Author Topic: Rebirth ~ The Price of Eternity [A Fan Restoration Project]  (Read 1425 times)

Danko Kaji

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Re: Rebirth ~ The Price of Eternity [A Fan-written Restoration]
« on: December 31, 2016, 05:25:59 am »
Chapter 10
Tentative Title:
Of Pain
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(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.