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Messages - Danko Kaji

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1
Chapter 12
Tentative Title: Of Sacrifice
part two of two
---

(A/N): Had to split this into two parts, because I breached the maximum word count.

*

Valm had been searching for Kush, but he couldn’t find her.

In a span of the last few hours, the stateroom transformed into a countryside hospital, but ever since the enemy broke through their defenses, it felt more like a battlefield, with the lingering, pungent stench of waste, death, blood, and rotten corpses absolutely unbearable. The souls were fluttering in iridescent fragments above the crude gravesite that housed his fallen allies, spreading a pasty, haunting glow.

An explosion resounded outside, tearing his eyes away from the gross scene, and he heard a voice shout Kat’s name. Not long afterwards, another voice confirmed her death. Nobody could spare the time to take care of their wounded. Although the Guards were an elite unit, their weapons were outdated; they couldn’t even hope to match Zanarkand’s troops in artillery, let alone their technological progression.
   
“Despite everything…”

‘The time has come. You and I couldn't be any more united.’
   
Valm would become an Aeon Core, as he saw no other way to turn the situation around.
   
The stairs, which normally led to the living quarters, had been scorched through, the walls almost collapsed to the point of no passage. A bomb must have been responsible for this damage. He stepped over the corpses of the men under his charge, and sent a prayer to Guard, the God of the Farplane, to take care of their spirits. When he walked to the stairs, he turned around to look behind him, feeling ashamed for the relief he felt that he couldn’t find Kush’s body among them, and proceeded upstairs.
   
Behind him, a trio of Zanarkand soldiers burst into the room, just as the door to GATE 1 opened passage for an awkward, bumbling, almost comical procession of mechanical Bedohls in their baggy suits and gas masks to proceed through. They spilled into the room at a snail’s pace, brandishing their chain whips, and the enemy opened fire.
   
Valm couldn’t understand it. Alb had demanded three more days to complete his project. After three years of research, what would three more days accomplish? Think of the devil, and he shall come; Alb staggered behind his creations, appearing to be on his last legs.
   
“Valm! I’m leaving the workshop. Sorry…”
   
He had no choice but to acquiesce, although grudgingly.
   
“Come back here!” Alb ordered the Bedohls with a hand signal.
   
“No. What are you doing? They must fight.” Valm exclaimed at once, vexed.
   
“The way they are, they would only get in your way…”
   
Another explosion resounded in the stateroom, announcing the arrival of more enemies. Alb and his Bedohls headed for the emergency exit, and Valm started to ascend the stairs again. Just before he could cross the inner gate, he turned around to look one last time despite the fact he knew lingering would only waste time. He didn’t think he could outrun them, nor did he want them nipping at his heels. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the macabre sight where the enemy trampled over spilled blood and scattered corpses, and the wilting flowers of the altar, desecrating the funeral light of the departed souls.
   
One of them managed to spot him. “You’re running away! Coward!”
   
A young man charged at Valm with sabre in hand, and Valm deliberated for a split second. He wanted to conserve ammunition, and he felt confident he could outmatch him in a contest of swords, so he unsheathed his sabre.
   
“Bring it on, you son of a heretic!”
   
They clashed blade for blade, and Valm shoved him back with a large arc of his sword, striking his wrist to disarm him, before slashing him straight across. He sensed the edge of his sword slice deep into his enemy’s side, reaching as far down as his navel, until he pulled it back with a vicious flick. This poor fool leapt at him with too many openings, and Valm had the advantage of high ground; it took very little effort to strike him down. He managed to steal a glimpse of the injury he inflicted before the man toppled backwards into the void.

Satisfied, Valm turned around to continue onwards to his original destination, GATE 0, before the soul of his latest victim returned as a fiend to haunt him. And then he faltered at the chorus of cries and bloody murder resonating down below. He whipped around, startled, snatching glimpses of mechanical Bedohls lying motionless on the ground, eking out dark red fluid that looked suspiciously like blood. He had never stopped to think of those machines as humans, but if they had souls... He took pity upon them.

What happened next shocked him into clarity: the mechanical Bedohls gathered around their injured comrades, helping them to stand. Valm thought of the workers who were forced to remain in the workshop for days on end, working overnight, sometimes cutting through breaks and mealtimes until he scarcely saw them socialize with the others.

They eventually slipped from his mind, the engineers who always wore their hideous, strange jumpsuits and thick goggles. How did he not realize this before?

‘They’re human…’

Alb never succeeded to create artificial intelligence, let alone cybernetic soldiers. He constructed mechanical Bedohls out of the very men who worked under him, and in the end used them as expendable tools to ensure his own escape.

Valm clenched his jaw, descending the stairs with a slow step to his walk.

“Alb!”

The elder man had already disappeared, but several of his fake mechanical Bedohls -- human beings disguised as machines, not to lure the enemy, but to fool their very own allies -- raised their eyes in direction of the Guard.

“Tell this to your cowardly master: Alb can run wherever he wants, but I will find him and I will make him pay for his treason!”

To throw out mechanical soldiers in front of the enemy instead of sacrificing human lives, a utopia that fueled his drive to fight, herein lies the reality of that dream… Despite the fact Valm enlisted as a soldier in the war for Bevelle’s cause, he had dreamt of a world where he would never need to fight. None should ever learn of this innermost, secret wish.

The mechanical Bedohls broke their formation as a gesture of awkward apology, and answered him in their own strange language.

“Be quiet!” Valm lashed out, disturbed by the fact they chose to communicate with him in that… alien way. And then the memory of Kush returning to the workshop through GATE 1 pushed into his mind, reminding him of his goal.

What could she be doing over there?

“Valm! They’re in the living quarters!”

A familiar voice brought him back to the present and the dire state of things, and he raised his eyes to see one of his men emerge from GATE 0, covered in blood. “The Summoners, hurry…” He managed to rasp out, before collapsing to the ground.

‘Kush!’

The living quarters were similar to a labyrinth of corridors, which led to bedrooms, the most fortified area within the base. How could the enemy have accessed it?

‘Alb…’

Only Alb could have led them there, as another insurance of escape.

Blinded by rage, Valm rushed for Kush’s room.

In the long, narrow corridor, he spotted an enemy who sported long hair, probably a woman, who progressed towards the quarters while scraping her shoulder along the wall. She appeared to be injured, and Valm stole the opportunity to slip behind her, sliding the edge of his sabre over the front of her neck to slash it open, before trampling over her cadaver without a second thought, kicking her in the ribs for good measure.

An unnecessary, cruel act, he knew, but he didn’t care. The war and its endless wave of battles were affecting him for the worse, and the wrath and lingering resentment of the slain were already spreading their toxic influence in his soul, as well as their own. He might as well be possessed by a fiend.

“Protect me, Luchera!” Valm exclaimed, setting forth for the next corridor.

In the heat of battle, only one who maintained their composure could hope to survive, and he would have to remember that the moment he met up with Kush again. He had to be Valm, the Guard she admired and loved.

The living quarters for the Summoners were located deeper within the labyrinth, where ten doors led into their section. Kush’s bedroom had been labeled number three, and once he arrived in front of the door, he hesitated. Would she even want to talk to him? Ever since he had walked in on that possible altercation between Kush and Ifarnal, the air had deteriorated between them.

He recalled how his lover tried to reach out to him, and he had pushed her away.

“May I talk to you?”

“Later. My men are fighting.”

She gave him a thin smile. “Really…?”

“Stop! Right now is not the time!”


Valm gritted his teeth in regret, dropping his forehead against the door. Any fortress would fall under the command of a distracted commander. No need to go through the trouble of planting a traitor for that.

“Give me a chance to redeem myself…”

Lifting his head from the door now, he hit the panel board three times, according to the signal. The dial lighted up, and on the other side of the partition, he could hear a bell ring out, but no one inside reacted to it. The enemy must not have reached this area, yet, much to his faint relief… However, this place still reeked of blood and death like the stateroom.

An unpleasant combination of gunpowder and blood, mixed with the cloy scent of souls…

‘Kush…’

Valm slammed his fist into the board again, except only one time. The door did not move. Nobody replied.

Treading past doors four and five, he stopped before number six. Ifarnal’s bedroom. He knocked on the door and waited, and then a ball rolled to his feet from the shadows of the cramped walls.

‘A bomb…!’

His first reflex demanded that he send the ball back with a kick, but he feared the impact would activate it. And so Valm jumped back to sprint in the opposite direction, desperate to reach door number ten and cut into the right, where the hallway merged into a bend. Valm barely had the time to react before the radius of the explosion flooded the chamber, and he threw himself against the wall, avoiding the stream of combustion.
The resulting noise did not drown out the sound of Ifarnal’s scream. He had opened the door to his room one second before the detonation, and Valm swore, leaving behind his hideout. He found the enemy standing at the other end of the hallway opposite of him, close to door six and steadily closing in on it. Brandishing his sabre, Valm met the enemy headlong, shouting to Ifarnal as he passed the room.

“Close it!”

Now Valm faced three of the enemy, whom were moving in a single file line. The narrow corridor impeded on their progress, and so the man in the lead, a dark-haired teenager, raised his firearm for a shot. Valm dove to avoid its trajectory, rolling to stand upright again, running under the force of momentum to point the tip of his sabre at his opponent’s throat.

He slashed it without missing a beat. His two comrades appeared younger, and much less determined to forge ahead. Covered in blood and sweat, Valm read fear in their eyes, and his bloodthirsty glare cut quite an intimidating air, causing them to bump into each other and lose balance. He stooped to pick his fallen enemy’s gun and fired, watching as the bullet pierced through them both and they collapse in a dead heap.

“I can’t manage to close the door-- It’s broken!”

Ifarnal dashed out into the corridor, in a state of panic until the scene he walked into made him grimace.

“Evacuate!”

But the Summoner did not move.

“Where is Kush? She doesn’t respond when I knock on her door.”

Ifarnal stole a nervous glance at his room. Stroking his chin in thought, he eventually motioned for the man to follow him. He had little personal effects to his room, with the walls laid bare except for a mattress half-concealed behind a wooden partition. Ifarnal seemed less concerned by the state of his room than the look on Valm’s face.

“She’s in the back, but be careful… To be honest, I need to talk to you, before you…”

But Valm wouldn’t listen to him. “Kush!”

He rushed to the four poster bed, and kicked aside the folding screen. She lied there half naked and asleep, and Valm loathed to piece the puzzle together.

“Valm, wait…” Ifarnal stepped forward to reel him back to the present. “This is the only method I know. There exist other ones, but I haven’t been taught to use them.”

Shutting his mind from reason, Valm jerked around to punch him in the face, his rage quenched for a fleeting moment when he watched him fall to the ground, and then he turned back around to grab Kush by her shoulders, shaking her awake. She peeled her eyes open a fraction and smiled up at him, lost in a daze.

“What happened to you?”

She did not answer. He tried to have her sit up, but faltered at the sight of her glassy look.

“What the… Kush?”

“Valm!”

He whipped around just in time to discover the enemy had ventured into the bedroom, a man he thought to have eliminated.

The Zanarkand soldier brandished his sabre, raising it high above his head for a vicious blow. Valm faced him unarmed; if he chose to parry, the sword might redirect and hit Kush. He had no time to think. He bent his knees in preparation for a lunge, intending to tackle him down, but someone else beat him to the punch. The man’s head toppled from his shoulders, rolling on the ground in a bloody geyser and leaving the decapitated body to fall into Valm’s arms.

A mechanical Bedohl emerged from the doorframe, rewinding the whip he just used.

Ifarnal stood upright and spoke to the Bedohl, communicating in its disgusting language, and then they skirted Valm who knelt there in shock, surrounding Kush in concern. They situated her on the edge of the mattress, positioning her upright while she still appeared dazed. When the Bedohl slapped her, Valm wanted to spring for its throat, but Ifarnal snatched him by the waist before he could wrap his hands around his jugular, holding him back with all of his strength. And Kush finally awoke after the second slap.

The Bedohl removed its goggles and mask, revealing a head full of hair. Valm recognized him from somewhere…

Oh, he remembered him now: one of the Bedohls who always carried Kush’s palanquin. He said something, and, to Valm’s utter astonishment, Kush answered him with startling fluency. But she did nothing to cover her naked body, nor acknowledge her lover and Guard with a single glance.

‘O Sloan, who should I kill first?’

This had to be a conspiracy against him, a trick of the mind. The battle must have deteriorated his senses, ruining his ability to comprehend even the simplest of things. There had to be a reason for all this betrayal. Finally, Kush turned towards him, as if she just noticed his presence. He read astonishment, then confusion, and she hastily wrapped her chest behind the sheet with a meek smile.

2
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?’

3
Here's the link to the aforementioned article:
http://www.technobuffalo.com/2016/11/10/final-fantasy-producer-discusses-final-fantasy-xvi-and-final-fantasy-x-3/

Apparently, the possibility of FFX-3 has been officially tweeted since November 10, 2016. I was both excited and afraid in light of the news. XD

It might not be in three years time, or even five, but until their major players finish FFXV, FFVII remake, and KHIII, they won't be touching that title. And who knows if they'd rather do FFXVI first? It makes me wonder what changed SQ's mind; it's been 3 years since releasing the novel and audio drama... Or are they keeping the option open to get a read on their fans, like they did for the FFXIII series? There's so much uncertainty and skepticism at this point, I don't know how to feel about this. If anything, I don't trust that they would give the potential FFX-3 storyline justice.

and I'm not saying that out of bias that my FFX-3 fanfic will trounce whatever plot they'll cook up, I'm just saying

4
FFX-3 Speculation and Developments / Re: Final Fantasy X-2.5 : The Truth
« on: January 12, 2017, 06:18:52 pm »
The French to English translation is not available as an ebook, (but you're more than welcome to compile it as an ebook yourself; I know another user did). And it's not uploaded on any other sites such as AO3 and FF.Net.

As for my aim of the Fan Restoration Project: yes, it is both a polish of the story, and at certain parts a tweak (such as exploring unanswered/vague plot points or details) to allow fans to at least tolerate it. At least, that's what I would want from such a thing, thinking as a fan. Now that you mention an ebook format, yes! Why not? I wouldn't mind it as an ebook at all! But I'm horribly versed in the realm of ebook, so if I can't figure it out, I might ask someone who does know how to do it for me. I do definitely plan to upload it on FF.Net and AO3 for public viewing and fan discussion. My main motivating factor for sharing it is so that everyone can have access to this story (without needing to go through a rabbit hole, to quote you.)

I feel you. Plus, it's harder on organization and bookmarking, too.

5
FFX-3 Speculation and Developments / Re: Final Fantasy X-2.5 : The Truth
« on: January 11, 2017, 04:58:30 pm »
And please don't get me wrong here, I actually like your restoration, but the main problem is, you have done this with your own words. So what we have is a translation from a French translation of a japanese book into English, including your own version which will even differ more from the original. That's the only reason I'm a little divided here.

Wow, you don't mince words, do you? XD

Honestly, I am well aware of the fact my restoration will never be like the "official" novel, and that point did cause me to drop the ball on this... Many fans are rejecting this form of media as canon, and frankly, I believe my restoration is unwanted and unnecessary. However, it is a FAN Restoration. I'm embarking on it for myself, to better swallow and digest this story as canon, because I want to. I am canon trash, after all. I don't want to run away from it. I want to understand why Nojima decided to go for this sordid horror love story. If I were someone who was reading the restoration, not writing it, I would like to see it; I'm sure there are others who feel that way.

But yes, when I do publish it after I complete it, I will heavily emphasize and I mean heavily drive the point home it's a fan restoration, not a fanfic or a AU divergence. I will include everyone who participated in it, the translators, the editors, everyone. I will not take credit where credit is not mine. I simply want this (my interpretation) to be accessible, even if many haters and skeptics alike point out it's not the official product. I just want to share it.

I see the novel as like a skeleton, and my restoration is the meat and flesh on top of it. I'm doing my best not to outwardly change anything; the most I'm doing is rewriting dialogue and scenes to make more sense, or flow better. There was an actual line I included in Chapter 1 that wasn't in the novel, from Lulu... I plan to remove it, because it wasn't meant to be there. Otherwise, the chapters you see me post here are not finalized by any means. Think of it as a raw copy, or a second draft. I do plan to go over them again at a later time.

Now, moving on from that...

On the subject of the "Deus Sex Machina," I honestly don't know what to tell you. I'm not entirely convinced that Bevellian Summoners commit explicit sex, only that they form the bond through intimacy. It's infuriatingly vague about it; I dread to imagine how I'm going to interpret that part. But yes, the flow is okay to a point, and then everything in story quality goes downhill. Very confusing, very... lacking. But at the same time, because it has been translated twice through, I agree with you that the novel was written in complicated Japanese, on top of being a complicated story.

Yeah, I noticed the typos and such, too; I wasn't in charge of that process. XD But my friend did the best she could! They both did, translator and editor, especially when motivation was greatly lacking. I'm grateful we have an English translation at all. It beats having nothing.

Harsh critic! XD But you do have good points. I'm curious to see what you think of the ending.


6
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!”

7
FFX-3 Speculation and Developments / Re: Final Fantasy X-2.5 : The Truth
« on: January 04, 2017, 09:46:09 pm »
Welcome, Ryurien!

So, first thing's first: Tidus's head did get blown off, but not because he shouted "blitzball!" like an idiot and kicked it (because how the hell does one get their head blown off kicking a bomb? I'm like, seriously?! Shouldn't his body starting from the feet and legs, be obliterated instead?). A bomb that was disguised as a blitzball was 'mysteriously' thrown in his direction, catching his attention. He then proceeded to walk over to pick it up and inspect it, since why would Tidus have any reason to suspect it's a leftover weapon from a thousand years ago, and then BOOM! His head flies off. If you read the novel in its entirety, you'll get the convoluted gist.

As for the plot device that is Deus Sex Machina (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeusSexMachina), I can't really tell you for sure 100% its legitimacy. Since I have yet to reach those chapters in my Fan Restoration Project (feel free to read that side-by-side with the original chapters) to analyze it thoroughly, I believe that the Bevellian Summoners' method of producing a "living Fayth" through an Aeon Core is a nod to an ancient spiritual Eastern practice called "Tantric sex," which is thought to expand consciousness and join together the polarities of masculine and feminine energy into a whole.

A link to the aforementioned subject: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-23332/tantric-sex-101-what-it-is-how-to-do-it.html

I could talk more about that and its examples within the novel, but I want you to reach the chapters first before I spoil it for you.

I hope this cleared up some questions? If you have more, you are more than welcome to ask!

8
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.” 

9
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.

10
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.

11
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…”

12
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.”

13
Even though I know several of these threads are dead and fading away, I at least want to leave my retrospective thoughts behind...

So! Going through this novel, I honestly enjoy the interlude (Bria and Kush centric) chapters the most; I virtually fly through those! But once I return to Tidus's POV, it's like I'm trudging through the marsh of terrible writing while dredging up what's salvageable. I mean, it's not that the present story is uninteresting to me at all, because it really is! It's just... the writing style does not fit Tidus's voice. At all. If the entire novel was written in Bria's POV, alright, I wouldn't mind it, but not when Nojima retains the same style for every different POV. It's frustrating as a writer; sometimes it makes me wanna pull my hair out!

I plan to, once I'm done with rewriting the entire thing once, to rewrite it again but with a style or melancholy buoyancy that matches Tidus. I hope I'll have some willing, enthusiastic critics when I'm done and perhaps we can edit it together! :D

(Honestly, though, who would care to read or even want to read a restoration? Anyone? I need some moral support here. XD)

14
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.”

15
FFX-3 Speculation and Developments / Re: Final Fantasy X-2.5 : The Truth
« on: December 24, 2016, 10:25:41 pm »
Hello~ [echo echo echo...]

Nah, we didn't move to a new host. Or at least, I don't believe so. Many of us have trickled away and moved on to other sites, such as Tumblr and stuff. My reason, I've always meant to return, but life got in the way, and my personal lack of motivation for anything (that's really on me, tho), but behind the scenes I have been re-reading those translated chapters and slowly been rewriting them.

It's definitely nice to see you've liked the novel, at least! Or making the best out of a crappy situation. XD

Thank you so much for swinging by! I really ought to do the same. I would love for this place to bloom again, but who knows, right? :3

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

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