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There Nevertheless Remains

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This is it. The words echoed in my mind, rebounding to come back to me again and again. This is it. My pilgrimage ended here. At least the Calm Lands were beautiful: The flat, stretching grassland, cut deeply by the previous final battles; the sky, high and blue and endless; the smell of nature, including even the crisp scent of snow from Mount Gagazet. A beautiful place to die, something whispered in the back of my mind. I drove the thought out forcefully. I didn’t want to think about it. I put all my focus into my task, my plans, my reason for action. I, Braska, will end sorrow on this day. I will bring the Calm.

There were only two of us instead of three. I tried not to think about that, either, but there it was. Auron and I pretended we didn’t notice, didn’t care on our trip from Zanarkand down Mount Gagazet to the Calm Lands. The phrase “big purple shoopuf in the corner” came to mind, and I found myself chuckling. Auron looked at me, his expression nearly incredulous; how could I laugh at a time like this? But somehow, that only added humor to the situation, and I continued. At least, then, Auron would remember me laughing even at the end. I felt Jecht’s — no, Odin’s distant approval. He would have thought the same thing if he stood in my position. This gave me strength as we crossed to the edge of the Calm Lands.

From the cliff’s edge, it looked as though the bottom of the world dropped out on to the dark sea. We might as well have stood at the world’s end. This is it. Odin darkly approved of the irony.

“Auron,” I said softly.

“My lord?” Auron’s voice was almost hesitant. I knew he stood on the brink of losing all control. Yevon and Sin were stripping from him everything that made him who he was — faith, occupation, friend, and now his summoner. My heart ached. I hated how he would be left alone (I had to leave him here alone), with no one by his side to face the aftermath. I never intended the end to be like this.

I nearly turned to look at him. I wanted to — I needed to assure him, reinstate his sense of self, build him up into his strength again. In an instant, the scene played out in my mind. I took touched his shoulder, gave it a squeeze, smiled — It will be all right, this will kill Sin for good (please), please do not be sorrowful for me (for us, Jecht whispered), and his face would be the last I saw before departing for the Farplane and what a comfort that would be — But the moment passed, and I didn’t have the courage to give in to my cowardice. I barely managed to whisper instead, “Thank you.”

Auron didn’t respond. I didn’t turn to look at him to check his expression.

We could see Sin from our vantage point on the cliff. It rose, taking leave of the ocean (for the last time, Odin thought, his tone thick with hatred and vicious joy) and it charged through the air toward us. It was time. This is it. Sin would greet us at the world’s edge, and there would be a great and dangerous battle …

No — I would perform the Final Summoning now, and end it quickly. Sin would never have the chance to come close enough to claim my last guardian. I would not permit it.

Auron felt the summoning magic congealing in the air around me, but still he hesitated. I could almost hear the thought in his head, almost feel his instinct to stay here and die with me (so he wouldn’t be left alone? So I wouldn’t be left alone?).

No. Odin’s word rang in my head as loudly as if he shouted it at me. Don't you dare let him.

“Go.” My voice was quiet, even, controlled. It hid the turmoil in my mind. When Auron still faltered, I hardened my tone. “Auron, go!” At last, he obeyed. I didn’t turn to see how far he ran. I allowed my focus to shift elsewhere; Odin was hastening so he could arrive before Sin did. This is it.

Despite the fact that he was my Final Aeon, I still didn’t expect the sheer power — of his confidence and strength, or of the bond that united us. His presence was a white fire, fierce and restless. I could feel Jecht, and all his strength and fears and guilt and love, and I was almost intoxicated by the force of it. At once, I knew everything about Jecht, his thoughts and why he had them and how he thought them, everything he ever did and wanted to do and dreamed of doing and never did.

The moment Odin appeared at my side, the great monstrosity in all his strength and glory, we were not summoner and aeon. We were one. I did not give Jecht orders, and he did not obey. Due to the nature of the bond, we had no need for words; he responded to my thoughts, even the briefest and vaguest. The bond connected us so thoroughly that I was hardly aware of “me.” The battle passed as if a dream. With a start, I awoke from it.

It was over. Sin — Sin was dead, armor-like shell cracked and pyreflies fleeing en masse. The air was thick with the pastel spirits and their ethereal cries. For a moment, I thought I spotted something small and dark against the pyrefly light —

And then Odin changed, and I felt the bond tearing. I scrambled to keep a hold of it; but now, all I could think of was Auron and Jecht and Yuna and my dear wife, last regrets and words unsaid and unadulterated emotion. This is it, this is it, this is is is

How could I describe the change? The stench of darkness rose from under Odin’s aura and flowed over the bond, thick and cloying. The weight of it slammed hard upon my head. Through the haze of pain I could feel Jecht, fighting and screaming, refusing to bow to the invader’s will. it hurts

But then, he fell still.

The darkness became him, and the bond severed utterly.

I couldn’t move. This is

The pain — indescribable —

Fire, fire, fire within my chest, my limbs, my head —

I didn’t feel my legs give out, but I fell, and the world was spinning, spinning, and it didn't stop even after I hit the ground. I

I could hear Auron shouting, but I couldn’t make out his words. (My heart broke for him, one last time.) The Dark Aeon looked at me. (This is it.) The flames consumed my mind, and I

will end sorrow on this day.