FFX-3 Speculation and Developments > FFX-3 Speculation and Developments

Rebirth ~ The Price of Eternity [A Fan Restoration Project]

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Danko Kaji:
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.

Danko Kaji:
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.

Danko Kaji:
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.

Danko Kaji:
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.

Danko Kaji:
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...’

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