Chapter 1: Otherworld
This story mostly came from my own irritation with their being more guys than girls in the party. (Writing FFX/HP crossovers didn't help that, since I always ended up adding yet another guy. *irritation* ) So I tried to think of a girl who I could add to the party that I wouldn't want to kill *coughShelindacough* and Yunalesca was my best idea, though I've had my moments of irritation with her.
The Yunalesca in this story is NOT the Yunalesca in Zanarkand. I won't tell you the full truth about her, since you'll be figuring that out as you go, just like the characters of this story, but I do want to mention that. (Some of you may already figure out why/how she's different by the end of this chapter, assuming the summary didn't already give it away. XD)
As for the pairings... As anyone who has ever read my crap before will know, I am overly fond of slash, in spite of being a lesbian myself. And so it is, of course, in my nature at this point to want to make this story slash. (Tidus/Seymour, I am thinking. I do love that pairing.) But I am also, since my most recent play-through of this game, becoming fond of Tidus/Rikku. I am also fond of a little Yuna/Rikku – that scene on Mt Gagazet was pure yuri, I swear – and a part of me would love to see Yunalesca with Yuna, because of Yuna's great adoration for her namesake. (Or, well, adoration up until she actually met the woman. XD)
At any rate, I don't want to decide the pairings, myself, as I'm not sure I could. (And my characters have a tendency to run off with the story, despite my best intentions.)
When it gets to the point that pairings start to form, I will update the warning at the top of this chapter – I have had complaints in the past from readers who really got into a fic, only to realise they hated the pairing when I finally decided on one – and also let you know at the start of that chapter. But please go into this fic with the knowledge that there is a chance of there being het, slash/yaoi, or femslash/yuri in this fic.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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.
So, I think I might start calling Yunalesca 'Gina', if only for my own sanity. (And possibly for yours.) No one will be calling her by her real name, anyway.
I did consider having her say her nickname as a kid had been Yuna, but decided that would be far too confusing later, when they finally run into Yuna and friends, you know? It ended up being between Gina and Chitose – which means 'a thousand years', and Gina won. There were a couple of other names I considered, but those were the only two that really seemed to fit.
Rikku: Fyed! Tuh'd rind dras! Drao sekrd pa risyh. Wait! Don't hurt them! They might be human.
Rikku: Mad res ku. Drao'na risyhc. Yht vneahtc, E drehg. Let him go. They're human. And friends, I think.
Yunalesca: Ev oui tuh'd cdub buehdehk druca yd sa E'mm dyga dras yht cruud oui fedr dras. If you don't stop pointing those at me I'll take them and shoot you with them.
Rikku: Ed'c Sin! It's Sin!
Man: Ed lusac ykyeh! It comes again!
Chapter 2: Neither Friend Nor Foe
Remember, Yunalesca is going to be called Gina from here on out.
So, I put up a poll both on FFN and LJ about pairings. Tidus/Seymour won, no questions, so that's pretty much set. Still trying to figure out what to do with Yuna/Rikku/Gina. The votes are more towards Yuna/Rikku, but if you'd prefer Yuna/Gina, I'm still taking votes. XD
Link to the LJ poll
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tidus woke when his head hit something hard. "Ow!" he complained, looking up at the offending cliff. Then something ran into his back and he turned in time to catch Rikku, who was still unconscious. He slapped her cheek lightly and was rewarded with her gasping and jerking in the water. "Whoa, whoa!" he said, grabbing her shoulders to try and ground her.
Rikku stopped thrashing and let Tidus help her stand up, since the bottom wasn't too deep. "Where..." She stopped to cough some water out. "Where are we?"
Tidus looked around himself, chewing on the inside of one cheek. "I don't know," he admitted, keeping an eye out for Gina.
Rikku glanced around as well. "Have you seen Gina?"
Tidus shook his head. "Not yet."
"Damn Sin," Rikku grumbled.
Tidus nodded in agreement with the sentiment and checked for his sword, which had somehow ended up back in the holster on his back. He looked back at Rikku to find her checking over the claw on her hand and the pouch at her hip. "Okay?" he asked.
Rikku nodded. "Yeah." She grinned at him a bit. "Nothing lost."
Tidus managed a brief smile back before he started looking around again. Above them, too high up for them to safely climb, trees swayed in a breeze that didn't quite reach them down below. The cliff disappeared into the distance to one side, and around a bend in the other. "Which direction should we try?" he asked.
Rikku considered their options, then pointed in the direction of the bend. "That way. Maybe we'll get lucky and this island will be inhabited," she added, starting in the direction she'd pointed.
"Are there many that aren't?" Tidus asked as he fell into step next to her.
Rikku sighed and looked up at the leafy overhang. "Only one or two with trees that tightly packed," she admitted.
Tidus nodded and they kept on.
Gina choked on some water in her lungs and turned over to cough it up. She heard a whispered cure spell and, feeling better, opened her eyes. A large group of people stood around her, most looking concerned. One girl knelt in front of her, a staff resting just in front of her knees. Mismatched eyes blinked, once, then the girl behind them asked, "Are you okay?"
Gina nodded and made herself sit up, so she was on the same level as at least one person. "Yeah, thanks," she said, then motioned to the staff in the girl's lap. "Summoner?"
The girl smiled. "Oh, yes. I'm Yuna, from this island. I'm just starting my pilgrimage."
Gina smiled in return. "Gina," she offered. "I'm also a summoner."
"That's wonderful!" Yuna said, mismatched eyes bright.
A woman wearing a revealing dress crouched down next to Yuna, resting a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Yuna," she reprimanded, making the young summoner blush and look down. The woman turned to Gina, serious, and yet curious. "Would you mind telling up what happened before you washed ashore?"
Gina blinked. "My guardian, Tidus, and I were on a ship together when Sin came up. It tipped the boat." She glanced around, frowning. "I don't suppose Tidus also washed up?"
"Not here, no," the woman replied, glancing up at the crowd for confirmation. "Where were you when the boat tipped, do you know?"
"We were headed north, to Bikanel. Up by those old ruins the Al Bhed own."
There was some grumbling at the mention of the Al Bhed, but neither Yuna nor the woman questioning Gina seemed to take any notice. "That's quite some distance," Yuna commented. When Gina rose her eyebrows questioningly, Yuna said, "This is Besaid."
Gina blinked, mentally considering a map from her childhood. It took her a moment, but her eyes eventually widened in shock. "Besaid?" she whispered, silently cursing what was left of her father for sending her all the way south.
Of course, Yu Yevon had never done anything without a reason.
"Are you okay?" Yuna asked.
Gina nodded and reached behind her to grab her spear, glad that she hadn't lost her weapon that time around. "Yes," she said to Yuna, pulling herself to her feet. "Is there a fayth here?"
A few people looked at her oddly for her question – it wasn't her fault Besaid hadn't had a fayth a thousand years ago – but everyone else nodded while Yuna and the woman both got back onto their own feet.
A couple villagers offered to show Gina to the temple, and she agreed with a smile, then turned back to Yuna. "I hope we meet again, Lady Yuna."
Yuna smiled. "So do I. Will you be okay without your guardian?"
Gina snorted, considering that, if Sin had bothered to take the boy from the dream world, the monster wasn't about to let Tidus drown. "He'll be fine. I'm sure I'll come across him playing blitzball somewhere in a couple of days and have to drag him away."
A couple of people laughed, though others, including Yuna and the woman in the revealing dress – Gina thought she'd heard someone call her Lulu – looked rather like they believed Tidus to be dead.
"The first tournament of the blitzball season is in Luca in two days time," a redhead helpfully offered. "You'll probably find him there."
"Likely," Gina agreed, looking around at the group of men behind the redhead who wore matching clothing. "I take it that's where you're headed?"
"Yup. We can keep an eye out for him, if you'd like?"
Gina smiled. "If you'd like. He's about your age, blond, and carries a red sword. If that helps?"
The redhead grinned. "I'll keep a look-out. Tell him to wait for you in Luca."
Gina nodded. "Thank you."
Lulu sighed and shook her head. "We should get to the boat," she reminded the party headed for Luca. Everyone agreed and there were a great deal of good-byes being said.
Once the boat had pulled out of the bay, an older villager turned to Gina and said, "Let's get you to the temple, hm?"
Gina smiled. "Please. And, forgive me, but how often does the boat run?"
"It leaves Besaid every morning, getting to Kilika by early evening. You can pick up the connection to Luca shortly after that, but there's a temple there, as well, that you may wish to stop at."
Gina nodded. She'd gotten Ifrit, the fayth on Kilika, during her first pilgrimage. If she could still summon him, she could skip the second island and make straight for Luca, which would get her there in time for the tournament.
Temple first, she mentally ordered, then see what you can still summon.
They'd come across a river mouth a while back. They'd discussed taking the river into the island, since all of the cities in Spira were built on some body of water or another – all cities anywhere, from what Tidus remembered of his schooling – but Rikku hadn't been certain this particular river would have a city on it, so they'd kept swimming around the island.
It was getting on towards evening when they finally found an area they could climb. Through the trees, which were sparse where they'd come up, they could see a city built out over the ocean and Rikku said, "Kilika."
Tidus nodded, trying to pretend he knew where that was. "Should we go down and say hello?" he suggested.
Rikku bit her lip. "I don't..." She looked up at Tidus, but he wore an expression on his face that said that he didn't understand what she was getting at. "I'm Al Bhed, Tidus. Normal people don't trust us."
Tidus blinked. "So don't tell them," he replied and turned to walk towards the village.
"I wasn't going to!" Rikku shouted, stumbling after him. "But all they have to do is look at my eyes, you know!"
Tidus didn't know, so he shrugged and called back, "Then look down and let me do the talking."
Rikku groaned and grabbed his arm. "Would you slow down?" she asked.
Tidus sighed. "I want something to eat," he commented, pointing towards the village. "Aren't you hungry?"
"Of course I'm hungry," Rikku replied, "but I'm also a little tired."
"Tired?" Tidus repeated, not understanding.
Rikku rolled her eyes. "I was just heading to bed when Sin attacked. And we've been swimming for hours."
Tidus sighed again. "Yeah, okay. We can walk slow...ly..." He stared at something past Kilika, frowning, and Rikku turned to look as well. She saw a flash of spells far off in the distance and a shape which sent shivers down her spine.
Tidus nodded, then took off towards the village shouting, "SIN!"
Rikku hurried after him, adrenaline brushing away her exhaustion. It was never good when Sin was close enough to be seen from land. It usually meant that someone was about to die. And while there were clearly people out there, considering the spell light, Sin could never resist a village.
A young man met Tidus halfway, expression one of disbelieving anger. "What has you hollering that monster's name?" he snapped.
Tidus grabbed the man and spun him around, then pointed to the sickeningly familiar form of Sin, which was getting larger. "Sin," he whispered.
The man jerked away and they all started back towards the village, Tidus shouting about Sin while the other gave the order to evacuate.
By the time Sin made it to the island, most of the villagers had made it to the forest. A few had turned back, however, when Sin had submerged, and weren't quick enough to get back to the trees before the monster hit. They all stood there in the trees and watched as Sin destroyed the houses and planking. There was nothing anyone could do.
Once Sin had left, the villagers slowly trickled out of the forest to see what they could recover and how much had to be rebuilt.
"It looks bad," one of the village elders told Tidus and Rikku, both of whom were staring over the wreckage in horror, "but this is not the worst attack I've seen."
"No," Rikku agreed. "Most of the village survived. Homes can be rebuilt, but people can only be found again in the Farplane."
"That is correct," the elder agreed. "Thank you, both. You've saved many a life today."
"Lucky we were coming over that ridge right then," Tidus replied quietly.
"Luck or not," the elder replied, "you are both always welcome in Kilika." He smiled at Rikku, adding, "And it's not often I say that to an Al Bhed."
Rikku gasped and covered her eyes. Tidus laughed at her, so she elbowed him back in the stomach. When his stomach replied with a growl of hunger, the two teens and the elder laughed.
"Let's find you some food," the elder offered.
Still laughing, the two teens followed him back into the village.
After they'd eaten, Tidus and Rikku both found something to help with, since they didn't have much else to do and there was little hope of them finding Gina in the wreckage. Assuming she was even on Kilika. Rikku had commented, over supper, that no Al Bhed boat would dare show its hull south of Luca, so they were best off waiting until the boat to Luca left. There, they could commandeer an Al Bhed boat and look for the missing summoner.
Rumour got around pretty quickly about there being a female summoner on the boat from Besaid, and both Tidus and Rikku followed the crowd to the sight of the sending to see if it was Gina. It wasn't, but they both stayed to watch the young summoner dance, both thinking about how it was such a beautiful, yet painful dance.
"Does Gina dance like that?" Rikku whispered to Tidus as the summoner completed her dance.
Tidus shrugged. "Wouldn't know."
Rikku rolled her eyes. "Some guardian you are."
Tidus glared at her for a minute, but had to admit, even if only to himself, that he was, by no means, a good guardian. He'd only been so for two days and he'd already lost his summoner. Somehow, he didn't think that was part of the job.
Tidus was just turning to go back to helping on one of the walk ways when someone shouted, "Hey! You Tidus?"
Tidus turned around and saw the summoner, as well as a red-headed man and a black-haired woman staring straight at him. "That's me," he replied.
The man broke out in a grin. "Lady Gina was looking for you."
"Where is she?" Tidus pleaded.
"Back in Besaid," the woman helpfully offered in a quiet voice. "She'll most likely be on the boat here tomorrow."
Tidus breathed out in relief while Rikku popped up next to his elbow. "Gina's okay?" she asked, looking between Tidus and the summoner's group.
Tidus nodded. "They said she's in Besaid. She'll be here tomorrow."
"Awesome!" Rikku replied, bouncing a bit on the balls of her feet. "We won't have to borrow a ship after all!"
Tidus laughed and shook his head at his friend, then turned back to the summoner's group. "Thanks."
"Sure thing," the redhead replied, holding out a hand to shake. "I'm Wakka, by the way. I hear you like blitzball?"
"Love it. Gina told you?"
"That she did. You any good?"
"Me?" Tidus grinned a bit madly. "Oh, I certainly think so. You?"
Wakka gave a nervous laugh. "So-so. You're not playing in the tournament?"
"Tournament?" Tidus asked, eyes brightening.
"It's tomorrow, in Luca," Rikku supplied. "I swore I mentioned it..."
Tidus gave her an incredulous look. "No, it must have slipped your mind," he offered a bit drily.
Rikku gave a hiccuping sort of laugh. "Whoops."
Tidus just sort of shook his head. After traversing the outside of Kilika Island all day with her, he was almost used to her little quirks.
Rikku grinned at him, then hopped off toward the house she'd been helping to rebuild.
Tidus turned back to Wakka – the summoner and the dark-haired woman had both left to rest while Tidus had been talking to Rikku. "No, no blitzball for me, I'm afraid. Have to wait for Gina; bad enough already that I lost her for a whole day."
Wakka nodded sympathetically. "I got you. This is my last game, then I'm a full-time guardian."
Tidus grinned. "Good luck, then."
"Thanks," Wakka agreed. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Sure thing," Tidus agreed, then turned to go help the building on the pathway he'd been working on. A couple of people from the boat had joined to help, as well, so the work went a little bit faster and, when the sun had left them without any light to work by, none of them felt bad about calling it a night.
When Gina stepped off the boat from Besaid, she felt almost as much like a summoner as she had when she'd gone off to face down Sin. She had a brand new aeon – well, new to her; the fayth claimed to be almost eight hundred years old – and had been able to connect with three of her old aeons: Ifrit, Yojimbo and Ixion. Her other four, alas, were completely gone. So far as Gina could figure, their crystals must have shattered, possibly during an attack by Sin. (Considering that three of those four had been from Zanarkand, she wasn't all that surprised.)
The temple summoner at Besaid had been quite helpful in placing the temples with the names of the aeons. (More than once, Gina had heard someone mention Sin's toxin, whatever that was.) The poor man had had a little bit of trouble placing Yojimbo, but had eventually mentioned that there were said to be a couple of temples in the Calm Lands – which had taken an additional ten minutes to explain, since the Calm Lands had been a beautiful forest with a prosperous city when she was last alive – which had been all but forgotten to the years. Gina recalled getting Yojimbo in the city there, so figured it must be right. Really, other than Yojimbo's temple being lost, only Ixion's fayth had been moved a great distance; he'd rested in the area now known as the Thunder Plains, but had been moved when the storm he naturally created got so bad that no one would go there anymore.
The other temples had been pretty easy to figure out, once she'd found a map in one of the temple back rooms. The next one for her was the temple at the Macalania Lake – she'd briefly wondered about what had happened to the beautiful city that had once been there, as there'd never been a lake before – then on to Bevelle. Other than the one in the ruins she and Tidus had woken up in, there was the other rumoured temple in the Calm Lands, and then the 'Final Aeon' in Zanarkand.
Gina had to wonder what the Final Aeon was, since she was pretty sure Zaon hadn't lived through their fight with Sin. Did that mean summoners continued to have to sacrifice one of their guardians, only to have them turn on them and kill them? (And, about that, how was Gina alive when all other summoners died during the fight?)
"Gina?" a somewhat familiar voice asked.
Gina glanced up from her musings – she should have been watching her feet, honestly – and saw Tidus and Rikku waiting for her, the latter having been the one to have spoken. "Tidus? Rikku?" she whispered.
Rikku jumped forward and Gina immediately found her arms full of hyper-active teen. "You're okay!" Rikku shouted, and Gina didn't really mind that her eardrums were ringing, because Tidus was okay. They were all okay. She hadn't lost another guardian.
"You found new clothing, I see," Tidus commented as Gina got Rikku untangled from the three hanging belts around her waist.
Gina nodded, glancing down at the dress, herself. It had been the least extravagant dress the temple summoner had in her size, and although it wasn't meant for a summoner who was willing to fight physically, Gina had tested it out and found that she was able to do so, after a couple of modifications. The belts had been more decorative than functional, but she'd borrowed a few pouches and used the multitude of belts to hold gil and medical items. She'd also found a strap for tying her spear to her back, as well as a new, much more impressive spear, which was just the littlest bit sharper and weighed less.
"I like it," Rikku offered. "It fits you."
Gina grinned. "Why thank you, Rikku." She considered them for a moment, frowning at how sweaty they appeared. "What have you two been getting in to?"
Both teens laughed a little nervously and glanced at each other. Tidus offered, "Sin attacked here yesterday. Most of the people are okay, but the houses and the walk ways need some serious re-building. We've been helping out."
"Huh. Well, that's good. I suppose." Gina considered Rikku for a long moment, having learned during her stay on Besaid exactly how much the religion of her father's name hated the Al Bhed; it would have made more sense for the teen to have avoided civilization.
Rikku offered a crooked smile. "Tidus was the one that saw Sin coming and so we got them to sound the alarm. The village people see us as their saviours, or some such, so they don't really care what I am."
"Huh," Gina said again, then shook her head. "Well! When does the boat for Luca leave?"
"In about an hour," Tidus offered, glancing briefly at the sun to judge the time.
"But, don't you want to go to the temple?" Rikku asked, frowning.
"I've already gotten Ifrit," Gina replied.
Rikku blinked, still frowning a bit, but Tidus nodded in understanding. "Right. Well, I'm going to go let the group I've been working with know that I'll be leaving soon, okay? You hungry?"
Gina smiled at the young man, who had an earnest look in his eyes. Even though she wasn't all that hungry, she agreed to getting something to eat, so both teens took her to the inn and set her up with some of the house special. Then Tidus went back out to let the men know he'd be leaving.
Gina considered Rikku once Tidus had left. "What will you do now?" she asked.
Rikku shrugged. "Go home, I guess. I don't suppose you'd be willing to let me kidnap you again?"
Gina chuckled. "No. But, then again, I also don't intend to 'sacrifice' myself to destroy Sin, either. I'd like to find another way."
Rikku considered her, eyes bright with hope. "You think there's a way out there?" she pleaded.
Gina sighed and rubbed at her face. "I don't know, but I can't sacrifice an–" She choked on the words, as much as the idea, of sacrificing another guardian for a possibility that could never be. She shook her head and swallowed. "The answer is in Zanarkand, somewhere. I'll go there and find it. But I'll continue collecting aeons on the way." She managed a smile. "What's the point of the victory if there is no journey?"
Rikku nodded. "Then, is it okay if I come with you? Travelling to Zanarkand... Finding a way to destroy Sin for good..." She grinned. "Sounds a lot better than sitting around in the desert, fixing broken machina that no one understands."
Gina laughed and held out a hand to the Al Bhed girl, which Rikku took. "Welcome to the pilgrimage, then, Rikku."
Tidus stopped next to their make-shift table, blinking. "Rikku's coming with us, then?"
Tidus nodded and sat between the ladies. "Excellent."
Summoner Yuna and her party joined them on the boat just before they set off. Everyone was still getting settled, but Yuna found time to approach Gina and her friends before they lost sight of the village of Kilika. "Hello again," she said to them.
Tidus and Gina had been watching the water while Rikku was fiddling with something from her pouches before Yuna approached them. At the younger summoner's greeting, Rikku hurried to shove her toys away, looking guilty. Tidus shot her an amused look while Gina smiled at Yuna. "Hello. Lady Yuna, correct?"
Yuna smiled, pleased. "Yes. And you're Lady Gina."
Gina inclined her head. "I am." She glanced over at where Tidus was helping Rikku to her feet. "Rikku, Tidus, this is the Summoner Yuna, of Besaid. I've been told she is the daughter of High Summoner Braska."
Tidus frowned and opened his mouth to enquire after the name, but Gina caught his eye and shook her head. They would have to talk later and compare notes on this world, especially if they were to be travelling with Rikku. They couldn't continue asking so many questions about things that seemed to be widely-known.
Rikku looked at Yuna in surprise. "Your mother was Miki?"
Yuna blinked. "She was, yes." She frowned a bit. "Do I... know you?"
"Rikku?" Gina asked.
Rikku grinned. "Miki is the name of my aunt. Father always goes on and on about how she shamed the family by marrying a hume."
"You're an Al Bhed?" Yuna whispered. Then, realising where they were, she looked around them, relaxing when she was sure no one had heard.
Rikku was still grinning, unconcerned, though Gina had tensed and Tidus was frowning a bit. "Father's name is Cid," Rikku told the younger summoner. "We're cousins."
Recognition dawned in Yuna's mismatched eyes. "Yes, I think we must be. Mom always said her brother, Cid, disapproved of Father, but that if I ever needed help..."
Rikku, always easily excitable, jumped forward and hugged Yuna. "It's great to meet you, Yuna!"
Yuna seemed momentarily surprised, but she quickly returned the hug, also smiling. "You too, Rikku."
Gina and Tidus traded looks behind the girls. They needed to talk, but getting Rikku to leave them to it without questions wasn't going to be easy. Unless she wanted to catch up with her cousin. "Rikku," Gina called.
Rikku glanced back, still grinning, until she realised she was sort of taking all of Yuna's attention. "Oops! Sorry, Gina."
Gina shook her head. "If you wanted to catch up with your cousin, Tidus and I will be fine on our own."
Rikku's smile returned. "Yeah?" She turned to Yuna, who was smiling a bit nervously. "Cool!"
Yuna's smile widened – Rikku's excitement was contagious. "Thank you, Lady Gina, for understanding."
Gina waved her thanks away. "It's no matter, Lady Yuna. Please, Rikku is my friend and guardian, if she wishes to catch up with family, who am I to deny her?"
Yuna nodded. Just before Rikku could drag her away, however, she remembered something she wanted to tell the other summoner. "Oh! Lady Gina, I thought I should let you know that Summoner Dona is also riding on this boat. Uhm, she's a bit rude."
Gina smiled. "I'll keep my eyes out for her, then. My thanks."
Yuna smiled and nodded, then let Rikku lead her away.
Gina relaxed back against the railing, staring down at the ocean. Tidus rested next to her, watching the boat. "High Summoner Braska?" Tidus asked, picking the most recent question he had to ask.
Gina shrugged. "When summoners defeat Sin and die, they become known as a 'High Summoner', for bringing the Calm, which is the period of weeks or, if they're very lucky, a month that marks Sin's disappearance. Yuna's father, Braska, brought about the last Calm ten years ago."
"They only have peace for a few weeks?" Tidus whispered. "And the rest of the time, Sin just runs around wrecking villages like Kilika? How can they live like that?"
"They have no choice," Gina murmured, eyes downcast. "They enjoy the simple things in life – blitzball, birthdays and the Calm – when they can. This is a world of little joy." She was silent for a moment, then added, "It reminds me very much of living through the war with Bevelle, except we could usually get forewarning of attacks. Here, now..."
"Everyone dies," Tidus replied, remembering the destruction of Kilika. If he hadn't seen Sin, if he hadn't warned them... "What's up with the Al Bhed hate? Rikku tried explaining it to me, but..." He shrugged.
Gina snorted. "When Sin started attacking the land, I made a deal with what was left of Bevelle's government: I would face Sin for them if they would find a way to remember my father kindly. They created a religion called Yevon, which taught the absence of machina. That absence became a hatred of all things machina, and anyone who dared to use it."
Tidus' eyes widened in understanding. "The Al Bhed spend their lives trying to understand and use machina. Rikku told me they were hoping it could be used to defeat Sin."
Gina shook her head. "I don't know. It's worth a try – using an aeon doesn't seem to work – but what kind of machina is strong enough to burst through Sin's shell? Papa made it too strong for machina. After we spent all that time fighting Bevelle, he wasn't about to let them destroy our last hope with a missile strike."
Tidus sighed and turned around to lean over the edge of the boat with Gina. "What are we going to do, Gina? Are you really going to continue this pilgrimage, even knowing there's no chance?"
"In Zanarkand, I have been told, lies the 'Final Aeon'," Gina whispered, glancing cautiously over her shoulder at the deck. "When Zaon and I reached Sin in Zanarkand, we faced him with everything we had, but it wasn't enough. He–" She choked and Tidus grabbed her shoulder in silent support. Gina took a deep breath, then said, "Zaon wasn't ready to give up hope. He turned to me and told me to sacrifice him. Focusing on our love for each other, he became a powerful aeon. So powerful..." She trailed off, eyes lost to the memory.
"Something went wrong," Tidus guessed when she didn't continue.
Gina shook her memories away. "Zaon used everything on Sin and the armour finally cracked. And then, before he could finish the job, something..." She shook her head. "I can't describe it. It was like he was torn away from me. We had a bond, and then there was nothing. And Zaon turned to me and..." She swallowed. "I don't know. I woke in the ruins, with you." She glanced over at Tidus, tears in her eyes.
Tidus frowned down at his Abes pendant, hand squeezing Gina's shoulder gently in an attempt to comfort her, even as he analysed all she'd said. Finally, he looked over at her. "This 'Final Aeon'. What is it?"
Gina shook her head, having gathered herself while Tidus thought. "I don't know."
Tidus nodded. "You want to find out."
"Yes," Gina agreed. "I want to find out what the Final Aeon is. I also want to find out what happened to me back then. What happened to Zaon. The answers must lie in Zanarkand."
Tidus stood up straight. "Right. So we're on our way to Zanarkand?"
Gina smiled grimly. "Yes. Same as every other summoner out there."
"We'll just have to beat them all." Tidus grinned at her, determined. "We'll beat them all and we'll defeat Sin. For good."
Gina managed a true smile for a moment before she realised something. "Tidus..."
Tidus blinked, surprised by the shattered look in her eyes. "Gina... what is it?"
"Sin is controlling the dream," Gina whispered, unable to meet her guardian's eyes. "When he's gone, the dream will end."
Tidus let out a hiss of air through his teeth and looked away, staring out across the ocean.
Gina touched his arm. "Tidus..." she whispered.
Tidus clenched his jaw. He remembered the people of Kilika. He remembered Rikku and Yuna. He envisioned people who didn't deserve to live in fear just so he could live.
In that moment, he understood the summoners who went out against Sin, knowing they would end up dead at the end. Because to defeat Sin, to give others life, he would die.
Could he do that?
Laughter reached them from the upper deck. Tidus glanced up and saw Yuna trying to teach Rikku a Cure spell. They were both laughing, enjoying the time they had.
Tidus looked back at Gina, who was watching him with tear-filled eyes. Tidus reached out and gently wiped at one eye. "If I die," he whispered, "then I die. But I can't live, knowing others are suffering for it." He managed a half-smile. "I thought I had time, but I guess this is it. I'll learn from the people of this world; I'll live in the moment. I'll enjoy what time I've got left, and when I die, I'll die without regrets. Because you and Rikku and the people I met in Kilika... You can live."
Gina shook her head and wrapped her arms around Tidus. "You're a good kid," she whispered.
Tidus managed a real smile at that. "I thought I told you not to call me a kid?"
Gina let out a choked laugh.
And as a part of Tidus' resolve to live in the now, he's going to jump the first hot guy he sees and do him. Poor Seymour, he'll never know what hit him. (This is where about half the fandom insists that Seymour is not hot. But, hey, I ship Voldemort/Harry. My definition of hot is a little skewed. XD)
Chapter 3: Sometimes Good-Bye is a Second Chance
"It's going to be strange, not playing blitzball," Tidus commented the next morning as they drew into the Luca harbour.
Gina glanced at him. "Did you want to play?"
Tidus shrugged. "Who would I play with?"
"There are three teams on this boat, Tidus. You've got five minutes to ask around," Gina replied drily.
Tidus grinned and glanced back at where said three teams were glaring at each other across the deck. "Nah. Don't really want to get in the middle of all that. They're all three full-up for players, anyway." He returned his attention to his summoner. "I've been playing blitzball for years. I can sit one game out."
"If you're sure," Gina replied, sounding uncertain. "You're the one who's decided to 'live for the moment'."
"I've played blitzball. I'd rather have more time to try new things."
Rikku dashed up next to them and practically went flying over the railing. Tidus grabbed her belt at the last minute and pulled her back onto the boat, earning him a grin. "So, are we staying for the game?" the excitable Al Bhed asked. "Or are we straight on to Djose?"
Gina shrugged and glanced over at her two younger companions. "I don't care either way. If you two want to stay, we can."
Tidus grinned at Rikku. "I dunno, how do they play?"
Rikku bounced on the balls of her feet a bit. "The Goers are the reigning champions. They're jerks. The Aurochs always lose. Everyone else is pretty good." She grinned a bit wider. "The Al Bhed Psyches are pretty good, considering they come from a desert island."
"Do you know anyone on the Psyches?" Tidus asked.
Rikku shrugged. "Sure. My father's the leader of the Al Bhed, so I know all of the guys on the team. They're pretty cool, but they're all a bit stuck-up about blitzball." She eyed Tidus a bit suspiciously. "Most blitzball players are actually a bit stuck-up, now that I think about it."
Tidus let out a nervous laugh and rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry," he said. On their walk around Kilika, he'd geeked out about blitzball a bit and gotten a bit snobby when she didn't seem to care much for the game.
Gina shook her head and watched as the dock they were to stop at closed in. "Stay or go, kids?"
"Stop calling me a kid!" Tidus complained, making Rikku giggle.
Gina raised an eyebrow at her older guardian in response.
Tidus huffed. "Just for that, we're staying."
Rikku giggled some more and Gina rolled her eyes. "Very well. Rikku, will you be wanting to speak with the Psyches?"
Rikku forced herself to calm down a bit and nodded. "Should," she admitted. "Let Father know I'll be travelling on my own for a bit."
"And that you survived Sin," Tidus agreed.
Rikku grimaced. "Oh. Yeah."
They all grabbed for the railing as the boat shuttered to a stop, then climbed off with the other two summoner groups. As they watched the teams disembark, Yuna and her two guardians approached; the third one was with his team still.
"Are you staying for the games?" Yuna asked.
"It seems we will be," Gina allowed, glancing sideways at Tidus, who grinned. "I assume you will be remaining, Lady Yuna?"
Yuna nodded. "Oh, yes. Wakka wants to play this one last game, so we'll stay until the end of the tournament. You're welcome to join us, if you'd like?"
Gina smiled. "I think I would enjoy having someone to talk to while Tidus goes mad."
"I'm not going to go mad!" Tidus snapped, scowling.
Gina smiled innocently at him and he huffed while Yuna and Rikku giggled.
Wakka and the Aurochs had just joined them when a number of excited people ran by, going on about Maester Mika's boat docking. The Maesters were something Tidus had learned about on Kilika and shared with Gina the evening before on the boat, so both had an idea what was going on. They also both understood that they should probably head over to see the old maester, since Gina was a summoner.
The two summoner parties made their way over to dock three together. Yuna's party had some excited words about seeing the maester, but Gina's party were all silent, Gina and Tidus drawing closer to Rikku protectively. The Al Bhed, for her part, looked nervous, but didn't make any moves to leave and avoid seeing and being seen by the maester.
At dock three, everyone crowded together to watch the small party from Bevelle disembark. First off the boat was the half-Guado, Seymour, and Tidus found himself unable to look away from the man. Seymour was... sort of pretty. He looked like a guy, sure, but the way he moved was almost feminine, more so with the long hair and him wearing a robe. And when Seymour spoke, it was with a gentle voice, like someone who wasn't used to speaking much.
Before Seymour left, he looked straight at Yuna, making the younger summoner gasp. An ugly beast flared in Tidus' stomach and he wasn't quite sure why. He was saved from having to figure it out when Wakka loudly called for one last meeting.
"Let's go find seats," Lulu, one of Yuna's guardians, suggested as Wakka led the Aurochs away.
"Preferably before all the die-hard fans start flooding the area," Gina agreed drily. As they started towards the front of the stadium, she turned to Rikku and whispered, "Once we find some seats, why don't you go speak with the Psyches?"
"I could go now," Rikku whispered back.
"Better to wait until you know where we're sitting, so you don't have to search the entire stadium," Gina replied.
Rikku smiled and nodded. "Oh, yeah. Good point."
Gina turned to Tidus next, since the teen was frowning a bit. "What is it?" she asked.
Tidus shook his head. "Not sure," he admitted.
Gina hummed under her breath. "Those maesters gave me the creeps a bit," she offered. "They reminded me of some of Papa's ministers; so busy climbing to the top that they could care less about the people they step on on the way."
Tidus glanced at her. "If you say so," he replied. "Not really my sort of people to mingle with."
"No," Gina agreed, returning her attention to where Yuna's party had gotten ahead, Rikku in tow, "I don't suppose you would."
Once they'd collected their seats and Rikku had hurried off, they found themselves surrounded by people intent on meeting Yuna. As both Gina and Tidus had lived famous lives, they were able to mostly ignore the crowds, but it was clear that Lulu and Kimahri, both of whom had spent the last ten years in an island village, weren't quite as comfortable and seemed a little twitchy at the crowds. Yuna, having endured this fame from before Besaid and during brief outings with her friends, was much more comfortable. Of course, the young summoner wasn't concerned with her own safety, since she trusted her guardians to watch her back.
"I understand not having a choice about her fame, but she's so careless about it," Gina grumbled to Tidus as they dodged an overzealous gawker.
Tidus snorted. "For all she intends to face Sin, she's still a bit young to the dangers of the world."
"Hm. She does have the air of someone who expects only fiends to be a danger to her."
Tidus leaned out of the way of another gawker. "Should we tell them about the Al Bhed, do you think?"
Gina shook her head. "If Rikku wants to tell Yuna, that's her choice. Perhaps getting caught by the Al Bhed will teach her to be a bit more careful."
Rikku slipped into the open chair next to Gina, ducking an elbow. "I love Yuna," she offered, rubbing at her arm, "but I'm not sure I'd want to travel with this. Are we going to have to travel together?"
Gina sighed. "I don't know," she admitted. "I have no need to visit Djose, but the road from here to Zanarkand has few alternate paths. Staying to watch this tournament means we're almost certain to end up together, at least until Djose."
Rikku let out a quiet moan and curled up in her chair.
Tidus looked at them a little helplessly. "We don't have to stay for the game," he offered. "It's not that important."
Rikku looked up over her knees, eyes hopeful. "Really?"
Tidus nodded. "Really. I didn't expect it to be this..." He glanced around them. "Crowded, I suppose." He'd seen bigger crowds – waded through them himself, even – but that was no reason to make Rikku suffer through one.
Rikku thought about it, but before she could decide, the announcers called the first game, which was between the Aurochs and the Psyches. She looked down into the water and watched the teams swim out. "Let's... stay," she decided. "We'll see how this game turns out, then leave. The crowd is already thinning, and even if the Aurochs lose and they leave after this game, they'll have good-byes with the team. We can just leave."
"That's acceptable," Gina agreed. "Tidus?"
Tidus shrugged. "One game of blitzball is good enough for me," he replied. "We'll see how bad the Aurochs are, then scoot."
Rikku grinned, mischief returning to her as the crowds thinned. "They're bad enough we might have been better off just scooting before the game."
Tidus rolled his eyes and settled in for what would likely be his last game of blitzball.
Surprisingly, the Aurochs managed to beat the Psyches, but not by much. However, it meant that Yuna's party would be staying for the finals, so the two summoners and their guardians said their good-byes, wished each other good luck, and Gina, Tidus and Rikku were on their way.
Once they reached the path over the city, Rikku sat down and let out a relieved breath. Although most people were still in the stadium, there were enough people running around in the city to crowd the through-ways.
Gina smiled at her youngest guardian and leaned against the railing, watching the distant stadium. "No more big cities until Bevelle," she offered.
"No more cities at all," Rikku replied. "The Moonflow and the temples will probably the most crowded places after this, not counting Bevelle. Just us and the open road."
"I'd prefer the cities," Tidus grumbled, resting next to Gina.
Gina smiled at him, understanding, then pushed off from the railing and pulled off her travel bag. "We won't be coming across a place to restock for a while. Check your provisions. I'd rather have to run back down to the city now then realise somewhere down the road that we're low on potions."
"Potions are for humes," Rikku replied cheerfully, pulling off her own bag and opening it. "I can mix together way more useful things in the same amount of time it would take you to unbury a potion."
"Don't waste gil on potions," Tidus mumbled into his own bag. "Got it."
Gina rolled her eyes. "How about ethers?"
Rikku sighed. "Nope. Those you can buy."
"Why thank you for that, Queen Rikku."
Rikku shot the summoner a quick grin, then closed up her bag. "I'm good. Might need some more food, but there's an Al Bhed rest stop within a few days travel and what I've got will last me until then."
"Is this rest stop any good?" Gina asked, deciding her bag was filled enough.
"I've heard so," Rikku replied. "I've never been there, but Rin is a good businessman and all of his shops are of good quality. He always tries to keep them well-stocked with everything he can think of. Not a lot of humes use them, though, since they're run by an Al Bhed."
Gina nodded. "Well, I see no reason to avoid an Al Bhed shop, and it will be nice to sleep in a real bed after a few days on the road." She glanced over at their last companion. "Tidus? Are you okay to leave?"
"Hm?" Tidus glanced over from where he'd been watching the stadium. "Oh! Yeah, I'm pretty good. I might need a couple of things after a couple days, but since there's a shop..." He smiled. "Let's head out, then, before the game ends."
"Good point. This road will flood with people making their way on foot north," Gina agreed.
Tidus helped Rikku to her feet and they all made sure their bags and weapons were settled, then started up the stairs to the highroad.
Back at the stadium, the Guado set fiends on the watching crowd and Seymour saved them all with Anima. Auron joined Yuna and her party on their way north. A brief questioning told him that Tidus had gone off with another summoner and the unsent quietly cursed Jecht for separating him from the teen when they'd first arrived. If Tidus and Auron had remained together, Auron could have ensured that Tidus travelled with Yuna.
No matter, he decided. We'll catch up soon enough and Tidus will join us for the familiar face and the questions I can answer. Everything will work out in time.
Little did Auron know that Tidus had found out far more of the truth than Auron would have liked, and the only questions he still had, Auron wasn't quite ready to answer.
The three travellers weren't overly conspicuous as a summoner and her party, since their summoner didn't carry the well-known staff; there hadn't been a summoner who used a spear since Yunalesca. Despite that, they occasionally met casual travellers who recognised the party for who they were. Those people often had gifts of medicine or food for the party, despite their attempts to refuse the charity.
"It's strange," Gina admitted their second night on the road around their campfire.
"What is?" Tidus asked. Rikku had wandered off to shuffle through the ruins they'd stopped next to for any goodies and Tidus had been keeping an eye out for her.
"All these people," Gina replied, standing to join her guardian in watching Rikku's precarious exercises. "When I travelled last time, people didn't recognise me as a summoner, and those that did were more inclined to attack me, than give me gifts."
Tidus raised an eyebrow. "Why would they attack you? You were travelling to defeat Sin."
Gina snorted. "It was just after the war," she reminded him. "Summoners were from Zanarkand and meant bad news for the rest of Spira. Sin wasn't such a big deal back then, either. He wasn't much more than a tale passed from traveller to traveller."
Tidus nodded. "Makes sense. But, now, summoners are all the people have. A summoner means a few weeks of relief, not the possibility of an attack."
Gina sighed and nodded. "Yes, I suppose."
They were silent for a long while, watching Rikku whoop as she found some useful stuff.
"It's also strange, hearing my name everywhere," Gina finally added.
"Yunalesca?" Tidus enquired. He didn't remember hearing her birth name since they'd left the ruins they'd woken up on, but he hadn't been with Gina the whole time...
"Yevon," the summoner corrected. "It's my last name, but still..."
Tidus nodded in understanding. "Yeah, that would be odd. People like to praise you a lot." He grinned at her and she rolled her eyes. " 'May Yevon protect you, Lady Summoner,' " he added.
Gina punched his arm lightly, smiling. "Shut up, Tidus."
"On the other hand," Tidus commented, frowning as he thought of it, "it's also a bit ironic. It's like they're asking Sin to protect you. Or, I don't know...praising him." He looked over at Gina's grim expression. "Do they realise they're praying to the very thing which is making their lives hell?"
"I don't believe so, no," Gina replied. "I don't think who Yevon was is even common knowledge, let alone what he is now. Perhaps the maesters know who Yevon is, but whether they know that he's Sin or not..." She shrugged.
"I hope not," Tidus decided. "To work so hard and believe so much in something, only to find out it's the very thing you live in fear of? I don't think I would be able to manage."
Gina's lips quirked with a smile. "Tidus, you're from Zanarkand; the only thing you believe in is blitzball."
Tidus widened his eyes comically. "I know. Can you imagine suddenly finding out that blitzball is the entire reason for Sin? It would devastate all of Spira."
Gina's responding look of horror was equally comic. "What if that is the reason? Papa never was fond of blitzball!"
They continued staring at each other for half a minute, wearing equally horrified looks, before they burst out laughing.
Rikku climbed up between them, grinning. "What has you two in such a good mood?" she asked.
"The idea that Sin is only here because it hates blitzball," Tidus allowed.
Rikku snorted. "It is the only machina allowed by Yevon, and if you believe Yevon's teachings, the use of machina is why Sin is here."
Gina and Tidus traded sharp looks. Sin's creation had been, in part, because Zanarkand was being destroyed by Bevelle's machina.
Rikku started back towards the campfire, commenting, "I'd like to see you getting the Yevonites to believe blitzball is the problem, though. That could be fun to watch."
"And put an end to one of the few joys of life?" Tidus demanded. "Not on your life."
Gina rolled her eyes and turned Tidus back towards the campfire. "I have no intention in breaking anyone's bubble. Let's eat."
"I'm starved!" Rikku agreed, plopping down and reaching into the pot over their fire for some of the stew.
Tidus and Gina joined her and sat back to enjoy her discussing all the things she found.
They reached Rin's Travel Agency early the next afternoon.
"We can keep going," Gina commented once they'd all restocked, "or we could end here for the day. I'd like to sleep on a real bed for once, but I suspect we've only got about half a day's head start on the blitzball crowd. If we stop, we'll likely find them catching up to us by the morning."
Tidus and Rikku traded looks. Neither of them were used to roughing it like they had been doing, but they were young and plenty able to continue doing so for a while yet, if it came to it. A bed would be nice, but at the expense of dealing with crowds?
"I'm fine either way," Tidus decided. "Rikku?"
Rikku chewed her lower lip and stared around the Al Bhed shop they were in. "I think..." She trailed off and looked down at her new claw, then nodded to herself and looked back up. "Let's stay here tonight. It's an extra day's worth of provisions, and we can always take chocobos in the morning to shorten our journey a bit more, right?"
"Hm. I didn't think about utilising chocobos," Gina admitted.
Tidus coughed. "Not to sound stupid or anything, but... What's a chocobo?"
Rikku blinked in surprise, but Gina offered him a helpless smile. "They're giant birds you can ride. Come on, I'll show you." The summoner led the way outside and showed him to the chocobo corral. "These are chocobos."
Tidus gave the giant yellow birds an odd look. "O...kay..."
Gina smiled. "They're not so bad."
Rikku poked Tidus' arm. "How can you not know what a chocobo is?" she wondered.
"Momentary stupidity," Gina supplied with an easy smile.
Rikku giggled and skipped back towards the shop. "I'll get us rooms," she offered. "How many do we want?"
Gina tapped her chin and considered her two guardians. "Might as well get two. If it gets crowded, we can share, but I think we'll all be a bit more comfortable without the opposite sex snoring next to us."
"I don't snore," Tidus griped.
Rikku giggled again and nodded before skipping back into the shop.
Gina smiled at Tidus. "You don't," she agreed, "but I'd still like a night without you right across the fire. No offence, Tidus."
Tidus shrugged. "None taken. I'm sort of tired of having to duck Rikku when I need to take a leak."
Gina chuckled and leaned against the fence of the corral to pet a chocobo that had wandered over. "She adds excitement to the journey," she allowed.
Tidus leaned next to her, cautiously reaching out for another chocobo who'd wandered over. "She does," he agreed. "Uhm, not to pry, but..." He glanced over at her, embarrassed. "How does this journey, with Rikku and me, compare to travelling with Zaon?"
"Travelling with Zaon was warmer," Gina immediately supplied, then chuckled when Tidus flushed. "Oh, stop that. He was my husband, I shared a bedroll with him." She sighed and looked up at the sky. "We'd just come out of a war," she offered, "and a lot of people we loved had died. Neither of us were much inclined toward smiling, especially with fiends and other travellers to worry about." She shook her head and glanced over at Tidus, who was watching her with sad eyes. "I loved Zaon, but travelling with you and Rikku... You two make me laugh, and it makes everything just a little bit easier."
Tidus nodded and looked back at the chocobo, which was butting his head in a plea for more attention. "I'm glad."
Gina smiled. "Me too."
Rikku bounced back over then. "Hey! Rooms gotten. Do you want to go out on the path a bit more and fight some fiends? It'll help other travellers and the training's always good for us."
Tidus pushed off the fence. "Sounds good," he agreed. "No point in wasting the whole day petting the chocobos." One of said birds let out a pitiful sound behind him and he grinned back at it. "Not that there's anything wrong with paying attention to chocobos, it's just not my preferred way to spend my day.
Gina gave the chocobo she'd been petting one last pet and shoved away from the fence. "If we're going to spend tomorrow on chocobos, training today is probably a good idea," she agreed. "Let's go take out some fiends."
Yuna's party made it to the travel shop just before sunset. Tidus was outside, paying attention to the chocobos while Gina was napping inside and Rikku was climbing in some ruins just over the ridge. (Gina had told the Al Bhed earlier that she didn't want her going down there, but since Gina was asleep, Rikku had gone anyway. Tidus had shaken his head and decided to not get involved.)
Tidus heard Yuna's party before he saw them; Wakka was loudly complaining about having to stay at an Al Bhed shop and Tidus peeked around the building, commenting, "Better a real bed than the ground, though."
"Oh, hey, Tidus," Wakka called, distracted from his complaining at the sight of the other guardian.
"You three are staying here?" Yuna wondered.
Tidus grinned. "Yeah. We stopped this afternoon and decided on the real beds."
"I'm unsurprised," a familiar voice intoned.
Tidus turned to demand what the voice meant by that, but froze in surprise upon seeing the man. After blinking a few times, he said, "Auron?!"
Auron quirked an eyebrow. "Tidus."
"What are you... How are you..." Tidus shook his head and scowled. "You bastard!"
Yuna and Wakka immediately told Tidus off for his disrespect, but Auron just chuckled and shook his head. "Go on in and get rooms," he told Yuna's group. "Tidus and I should catch up."
"So... you know each other?" Yuna asked, looking curious and young.
"In a manner of speaking," Auron agreed, leading Tidus away to the ridge.
Before Auron could speak, Tidus leaned over the edge of the ridge and waved at Rikku, who grinned up at him. "Hey, Rikku. Yuna and her guardians are here. You'd better get back up before one of them wakes Gina."
"Good point," Rikku agreed. She quickly scaled the ridge, then looked curiously towards Auron, who was watching them with a frown. "Who's tall, dark and grumpy?"
Tidus snickered. "Auron. He helped raise me."
Rikku shrugged. "Huh. Well, I'm gonna go say hi to Yunie."
"I shouldn't be long," Tidus agreed.
Rikku grinned and waved before running into the travel agency.
Tidus turned back towards Auron. "Okay, so... What the hell is going on? How is it possible for us to be in this world, do you know?"
Auron raised an eyebrow at that. " 'This world'?"
Tidus sighed and half-fell to the ground to sit. "The real one? As opposed to Zanarkand the dream?"
Auron looked surprised for a brief moment before he hid it. "Hmm. Sin brought us."
Tidus huffed. "What would Sin care for a dream?"
"Sin is Jecht," Auron replied evenly.
Tidus blinked at the man for a long moment, then intoned, "Jecht is dead."
Auron smiled crookedly. "You thought you were the first from the dream brought to the real world?" he asked. "Ten years ago, Jecht was brought to this world. He joined Lord Braska and myself on a pilgrimage."
Tidus frowned, working that into his knowledge of the world so far. It seemed possible, since he was here, that his old man could have been brought through and taken the same journey Tidus even now was on. But, then, how could he have become Sin? "Okay," he said, glancing back up at Auron, "I can accept that Jecht came here. But how the hell would he become Sin?"
Auron considered him for a long moment, then shook his head. "Jecht is Sin. That's all you need to know."
Tidus jumped to his feet, furious. "The hell is it! 'Jecht is Sin.' Sure, whatever you say, Auron. Except not! How can a dream become Sin? Yu Yevon is Sin."
Auron had a bit more trouble controlling his surprise that time. After a long moment of Tidus glaring at him, he managed to master himself and cleared his throat. It appeared that he'd have to explain more to Tidus than he'd originally intended; the boy already knew a fair bit. "Yu Yevon is Sin," he agreed, "but the armour which protects Yevon is a Final Aeon."
Tidus' eyes blanked as he assimilated that, then his eyes widened in horror. "The Final Aeon... But..." Gina had said she'd sacrificed Zaon to become her 'Final Aeon'. Tidus swallowed. "Braska sacrificed Jecht," he said out loud, seeing but not seeing Auron watch him work through everything. "Jecht became the Final Aeon. They faced Sin and...what?" His eyes focused on Auron, dark with anger. "Tell me."
Auron considered him. "Jecht destroyed the shell, the last Final Aeon, and Yevon possessed him. He killed Braska, then left to create a new shell using Jecht."
Tidus turned away and stared into the sunset, sick. So Yevon possessed the Final Aeon and turned it on the summoner.
"I can't describe it. It was like he was torn away from me. We had a bond, and then there was nothing. And Zaon turned to me and... I don't know. I woke in the ruins, with you." Gina had said.
Why isn't Gina dead? Tidus wondered. Was there still enough of her father in there that he couldn't use Zaon to kill her? Then why is she still here now? And younger?
For that matter, why am I here?
"Auron, why did Jecht or Yevon or whatever..." Tidus looked back at his old caretaker. "Why did he bring us here? Why not leave us in the dream?"
"Jecht wants you to destroy him," Auron supplied without hesitation. "He wants you to be the one to end his suffering."
Tidus looked away. "How like him," he whispered. "How so very like him."
Auron shrugged and cleared his throat. "I was surprised to find you travelling with another summoner," he commented.
Tidus frowned at him. "As opposed to who? Yuna?"
Auron nodded. "Yes."
Tidus huffed. "Well, no one told me I was supposed to be travelling with Yuna, and I met Gina first." He gave Auron a slightly suspicious look. "I'm not leaving Gina."
Auron frowned. "You have no interest in travelling with Yuna?"
Tidus waved his hand in front of his face. "Yuna's okay, but I don't know her all that well. Gina and I are friends." He turned back to the setting sun. "Of course, we'll probably end up travelling together from time to time. Rikku and Yuna are cousins, and she's not too bad, I suppose." He shrugged. "But I'm Gina's guardian now. I promised her that back when we first met. Back when we were both alone. I'm not going to leave her on her own just because you or Jecht say I should."
Auron grunted and turned towards the travel agency. "Do whatever you want. I travel with Yuna."
"Good," Tidus decided, turning to grin at Auron's raised eyebrow. "Yuna needs a guardian who's not afraid to tell her she's being stupid. You were always good at letting me know when I was being an idiot; I think you'll do Yuna some good."
Auron's lips, half hidden behind his collar, curled with a smile. "You're always an idiot, Tidus."
Tidus just grinned, more amused than offended.
Auron nodded and made his way inside.
After a few more moments of watching the setting sun, Tidus joined him. The two summoner parties had pulled a couple of tables together and were sharing the evening meal. Everyone seemed in good humour, but as Tidus took the open seat next to Gina, he realised she was tense and eyeing Auron with uncertainty.
"What is it?" Tidus whispered, dishing himself some food.
"The man in red," Gina whispered back, "when he first saw me, he looked a bit like he'd seen an unsent. Even now, he's watching me. I don't like it."
Tidus glanced over at Auron and saw that the man was watching the summoner. Ten years of living with Auron told Tidus the man recognised Gina, somehow, and it worried him. "Auron's completed the pilgrimage before," Tidus offered quietly. "It's possible there's something in Zanarkand that has your face on it?"
Gina poked at her food, frown making her forehead crinkle. "I would feel better if he didn't seem to hate me so much."
Tidus shook his head. "I can ask him about it, if you'd like?"
Gina glanced up at him, relief shining in her eyes. "Please?"
"Sure. I'll ask him after supper."
The conversation with Auron hadn't gone well. The older guardian seemed determined to keep things to himself, more so now that Tidus wanted answers for things. It was obnoxious.
"All I know is you remind him of someone he met on his travels who betrayed him," Tidus told Gina that evening while they were sitting on the ridge. Most of the two parties had headed for bed twenty minutes ago, but Tidus insisted that he needed to talk with Gina before bed. There wouldn't be many chances to talk alone once they were on the way again, especially since they'd be travelling with Yuna to Djose.
Gina sighed and stared up at the stars. "Well, we'll be travelling together for a couple of days. Maybe he'll decide I'm not so bad."
"You're not bad," Tidus insisted.
Gina smiled at him. "Thanks, Tidus."
Tidus huffed. "Just as long as you don't go calling me a kid again."
Gina chuckled. "I will try to refrain."
"Sure you will." Tidus rolled his eyes and stretched out next to her. "Auron told me some other things as well. Before dinner."
Gina sighed. "I get the sense I'm not going to like this."
Tidus grimaced. "No, I'm afraid not," he agreed, then told her about the Final Aeon being turned into Sin's armour.
Gina closed her eyes and took a moment to control her tears. Not only had her father been forced to ravage the world, but she'd cursed Zaon to do the same thing until some other summoner came along and freed him. "We were fools," she whispered.
Tidus shrugged. "You didn't know."
Gina allowed a bitter smile. "Yevon mocks us," she said to the stars.
Tidus snorted. "Yeah, I guess he does."
They lay in silence for a good ten minutes or so before Gina rose to her elbows.
"Thanks, Tidus. For telling me."
"You deserve to know," the teen replied.
Gina inclined her head. "Yeah. Well, I think I'll head in."
"Yeah, suppose we both should." Tidus sighed and forced himself to rise, reaching out to help Gina up once he was standing.
Once Gina was on her feet, she hugged Tidus, surprising him. "I'm sorry. About your father," she offered.
Tidus shrugged. "Thanks."
Gina smiled. "Do you still hate him?" she wondered as they started back towards the building.
Tidus snorted. "Oh, yeah. Always. Becoming a fayth to stop Sin doesn't absolve him of how much of an ass he was to Mom and me."
"Well, at least you've got your priorities in order," Gina decided.
Tidus grinned at her. "Good night, Gina."
"Good night, Tidus."
Chapter 4: Heaven Sent a Hurricane
"Rikku?" a voice called as the girl in question snatched up a roll from the table of breakfast food.
Rikku turned and grinned at the man standing in the doorway of the travel agency. "Rin! How are you? I haven't seen you in months!"
The man, Rin, smiled back and stepped forward to greet the girl. A couple of other travellers in the room eyed the two Al Bhed like one might a fiend, but Tidus, Gina and Lulu, who were in the room, just ignored them, returning to sorting out their provisions.
Really, Gina and Lulu were the ones sorting provisions while Tidus stood by and snacked on an apple. Wakka and Kimahri were both outside with Yuna, and Auron had yet to show.
"You may wish to warn Rikku about speaking Al Bhed where Wakka can hear," Lulu commented in an off-handed manner when Rikku and Rin had continued catching up in their language. "He hates them, and we will be travelling together for a few days."
Tidus sighed and dropped his apple core in a conveniently placed bin. "Yeah, okay. Might as well do it now." He shoved his hands into his pockets and walked over to the two Al Bhed. "Hey, Rikku?"
Rikku glanced up, eyes bright. "Tidus! Hi!"
Tidus couldn't help but smile in return. "Hey, Lulu wanted me to warn you to stick to common while we're on the road with Yuna's guardians. Wakka might have a violent fit if he finds out you're Al Bhed."
Rikku grimaced. "Yunie told me the same thing," she admitted, then glanced around the shop. "He's not in here, is he?"
"No, he's outside with Yuna. But he could always come back in."
Rikku sighed and looked back at Rin, who was watching them with a curious look. "Sorry, Rin."
Rin smiled and shrugged. "I understand," he said. "I am always having to watch how I speak, even in my own shop."
Tidus huffed. "It's not fair that you have to be careful," he muttered.
Rikku smiled at him. "Thanks, Tidus. Oh! Rin, this is Tidus. Tidus, Rin." The girl bounced on the balls of her feet a bit. "Tidus and I are travelling with Gina over there. And Yunie, at least until Djose."
Rin eyed the summoner still inside. "Interesting," he allowed.
Tidus shrugged. "I can't speak for Yuna, but Gina doesn't want to call the Final Aeon. So far as we know, it can't defeat Sin. Not for good."
Both Al Bhed looked surprised at that. "The Final Aeon can't defeat Sin?" Rikku asked. "You're certain?"
Tidus grimaced and silently cursed his own trust in Rikku that had him spilling even that little bit of truth. "Uhm, yeah. Pretty certain. I mean, we'll know for sure when we reach Zanarkand, but all the evidence supports that."
Rikku nodded. "Okay!" she said, ever trusting of her two companions. She was too happy to be overly concerned about whatever Tidus and Gina whispered to one another when they thought she wasn't paying attention. She trusted that, when it became important, they'd tell her what they knew. For the moment, she enjoyed travelling with them. Tidus was a way better older brother than her own siblings, and Gina reminded her of what little she remembered of her mother. Occasionally meeting up with Yuna was nice, but she preferred Gina and Tidus to Yuna and her guardians.
Rin, on the other hand, looked a bit suspicious about Tidus' secret evidence, but he, like other Al Bhed, disliked how summoners sacrificed themselves. If Gina intended to find another way, he didn't much care what evidence it was based on.
Auron finally came out from the back room. "Is everyone ready?" he asked Lulu, ignoring Gina entirely.
The summoner huffed and finished shoving everything in her pack as Lulu answered in the affirmative.
"Better he ignore you than glare at you," Tidus offered as Gina caught up with her two guardians by the door.
"What's up with that, anyway?" Rikku wondered. "He's kind of rude."
"We're not sure. All he'd tell Tidus was that I reminded him of someone who betrayed him or some such." Gina huffed and flipped her hair in a manner than had probably looked better with her longer hair. "He'd best get over it soon, or I'll give him a reason to dislike me."
Rikku and Tidus traded grins as they all made their way out of the agency, joining up with all the others by the chocobo corrals. "We ready, den?" Wakka asked, rubbing his hands together.
"Sounds like," Gina agreed, deciding to ignore Auron as the oldest guardian and Lulu joined them. "Tidus, Rikku and I were going to take chocobos for the rest of the Highroad. You can join us, or walk; your choice."
Yuna glanced at Auron who shrugged and nodded, then at Lulu who offered her a faint smile. "We'll ride with you, I think," she decided.
"Excellent." Gina collected some gil from Lulu, then walked over to the attendant to gather their mounts while the rest of the party situated their bags.
The trip through the last of the Highroad was much quicker with the addition of the large yellow birds, and they made it to the gate of Mushroom Rock Road just as dark was falling. Of course, it turned out that their speed really hadn't been to their advantage, as the Crusaders had closed the pass off for some sort of operation that was to happen the next morning.
"We can't even pass tonight?" Tidus demanded as the party backed off from the gate to discuss their plans. "It's not like we'd be in their way or anything."
"We'd have to stop before we got to Djose Temple," Lulu replied, shaking her head. "It would make sense to clear off both sides of the road facing the sea, to lessen the chance of accidental deaths."
"Fighting Sin like dat..." Wakka muttered, eyeing the gate where some Al Bhed with machina were being shown through. "It's wrong."
"Are you suggesting that everyone in the world should just sit back and let their lives and homes be destroyed without a say?" Tidus demanded of the other blitzballer. "That if you're not a summoner or know someone willing to become a summoner you should just sit back on your hands and do nothing?"
Wakka scowled and looked away. "Dat's not what I'm saying..."
"Enlighten me, then."
"Tidus..." Gina sighed, shaking her head. Admittedly, she was a little irritated with the red-head's comment as well, but she wasn't about to start a fight over it.
Wakka looked for a long minute like he wasn't going to speak again, but then he looked up, eyes dark. "Using machina, dat'll never work. They're just going to get themselves killed, and for what? Yevon's teachings say only when we repent for our sins will Sin be gone, ya? And using machina is a sin. So fighting it with machina is only going to make things worse!"
Gina reached forward and covered Tidus' mouth with one hand before the guardian could snap out a reply to that. "Perhaps the use of machina does only anger Sin," she commented neutrally, "but that doesn't mean it's wrong."
"Of course it's wrong!"
"It's wrong to want to protect your families and friends?" Gina replied evenly, cocking an eyebrow.
Wakka deflated. "No, but–"
"I'm not saying the means are right, but you cannot condemn them for doing what you yourself have set out to do. Perhaps they're wrong to use machina, but they're not wrong to want to fight."
Wakka turned away, looking defeated, and Gina finally removed her hand from Tidus' mouth. The blond huffed a bit, then glanced at his summoner. "Sorry."
Gina smiled. "Nothing to be sorry for, Tidus."
They shared a moment of silent understanding, which was broken by Yuna's cry of, "Maester Seymour!"
Gina immediately tensed as they turned to watch the caravan approach, the maester in question in the lead. Rikku came to stand behind Tidus and Gina while Yuna's guardians all moved forward as the girl dashed forward to greet the maester. Only Auron remained behind, watching the entire part with a frown.
Seymour smiled pleasantly as he came to a stop before Yuna. "So we meet again, Lady Yuna," he said in his soft voice.
"Y–Yes?" Yuna glanced up at the man with wide eyes.
"You look troubled. Is there something I can do?" the maester inquired. When Yuna glanced briefly at the barred gate, Seymour nodded. "I see," he murmured and walked over to the gate to request that the party be allowed to pass.
"Interesting," Auron murmured as the maester turned back to Yuna and her guardians to allow them through.
"What should we do?" Rikku whispered as Seymour went ahead.
"I think I should like to see what these people are up to," Gina decided, glancing at Tidus, who set his jaw and nodded.
"Are you coming?" Yuna asked Gina, Tidus and Rikku as Lulu and Wakka started towards the gate.
"Yeah, sorry," Tidus replied, smiling at the young woman as they all started towards the gate.
The Crusaders at the gate looked a little confused when the second summoner party joined Yuna's group, but since the two parties had arrived together and seemed to be friendly, nothing was said. While it was unusual to see two summoners travelling together, it wasn't unheard of, and considering Gina's use of a spear, who was to say they were two separate parties?
On the other side of the gate, Seymour was greeted with smiles by the Crusaders that were standing there and he offered them all his blessing, confusing Wakka something terrible. When the Crusaders had moved on, Seymour walked back to the group, smiling. The smile, however, wavered when he caught sight of Gina for the first time, making the summoner tense. "How unusual," the maester murmured, eyeing Gina like she was some sort of curio.
Gina slipped behind Tidus a bit even as Yuna inquired, "Sorry, Your Grace, but what's unusual?"
Seymour glanced back at Yuna. "Seeing two summoners together, of course," he replied.
"Is it really so unusual for summoners to make friends with each other?" Tidus wondered, frowning.
"And chance that another summoner will manage to defeat Sin before yourself?" Auron offered drily.
"That's just stupid."
Seymour glanced between Auron and the young man that Gina was hiding behind. "Sir Auron, it is an honour," the maester said, focusing on the older guardian and making Gina breathe in relief. "I would be most interested in hearing what you've been up to the past ten years."
"I've got nothing to say about it," Auron retorted coolly, looking away.
"Excuse me... Maester Seymour? Why is your Lordship...presently... present here...sir?" Wakka asked, shifting nervously.
"Please, speak as you normally would," the maester requested.
Wakka took a deep breath, then hurried to say, "Isn't this operation against the teachings of Yevon? Aren't you gonna stop them?"
"It's true... I should. However... Both the Crusaders and the Al Bhed truly wish peace for Spira. This Operation Mi'ihen was born from that wish they share." The maester glanced behind him at where a few Crusaders and Al Bhed were working together with some machina. "Although it may be sacrilege to Yevon, their intentions are pure. And I, Seymour Guado -- the person, not the maester of Yevon... As a denizen of Spira, I wish them well in their endeavour."
"But, using machina... That's bad, isn't it?" Wakka needed to know.
Seymour smiled rather like one would at a small child. "Pretend you didn't see them."
"Beg your pardon, but that's not something a maester should say!" Wakka exclaimed.
"Then, pretend I didn't say it."
Tidus huffed a bit in amusement as the maester turned away, leaving Wakka to gape like a fish out of water. "You heard the man," he told the red-head, clapping him on the shoulder, "become blind and deaf for the next day or so and everything will be fine.
Wakka shot him a wounded look, but before he could come up with a retort, Gina stepped forward with a thunderous expression, grabbed Tidus by the ear and marched him out of the hearing range of the rest of the party. "Ow! Ow ow ow!! Gina!" Tidus complained.
Gina turned on her guardian. "That Guado is bad news," she hissed, "and there you are, enjoying having him around."
"He's got a point," Tidus offered. "The same point you and I were trying to make to Wakka earlier, in fact."
Gina stared at him for a moment in surprise, then muttered, "You actually like that man, don't you?"
Tidus frowned. "What do you mean by that?"
"Hey, what's wrong?" Rikku asked, joining them. "The others are going to leave without us."
Gina closed her eyes tiredly. "Thanks, Rikku. We should go."
Rikku and Tidus fell in next to one another behind their summoner as she started after Yuna's party. "What was that all about?" the Al Bhed asked the blitzer.
Tidus shrugged, still frowning a bit. "I'm not sure. All I know is that Gina really doesn't like Seymour."
"I don't like him either," Rikku offered. "Maesters are bad news."
Tidus grunted and kept his eyes on the summoner. "But he's okay with this operation, right?"
Rikku gave him a sad smile. "Are you suggesting a maester is actually good?"
"It has to happen sometimes," Tidus grumbled. "They can't all be stuck up bastards who hate the Al Bhed on sight and talk about Yevon like he's some sort of god. Can they?"
Rikku looked at her fellow guardian oddly. "Sometimes, Tidus, you say the strangest things."
Tidus blinked in confusion, but was saved having to answer when they were attacked by a group of fiends. After dispatching them, Rikku skipped forward to talk to Yuna while Tidus stayed back with Gina.
After another couple fights with fiends, Gina glanced over at Tidus' troubled expression and said, "I just want you to be careful. Don't stop looking at the surface."
"I know he can't be all good," Tidus replied, fidgeting with his sword. "I mean, he's a maester, right? You can't get that high in the order without becoming at least a little twisted. But..." He trailed off.
Gina sighed and shook her head. "Live for your moment, Tidus," she offered, "just don't forget what you're fighting for."
Tidus glanced over at his summoner and the woman offered him a tired smile, which he returned, asking, "Does that mean I can go gay on you and you won't care?"
Gina grimaced. "Did you have to put it like that?"
"It was the least offensive response," Tidus agreed.
The summoner let out a quiet laugh. "Why him, anyway?"
Tidus shrugged. "I dunno. Why not him?"
"I refuse to respond to that."
They glanced at each other, then burst out laughing, making the rest of the party jump.
Next to Yuna, Rikku grinned. "Took them long enough," she said and her cousin gave her a curious look, which she just shrugged off.
The rest of the trip up to the command centre was relatively dull, with only the occasional attack from a fiend to liven things up. Once they reached their destination, a couple of Crusaders showed them to where some bedrolls had been set up for them for the night.
"Do we want to set a watch?" Gina asked as they all sat down to eat a quick supper before sleeping.
"Only thing to worry about here are the Al Bhed, and the Crusaders should keep them away," Wakka replied with a shrug. Across the fire, Rikku clenched her fists, glaring down at her bowl.
"Better safe than sorry," Auron offered, ignoring the impending row. "I'll take first watch."
"I can take second," Lulu offered.
"I'll take third," Tidus decided, stretching a bit. When Gina shot him an amused glance, he stuck his tongue out at her. So what if he wanted to stalk the maester while the others were all asleep? Maybe he'd be lucky and Seymour would be an early riser.
"Well, good night, then," Yuna offered, standing and handing her bowl over to Gina, who had agreed to do the washing up when they were serving themselves.
Everyone said their good nights and made for bed while Gina and a scowling Rikku worked together to clean their dish ware before turning in themselves.
Auron spent most of his watch in silence next to their fire. Lulu's watch was just as quiet and she woke Tidus with a faint smile at his tired groan. "It's been quiet all night," she offered in a whisper.
Tidus nodded. "You go on back to bed, then," he whispered back.
Lulu nodded and returned to her bedroll as Tidus got out of his and stretched. He paced by the fire for a bit, trying to wake himself up. Once he was certain Lulu had fallen back asleep, he snuck away from the fire towards the part of the command centre he knew the maester was in. Before he could get very far, a couple of Guado stepped in his way, looking displeased. "Oh, er, sorry..." Tidus offered, taking a nervous step back.
Seymour appeared behind the two Guado, smiling. "One of Lady Yuna's party."
"Oh, I'm not Yuna's guardian," Tidus replied, shaking his head.
"The other summoner, then," Seymour allowed, inclining his head. "Perhaps your might enlighten me as to her name? I seemed to have missed it."
"Gina," Tidus offered, managing a faint smile. "And I'm Tidus."
Seymour considered Tidus for a long moment, then turned away. "Please, come in, Tidus," he offered and the two Guado guards stepped out of the way. Tidus followed the maester over to his own camp fire. "Please, sit. Some fruit?"
"Oh, uhm, thanks." Tidus took the offered fruit and took a careful bite, smiling when he found it to be delicious. "Thank you," he said more sincerely.
Seymour inclined his head and took delicate bites of his own fruit. "Your Lady Gina is very familiar to me," he commented in an off-handed manner. "Has she perhaps travelled to Guadosalam before?"
Tidus shrugged. "She might have, I don't know. I've only been her guardian for about two weeks." He looked away, troubled. "We both had... Well, we both happened across Sin and all we really had left was each other, so we've stuck together since." He glanced up at the half-Guado, spinning the fruit in his hands nervously. "She and Rikku, Gina's other guardian, are my only real friends. I mean, there's Auron, but he's a jerk anyway."
Seymour smiled. "You are acquainted with Sir Auron, then?"
Tidus nodded, then shrugged. "Sure. He helped raise me." He glanced back towards where he knew his camp lay. "That's where he's been for the past ten years, by the way. Since you asked." He looked back at the maester, who had raised his eyebrows in surprise. Tidus bit his lower lip, then admitted, "Jecht was my old man."
Understanding bloomed in the pale eyes. "I wasn't aware that Sir Jecht had a son."
"I'm not surprised," Tidus replied bitterly. "He was always more interested in himself than Mom or me. Stuck-up bastard. I hope he's miserable." He took an angry bite of his fruit and had swallowed it before he remembered his host and flushed, looking towards the half-Guado apologetically. "Sorry. Didn't mean to rant. It's just, you know... Everyone's always got something good to say about him, but he was a really shitty dad."
Seymour nodded and glanced down into the fire, an expression in his eyes that Tidus couldn't quite decipher, yet thought for sure he'd seen before. After a long silence, during which Tidus got more and more nervous, the maester finally murmured, "My father..." and then snapped his mouth shut and stood. "Forgive me. Your companions will likely be awakening soon, and I have preparations to make."
Tidus considered the other as he stood himself and dusted off his shorts. "Okay. Well..." He rubbed at his chin. "Good luck, I guess." Then he turned and hurried from the maester's section, not a little confused.
"Where have you been?" Auron asked once Tidus got back to their fire.
"Taking a leak," Tidus retorted. He had stopped on the way to relieve himself. "What are you, my parent? Back off."
Auron just gave him a look and Tidus flushed and sat down next to their fire. Neither of them said anything as the rest of the large camps slowly woke, setting about getting their breakfasts and checking that their equipment was secure.
Kimahri was the next to wake in their small camp, followed by Lulu and Gina. While the others set about preparing breakfast, Gina ushered Tidus away from the fire, curious about his troubled frown. "Well? Not what you expected?"
Tidus considered his summoner for a long moment, then shook his head. "No, he wasn't. But... I dunno. It seemed like he wanted to say something, after I ranted about my old man, but he stopped himself." He ran a hand through his hair. "I dunno," he said again.
Gina watched him with a worried frown. "Will you be okay?"
Tidus sighed, then straightened himself and pasted on a cocky smirk. "Always."
Gina sighed and shook her head. "You going to give up, then?"
"I never give up. Can't win if you give up," Tidus replied, sounding just like any and all of the well-known blizters that Gina had known.
The summoner shook her head and reached over to tug on Tidus' ear, making him shout. "Come on, then. Breakfast."
"Would you stop pulling my ear?" Tidus complained, falling in next to her. "I mean, really. It kind of hurts."
Gina smiled a bit. "But you behave so much better when I bring your ear into the mix. It's like a switch, or something."
"I hate you."
"Don't worry, I enjoy your company too."
After breakfast, they met up with Maesters Kinoc and Seymour. Kinoc seemed just as interested as to Auron's disappearance as Seymour had been, but Auron was just as slippery about avoiding the subject as he'd been with Seymour.
Kinoc was also looser with his thoughts, drily commenting that he didn't think the operation would work. While his thoughts seemed to please Wakka, who took it as his being vindicated, the rest of the party frowned. Seymour stepped in before Kinoc could damn himself any further, reminding him to ensure everyone was ready.
"Will Sin really come?" Yuna wondered as Kinoc called for the start of the operation.
"Sin always returns for its spawn," a guard nearby replied, smiling grimly. "To make sure, we're going to encourage them to call out to it."
"You won't have to," Auron murmured. "It'll come."
Behind the older guardian, Gina and Tidus traded looks. With both of them there, Sin most probably would come.
The cage that held the spawn was shocked with electricity, making the creatures inside scream in pain. One of them managed to snap the door open and jumped to the ledge where the party was standing. As soon as the monster hit the ground, Tidus and Kimahri both jumped forward, weapons out. Auron and Wakka weren't far behind them while Gina and Lulu both readied spells and Yuna and Rikku prepared to help with any required healing.
Over by where the maesters had stood, Kinoc was hiding behind Seymour and his Guado guards, who were dealing with another spawn. Well, the guards were doing most of the work; Seymour was watching Yuna and Gina's party as they worked together to bring down their enemy.
The Sinspawn was pretty much out for the count when Auron shouted, "Look out!" and most of the party jumped back away from the cliff. Tidus, Wakka and Kimahri, who had all been too near to the edge, fell over the ridge as Sin's attack hit.
"TIDUS!" Gina screamed, making to run forward, but Rikku slammed into her side and pushed her out of the way as a falling boulder hit where she'd been standing moments before.
"We have bigger things to worry about," Auron growled as he got to his feet near the two females. He nodded to where the Sinspawn they'd been fighting had gotten back up and was baring down on Yuna and a wounded Lulu.
Gina glanced past the Sinspawn to where her guardian had fallen, but she knew Auron was right; they'd have time to find the lost guardians later, for now, others needed her help. "Yojimbo!" she shouted, swinging her spear around and calling out the samurai aeon. As he passed her from the realm he came from, she held out some gil, which he slipped into a pocket. Without needing to be directed, Yojimbo dashed forward and held off the Sinspawn while Rikku and Gina helped Yuna with Lulu.
As soon as the humes were safe, Yojimbo let loose one devastating attack, then turned and left the creature to Auron, who finished it in one hit.
Once Yuna was sure Lulu was stable, she dashed forward to the edge, looking out over the devastation. "The others–!"
The large machina the Al Bhed had brought was powered up and slammed into the shield surrounding Sin. When it seemed it would work and the shield was buckling, it slammed outwards, destroying the gun and everyone beneath it.
They shared a moment of horrified silence, then Yuna put her staff out in front of herself, declaring, "Stand back! I'll summon!"
Rikku ran forward and grabbed her cousin in a hug, eyes streaming with tears. "Yunie, please," she whispered.
"If you try attacking it, as weak as you are, you'll only bring Sin's attention back towards us," Gina said sternly, "and then there will be no chance of any of us surviving. Pick your battles, Lady Yuna."
Yuna's staff dropped from her fingers as she wrapped her arms around Rikku and sobbed into the younger girl's hair.
Tidus woke with a mouth full of red-tinged sand. He spat it out as he sat up and looked around at the devastation. No matter where he looked, bodies of Crusaders and Al Bhed alike were strewn among the fallen boulders and shredded flags. Out in the mouth of the bay, Sin was turning away, shield fading away as it submerged.
"Don't you run away from me!" Tidus screamed, running for the water, but a solid body stepped into his way, grabbing him by his shoulders. "No, let me go!"
"And what would running after it accomplish?" Seymour demanded, shaking Tidus by the shoulders. "You would run straight to your own death!"
Tidus gasped and slumped against the maester, anger draining away. "Nothing," he whispered against the older man's chest. "I would have accomplished nothing."
Seymour's grip on the teen's shoulders loosened and he seemed uncertain for only a moment before he wrapped his arms around Tidus. "The Lady Gina was worried about you," he commented.
Tidus nodded and pulled away, eyes tracking over the devastation again. The sight of bright red hair had him cursing quietly and starting off across the beach. Indeed, it turned out to be Wakka, who was sporting quite the bump on the head from some nearby rubble.
"Told you it wouldn't work," the red-head mumbled.
"Shut up, you idiot. If you weren't already wounded, I'd beat you," Tidus grumbled, pulling out his pack for a potion or two. For all that Rikku insisted they didn't need potions, she liked to filch things off of monsters and often enough they were potions, which she handed off to Tidus or Gina. "Here," he helped Wakka sit up enough to drink the potion, then sat back to see how much it helped. Head wounds were funny things, he knew from his childhood.
There was a grunt and Kimahri stumbled over to them, Seymour silently following him. The Ronso still had the faint glow of a cure spell, so Tidus figured the maester must have already seen to his wounds.
"Wakka should be okay," Tidus offered. "Other than his usual issues."
"Not issues," Wakka grunted, pushing himself into a sitting position and holding his head. "Religion."
"Same thing," Tidus muttered, shoving his things back into his pack, since it looked like the older blitzball player wouldn't need another potion.
"Where's Yuna?" Wakka wondered, looking up. When he caught sight of Seymour, he blinked, then said, "Er, Your Grace. Sorry, didn't see you there."
"The girls were all far enough back that they should still be up near the command centre," Tidus commented while Seymour smiled faintly at the flustered red-head. "If you're okay to stand, we can head up there and check on them."
Wakka nodded, then groaned and clutched at his head. "Give me a mo'."
Kimahri grunted and picked Wakka up bridal-style, causing the red-head to flail a bit in surprise while Tidus snickered. "No wait. Go to Yuna now," the Ronso insisted, then turned and started up the path towards the command centre.
Tidus and Seymour fell in behind the Ronso, both keeping their eyes out for any survivors, but it seemed that the only people to survive the attack where those who had been up at the command centre. "Dammit," Tidus whispered as he checked another corpse. "Dammit."
Seymour cleared his throat. "At least they are free of their suffering," he offered.
Tidus sighed and shook his head. "Are they?" he wondered. "Maybe they're free of their physical suffering, but what about after? What do we really know about life after death? Maybe they stick around and just keep suffering because everyone they've known is suffering. And, what about those who don't get sent and turn into fiends? Are they free from suffering?"
Seymour blinked and considered the teen with a blank expression. "How unusual."
Tidus grimaced. "I live to confuse people," he muttered, shaking his head.
"Tidus!" Gina shouted and the teen found himself with an armful of summoner and Al Bhed.
"Hey, hey. I'm okay," he told them, wrapping his arms around both girls. "It was just a little tumble. I've had worse. Are you two okay?"
Gina gave him a quick explanation about what had happened while they'd been down on the beach and Tidus glanced over at Yuna, who was worrying over Wakka and Lulu, a smile pasted on her face.
"She says she wants everyone to keep smiling," Rikku offered, noticing where her fellow guardian was looking. "She wants her journey to be full of smiles, so her last memories are happy ones."
Tidus nodded, completely understanding the sentiment, then looked down at the Al Bhed at his side. "You haven't tried talking her out of the Final Summoning yet?"
Rikku shrugged. "Once, but she didn't really listen." She glanced between Tidus and Gina. "Maybe one of you two could try. Tell her that the Final Summoning will never work."
Tidus and Gina traded looks. "Perhaps," the summoner agreed, pulling out her spear. "For now, though, there are souls to send. Excuse me."
The various guardians stood back and watched in silence as Gina and Yuna moved together in their painfully sad dance. Behind Tidus and Rikku, Seymour stood in silent thought, having heard everything Tidus and his friends had said since they'd caught up.
Seymour has a lot of thinking to do. And I'm sorry if he seemed a bit OoC, but he got a minor shock in seeing who looks to be a young Yunalesca. And one of the guardians of this young Yunalesca searched him out, had a father that is not only famous, but reminds Seymour of his own. And, yeah, Tidus has some very different views of the world. So Tidus and Gina are just one big mystery and Seymour's a bit thrown. (He was going to marry Yuna and have her use him as the Final Summoning, but then this Yunalesca-look-alike comes along, but she's not going to use the Final Summoning, and it sounds like she'd going to try talking Yuna out of it, too....)
Anyway. Just an idea of what all is going through Seymour's mind. *shifty eyes* I am trying to make him IC.
Chapter 5: My Secrets Become Your Truth
So, I considered putting a lemon in this chapter, but then remembered I'd decided not to go there with this fic, so meh. *sticks out tongue* There is, however, a kiss and blatant 'hints' that something is about to happen between Tidus and Seymour off-screen, so if the thought of naughty sex-love between two men makes you sick, close your eyes for the last one hundred seventy words or so. XD
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There had turned out to have been a couple of survivors between the command centre and the Al Bhed gun who had escaped the two attacks mostly intact. Those who could, were moving on to the Djose Temple for healing or a place to recover. Those who couldn't move without a great deal of assistance simply remained where they had fallen, occasionally moaning or commenting on their coming death.
"Go on to Djose," Gina suggested when Yuna looked helplessly towards those who remained on the battlefield after the sending. "Tidus, Rikku and I can stay here and see what we can do to help. You still need to get Ixion's help."
Yuna glanced at her guardians and received smiles in return, strained though they were. Tidus and Rikku, when Yuna looked to them, also smiled, so she nodded, clearly relieved. "Yes, I'll do that. You won't stop at Djose at all?"
Gina smiled and shook her head. "Yuna, knowing that you and your guardians will be there to assist the priests is enough for me. We'll do what we can here, then continue on."
"Will we..." Yuna swallowed. "Will we see each other again?"
"The path to Zanarkand is long and treacherous, with enough rest stops on the way," Auron offered. "I am sure we will run into each other again, even if it is only in passing in the Macalania Woods."
"Don't lose heart, Yunie," Rikku added. "This isn't goodbye, only a sort of 'see you later'."
Yuna smiled gratefully. "Okay, then. See you later."
Everyone traded their goodbyes, then the three party members who were staying set their packs to one side, rooted through them for healing items, then started off through the wounded and dying. For those that could be helped, potions were fed; for those that couldn't, a hard-faced party member would end their suffering at their request and Gina would send them.
As night fell, the friends set up a camp partway up the path to Djose. They were joined by many of those they'd helped and food was shared around in silence. Those who had been the most wounded were sent to bed by a stern Gina, and those who had fared better – a few had remained with Gina's party to assist with the wounded – divvied up watch duty before crawling into blood-splattered bedrolls for the night.
Early the next morning, the large group gathered their things and started towards Djose in silence. Many of the travellers would be remaining at the temple, but a few had decided to continue on towards Guadosalam and Bevelle, so chose to stay with Gina's party. With so many people, fiends were but a nuisance, even with having to support the occasional wounded.
At the temple, the group split, leaving seven people, including Gina's party, to continue on. The Crusaders with them shared stories about who they were and why they'd chosen the course that had brought them to that beach. Some cried over lost friends, others were too hardened by loss to give more than a passing frown. The journey was a sad one, but they made due. And after having travelled the Mi'ihen Highroad with only three people to split the night watch between, Gina, Rikku and Tidus enjoyed the company, as gloomy as it was.
At the Moonflow, three of their companions remained to speak with those who were gathered under a tent, creating a rallying point for the Crusaders who had survived. Only one person remained with them, and he only wanted to continue on until Guadosalam, so he could say a proper farewell to his friends who had passed on.
"It will be good to be past all these people," Gina commented quietly to her guardians while they waited for the shoopuf to be ready to launch. "Not that I don't appreciate their value or sympathise with their losses..."
"It's nice to have someone around to help pick up the slack," Tidus agreed, "but I sort of prefer just travelling with the three of us."
"It's certainly less gloomy," Rikku offered, glancing over at their last travelling companion, who was returning from buying some supplies. "I don't suppose there's a way to avoid the Thunder Plains?"
"Avoid them?" Tidus asked, frowning. "Is there something wrong with them?"
Rikku looked a little ashamed. "I just..." She shuffled her feet, then mumbled, "I'm scared of lightning."
Gina stepped over and wrapped an arm around the girl's shoulders, shooting Tidus a helpless look. "I'm sorry, Rikku," the summoner offered. "I wish I knew a way around it."
"If anyone knows a way around it, it would be the guado, right?" Tidus offered. "We can ask around while we're there."
Rikku perked up at that. "Yeah..."
Gina shot Tidus a bright smile. "Excellent. Even if they don't know a way around the Plains, they might have some sort of lightning repelling device that we can get you, okay?"
Rikku nodded, looking much better. "Yeah. Thanks." She flushed a bit. "My brothers always make fun of me when someone mentions that."
"Your brothers are jerks," Tidus announced, then shot Rikku a grin. "I mean, look at everyone else around here; they're afraid of machina."
Rikku giggled and covered her mouth with one hand. "You're going to get lynched if you keep that up," she warned him.
"You'll save me though, won't you?" Tidus opened his eyes really wide, earning him another giggle. Mission accomplished.
Gina shook her head at the two, happy to see them smiling after days of gloomy silence. "Come on, you two. Shoopuf's ready."
The ride was filled with a great deal of shoving and teasing between Rikku and Tidus, which made the Hypello at the head nervous, but the ex-Crusader and Gina both enjoyed the show. Gina assured the Hypello twice that the two weren't really going to go shoving each other off the shoopuf's back, but it didn't much seem to help.
On the far bank, they disembarked and moved a bit out of the way of the terminal on that side before setting up camp for the evening.
"I bet I know exactly which guado you want to talk to," Gina commented once Rikku and their other travelling companion had dozed off. Tidus had the first watch, so he was sitting next to the fire, working on getting the nicks out of his blade.
Tidus flushed ever so faintly, then shot his summoner a dark look. "Yeah? So what if I am hoping he's around?"
Gina laughed and shook her head. "Oh, Tidus, I don't like him, but I'm not going to tell you you're not allowed to even speak to him in passing. I know you'll be careful, and that's really all that matters to me."
Tidus relaxed and offered a sheepish smile. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Gina offered. "It's been a trying few days." She shuffled around in her bedroll, trying to find a more comfortable position, then commented, "You know, I didn't even notice he'd gone after you on that beach until you two returned together."
"Yeah, it was a bit surprising," Tidus allowed, setting his sword to one side and stretching a bit. "If anyone would have come after me, I'd have figured it would be you or Rikku, but it sounded like you had your hands full protecting Yuna and Lulu."
"Yuna is definitely a handful," Gina commented drily and they shared a grin. "She's a good kid, though, for all that she intends to waste her short life on putting an end to Sin." Her smile turned sad as she considered Tidus, who had looked away. "Rather like another teen I know."
Tidus shook his head. "You should talk," he commented. "I mean, I know you're not actually seventeen, but you look it."
"I don't have any intention of sacrificing myself to rid the world of Sin," Gina pointed out, but it was said with no anger or disappointment. They both knew there was no other choice.
They were silent for a long moment after that. Gina was just settling in to sleep when Tidus offered, "On the beach, I almost ran after him. After Sin."
Gina closed her eyes and smiled just a little bit. "I'm glad," she offered. Seymour still set her hair on end, but he meant something to Tidus, and something in the young dream must have spoken to the maester. Gina promised herself that she would give Seymour a chance, if only for Tidus.
"We might as well spend a night here," Gina decided after they'd parted ways with the ex-Crusader who'd been travelling with them. "That will give us more time to ask around about alternative paths, and sleeping on a real bed would be nice."
"No complaints here," Rikku chirped. "Do you want me to go secure some rooms, or..." She waved her hand at the nearby inn.
Gina glanced over at Tidus, who had eyes only for the large, posh manor set high in the city. "No," she said to Rikku, "let's look around a bit, first. It's still early, and if we have our packs on us, we don't have to go running back to the inn for things to sell, right?"
"Yeah, good point." Rikku glanced over at Tidus, smiled at his distraction, then called, "Oiy! Tidus, your fly is undone!"
Tidus let out an undignified sound and checked his pants. Finding them to be fine, he turned to Rikku. "You little brat!" he shouted, running towards her.
Rikku shrieked and dashed off into the city, giggling madly. Tidus raced after her, shouting threats.
Gina let out a soft snort and started into the city herself, shaking her head at their insanity. She was glad they were having fun, but did they have to behave like buffoons?
Gina spent the next couple of hours touring the city. She asked a few people about alternate methods for getting across the Thunder Plains, but no one seemed to know of any such. The weapons shop owner suggested a series of shields that gave the wearer extra protection against lightning, but he had nothing other than that. After thanking him for his trouble, Gina continued on, disappointed that there seemed to be no other way past this obstacle. She sincerely hoped Tidus or Rikku had managed better.
Tidus had eventually given up on enacting vengeance on Rikku and left her to wander alone. He asked a few people about ways around the Thunder Plains – always receiving responses in the negative – but he was more concerned with looking around the city, with its stained glass and the appearance of it simply having grown from the cave walls around it. Tidus thought it all amazing and occasionally bumped into other people while looking around in wonder.
One such person that he bumped into caught him around the shoulders before he could fall and graced him with a quiet laugh that completely distracted him from his viewings of the city. "You should be more careful, Sir Tidus," Seymour chastised lightly.
Tidus laughed at himself and took a step back so he wasn't so much in Seymour's space – for all that he very much liked it there, the scowls on Seymour's guards' faces were warning enough. "Sorry," he offered, feeling his face flush and silently cursing it, "I was just so distracted by the architecture..." He glanced over at a nearby shop, colourful windows held in place by twisting rock, and added, "It's amazing. I can't imagine what it would have been like to grow up here."
Seymour glanced over at the shop Tidus was staring at. "Neither can I," he admitted. Before Tidus could fully assimilate his words, the maester asked, "Where is your summoner and fellow guardian?"
Tidus blinked a few times while his brain caught up, then he rubbed at the back of his neck. "Gina, Rikku and I split up to tour the city." He cocked his head to one side. "I don't suppose you know of another way past the Thunder Plains? Rikku doesn't like lightning."
Seymour shook his head. "I'm afraid not," he said. At Tidus' crestfallen look, he offered, "However, my people have something of a carriage that protects those within from the lightning. It's reserved for when the city elder or Maester has to travel through the Thunder Plains, but I'll be travelling to Macalania Temple tomorrow evening. If you're willing to wait a day and a half, you may ride with me."
Tidus' eyes lit up. "Really?" he whispered.
"Certainly," Seymour agreed, finding himself smiling at the happiness suffusing the boy's face.
"Thanks, Seymour!" Tidus exclaimed, bouncing a bit. "I need to find Gina and Rikku!" He turned and dashed off.
One of Seymour's guards stepped forward. "Is it wise, Lord Seymour, to invite such a boy to ride with you?" the man asked. "He is quite rude."
"It's a part of his charm," Seymour replied, staring in the direction Tidus had disappeared.
"His charm, my lord?"
Seymour hummed and turned to look at his guard. "Hakola, go after him and invite him and his party to the château for the evening meal. There is little point in forcing a summoner and her party to suffer the inn fare when there are proper meals to be had."
The guard sighed, but inclined his head in understanding. "As you say, my lord," he agreed before starting off after the teen.
Seymour continued on his walk, glancing around at the buildings. Guadosalam really was a beautiful city. He found himself silently cursing both his late father and his people, wishing...wishing...
All of his careful plans, all of his buried hatred, why did that boy bring it back to him so fiercely? Why did talking with Tidus always return him to that lonely little boy who stood over his mother's crystal tomb, crying his heart out at the unfairness of the world?
And, most of all, why didn't he hate the boy for it?
"Thank you for having us over, Maester Seymour," Gina offered as they were shown into the dining room. "And, also, for the offer of your private carriage."
"It's no trouble, Lady Gina," Seymour replied, standing from his seat and motioning to the three additional place settings around the large table. "Please, take your seats. The food should be out directly."
Tidus politely held Gina's chair out for her, earning him a smile, then took the open seat next to Seymour, completely ignoring Rikku, who was standing next to the empty chair next to Gina.
Rikku blinked at him a bit stupidly. "Tidus!" she complained.
Tidus smiled at her. "I considered pulling your chair out of the way just when you were about to sit, but I decided to be the mature one and just resist the temptation completely."
"You, mature?" Rikku shot back even as she took her seat.
Gina sighed fondly, more amused than irritated at her guardians' argument. She appreciated Tidus' urge to behave, for once, but suspected it had more to do with their host than who was more mature in the long run.
Speaking of their host, Gina turned and considered Seymour from behind her wine glass as he smiled at Tidus and Rikku's politely veiled insults. The half-guado seemed almost as much interested in Tidus as the teen appeared in him. He watched Tidus out of the corner of one eye, looking without seeming to look. He was so distracted that his eyes flickered in surprise when his plate of food was set in front of him, even though Gina and Rikku had already received their food across from him.
As they all turned to their food, an uncomfortable silence fell, no one quite certain what to say.
Finally, Gina set her fork to one side and took a sip from her wine, commenting, "This is a lovely château, your Grace. I was told by a few people in the city that it historically belongs to the elder of the city, but you are, in fact, the one that holds it?"
Seymour smiled politely. "Yes. My late father was the elder of the city at the time that he converted to the religion of Yevon. When he died and I was sworn in as a maester, my people agreed that it would be best for the building to remain in the hands of the one who closest connected the guado to the other species of Spira, be that a maester or the city elder. At that time, that was myself."
"It would also have been simpler, I would think," Gina commented. "I mean, you already resided here, did you not?"
Seymour took a careful bite of food and took his time chewing, giving himself the time to come up with a viable answer. Finally, he offered, "I did not live with my father, I'm afraid. I was too busy making a name for myself in Bevelle to visit Guadosalam very often."
"That's sad," Tidus offered. "I mean, it really is a lovely city."
Seymour smiled faintly and inclined his head. "Bevelle has its own beauties."
Tidus shrugged. "Every city has its own beauty, but there's something about Guadosalam... It's different from..." He swallowed and looked down at his food, pain crossing his eyes.
"It feels more like a home, more like a community," Gina offered and Tidus shot her a grateful look. She smiled back, then looked to Seymour, who was looking between them with curiosity. "Cities always have a detached sort of feel to them, no matter how lovely the architecture. It has its place and time, but there's something nice about the feeling of community."
"It does feel rather like Home," Rikku offered, shrugging. "Kilika had a similar feeling, but there's something different about it being a village made up of the majority, and a city made up of a minority."
Seymour narrowed his eyes slightly. "Yes, I suppose you would understand that feeling," he commented almost neutrally.
Rikku stared back at him, defiant, even as Gina rested a warning hand on her arm.
Tidus coughed. "I don't remember hearing anything about an Al Bhed not being allowed as a guardian," he offered evenly. "I mean, if you're going to penalise Rikku for being Al Bhed, you might as well do the same to Yuna for being half-Al Bhed, right?" He smiled oh so brightly at Seymour, but there was something hard in his eyes. "And I don't think anyone wants to fight against Yuna, considering who her father was. I really can't see Spira handling such an attack too well."
Seymour couldn't help the faint smile that touched his lips; it was unspeakably refreshing to find someone who wasn't afraid to stand against him, in spite of his title. Truly, none of this party seemed to pay him mind based on his title, but Tidus was, by far, the most blatant about it. "Forgive me, please," he offered, "I meant no insult. I am merely surprised to find an Al Bhed working with a summoner of Yevon, knowing how against us your people are." He smiled at Rikku, who narrowed her eyes, then turned to Gina. "It is the summoner's choice who she or he employs as guardians, not the maesters."
"We understand," Gina replied diplomatically, one hand still on Rikku's arm, hoping the girl wouldn't try anything she might later regret. "I know the Al Bhed and Yevon have a long history of violence towards one another; your surprise was not completely unexpected."
They all relaxed back into their seats, potentially violent situation diverted, and Seymour glanced at Tidus. "You spoke so fondly of your mother, Sir Tidus, might I enquire what she was like?"
Tidus blinked, surprised, then shrugged. "She was never the same after Jecht left," he mentioned, smiling a bit grimly at the surprised sound Rikku made. "Oh, yeah, that bastard was my dad."
Rikku shook her head. "You never mentioned him," she offered, uncomfortable. "I mean, I know you said once that you hate your old man, but you never mentioned he was famous."
Tidus smiled a bit grimly. "It's something I try to forget," he offered and he and Gina traded knowing glances before he turned back to Seymour. "Mom really loved him, and after he left she just sort of fell apart. She got really sick and died a few years later."
"I'm sorry," Seymour offered, sounding truly sorry.
Tidus shrugged. "It happens, I suppose. If I hadn't been around, she would have died much sooner, but she held it together just long enough to make sure I'd be fine on my own. At least, that's what Auron always told me."
Seymour cleared his throat. "You could visit the Farplane. See her again."
Tidus smiled bitterly. "No."
Rikku frowned. "But–"
Gina shook her head, her heart going out to the pained look in Tidus' eyes. "What about you, your Grace? I heard that your mother and you were close?"
Seymour's face blanked and he looked for a moment like he wasn't about to answer, but then Tidus leaned forward, curiosity banishing the sorrow in his eyes, and Seymour couldn't find it in himself to refuse the boy an answer, so he cleared his throat and allowed, "She was very sick, and there were no doctors who could help her. She sacrificed her life, became a fayth, so she might stay with me even in death. I trained to become a summoner at her behest."
"You never faced Sin?" Gina wondered, intrigued.
Seymour shook his head. "High Summoner Braska got to it first, and my father suggested I train to become a maester during the Peace. By the time Sin returned, I was set on my course."
The rest of the meal continued like that, with them sharing stories about their parents. Rikku was the only one with a still-living parent – unless you counted Sin or Seymour's aeon – but they had all lost someone. It didn't take much for them to get comfortable in each other's company, or as comfortable as Rikku and Gina could get around a man who occasionally made their hair stand on end.
As dessert was being brought out, Seymour offered, "I'm sure you have already collected rooms for yourself at the inn, but if you would prefer, there are some empty guest rooms here. If we are to be travelling together tomorrow evening, it may be easier for you if your things were already here." He smiled a bit uncertainly.
Rikku and Tidus both looked to Gina, neither particularly disgusted by the idea, but only Tidus held any real interest in remaining in Seymour's home for the night. Gina, herself, didn't much care one way or another, and they'd never actually gotten around to collecting rooms at the inn; after Tidus had told them about the carriage and the guado who had followed him had invited them to supper, they'd gone around collecting the supplies they'd been too distracted to get earlier before making their way to the château.
Gina smiled at the maester. "We never quite found the time to get rooms at the inn," she allowed, "so your offer is appreciated. Thank you."
"Certainly," Seymour replied with a smile. "Once you have finished with your desserts, I shall have some of my people show you to your rooms for the night."
"Of course. And, again, thank you," Gina replied, amused by the excited look Tidus was trying to hide behind his dessert.
Dessert was finished quickly, the mention of proper beds – especially ones not potentially infested with who knew what after previous occupants – was too much for the weary travellers. Once finished, the guests were ushered to the promised rooms. Gina and Rikku were asleep almost as soon as their heads touched their pillows, but Tidus wasn't so lucky. He twisted and turned for almost an hour, plagued by memories of a world that was only a dream and his coming erasure.
Finally, he got up and slipped from his room. It seemed somehow wrong to be creeping, like a thief, through so lovely a home, but he had nothing to occupy himself with in his room. At home, when he'd been unable to sleep, he would pull out a blitzball and practise or – on particularly bad nights – he’d take out some old darts and make holes in a picture of Jecht. But Tidus had given up blitzball to save this world, and there were no photos of Jecht or even darts, so he was left with simply wandering a strange house. Perhaps, he could learn something more about Seymour. The fates – or, perhaps, the fayth – were giving him all the chances to learn about the half-guado, to get to know him and, maybe, to win him. One more happiness before his life would end.
"Stop that, Tidus," he ordered himself. "If Jecht could see you now, he'd laugh."
Cry-baby. Good for nothing, cry-baby.
Tidus sighed and ran a hand over his face, leaning back against a nearby wall. He was too tired to be thinking about his old man.
"You look unwell," a quiet voice commented.
Tidus blinked up at Seymour, who was dressed in a loose night-robe. The teen became suddenly aware that he, himself, was wearing nothing more than his shorts and cleared his throat uncomfortably. "I, uh, yeah. I...couldn't sleep. Thought maybe a walk would help." He tried a smile, but wasn't sure how true it was.
Seymour nodded. "I, too, was having trouble finding sleep," he allowed, pushing open a door a few centimetres from where Tidus was leaning against the wall. "I often find some music and juice help me to relax. Would you like to join me?"
Tidus blinked, then shrugged and pushed off the wall. "Sure. Sounds better than continuing to get lost."
The maester smiled at that. "It is a large building. I was told that, back before my father took the post, whole families would live in the chateau. Children and grandchildren of the current elder." His expression darkened. "My father had none of those."
Tidus frowned as he settled in a comfortable chair in the room. "I thought he took the position just before you were born."
Seymour started up an old music player and poured them each a cup of something before settling into the chair next to the young guardian. "I... did not live with my father," he allowed after a long moment of gentle melody. "My mother and I were banished, for not being guado."
"Oh," Tidus whispered, understanding what Seymour had stopped himself from saying back on that beach. He shook his head, then offered, "You're here now, though. He got his stick out of his ass?"
Seymour choked in surprise, turning to stare at Tidus, who offered him a grin. After a moment, the maester let out a long, honest laugh and relaxed back in his chair. "Yes, my father saw the error of his ways shortly after High Summoner Braska brought the Calm. He had me fetched and insisted it was a 'time for great change and acceptance', or some such. High Summoner Braska had, after all, married between races, and he'd done a great thing for our people; surely I would be accepted, as Lady Yuna had been."
"I suppose you were," Tidus offered gently. "Your people – the guado – love you, completely. And I've yet to hear any hume speak poorly of you."
"Anyone can become accepted, once the path has been laid," Seymour replied, shaking his head. "My father made great strides towards acceptance among the humes while I was away. He was well enough loved that they could hardly hate his son."
"You almost would have been better off being banished," Tidus murmured, memories in his voice. "At least there, there were no expectations of being your father's son, no chance of disappointing someone because they expected different."
"They expected a young, more hume version of Jyscal," Seymour agreed, tone biting. "Instead, they got me, and they learned to deal with it." He snorted. "My father wasn't quite certain what to do with me. He sent me away to Macalania Temple in part, I think, so he wouldn't be faced with his own mistakes every day." He took a long drink of his juice then, quietly, offered, "He never once visited the Temple while I trained there. He was the maester of the Temple and he never visited it."
"He didn't deserve to be a dad," Tidus offered, uncertain which of their fathers he was really speaking of.
Seymour inclined his head in agreement and they both fell silent, content to relax to the gentle melody.
Tidus hadn't even realised he'd drifted off until a hand shook his shoulder. "Tidus," Seymour called. "Tidus, you must wake."
The teen groaned and opened his eyes, glaring drowsily at the man in front of him. "Wha?" he grumbled.
Seymour smiled and the hand on Tidus' shoulder touched his face gently. "You can't sleep in here," he murmured before moving to pull away.
Tidus reached up, grabbed the maester's wrist and pulled the man back down until he could feel Seymour's breath against his own lips. "Forgive me," he whispered, then leaned up to brush his lips against Seymour's.
Seymour froze, surprised, and let himself be kissed oh-so gently. Something in him broke as the teen pulled back, shame in his eyes, and the half-guado leaned forward to take Tidus' lips in a brutal kiss, biting at his lower lip until the teen's mouth opened and Seymour could plunder it with his tongue.
When he pulled back, both of them were panting, staring into each other's eyes. "Come to bed with me," Seymour whispered.
"Yes, please," Tidus replied.
They stumbled up from their positions over and in the chair, then down the hall to Seymour's room. Tidus didn't bother looking around at the elegance, too busy tugging Seymour's robe off while the older man dealt with Tidus' shorts.
There would be time for looking in the morning. Tidus wasn't going anywhere.
Not sure how IC Seymour was in the end, there, but... meh. I got them in bed together. That was really all I cared about at that point.
Also, that whole scene, commiserating about their dads... Yeah, that turned out so much better in my mind than it did on the screen. *sorrow* Eh, it happens. I can't be arsed to fix it.
Chapter 6: Every Clap of Thunder
Tidus woke to the feeling of hair tickling his nose and a warm arm wrapped around his waist. It took him a few tries to blow the lock of hair away, and by that point memories of the night before had returned and he had a moment to flush in embarrassment before a kiss was pressed to his shoulder.
"Are you going to run away from me now?" Seymour wondered idly. It wouldn't be the first time that he had taken a lover, only for them to remember themselves the following morning and run for the hills, never to be heard from again.
Tidus scowled. "Should I?" he wondered a bit snappishly, twisting so he could face the older man. "I'm not afraid of you, if that's what you're implying."
Seymour was delighted. "Nothing of the sort," he promised, trailing the hand resting against Tidus' bum up his back, smirking at the resulting shiver. "It has simply been my experience that the passions of the night appear none-too-wise in the morning light, especially to those of lesser status."
Amusement sparked in Tidus' eyes. "Oh? Perhaps it's you who might flee, then?"
Seymour chuckled and drew the teen in for a kiss. He was fully intending to restart their activities from the night previous when a knock came at his door. He was pleased to note that he wasn't the only one groaning in displeasure, but duty called and he carefully disentangled himself from the boy on his bed. He grabbed his robe off the floor and pulled it on before opening the door. His eyebrow raised in spite of himself when he saw who was on the other side. "Lady Gina?"
The woman raised her own eyebrow back, then craned her neck around him to see the teen on the bed, who had flushed and was half-hiding under the covers. "Tidus, Rikku and I are off to explore the city a bit more. She saw a few things she'd like to try bartering for at one of the shops she visited yesterday."
"Yeah, okay," Tidus replied, slinking even further down under the covers at the amusement obvious in his summoner's voice. "What'd you tell Rikku?"
Gina smirked. "I told her to ask you. Come up with something believable," she suggested, then inclined her head towards Seymour, "Your Grace," and left.
Seymour chuckled as he shut the door and considered his mortified lover. "An interesting development," he offered, half-hoping the teen would have an explanation. If anyone had thought to look for Tidus in his rooms, he would have expected it to have been Tromell, who was well aware of his tendency to draw interesting young men and women into his bed.
Tidus cleared his throat nervously. "Erm, Gina caught me back on Mushroom Rock Road, being a bit overly amused by you. She's been off and on supportive of my pursuing a relationship with you ever since."
Seymour was pleased. "Since Mushroom Rock Road?" he wondered, moving slowly back towards his bed.
"Yeah." Tidus narrowed his eyes a bit. "Why?"
Seymour smiled and paused only long enough to drop his robes before returning to the bed. "That pleases me," he allowed before distracting the teen with kisses and wandering hands.
Rikku and Gina returned in time for lunch. Upon finding Tidus and Seymour already at the table, Rikku forsook her previous seat at Gina's side to sit next to Tidus and tease him. "Good morning! Where were you at breakfast?" she asked, eyes bright.
Tidus smiled at her, a hint of mischief sparkling in blue eyes, and replied, "I'll tell you when you're older."
Rikku blinked, a bit confused. Across the table Gina covered a snicker while, next to Tidus, Seymour simply smiled faintly.
"Your food is going to get cold, Rikku," Tidus pointed out, still smiling.
Rikku narrowed her eyes. "Some of my cousins and brothers say that after they spent the night with their girlfriend," she commented. "Do you have a girlfriend, Tidus?"
Tidus shrugged. "Nope."
Gina was almost sad that she'd decided to let Tidus deal with Rikku. She sort of wanted to inform Rikku that Tidus had a boyfriend, not a girlfriend.
A throat cleared at the entrance to the hall and they all looked over at Tromell. "My lord, the Lady Yuna and her party are almost here."
Some uncertainty flashed in Seymour's eyes, but he still inclined his head and ordered, "Why don't you see to it that they join us for lunch. I'm certain everyone would like a chance to catch up?" He smiled around at the summoner's party at the table already.
Rikku's eyes lit up and she practically bounced in her seat. "I told Yunie we'd meet again! Yay!"
"I'm a little surprised we ended up ahead of her," Gina commented, more to Tidus, since Rikku was so busy throwing a private party. "She was ahead of us, being at Djose while we were still a few hours out."
"I suppose it depends on how much they slept in," Tidus pointed out. "For all that we were behind them, more people left for the temple than stayed at the beach, and Yuna still needed to pray to that fayth."
"Hm. I suppose," Gina agreed, then turned to her youngest guardian as some guado started moving towards the table with the extra place settings required for Yuna's party. "Rikku, either move your plate and utensils over there, or come back here," she ordered. "I won't have the guado act as your servants when you're perfectly capable of seeing to yourself."
Rikku deflated a bit at that and shuffled back over to the chair next to her summoner. "But I wanted to know where Tidus was last night."
"I'm sure he'll tell you. Eventually." Gina smiled at her other guardian and Tidus smiled back.
"Hey! You already know! No fair!" Rikku poked Gina's arm. "Tell me, tell me, tell me!!"
"Maybe when you're older," Gina offered, eyes sparkling.
Tidus laughed at that. Next to the male guardian, Seymour smiled in amusement, and now that she was across the table, Rikku actually saw it. Her eyes widened in disbelief and she turned to Tidus, whose smile had turned a bit uncertain.
"Oh! Hi!" Yuna's voice called from the entrance to the hall. She and her party had arrived, putting an end to any further embarrassing situations, though Tidus was certain Rikku wouldn't be letting this go.
Rikku shook her head, then jumped out of her seat and hurried over to Yuna and her party to hug her cousin. "Hi, Yunie! It's been forever!"
"It hasn't even been a week," Gina replied drily, rising to meet their friends. Tidus did likewise and they took a moment to greet each other before Gina's party led the way back to the table to continue the meal. Auron settled in next to Tidus – much to the younger man's displeasure – but didn't touch his food. The teen frowned at that a bit, but was distracted by talk of what had occurred to the two parties while they'd been apart.
Once lunch was over, Seymour pleasantly offered to show them something of a project of his. "I'm sure you'll all enjoy it," he promised as they entered another large room with tables around the edges. Once everyone was within and the door had been closed, Seymour touched a globe off to one side and the entire room was thrown into outer space.
The endless stars morphed into a city that had Gina and Tidus migrating closer together, Gina reaching out to grasp her guardian's hand.
"This sphere is a reconstruction created from the thoughts of the dead that wander the Farplane," Seymour offered, eyeing Tidus and Gina a bit curiously. "This is Zanarkand, as it looked one thousand years ago." He smiled around the room at his wide-eyed guests. Auron appeared unimpressed, but it was Gina and Tidus who caught his attention, both pale, yet with longing sparkling in their eyes as they looked around, drank the sights in.
"The great and wondrous machina city, Zanarkand," Seymour continued, still watching the two who stood so close together. "She once lived in this metropolis."
"She, who?" Yuna asked, even as the image changed to a bedroom, an eerily familiar woman sitting on the bed. "Lady Yunalesca!" Yuna realised.
Gina had gone completely white and Tidus had moved to get between his summoner and the rest of the room, glowering as Auron turned sharp eyes on the two. Lulu, Kimahri and Rikku had also turned to Tidus and Gina, suspicious and curious in turns.
As a man entered Yunalesca's chambers, Seymour commented, "You look rather much like the late High Summoner Yunalesca, Lady Gina." Yuna and Wakka turned to look towards Gina at that, surprised.
Gina let out a choked sound as the images faded back into the room they'd started in. "I... I need some air," the summoner whispered and practically fled, one hand over her mouth.
Auron made a motion, as if to go after the girl, but froze when Tidus' sword came to rest just in front of his face, the teen practically radiating fury. Angry blue eyes turned to the half-guado and Tidus spat, "Fuck you," before turning and stalking after his summoner.
Seymour swallowed against the sudden pain in his chest, but he pushed it away. He had needed to know, and the Lady Gina's reactions had made him certain: Gina was the Lady Yunalesca. Although, how she didn't smell like an unsent was anyone's guess.
Yuna's party had turned to Rikku and Yuna quietly asked, "Rikku?"
"I don't know," Rikku said, holding herself stiffly. "And even if I did, I wouldn't tell you. It's Gina's business, not any of yours." She turned to Seymour, disgusted. "We've been here an entire day. Couldn't you have found some other way to do whatever the hell that was." She waved her arm around the room, then turned away. "Whatever. We'll cross the Thunder Plains on foot." Then she hurried from the room, intent on collecting her friends' things to leave.
They'd lingered in Guadosalam long enough.
"You're sure you're okay with this?" Tidus asked for the fifth time after Rikku shrieked.
The younger girl was walking in a crouch, hands halfway over her head. Angry with the maester on Gina's behalf, setting off across the Thunder Plains without any form of protection had seemed like a good idea, but now that they were out here...
"It's a little too late for second thoughts," Gina commented hollowly. She'd been almost listless since Rikku had caught up with her, but she'd brightened a little bit when Rikku suggested they leave, not even hinting at any interest in the secrets she so obviously held.
In truth, Rikku didn't care who her summoner looked like, or who she might, in fact, be. Gina and Tidus were her friends, had taken care of and befriended her in spite of what she was and the fact that she'd intended to kidnap them when they'd first met. She knew they both had their secrets, but she didn't want to lose their friendship over some sort of distrust, when she knew they meant her no harm.
"I suppose," Tidus agreed, glancing back towards the exit to Guadosalam. In truth, the hills that the city was grown from were long out of sight, but Tidus knew which direction they'd lain in. A part of him ached for the man he'd left behind, no matter how angry he was with Seymour, but Gina was his priority. There was no point getting attached, anyway, since he would be fading away at the end of their journey. Seymour had been abandoned by his father and, in a way, his mother; Tidus knew what that felt like, and saw no point in adding to the number of people who had just up and left. It was better they part now, than to wait.
Rikku flinched as another bolt of lightning struck a nearby tower, then squinted her eyes against the ever-changing light. "One of Rin's agencies is ahead," she commented.
Gina glanced over at the younger girl, her lips attempting a smile at the pleading look Rikku gave her. "Oh, very well." She glanced at Tidus, who offered her a tired smile. "I suppose we could all do with a bit of a rest."
"Not too long, though," Tidus cautioned. "Not unless you care to face Yuna and party so soon."
"Especially not tall, dark and grumpy," Rikku agreed, bouncing a bit as the agency came fully into view. "By the way, Tidus, that was awesome!"
Tidus smiled weakly. "Yeah, well, Auron would have just made things worse."
Gina glanced over at them, curious. "What did you do?"
Tidus flushed. "Oh, uhm, I might have threatened Auron. Just a bit."
Gina blinked, once, twice, then broke out into peals of laughter, reaching out and steadying herself on the arm Tidus held out to her without question.
Rikku bounced a bit more, clearly pleased with how things had turned out, in spite of the lightning.
They rested at Rin's shop only long enough to take a brief meal, tired out from dodging lightning and fleeing with such painful emotions as they had. After a quick perusal through what the shop had to offer in the way of weapons and shields, they were off again, all feeling much better. Even Rikku's fear of the storm had abated somewhat.
They could just make out the towering trees of Macalania Woods when Gina said, "My name is Yunalesca Yevon."
Rikku paused, then jumped out of the way of a lightning bolt before hurrying to catch up to her summoner and fellow guardian, both of whom had continued walking. "But..." She cleared her throat, uncertain.
"I don't remember much of my fight with Sin," Gina continued, not looking back. She was comforted by Tidus' silent presence at her side, knowing that at least one of her guardians wouldn't leave her over the truth. "I know the 'Final Aeon' was my husband, Zaon, and from what Auron has told Tidus, it is custom to sacrifice a guardian to this end. In fighting Sin, that guardian's aeon is taken over by Sin after defeating the armour, which is made from a previous Final Aeon. The new Sin then attacks and kills the summoner before leaving to fully assimilate the aeon into new armour."
They reached the edge of the forest and all three settled on a couple of rocks. Rikku was enthralled, pleased to finally be learning some secrets, but in pain for her friend, who had borne them for so long. "So... Sin took Zaon?"
"That's where things get fuzzy," Gina admitted, wringing her spear between her hands. "I remember being separated from Zaon, this indescribable agony, but then it all goes dark. I must have passed out." She glanced sideways at Tidus, who offered her a smile. "When I woke up, I was on that island you found us on, with Tidus. One thousand years in my future, and in so young a body to boot!" She glanced down at her hands, which were only just forming her once hard-earned calluses. "I don't know why or how, but it has something to do with Sin."
They were all silent for a long moment, Rikku assimilating everything, while Gina and Tidus watched her, waiting to see if she would leave.
Finally, Rikku looked up at them, focussing on Tidus. "And you? Were you with Gina, before, or..."
Tidus shook his head and pushed away from his rock. "We should keep on. I don't much fancy Seymour's pretty carriage catching up to us tonight. In those trees, he'll have to go on foot, same as us."
"And I'll bet we move faster," Gina agreed, standing herself.
Rikku didn't move, pouting a bit. "But, Tidus–"
"I will tell you on the way," Tidus offered tiredly.
Rikku nodded and hopped up to join her companions as they started their way through the trees.
"Before you can understand my origins, you must understand Sin," Tidus offered, glancing back at the youngest member of their group. "Sin was the last hope of the people of Zanarkand. They knew they didn't stand a chance against Bevelle, so they created a mass summoning, using the people of the city to call up a dream of their way of life. To keep that dream alive, they needed a summoner, and that summoner had to be protected, whatever the cost."
"That summoner was my father, Yu Yevon," Gina offered quietly. "He fashioned himself an armour of souls, which would stand against any attack. But he lost control of the armour, and it became Sin."
Rikku choked, stopping to stare in horror at Gina. The two from Zanarkand also stopped, content to wait her out.
Rikku moved again, after a good three minutes, and once she'd joined back up with Tidus and Gina, they continued on, Tidus again taking up the story.
"Yu Yevon still summons inside that armour, continuing a world that doesn't really exist. Now, I don't know the specifics, but I know that I am a part of that dream–"
"Wait, what?" Rikku hurried forward and poked Tidus' arm. "You're real!" she insisted.
Tidus smiled sadly. "I'm solid," he allowed, "but I am still nothing more than the dream of the fayth. Using Sin, they brought first my old man, and now me to Spira. Auron thinks it's to destroy Sin; I don't know why for sure, but I intend to destroy Sin, for good."
"No matter the cost," Gina murmured.
Rikku stopped, stomping her foot. "No!" she shouted. "No! I won't lose you just to get rid of Sin! I won't!"
"You're throwing a tantrum like a child half your age," Tidus chided her. When Rikku turned away, angry tears in her eyes, Tidus stepped forward and gently caught her face between his hands. "Rikku, sister, I don't want to leave either. I don't want to fade away, but I can't continue living, knowing that it means others will suffer in my stead. If I fade, I will do so knowing that Sin will be gone too. You, Gina, Yuna and them... All of you will have peace. Real peace, not a month of downtime before you're all running again for the hills.
"All my life, I've walked in my father's shadow. I tried to catch my mom's eye, I played blitzball, I came to Spira, became a guardian... Rikku, this is my chance to be different, to finally be better. He helped bring the Calm by sacrificing himself, but I... I can bring you peace, forever! My life will finally mean something! I won't just be 'Jecht's kid' any more."
Rikku shook her head, tears trailing down her face. "But you'll die," she insisted.
Tidus smiled such a bitter smile. "I can't die, Rikku, I never existed to begin with."
Gina smacked the back of Tidus' head. "Don't you dare, Tidus!" she snapped. "Don't you dare start talking like that. You exist, if only as much as anyone can ever exist. What are we but bags of bones and memories? Are you any different from us?"
Rikku bit her lower lip, then launched herself into Tidus' arms, startling him, even as he secured his arms around her. "I don't want you to go," she whispered.
"He'll always be with us," Gina promised, "even if he's nothing more than a memory."
"A good one, I hope," Tidus joked.
Rikku pulled back and swatted his arm. "I'm going to remember only the worst of you," she promised, "you big meanie!"
Tidus chuckled, knowing better than to take his friend seriously, then glanced up into the treetops. "I wonder what time it is..."
"It's getting late," Gina offered. She looked towards the end of the forest, where Macalania City had once stood. "I'm uncertain of the layout around that lake, but I should like to get out from under these trees before we rest."
"There's another one of Rin's shops on this side of the lake," Rikku offered. "If we can make it to there, we can rest."
"It's been a long day," Gina agreed, and they started out again. "Sorry, by the way, to have set such a pace."
"We all wanted to get away from Guadosalam, I think," Tidus replied, shrugging.
Gina glanced at her guardian uncertainly. "What are you going to do? About Seymour?"
Tidus snorted. "What's to do? He's an ass."
"You've been pining for him from the moment you met," Gina retorted, amused.
"You've got a crush on that creep?" Rikku demanded.
"It's a bit more than a crush," Gina teased.
"Oh, ew!" Rikku waved her hands in front of her face. "My brain! My brain!"
Tidus snorted, turning his gaze on Gina. "He's a jerk, just like you said back in Luca. I'm better off without him around."
Gina's smile turned sad. "He made you happy," she pointed out.
"He hurt you," Tidus retorted.
"You said you were going to live your life, go all out. You said you wanted to die happy."
Tidus shrugged. "And I will. I had one night with him–"
"EW!" Rikku pointedly shouted, although she looked sad for Tidus, just as Gina did.
Tidus smiled at her. "I had one night," he continued, "and that's enough. I'd rather spend this time with you two, than with a jerk who doesn't know better. Gina, you and Rikku, you two are what makes me happy." He looked between them, smiling. "You're my best friends. No stuck-up half-guado is worth the price of that. Especially not one who cares more for what he wants than for the feelings of others."
Rikku silently demanded a hug, which Tidus gave her, then ordered, "Let's get on, then. It's too late to be this emotional!"
Gina and Tidus laughed, and they all set out again, determined to reach the lake and get some sleep.
"Her kind isn't welcome here," the temple guard insisted, barring Rikku entrance.
"She is my guardian," Gina replied, glaring at the man.
The guard sneered. "Al Bhed aren't guardian material."
Tidus unsheathed his sword and idly swung it, letting it come to rest between the guard's eyes. He offered the man a cheerful smile. "Perhaps you didn't hear my Lady Gina, swine, but Dame Rikku is a guardian, and unless you want a pretty scar to show all the ladies how much of an ass you are, you're going to back up and let us by. Understood?"
The guard let out a faint whimper and backed up. The other guards all jumped immediately to opening the large temple doors for the party, letting them pass uncontested.
"What crawled up your ass and died?" Gina wondered, amused by Tidus' current bad-ass persona.
"Literally, or figuratively?" Tidus shot back as he put his sword away, pleased with his results.
"Aren't both the same thing?"
"Ewewewew!!" Rikku shouted, covering her ears.
Tidus and Gina traded amused looks, enjoying Rikku's refusal to think about Tidus having slept with Seymour. Although, admittedly, if she had caught that reference, she knew far more about sex than Tidus and Gina had assumed.
"So, where to after this?" Tidus wondered as they slipped past the wide-eyed priest at the bottom of the steps leading into the Cloister of Trials.
"Bevelle," Gina offered. "Then we're on to the Calm Lands, Mt Gagazet and, finally, Zanarkand."
"And, with any luck, some real answers," Tidus commented, glancing around at the ice-covered path they were passing through. "I take it this is an ice-based aeon?"
Gina nodded. "The head of the temple back in Besaid said her name is Shiva." She glanced sideways at her guardian. "Ifrit is fire, while Ixion is electricity."
Tidus nodded, vaguely having recalled that from a previous summoning of Ifrit and a comment early on by his summoner about the aeons she already had. "And you have another one, too, right? The gil-hog?"
Gina giggled and slapped her hands over her mouth. "Yes, Yojimbo."
"Gil-hog?" Rikku wondered, watching her two friends with amusement. They'd both been rather quiet the whole morning and, assuming Rikku could read them right, amazed that she had stuck around. The moment on the steps had been the first real life she'd seen from either of them.
Gina nodded. "He requires a donation for him to do anything. The more you give him, the harsher he'll be against an enemy. I called him on the beach."
Rikku blinked, then said, "Oh, yeah. He kinda reminds me of Auron, with the tall, dark and grumpy thing."
Gina snickered in amusement while Tidus just shook his head. He'd never seen the aeon before, himself, since Gina rarely saw the need to waste gil on him when another aeon or one of them were capable of handling a fiend.
They entered the large, cavernous room between the trials and the fayth in good spirits. Just outside the door to the fayth, Gina stopped and turned to smile at them. "You'll have to stay out here, I'm afraid. Fayth have been known to be difficult if you crowd them."
"Yeah, okay," Tidus agreed, then turned to Rikku. "Want to teach me some of those tricks of yours? Might be nice to have two of us able to use your healing mixes."
Rikku nodded. "Sure! Will you teach me that spell you always use?"
Gina nodded at them. "Okay. Don't blow anything up," she cautioned, knowing how dangerous some of Rikku's mixes could get, then she turned and went into the fayth's sanctum.
Rikku and Tidus traded slightly evil grins before staking out a corner and getting to it. They'd heard, from Yuna's guardians, that praying to the fayth could take a long time, depending, so they planned for the worst and acted as though they were in for the long haul.
Rikku taught Tidus a couple of potion and elixir mixes, as well as some protective ones and a medium-level ice mix. Tidus taught her how to cast Haste, as well as Slow. He'd offered to teach her the Cure spell, which he'd learned from Yuna out of necessity – he was the only one in their small group who had any knowledge of white magic, and Yuna had offered – but Rikku didn't care so much about that sort of magic.
"Though, if you ever figure out that one white spell, Holy? I'll totally learn that one," Rikku had added.
Tidus rolled his eyes, amused. "You just like to blow things up."
Rikku shrugged. "It's a skill I have."
The door to the fayth's chamber opened then and both guardians jumped to their feet and rushed over to meet their summoner, who stumbled a bit, but seemed mostly alright.
"Sorry," Gina whispered, pausing to lean against an icy wall. "Shiva and I have contrasting personalities, so it's going to take me a bit to adapt."
"We can wait," Tidus assured her. "We're not in a mad rush or anything."
"If we run into anyone we'd rather not talk to on our way out, Tidus can always wave his sword around," Rikku agreed, green eyes bright.
"As a deterrent, it actually works pretty well," Tidus pointed out. "I mean, it even worked on Auron, even though he can kick my butt six ways to Sunday."
"I think you surprised him," Rikku replied, rolling her eyes. "He didn't have time to threaten you back before you'd run off."
"Must be getting slow in his old age."
Rikku and Tidus grinned at each other while Gina laughed at them and pushed away from the wall. "Alright, let's get out of here."
"Bevelle, here we come!" Rikku called, bouncing a bit.
"Wait to blow anything up until we're ready to leave," Tidus cautioned the younger guardian. "That way, we can escape in the confusion."
Rikku's eyes lit up. "Ooh. I should."
Gina covered her eyes, a little afraid of what her guardians were planning, but equally pleased to see them so chipper.
The good mood lasted all the way out to the lake proper, where they ran into Seymour and Yuna's party. The bunch of them had gotten held over by a band of Al Bhed, which were distracting them, but there were no ways past them other than going straight through.
"We could wait them out, or run now and hope to avoid any damage," Gina pointed out.
Rikku sighed. "Dammit, Brother."
"Either option is going to suck," Tidus commented. "On one hand, they're distracted right now, so we might be able to escape before they can corner us. On the other, going after means there's no chance of getting caught up in this."
"I say we run for it," Rikku decided, glancing up at her friends. "I think our chances are better if we just go now."
"Yeah, I sort of have to agree with that," Tidus agreed.
Gina nodded and they took a moment for Rikku to mix together some protective shielding, then darted into the melee. The shielding ended up being a good idea, since they caught their fair share of misaimed attacks.
The girls were both completely free of the fighting when Tidus, who had lagged behind a bit just in case, got caught around the chest by an unnaturally strong arm. "Let me go, Seymour!" he shouted, struggling against his captor.
Seymour didn't say anything in response, just shot off a spell at the machina the Al Bhed had set on them. Honestly, the maester was quite certain why he'd grabbed the teen; Tidus had run within his reach, and Seymour's arm had reached out and caught him before he'd even thought of it. Although, if he was honest with himself, it probably had to do with the heart-in-his-throat sensation he'd been suffering ever since he'd found out that Tidus had left Guadosalam without a word.
Gina and Rikku had turned at Tidus' shout and started running back as soon as they saw his predicament.
Just before Gina and Rikku reached Seymour and Tidus, Auron delivered the killing blow to the machina and Brother let out an angry, wordless shout before turning and fleeing the scene with his Al Bhed friends, not even sparing a glance for his sister.
"Let me go, you jerk!" Tidus shouted, drawing the attention of Yuna's party.
"He's a maester–" Wakka started, disconcerted by Tidus' lack of respect. Others in the party made to move closer to Tidus and Seymour, a couple looking past them towards Gina and Rikku, who had both frozen in indecision.
Seymour motioned to a couple of his guado guards and they immediately moved to usher Yuna's party towards the path to the temple.
Gina and Rikku relaxed at that a bit and took a couple of steps closer to Seymour and Tidus. "What do you want, Seymour?" Gina asked, dispensing with all hint of formalities; after their last meeting, she saw no reason to play at diplomacy.
Seymour loosened his grip on Tidus, letting the teen go, and said, "I only wish to talk."
Tidus jumped back towards his friends, not quite pulling his sword out, though he wanted to. "So talk."
"Out here?" Seymour wondered, waving his hand around to include the whole area.
"It wouldn't be the first time you decided to try making a private point in public," Rikku shot back. "If you're going to be a jerk again, we might as well have an easy escape route."
Seymour sighed and came a few steps closer, pointedly not reacting when Tidus drew his sword to hold it at his side. "I thought you said you wouldn't run," he said to Tidus.
Tidus snorted. "I said I wasn't afraid of you, not that I wouldn't leave. You were an ass, so I left."
"You moved pretty quickly to just have been leaving."
"Are you trying to tick me off?" Tidus wondered, a hint of anger in his voice. "Because you're well on your way to doing so."
"Make your point, Seymour," Gina called. "You may have all day to dally, but we have places to be."
Seymour didn't respond, too distracted by the glaring contest he was having with Tidus.
Finally, Tidus got completely ticked and stabbed his sword in the ice at their feet. "You said you wanted to fuc– Whoa!"
Having already endured one fight, the ice was weakened just enough that Tidus' sword shattered the spot they were standing on, dumping them all through the ice.
'This was not how I envisioned going,' Tidus thought as the icy ground rushed up at him.
One chapter, I finally get them together, and the next I rip them apart again. I'm beginning to think I'm some sort of sadist. XD
So, I'm sort of bullshitting my way through the sphere grid, there, with the spells Tidus learned/taught Rikku. I cheat at this game and fill in the grid at the start, so I honestly don't know where the party should be on the grid at this point.
Anyway, don't take the spells as rote. It just sounded pretty.
Chapter 7: Throw Your World Away (For Love)
"I get that he's an ass, but did you have to drop all of us through the lake?" Gina complained when Tidus finally found her. They'd fallen into some sort of ruins that had been under the lake.
"I'll aim better next time," Tidus replied drily, sitting next to his summoner on some rubble. "Where are we?"
"Under the lake."
"Gina." Tidus shot her a knowing look.
Gina rolled her eyes and leaned back on the rubble, glancing up at the bottom of the temple. "Macalania City, I think. Or, well..." her eyes flickered over the ruined buildings, "...what's left of it."
"Any movement from up there?" Seymour asked as he walked over to them, Rikku at his side.
"Your minions are working on a rope," Gina offered the maester with a touch of sarcasm. "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll be out of here in another hour or so."
Rikku dropped wearily onto the rubble next to Tidus, rubbing at her shoulder. "Hi," she offered.
Tidus frowned and gently pulled her hand away from her shoulder to look at it. "You okay?" he asked, not finding anything wrong.
"She landed poorly on some broken machina," Seymour offered.
"Your jerk healed me," Rikku added, taking her shoulder back to rub at it some more.
"He's not my anything," Tidus hissed, scowling.
Rikku shot him a cheerful smile in response.
Tidus rolled his eyes and pulled her hand away from her shoulder again. "Rubbing it's not going to help. Here..."
Gina smiled at her guardians, then glanced over at the maester hovering just out of reach. The man was watching Tidus with a blank expression, but the summoner thought she saw a hint of sorrow in his eyes. Seymour was a jerk, sure, but she was beginning to suspect that he genuinely cared for Tidus in his own, twisted way.
"You said you wanted to talk," Tidus commented once he'd ensured that Rikku's shoulder was back to normal and not 'achy', or whatever Rikku wanted to complain about, "so talk. You have our full, undivided attention."
"At least until the guado get us out of here," Rikku added, flexing her shoulder with a smile.
Seymour glanced over at Gina and blinked in surprise to find her studying him thoughtfully. "You're High Summoner Yunalesca," he told her, wanting to get that thoughtful look off her face; he didn't like people looking too closely at him.
Gina cocked her head to one side, still thoughtful. "I prefer Gina," she replied. Behind her, she sensed Tidus and Rikku both tensing, so she held out a hand, trying to calm them. "As far as Spira is concerned, Yunalesca died attempting to defeat Sin."
Seymour narrowed his eyes. "She did die," he snapped. "Yunalesca's unsent haunts Zanarkand. Which then begs the question: What are you?"
"What?" Gina whispered, shocked.
Tidus was immediately at her side, scowling at Seymour. "Impossible."
Seymour raised an eyebrow at him. "Who do you think assisted my mother and I in making her a fayth?"
Gina touched Tidus' arm. "I'm a teenager," she said quietly.
Tidus frowned. "You think Sin–"
"Why not? It's not like we actually know anything about it."
"Well, yeah, but a thousand years?"
Gina swallowed and shook her head. "Maybe I'm not real."
Tidus blinked, then sighed. "Dammit."
"No!" Rikku shouted, jumping to her feet. "No, you can't–"
"Rikku," Tidus murmured, stepping towards his fellow guardian even as Gina rubbed tiredly at her eyes.
"You can't both–" Rikku waved her arms around, furious. "No!"
"Rikku," Tidus said again, not flinching when her claw caught his cheek, "stop."
Rikku shot him a helpless look, then burst into tears.
Tidus caught her in a hug, finally safe from flailing arms, and closed his eyes. "I know, sis. I know."
"It's not fair," Rikku whispered against his necklace. "Not fair."
Tidus glanced over at Gina, helpless, and she shook her head. "Rikku, we don't even know for sure. Please don't be upset?"
Seymour looked between the three friends, not sure he liked what he had heard, assuming he'd even understood everything right. There had been gaps that he'd not been able to follow – how could she not be real, and how could they have even reached that conclusion? – but what he'd caught wasn't a pretty picture. "What exactly–?"
Tidus glared at Seymour over Rikku's head. "Keep your fucking nose out, Seymour. Gina is your precious Yunalesca, and that's all that ever mattered to you, the rest of this is just gravy. Why don't you go see if your minions are ready to get us out of here yet."
Seymour shook his head. "That's not–"
"Shut up, both of you!" Gina ordered, turned towards the temple. "Listen."
Rikku looked up from Tidus' arms and joined the others in looking towards the temple. "The hymn..." she realised. She remembered being calmed by the hymn when she'd woken up to find her shoulder a bloody mess, but it was gone now. "Why did it stop?"
The ground shook and they all looked around in surprise. Seymour was the one who spotted it, pointing upwards and saying, "Sin," even as the creature turned towards them.
Gina didn't really think about it, she just reached out and grabbed Seymour's arm. She knew Sin wasn't going to hurt Tidus or herself – and, considering she'd survived their last trip by Sin, Rikku would probably be okay too – but Seymour had no such promise of safety, especially not with how off-and-on ticked off Tidus and she were with the man. But, disgusted with him or not, Gina saw no reason to let her father kill the man.
"What–?" Seymour turned to ask, but he was cut off as everything went dark around them.
Gina opened her eyes and groaned at the bright light in her face, which immediately backed up. "Papa?" she replied, recognising the voice.
A little globe of light moved up and down in a pseudo nod. "Yes."
Gina stared at the globe for a moment, then whispered, "Oh, Papa, what's happened to you?"
"Time," Yu Yevon allowed, floating a bit closer. "I'm sorry."
Gina reached out to touch the globe, but the only sense she had that it was even there was a slight warmth. "I'm sorry, too."
Yu bobbed a bit. "I don't know what you are," he commented. "The moment my magic took control of Zaon, I knew something was wrong. I tried to intervene, but my creation was working against me; still, I cannot hope to control it." The globe turned, as if looking away. "I just wanted you to be safe, and then, you were with me, in Sin, sleeping. You never..." He sighed. "You never woke up, just remained here, with me. When Jecht got his son, something about your similarities freed both of you to Spira at the same time. One minute, both you and that boy were here, with us, and the next you were gone."
Gina nodded and hugged herself. "Okay. And you don't know if I'm a dream, or..."
"I don't. I know I wanted you safe, but I don't know how you came to be in Sin. Or how your unsent haunts Zanarkand. It might be connected, I don't know."
Gina glanced away from her father, into the darkness. "I'm... glad," she decided. "Glad that I'm here, now, travelling again." She looked back at her father. "I want to free you, Papa."
"I know." Yu settled closer to what might have been the ground, if the space they were in had any definition. "I am...grateful," he decided, "that it would be you to do so. It's been a long thousand years."
"I know. I won't stop until I find a way. None of us will." She paused a moment, then asked, "Papa, where are the others? Tidus and Rikku? Seymour?"
"They're here. Jecht and I agreed that you all needed some time away from the pilgrimage. You have troubles to work out. All of you."
"Where are you taking us, then?"
"Bikanel." Yu floated back up to eye-level. "Rikku could use some time at home, and Tidus and Seymour need to work things out."
Gina laughed. "Yes, they do. Tidus can't seem to decide if he hates or likes Seymour, and hells know what's going on in Seymour's head."
"Very little good," Yu informed her seriously. "I would prefer to just see him dead – he's been a threat for a long time – but Jecht wants to see his son happy, and Seymour's mother seems to think Tidus might just be able to keep Seymour in check."
Gina frowned. "His mom?"
"Anima, a fayth. Her crystal is in Baaj Temple, by the way, where you woke. I can... communicate with the fayth, through Jecht or whoever is acting as my armour. They keep us updated about what's happening in the world. They're how I know when a summoner is waiting to face me."
"Oh." Gina shook her head. "Seymour's a threat?"
"He had a very lonely upbringing, and it twisted him a lot. He seems to be of the opinion that the way to save Spira is to kill everyone."
"What?" Gina hurried to her feet and stared around at the darkness. "That creep!"
Yu chuckled. "Calm down, Gina. Anima seems to think he's changing. It was her death that set him on his course; she believes him having someone he truly cares about will help him see the error of his ways."
"And if not? If he decides the best way to 'save' Tidus is to kill him?"
"I don't think your Tidus will let him get away with that, no matter how much more powerful Seymour might be," Yu pointed out. "And, if he does try something, he won't survive Jecht."
"I'm sure Tidus would appreciate that," Gina commented drily, shaking her head.
Yu chuckled again. "Yes, well, Jecht is set on making up for being a horrible father when Tidus was a kid, but he may be a bit late. No one appreciates suddenly finding themselves with a father at seventeen."
"Tidus won't be nice about telling him where to stick his fatherly urges, either," Gina agreed with a laugh. "Oh, I'd love to see that argument."
Yu darted forward and brushed against her cheek. "I've missed you, little Gina."
Gina smiled a bit sadly. "I've missed you too, Papa."
"We're to Bikanel." Yu sighed. "Yunalesca, my sweet Gina..."
"I love you, Papa," Gina whispered.
"I love you too," Yu replied. "Be safe."
Then the light faded away.
Tidus woke with the sense that he was floating. It took him a moment to realise he was floating face down, then he was pulling up and falling over on to his behind in the small oasis. He blinked around at the stretch of sand in all directions, then sighed. "Damn you, old man," he complained before getting to his feet. He vaguely remembered images from his childhood and the sense that Jecht had been there, wanting to hug him or say something to him, but Tidus had just kept pushing him away.
Sighing, he picked a direction and started out, hoping Rikku and Gina were okay. He was a little grumpy that he'd been left alone, especially since he'd been holding Rikku when Sin had grabbed them, but that was just like Jecht. Or maybe it had been Gina's dad.
He hadn't been walking for long when a large bird – a Zu – swooped down on him and left a series of painful gashes on his arm. He quickly pulled out his sword, but the bird was too high for him to reach.
"That Holy spell would be good right about now," he grumbled as he shot a Cure at his shoulder.
The Zu came at him again, flying with the sun so Tidus couldn't hope to see it and dodge. It landed another couple gashes over the ones that were still healing, as well as a scrape of its beak along Tidus' scalp. Tidus managed to hit one of the Zu's talons, cutting off the sharp part.
"Shit, shit, shit," Tidus hissed, deciding the wisest course would be to run for it and hope he could either find some sort of shelter, or a predator of the Zu, if such a thing existed.
The Zu let out an angry screech and dove after him, claws extended. It collided with his back and Tidus couldn't help the scream that ripped from his throat at the pain. He was certain he was a goner, but then the fiend on his back exploded into pyreflies, leaving Tidus to gasp in the sand, too much in pain to even consider casting a Cure.
The wash of a Cure spell numbed his back after a few minutes and Tidus closed his eyes in relief.
It took him a moment to remember that neither Gina or Rikku knew how to cast a Cure spell, and then he was struggling to sit up and glare at Seymour, who was snooping through Tidus' items pack. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
"Do any of you carry normal potions?" Seymour complained.
Tidus reached for his pack, which Seymour handed over with a scowl. "Gina does," he muttered, pulling out an Al Bhed potion and chugging it. They were superior to normal potions, but there was a trick to opening them that Rikku had taught him. Gina had never figured the trick out, so she'd taken to keeping all the normal potions while Rikku hoarded Al Bhed potions. Tidus had his Cure spells, but he kept a few Al Bhed potions handy, just in case.
"Where are your items, anyway?" Tidus wondered as his wounds knitted back together.
"I don't carry items," Seymour replied, standing and trying to shake sand out of his robes.
"You wouldn't," Tidus muttered, then stood himself. "I don't suppose the great Maester Seymour knows where in the blazes Sin dumped us?"
Seymour frowned at him, receiving a raised eyebrow in response, then said, "Bikanel Island. The Al Bhed's Home should be..." he glanced up at the sun, then turned roughly towards the south-east, "...over there somewhere."
Tidus grunted and started walking towards the direction Seymour had pointed. "How long have you known where they were located?" he asked when Seymour fell in next to him.
The half-guado scowled down at the sand, which was working its way back into his clothing, which wasn't meant for travelling like this. "Since they moved here seventeen years ago. I frequented this whole string of islands as a kid." He glanced up at what looked like a rough shelter. "Would you be willing to stop for a bit?"
Tidus glanced over at him, a snarky comment on the tip of his tongue, but then he saw how tired Seymour looked. The man had saved him from that fiend, he supposed. "Yeah, okay."
They stopped at the shelter and Seymour shuffled under it to pull off his robes. "May I borrow your sword?" he requested of Tidus, who had stayed outside.
Tidus blinked in confusion and poked his head inside. "Why would you..." His question died on his lips when he realised Seymour was naked. "Uh..."
Seymour snorted at him. "Don't turn into a blushing virgin on me now, Tidus."
"You're an ass," Tidus declared, pulling his head back outside. "Why do you need my sword? And, for that matter, why are you naked?"
"My robes are cumbersome. I intend to cut off the unnecessary fabric," Seymour explained, shaking his head at the teen, half amused, half exasperated.
"Oh." Tidus passed his sword back without looking, then pulled out his items pack and shifted through it until he found a couple of the items Rikku said he could mix together to create an ice attack. He didn't much care to be caught out like that again, and Rikku had assured him it worked on fiends who were at a slight distance.
When Seymour had finished, he gave Tidus back his sword and they were off again, walking with a tense silence that neither dared to break for quite some time.
Finally, Tidus asked, "You know a Cure spell–"
"I know the lowest level Cure spell," Seymour cut in. "I practise black magic, like Lady Gina. I usually travel with an entourage, and they're the ones who carry items or cast white magic."
"But white magic is so useful!"
"Unless you need to attack something that flies," Seymour pointed out drily.
Tidus waved a hand at him. "Yeah, whatever. So I still need to learn Holy. But what happens if you get separated from your entourage? You're supposed to just die?"
Seymour snorted. "That's why I learned the Cure spell. And I taught Shiva some of the higher-level white magic, just in case I get into a tight spot."
Tidus blinked. "Oh, yeah. I keep forgetting you started out as a summoner."
Seymour shook his head, amused.
All further conversation was put on hold when they were set upon by a Sand Worm. Tidus started off by tossing one of his ice mixes, since it was already in his hand, then stepped back and pulled out his sword while Seymour shot off a Waterga.
It took them some time to finish the fiend, and by the time they had killed it and looted the gil and items it had left in the wake of pyreflies, they were both exhausted.
"Damn," Tidus grunted, considering the horizon in hopes of spotting another shelter. "Hey, look!" He pointed towards a lump of some sort.
"As good as anything," Seymour decided and they started off across the sand towards the lump.
The lump did, in fact, turn out to be another small shelter.
"I can take first watch," Tidus decided, looking into the shelter a bit distrustfully.
"Do you have any idea how cold it gets at night out here?" Seymour asked somewhat rhetorically. "Once the sun goes down, the fiends will be in for the night, and I refuse to freeze in my sleep. Get in here."
Tidus scowled. "And wake to find your hands down my pants or something?"
Seymour closed his eyes. "Yevon, give me patience," he whispered before looking back at the teen. "If you weren't so dead-set on hating me, this wouldn't even be a problem."
"You're an ass!" Tidus snapped.
"Yes! Fine! I was a jerk to confront your summoner about her being High Summoner Yunalesca in front of everyone! Are you happy?"
"No!" Tidus shouted back. "Because I know you're perfectly willing to do it again!"
"So what? At least I'm not keeping secrets about myself!" Seymour snapped, crawling out of the shelter so he could properly face the teen.
"I'm not keeping secrets from my friends," Tidus spat.
"What am I, then? The one-night stand you'd been dreaming about for almost a week?" Seymour grabbed Tidus' suspenders. "I'm not going to let you just shove me off to the side because of one mistake, Tidus."
"Mistake?" Tidus sputtered. "You call that a mistake?"
"Yes, I do," Seymour agreed before pulling the boy closer and crushing their lips together. He was tired of this argument.
Tidus made a few half-hearted efforts to push the maester away, but gave up quickly enough to tangle his hands in the long blue hair. Seymour took that as his cue to slide his hands down from Tidus' suspenders to his ass, which he pulled closer.
Tidus pulled his mouth away to whisper, "You're still an ass."
"Shut up," Seymour replied, leaning his head down to attack Tidus' neck.
Tidus groaned. "Oh, fuck it. Shelter."
Seymour saw nothing wrong with that suggestion, so they parted to climb under the overturned machina, then started in on each other again, losing clothing left and right.
"I hate you," Tidus grumbled into Seymour's chest the next morning. He knew the older man was awake because his hand was running through Tidus' hair.
Seymour snorted. "Of course you do."
Tidus gave himself a moment to breathe in the scent of his lover before rolling away and into a sitting position. "We should head out. I'm worried about Gina and Rikku."
"Rikku grew up in this desert," Seymour commented, but obediently moved to dress.
"I'm worried about Gina, then," Tidus decided. "Oh, yuck. I think I've got sand in my ass."
Seymour snorted and looked away from Tidus' glare to keep from full-out laughing.
Ten minutes later, they were on their way, snacking on some rations Tidus had with him.
They spent a few hours fighting off fiends, then stopped for a break on Seymour's suggestion to wait out the heat of the day.
"Hands to yourself," Tidus ordered as he laid down. The shelter they'd found that time was a bit larger, so they weren't cramped together. Seymour had also, thoughtfully, cast an ice spell on the machina before they'd gotten under it, so it remained pleasantly cool, in spite of the heat outside.
Seymour shook his head and rested back against the cool metal. "Back at the beach, you mentioned something about Lady Gina not intending to create the Final Summoning," he commented idly.
"Oh, so you eavesdrop on private conversations, too?" Tidus snapped.
Seymour sighed. "You were standing less than five feet from me. It was hard not to hear you three."
Tidus huffed. "Whatever. Yeah, the Final Summoning can't defeat Sin."
"The Final Summoning was never intended to fully defeat–"
"That's not how Gina tells it," Tidus interrupted, "and since she was the first High Summoner, I think what she says goes."
Seymour considered the teen for a moment, then asked, "Then why don't you tell me what really happened."
Tidus glanced over at him. "What do you know?" he challenged.
Seymour sighed and closed his eyes, resting fully against the metal. "I know the Final Summoning is created by sacrificing a guardian. I know that the Final Summoning, when used against Sin, will become Sin and destroy the summoner."
"Essentially correct," Tidus allowed. "But the Final Summoning doesn't become Sin itself, but the armour that protects Yu Yevon, who is summoning a mass of fayth."
Seymour frowned. "The ones on Mt Gagazet?"
Tidus shrugged. "I don't, actually, know where the fayth are, but Mt Gagazet seems the most plausible, sure."
Seymour was silent for a moment, considering Tidus' words. Finally, he asked, "Yu Yevon, as in the father of our religion?"
"Your religion," Tidus corrected him. "And, yes, that Yevon. He's Gina's dad."
"...I'm beginning to understand why Sin didn't just kill all of us under the lake," Seymour commented.
"It's not the first time Gina, Rikku and I have travelled by Sin," Tidus agreed, shrugging. "Although, why you survived..." He shot the maester a glare.
Seymour sighed, torn between irritation and amusement at Tidus' continued hostilities. On one hand, he wasn't used to someone acting so rude to him since his father had called him back from exile; on the other hand, Tidus' disgust was a nice change from the usual scraping and bowing he had to suffer.
Tidus closed his eyes again, trying to remind himself where he'd been in his story. "Oh, right. So, Yevon creates this armour, made of the spirits of the dead, which is supposed to protect him from anything and everything while he's summoning. Except, something went wrong, and the armour just started attacking everything, whether it was a threat or not.
"Gina – Yunalesca, whatever – journeyed with her husband to find a way to destroy Sin and free both Yevon and Spira from his terror, but their last resort, the Final Summoning, didn't work. Sure, it freed everyone for a little bit, but it wasn't the final solution they'd been looking for."
Seymour shrugged. "Maybe there isn't a final solution."
Tidus looked over at him, frowning. "I believe there is. So does Gina and, I think, Jecht."
"But, wouldn't it be better to just see everyone dead?" Seymour mused. "Put the entire world out of its misery."
"I think we've had this discussion before," Tidus murmured, recalling their discussion on the beach among the dead. He sat up and looked over at Seymour. "Seymour, why do you think everything would be better if everyone was dead?"
Seymour stared at him, expression torn between crazed and lost. "If you're dead, you don't have to suffer," he replied.
Tidus brought his knees up and rested his chin on them, considering the other man. "Your mother is dead," he offered, ignoring as Seymour flinched, "is she free from suffering?"
"Yes," Seymour insisted.
Tidus raised an eyebrow at him, having heard stories from Wakka about Seymour's unusual aeon that he'd called at the blitzball tournament. "Jecht is dead, but he's not at peace. Yu Yevon is dead, but he's not at peace. Your Yunalesca, up in Zanarkand, she's dead, but it doesn't sound to me like she's at peace."
Seymour turned away, confusion etched on his face.
Tidus leaned forward, sensing victory. "Seymour, you live next to the only pathway between Spira and the Farplane; tell me all those souls are at peace."
Seymour shook his head. "Without the living, the dead will have no one to worry about!" he said somewhat triumphantly.
Tidus shrugged. "Nor will they have anyone to be happy for. They'll simply sit around all day, watching the planet die. And what of the fayth? I can't imagine it would be much fun to be stuck in a crystal all day, neither of Spira, nor of the Farplane." He dropped his head to one side on his knees. "You would leave your mother alone?"
Seymour looked horrified at the thought. He was up and out of the shelter before Tidus even realised he was moving.
Tidus scrambled to his feet and hurried to the entrance of the shelter in time to see Seymour summon the most horrifyingly painful aeon Tidus had ever seen, and the teen had to wonder how Seymour could ever think his mother happy. "Seymour," he called, not quite willing to run out into the hot sun.
Seymour ignored him to beseech Anima, "Mother, please, are you happy?"
Anima blinked her single eye at him, then shook her head.
Seymour looked devastated. "But why? Why aren't you happy?"
Anima looked towards Tidus, who blinked at her in confusion.
Seymour followed his aeon's gaze, then looked back up at her. "What? Tidus? What about him? Do I need to..." He trailed off, turning to look at Tidus again, gripping his staff.
Tidus immediately went on alert at the look in Seymour's eyes, though he didn't quite grab for his sword. "Seymour, if you try anything, I swear to the fayth I'll cut off your happy bits. Clear?"
Anima seemed almost amused by that proclamation.
"Look, see, your mom's on my side," Tidus added when Seymour didn't seem deterred by his threat.
That seemed to do the trick, for Seymour looked back at his aeon and asked, "So, Tidus is okay?"
Anima nodded and Seymour relaxed. Anima looked again to Tidus, hopeful.
Tidus shook his head. "I'm not sure I know what you want of me, ma'am," he admitted.
Anima seemed almost to sigh, then her single eye closed.
"Mother?" Seymour asked, confused.
There was a sudden ringing in Tidus' ears and he grunted, clapping his hands over them. It didn't seem to help, but then a woman's voice echoed, 'I'm sorry, Tidus. I don't mean to harm you, but as I'm not directly a member of the fayth who are dreaming you, this is the best I can do.'
Tidus swallowed. It would make a twisted sort of sense that the fayth could communicate with him because he was a dream. 'You're Seymour's mom, then?'
'Yes. It is as you said, the dead aren't happy when the living aren't happy, and my son is not happy, no matter what he may say to the contrary.'
'That should be fun to explain to him,' Tidus grumbled.
'Tidus, he is happiest when he is with you. I know he drives you mad, but–'
'You want me to stay with him?' Tidus guessed. 'And what about when we defeat Sin? You want me to leave him, like you did? He won't even have an aeon of me to hold on to. What's to say he won't go completely mad?' His recent conversation with the maester had showed him – without a doubt – that Seymour was more than a bit crazy.
Anima was quiet for a long moment, then she allowed, 'If he is not checked, Yu Yevon will kill him before he can make it back to Bevelle. He believes he's too dangerous.'
Tidus felt sick to his stomach. 'I see.' So, it was up to Tidus to either save Seymour and potentially leave him even more insane than he was before he arrived, or see him die sometime in the coming days. 'I don't know how much good I can do.'
'All that I ask is that you try.'
'My son is twisted, but I believe he truly cares for you, in his own way.'
Tidus thought back to Seymour coming to his rescue against that Zu, in spite of his apparent belief that everyone in Spira would be better off dead. 'I know.'
Anima's presence left, and without her there to distract him, he realised just how much pain he was in. Bloody fayth, he complained before he let himself fall into the blissful darkness reaching for him.
Seymour had been quite confused when Tidus and Anima had both gotten very quiet, almost like they were sharing a conversation that he couldn't be a part in. He was a bit irritated at that, right until he recognised the pain that was lining Tidus' face the longer the silence went on.
Already worried, he was easily in reach when Tidus' eyes fluttered briefly and he fainted. He caught the teen around the waist before he could fully crumple to the ground, then turned to give Anima a dirty look. "What did you do to him?" he demanded of her.
Anima smiled as much as she was ever able to even as she shook her head.
Seymour looked down at the teen in his arms, calmed by the way Tidus' face had smoothed out in his sleep. "He'll be okay?" he asked his mother.
Anima nodded, then motioned for him to return to the shelter before turning around and watching the desert for any possible danger.
Seymour trusted Anima to keep them safe, so he carried Tidus back into the shelter. He pulled his outer robe off for Tidus to sleep on, then realised it was actually quite cold in the shelter without the heavy robe. He only debated a minute before slipping in behind Tidus and wrapping an arm around the teen's waist to pull him closer. "You'll have to tell me what Mother had to say that was so important when you wake up," he informed his sleeping lover. There was, of course, no response and Seymour laid his head down to get some rest himself.
So... This whole chapter sort of wrote itself. Sorry if people are OoC, but I don't care enough to go back through and fix everything.
Alternately, I'd intended Seymour and Tidus to have reached Home by the end of this chapter. Clearly, I fail. That, or I rock. Not sure which.
Chapter 8: Poisonous Drugs of Hate
Tidus groaned as the waking world forced itself on him in the form of a very full bladder. There was an arm draped over his waist which he shoved aside before stumbling out of the shelter to find a place to relieve himself.
Feeling better, he glanced around and took note of the setting sun as well as the disturbingly familiar aeon who was watching him. He offered her a tired wave and got a nod in return.
Waiting for him at the entrance of the shelter was a scowling Seymour. "You spoke to my mother," he said a bit more sharply than he'd intended.
Tidus sighed. "I want to hit myself with a Cure and get something to eat and then you can demand all the grisly details," he offered.
Seymour nodded and let Tidus by, absently shooting a Cure at him.
Once he'd finished his travel rations, Tidus waved a hand at Seymour, leaning back against the wall of their shelter. "Shoot."
Seymour frowned into his own rations pack. "You spoke to my mother," he said again, but much gentler.
Tidus shrugged. "Yeah."
"How?" Seymour asked, glancing up at the teen. "Even I cannot communicate with her unless I'm at her crystal."
"I..." Tidus sighed and rubbed at his eyes. I should have known this would come up. Dammit. "I have... an unusual connection to the fayth."
"More of your secrets, then?" Seymour sneered.
Tidus ignored him, trying to think of the best way to explain what he was. A dream of the fayth. Ah, of course. "I'm... kind of an aeon," he decided, wincing at how that might have sounded, but he was tired of calling himself a dream.
Seymour blinked at him, disbelieving. "An aeon," he repeated blandly. "That is the biggest load of shi–"
"You're an ass," Tidus snapped, glaring up at the older man. "You want to know my fucking secret, well that's it. I'm an aeon, summoned by Yu Yevon through the fayth on Mt Gagazet. Or where ever. I exist to destroy Sin, same as Jecht. He failed, so it's my turn."
Seymour was completely speechless, shaking his head.
Tidus looked away. "Your mother said she's not happy because you're not happy. Oh, and that you shouldn't go around killing people; it's not nice." Okay, not actually true, but it sounded better than 'If you don't stop wanting to kill everyone in Spira, Sin is going to make it his personal duty to kill you'.
The maester had moved on from shaking his head to frowning in thought.
Tidus sighed and climbed to his feet. "I'll be outside," he offered before slipping back out of the shelter. Once outside, he sat on a dune not far from Anima and asking, "All you fayth can communicate, right?"
Anima nodded, looking curious.
"Do you know if Gina's okay?"
Anima nodded again, then motioned in the direction Seymour had said Home laid in.
Tidus smiled. "Good. And Rikku? They're together?"
"Thanks." He wrapped his arms around his knees and rested his chin on them. "I feel better knowing they're okay. I don't..." He closed his eyes. "I hate being separated from Gina like this. She's my best friend."
Anima sighed silently and glanced back at where her son was standing in the entrance of the shelter. She gave him a stern look, which made him scowl, then disappeared.
Seymour scowled a bit longer at the empty desert, then moved over to where Tidus was sitting. "We should move on."
Tidus glanced up. He was a bit surprised to find Anima gone, but he nodded and got to his feet. "Yeah, okay." Once he'd joined the maester, they started off to the south again. "I don't suppose you know how much further it is?" Tidus wondered.
"It's difficult to judge distance in the desert," Seymour returned, determinedly not looking at the guardian. "Another day, maybe two."
Tidus sighed, wishing he knew what was going on in Seymour's head. He hated waiting for the other person to make up their mind about something.
Tidus took his impatience out on the few fiends they came across as night fell over the desert. They kept on even when the cold made them shiver, neither mentioning the possibility of stopping; Tidus wanted to get back to his summoner and fellow guardian, Seymour was too distracted by his own thoughts to notice the cold.
Seymour's thoughts kept going around and around in a circle: Tidus is an aeon? If he's being summoned by Yevon, what will happen once Sin is gone? How can an aeon have a hume form? How hume is he, actually? How real is he? But, he seems so hume, so normal... Maybe he's mistaken? But then, how else could he speak with Mother? Tidus is an aeon...?
He finally shook himself from his thoughts when the sun started peeking over some of the taller dunes in the distance. His attention brought back to the real world, he realised that he was a little chilled as well as hungry. A glance to his left showed him Tidus, who was swinging his sword around to keep warm. Seymour had vague memories of the teen handling most of the fiends they'd come across, with Seymour himself only tossing out an occasional spell to help.
He opened his mouth, an apology on his tongue, but then closed it again. He was a maester, for Yevon's sake! He didn't apologise to anyone.
But Tidus isn't just 'anyone', he reminded himself, he's my lover, and apparently an aeon, too. Guardian to High Summoner Yunalesca Yevon. And he could care less about some title I carry.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
Tidus' sword paused for a heartbeat – the only sign he'd heard – then he commented, "We should probably find another shelter. I saw a sign a while back that said we've got about another half-day 'til we reach Home. We could both use some food and a little sleep, I think, before we keep on. No point arriving exhausted, especially since Gina's probably going to want to leave as soon as possible."
Seymour frowned. "She doesn't care that defeating Sin might mean you'll be gone?" he asked.
Tidus glanced at him, eyes tired. "Hm, so you did catch that," he commented before returning to looking for a shelter. "Of course she cares."
"And yet she still–!"
"Seymour..." Tidus sighed and rubbed at his eyes. "Gina and I have known since the moment we met, practically, that defeating Sin would mean I'll disappear. Despite her father and the people of Spira's suffering, I think she would have left Sin if I wasn't okay with it. Don't think she's some sort of heartless bitch."
Seymour looked away from the teen. "If you defeat Sin, for good, you'll be gone," he murmured, hating the way his voice shook.
"Summoners pilgrimage knowing they'll die if they succeed," Tidus pointed out. "How am I any different?" He smiled. "Other than knowing that, if I disappear, Sin is gone for good, that is."
"I don't want you to disappear!" Seymour shouted, turning to glare at Tidus.
Tidus smiled at him sadly. "Come on, I think I see a shelter over there." He pointed his hand towards a suspicious lump a few dunes over.
But Seymour was distracted by his own words: I don't want him to disappear. I don't want him to die. I don't–
"Seymour?" Tidus questioned, stepping closer to the wide-eyed maester.
Seymour blinked at the teen. "I don't want you to disappear," he whispered.
Tidus set a gentle hand on the other's arm. "I know."
Seymour wrapped Tidus in a hug, closing his eyes against the world. If I became Sin, if I destroyed everything, I would have to destroy Tidus, too. And I can't... I won't lose him.
Tidus relaxed in Seymour's arms. He was tired from their evening trek through the sand, tired from the emotional roller coaster of the past few days and tired from the headache that was still lingering just out of reach of a Cure or potion. For all his faults and insanity, Tidus felt safe in Seymour's arms, and he liked that, even though a part of him told him to run the other way.
Seymour finally cleared his throat. "You said something about a possible shelter?" he murmured into the spiky blond hair.
Tidus nodded and slipped out of Seymour's embrace. "Yeah. This way."
It was just starting to get hot when they reached the shelter, having run into a couple fiends on the way. Seymour summoned Shiva to both cool off the shelter and watch them while they rested, then they climbed under the small machina. Seymour set out his over robe on the ground and laid down on it, motioning for Tidus to join him.
"Too tired for sex," Tidus muttered even as he joined the older man on the robe.
"Shut up and go to sleep," Seymour replied, pulling Tidus closer so he could curl around the teen.
Tidus sighed and relaxed back into the hold, perfectly content.
Tidus woke first and took care to slip away from Seymour without waking him. Once free, he went outside to relieve himself, then wandered over to Shiva who, despite her frosty appearance, offered him a smile, which he returned. "Gina thought the ruins under your temple were maybe Macalania City?" he wondered.
Shiva nodded then, much to Tidus' surprise, spoke: "It was destroyed almost seven hundred years ago by Sin. I was from there, though I was training to become a summoner in Bevelle at the time of the destruction. We were unable to rebuild because of the lake, so the area was just going to be abandoned. I became a fayth so that my home would forever be important, even if it no longer stood."
"Why is everything about this world so sad?" Tidus wondered and Shiva smiled. "You can talk."
The aeon laughed. "I have a hume form, as you do. It gives me hume vocal cords and the ability to form words."
"But the other aeons don't. Do you choose your forms, or..."
"Not really, no." Shiva shrugged. "I studied black magic in life and had an affinity for ice, which gave me my elemental affinity. I also thought a lot of my appearance, which I believe is the reason behind my aeon's appearance, but it wasn't something I consciously decided on." She cocked her head to one side. "You are studying white magic?"
Tidus blinked. "Huh? Oh, yeah. Seymour said he'd taught you a bunch, didn't he?" He paused for a moment, then added, "I'm not, actually, sure how that works. I mean, he only knows Cure, right? So how could he have taught you higher level white magic?"
Shiva laughed. "Aeons learn spells through the consumption of items which are given to us by our summoners. Those abilities can only be used by us when called by that specific summoner, but that's just the way of the world." She smiled at him. "You, too, might learn through the consumption of items, though I doubt Lord Yevon is much of a mind to provide them to you."
Tidus snorted. "No kidding. He's too busy summoning and wrecking stuff."
"I believe he is more concerned with attempting to control the armour, personally."
Tidus sighed. "Yeah, I suppose." He rubbed at the back of his head. "It's kinda hard, sometimes, to remember that Yevon isn't actually that bad a guy, for all that he's made a mess of the world."
"The only person now alive with any memories of him is High Summoner Yunalesca," Shiva added, "and she knew him as a father first. Her thoughts on him might be biased."
Tidus smiled. "Yeah, they probably are."
The aeon glanced back towards the shelter in which her summoner was sleeping still. "If you could learn any white spell, what would it be?" she wondered of the teen next to her.
"Holy," Tidus replied without hesitation.
Shiva laughed. "Perhaps I can teach that to you, then."
Tidus' eyes lit up. "Really?"
Seymour woke without Tidus next to him. He was momentarily struck with the fear that the teen had vanished, but then he heard laughter outside and got up to go see. Tidus and Shiva were standing near each other, laughing over something or other. From the pyreflies swirling just past them, Seymour thought they might have just battled a fiend. Tidus didn't have his sword out, but Seymour had found the teen capable of handling fiends without his favoured weapon, since he had picked up some explosive mixes from his Al Bhed friend.
Shiva said something to Tidus then and the teen glanced over at the shelter. His smile turned uncertain, but he still started over, calling, "Afternoon, Seymour! Shiva's been teaching me white magic!"
Seymour smiled at that. A part of him had hoped that the teen would get to learn something from Shiva when he'd summoned her. "We should get something to eat, and then set back out," he offered once Tidus was within range for him to not have to shout.
"Yeah, sure thing," Tidus agreed, slipping back into the shelter and to his large pack, which had his travel rations. They sorted out their food, then packed up their meagre supplies and started off, Shiva fading away as Seymour allowed her to return to where ever aeons went when they weren't being called into existence.
Their trip was mostly in silence, only speaking to point out a sign that told them which direction to go in or to warn about a couple of incoming fiends.
When they reached the last dune between them and Home, according to Seymour, Tidus dashed up it to look, grinning. The grin died on his face when he saw the flames and suggestions of an ongoing attack. "Seymour!" he called back.
Seymour hurried up the dune, fighting against his robes. When he saw what had shocked Tidus, he grabbed the teen's arm. "Tidus, please believe me that this was not my doing," he whispered.
Tidus stared at him, distrust and belief warring in his eyes. "But you knew this might happen?" he demanded.
"The Al Bhed have been kidnapping summoners," Seymour hurried to explain, "and we maesters have been in arguments about what to do about it for a while. Mika wanted to punish them, and Kinoc was sort of with him, but Kelk and I have been holding them off, trying to get them to talk to the Al Bhed. But the Al Bhed haven't wanted to talk, they think they're in the right, but if something isn't done... Summoners are the hope of all Spira, and the people were getting antsy. I am... I'm not surprised that this happened, but it wasn't my doing. Please, believe that."
Tidus watched Seymour's eyes throughout his explanation and, seeing his honesty, decided to believe the maester on his being not to blame for this attack. A part of the problem, certainly, considering his station in the main religion, but not directly at fault for this. "Okay," he agreed. "Okay, I believe you. We need to get down there; you're a maester, maybe you can stop this."
"Thank you," Seymour whispered and they both started running down the dune towards the madness.
The first person they came across was a guado who was summoning fiends. Tidus tensed at seeing one of Seymour's people obviously assisting in the attack, but Seymour himself looked furious. "What is going on here?" he demanded of the guado.
The guado turned and relief suffused his features. "Lord Seymour! You're alive!" he breathed, stepping forward to touch the half-guado's arm.
Seymour frowned. "Itsuki, I told Tromell I didn't want anyone doing anything about the Al Bhed without my permission. What are you doing here?"
Itsuki shuffled a bit, looking ashamed. "Sin took you and we didn't know what to do. Maester Mika said he'd heard a rumour that you were being held captive by the Al Bhed. We came to free you!"
Seymour sighed. "Dammit."
"As you can see, he's fine," Tidus cut in, scowling at the machinations of Yevon's leaders. "He was never with the Al Bhed. Now would the lot of you call this ridiculous attack off?" He looked back towards the blazing fires of Rikku's Home. "I think you've done more than enough damage."
Itsuki turned to Seymour, who waved a hand at him. "Listen to Sir Tidus. We'll be going in to tell Cid we're calling a ceasefire."
"My Lord, that's not safe!" Itsuki complained. "What if one of the heathens attack you?"
"I suppose you'll just have to trust that Maester Seymour and I can take care of ourselves," Tidus snapped, turning furious eyes on the guado. "Someone needs to go in there and tell the Al Bhed you idiots are pulling back, preferably before they blow something up and kill everyone. Moreover, my summoner is in there. If one of your fiends did her any harm, I swear to Yu Yevon I'm going to–"
Seymour clapped a hand over Tidus' mouth. "Give the order to retreat," he ordered, then led the teen past the guado. "Berate them later, Tidus. We don't have the time right now."
Tidus scowled. "I know," he muttered, pulling out his sword and cutting down a Dual Horn.
The two of them hurried through the wreckage, taking down fiends on their way. If they saw a guado or hume, Seymour ordered them to retreat. Any unconscious Al Bhed, hume or guado they came across were checked and if they were dead Seymour would perform a quick sending, seeing no reason to add even more fiends to the mix. Those that remained alive – never Al Bhed – were spared a quick healing and sent out.
The first time they came across a live Al Bhed, she was losing against a guado.
"Halt!" Seymour shouted and the guado sort of froze, the sickly smirk on his face stuck as it was.
Tidus ran over to the Al Bhed, murmuring a Cura under his breath. He was content to leave Seymour to deal with his follower at the moment, more concerned with how the Al Bhed was tilting to one side, holding a gash in her side. "Here," he said, offering an Al Bhed potion.
"Thank you," the woman whispered, swallowing the offered drink in one gulp. As her side stitched back together, she took another look at her rescuers and her eyes widened. "You... Why is he helping us?" she hissed, pointing at where Seymour was ordering the guado to retreat.
"He didn't call this attack," Tidus replied, glancing back towards his lover as the man met an incoming fiend with a Blizzard. "I know what it looks like, with all the guado running around, but he and I have been lost in the desert for the past few days. Mika is the one who called this attack. We're trying to call a ceasefire."
The woman laughed bitterly. "Bit late for that," she commented, glancing at the wreckage that had been Home.
Tidus closed his eyes. "I know. I'm sorry. If we hadn't stopped for a break this morning, we might have been here in time to stop this."
"Being here wouldn't have been enough," Seymour offered as he joined them. "It would simply have been proof to the Yevonites and guado that Mika had been right and I was being held prisoner by the Al Bhed."
"Have I mentioned recently how stupid I think you people are?" Tidus wondered rhetorically, earning him a quiet chuckle from Seymour. He turned back to the Al Bhed woman, who was looking between them in disbelief. "Please, I'm looking for my summoner, Lady Gina. And Rikku."
The woman shook her head. "You're Rikku's friend?"
"Yes." Tidus smiled. "Is she still here?"
"Yes, but they should be going to the lower levels to evacuate." The woman threw a distrustful glance towards Seymour. "I was headed there myself."
Tidus breathed in relief. "Might we come with you?"
She looked again towards Seymour, who sighed and offered, "I have no intention of doing any further damage to your people or Home."
"And if he suddenly goes crazy, I'll hit him until he calms back down," Tidus promised, grinning.
The woman blinked, half disbelieving, but nodded and led them quickly into the building. The three of them worked together dealing with fiends. Al Bhed that they came across joined their party, shooting distrustful looks at Seymour, while any guado or humes were ordered out. Sendings weren't performed, the Al Bhed insisting there wasn't time, although they looked pleased that Seymour would want to stop and perform the kindness, for all that they still saw him as an enemy.
When they reached the airship, the Al Bhed all ran aboard. Seymour froze for a moment, but Tidus grabbed his wrist and pulled him along. "Stare at the machina after we're out of here," he ordered.
Seymour nodded and followed after the teen, mentally cackling at just how screwed the other maesters were. None of them knew the Al Bhed had an airship. That's what you get for ordering an attack, you dead fool, he thought at Mika.
They were met at the door by one bouncy Al Bhed girl and a grateful summoner. "We weren't sure you'd make it before we left," Gina commented as Rikku rushed into Tidus' outstretched arms for a hug. The summoner looked past her missing guardian at the maester. "Seymour."
"Lady Gina," the half-guado returned stiffly. "I believe we should get into the airship before it takes off?" he added to Tidus and Rikku.
"Why'd you have to bring that jerk?" Rikku complained as they got back on the ship.
"He was invaluable in getting past the guado outside," Tidus returned drily. "And we reached an accord while we were trapped in the desert."
Rikku huffed and hit the intercom button as the doorway closed up. "That sounds like it's the last of them, Pops."
"What's this I hear about you letting on that half-guado bastard?" Cid called back even as the airship vibrated with the engines starting up.
Seymour tensed, knowing enough Al Bhed to understand what Cid was complaining about. He looked for a moment like he might shoot an unpleasant response back up to the bridge, but then Tidus touched his arm and shook his head. Rikku and Gina were both surprised to see the maester relax at that.
"Seymour was just as appalled as I was to see the attack," Tidus offered. "Not surprised, since it's an ongoing debate among the maesters, but he wasn't behind it actually occurring. One of the guado said Mika told them you lot had Seymour captive and that they had to go save him."
There was a moment of silence, then, as the intercom was still open, Cid offered, "Right, then. The lot of you, get up here."
"Better do as he says," Rikku suggested, shutting down the intercom and motioning for them to follow her towards the bridge.
On the bridge, Cid was waiting for them. He glared at Seymour, but offered a small microphone to him. "We're blowing the place up. Your people have ten minutes to evacuate," he said, then turned away and started calling out directions to his people.
"You're destroying Home?" Tidus whispered to Rikku even as Seymour stepped a bit away to use the airship's loudspeakers to give orders to the guado and humes on the ground.
"If we don't, it'll become a nest for fiends," Rikku replied sadly. "At least if we destroy it, there's more of a chance that everyone can rest in peace."
"We can't do a sending?" Tidus asked, looking to Gina. "Other summoners are on-board, right?"
"There's no way we could send everyone, especially not with how unstable Home is," Gina said, looking as sad as Rikku. "This is far from being the most optimal solution, but it's the only one that's feasible." Her gaze flickered towards where Seymour was handing the microphone back to a scowling Cid. "Papa says he's a threat."
"I know." Tidus sighed and looked over towards his lover himself. "He told me. I think I've gotten through to him, though, a bit. Anima helped." He looked back at his summoner. "Does your father know about you?"
"He's not sure." Gina shook her head. "Going to Zanarkand seems to be our best option. Still."
"Sorry to break into your usual code," Rikku commented a bit drily, "but who is Anima? And in what way is the jerk a threat? Gina wouldn't tell me."
"Anima is my mother," Seymour offered as he rejoined them, making Rikku jump. "And I'd like to think I'm only a threat to Mika right now." He smiled a bit grimly. "Cid is going to launch the missiles."
Rikku glanced at Gina, who nodded her okay, then hurried over to her father's side as he gave the order to fire.
Under the cover of the Al Bhed singing the Hymn, Seymour sidled closer to Tidus and murmured, "What, exactly, does your summoner know? And how?"
"Seymour, I swear, if you do anything to Gina–!" Tidus hissed, glaring at the maester.
"I'm not going to hurt your summoner!" Seymour hissed back.
"My father told me about your urge to kill everyone," Gina offered quietly. "If it weren't for your mother's plea, you would already be dead." She glanced up at the maester, who looked a little sick and was gripping Tidus' arm. "Make no mistake, Seymour, I like you about as much as my father does, but I was taught as a child to listen to the fayth, and both Anima and Jecht think Tidus and you are good for each other. But I swear, on my father's name, if you ever trying 'saving' Tidus–"
"Gina," Tidus cut in, reaching up to try and loosen Seymour's death grip on his arm. If nothing else, he'd rather Seymour be squeezing the life out of his left hand over his right arm. "I care about you too. Now stop it."
Gina huffed, but subsided.
The pilot was still sobbing dramatically when Cid and Rikku walked back over to the others. Cid gave Seymour's hand in Tidus' an odd look, but wisely didn't say anything about it. "I expect you want to be dropped off in Bevelle, then?" he asked them.
"Yes, I need to pray to the fayth there," Gina agreed.
Seymour shook his head. "And I have a pressing need to speak with Mika."
Cid shot a glance at Seymour, then looked fully at Gina. "You'll keep an eye on my daughter, right? I can't seem to talk her out of this foolish journey."
Gina smiled. "Of course. She's practically family." She glanced at her other guardian. "Isn't that right, Tidus?"
Tidus smiled. "Don't worry, sir, we won't let any harm befall Rikku. We'd sooner die, I think." He winced minutely as Seymour tightened his hold on Tidus' hand.
Rikku took a deep breath and managed a crooked smile. "Let's not let it come to that, okay?"
"Do you know how long until we reach Bevelle?" Gina asked.
Cid rubbed at the back of his head. "Can't say for sure, since this is the first time we've taken this thing out. Probably by morning, if you wanted to get some rest." He turned to Seymour again. "You know that damn city best; where do you think is a good place to let you lot off? Preferably somewhere that won't get us shot out of the sky."
"We don't have any weapons powerful enough to take down an airship," Seymour reported with certainty, "so it should be safe to drop everyone off anywhere you'd like. The Palace of St Bevelle would probably have the easiest access for an airship, though the Highbridge is another option." He paused in thought for a moment, then added, "If you get any closer than the Calm Lands, however, you will have to contend with Evrae, the city's guardian wyrm."
"You can't stop it from attacking us?" Cid wondered.
Seymour snorted. "I haven't yet been a maester so long that it would listen to me. No, it's under Mika's control."
"What are the chances of us defeating it?" Gina asked.
Seymour frowned in thought. "How many other summoners are aboard?"
"Lady Dona and Lord Isaaru," Gina reported. "Dona doesn't have her guardian, and one of Isaaru's guardians isn't doing well. Why?"
Seymour shrugged. "Normally, I would say we shouldn't try facing off against Evrae, but with four summoners, three guardians and an airship, we might just manage it." He glanced at Cid. "If you wanted to chance it."
Cid smiled. "There's something about flying into Bevelle among the pyreflies from their precious guardian." He narrowed his eyes at the maester. "You would fight?"
"I have no love for that beast," Seymour informed him, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. "And I see nothing wrong in warning Mika what fury he has unleashed upon attacking your people. I will fully enjoy telling him 'I told you so'."
Cid held out a hand which Seymour took with his free one. "You're not half bad, for a maester."
"You're not half bad, for a heathen," Seymour returned with humour.
Cid nodded. "There should be rooms on the second level. I'll make sure the other summoners are informed. We'll wake you all before we reach Bevelle," he promised. "For now, get some rest; we've got quite the battle coming."
"Good night, Pops!" Rikku offered, hopping up to kiss Cid's cheek. Then she led the way off the bridge and to the second level quarters. "Alright, pick a room."
"It would probably be best to double up," Gina commented neutrally, eyeing Tidus and Seymour's joined hands and briefly wondering which of the two was actually refusing to let go.
"The ship is sort of full to capacity," Tidus agreed with a smile.
Rikku grimaced and turned away from her fellow guardian, grabbing Gina's arm. "Let's get a room on the other end of the level from them."
Gina and Tidus both laughed. "Come on," Tidus said to his lover, moving towards an open room at the opposite end from Rikku and Gina.
"You're not going to fight me this time?" Seymour wondered, a little amused.
"Haven't decided yet," Tidus returned.
"I can't decide if I'm disturbed or happy," Rikku commented to her summoner as the door on the far end of the hall slid closed behind the lovers.
"He's not so bad, I suppose," Gina offered as they slipped into their own room.
"Do you think we're stuck with him?" Rikku wondered as they made for their separate beds.
"I suppose that depends on how things go in Bevelle."
Evrae really wasn't much of a challenge, as Seymour had predicted. Distance fighting was easy when most of your party was made up of spellcasters. Tidus and Rikku stayed back to act as healers and to give directions to Cid while the summoners and Isaaru's elder guardian all utilised summons or black magic to take down their opponent. (Other than Seymour's single Cure spell and some mid-level healing spells Dona had learned, they all used black magic. Tidus and Rikku had both shared a laugh over the knowledge that Yuna was the only summoner they knew who specialised in white magic.)
Cid set them down atop the Palace of St Bevelle with well-wishes. There, the groups separated: Dona to Macalania Woods in hopes of finding her guardian, Isaaru's party to Macalania Temple for Shiva, Seymour to the library and Gina's party to Bevelle's temple. Isaaru and Gina had discussed traversing the Temple of Bevelle together, but the male summoner thought it would be best if he and his brothers took the long trek to Macalania to sort themselves out, especially with the way Pacce had been acting since the attack of Home.
Mika met Seymour just outside the library, commenting, "I told you the Al Bhed were up to no good. They've been hiding an airship with their stolen summoners. I see you managed to free yourself from them." He smiled.
Seymour didn't smile back. "What gave you the right to send my people on an attack that I never agreed to?" he demanded.
"You could hardly agree to it since you were being held prisoner at the time–"
"I most certainly was not," Seymour snapped. "I didn't even reach Home until the attack was almost over. I distinctly recall telling you not to attack the Al Bhed until we knew what they were capable of. I hope, for the sake of this city, that they don't decide to take their losses out on Yevon's seat of power!"
"Since when have you cared about the people of this city?" Mika returned, frowning. "And whatever happened to your plan to become Lady Yuna's Final Aeon? She's long passed through the city by now."
"I have no interest in becoming Sin," Seymour replied calmly, burying shaking hands in the folds of his robes. A part of him still wanted – needed – to destroy this broken world, but Tidus... He could never destroy Tidus like that. And he couldn't possibly protect Tidus if he was Sin.
Mika laughed an unpleasant laugh. "Don't tell me you've suddenly developed a conscience, Seymour. You've come much too far for such nonsense."
"And if I have?" Seymour wondered.
Mika smiled cruelly. "I have no need for a maester with a conscience."
Gina was surprised to find the fayth already waiting for her when she stepped into his sanctum. "Hello?" she asked, frowning.
The boy inclined his head. "I know of you, Lady Yunalesca, and I trust in your journey. Time is of the essence, Seymour is in danger on the Highbridge."
"You wish me to save him?" Gina wondered, surprised.
"His twisted ways untwist even now," Bahamut replied. "Tidus has given him something to fight for, just as you once did for Zaon. In the same way you were lost without your husband, I fear Tidus may become lost without Seymour, and Lady Yuna is too far ahead of you to chance a set-back. Without Jecht, there is no guarantee that you can succeed."
"I understand," Gina whispered and braced herself to accept Bahamut. Within moments, she was dashing back outside to her guardians, both of whom looked surprised.
"Gina, what is it?" Tidus asked, standing from where he had been sitting with Rikku.
"Seymour's in trouble. On the Highbridge," Gina offered.
Tidus' eyes widened, then he was off like a shot, through the doors back into the trials without a pause.
"Did you get the aeon?" Rikku wondered as she joined Gina in following the guardian at a slightly slower pace.
"Yes," Gina whispered, smiling sadly at the evidence that Bahamut had spoken true; Tidus, for all his bravado, had become attached to Seymour. Perhaps too attached. But it was too late to turn him away from the maester now. Gina could only support them, and do everything in her power to give Tidus his happiness. "Come on," she said to Rikku.
Rikku sighed. "Do we have to save the jerk?" she complained, moving quicker even as she spoke. She had no love for Seymour, but she'd never seen Tidus so happy as when he was with that jerk.
Gina just smiled in reply.
Tidus ran out onto the Highbridge, uncaring that he'd left the girls behind. Far ahead of him, he could make out Seymour fighting against lines of humes armed with machina guns and machina constructs. As he ran, he saw Seymour crumple to the ground and felt his heart in his throat. It was too far for one of Rikku's mixes, too far for a sword...
'Use Holy,' a boy's voice that he thought he recognised whispered.
He hadn't fully mastered the high-level white magic spell, but he was left with little other choice. "Please let this work," he whispered even as he brought his sword around to bear. "Holy!"
The Highbridge flashed with white and everything fell silent.
I know Holy doesn't quite flash white like that, but, come on, artistic license.
Chapter 9: Wisdom, Justice, and Love
Also, special thanks to Shotgunnova's game script at GameFAQs. Some scenes are taken from the game, with the help of that script.
Perhaps I was just overly tired, but parts of this chapter were written while Shivani's Tidus and Seymour were talking in my head. So their voices may be more her then me, at times, but there you go?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
This is damned pathetic, Seymour thought as he fended off the incoming soldiers. In spite of all his training, he was hardly a match for the hordes of humes and machina Mika had sent after him with the shouted insults of traitor and murderer added in for a bonus. He hadn't even had time to summon one of his aeons before he'd been overrun, and robes were not conductive for running in.
So, here he was, being shoved back further and further along the Highbridge. He'd started towards the temple in hopes that he might be able to get backup from Gina's party, but then he'd remembered the summoner would be praying to the fayth – or still fighting their way through the Yevon-damned trials. There was no way they would get out in any sort of time to help him out. He supposed he could have led the soldiers into the temple, but that would possibly add the temple guardians to his opponents, and he had no interest in fighting quasi-summoners as well as guns.
He grunted as a lucky soldier hit his leg, sending him to the ground. Is this what it's come to? Well, Yu Yevon, it looks like your followers will be doing your dirty work for you, he thought bitterly.
The Highbridge suddenly flashed with a white light and Seymour had to look away as the white orbs of the Holy spell pelted the soldiers and machina that had been moments from doing him in.
Like some sort of vengeful beast, Bahamut slammed through the barriers between dream and reality and alighted on the Highbridge between Seymour and the surviving soldiers. The dragon let out a warning growl as a few soldiers stumbled backwards.
"Seymour," Tidus whispered, kneeling next to the maester. He was out of breath from running the length of the bridge and casting the powerful white spell, but he still managed a Cura.
Seymour relaxed against the teen. "Déjà vu," he murmured. "Except, last time, I was the one healing you."
"You did a crappy job of it, too," Tidus teased, relief in his tone. He shot out another Cura to heal what was left of the damage to his lover.
"What did you do?" Gina wondered of the maester as she and Rikku finally reached them.
"I told Mika where he could shove his dead prick," Seymour replied, earning him surprised laughs from the other three. "Thanks."
"Bahamut was quite insistent that you required assistance," Gina offered. "Probably the quickest anyone has ever acquired an aeon."
Seymour struggled to his feet, Tidus silently offering his assistance. "We can't hold them here forever," he pointed out. "As soon as Mika realises we've blocked them here, he'll have the temple guardians filing through behind us."
Rikku held up a small transmitter Cid had slipped her before they'd disembarked. "They shouldn't be too far out, so we only have to hold the Yevonites off for a little bit longer."
"Incoming," Tidus warned, having been watching the way to the temple ever since Seymour had mentioned more might come from that direction.
Seymour stepped away from Tidus and performed a quick summoning for Anima, who immediately shot out some warning attacks against the temple guardians. "That should hold them until our ride gets here," he said grimly.
"What are they doing?" Rikku wondered, peeking around Anima at the temple guardians. "It almost looks like they're summoning, but..."
The two trained summoners looked past the large aeon to see and Gina offered, "They are summoning. Or, well, trying to..."
'We will not answer their pleas,' the boy's voice from earlier said in Tidus' mind. 'You are our hope for peace; we are not about to help them fight against you.'
'You're a fayth?' Tidus wondered.
'I am Bahamut,' the child replied and the dragon aeon huffed pointedly. 'I am directly involved in your dream, so my reaching out to you does not harm you.'
'Oh...' Tidus shook his head and looked towards his party, all of whom were watching the temple guardians get more and more desperate, unable to summon as they were. "Bahamut says the fayth won't fight against us," he offered to his party.
Seymour immediately hurried to Tidus' side, worried. "You're not–"
"I'm fine," Tidus assured him with a smile. "Bahamut is connected to my fayth, so he doesn't hurt me when we talk."
"Hurt you?" Gina wondered, frowning.
"You told him?" Rikku asked, scowling at Seymour.
"Anima spoke to me in the desert," Tidus explained, "and it gave me a headache. I had to explain how it was possible for a fayth to communicate with me."
"Hmm..." Gina rubbed at her chin. "Papa said he could communicate with the other fayth through the aeon who is acting as his armour, so it would make sense that you can communicate as well," she decided, then shook her head. "I don't like that it gives you a headache, though."
Tidus waved that off. "I'm fine."
Further discussion was ended as the Fahrenheit made its appearance, Cid using the loudspeakers to call, "Here's how this is gonna work: We're gonna take our friends on-board real peaceful-like. You start shooting, we shoot back."
The side door of the airship popped open as it drew even with the Highbridge. "Why do you still have the half-guado?" the man who opened it asked Rikku.
"Because Tidus would never forgive me if we left him behind," Rikku replied, hopping into the ship and reaching out to help Gina inside.
"And no one wants to put up with Tidus in a snit," Gina added teasingly.
"I can understand you, you know," Tidus pointed out as Seymour was helped into the airship. He couldn't speak Al Bhed, but he'd picked up enough of it after travelling with Rikku that he got the general gist of what they were saying.
Tidus jumped aboard once Seymour was safe and the two summoners dismissed their aeons as the door slid shut.
"All aboard, Pops!" Rikku called through the intercom.
"For the record, I vote you blow a hole in the side of the palace just for kicks," Seymour added.
Cid laughed. "Noted. Lady Gina, where are we dropping you off?" he asked as the airship veered away from the Highbridge.
Gina bit her lower lip for a moment, then glanced at Seymour. "I was told there's a couple of fayth in the Calm Lands? I've already prayed to Yojimbo, but..."
"The Magus Sisters," Seymour agreed. "They reside in Remiem Temple, near the entrance to Macalania Woods, which is impossible to reach without a chocobo."
Gina sighed. "Alright. Where in Zanarkand is Yunalesca?"
Seymour frowned. "The far north, in a large building. You intend to avoid Mt Gagazet entirely?"
"I've made this pilgrimage once," Gina reminded him, "and I don't intend to let Lady Yuna beat me, if only so she never has to face the choice of sacrificing a guardian." She glanced at Tidus. "Large building in the north?"
"Blitzball stadium," Tidus said with certainty.
"My thoughts exactly," Gina agreed, turning back to the intercom. "We're going to Zanarkand, Cid. In the northern-most part of the city will be a large, open-air building set a bit away from the rest of the buildings. That's where we're headed."
"Understood. Should take us most of the day to get there, so take a moment or three to relax a bit," Cid replied before the intercom went silent.
The Al Bhed man who had let them in sighed. "I'll take you to the galley," he offered. "You all look like you could use some food."
"That would be most appreciated," Gina replied with a smile while Rikku translated what the other Al Bhed had said to Tidus and Seymour, since she knew neither of them had a perfect understanding of her language.
The party got some food and found themselves a quiet corner next to a window to eat in. Once they'd finished, Tidus and Rikku plastered themselves to the airship window and exclaimed over the view while Gina laughed and Seymour watched them with a tired smile.
After a while, Tidus turned to his lover and asked, "So what, exactly, did you say that had Mika sending half the city after you?"
Seymour glanced at Rikku and Gina, who were watching him with curious eyes. "I told him I'd developed a conscience," he allowed.
"So he sent half the city to kill you?" Rikku wondered, shaking her head. "Yevonites are scary."
"He couldn't have you going rogue, you know too much," Gina deduced.
"I might go around telling people what he believes is the truth, that Sin is eternal and will never be destroyed. Then he'd have a mass panic on his hands, lots of suicides, and there would be no one for him to rule over any more." Seymour sighed. "Mika never knew about my aspirations to destroy the world."
"Wait, you what?" Rikku demanded, jerking forward.
"We're working on that," Tidus commented lightly to his fellow guardian as he pressed her back into her earlier seat.
"You people really believe that Sin can never truly be defeated?" Gina wondered.
Seymour grimaced. "It's been around for one thousand years, and everything we've tried has gotten us nowhere."
"The fayth think he can be defeated for good," Tidus commented, "or I wouldn't be here."
"And Papa wouldn't have assisted in bringing you through if he thought it would fail," Gina agreed. "I just wish I knew how."
They were all silent for a long few moments, thinking. Eventually, Seymour stood. "It's something to think about. Perhaps your unsent self in Zanarkand will have an answer we don't. If not, we can debate it more once we've finished there. For now, we might as well take a break. We have safety and time, we may as well enjoy it."
"You're right," Gina allowed, getting to her own feet. "I know we've only just slept, but I feel like I could do so again."
"I second that," Tidus offered. "Casting Holy takes a lot out of you."
"Oh, yeah! When did you pick that one up, anyway?" Rikku demanded as they all started for the floor where the bedrooms were.
"In the desert. Shiva taught it to me, but that was the first time I actually cast it," Tidus explained, grimacing. "I promise to teach you next time there's space."
"Casting it on this ship may well blow a hole in the side," Gina agreed, smiling. "Once we're done in Zanarkand, I'd like to visit the Magus Sisters in the Calm Lands. You can practise while we're there."
"There is... another aeon you might consider attempting," Seymour offered hesitantly.
Gina glanced over at him. "Your mother?"
Seymour nodded. "Her crystal is in the ruins of Baaj Temple."
"She's the one I sensed when we first got here," Gina explained for Tidus' benefit.
"If you don't mind, then we can head there after seeing the Magus Sisters," Gina said to Seymour.
The ex-maester smiled faintly. "Certainly."
They split on the second level to go to their separate rooms. Tidus waited until their door was closed before asking, "Seymour? What are you going to do now? I mean, you're not really a maester any more, right?"
Seymour sighed and sat on their bed. "I don't know," he admitted. "I suppose I could just go back to ruling the guado, but I'm not sure they'd be okay with that."
Tidus frowned and settled on the bed next to his lover. "Why wouldn't they like you leading them? For all that you've had other priorities, you seem to have done pretty well so far. I mean, they adore you, right?"
Seymour sighed. "You are not going to be pleased with me," he warned.
Tidus snorted. "Seymour, I love you, but I am rarely pleased with you. What did you do?"
Seymour opened his mouth to explain, paused, then asked, "You love me?"
Tidus sighed. "Yes. I think so? What did you do?"
The half-guado slumped a bit and cast a sideways glance at his lover. "I killed my father."
Tidus considered that for a moment, then snorted. "My father is a part of Sin," he reminded the other.
"Who am I here to destroy?"
"Ah." Seymour let out a nervous laugh. "I suppose that's true. But... you're killing Jecht for a good reason?"
Tidus snorted. "My favourite pastime before I ended up in Spira was throwing darts at a picture of him. I think it's pretty safe to say my intentions towards killing him aren't as pure as you're trying to make them out to be."
"There's a difference between throwing darts at someone's head and actually killing them," Seymour pointed out drily, though he sounded a bit more relaxed. He even pulled Tidus closer, which the teen allowed with a smile. "It's not like you're killing him for your own gains, no matter how much you might have hated him."
"So, what? I'm the poster boy for patricide?" Tidus returned, earning him a surprised laugh. He pulled back a bit and shot Seymour a serious look. "From what you've said about your old man, he probably deserved it, even if it was, perhaps, a bit more extreme than necessary. I mean, leaving your wife and kid to fend for themselves just because they're not popular..."
"I have since been told it was, at least in part, for our safety," Seymour offered, uncertain why he would even bother defending Jyscal. He knew his father had been a popular man, both among the humes and the guado, but he'd not done well by his family.
"And he couldn't have kept you safe in that giant manor of yours?" Tidus asked rhetorically, shaking his head. "I've never met him, personally, but there are ways to handle your family and shunting them off to a distant island is not one of them, no matter your excuses." He sighed. "Murder was, perhaps, a bit extreme, but I already know you're a bit insane. And considering my own quest at the moment, I'm hardly one to talk."
Seymour hummed a bit and pulled Tidus back towards him. "We should get some rest. There'll be time to debate our various sins later."
"Yours more than mine," Tidus helpfully added.
Seymour sighed, resigned, and they both got up to change out of their mostly unnecessary clothing, then curled up together on the bed.
Seymour was just drifting off to sleep when Tidus murmured, "I'm sorry."
Seymour grunted an inquiry.
Tidus was silent for a moment, then said, "That I'll be leaving you soon."
Seymour huffed. "No," he muttered into the blond hair.
"Won't let you," Seymour explained drowsily, tightening his arm around Tidus' waist. "Find a way to keep you. Mine."
Tidus was torn between feeling pleased and exasperated. Pleased won and he kissed the bare chest inches from his nose. "Okay."
Seymour let out a pleased murmur and it was left at that.
Rikku was the one who came to wake them, knocking loudly on their door and calling, "If you're not up and on the bridge in fifteen minutes, I'm coming in there! And none of us wants that!"
Tidus called back, "Then why are you threatening it?"
Rikku didn't respond, but her threat was enough to get the guys out of bed, Tidus muttering threats under his breath and Seymour smiling in amusement.
They got up to the bridge to find that they hadn't quite passed around Gagazet yet – something about having to go the long way around the Calm Lands because they weren't sure how to get the airship high enough to actually go over Gagazet and the cliffs spanning the Calm Lands to either side. Tidus immediately turned to Rikku upon learning that, ready to unleash his earlier plans of torture on her, but Gina said, "Tidus, come here," in a subdued voice.
Threats forgotten, Tidus hurried over to his summoner, worried. "What's wrong?"
Gina took his hand and drew him closer to the view screen just as the first of the ruins came into view. The summoner let out a sound somewhere between a mournful sigh and a sob while Tidus' breath caught. Tidus squeezed her hand in understanding, because this might not be his Zanarkand, but it was as close to it as he'd ever get, and it hurt to see it in ruins.
The bridge was silent as they soared over the shattered memories, towards what was left of the blitzball stadium. About halfway through the wreckage, Gina commented, "It hasn't changed."
"I guess he managed to keep himself from doing any further damage," Tidus offered quietly.
Gina smiled a bit sadly. "Maybe he did."
As the blitzball stadium came fully into view, Cid asked, "Where are we setting you lot down?"
Gina glanced at Seymour, since he knew the layout better than she did at that point.
"There's an unsent at the entrance," Seymour offered, "who meets incoming parties. He may be the one who warns High Summoner Yunalesca that someone has come to visit. If you'd rather surprise her, I can probably point out the closest entrance to the Trials."
Gina considered that for a moment, looking back towards the blitzball stadium. Finally, just as they drew even, she directed, "Leave us here, please. I don't much care to see if we can find a stable landing spot inside the stadium."
"Right." Cid turned to Brother, at the helm, and ordered, "Find a spot out here."
"Thank you," Gina offered honestly, motioning for the party to leave the bridge.
"Lady Gina!" Cid called as they reached the doorway. When Gina turned back to him, he offered, "We'll stay in the area. When you're done, give us a call and will pick you up. You can make further plans on the airship."
"Thank you," Gina repeated while Rikku let out a whoop.
The party hopped out of the ship and waited until it had flown out of sight before starting for the doorway of the stadium, Gina in the lead. A man met them just outside, asking, "Journeyer of the long road, name yourself."
"I am High Summoner Yunalesca Yevon, from the city-state of Zanarkand," Gina announced grimly.
The unsent did a double-take, eyes widening upon closer study. "Lady Yunalesca?" he breathed.
"A part of her," she agreed, smiling slightly. "I'm here to speak with the unsent here of the same name. May I?"
The man blinked in surprise. "But, how...?"
"I don't know. May we pass?"
The man dumbly stepped to one side and they slipped past him.
In the wreckage, they saw echoes of the past, images from previous summoner parties, and Gina commented, "These have changed. Before, the echoes in this city were of the people who had died here, now it's of the summoners and guardians who have given their lives. Always tales of death."
"Life fades away, but death lingers," Seymour offered.
"Yes, perhaps that is it," Gina agreed.
Of the images they saw, only two had any real affect on the party. The first was of a young Seymour, pleading for his mother not to sacrifice her life. If anyone had noticed the way Seymour had crept closer to Tidus for the duration of the memory, they didn't say anything.
The second was of Jecht, Auron and Braska. Jecht and Auron had tried to talk Braska out of performing the Final Summoning, but he'd insisted he must and they'd moved on.
"I'm having a hard time believing Auron actually choked at the last minute," Tidus offered quietly as they moved past the faded memory.
Gina smiled. "I choked," she offered, chuckling at the disbelieving sounds of her fellows. "I did. Zaon and I camped out on the edge of the ruins for two weeks before I got the courage to actually come in here and hunt down any leftover fayth statues. When we didn't find anything, he was the one who insisted I make him a fayth and use him against Papa. We argued about it for another two weeks, though."
"Why would he be a better fayth than any of the others you already had?" Rikku wondered. "That's something I never understood."
"The stronger the connection between fayth and summoner, the stronger the aeon will be when summoned," Seymour offered. "Shiva and Anima are my strongest summons, since I am closest to them. Most summoners form an extremely close bond with their original aeon, since they trained at that temple and have spent time with the fayth."
"Ixion," Gina offered when Tidus and Rikku looked at her curiously. "Of the aeons I can call now, he and I are the closest. Before, it was Tonberry, who was my first ever aeon." She smiled in memory. "He was kind of cute, actually."
"If he's anything like the Tonberries that haunt Yojimbo's cavern, the cuteness is deceptive," Seymour commented drily.
Gina chuckled. "He was slow, but anyone he hit with his knife died on the spot. His small size let him sneak onto Bevelle's machina and kill the pilots, which made him invaluable to the war effort. I was sad to find that I could no longer summon him."
"You never tried using him against Sin?" Tidus wondered.
"The armour was already dead," Gina reminded him. "I would have had to destroy the armour to get to Papa, and destroying the armour with Zaon was what got me killed, so there was no way I could have summoned him."
Tidus frowned in thought. "Huh."
"Tidus?" Gina asked. "What is it?"
Tidus waved a hand at her. "Not sure yet. Let's talk to your unsent."
Gina nodded to that and they worked together to move through the Trials. After defeating the Spectral Keeper, they took the lift down to where a cracked crystal rested. Standing over it, Gina sighed. "Oh, Zaon, my love..." she whispered.
"Yunalesca waits within," Seymour offered quietly.
Gina sighed again and spared one last glance for her husband, then walked past the crystal and through the doorway to a large room that Tidus couldn't remember ever seeing, despite all the games he'd played in the dome back home.
Yunalesca stood at the top of the steps, surrounded in pyreflies and dressed in practically nothing. She watched the party with sharp eyes as they took up positions beneath her. "Why do you exist?" she asked Gina.
Gina shrugged. "Because Papa didn't want me dead. I've been sleeping inside Sin all this time, with him, and now I'm free. And I'm going to do what we started – what we planned – all those years ago."
Yunalesca let out a slightly crazed laugh as she started down the stairs. "Finish what we started?" she wondered. "Getting rid of Sin is impossible. He is eternal!"
"I don't believe that," Gina replied quietly, "and neither does Papa. Or the fayth."
"And I suppose you know how to destroy Sin, then?" Yunalesca returned scathingly.
"No," Gina allowed, "but I'm not going to give up."
Yunalesca scoffed. "Oh, please, give it your best shot. While you're at it, I'll be granting hopeful summoners their Final Aeon."
"No, you won't." Gina held her staff out threateningly. "Our best shot resides in the aeon that is currently acting as Papa's armour. I cannot let you grant another Final Aeon, or I will fail. And I won't fail."
"So you'll, what? Send me?" Yunalesca glanced at Seymour. "You believe what I'm saying, don't you, boy? Sin is eternal."
Seymour shook his head. "I no longer know what I believe," he admitted, "but I think I should like to see the end of Sin. Lady Gina truly believes it can happen, and I would like to believe that."
Yunalesca turned angry eyes on Gina. "If that's how it is to be, I will have to put an end to your lies!" She rushed at Gina, hands outstretched to grab the other's throat. Gina held up her staff to block her, but Yunalesca simply ducked it.
Before Tidus or Rikku could fully react to the threat, Yunalesca's hands touched Gina's throat and both women let out sounds of shocked pain before they glowed and slowly melded together into one body, which then crumpled to the ground.
"Gina!" the two guardians shouted, hurrying to their summoner's side. Tidus checked for a pulse while Rikku grabbed Gina's hand, whispering, "Please be okay. Please, Gina..."
"She's changed," Seymour murmured, coming to stand behind Tidus.
Indeed, Gina's hair had grown back out and her face had aged. She looked to be in her late twenties, much closer to the age she had been when she'd faced Sin. She'd retained her summoner's robes, though the jewellery her unsent self had been wearing had appeared, the necklace tangling with a much smaller necklace she'd been wearing when she and Tidus had first met.
Gina let out a groan and her eyes fluttered open, causing both guardians to lean forward, hopeful. She blinked up at them and murmured, "Tidus? Rikku?"
The other three, including Seymour, let out breaths of relief. "Thank goodness," Rikku murmured.
At Gina's confused look, Tidus explained, "You merged with Yunalesca. You've aged."
"Ah." Gina held up one hand to inspect and, upon finding the once familiar calluses, said again, "Ah. Well, I'm still me." She frowned a bit. "I have vague memories of haunting this dome, alone, but our recent pilgrimage is what I remember best. If that makes any sense?" She shook her head.
"I wonder why that happened," Rikku commented as she and Tidus helped their summoner up.
"Two copies of the same person is... generally considered impossible," Seymour offered, shrugging. "The world couldn't cope, so it made you into the same person. Because you, Lady Gina, were more... alive, I suppose? You are the more dominate, at any rate, so your memories are at the fore."
Gina nodded in understanding. "That makes a certain amount of sense, I suppose." She reached up to remove the newest necklace, scowling as her hair caught. "Dammit. I'd gotten used to short hair."
Tidus laughed. "I can cut it again?"
"No. Not a chance," Gina returned, tossing the necklace at him. "I'd rather find someone with actual skills in that department."
"It wasn't that bad!"
"It was a little crooked," Rikku offered.
Gina chuckled at the two, shaking her head. "Perhaps one of the Al Bhed can shorten it," she decided, glancing back down at her callused hand. "Tidus, how old do I look? Approximately?"
"Not as old as you are," Tidus reported, smiling. When Gina rolled her eyes, he added, "Late twenties?"
Gina nodded. "Good. I think I like this body better."
Gina shot him a grin, then leaned down to grab her staff. "I have to wonder what I am, though. I mean, Yunalesca was unsent, so..."
"You're not unsent," Seymour reported. At the amused looks he got, he shrugged. "Guado can tell."
"You're half-guado," Tidus pointed out, but he didn't disbelieve his lover's statement. Seymour just shook his head in response.
"We should head back to the airship, I suppose," Gina commented, then grimaced. "This should be interesting to explain to Cid."
Rikku laughed a bit nervously. "I kinda...already told him...who you were..."
Gina sighed and pulled her youngest guardian into a half hug. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Stick around and keep an eye on me," Rikku ordered, nodding.
"I'll see what I can do."
Outside the dome, where they had spoken to the unsent man, they found Yuna and party. Everyone froze for a moment, then Yuna's guardians, minus Auron, all reached for their weapons.
"What is the meaning of this?" Gina snapped, stepping out from behind Seymour, who she'd been walking behind.
"Lady Yunalesca!" Yuna breathed, the staff she'd only just finished pulling out hanging from her fingertips. Beyond her, Auron reached for his own sword, eyes wary.
"I'm a traitor," Seymour reminded Gina drily.
"And a murderer!" Wakka shouted. "You murdered Lord Jyscal!"
Gina and Rikku betrayed their surprise by glancing at Seymour in question, but Tidus shot back, "Oh, get a clue, Wakka! Your Holy Order of Yevon isn't as lily-white as it's led you to believe! The only reason Seymour's a 'traitor' is because he decided to turn his back on the lot of them and their hypocritical ways!"
"He killed Lord Jyscal!" Wakka repeated angrily.
Seymour sighed. "So? Maester Mika knew that when I was ordained a maester. The only reason he's making a deal out of it now is because I argued with him for launching an attack on the Al Bhed Home."
"The Al Bhed probably deserved it!"
Rikku made to run at Wakka, but Tidus grabbed her shoulder, stopping her. "Yeah? Why don't you say that to the airship around the corner," the ex-blitzer suggested coldly. "After they blast you to the Farplane, we can all talk about how you 'deserved it' or whatever."
Rikku had taken the hint and used her call button to get her father to bring the Fahrenheit into sight. Cid's voice came over the loudspeaker, warning, "Play nice, kids."
"Best listen to him," Rikku offered with an evil little smile on her face. "Pops has an itchy trigger finger."
Wakka looked torn between terrified and offended.
Yuna slipped her staff back into her obi, then stepped forward. "Lady Yunalesca–"
"Gina," the older summoner corrected her gently. "The Yunalesca you came here to ask the Final Summoning from is gone, as is the Final Summoning itself. Go back to Besaid, Lady Yuna."
Yuna looked for a moment like she might cry. "But, Sin..."
Gina shook her head. "The Final Summoning is useless against Sin. We're going to find another way, with or without the blessing of Yevon. Go home."
Yuna shook her head. "I can't," she insisted. "I can't just turn back now and go home!"
"Wait," Tidus interrupted. "Gina, you remember that idea I had? The one I said I'd explain after we dealt with Yunalesca?"
Everyone looked at Tidus. Gina nodded. "I remember. What was it?"
Tidus glanced at Seymour. "About how many summoners – or ex-summoners – are there in Spira? People who can perform the sending."
Seymour blinked in surprise, then frowned for a moment in thought. "Most people who work at the temples are capable of performing the sending," he offered. "Maester Kinoc is the only other maester capable of it, and then there are the summoners currently on pilgrimage. There are probably others who have decided to live a quiet life, but those are the ones I know of for sure." He shook his head. "About thirty, give or take."
Tidus nodded and looked back at Gina. "You said Sin's armour was made up of the dead, right? That the actual composition is, I dunno, pyreflies?"
Gina nodded. "Essentially, yes. That's why I couldn't use Tonberry on it."
Tidus smiled. "So what if you sent the armour?"
"Oh," Gina whispered, eyes wide. "Oh."
Tidus turned to where Yuna's party was watching in confusion – except for Auron, who looked approving – and asked, "Yuna, how would you like to help us defeat Sin? For good."
I've never actually seen this solution before, and it was pure chance I even came up with it. Anyway, it makes a certain amount of sense, right? The armour's made up of dead, so why not just send them all. I mean, they might still have to fight the aeon in charge of the armour, but if there's nothing making up the shell, that shouldn't be too hard, right?
Now all they have to do is get everyone on-board with the idea. Especially with the entirety of Yevon thinking Seymour's a traitor. XD