Yunalesca woke, not really caring where she was or how she was still alive. All she knew was that a part of her – her beloved Zaon – was dead, and she had failed to stop her father. Nothing had gone right at the end of her desperate expedition to save what was left of Spira. She had failed.
Tidus woke to the sounds of someone crying. He blinked over at where a young woman not much older than himself sat. She had long, pale hair and little in the way of clothing. She was also the one crying and, after a quick look at their desolate surroundings, Tidus asked, "Um, excuse me. Are you okay?"
The girl's head jerked up and she stared at the blond boy, green eyes filled with tears. "You..." She looked around, then, at the ruins. "Where... are we?"
Tidus shook his head. "Dunno. Last I knew, Sin was attacking Zanarkand."
She turned to him, blinking. "And you... lived?"
Tidus shrugged. "A friend of my old man's took me over to this giant ball of water and it sucked us up. And now I'm here."
The girl blinked again. "Giant ball of water?" she asked.
Tidus nodded. "Auron called it Sin."
"When Sin destroyed Zanarkand, he was not a giant ball of water," Yunalesca insisted. "He looked like he always looks: a giant monstrous thing. I... remember. I stood on Gagazet with the Summoning when he attacked."
"Gagazet?" Tidus replied.
"The mountain? The one that stands between our borders and the rest of Spira."
Tidus blinked and shook his head. "I don't remember a mountain. Or... Spira? What..."
"You don't remember the name of your own country?" Yunalesca demanded. "I understand that schooling was poor in the lower-class areas–"
"I'm not lower-class!" Tidus snapped.
Yunalesca pursed her lips and looked him over. "No? Then what is that ridiculous outfit?"
"I play for the Abes!" Tidus replied angrily. "And you're one to talk! Where's your clothing, huh? Surely you rich bastards can afford to cover yourself!"
"I– How dare you!" Yunalesca hissed, and moved forward to hit the boy, but the rock they were standing on was slick with algae and water and she fell over into the water.
Tidus moved cautiously to look over the edge where she'd fallen. As soon as her head poked back through the surface, he helped her back onto the rock. "Hey. You okay?"
Yunalesca hugged herself against the cold. "Y-yes," she said through chattering teeth.
Tidus looked her over, then pulled off his yellow half-hoodie and held it out to her. "Here. Before you freeze."
Tidus dropped it on top of her head and grinned at her when she frowned at him. "Take it. I'll be fine for a while, but you'll probably freeze to death, dressed like that."
Yunalesca sighed and pulled the offered covering on. "Thank you," she said.
Tidus nodded and looked around some more. "This doesn't look like Zanarkand."
Yunalesca looked around herself and shrugged. "No, not particularly. I think..." She stopped and thought a bit, then continued with, "The Al Bhed own some islands that have a lot of old ruins on them. Papa took me there once, before he got elected as the leader of Zanarkand. These look... a bit like one of those ruins. But more... submerged."
Tidus nodded slowly. "Okay. Al Bhed?"
Yunalesca sighed. "You don't know anything do you?"
"I know stuff!"
"Anything about the world outside Zanarkand?"
Tidus huffed and folded his arms around his knees, which he pulled against his chest. "No. I guess. Oh! Wait! I remember that we were at war with some... I dunno. Some city or another. But it's been resolved. That was almost a thousand years ago." He grinned at her. "See. I know stuff."
Yunalesca blinked at him, confused. "Bevelle?"
Tidus nodded. "Yeah!"
Yunalesca blinked again. "A... thousand years?"
Tidus nodded, though less emphatically. "Uhm, yeah. I think?"
"Then... they rebuilt Zanarkand?"
Tidus frowned. "Zanarkand was never destroyed."
Yunalesca shook her head. "Yes it was. Sin destroyed it. It's what ended the war. With one of the cities effectively gone, and the other having sent most of their armies to finish Zanarkand..." She trailed off, seeing Tidus' blank look. "You don't... How can they..." She blinked, understanding dawning. "You're... part of the dream?"
"But then, how are you..."
"Hey! What dream?" Tidus demanded, leaning forward to shake her shoulders.
Yunalesca sneezed and shivered. "The... Oh. I suppose you wouldn't..."
"Would you fucking tell me what you're talking about!!"
Yunalesca blinked at him. Tidus glowered at her and she sighed. "When Bevelle was definitely looking like they were winning the war, some of the upper-class decided we should create a mass summoning, so Zanarkand could live on in a sort of dream. My father, Yu Yevon, was to be the summoner. He created the armour known as Sin to protect him during the summoning. But something... went wrong. He couldn't control the armour. If Sin still exists, so should the dream. Although, if you're part of the dream, that begs the question of why you're here, in the real world..."
Tidus just sort of stared at her until another sneeze ended her quiet rant. Once she'd fallen silent, he said, "Are you saying I'm just... a dream?"
Yunalesca nodded. "Yes."
Tidus rubbed at his face. All a dream?
Yunalesca winced, and realised that, perhaps, she shouldn't have told him that. Or at least been gentler in the deliverance of what was, basically, his sentence. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean–"
"No." Tidus shook his head. "It's..." He took a deep breath. "I don't know, it's..." He trailed off as Yunalesca had another sneezing fit. "We should try and find some place warmer. You're going to catch a cold."
Yunalesca grimaced and sneezed again. "And go back in that water to get cold again? I'd rather sit here."
Tidus rolled his eyes and slipped off the stone and into the water. "Fuck!" he complained at the chill, then turned back up to the girl. "Look. It might rain, and then you'll get wet again anyway. Maybe we can find a way out of here. Or at least a fire."
Yunalesca bit her lower lip then nodded and slipped back into the water herself. "Hells! Why does it have to be so..."
"Cold?" Tidus suggested with a pained grin.
Yunalesca hugged herself. "Yes. I think."
Tidus shrugged. "Dunno. Well, come on." He made out for where he thought he'd seen a building from the rock.
Yunalesca shuddered once more, then moved to follow the boy. "Hey! I never got your name!"
Tidus glanced back at her. "Tidus."
Yunalesca nodded. "I'm Yunalesca."
"Bit of a mouthful," Tidus said, slowing down so the girl could catch up with him a bit.
Yunalesca shrugged. "If you say so. Papa always called me Gina, as a girl, because of my hair." She glanced back at where the pale strands where spread out behind her. "It was Mama's mother's name. Means 'silvery'."
Tidus hummed thoughtfully. "Maybe I'll call you that, then." He glanced back at her. "You said your dad created Sin?"
Yunalesca nodded. "Yeah. So?" She frowned at him, as if daring him to hate her for her father's actions.
Tidus shrugged. "You might not want to go around using your real name, is all. Especially if people might know it because of him, right?"
Yunalesca blinked. "Oh. That's... probably a good point. I didn't think about that."
Tidus grinned. "My old man was a bit shot blitzball player back home, and he disappeared about ten years ago. Everyone knew my name, but not many people knew what I looked like. So I called myself Ken for a while and people didn't ask me about him. Got signed by the Abes that way, too. Told them my name was Ken and I got signed for my own talents, rather than because of Jecht."
Yunalesca smiled faintly. "Helpful. But..." She sighed and stopped swimming. When Tidus stopped next to her, looking worried, she said, "But I was a little visible, you know? Being the daughter of Zanarkand's leader? And, after Zanarkand fell, I went on a... oh, pilgrimage, I guess, to try and find a way to stop Sin. I would imagine a lot of Spira knows my face."
"But..." Tidus rubbed at the back of his head. "If time in... my world is the same as, um... If it's been a thousand years here, like it was at home, since the war, wouldn't everyone have forgotten what you looked like?"
Yunalesca shrugged. "I don't know."
Tidus nodded. "Well, we could try cutting your hair, I suppose? And finding you new clothing."
Yunalesca scowled. "What is it with you and my clothing?!"
Tidus shrugged, looking uncomfortable. "It's distracting," he admitted, making Yunalesca blink. "And, anyway, you said you're cold. Clearly it's not the right type of clothing. Especially not for this climate. Right?"
The girl sighed. "I suppose," she agreed, then sneezed.
"Right. Looking for fire or a way out. Come on." Tidus turned and started back in the direction they'd been going. Yunalesca followed him, frowning.
They managed to make a little fire with some damp wood they'd found. It had been hard, but Yunalesca had studied some basic Black Magic during the war, so she had more than her aeons to rely on, and she was able to light the wood, though it had taken a lot out of her, since she'd had to use Tidus' sword as a focus.
"Why was using my sword so hard, anyway?" Tidus asked, trying to cut the girl's hair with his sword. It was proving to be exceptionally difficult, but they'd both agreed that Yunalesca would be able to move better without her long locks, even if the hair had been helping to keep her warm.
Yunalesca sighed and glanced at him over her shoulder. "No magic in that world?"
Tidus grimaced. "No magic. And no, what did you call them? Oh, summoners."
Yunalesca shrugged. "No, I can't imagine the fayth would care to dream about summoners, though I am a bit surprised you didn't hear of them. Summoning was our way of life..."
Tidus shook his head. "I don't remember hearing about them. But I played blitzball, so who knows. Maybe they existed and it just wasn't something I would have heard about."
Yunalesca rolled her eyes. "Anyway, mages – black or white – need some sort of focus to cast their magic. That focus usually has something to do with them, personally. I've always used a spear, myself, because I am the sort of person who wants to be able to fight for myself, even if I run into a situation where magic isn't possible, such as an anti-magic field. I've seen mages use staffs – which are the most common, for future reference – swords and even machina guns."
"Huh. So, you would have been better off with a spear?"
Yunalesca nodded, wincing when her hair pulled. "Ah. Well, yes. Uhm, I probably would have been okay with a staff, too, because that's what I was originally taught with. I didn't start using a spear until I was twenty-two."
Tidus stopped fighting with her hair, frowning. "Twenty-two? But... You look more like you're eighteen."
Yunalesca frowned and looked down at herself. "Eighteen? That can't be right! I was thir..." She trailed off, staring at hands undamaged by the calluses and scars they'd sported after ten years of fighting with Bevelle and travelling back to Zanarkand with Zaon. "What..."
"Gina?" Tidus put down his sword and knelt next to her, blue eyes worried. "What's wrong?"
"I..." Yunalesca held out her hands. "These... These aren't my hands."
Tidus took her hands in his and examined them. "I dunno," he said, trying to sound cheerful, "they look pretty attached."
Yunalesca couldn't help a small smile at that. "Well, yes, but they don't look right. I had calluses from using a spear to fight. And I..."
"They're not there," Tidus said, realisation dawning. "So, you look a lot younger than you actually are? How is that..."
Yunalesca's eyes widened. "Sin."
Tidus swallowed. "You think it could de-age you?"
The girl shrugged. "Who knows what Sin can do. Heavens forbid, I certainly don't. It brought you from the dream world, right? So what's to say it couldn't have made me look younger?"
Tidus rubbed at his face tiredly and picked his sword back up to finish cutting her hair. "Yeah, okay. Can't fault your logic there." He sighed. "Fucking Sin."
Yunalesca laughed weakly. "Nothing but trouble."
"You said it." Tidus shook his head, then gave a triumphant shout as he finished cutting her hair. "Finally!"
Yunalesca pulled a chin-length lock forward to examine it while Tidus put his sword away and sat down next to her. "Could you have cut it any more raggedly?"
"I could try, if you want," Tidus replied, leaning back on his hands to look up at the dim ceiling. "I'd like to see you try cut– Shit!" Tidus was back on his feet again, sword out, before Yunalesca could do more than blink in surprise.
"Tidus?" she asked, standing to try and see what he was looking at. She needn't have bothered, however, because the beast jumped down next to them, grinning.
"Stay behind me," Tidus ordered her, as he had when they faced some fiends underwater on their way there.
Yunalesca nodded and stepped back, out of the way, while the boy jumped forward to face the fiend. With both Tidus and their attacker occupied, Yunalesca cast around for some sort of stick that she could use in lieu of a focus. Before she could find one, however, some doors they'd been unable to open earlier slammed open and a party of people in underwater suits ran into the room.
Yunalesca was nervous when only one of the members of the armed party stepped forward to help Tidus. She moved away from the rest of the people, not inclined to let them do anything to her. Of course, their machina pretty much assured them of hitting her if they really wanted, but Yunalesca had no intentions of just standing still while they fired on her, as she'd once seen the soldiers of Bevelle do to a mother and three children who'd gotten in their way.
"That was close!" Tidus said as he finished off the fiend. He leaned on his sword and grinned at the girl who'd helped him. "Thanks!" He turned to look for Yunalesca, not noticing how the men who'd been standing in the door started towards him.
"Tidus!" Yunalesca shouted.
A couple of the men grabbed him and his sword clattered to the ground. "Hey! Lemme go!"
Two more men started for Yunalesca, who found herself in a corner. "Keep away from me," she said, almost crying. "Please keep away."
"Fyed!" the girl who had fought with Tidus called, goggled face turned towards Yunalesca. "Tuh'd rind dras! Drao sekrd pa risyh."
Yunalesca blinked in surprise. "Al Bhed? But... Of course we're human, you idiots! What did you think we were?"
Tidus snorted and struggled against his captors a bit more. "Gina..."
"You... you understand us?" the Al Bhed girl asked, sounding surprised and a little young.
Yunalesca frowned. "Of course I understand you. I learned Al Bhed as a girl."
"It's... not very often that we see non-Al Bhed who understand our language," the girl explained, then turned to the men holding Tidus. "Mad res ku. Drao'na risyhc. Yht vneahtc, E drehg."
Yunalesca huffed while the men holding Tidus let him go. She looked angrily at the men still facing her, both with guns half-raised. "Ev oui tuh'd cdub buehdehk druca yd sa E'mm dyga dras yht cruud oui fedr dras."
The two men obediently lowered their guns and stepped aside so she could scoot past them. She did so and walked over to where Tidus was putting his sword away, watching their almost-captors warily. "You understand them, right?"
Yunalesca shrugged. "Yes? They're Al Bhed. I told you I thought these ruins might belong to them, remember?"
Tidus nodded. "Yeah." He looked up as the girl who spoke Common walked up to them.
The girl held out a hand. "Hi. I'm Rikku. Sorry about that."
"Tidus," the boy said, taking her hand with the air of one taking the shark by the tail. "And this is Gina. Why did you help me, then attack us?"
"We're not used to seeing other humans in these ruins," Rikku explained sheepishly. "Everyone just automatically assumes anything alive is a fiend. I guess we sort of... did the same for you." She shrugged. "But, how did you get here? There's no other boat outside..."
The two from Zanarkand traded looks. "Sin," Yunalesca said quietly.
"Huh? You ran into Sin and you survived?"
"Shocking, isn't it?" Yunalesca agreed drily.
Rikku shook her head. "Yeah, actually. Well, I guess that explains your presence. It's not the first time a ship has ended up near these islands because of Sin, though we don't usually find anyone alive."
"We, ah, we weren't quite in the ship any more when Sin showed up," Tidus hurried to say, eyes glancing at his companion and trying to find a reason for their having stopped at the ruins.
"There's a fayth here," Yunalesca said smoothly. "Somewhere. I can feel it."
"You're a summoner?" Rikku asked, while Tidus blinked in surprise at the ready answer his friend had.
Yunalesca nodded. "Yes. But I've lost my spear, so I can't very well pray for it. We'll have to come back." She glanced at Tidus, who nodded soberly.
Rikku looked between the two. "Huh. Well, I suppose we can have someone take you back to the mainland, if you'd like."
"That would be nice," Yunalesca agreed, smiling thinly. "We should continue on my pilgrimage."
Rikku sighed. "Then again, maybe I should just have you taken to Bikanel. Saves us the trouble of having to hunt you down, later."
"Wha–?" Yunalesca started to demand.
Tidus put a hand over the girl's mouth and smiled apologetically at Rikku. "Why?" he asked.
Rikku pulled off her goggles so she could look at him better. "Uhm, because we Al Bhed think it's a waste. I mean, it's nice that Sin is gone for a bit and all, but it comes back, you know? So... Well, we want to stop the summoners. We want to keep them from sacrificing themselves. It's not... It's not right!"
Tidus turned to look at Yunalesca, slightly disbelieving. 'Sacrifice?' he mouthed.
Yunalesca removed Tidus' hand from her mouth, frowning. "Sacrifice?" she asked of the Al Bhed girl, just as confused as Tidus. She remembered having Zaon pulled from her, and horrible pain, but she didn't feel like an unsent – she certainly hadn't been leaking any pyreflies. Why would summoners die in destroying Sin? A guardian, yes, but the summoner?
Rikku blinked. "You don't know? Or... Oh! I bet you've been hit with Sin's toxic." She nodded, as if the explanation made sense, while Tidus and Yunalesca blinked. "Well, you know, when you call the Final Aeon and face Sin with it, you die, right? It's always that way. We don't think it's right. So, I'm sorry, but we'll have to take you back to Home with us."
Yunalesca blinked in confusion. "But–"
Tidus covered her mouth with his hand again and leaned over to whisper in her ear. "If you disappeared, it would make sense that they thought you dead, right? Go along with it for now. We can escape later." He turned to Rikku, who was watching them suspiciously, with a smile. "Lead the way. Maybe to some clothing too, right? Gina's been sneezing for the past couple of hours."
Rikku grinned at the revealing clothing the older girl was wearing, as well as the out-of-place hoodie around her shoulders. "No wonder. Well, I think I've got something that might fit you. Come on." She turned to lead them back out of the room, calling to a couple of the men who were still standing by the door. The men fell in behind Yunalesca and Tidus as they followed Rikku out.
"Told you it was going to rain," Tidus said, nodding to where storm clouds were rumbling over the ruins behind them and dumping even more water into the lakes there.
Yunalesca huffed. "Yes, fine. And stop covering my mouth with your dirty hands!"
Tidus grinned at her. "Why? Your mouth is as dirty as my hands."
"My mouth hasn't been climbing all over those ruins!"
Tidus shrugged. "It's been in the same water, though."
The girl growled quietly and refused to talk to him again, making Tidus chuckle.
Rikku had found Yunalesca a wool tank top and some very short shorts. She'd also gotten the two from Zanarkand something to eat and left them to it in an unoccupied cabin, which she then locked them in, taking Tidus' sword.
"If I had a focus, I could burn that door down," Yunalesca complained.
"And the whole ship with it," Tidus replied. "Calm down."
"You're okay with this?" the girl demanded, turning to him. "With being carted off to Bikanel Island, where we'll be held against our will? You don't mind?!"
Tidus shrugged. "What can we do? I've got no sword, and you've got no focus. If this were blitzball, I might be able to figure out a way out of this trap, but it's not, and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not much good at figuring out solutions to real life problems. There's no point in stressing over it."
Yunalesca huffed and hunched her shoulders around herself defensively. "Zaon would have known what to do."
Tidus blinked. "Who?"
"My husband. My last guardian." Yunalesca glanced up at the surprised look on the blitzer's face. "Yes, Tidus, I was married," she said, correctly interpreting his expression.
Tidus blinked and shook his head. "I can't think of you like you're thirty-something," he said apologetically.
Yunalesca smiled then, faintly, and said, "You know, that's a bit of a compliment."
Tidus laughed then, and leaned back against the chair he was in. "Yeah? I'll remember that."
Yunalesca shook her head. "Didn't you have a girl back home? Someone you showered praise on?"
Tidus shrugged. "I played blitzball. Not a lot of time for girlfriends when you're so busy trying to prove yourself to be better than your dad. I mean, sure, there were girls I liked," he smiled nervously, "but no one I was going to give up my blitz career for."
Yunalesca sighed. "Blitz isn't that important you know. Not in the grand scheme of things."
Tidus shrugged again, looking uncomfortable. "I had time. Or I thought I did. I was going to play blitzball 'til I got too old, like my old man always said he'd do. He... He left my mom a lot, for practises and games elsewhere. She'd always be really sad and stuff. I didn't want to do that to someone."
Yunalesca put her chin in her hand and eyed him for a long moment. "You're a good kid."
Tidus snorted. "No I'm not." He paused for a moment, glaring as Yunalesca laughed. "And don't call me a kid!"
Yunalesca just laughed harder.
Tidus wasn't sure what woke him. Yunalesca was still sleeping peacefully on the room's only bed, while he was stretched out on the lumpy couch he'd found buried under a pile of machina and books. The boat was still rocking gently, moving steadily north. The Al Bhed had finished doing whatever it was that they'd gone to the ruins to do, from what Rikku told them when she'd come down with their dinner, so they'd finally started out towards Bikanel Island, where the Al Bhed lived. (Tidus still hadn't figured out a way out of their current predicament, but Yunalesca hadn't seemed to mind too much once she'd calmed down a bit.)
Tidus looked around the room, but saw nothing out of place. The door was still locked up tight, and the piles of junk he'd tossed off the couch were still laying around it, undisturbed by the gentle rocking.
He was about to give it up as a noise in the corridor and go back to sleep when he glanced out the small window in their cabin and froze. There, on the other side of the glass, thousands of beady black eyes blinked at him.
"Gina!" he whispered urgently, sitting up and staring back at the eyes. "Gina!"
"Mm?" the girl mumbled.
"Gina! Look out the window!"
Yunalesca groaned and opened her eyes. "Why?" she complained.
"So I know I'm not seeing things," Tidus hissed, still watching the eyes.
Yunalesca sighed and turned to look. "Heavens!" she cried, falling backwards off the bed. "Sin!"
Yunalesca nodded, scooting backwards, away from the window. "Sin. He's... Why is he just sitting there? Watching us?" She chanced a glance at Tidus, but the boy was still staring, white-faced, out the window. "He's just..."
"I don't know," Tidus whispered. "But I really wish he'd stop it."
There was a knock on their door and it creaked open. "Is everything okay?" Rikku asked, poking her head around the door. "I thought I heard..." she trailed off, turning to see what they were staring at. "Oh, hell. SIN!" she shouted down the corridor. "Ed'c Sin!"
Voices started shouting back in alarm, and they could hear what sounded like hundreds of feet running in the hallways. Rikku left them to try and help, or something, leaving the door open behind her.
"I somehow think this is a really bad time to try and escape," Tidus commented, still watching the thousands of eyes blinking outside their window.
"As much as I want to get out of here, I have to agree with you," Yunalesca replied, standing warily and walking over to where Tidus still sat on the couch.
Rikku dashed back into their room, Tidus' sword in one hand and an old spear in the other. "You said spear, right?" she asked Yunalesca, holding Tidus' sword out to him.
Yunalesca nodded while Tidus took his sword. "You're letting us fight?" the boy asked.
Rikku grimaced. "If Sin knocks this boat over, I won't leave you two trapped down here to drown. And if you're going to be on deck, you might as well help us. Now come on!" she demanded, handing the spear over to Yunalesca.
The two from Zanarkand traded looks, then hurried to follow the Al Bhed. Neither of them particularly looked forward to being trapped in a sinking ship, either. And fighting for their lives on deck sounded like a much better option.
The deck was a mad house. Sin had finally surfaced and the Al Bhed were throwing everything they had at it. The giant monster kept rocking the boat, sending people tumbling over the side, but hadn't yet tried to tip it. As soon as Tidus and Yunalesca came out onto the deck, Sin let out a roar and gave a great shove to the boat.
"I have the sinking feeling it was waiting for us," Tidus said drily.
"Makes two of us," Yunalesca replied, then held out her spear and shouted, "Holy!"
A great boom of white light slammed into Sin, making it roar again in pain. The spell also knocked the boat away from it, giving them a moment to recover.
"Think you can do that again?" Rikku asked, coming to stand with the other two teens.
Yunalesca nodded and drew a breath to cast the spell again. However, Sin took the chance and beat a fin against the water close to the boat, sending it rocking and knocking everyone off their balance.
Tidus found himself with his arms full of both girls and grinned at them. Before he could say something inappropriate, Yunalesca rolled her eyes and said, "Save it for later, Tidus, and help us up."
"Hey. You are on me," Tidus replied.
"Ed lusac ykyeh!" one of the Al Bhed shouted, just before the fin hit the water next to the boat again and sent it over.
Tidus, Rikku and Yunalesca found themselves underwater, facing the thousands of beady eyes they'd seen from out the cabin window. They only just had time to grimly set their weapons when Sin did something – none of them could tell exactly what – and everything went black.