus mused. ‘Unless you’re Lulu, that is.’

“My name’s Tidus. Nice to meet you.”

“Bria,” he said, before handing him a trident. “Carry it for me, would you?”

Fumbling to keep a steady grip on this elongated, heavy weapon Bria decided to drop into his hands without warning, Tidus straightened himself, holding it tip up for inspection. “You fish with this?”

Bria shook his head, amused by his awe. “No. I fish with a net. That is to protect myself.”

“Oh.” His curiosity deflated to make way for embarrassment. “Against monsters?”

He chose not to answer. “Do you have a moment, Wakka?”

His brisk dismissal stung, leaving him alone to ponder the state of his questions. ‘Did I ask a stupid question? What’s with him?’ He watched them drift away from everybody else, reassuring the others to proceed just so the two men could have a private conversation. Although Tidus couldn’t hear anything, he managed to determine the serious atmosphere from Wakka’s grim expression. Just afterwards, Tidus noticed the Aurochs discuss how to cook the fish, before returning to the village, thus leaving him behind with Bria.

Under the moonlight, the ocean’s calm waters glowed in the blue night. Gelatinous, translucent creatures began crossing the beach without having to worry about their human predators, migrating to disappear into the foliage of trees. Monsters still roamed the earth despite the Eternal Calm. Could he still fight them? Did he even have the strength to defeat them anymore? ‘Or have I become a shadow of my past self, just like how a simple blitzball game proved to me?’

“I had forgotten…”

Those distant words echoed his thoughts, reminding him of the other occupant in this beach. Bria stared at the blitzball that rested beside his feet, and Tidus smiled, glad to have found something that could break the ice. “Hey! Throw me a pass!”

Tidus frowned when the man chose to ignore him again, preferring to stare at the innocent object in deep thought instead. His smile dropped, and he scratched his head for a lack of better things to say. He watched Bria’s long, wavy hair sway in the salty, night breeze, revealing his face at long last, and upon taking a closer inspection, realized that Bria looked a lot younger than Tidus had thought. His mustache gave him the illusion of age, but his most striking feature were his eyes; a faded blue, like two polished pieces of glass weathered by the sea.

Bria finally spoke, breaking the awkward silence. “Your eyes…”

“Mine?” He frowned, self-conscious. Eager for a distraction, any excuse to move closer to him so he could actually hear him, Tidus dug the trident upright into the sand and rushed for the ball.

“Your eyes have contemplated too long the distance.”

That cryptic statement couldn’t have been a trick of the wind, so Tidus looked to him for elaboration, yet Bria became silent again.

“Uh, come again?”

Tidus hit the ball, throwing it above his head, so he could catch it in his right hand, before rolling it onto his left hand in a single, fluid motion. Juggling it on his knee, then his head, and then his shoulders -- a sequence deeply ingrained in his muscle memory -- it never failed to soothe his nerves.

Since his strange, new companion liked to play the silent game, Tidus decided to change tactics. “I didn’t see you here two years ago. Do you live here now?”

“Yes. I came to live near the High Summoner.”

“Huh. I see.” ‘Like everybody else in Spira,’ he didn’t say.

“I take care of the temple under the monks’ authority. A month ago, I transferred here from Bevelle. Did you hear about the members within New Yevon?”

If he meant by how they couldn’t do Jack squat without their leader for more than a day, then yeah. He knew how hopeless they could be, all those older people who retreated into New Yevon for something slower and safer than the hotheaded, impatient Youth League. He didn’t like New Yevon, just because of its terrible namesake -- and everything else about them, really. “Yes.”

“A bloody bunch of chickens, if you ask me!”

Tidus gave him an awkward smile, startled by his passionate declaration, but deep down, he applauded him for he felt the same. “Really? So what about the Youth League? What do you think about them?”

Minus habens.”

“Meaning?” Tidus quirked an eyebrow, confused. That didn’t sound anything like Al Bhed, or those strange dialects he heard of.

“All stupid.”

“Woah! Strict!” Tidus laughed. ‘I think I’m starting to like this guy. He’s weird, but kinda funny.’ “And what about the Machine Faction?” He waited for him while focused on the ball, balancing it over his head to amuse himself.

“I saw you coming.”

“Huh? What?”

Not really sure if he heard him right, Tidus turned in direction of the ocean, letting the ball drop to the ground. Was he talking about his return, because if he was, how could he have known? Not even Tidus knew that he would would return to Spira this very day.

“At midday,” Bria said. "We heard of Yuna’s return thanks to the radio, and I followed the villagers. I saw you emerge from the ocean. How did you get here without a boat or airship?”

Tidus didn’t feel like answering this question, least of all expect to be confronted by it so soon. An ill-conceived explanation could lead to a disastrous first impression. If he got into trouble with this man, a priest linked to the Yevon Church, who knows what kind of repercussions it would have for Yuna?

“Two years ago, you came from Zanarkand.” Bria said, perceiving his hesitance. “Not from the ruined city we know, but a fast-paced version of it. Some say you came from a secret advanced city, but others… Nobody believes your story, but I am willing to trust you.”

Well, that took a load off his shoulders. Tidus sighed, smiling in relief. “Uh, thanks!”

“How did you arrive in Spira back then?”

Tidus didn't say anything at first, unsure of whether he could do a good job explaining it. After all, for all these questions Bria loved to ask, he didn’t know any of the answers himself! At least, not enough to explain much.

“According to the rumors, Sin carried you.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe it’s exactly as they say.” He tried to shrug it off, hoping to break away from this uncomfortable topic, but Bria kept persisting, much to his dismay. The one time the man wanted to talk, Tidus wished he could've stayed quiet.

“Do you think Sin could take you back to Zanarkand?”

Once again, he didn’t feel like answering this particular question. Even if he could return to the Zanarkand he knew and loved, ‘if’ being the operative word, it didn’t matter to him anymore. Yuna had defeated Sin, so of course he had no way of confirming this theory. Yet he felt certain about one thing: “The city I knew does not exist anymore. It was born from a Summoning…”

He trailed off, sobered by this bleak thought. ‘So what does that make me?’

“I would like you to tell me more about it.”

Tidus shrugged, feeling no obligation to satiate his endless plethora of questions. “Sin spread chaos and destruction across all of Spira, right? How could Zanarkand survive such a disaster anyway? It didn’t, and mine was a dream. That’s all there is to it.”

“I don’t think it really matters, then,” Bria said, surprising him with his lukewarm response. “Recently, I have begun to notice a lot of signs… I think I’ll be able to solve this mystery that has kept me busy for a long time very soon.”

This peaked his interest. “What mystery are you talking about?”

“The greatest of all.” He laughed.

Tidus lost his temper. “Are you making fun of me? What d’you want, anyway? Did you really transfer here from Bevelle, or did you come here to live near Yuna? What are you trying to say, that you’ve got some ulterior motive for being here?”

Unaffected by his tirade of angry questions, Bria put a damper on his humor. “I beg your pardon if I have hurt you. Please, don’t misunderstand. My life’s a bit too complicated for mere words to sum up. Humans try to introduce causal relationships, but the truth is that, these links, we invent them a posteriori.”

Using his fancy words again provoked Tidus into further frustration. “I hate these weird words you speak in! Why don’t you ever say what you mean? At least say it in a way I can understand.” He regretted it the moment he said it, because Bria said goodnight and departed. “Sorry…” To his utter astonishment, the fisherman turned around to wave at him; that’s when Tidus knew, without a doubt, that Bria had heard him.

Tidus realized that to deny this man his right to keep his life private, he denied Auron as well, to whom he owed practically everything. Bria’s right: the lives of some people were too complex to be summed up in a couple of easy sentences. And when such a person wanted to hand down the fruit of their experiences, it sometimes might manifest or express itself like him; a quiet and reserved, yet wise and cynical man.

‘Will I find myself in the same situation, too, someday?’

Staying behind at the beach, Tidus wanted some alone time to think. He climbed onto the pontoon and lied down on top of it, turning his face in direction of the violet, blue sky. Oppressive-looking, grey clouds were beginning to roll in, concealing the stars. The wind picked up all of a sudden, causing the water to lap against the pillars of the pier, all of which painted the foreboding image of an incoming storm.

Once the Aurochs drop off the fish at the village, the banquet would begin (if it hadn’t already), and Tidus would lose his chance to talk to Yuna. Could this be his punishment or just a bad day? Did someone or an invisible, outside force prevent him from seeing her? If Tidus decided to run back and meet her, no matter if anyone stood in his way with some flimsy excuse, Tidus wouldn’t care. He’d brush aside those annoying old crones and old-fashioned geezers and just talk to her without worrying what they had to say. It’d be so nice…

“Humans try to introduce causal relationships, but the truth is that, these links, we invent them a posteriori.”

Ruminating upon Bria’s earlier cryptic line, Tidus let out a cry of frustration before kicking the boards of the pontoon. He hated it, because he started to understand what he meant. A dull sound reverberated, but another sound, a more high-pitched, metallic note, echoed in the air, startling him. Tidus jumped to his feet, looking around.

Remnants of antique mechanisms remained throughout the island, jutting from various locations in plain sight such as rock cliffs and leaf-ridden plateaus. Tidus doubted anyone alive knew of their original designs. Some of these ruins stood erect near the cove like chimneys, their fine orange paint faded by age. He spotted a large seagull perched atop one of them beside the ocean, pecking at something held between its webbed feet.

GONG, GONG, GONG!

Tidus lied back down once he felt reassured. His mind drifted to the Gullwings, since the bird reminded him of them. Yuna had spent a good three to six months with this group, maybe even longer, he didn’t know; a group comprised of young Al Bhed people and a lone female warrior of unknown origins, who looked like nice people that treated Yuna well. To think life had continued despite his absence, and that his friends -- yes, even Yuna -- had fun in the interim, made him feel like a stranger in the loop. He imagined the smile of his Summoner, the colorful, bold clothes which spoke of her newfound independence; no longer this shy, seventeen year old girl who felt oppressed by her own impossible ordeals and responsibilities, but a young woman who had blossomed without him.

And he still remained the same, stuck at the same spot; a seventeen-year-old boy.

Tidus sighed. Would he have preferred to learn Yuna had agonized over his absence? Two years ago, in the face of his imminent fate, he wanted the exact opposite -- he wanted for her to live, to be happy, even if that meant he had to give up the chance to share that with her. He wanted Yuna to move from this stupid cycle of death and despair and ‘eternal’ suffering. Now, if someone had asked him the same question, he might have given them a selfish answer, and he hated himself for it.

Too anxious to sit still, he started shaking the wooden boards of the pontoon.

*

Nightfall settled around the village. With the fish cooked to a fragrant crisp and the bonfire all lit up and fueling the festive atmosphere, Yuna could not be found. Wakka would have been concerned if it weren’t for the obvious fact that the elders were missing, too. Probably with Yuna, no doubt.

He knew full well the impatience they withheld for Yuna’s eventual return. Everyone in the village older than Yuna, Wakka and Lulu included, contributed to the young woman’s growth. Orphan to the late High Summoner Braska, she had spent the better part of her childhood at the temple, surrounded by people with unshakable faith, and when she chose to follow her father’s path, it seemed like she answered the elders’ prayers. Upon defeating Sin, bringing forth the long-anticipated Calm that would last for an eternity, she exposed the truth behind Yevon’s deception, and the Church collapsed as a result.

Despite everything, the older people continued to follow Yevon’s teachings, beseeching their stubborn defiance: “Everything they taught us is not wrong.”

Although Wakka wanted to argue, because he knew exactly how they felt, he chose to bite his tongue. Everyone had the freedom to believe whatever they wanted now. Yet the elders showed very little tolerance for other opinions. In their eyes, the youth were mistaken about the Golden Age, taking for granted their newfound freedom by having fun and thinking very little about the consequences. Since for as long as he could remember, the village worked together like a family, and now the generation gap that began to grow between them broke Wakka’s heart.

The oldest were incapable of adapting to change, of tolerating the slightest disruptions. Young leaders, like Nooj and Baralai, embodied that change they so resented. Their influence spread fast, expanding far and wide even to territories as distant as Besaid and Kilika. For a single piece of news to reach the village in three days, it became outdated in the central world. This era disconcerted the elders, who had always known an immutable world.

Yuna never forgot that she owed much of her upbringing to Besaid and the old folk, and in these uncertain times, she served as the icon of familiarity and peace for those who feel lost. Never mind the fact that New Yevon’s Praetor (and those in power before him) tried to evoke that same kind of familiar comfort only to fall short in the face of progressive politics.

“I wonder what they plan to do with her.” Wakka mused aloud, heading for the temple now that all the reparations were complete. Entering the dark, heady threshold, he breathed in the familiar smoke of incense, which mingled with the surrounding damp stones, which held the building together. It reminded of him of his childhood.

‘A gift of Yevon...’
« Last Edit: September 06, 2015, 07:00:28 pm by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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  • Posts: 75
  • One step at a time.
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Chapter 3
Tentative Title:
Of Star-Crossed Lovers
---

(A/N): Whee! I had so much fun rewriting this. Definitely my favorite chapter by far. <3 Also, I decided to play around with Kush having a French accent to replace her habit of 'vous,' along with some painfully polite terms that'd make Seymour or Baralai proud. XD Joking aside, I hope this is adequate.

*

“There’s something on the roof!”
   
They were cuddling on the mattress of their designated room when the man let his woman separate from him. Sitting up, they held their breath, keeping their ears wide open for the suspicious sound, and soon enough, it echoed above them from within the air duct, a dull sound that reverberated throughout their walls at a consistent rhythm like a hard object hitting metal.
   
GONG, GONG, GONG…
   
“What is it?” Kush said in a whisper.
   
“A bird,” Valm said after a long, tense moment of silence. “A sea gull, judging from the strength of its knocks.”
   
Kush reclined back on the cushions when his answer reassured her, expressing her wish to laze around some more, but Valm rose to reattach his light armor. She watched him adjust the leather pieces over his chest, admiring the smooth movement of his muscles, and smiled. “And how does my lord know that sound came from a gull?”

“Only birds and monkeys can reach the top of these cliff faces. It must be a very large animal, going from the loud volume of its strikes. Between a monkey with a sharp tool and a bird with a strong beak, it’s more than likely the latter. You see, there are no monkeys here, only gulls.”
   
“My lord is correct.” She gave him a pretty smile, pleased by his informative answer. “What does my lord think it desires?”
   
He chuckled, fastening the straps nice and tight. “Maybe you should ask it.”

Shifting to lie on her side, she giggled. “My lord is correct yet again.”

Her coquettish lilt tickled his ears pink, and Valm smiled in spite of himself. Hard to believe this sheltered young lady held the weight of her government’s expectations on her small shoulders. Kush had been chosen to undertake a Summoner’s course since early childhood; a Bevellian citizen born and raised, she came to this distant island from an industrial haven, the only place she had ever seen outside the Citadel. It came as no surprise why she took every one of Valm’s opinions to heart.

When they first met three years ago, he thought she enjoyed mocking him. He despised her in silence, recognizing his duty to protect someone that he considered to be utterly insufferable, a spoiled brat who wore the face of a noblewoman. Once enlightened about her personal history, sympathy sought to melt his cold heart and, to his amazement, his affection for her transformed into love. Never in his life, before Kush, would Valm ever thought that he’d fall for a Summoner.

These people were sensitive to a common phenomena called pyreflies, or spirits of the deceased. Valm used to imagine them as ominous, eccentric people who practiced necromancy and were obsessed with death, but after he learned that Kush, along with all of her comrades, felt the same kind of emotions as normal people, she and Valm were not so very different from each other at all. In spite of that misconstrued truth, the authorities had gathered people gifted with this talent, creating an elite corps of Summoners subject to strict regulations.

None of them were volunteers; Summoners, or those proficient in the rare craft, were not in the position to refuse their calling. Kush and her fellow Summoners had been forced to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their government; in exchange for their compliance, they were guaranteed the safety of their closest family, up to twenty-five years after the death of the Summoner.

Although Kush spoke in a formal and polite, if not foreign dialect, always dressed to the nines in her extravagant silk gowns, embroidered shawls, and fine jewelry, she came from a poor family, which gave Valm another reason to connect with her, originally from a similar poor background himself. He never left the island for broader lands, but his oath to remain had rescued others such as himself from poverty.

Recalling why he stood up in the first place, Valm sighed, annoyed. “I shall head downstairs first. The Bedohl,” he spat out the word in disdain, “must have had enough waiting for me.”
   
“Could we not see each other without them next time?” She pulled herself up with a pout, leaning over pale, slender legs drawn up to her modest chest and naked except for the sheer blanket wrapped around her petite frame.
   
“Why? Do they annoy you?”

“Not at all.” She smiled, dismissive. “I just want one time where I can meet with my lord, just the two of us.”
   
“And who will carry your palanquin? Me, all by myself?”
   
She laughed, cradling her head in the crook of her elbow. “I can walk as well as my beloved lord Valm. No, even better.”

“Probably.” He smiled, humoring her. “But venomous insects dispatched by the enemy are known to roam the region, worse are vastly increasing in population." And then his smile dropped, making way for a grave frown. "I fear that…”
   
“Are their bites dangerous?” Her smile wavered, frightened by his tone.

“Infernal.”

“Oh, you!” His blunt remark inspired her to explode into broad smiles. “Hell does not appeal to me at all!”

His grim demeanor broke under the spell of her melodic laughter, and he grinned.

Valm knew of the ‘Hell’ his lover made light of. His grandmother used to invent these wild and crazy stories during nights he refused to sleep, since she loved frightening him as a child with grim fairy tales -- such as this horrible place of endless throes where those who dared to defy the Gods were Sent, dead or alive. He who wanted to avoid this kind of unforgiving fate must obey the will of the Gods his whole life. Bria believed that after death, he would be reborn in the form of a flower that only blossomed in the nether world, as per his eternal reward for his faith and loyal servitude. Hell or flowers, Valm always considered those two ends as equal in weight, if not consequence, but his grandmother hoarded a treasure of anecdotes to justify every rule imaginable, making it impossible to argue with her.

He had been very young, then, always hanging on her every word, but once he grew to become a man, he understood -- she devoted herself entirely to obeying the authorities, a choice she had no say in the matter. If you wanted to survive in this world, you must obey the government who made themselves out to be virtual Gods in this tangible world.

Kush’s lilting voice anchored him to the present. “Is it not possible to avoid these insects without resorting to the Bedohls?”

“Maybe.” He shrugged, crossing his arms. “That is, I could always carry you when crossing dangerous areas.”

She clapped her hands together. “That would be wonderful!”

“Good. Now, dress up.”

Valm headed for the spiral staircase now, intending to go down and speak with the Bedohls. Just before he placed his foot down on the first step, he stopped to glance over his shoulder, stealing one last look at his beautiful, mystifying lover. Kush stood up from bed, wandering to the partial opening of the window they had boarded up for safety to gaze outside. Her petite body resembled that of the Goddess Luchera save for her hips, which were rounder, and Valm almost wondered why she adorned no wings to express the angelic innocence she carried within. The delicate item she threw over herself had slipped, revealing the unique birthmark ornamenting her lower back on the right side; an adorable silhouette of a heart.

Birthmark, scar, or tattoo, he did not know, but he did know one thing: Valm’s the only man alive who laid eyes upon that mark.

Kush’s sudden, urgent whisper awakened him from his thoughts. “There’s someone at the water’s edge!”

He rushed to her side, wrapping his arm around her tense shoulders. The moonlight allowed them to make out the solid details of the landscape; a cove surrounded by shallow water and tall buildings painted in resplendent orange, which towered upon the rock cliffs covered in lush greenery. "...Where?"

“Over yonder, on the pontoon.”

A mysterious, young man stood beside a shabby boat, which rocked with the steady, calm influx of waves.

‘A refugee,’ Valm thought. ‘But why sneak inside the island? Doesn’t he know this is an active war zone? It’s suicide.’

Without taking his eyes off him, Valm urged Kush to finish clothing herself. He lifted his forefinger and thumb to his mouth, about to whistle for the Bedohl, but held his breath. The man’s body language seemed nervous as he unloaded a bag from the boat. After a moment of struggling to untie it, he unearthed a round object.

‘A ball?’ He dropped his arm, confused.

This unknown person turned in direction of their tower and raised his eyes to Heaven.

Valm clenched his teeth, furious. ‘This is a ruse! He knows that I’m watching him! Damn him!’

Snatching Kush by the waist, he shoved her away from the window, and their bodies slammed against the pillar located in the middle of the room. As Valm proceeded to drag her down the stairs, the device exploded behind them, which caused him to lose balance. He clutched her head to his chest by instinct right before his back hit the railing going down. Releasing a whine of pain, Valm felt himself falling, and acted fast to squeeze her tight. Once his head bounced against an indiscernible, hard surface, he fought to keep himself from fainting, inhaling the unmistakable smell of gunpowder. He knew he couldn’t avoid it, but the moment he regained consciousness, he would go find that damn murderer and kill him.

He refused to let this territory fall into the hands of that heretic sage.
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 4
Tentative Title:
Of Origins Long Forgotten
(Or The History of the Al Bhed)
---

(A/N): Apparently Tidus isn't the only one being bashed by Nojima.  ::) There's very little love for Brother in here, so I decided to lighten up on the hate. XD Oh, and the radio that Shinra (and Bria) mentioned is apparently meant to be the Commsphere, so I fixed that detail as well (I shall return to Chapter 2 to do the same).

*

The Celsius sailed through the air in slow velocity; it couldn’t fly any slower without the risk of stalling or worse, crashing. Paine sighed, stuck inside the ****pit listening to everybody’s high-speed conversation. Shinra, the only other one disengaged, sat at his post in front of the monitor, his back turned towards them while immersed in his task. Maybe typing essential calculations for their flight or killing his time with a puzzle, she couldn’t tell. Behind his goggles and full facial mask, nobody could read his expression.
   
“Is the storm approaching in this direction?” Paine said, exploiting their pause in conversation to speak. Buddy, Brother, and Rikku, the three adult Al Bhed who chose to communicate in their native tongue, spoke too fast for Paine to follow. In spite of her decent fluency for the language, she found it almost impossible to understand their belligerent bickering from the actual discussion.

Rikku kept a close watch on the radar. “A huge downpour is heading south where Besaid is. It’s definitely going to blow hard.”
   
“We must inform them at once!” Brother said.
   
“The Commsphere doesn’t work,” Shinra said in a detached tone. “Even though I made sure to replace the last one that broke not too long ago, I’m not receiving any video or audio feedback.” Brother screeched his dissent, but the boy genius contented himself with a shrug. “It’s actually working less and less as time goes by, and it’s not only in Besaid. It’s Kilika as well. I wonder if it’s just in this region, because of the storm.”

Buddy folded his arms, ducking his head in concern. “Why?”
   
“I don’t know. I’m just a kid.”
   
As annoying as the boy could be at times, nobody here knew machines better than him. Paine held him in high regard due to his unparalleled skills. Sure, Gippal knew how to fix them faster and better than anyone back in Djose, as evidenced by repairing Shinra’s rogue communicator which broke in the Farplane, but Shinra’s intelligence far outstripped each and every Machine Faction member combined. Definitely smarter than Brother by a long shot, whose only special talent consisted of venting the most obnoxious rants she had the misfortune of enduring. Paine had no idea what their leader prattled on about, but his constant shouts and wild gestures were already getting on her nerves.

“In this case…” She decided to speak up, yet nobody heard her. Impatient, she snapped. “Shut up!”
   
Brother froze in place, stuck at a ridiculous pose as he jerked his head in her direction, scowling. “...Yes?”
   
“Shouldn’t we hurry back to Besaid before the storm hits? You’ve seen the village, right? Their homes are made of hessian. We have to warn them about this.”
   
Rikku acquiesced without complaint. “If the wind takes their tents, they will lose everything.”
   
Brother looked about ready to cry, collapsing straight into his pilot’s seat where only loud sobs could be heard. Even though they had departed from Besaid like thieves in the night, flying away at top speed, they had nowhere else to go, yet Buddy had made the call in consideration of his friend’s obvious distress. He preferred to keep the heartbroken Brother away from the reunited lovebirds as far as possible. At any rate, the Gullwings continued their discussion without pause, because Brother’s pity party warranted that much little respect from them. How could they when he made it so difficult to be taken seriously?

Paine put a hand to her chin, deep in thought. “But then again, it’s just a storm. I’m sure the inhabitants have survived worse.”
   
“You think so?” Rikku said, skeptical. “Hmm, according to the radar… Oh! It went off! What’s happening? Is the engine overheating?”
   
Shinra twisted around to lean over the top of his seat, shaking his head. “This girl’s have had the last of her days. It's the end of the road for her. A sudden breakdown isn't out of the question, considering it’s supposed to be a millenary device.”
   
“Then, can’t you just build a new one? It’s all right here. You can learn what makes this thing tick and make another one,” Paine said.
   
“Let me think…” Shinra settled back down into his seat, leaning over his custom-made keyboard in rapt thought. “Hmm… I don’t see why not. After all, it’s true that the Al Bhed are comfortable working on machines, but we only know how to use them. Of course, in order to exhume them, discern their functions, recondition them, and understand how to operate them, we had developed an extensive knowledge and skillful dexterity for them. But oddly enough, we still cannot build new ones. Sometimes, I wonder why that is. Don’t you find it kind of strange? I mean, even though Yevon loathed them, people still contributed to their use, yet none of us ever thought to retain a single plan to build machines from the ground up. We might have been able to rediscover new rules and theories of calculations, but only out of a sense of necessity. Our ancestors have left us with nothing, or maybe they were unable to leave anything behind.”
   
Overwhelmed by the scope of his words, Shinra sighed. “Why? Well, I’m afraid that’s the greatest mystery of all.”
« Last Edit: September 10, 2015, 10:58:37 pm by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 5
Tentative Title:
Of Lost Love Found
---

(A/N): Oops, I got the order of the chapters all wrong. Because of the way I outlined my version, I combined chapters 5 and 8 together into a Chapter 2 (a lot of the other short scenes, I put them aside as Interludes). So, yeah. Here's the official chapter five. My bad, guys.

Also, the setting details for this boat really confused me. Like, was there really a random ball sitting around until it dropped, rolling to the stairs, or was that the description of the trident/hatch/mechanism/thingy, I don't know. I'm just working with what I got. XD

*

Tidus decided to wander in the Aurochs Ace to explore the boat and kill his boredom. He imagined the old combustion engine in charge of transporting the team from coast to training area, even without the wind, a powerful machine necessary to see the job through. On the deck, near the stern, he found a hatch, which revealed the glaring engine in question. A ladder allowed him to reach it, but he didn’t feel motivated to check it out right now, having no real interest or knowledge for mechanical things in general.
   
Near the bow rose a little hut that took up two thirds of the deck’s space. This narrow area housed the rudder wheel and a console with the buttons and sticks that controlled the engine. There must be a radio somewhere, Tidus mused, surveying his surroundings some more. ‘Would they even have a radio? Did someone even invent it, yet?’

He took a closer look at the trident situated against the wall; pulling it down, Tidus watched as the knob he gripped dropped down, swerving in direction of the hut, stopping close to the partition facing the rudder, bringing to his attention a flight of stairs, which led down below deck. Descending into the cabin, Tidus crossed the door to enter a furnished cubby hole comprised of a double sofa, a bed, and a little table. Both of the walls behind the sofa and bed had a round porthole that oversaw the waterline, allowing people to enjoy the landscape. The moonlight filtered inside, illuminating the entire cabin and its modest, cozy furniture.

Tidus plopped down on the bed, falling back to fold his arms behind his head to heave a sigh. The Ace might not be in its prime anymore, but this room still adorned a state of consciousness. Apart from the handwoven Besaidian fabric covering the walls, decorations worthy of a hotel in the capital ornamented the ceiling; although the exact level of comfort intended kind of confused him. The boat could transport a total of ten maximum, but this cabin could only shelter seven of them -- if they closed up. But even then, in order to enjoy it on a decent level of relaxation, two people the most could exploit it.
   
Tidus sighed. He must be bored if he felt compelled to contemplate the mysteries of this boat, a piece of man-made heaven for an underdog team of champions. Closing his eyes, he dozed. Many questions filled his mind, making it difficult for him to drift off completely, for example…

‘What?’

He awoke with a start, nauseated by a sudden falling sensation that made him stumble forward on his feet and almost retch. At some point, the boat started to oscillate from top to bottom courtesy of the swell. Even the wind picked up, worsening the violent motions.

“Did I fall asleep?” Tidus wondered aloud. ‘How much time passed?’

He did not know, but moonlight no longer illuminated the cabin, making way for shadows to creep inside the darkness. Maybe clouds had rolled in to cover the sky and moon, and he rushed to gaze out into the porthole, only to realize he couldn’t see the coast anymore.

“You gotta be kidding me!”

Leaping over the table in his mad dash to the other side, Tidus pressed his nose right up against the other porthole; the darkness revealed nothing. It’s official: The Ace had left the cove. Unless proven otherwise, Tidus could have sworn it had been moored…

“Oh no, it can’t be…” ‘Was I set adrift?’

He stood straight, and immediately banged his head. Swearing in anger and pain, he started to feel his way to the exit, and found it where his forehead collided into the doorframe. Holding one hand over the brand new bump on his head, he grumbled on his way back to the upper deck, climbing the stairs one cautious step at a time. He stopped all of a sudden when he found someone standing at the helm.

A white hood hid her face-- he could tell it was a woman going by her petite frame-- wearing a dress ornamented with red patterns at the billowing hem, which reached as long as the back of her leather boots. Tidus picked up the scent of perfume in the wind, and it reminded him of Besaid Temple, its cloy incense.

“Yuna!” His voice **** in joy and disbelief. “Yuna…”

She turned around, lowering her hood as she did so, stepping forward to stand in front of him, hovering in concern. She brushed her gloved fingertips over his forehead, massaging the swelling bump. “Maybe I should have brought my staff, or a sphere even. I didn’t think you’d be hurt…”

“Don’t worry about it! It doesn’t hurt anymore.” He shook his head with such vigorous energy, Yuna burst out laughing.

“Sorry I kept you waiting.”

“It was terrible! I thought…” He felt the urge to cry, surprised by the waterfall of emotion rising in his throat.

She put a gentle finger to his lips, silencing his remark with a sad smile.

“In my case, I’ve waited two years.”

Tidus nodded, remorseful. A day of sadness and neglect couldn’t compare to two years of grief, and so he reined in on his complaint. “Sorry…”

“It’s okay.” She smiled, lowering her hand.

Tidus stared at her, still processing the fact that she stood before him, and he took a shy, tentative step forward, reaching out for her. “Yuna…”

And then she turned her back on him, cutting through the solemn air with forced enthusiasm. “Departure of the Aurochs’ Ace is a go! Commence the private cruise!” She announced with joy despite the shaky hand she used to activate the stick, and then after a quick, awkward pause: “Do you know the other name for this boat?”

“How am I supposed to know?” he said, sounding more curt than he wished to. He hadn’t expected her to rebuff him like that, and the rejection stung. ‘Does she not want me around anymore?’

“The Aurochs used to call it ‘The Buddies.’” She giggled at that, turning around to smile at him. “Tonight, I let them know that we embarked; just you and me.”

She looked so radiant, beaming at him, that he couldn’t stay mad at her anymore. But then she broke eye contact, bashful, looking like the ghost of her old self, shy and proper, and he felt the odd tickling from the thought that maybe he dazzled her, just as much as she did for him. They were finally alone, unsure of how to act around each other now. They hadn’t been alone since that night at Macalania Woods, in the water spring; with the cozy little cabin waiting down below, Tidus sensed his cheeks grow scorching hot.

“We’ve just left the port.” Her voice brought him back to the present, and he gulped, regathering his wits. “Do you mind if we row along the coast for a bit until we reach the other side of the island? The wind’s gotten stronger out of nowhere, and we need to find a good place to drop anchor…”

He shrugged. “If you want. I don’t care about the wind.”

Moving closer to Yuna, Tidus placed his left hand on the rudder wheel, directly over her own. His metal gauntlet clashing with her white glove. He felt her tense for a moment, and to his great relief she leaned back against him, allowing him to push the stick forward with his right palm. Underneath their feet, they sensed the vibrations of the engine as the noise heightened, and The Ace accelerated at a gentle speed.

“Do you know how to steer?”

Tidus threw her a wounded look. “What’re you talking about? I was practically born on a boat!”

After that boast, Tidus recalled all the times he spent on his father’s boat. His skills now were tuned enough to steer, but as he looked back and tried to remember everything he knew about navigation, his mind drew a startling blank. ‘How did I forget…? I used to know so much. Now I can’t think of anything.’

He couldn’t think straight, not with the scent of Yuna’s perfume mixing in with the strong, salty air. Yeah, that had to be it. She smelled so nice, and she felt so warm, it was enough to distract him.

“You wanna go down?” He pointed to the cabin, eager to lie down and cuddle with her.

“Shouldn’t we wait until we drop the anchor? It’ll be safer…”

He dismissed her concern with a wave of his hand. “What’s a little wind gonna do? Blow us away into the sky? There’s nothing to worry about. C’mon, let’s go down.”
« Last Edit: December 24, 2016, 11:18:49 pm by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 6
Tentative Title:
Of An Ancient War
---

(A/N): Re-reading through this chapter more times than I care to admit, I finally realized that there was this very annoying and awkward POV shift between Valm and a nameless Zanarkand soldier. I rectified it accordingly, but dang. Was it just me, or was I the only one who did not immediately register that they were two completely different people?

In other news, happy holidays!

*

Valm exhausted all the ammunition and grenades he had in hand, slaughtering several of the enemies which were encroaching upon them, oblivious to the dramatic shift in weather until he left the island. Forewarning signs, such as oppressive dark clouds and suffocating strong winds, always arrived before a storm, but blinded by the fear and excitement of battle, he had noticed nothing.
   
When people are in a constant struggle for survival, they never stop to think about the consequences, he reflected.
   
The rain fell so heavy, he found it difficult to see in front of him; the gusts were projecting sea spray into his face, stinging his eyes. The small, flimsy boat kept him afloat somehow, but it kept pitching violently, compromising his balance. Uttering a string of curses that would have made his mother faint, he attempted to re-gather his composure.
   
‘Calm down, calm down…’
   
He wanted to leave this dreadful place as soon as possible. ‘After all, I completed my mission.’
   
Valm spotted another target on top of the air tower, and he squinted, trying to distinguish the distant figure. The man seemed young and built, but... that couldn’t be Johit. He had dark hair, not flaming red… Maybe Meroh? It had to be. Valm recognized his Guards, along with someone else, probably a prospective Aeon Core. It must be a member of his family or a beloved one. The more links between a Summoner and their Aeon Core, the stronger the bond, the more powerful the entreated creature produced.
   
Valm hoped the bomb had killed the remainder of his enemies.
   
But then, he spotted a conspicuous lone figure, and his eyes widened. “No…”

(POV shift)

If he could eliminate the mage at least, that would be fortuitous, for he proved the most dangerous; the others present around him were easy to dismiss.

This war between the two major cities seemed to wage on forever, even though he had sworn to give his life to end it. Yes, he chose to sacrifice himself for peace. The blind devotee lowered his hands from his prayer, raising his eyes to the empyrean. The wind stung, whipping his body with volatile ferocity, bringing the salt from the chaotic sea to hinder his sight.

“The truth…”

He never stopped to consider the outcome of this war, only Yunalesca-- the Summoner Princess and how he would live by her side, to be her most loyal servant. He looked back on the sacred ceremony over the course of which he had taken an oath, and she graced him with a kiss. The sweet smell of her hands came to mind, and the memory appeased him.

(POV shift)

Valm crawled through the shallow water, spying the pious murderer who appeared to have finally calmed down. Only the upper half of his head protruded from the surface, his eyes glaring in the dark of nightfall. As he approached, he made out the face of his enemy. He still looked to be a teenager. Had the Sage brainwashed him, or did his sorceress daughter bewitch the poor fool with her seductive spell?

The young man turned around, as if sensing him by his bloodlust alone, and Valm leapt, landing inside the small boat. He grasped him by the black hairs of his head, wrenching him closer to knee him in the stomach. This caused the enemy to double over in pain, vomiting all over himself. Valm tossed him aside and stood above him, unsheathing his sabre. Dragging him up by the neck, he pierced his back where his heart would be, and the boy let out an inarticulate cry.

With his task complete, Valm attached little importance to the pyreflies of his victim, whose soul already began to vanish. He went about surveying the ship, rummaging for anything useful. The spoils of war, as one would say. No weapons were found aboard, but a small boat equipped with a working engine could turn out to be salvageable. He wanted to call out to his comrades, but then reconsidered it. Maybe a fire as a signal… No. None of these solutions were efficient, considering nobody would be able to hear or see anything in this terrible squall.

Shading his eyes from the rain, Valm turned in direction of the island’s peak, reciting the words of faith, finding comfort in their divine nature.

“O Luchera, Goddess of War! Grant us your blessing, and protect us with your outspread wings!”

~

Hidden underneath the ground, a man-made bunker built at the center of the island, the Board of War’s South Division lied isolated from outside noises. The majority of the stationed troops had gathered inside the stateroom. Silence prevailed the spacious room, only disrupted by the echo of stifled tears.

An altar decorated with multiple rows of tropical flowers distinguished itself at the center of the room. Kushu had just finished her Sending, and Sloan, the brother of the victim, still knelt before the woman, his shoulders heaving with sobs. She stepped closer to him, and place a hand on his broad back.

Anli, whose real name used to be Pohlan, lied dead on his wooden casket, but his beautiful, young face looked so peaceful that he appeared to be sleeping. The Summoner was still a teenager, but even so his soul had already departed for the world beyond.

Alb, the team leader, approached them, and spoke with a voice that belied his old age. “What happened to the man responsible, Sloan?”

“It was a young girl. I already eliminated her.”

“What about her soul? Do you think she’ll come back to exact her revenge?”

“If she comes back, fiend or Unsent, I’ll take her down!” He shrieks, his voice shrill with rage and grief. “I’ll cut her down again and again and again until she wishes she stayed dead!”

Alb opened his mouth, his eyebrows creased, but the sudden arrival of Valm, soaked from top to bottom and emanating a murderous aura, prevented him from speaking further. “What happened?”

Valm chose not to answer, staring at Anli’s corpse. After a long moment passed, he made his way over to Sloan and clasped his shoulder firmly.

“I will never forgive them…” Sloan swore, his voice cracking.

Valm agreed with a somber look that rivaled his grieving comrade.

“We’re short on people,” Sloan said, turning towards Alb, rising on one knee. “When will you be able to deploy the mechanical Bedohls?”

“We’re currently encountering multiple problems, but in the near future I expect very soon.”

“In the near future? You’re so vague! If you desire more guinea pigs, leave it to me.”

Alb sighed, folding his arms. “We already talked about this. Must I repeat myself? Aside from restricting the number of Bedohls, this entire thing is pointless. If you want to waste my time and waste the amount of Bedohls available to us, then go right ahead. But force will not solve anything.”

Sloan snickered. “You’re complaining to the wrong guy. You should say that to the heretic Sage!”

“Alb.” Valm spoke, intervening on their argument. “You appear to be having fun tinkering around with your Bedohls in the name of ‘research.’ But we’ve been eagerly anticipating the day when they’re finally going to be of actual use to us. We need reinforcements, fighters who will work as long as one of our enemies still live. We must protect the Summoners and their Aeon Cores at all costs. Forever.”

Every time someone mentioned the future, Kush always looked ready to cry, anguish flashing in her eyes.

Sloan turned back around to gaze upon his dead brother, raising his voice. “Let’s search the island, but we must proceed with caution. The enemies may still be upon us with more.”
« Last Edit: December 24, 2016, 11:19:54 pm by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 7
Tentative Title:
Of An Incoming Storm
---

(A/N): This is as far as I got, as far as completed chapters go, but I'm close to finishing the next one. If I push myself, perhaps I can finish that one tonight and post it by tomorrow. I'll try my best to work on this every day, hopefully get this done before next semester of school starts. Wish me luck!

*

The Celsius finally reached Besaid, parking at the entrance of the cove.
   
As soon as Wakka boarded, desperate to meet with them, hoping they knew anything of Yuna and Tidus’s whereabouts, he walked straight into an argument. Not their usual wacky bickering, but something far more a cause for concern, echoing within the cockpit and bounding off the walls in rapid-fire Al Bhed.
   
Everyone with the exception of Barkeep and Calli were present, the official members of the Gullwings, but Wakka couldn’t make sense of anything they were saying. Even Rikku, who usually made the gracious effort of translating for her Yevonite friends, stood front and center.
   
“The fuselage may be damaged,” Paine said, sparing him from his own insanity.
   
“You can’t fly anymore?”
   
“No. We don’t know the exact cause, let alone how to repair it. Perhaps if we continued to Luca, we could have asked other Al Bhed, maybe some of Gippal’s guys, to help us, but…” She sighed. “Coming here was a mistake, and that’s what they’re arguing about. The conversation’s lowbrow, trust me.”
   
“Why’d you come back, then?”
   
“To let you know that a bad storm was coming.”
   
“If that’s the case, then why didn’t you use the Commsphere?”
   
Before Paine could answer, Shinra broke away from the group to speak in the common tongue. “The island’s Commsphere was already down. I meant to fix it, but someone here just couldn’t wait to leave.” He turned his head in Aniki’s direction. “And now, ours is in the same state."
   
“Ya could have said so sooner!” Wakka exclaimed, frustrated to the point of panic. “I came to use your Commsphere. Yuna’s disappeared!”
   
At this news, everyone fell silent.
   
Aniki glared at Wakka, mouth hanging open like a fish out of water. “Yuna? Missing?”
   
“Yes. She said she wanted to board a boat with Tidus-- ‘to catch up on lost time,’ she said. We thought they were on the other side of the island, but…”
   
Aniki screeched in distress, about read to tear his crazy mohawk out.

Rikku peered outside through one of their portholes, terrified by the state of the storm. “The sea looks scary destructive out there… I hope they’re alright…”
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 8
Tentative Title:
Of Divergent Winds
---

(A/N): So far, this chapter happens to be my favorite dialogue scene in the entire story. Yuna's thoughts and feelings really answered a lot of questions about what exactly did she make public knowledge (and what she didn't), as well as why the heck those grandmas are so strict (bc they be sick and tired of her wishy-washy, shiitake mushrooms). It pretty much throws a lot of annoying and unbelievable details into wonderful perspective.

*

The Aurochs Ace swayed to the whim of the waves.

Tidus did not know how much time had passed since they abandoned the rudder, but grey clouds still hid the light of the moon and stars from view.

He lied on his side, daydreaming, his eyes drawn to the white hood of her summoner garb peeking out from across the room on the sofa, almost glowing in the gloomy dark. He sensed her slow breathing against the nape of his neck, lulled by the warm, comforting perfume of her breath. A few minutes ago, he had turned over to face his thoughts, and Yuna had not stirred from his movements, except to snuggle against his back.

In the dark, Tidus lost all notion of time.

None of their friends, despite their conversation, amiable company, and constant reassurances managed to clear any of his unease, which tormented him. But a single moment by Yuna’s side somehow swept away all of his worry, and he cherished that. However, a heavy gloom still persisted in seeping into his every senses. He felt it encroach upon him like an internal wound, bleeding without an outlet, tightening his muscles and weighing in his stomach. And then he identified the feeling as self-blame.

Why? What caused him to dwell on this culpability?

That helplessness of being gone for two whole years, causing Yuna grief over his choice. He chose to end the cycle at the cost of his existence for Yuna’s sake, without once asking how she felt, and now he wondered if he made the right choice. He had no other choice. The Fayth chose his father for that role, and Tidus had been next in line when Jecht failed. He thought he made the right call…

No matter how many times he repeated it, it didn’t erase the fact: he abandoned her, and she had been all alone. Did he deserve happiness with the woman he loved?

Yuna stirred, and Tidus closed his eyes, feigning sleep.

He could sense her eyes boring into his back.

After a long, quiet moment, she stood up on the mattress and walked over his body, in order not to disturb him in his sleep. He continued to listen to her tiptoe in the dark, feeling her way along the space between the table and bed, eventually picking up the clothes she had left on the floor so she could dress up again.

The boat pitched all of a sudden, startling him enough to open his eyes, catching her own.

“Sorry. Did I wake you? I’ll be right back.”

She leaned in with a smile, kissing him on the lips, and Tidus blushed.

He resolved to leave his somber thoughts, because nothing justified in having them. He sat up, swinging his legs to sit at the edge of the mattress, and stood to follow the retreating hem of her white dress into the gangway. Climbing halfway up the stairs, he heard a loud, dull thud right above him, and he dashed up the stairs two steps at a time until he finally reached her.

He found her grasping the rudder wheel, as if she caught herself in mid-stumble, balancing herself on one foot, peeking outside.

“It’s hard to see. So dark, ow…”

“What was that noise? Did you hurt yourself?”

She gave him a sheepish smile, combing her fringe out of the way to show her swollen red forehead.

“That’s not funny!” Anger rose from worry, and it surprised him when he couldn’t close the lid on it fast enough. “Don’t look so peaceful about it. If you’re in pain, you have the right to complain. Whether the pain is physical or something even much deeper, don’t hesitate to tell me about it. I’m here for you.”

She stared, startled by his outburst. “...okay.”

“I came back for this reason, you know.”

“Very well.” She smiled, thoughtful. “You know, we won’t be able to whistle anymore.”

“Huh? What d’you mean?”

“To call for each other. If we’re together all the time…” Yuna trailed off, becoming shy now in his presence.

“Oh. Huh. That’s right.” The thought made him smile, and then silence fell between them, motivating him to step closer.

Yuna frowned, reluctant to stay close, and then she stepped back, averting her eyes, wringing her hands in that old nervous habit of hers. “Forgive me, I… We need to talk about something.”

“Ah…” In order to hide his embarrassment, Tidus stepped back to stand in front of the porthole, gazing out into the dark horizon. Only the seafoam stood out in the blackness. Couldn’t this thing have waited until after they had time to settle down and relax together? They didn’t have much longer to enjoy their quality time together before Yuna must return to answer for her disappearance.

“The elders have been asking me about everything that occurred in the temples… Learning that the Grand Maester was an Unsent; that he didn’t want happiness for Spira, but only to ensure the continuation of his cult… That Yevon’s teachings to defeat Sin were in fact a way to bring it back to life…”

“Yeah?”

“I’ve remained silent on the subject for a long time. I’ve never told them the full truth behind my role in those events. I’ve never said how exactly I had defeated Sin for good, nor how I believed that Yevon’s teachings were just a pack of lies or that the Church had become a parasite of our world. I’ve never mentioned these subjects. Not with most people, at any rate.”

“I can imagine. It’d be quite a shock for the faithful.”

“Yes. Some people may become mad at me, or even hate me.”

“I see.”

“Because of this, after the death of Grand Maester Yo Mika and the appearance of the Movement of Truth, the Yevon clergy decided to reform into a political faction known as New Yevon, with Baralai…” She trailed off, creasing her brow in thought, the shadows of an unspoken sentiment flitting across her eyes. “Oh, that’s right, you don’t know who Baralai is…”

“Rikku and the others have told me about him. He’s very close to Nooj and Gippal, right?”

“That’s right. Where was I?”

“But what’re you trying to say?” Tidus pressed, impatient.

“I kept most of these events secret because I was worried. But the elders wanted to know everything. They have begged and cried, and even have accused me of egotism. Remaining silent for so long, for fear of what others would think, apparently that is vanity. They insisted that if I explained it to them, they would understand, and they wouldn’t hold a grudge against me, so…”

“So? Tell them! Tell them about how the old crook Mika kept the machina all to himself. Tell them about what that bastard Seymour did--!”

“I’ve told them. It has taken some time, but I’ve told them everything.”

“And?”

“They listened to me without interruption.”

“Well, that’s great! All the better!” He smiled, relieved. For such good news, he didn’t know why Yuna didn’t sound so excited about that. He couldn’t even figure out where this conversation was leading them.

She shook her head. “No, that’s not good.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“Afterwards, they asked me: ‘Now to whom will we be able to trust in order to guide us in our lives?’” She quoted them, morose.

“They can decide for themselves, can’t they?”

“They’ve asked me if they must forget Yevon’s teachings.”

“Of course! It was a sham!”

Yuna lowered her eyes, shaking her head.

Tidus became wary all of a sudden. Did he say something wrong? “What?”

“I’ve followed the teachings, too. Admittedly, it contained despicable lies, but the rest of it wasn’t all bad. After all, I’ve led a happy life, and I met you.”

“Yuna!”

Surely she’s not going to call their fateful meeting “a gift of Yevon,” too. That’d be laying the gratitude thick. And to keep up the spirit of the argument, Yuna decided to use his previous words against him.

“And what’s wrong with the elders wanting to believe in the teachings? It’s their choice.”

At that, Tidus forced himself to concede. “You may be right…”

“So I must go back tomorrow.”

“What?”

“I promised I’d join them in order to find a new prayer text.”

“But why do they need you?”

“It’s my fault that they’ve lost their faith.”

“But don’t you think you’ve done enough for them?”

“That’s not a reason for me to cross my arms and do nothing.”

“Yuna…”

In his moment of disbelief, the words he wanted to say tangled in his throat, he noticed the ornament which hung from her ear, the full length of its blue cylindrical beads shrouded within her brown hair. He hadn’t seen her wear it in the cabin. When did she take the time to put it on again? Since Tidus had met her, she had always worn it, a present probably from Kimahri going by its tribal yellow design, but the color had never faded.

‘It's like... I’m the only one who’s changed.’

“Yes?” She called out out to him again.

“It’s nothing,” he said, loudly, to dispel his thoughts. “I understand. Let’s hurry back to the village. We just need to find the right direction.”

“I’m sorry.”

Now he felt guilty that she felt the need to apologize. It’s not what she said, but the fact she refused a kiss from him in the first place, that put him in a bad mood. They hadn’t seen each other in so long, two years since they were last intimate, that Tidus did not understand why she still wanted the distance.

“It’s all my fault,” he said, hoping that would absolve her of self-blame, and proceeded to turn his back on her to hide his unease.

“I noticed, a bit earlier…” She spoke up after a long, heavy silence, her voice ringing clear in the salty air. “That we aren’t very good at apologizing to each other. During the weeks we traveled throughout Spira, climbing Mt. Gagazet, fighting Sin and then eventually Yevon… And during the two years we were separated, with no letter or news-- my feelings have only grown stronger. And then, this morning, you came back to me, just like that. Now, I know who you are and who I am. I know we can make an effort to understand each other. Hey, are you listening to me?”

“Yes, of course.”

He tried to stifle the tears threatening to burst from his eye sockets.

“When I met you, I was seventeen years old, and I’d fallen madly in love with you. Now that we’re together again…”

Unable to handle not looking at her, he turned around to face her, spellbound by the sight of her swinging her hips in a gleeful manner, her cheeks pinched pink in a shade of flattering crimson. She looked so radiant and beautiful, he could already sense his anger melt away.

“From now on, we’ll have to face life everyday, and above all, make no mistake-- I still love you. I don’t want to leave you anymore.”

“Ah…” Now she had gone and done it. He couldn’t fight it anymore.

She quirked an eyebrow, amused, but more so startled by his lack of reaction. “‘Ah’...?”

He fought to control his voice, even when it broke under the weight of his emotion. “I love you, too.”

“What a relief!” She beamed.

Yuna looked like she wanted to say more, but then gave up on it. She turned around and started using the console sticks, the ones near the rudder, and for a few seconds, they could only hear the noise of the buttons she pushed, the stretch of foreboding silence.

“We may have a problem,” she said, nervous. “I can’t use the radar. We can’t establish our position.”

Just afterwards, the mini Commsphere that Tidus never noticed before sitting atop the control panel did not work either. They were stranded somewhere in the middle of the ocean, with no means of contacting the outside world.
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 9
Tentative Title:
Of A Fragile Hope
---

(A/N): So, Bria is rather an... acquired taste, to say the least. He's a super awkward character who I have a very difficult time imagining in the casual, peaceful setting of Besaid. Not to mention, most characters don't know how to act around this guy. Bria's like that super negative, cynical person you know in real life who, when engaged in extended conversation with, sucks the energy out of you. Ever know that feeling? It's exhausting. D:

I think Lulu has finally found someone who can rival her dry wit. ;3

*

The storm raged on throughout the entire night.

During the early morning, the depressed moved away at some point to the north, littering the coast with algae, antsy sea critters, and red seaweed. Trudging through debris, the villagers crossed the beach in order to find remains thrown back from the sea. As soon as someone found something, the person would shout, and Wakka or somebody else from the Aurochs would rush up to determine if the fragment originate from The Ace.

The objects which did not pass inspection were gathered near the pontoon in order to be burnt, so that the smoke produced by the sodden wood would point in the direction of Besaid Island to Yuna and Tidus, in case they were lost out at sea.

Apart from that, there were no other means of communication.

The Al Bhed members of the Gullwings thought that maybe the Commspheres had broken down all around the same time because the parts used to create them were discovered at the same level of technology as those salvaged in Bikanel Desert. Wakka did not make this concern public knowledge with the rest of the inhabitants, because he feared that they would lose all trust in the Al Bhed, or perhaps even blame them for the situation.

Bria stood near the edge of the waters, his eyes glued to the eerie, calm sea. He had been the last one who spoke to Tidus, so he felt at part responsible.

“It’s not your fault.” Wakka felt compelled to remind him. “Fortunately, the storm’s over. If the boat is still floating, they’ll come back. If that’s not the case, then I’m sure they’ll find a plank to hold on to. Tidus is strong, and as long as they’re together, Yuna will be okay.”

Bria still sounded doubtful. “Don’t delude yourself. If they’re stuck in the water, their body temperature will decrease more and more with each passing moment, and then--.”

Wakka cut him off, not wanting to hear the rest of that depressing line of thought. “My delusions don’t concern you!”

The man gave him an apologetic smile, comforted by his vocal declaration.

“If only we knew how to fix this damn thing!” Wakka huffed, his eyes fixed on the Celsius. “We could search for them from the sky. But according to Shinra, we can’t repair it.”

At that, Bria snickered.
   
Wakka glared. “What’s so funny?”
   
“The situation. We are dependent on machines. We become more and more lazy, but when it comes down to it, we are incapable of repairing them when necessary. Don’t you see? Our sins are spreading out across Spira, and soon you shall see Sin returning.”
   
Wakka crossed his arms, wary of this man. No one made light of Sin, even after two years after its defeat, the horror of its reign still fresh in everyone's hearts. Sensing the spite and derision in his foreboding words, he knew this man couldn’t be joking. Bria seriously believed the Al Bhed were at fault.
   
He understood how he felt, but he had long since passed that ignorant point of his life.
   
“...You’re talking about the Al Bhed? Cuz if that’s the case, you’re going too far.”
   
“Are you honestly not convinced that this,” Bria briskly gestures to the parked airship, “scrap heap must stay on the ground? To feel helpless that you are not able to search for Yuna? After all, you’ve already tried everything. You’ve crossed all over this beach, gathering wood just to light a fire… That’s all you can do, right? If she stays lost, that’s destiny. Nobody would be guilty for that. You’re not at fault. In fact, if you look at it this way, you’re being prepared to receive the worst news without feeling responsible.”
   
“I can’t believe you…" What he suggested burned like asinine to his ears, and Wakka fought to keep his ire at bay. He wanted nothing more than to punch the fool. "Ever since she was seven years old, she’s been like a little sister to me. What you’re saying is awful!”
   
“Then move on, Wakka.”
   
“I know what you’re saying, but…”
   
He hesitated. Distraught, he shook his head, not wanting to accept the possible truth in his words. Frustrated at himself and this hopeless situation, Wakka thought of a better idea. He would keep believing, even if there lied no guarantee in his hopes being answered. Even though they found no proof that they were alive, they also found no proof they were dead, either. He jumped onto the pontoon, eager to project his voice.
   
“We gotta do more to find Yuna! Does someone have an idea? I’m all ears!”
   
“First thing’s first. If we want to go out looking for them, we have to fix the only remaining boat we have as soon as possible.” An elderly man interjected, not once ceasing his work on the boat in question.
   
“The Port Kilika shuttle is going to arrive soon. We could ask the captain to search for her.” Another one of the villagers proposed. “And if he refuses, we could ask him to solicit the fishermen from Kilika.”
   
“But where do we begin the search? The ocean is so vast…”
   
More voices murmured amongst themselves, echoing their uncertainty.
   
Then Bria spoke, dispelling the tense atmosphere.
   
“All we know is the storm has moved on from the south to the north. You’re all familiar with the currents that move around Besaid Island, right? Then, you’re not completely helpless.”
   
“I know a boy gifted with this kind of calculation.” Wakka piped up, already jogging in direction of the airship. “I’m going to talk to him.”
   
“Does anyone own a marine map of the region?” Bria said.
   
Letty bolted for the village, citing that he saw one inside the Crusader’s lodge. As if everyone had been waiting on this kind of signal, the others that remained on the beach took up their search again with renewed energy and determination.
   
“You’re used to setting people to work.”
   
Bria turned around to regard Lulu who had spoken to him.
   
“I didn’t do anything.” He shrugged, shaking his head, wanting to take no part in the credit. “Wakka did. A lot of villagers follow him faithfully. Now, I think, he’s beginning to realize just how popular he really is.”
   
Lulu took a moment to observe her husband, who plunged into the water to swim towards the airship. The colossal, red structure stood on the shallows facing the beach, almost as if it were a sentry overlooking the island of busy people. She nodded in agreement, pensive.
   
“It’s been a month since your arrival on the island, Bria. Unless I am incorrect.”
   
“Indeed.”
   
“I believe the time has come for you to explain to us the exact nature of this ‘New Yevon Church’ business, which has sent you here.”
   
“I am a manager of sorts. Aside from the random fiend outbreaks, thefts have occurred in several temples. Because of this, we decided to check all the accounts, taking count of stock and inventory, reimbursing for the losses... That is why I am here. I will surely receive another assignment soon, but in the meantime, I wish to carry on taking part in the chores and caring for the elderly.”
   
“Are you worried about your reputation?”
   
Bria narrowed his eyes, suspicious of her charming smile.
   
“Do you remember your predecessor, the man who was declared missing?” Lulu pressed, folding her arms below her breasts.
   
“Yes. I met him the first day I took up the position.”
   
“Some people have claimed to have seen him haunting the ruins path, in which he had become a monster.”
   
“Is that so?”
   
“According to some witnesses, they go on to say that they can actually hear him lamenting constantly. What’s more, they can even make out a name. ‘Bria, Bria, Bria, Bria, Bria…’” She sang that last sentence in a haunting lilt, testing him, scrutinizing his impassive face.

“Then, they must have been mistaken. Usually, I find that people who come across such creatures suffer from auditory hallucinations.”

“Maybe.” Lulu conceded at that.

But Bria suspected she would not give up so easily, so he decided to play along if not for his curiosity.

“And who would have bumped into this alleged monster? Do you know?”

“Me.”

They exchanged tense smiles, waging a battle of attrition. Before either of them could react, a cry came from the sea. They turned to spot Wakka standing near the Celsius. Neck deep in the water, only his head protruded from the surface. Bria waved at him, and Wakka raised his arms to cross them in the form of an X. Then, he proceeded to pick up an object that had been floating close to him, brandishing it high for everyone to see; a piece of wood painted in yellow varnish. Distress immediately swept across the beach.

Anyone would have recognize the duplicate blitzball trophy that normally ornamented the bow of The Ace.
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 10
Tentative Title:
Of Pain
---

(A/N): I'm really in love with these "pre-story" chapters. I love this gritty, though-provoking perspective of Bevellian soldier Valm and his lady Summoner Kush. I love it all, especially the setting. I think the reason why I find myself breezing through these chapters in particular because I feel Nojima's true, passionate voice in this arc the most. It's like he was itching to tell this side of the Machina War, whereas in the case of Tidus and Yuna... it's like he's dragging his feet through mud, in order to tell the story the fans want to read more. XD

*

Noontime soon came upon them; Valm knew, because of the length of the shadow he projected.

Standing atop an air duct, he took advantage of the aerial view to contemplate the gathering of his surviving comrades. There were a good ninety-five to sixty-three men left beside thirty-two women, and among them the youngest were sixteen years old while the rest were as old as twenty-five. Valm counted himself among them, at twenty-three.

“Look at them.” Sloan boasted with a roguish smile, the eldest of the lot. “So disciplined! I like it.”

“That’s right.” He agreed with a wry smile. “But what about breakfast?”

For the second time in the span of five minutes, Valm’s grumbling stomach incriminated him and his state of voracious hunger. He had not eaten anything since the explosion, the night before, and of course Sloan would notice.

“Couldn’t you have eaten something?”

Valm remembered that the poor man had just said goodbye to his little brother, and lowered his eyes. “Sorry.”

With a curt smile, his friend gave him a hearty slap on the shoulder. “You really have no shame! Go eat somewhere in private and come back when you’re done. It would do us no good if one of our best just up and fainted in the middle of battle just because he couldn’t find the time to eat.”

And with those words, Sloan joined the rest of the Guards in their circle to thank them for their heartening gestures of solicitude and pledges of vengeance during his deceased brother’s obsequies. Valm kept his head bowed, stooping to one knee on the curved metal plating, taking a silent moment to grieve for his fallen brother and sisters, before standing upright with renewed resolve, projecting his voice for all to hear.

“We can’t afford to lose any more Summoners. From now on, there are only two. What will we do, if we can’t protect them?”

‘Nothing,’ Valm swallowed the cold-hard sentiment, ‘because we'll die before we ever let that happen.’

Originally, there were five Summoners stationed on this island. Six months later, the Guards had already lost Mikka and Kanaela, and this morning, Anli, too. Now, only Kush and Ifarnal remained.

While they contributed to the war effort farthest away from Bevelle, protecting the few Summoners with the cultivated talent to command pyreflies and mythical beasts while Alb, the top weapons engineer of Bevelle’s brightest, worked on perfecting his latest invention to use in the war, the Bevellian government continued to mass produce their mechanical weapons. The city appeared to have reached new heights in terms of technological prowess. Armored units and heavy infantry corps were steadfast encroaching upon Zanarkand’s mountainous border, destroying everything in their path.

Day after day, the Guards would receive more news about their spectacular progression. But when it came to the father-daughter pair of heretic sages in Zanarkand, their worst fears were not towards the soldiers who possessed wills of steel or the inventors most diligent in their pursuit of military might, but the people who possessed the same raw talent as them: Summoners.

Regardless of the sheer distance, Yevon and Yunalesca sent assassin after assassin of willing fools to this island, determined to eradicate their best hope of turning the tide in this holy war. To this day, only twenty-eight Guards had been killed during these skirmishes.

“We’re going to form two squads. Line up by ten!” Sloan ordered, and they carried it out immediately. “Lines one to eight: search the perimeter under my command. Kat--.” He pointed to the woman who stood at the forefront of the group. “Form the units!”

“Yes, sir!” She stuck her chest out, pleased to have been called upon.

“Lines nine and ten, you guard the base.” Sloan continued, raising his arm in Valm’s direction where he stands above them as a solemn sentry, his arms folded at his back. “When you meet the ten comrades left on-site, you’ll be under Valm’s command. Your priority: To protect the Summoners. Go!”

Valm sighs, watching everyone disperse. “Alright…”

He jumped down from his vantage point and approached his men.

“We’re going to return to base immediately. Be careful along the way. Kill the enemy as soon as you catch sight of them. Woman or child, I don’t care. No hesitation! We mustn't repeat our mistakes.”

“Yes, sir!” The fifteen Guards saluted him in sharp unison.

They would never forget the day a young boy had washed up on island’s shore, unable to speak. Believing him to be a refugee, the men had brought him into their refectory. There, the child had chosen to detonate himself. The Summoner Mikka met his death in that attack.

Valm and his fellow Guards personally gathered Mikka’s remains, which were scattered by the bomb. Whenever he recalled that day, he could feel the ire boil inside his bloodstream; every time, he would appeal to the divinity of vengeance, finding relief amidst his violent thoughts that it happened to Mikka instead of Kush.

Back at base, he sent a subaltern to fetch him a portion of today’s leftovers. He devoured it while patrolling GATE 0. In accordance to their new change in tactics, he might end up having to close it off; he had commanded young Gekkoh and Romand beforehand to reposition their visiospheres around GATE 1 and 2.

Protected by enormous stone structures, GATE 0 never had to fear bomb assaults. In order to conceal their staunch defense from enemy knowledge, they put together an assembly of steel pipes to support the veil artificial vegetation. From far away, this place looked like a simple forest plot. One would have to pass underneath the shrouded scaffolding to reach GATE 0. Other exits existed in numerous other places within the island, at the outer border of the underground air ducts. From the outside, they took on different shapes in order to blend in with the lush, green landscape, but from the inside, all of them exhibited the same interior design. The ventilator, accessible only from the control room, carried out the primary function of the pipe, but with its razor sharp blades also prevented intrusion. Whenever a Guard had to pass, a control panel would allow for the helix to stop and ensure safe passage, courtesy of the secret code they modified daily.

Valm ventured through the threshold of GATE 0 to the stateroom, a round area spacious enough to house the whole personnel of the island, civilian and soldiers alike, with the exception of the Bedohls. The stone statues, which represented the divinities from which they adopted their names, lined up against the wall. Their sculpted, vacant looks converged at the center of the room where the altar stood. This room hosted sacred, formal ceremonies such as baptisms and weddings, and even business meetings. Behind the altar, a long flight of stairs led to the inner section of GATE 0 and the dormitories where everyone slept; the two exits numbered 1 and 2 were located on either side of the steps.

Valm started to ascend, but then the door to GATE 1 opened, revealing Kush further down the passage. Curious, he backtracked, peering down the narrow, dimly-lit corridor of the basement. This hall led to the armory, as well as the Bedohl workshop and their own segregated housing; further down the path should be where the operating machinery resided.

What could she be doing in a mucky place such as this? She had the right to go there, but…

When Valm opened his mouth to call out to her, he saw a hand reach out to snatch her by the wrist, wrenching her into the embrace of darkness. Alarmed by the urgency of that gesture, he rushed to save her, but then Kush reappeared from the open door she vanished through, wiping her lips behind the vicious swipe of her right glove.

Kush immediately ceased her motions when she sensed Valm’s presence.

“Is everything okay?” He screeched to a halt in front of her, confused by the flash of tearful frustration in her eyes.

She avoided eye contact, saying nothing.

And then Valm noticed the man who exited from the workshop. Ifarnal.

A young and handsome eighteen-year-old Summoner one year Kush’s junior, who sported an impressive, muscular physique developed not from martial arts training or extensive physical labor, but his insufferable love for bodybuilding. He enjoyed putting it on display with skin-tight clothes popular to his native city. And yet his face cut quite the ordinary figure, the kind you would forget right away.

Ifarnal must be conscious of it, because he strove to compensate for it with a well-toned body and flamboyant clothes, donning a bright red dye to color his hair (much to the contempt of the Guards) in order to mask his insecurities. Even the name he chose -- Ifarnal, the divinity of beauty -- sparked a string of criticism and mockery. This particular Summoner did not inspire any respect at all. Valm always thought that Ifarnal could have benefited more with a reputation for being down-to-earth, but despite all of his glaring flaws, he made up one out of the two most important people on this entire island. Over a hundred Guards had sworn to protect him at the cost of their lives. What more could he want? 

Ifarnal could care less about what the other Guards thought of him, unconcerned by their shows of blatant disrespect and disparaging jokes, because the only thing he desired happened to lie in Valm’s possession: Kush’s affections.

He had yet to obtain it, and Valm would make sure it stayed that way.

“Is something wrong?” Valm inquired, ignoring the tension that thickened the air. “The situation couldn’t be any more dire. We don’t have time for petty quarrels. If you have a problem with each other, settle it as quickly as possible.”

Ifarnal opted to ignore him. “The mechanical Bedohl is ready.”

Anyone could see through the thin veil of his motive to change the topic, thus avoiding conflict, but Valm couldn’t pretend to sound displeased by the news.

“Great.”

Ifarnal smiled. “You’ll be even more pleased to know that the Bedohl has already memorized my voice. Do you want me to call it?” Without even waiting for an affirmation, he shouted at the stationary machine to come out. “Bedohl, come here!”

As the armored humanoid contraption emerged from the doorway, standing before the trio in wordless obedience, Ifarnal puffed his chest out with immense pride, as if he had created the false Bedohl himself. As for Kush, she acted fast to hide behind Valm, removing herself from Ifarnal’s line of sight; her body language screaming stay away from me.

But Valm had been too distracted scrutinizing the false Bedohl to comprehend her timid behavior. It stood as tall as her, dressed in muddy-yellow cotton material, a shoddy jumpsuit that provided a hood to obscure its face; a pair of goggles and a hideous gas mask dissimulated its uncanny features. It didn’t look very impressive at first glance, let alone looked capable of slaying a sleeping dog.

“Is that…?”

“It is.” Alb emerged from below the stairs, climbing up to stand beside his creation. “It’s not perfect, yet, however…”

Contrary to the ambiguity of his words, the old man radiated absolute pride.

Out of the corner of his eye, Valm spotted Ifarnal slipping away with a smile that could rival a sly fox. He would have to corner that man for a little discussion later. For now, he decided to focus on the false Bedohl and its questionable state of usefulness.

“It hardly seems robust. Can it fight?”

Valm brandished his sabre, and the Bedohl flinched, surprising him with its reaction time.

“Do you understand what I’m saying?”

The machine nodded, hesitant.

“In accordance with its built-in specifications and speech perimeters.” Alb elaborated with a swell of his chest, confidant.

“In that case, unsheathe!”

It brought out a whip and twirled it around in a pathetic attempt at intimidation, waving the end of its rope in a confused line. Valm scowled, disappointed. ‘What is that? This Bedohl cannot do battle.’ Why would the scientist agree to unveil this… unfinished product so soon without the proper field testing? Valm surmised that maybe their little dispute this morning motivated him to show off his progress sooner.

‘But he doesn’t understand. We do not want it to obey us for the pleasure to watch it give in. We need an effective weapon.’ Valm sighed, embittered by his thoughts.

“All of this is absurd…”

With one clean blow of his sabre, he sliced off the arm which held the whip like it were a practice dummy. Blood gushed out from the amputated limb, and Valm cringed from disgust and surprise.

“I’ll bring it back to the workshop,” Alb said as his way of apology, grasping the malfunctioning Bedohl by the elbow to pull it back. “The final model will make use of a firearm. Chains and whips are problematic; one would need to consider the space around them in order to use such weapons properly.”

“It will never reach the required level of precision to aim correctly.” Valm shot down the idea, sheathing his weapon into its decorated scabbard. “I’d prefer that it use throwing weapons. As for the blood… Is it compulsory? I thought they weren’t alive.”

A scarlet puddle had formed on the ground, painting an insidious, dark pool in the compact soil.

“A ruse, to deceive the enemy. You yourself wondered if it was real just now, right?”

“How many units can you produce?”

“Fifty units in the next three days. Maybe more.” The answer pleasantly surprised him, in which Alb pursed his lips in malcontent. “You wouldn’t know. After all, you haven’t hung around the workshop in quite awhile.”

Apparently, he took offense to the fact Valm didn’t appreciate his hard work and ingenuity enough to visit or provide feedback. Valm ignored his lame attempt at provocation and crossed his arms. “Call them ‘Bedohl workers,’ then. And remove the blood aspect, or change the color, at least. Our enemy won’t be the only ones who’ll be deceived. I don’t want one of our own to think that a comrade has been hurt and take unnecessary risks. From far away, they must look human, but closer, the illusion can be superficial.”

Valm realized that the ultimate soldier he hoped for amounted to a pipe dream. For now, he would have to content himself with a fake Bedohl with an annoying and inconvenient talent for spewing realistic blood.

“Tell us what’s happening out there, Valm.” Kush spoke, reminding him of her presence. “Is the enemy here?”

“I think that’s the case. But Sloan and his men wish to seek and destroy them. To do justice unto his brother, he will do his name honor.”

After all, the name Sloan belonged to the God of vengeance.

“Are we safe?”

“For the time being, yes.” Valm turned to face her, softening his eyes in tender regard. “I would prefer that you hide yourself in a small refuge. Send word to Ifarnal… no, never mind. I’m going to tell him myself. You don’t need to concern yourself with that.”

Without bidding farewell to Alb who busied himself laying the maimed Bedohl down on an operating table, Valm and Kush turned to walk back in the direction of GATE 0, climbing the stairs in awkward silence, exiting out into the communal area.

“Has something happened with Ifarnal?” Valm decided to break the ice.

“Yes, but nothing important. Do not worry, my lord. I shall settle the matter with him.” She smiled to appease him, dismissing the subject altogether with a more somber note. “I am more worried about how to proceed after losing so many of our Summoners… I think the best course of action would be to send us more people to replace them, but do you think that will happen?”

A ship always came to resupply them weapons and provisions every seven days. Even if they were to transport additional personnel to bolster their dwindling defenses, Valm doubted they would agree to stay long. After all, considering their management of this part of the front lines, they still had not received news of recent development. Were their efforts contributing to the fight at all?

“Reinforcements? I don’t think so. According to the rumors, more and more people have begun hiding their gift of the Summoning Arts.”

“Then they will go to Hell.” She smiled again, sweeping her long black hair over her shoulder.

At that blithe answer, Valm understood that she wanted to change the subject.

“Say, Valm, what would happen if someone sent us another Summoner? A woman who is delicate, yet sensual, with a beautiful big bosom…”

He chuckled. “She wouldn’t have any trouble finding volunteers for Aeon Cores.”

“Men are so simple!” Kush exclaimed with a dramatic sigh, the young woman who adopted the Goddess of abundance in name. With her slender figure and sharp, stunning beauty, just like her fellow Summoner, Ifarnal, and his personal taste for aesthetics, she often faced her peers as a victim of their constant teasing.

“You’re right.” He regarded her with a sultry smile. “I am a simple man of simple pleasures. As long as you belong to me, I never find myself in want of more.” 
« Last Edit: January 01, 2017, 03:47:58 am by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 11
Tentative Title:
Of Attrition
---

(A/N): I had fun going through the struggles of Tidus and Yuna cast out at sea; it's slow and grueling, if not a little boring at certain parts, but quite realistic. There's still one more chapter to cover before they reach that mysterious island (Valm-centric chapters notwithstanding). Actually, the first arc of the novel, "Boy's Side," ends after chapter 14, followed by the "Girl's Side" which only covers three chapters. I suppose the former is shared by Tidus and Valm's POV, and the latter is exclusively Yuna. I can't wait to reach those parts and embellish their structural importance. :3

*

The Ace pitched so strongly during the night that Tidus and Yuna strove to keep their balance. They had torn the bed linen to fashion a makeshift rope out of it, tying it around each other’s waist to stay connected. Standing close to the rudder, Tidus attempted to look outside in vain, and dared to venture onto the upper deck while being supported by Yuna. The rain lashed at his face while he squinted into the darkness, and the rope coiled around him tighter, indicating Yuna wanted him to come back.

“I couldn’t see anything!” He shouted once he came closer, dripping with seawater.
   
“We’ll have to wait for the storm to subside. In a few hours, the sun will rise, and then we’ll be able to regain our bearings. And then…” Yuna trailed off, grimacing from the thought: pinpointing the north posed as one problem, but returning to Besaid posed as another. “And maybe we’ll see the island. Don’t worry. Our friends will search for us. From the sky, the Gullwings will find us in no time at all.”
   
“You seem pretty calm about everything,” Tidus said.
   
“I may not look like much, but I’ve grown up on an island! Plus, I’ve experienced all kinds of scary adventures.”
   
“You’re already talking like an old woman,” he said, amused, disparaging her confident boast with a retort of his own.
   
“Oh no, the horror!” She pouted, tempted to stick her tongue out at him.
   
They caught each other’s eye and then they exchanged smiles, stifling their giggles.
   
“I think everything will be okay.” Yuna repeated, if not to reassure themselves, yet Tidus sounded doubtful.
   
“Despite all of our problems?”
   
Suddenly, the ship pitched in between two waves, cutting them short, and Tidus felt his stomach lurch whereas Yuna closed her eyes. He took a step towards her, only to stop short when the hull of the Ace split open with an inhuman whine, losing his balance. He banged his head against the rudder, picking up the scent of gunpowder, before blacking out.

*
   
Tidus opened his eyes, squinting against the sun that had already risen high in the sky. No more breaths of wind, no more clouds, not even a ship in sight. Only a plank survived from the Ace’s remains, barely large to support the weight of one person, of which Tidus found himself resting on.
   
“Stay where you are, don’t move.”

Yuna whispered behind him, and Tidus turned to find her floating shoulder-deep in water, her back facing him. A fiend floated in front of her, an adamantoise with a ravenous row of teeth fixed upon its open mouth, its jagged, sharp shell protruding from the surface. Glassy-eyed and hungry, it emanated the light stench of rot. ‘Great. We’re screwed. What’s it doing all the way out here? I thought these things only dwelled in the Calm Lands…’

“Yuna…”

At the call of her name, she turned around to give him a sideways glance, and Tidus paled at the sight of her, tired and distressed with sunken, dark bags for eyes and shallow, haggard breathing signifying her war with attrition.

‘She had been protecting me this whole time? For how long…?’

The adamantoise still did not move, and Tidus wondered if Yuna had managed to tame it. Then he saw a stick, no, a trident, broken in half and driven into its robust neck, and he imagined the battle Yuna must have waged against the beast, while Tidus had been passed out, acting like baggage that floated in the sea like trash.

“I’m sorry…”

She gave him a weak smile, reassuring him, and then she hunched forward, her eyelids drifting shut.

“...Yuna?”

No response.

She started sinking into the water, and the monster plunged in right after her.

Tidus straightened up on the fragile plank, careful to balance himself on its precarious weight. Remembering the rope coiled tight around his waist, he pulled on it hard, and thankfully Yuna bobbed back into view a moment later, unconscious in the current of the rolling waves. He moved fast to wrench her near him despite the adamantoise looming over her, and he hauled her in by the skin of his teeth, sheltering her in his arms. Their refuge couldn’t keep them afloat forever, and the beast hovered ever closer, sensing the poor state of their flimsy lifeline.

Tidus noted its vacant look, its glistening yellow fangs and its putrid red tongue hanging behind them. And in his arms, he felt Yuna’s body, so delicate that he thought he might break her. This reminded him of another time, a happier moment, two years ago, where he cradled her in his embrace, her body so light it almost felt like they were floating in a sea of stars.

Their first kiss, at Lake Macalania.

This memory evoked a powerful emotion, a roar of strength he never knew he possessed.

“I’ll never forgive you!” He shouted, only to stop and wonder-- ‘Who am I yelling at? The fiend? Myself?’

He didn’t know, but he didn’t care. “I’ll protect her no matter what!”

Careful to straighten up on the plank, Tidus tried to untie the rope that connected them. While he struggled with the heavy, soaked fabric, the adamantoise inched closer, close enough to prop its flat chin on the plank supporting them; at this rate, they were going to topple in the water.
Tidus scowled, scavenging the strength to leap onto the adamantoise’s back, grasping its shell on all fours. Ignoring the pain of its jagged spikes digging into his limbs, he forced the nape of its neck to turn over, snatching the broken half of the trident Yuna had used to subdue it. He sat up to raise it high above his head with both hands, before piercing its head straight through. Suddenly, it slid off the edge of the drooping plank until its head disappeared within the water along with the trident.

A foul smell rose from the wound, followed the spillage of repugnant liquid.

‘Now’s the time to escape.’ No sooner did he think that, another creature broke through the surface near them; a shark covered in reptilian scales. The shark leapt over them to disappear at the other side where the carcass floated, followed by a high-pitched whistling like that of a whale.

‘It must be calling for others…’

Several creatures from the same species emerged soon enough, confirming his suspicions, converging on the head of the dead adamantoise where they began to devour it. Tidus watched them from on top of their meal’s back, mesmerized by the morbid scene.

‘I have to keep them away from Yuna, before they set their sights on her, too!’

But where else could he move when the ocean surrounded him? Were they trapped here, with nowhere to go?

‘It’s make it or break it…’

Bending over to recover the trident from the tortoise’s head, Tidus slid down the carcass into the water so he could wade back to the plank where he left Yuna still unconscious. He coiled the rope tighter around her waist, the very same one he tried to get rid of, grateful for the fact he couldn’t, and climbed onto the plank, teetering from its swaying motions while he pulled Yuna into his arms. He needed to carry Yuna back onto the fiend’s shell, even though he couldn’t figure out how to move from their makeshift raft.

Tidus wondered if he had been better off staying on the half-devoured carcass. Where were they supposed to go from here? Well, he couldn’t back down here. He had to keep plowing forward.

Inching closer to the water’s edge, he crouched on his feet with Yuna cradled in his arms and took a deep breath, concentrating all of his energy into his legs. Tidus leapt only to misjudge the distance, miscalculating the weight difference. Instead of touching his feet onto the curved, jagged shell, he fell straight into the water.

Something pulled him down, preventing him from floating to the surface, and it took him a few seconds to comprehend what happened. He remembered the rope, which still connected to Yuna, and floated upright to discover that the rope had managed to wrap around one of the sharks.

It struggled for a moment to swim against the weight of two people, before finding the strength to return to its spot beside the carcass of its meal.

Tidus took the chance to sink, hoping Yuna would float to the surface. The shark resumed its lunch without paying attention to its unwitting passengers. He skirted around its belly, praying its fellow kind wouldn’t notice him, and pulled Yuna in, dragging her up with him into open air. He gasped for air, sucking in the sweet, sweet oxygen, and checked to see if Yuna’s air passage still worked unimpeded, before wrapping the length of the rope around the shark’s dorsal fin.

The first step proved to be a success, surprisingly enough. Now, he had to climb onto its back without pissing it off. But how will it react? Tidus didn’t know enough about this particular species to predict its behavior, but he couldn’t let that stop him. Struggling to mount the creature with Yuna in tow, he froze for a long moment when he felt it thrash in place and sighed in relief after it ceased its movements, too focused on devouring its lunch to buck them off. He clung to the other fin, the one which split the sea surface, to balance himself, and paused.

How to attach Yuna onto it, he wondered...

Pulling the rope in to bring her closer, he attempted to lift her up and wedge her onto its back, but despite all his efforts she kept slipping off. There’s no other way around it: she had to hold onto the fiend herself.

“Yuna? Can you hear me? Yuna, I’ll get the upper hand on this, don’t worry, but I need you to wake up.”
   
Another shark arose from the waves to scale the air above them in a smooth arc, blowing a long, gleeful whistle. In a flash of inspiration, Tidus beamed, lifting two fingers to his mouth to whistle loud and clear, the sound so sharp Yuna awoke with a start.
   
“Tidus?! Where are you?”
   
“I’m right here, next to you.”
   
She raised her head to blink at him, relief washing over her. “What… happened?”
   
“Fiends are surrounding us, and I’m trying to control our mount. But don’t worry, I got a good handle on this one. It’s just a matter of time. There’s no way we’ll end up as shark snacks, not while I’m alive!”
   
Despite obvious proof of the contrary, she acquiesced with a tired sigh.

*

Eventually the shark moved away from the carcass, now replete of its meal after the rest of its kind had come and gone, and took to swimming just beneath the water’s surface, drifting in silence.

“I wonder where it’s taking us…”

“Wherever it is, I would like for it to go there,” Yuna said, pointing at a dot in the horizon.

They had kept their voices low whenever they felt the need to talk, not wanting to exacerbate the fiend and lose their only sliver of security. Now Tidus squinted at the indecipherable spot she indicated, barely able to make out its lush, verdant surroundings.  “Is that… Besaid?”

“I’m not sure. But any island will always be better than being stranded on the back of a shark.”

“Wait, we’re drawing away from it.” His voice rose in panic, as the shark started swimming in the opposite direction, picking up speed. “And quickly.”

Even with the weight of two full-grown passengers clinging onto its dorsal fin, the shark swam unimpeded due to its colossal size; next to Tidus with his small, skinny stature, it appeared three times bigger, and he tried not to let that intimidate him.

“Hey!”

Of course, it did not respond.

Tidus sighed. “Well, I don’t think I have a choice…”

Hefting the broken trident in one hand, he jabbed the shark on the side of its head, straight in the cheek, hoping this would cause it to avert its course. “And don’t you dare go under!”

If the shark sank too much under the water, Tidus would be forced to start rearing it beneath its stomach. Besides, he didn’t want to shed any more blood than he had to, because the sight of it darkening the water in murky red... somehow didn’t sit well with him. He hated it. And also, he might need to slide down to swim by the fiend’s side in order to steer it, even though he really didn’t want to, since it had already reached a considerable speed too fast and tireless for him to keep up.

Before Tidus could even think about the problems of crossing into deeper depths, and the dangers of delving into such dangerous waters, a long, violent shiver of pain wracked the shark’s body, before it veered to the right, in direction of the faraway island.

“Forgive us…” Yuna called out to it, stroking its smooth, sleek, rubber-like skin.

He glanced at her, surprised. Tidus didn’t feel guilty at all, because sharks only knew one rule: to kill or be killed. Every living being in Spira followed that rule without question, and of course, Tidus adopted that same philosophy soon after being marooned in this cold, merciless world. He had to act cruel towards anything that posed a threat to his life. After all, Spira’s inhabitants were subjected to harsher living conditions.

Who else would have asked for this fiend’s forgiveness? Only Yuna, the one true treasure in this world, and so he reinforced the vow he had already sworn a thousand times over: to cherish her and protect her for as long as he lived.

He turned over to face her, seeing her lie flat on her stomach while her arms and legs were wrapped around its back, and felt the tickle of a smile pinch his cheeks. He remembered the day he first met her, watched a young, beautiful, gentle woman summon a ferocious, magical beast-- her first Aeon, Valefor.

At the time, Tidus had never dealt with a monster or wild beast of that size and power, not that he could recall, at any rate, but he understood then that if Yuna could control a being so powerful, he could never hope to live a normal life beside her. But then, a new thought crept into mind, which warmed his heart. He knew of another side of her nobody else could possibly know, the “normal” side of her people were unfamiliar with, because they were too busy fawning over her public image as a Summoner most serious and kind, but stubborn and inflexible, too.

‘But me, I understand her like nobody else.’

“...What are you think about?”

Yuna spoke up after a long silence, curious, and he blushed, embarrassed that she caught him zoning out.

“Why do you ask?”

She smiled, amused. “You’re smiling.”

“Really? Nah. Must be the fatigue moving the muscles of my face.”

Eager to dismiss her perceptive, flattered by her attention on him, he turned towards their destination. The small island appeared close enough for a hill to stand visible at the center, along with the unmistakable stretch of greenery that pretty much covered everything. Besaid or not, at least they would be able to find food and water. Tidus let loose a little laugh, tickled by a sense of deja vu.

“What?”

He grinned. “Nothing.”

“You--.” She pouted, unable to stifle her laughter. “You’re such a secretive little thing!”
« Last Edit: January 11, 2017, 04:35:25 pm by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.

Danko Kaji

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  • Posts: 75
  • One step at a time.
  • Location: Antioch, California
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Chapter 12
Tentative Title: Of Sacrifice
part one of two
---

(A/N): Jesus, this might be the longest chapter, yet! It basically covers the climax of Valm's story, before the final epilogue-y Chapter 14. Two more chapters left to "The Boy's Side!" It was quite a ride, I'm pretty excited to cover it in its entirety. I suppose Valm and Tidus were supposed to parallel each other, and that in itself is pretty foreboding.

Overall, I enjoy Valm's arc. It's very gritty, dark, and enlightening.

*

Sloan and his troops managed to flush four of the enemy out.
   
They slaughtered the first three, but caught the last one alive for interrogation, in which they proceeded to drag him to the east side of the island. On the beach, Sloan and about twenty of his subordinates were surrounding their prisoner, whom they buried in the sand from the neck down. He looked almost comical, shouting up at them in youthful, trembling fury.
   
“Kill me! Just get this over with!”
   
All of the agents of Yevon reacted this way. Whenever a soldier realized only death awaited them, they outright refused to answer any further questions and persisted in demanding to be killed. Sloan sighed, annoyed. He knew he would squeeze nothing out of this one, but the Guard could not leave his post without receiving new instructions. Thus, the long wait.
   
Ever since they moved into this Bevellian outpost, they had been leading their battle in a passive way. For Sloan, who had dedicated his sabre to the Goddess of War and had taken on the name of the God of Vengeance, this situation frustrated him. He had suffered in silence while waiting for his brother to bind him as his first Aeon Core.
   
But Anli died, leaving Sloan behind to stew in his hate. He used to hate his younger brother before, for small, inconsequential things normal between siblings, at times a smooth talker, but also prone to moments of indecisiveness, who bore a brotherly love as great as Sloan harbored for him. When he learned that Anli possessed the gift, he couldn’t have felt more proud…
   
‘Now that he’s not here anymore, whom should I protect?’
   
The Summoner who stood as the head of Bevelle had declared the Mage of Zanarkand, his daughter, and their supporters heretics, but for some reason did not make the official decision to excommunicate them. Why? According to the rumors, Bevelle intended to use them for their own gain by exploiting the two summoners’ charisma to win over Zanarkand and lead the city into abandoning their technological weapons to rely on their own fledgling army of Summoners, which would pave the way for Bevelle’s victory.

Sloan thought the reasoning sounded twisted. He could never spare those who renounced the Gods. Anyone who rejected their faith were to be eliminated as quickly as possible. That had been their goal since the moment their elite unit were stationed to fight on this island. But the father - daughter pair of mages understood the true nature of their enemy’s plan, and sent out their young, delusion hopefuls to carry out mass murder. And then the thought occurred to him: ‘Is my government manipulating me to do the same thing?’

Even children knew that Gods were simply imaginary, an artifice of imagination. Yet, anyone could picture them in whatever image they so wished. This common and widespread illusion tightened the ranks of their army, to the extent that any man loyal enough to the cause were ready to give their very lives for it.

‘Yes, this is brainwashing.’

“Do we begin the questioning?” Kat spoke up, interrupting his musings.

“He won’t answer us.” Sloan scoffed, before reconsidering the idea; perhaps the young man would be more receptive if he opened the subject with his beloved Summoner princess. “Did you meet the Sorceress? People say that she’s in peerless in beauty. Is that right?”

The prisoner remained silent, his eyes lost in the distance while he wore an eerie smile.

“You’re nothing to her, you know that? She’s just using you and your comrades because you’re disposable. Once you’ve outlived your usefulness, she will abandon you! Nobody will come to save you!”

For an instant, the soldier raised his eyes to the Heavens.

‘...what’s this? Why is he doing that? Will reinforcements come from the sky?’

Sloan couldn’t see anything, but he knew that flying apparatuses had joined their ranks. This kind of weapon could turn the tide, he knew this for certain.

“Kill me.” He repeated.

“I see.” Sloan paused for dramatic effect, looking out into the turbulent ocean. “The tide is rising, you know. Soon enough, your head will be submerged in the waves. You won’t be the first one to try breathing underwater, but nobody has managed to do it. Do you think you will succeed where the others have failed?”

“Y-You’re a monster…”

“One of your comrades killed my little brother. I know you didn’t do it; you could have, but you know what, you might as well have. The problem, you see, is that you came here to kill him and the other Summoners. You won’t get off so lightly. You will die… but slowly. You will leave this world while cursing it, suffering from pain. After that, do me the pleasure of turning into a fiend. Then, I want you to come find me. The next time I see you, I promise I’ll tear you into pieces so I can throw them into a fire.”

Sloan hadn’t even finished talking yet when the man burst out into hysterics. A soldier stepped forward to silence him, but then the captive fell silent again, directing his gaze to the sky above, as if following a supersonic sound. Everyone did the same, and then they heard it: an unfathomable, horrendous sound that rumbled the sky. And then a stout, loud whistle rang from the sand, courtesy of their motionless prisoner.

An airship appeared from the opposite coast of the island, looming over the top of the mountain where the Luchera statue resided.

This would be the first time Sloan had ever witnessed an aircraft with his own eyes; a triangular object that soared in the air, very noisy and slow. What it lacked in speed, it definitely made up for in sheer size and the contents of its cargo. Upon arriving at the beach, various bright lights lit up and the machine started its gradual descent, kicking up a whirlwind of sand sharp enough to blind those in proximity.

Sloan and his comrades acted in haste to find shelter behind the cover of vegetation. When the commanding officer risked a look over his shoulder, he saw that a rectangular shell hanging from the underbelly of the craft ejected, and a battalion of soldiers zipped down from the opening on a set of thick, secure ropes.

Gripping his weapon in hand, Sloan turned his back on them and sprinted for the beach.

He noticed the enemy came equipped with bags on their backs, made with a complex net of strings that contained a ball; a bomb like the one Valm had described to him. Fifteen to twenty infantrymen rappelled near their buried comrade; the first one to land on the beach wasted no time to throttle him where he stood, and Sloan watched his head tip over, soaked in blood.

In the face of such brutal interrogation, the prisoner had resisted bravely, like a great warrior. If they had fought in the same camp, they would have gotten along well.

“And yet…”

Sloan murmured, trailing off under the watchful eyes of his men. They were awaiting an order. He must look strong, for them. “The last time I checked, any life worth living could never be as terrible as that.” He laughed in bitter humor, and then he immediately become serious. “Return to base and report to Valm, then place yourself under his orders. Kat will assume command of the group until then.”

Then, Sloan brandished his sabre in direction of the enemy, releasing a wild howl. “After my death, let Valm take over the Sloan name!”

‘After all, he has always been worthier of this name than me.’

*

They were intercepted before they could even reach base. The aircraft had deposited enemies throughout every mile and yard of the island. Exhausted, Kat knew that she would meet her death very soon, but she felt no fear. She had been waiting for this moment ever since her beloved Summoner’s death.

“Kanaela…”

Despite her gift in the Summoning Arts, Kanaela had been killed six months prior, soon after Mikka, before she had the chance to fulfill her objective. And now that she no longer lived, what were the chances for Kat to become an Aeon Core?

Kushu would choose Valm, and the Guard would produce an impressive creature. That left Ifarnal, but who did he have his heart set on? Everyone knew he harbored romantic feelings for his fellow Summoner, Kush, but the young woman always rejected his advances. Besides, Kat doubted a Summoner could produce an adequate Aeon Core. It would be such a huge waste.

She only had one option, then, and yet, even if Ifarnal were to choose Kat, she doubted they would be able to form a genuine soul bond. She had heard the others say that a Summoner and their chosen Aeon Core must share powerful mutual feelings for each other in order for the ceremony to bear fruit.

With Kanaela, everything would have been easy. But with Ifarnal…

Offering his life to the promised one, that’s one thing, but to sacrifice himself for a complete stranger whose only desire to bond originated from her thirst for vengeance, that’s another issue entirely. How she regretted Kanaela’s death! If only she had been strong enough to protect her, quick-witted enough to anticipate the attack…

A set of explosions ripped her away from her thoughts.

‘They’re launching an attack!’

If that massive aircraft still harbored more soldiers to overwhelm them, the Guards had zero chance of survival. Kat stood straight, undaunted; she lost her chance to become an Aeon Core, but at least she could still be the arm of vengeance.

‘O Sloan, give me the strength to lay our enemies into the dirt!’

She found courage in the happy memories she shared with Kanaela, the days they spent side by side, soaking up the sunlight when they bathed in the swimming hole, building lop-sided sand castles at the beach until the sun set, passing the time shut inside the shelter in boredom with random games. Kat snaked in and out of the trees, sticking close to the foliage until she reached a hilltop. From here, she could see the entrance to base.
Beside the dented, battered GATE 3, Kat recognized the cadavers of her comrades Gekkoh and Romand. They didn’t die in vain, succeeding to drag several more of their enemies to the Farplane with them. A familiar sword jutted out from the body of one of them, a beautiful young woman.

Kat bit back her anguished cry and hurried to GATE 0.

A gaping breach awaited her, as well as the stench of blood, and she cringed, startled by the object that struck her back. She jerked around to search for the perpetrator, and found nothing but forest and wilderness. A ball rolled by her foot, and then she heard a pronounced click, followed by a dilation of fiery white light.

Her last thought before the scorching blast of air consumed her:

‘Will I flower in the world beyond?’
« Last Edit: January 20, 2017, 01:31:23 am by Danko Kaji »
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.