Author's Note: This story takes place well into the future of Spira, only as if Sin and Yevon hadn't been defeated. Yuna died as a normal Summoner, and Tidus became the next Sin. Now, nothing is left of their legacy but a dwindling story. Spira has evolved in the sense that Bevelle has more power than ever, and is trying to control the world with Machina. They want to try and control Sin, to harness it and rule the people of Spira using fear. The rivalry is no longer between the Al Bhed and the Yevonites, but more between Bevelle and the rest of Spira. The Summoners keep going on pilgrimages, but that proves difficult because the Maesters try to stop the pilgrimages discreetly by trying to discourage those who pray to the Fayth in Bevelle. They don't want the Calm, because it makes their trying abilities to control Sin farther away during its absence. The people of Spira do not know all of the dark deeds of the Maesters, but do not want to get involved in the mysterious doings of Bevelle. It is because of this that there aren't many going on pilgrimages.

This story tells of a seventeen year old Summonner trying to battle his way to Sin despite the dangers that lie in his way. Spira cannot even look forward to the Calm anymore because people are too afraid to waste their lives journeying to defeat Sin and not making it. He wants to face everything and make it to the end, to grant his people the Calm and bring hope to Spira once again.

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Castle In The Sky

By xaphanea

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Chapter One: No Time For Lamentations

My Aunt shook her head as she puttered about the room. I chuckled lightly at her exasperation. She was a dramatic woman, and always took things to the extreme. Although, what I was about to do was extreme. I felt my throat tighten as it had been doing for the past few days, and my steel eyes wandered to the window. In the back of my mind, I could still hear my Aunt muttering about something and rushing around the small hut. Then, all of my senses drifted to study the billowing clouds drifting lazily across the cerulean skies above the trees.

The beauty of that simple picture reminded me of Seneca, and my heart tensed along with my throat. I could feel the silk of her chestnut hair against my cheek, and nearly felt the need to cry. I knew I wouldn't, but the urge was there, and that unsettled me. It meant that everything she had said the night before was true.

* * *

"Why did you ask me to meet you?" I asked, walking up behind the girl perched on our favourite rock. Kilika was a beautiful town that backed onto the vengeful ocean. Where there wasn't water there were trees, dense forest that I knew like the back of my hand. Seneca and I both knew how to get to this spot, a long sleek grey rock overlooking the vast ocean beyond. When we were children, we used to sit upon it and fantasize about what the Besaid villagers were doing across the way.

"Must I have a reason to see you?" Seneca's musical voice replied, though I knew she wasn't smiling. I gingerly climbed up onto the empty space beside her, crossing my legs and leaning back on my hands. The moon was low in the sky, illuminating her face like an angel's. I adjusted my cloak in the cool ocean wind, and noticed Seneca was clothed in nothing more than shorts and the orange leather top she loved. Yet I knew she wasn't cold. She never was.

"Did you like your gift?" I broke the silence to inquire. Because I was going away, I had given away all of my belongings to those who I knew would want them. For Seneca, I had chosen a diamond necklace I had inherited from my mother before she died. I knew that Seneca loved it, and I didn't want to have it lost at the end of my quest.

I watched her reach up and gently rest her palm on her chest, where a minute twinkle showed me she was wearing it. She lowered her head, and her chocolate hair shielded my eyes from her fair face. I suddenly felt the need to reach out to her, to hold her, and embrace her tightly for the rest of time. But I knew it wouldn't be fair to her.

"I wasn't expecting it." Seneca softly replied, voice barely audible in the slight breeze. "I thought you'd take it with you." I shook my head, tearing my eyes away to stare up at the stars littering the night sky.

"I don't want it to be lost." I simply told her. I blinked slowly, not wanting to disturb the quiet atmosphere with any quick movements. The air then became still, and I strained my ears to hear a subtle gasp. It was then that I realized Seneca was weeping, and I clenched all my limbs to keep from pulling her close to me.

"I never thought you'd actually do it." She choked out, and then lifted her feminine hands to her face, brushing the tears away in a swift motion. She curled her curtain of hair behind her ears and avoided my gaze, staring out at the shimmering reflection of the moon on the water. "But when you came out of the temple today... looking so determined over all that exhaustion... I realized then that you were going away forever. That I'd never see you again." My entire body seemed to melt at her words, and my eyes immediately locked on her torn and helpless body. Tears were flowing freely from her eyes, staining her light cheeks. I opened my mouth, but no words would come to me. I wanted to tell her I loved her, and that I wanted to take her with me. But I knew I couldn't, that I had to be calm and fair to her before I left her.

Before I could react, she had her arms around my neck, clawing at my back. She buried her face in my shoulder, soaking my cloak where her waterfalls fell. I wanted to grasp her in the same way, desperate to get closer and claim the love that she finally opened up for me. But I held back, and sat, as stiff as I possibly could, until she pulled away and curled her legs up to rest her chin on her knees. She looked like a lost little girl, the same little girl that I had grown up with and known for as long as I could remember. Every part of my body screamed for her, for her touch, for her love. Yet all I did was sit, and stare at her, as if she meant nothing more to me than a friend.

"It's too late." I turned my head, wincing at my own harsh words, and almost hearing her heart shatter into countless pieces. "I may have loved you once... but tomorrow I leave. It's... too late." I shifted my weight nervously, daring to realign my face to meet hers. Inside her blue orbs lay a sadness that was almost tangible, and I swallowed my own grief. She shook her head, stubborn eyes set on mine.

"You can't tell me that you feel nothing." Her voice was firmer than before, as her spirit returned to wipe away the emotions that she had always labeled as a weakness. "Don't pretend to break my heart because you think it best for me. This hurts you. It has to hurt you." I clenched my jaw so incredibly tight that my teeth began to throb in pain, and backed down off of the rock. Even when my feet met flat on the ground, my body wavered, my balance thrown off by my battling emotions.

"It's too late." Those cruel words were the only ones I could repeat, as my brain seemed to be dead. My heart was winning over all, and I was afraid that I might utter words that would haunt Seneca as I traveled off to die.

"Is it worth it?!" She leapt to her feet, towering above me. I breathlessly looked up at her, illuminated by the soft white glow and crowned by sparkling stars. I didn't answer her, although I knew exactly what she was referring to. "If you don't get killed in Bevelle, you'll be run down afterwards like a rabid dog! And if you make it to Zanarkand, what then? You sacrifice your life to give everyone ten years of what? Peace? Not with the Maesters. The war will go on, even if Sin is dormant. Why do you think there hasn't been a pilgrimage in forty years? Your life will be a waste... the Calm will no longer BE calm." After saying that, she burst into violent sobs and fell to her knees, pounding her fists into the stone. Her pitiable form felt like a knife slicing through me, and I still felt as if my tongue were useless.

"Don't say it isn't worth it." I softly recited the words spoken so many years ago by High Summoner Yuna. She wore a legend, in a story passed down through Summoners through the ages. Her story was not known much throughout commoners, but I knew it fluently. It was Yuna, her guardians, and their journey that originally inspired me to become a Summoner myself. Seneca and I used to play at being Tidus and Yuna, but I always dreamed myself as Summoner instead of guardian. And here I was.

I knew that if I stayed any longer, I would hurt her more. I needed her to think of me no more than a friend, no more than the brother she never had. It would be easier on her to let me go, and it wouldn't seem as if I were betraying our love to pursue Sin. So I turned around, closing my eyes, fighting every cell in my body that longed for her, and walked away from Seneca forever.

* * *

"Rune? RUNE!" My Aunt resorted to screaming at me to wrench my attention away from the skies and my memories. "Come and eat, please." She had finished preparing my last meal I'd ever share with her. I nodded, understanding her agitation. For my entire life, Aunt Nirisse had been like a mother to me. Although she nagged and dramatized over everything, she had come through and taken care of me as if I were her own son. I knew that beneath her grouchy exterior laid a maternal woman, who would miss me dearly after I set out for the unknown.

As I settled down at the table across from her, I watched her face fall into weariness as she dipped her spoon into her soup. Her graying hair was once a deep red, like my own. She would soon fall into old age, and leave this world. I could see it, and I was sure that she was able to as well. I reached out, covering her nearest hand with my own, and she looked up at me.

"We'll be together again, someday." I said, and I meant it, with all of my heart. She smiled, and all the lines of age on her face seemed to disappear. I saw the young woman that she once was, full of spirit and determination.

"I know, dear." She still was that woman. "Now eat."

I adjusted my cloak, staring into the mirror at my sharp reflection. I looked weathered, much older than my age. I heard the clatter of Aunt Nirisse doing the breakfast dishes in the kitchen, and I sighed heavily.

"It's time to leave, Rune." I spoke to my reflection softly, standing straight and tall. "You're leaving behind everything you've ever known and everyone you've ever loved to bring peace and restful nights to all of them. Venture hard, and make it to the end. You can do it." With that, I ran a stern hand through my shaggy red mop and turned, marching towards the door. Aunt Nirisse stopped me, drying her hands and embracing me tighter than she ever had before. Without any words, she let go of me and returned to the sink. I knew she wouldn't see me off; it was just something that she couldn't bear to endure. When my father, her brother, had set off with the Crusaders, she didn't go wave to him with the rest of the village. She simply stayed in the kitchen, polishing up the dishes from his last meal at home. I believe her last words to him were 'You damned idiot, leaving your child parentless to fight a fool's war'.

I took a deep breath, pushing aside our curtain of a door and stepping out onto the main path. Everyone was at their doors, peeking out at me as I slowly strode by. I finally reached the first dock, and stopped, turning around to look at my neighbors. Each one had mixed emotions strewn across his or her face. Sadness, remorse, fear, agitation, anger. I wanted to hug each and every one of them, tell them that everything would be okay and they didn't have to live in fear anymore. But I knew it wouldn't do any good, and I had to get going. So I raised my hand, and turned away from them, walking out and down the first dock.

Kilika was built all on docks at one point. It was a town living directly over the water with a port on the ocean side. But, after Sin attacked and destroyed the water town more than once, the villagers decided it best to move onto land. The dock was a winding one, what was left of the last Sin attack that had taken my mother when I was two. I walked proudly down those docks, swearing that this pilgrimage was not only to bring peace to Spira, but to honour my parents as well. They both died because of Sin, as did many, and I wanted to avenge those dead.

I finally reached the end of the long dock, and was still for a moment as I took in the clean Kilika air. It always smelled of rich spices, and the ocean. The sun was high in the sky, and all of the clouds had disappeared, leaving the horizon blue and inviting.

"Are you ready, Rune?" Talyon looked up at me from the boat he was perched in, and I nodded down at him. Talyon was my other best friend as well as Seneca, and he had vowed to be my guardian on my quest. He was a year older than me, and had always looked down on me to take care of me. My father had been Talyon's role model, and when he left, Talyon vowed to take the best care of me as was possible. He kept that vow, and became my official guardian. He took an oar in his hand, and I turned to look one last time upon the Kilika shore. I saw Seneca standing there, at the edge of the dock, staring at me with an odd expression on her face. I couldn't exactly read it, but I couldn't dwell. I leapt gracefully down into the small boat, and stood, facing the town as Talyon slowly rowed away.

I saw Seneca flinch, and come running down the dock. She was sobbing as she ran, I saw, and I couldn't hold it in any longer. I leapt as far as I possibly could, just making it onto the soft wood. I began to run as well, up the dock to reach Seneca halfway. Talyon cried out as the boat rocked from my departure, and whipped around to view me snatching Seneca into my arms. She hurled her own around my neck, and we clutched each other as if we'd never let go.

"I couldn't leave like this..." I whispered to her as we embraced, wanting to get closer than we ever had before. "I didn't want to hurt you, but I can't pretend... I just didn't want to hurt you..." My voice failed me once again, and I wasn't sure how to convey my feelings to her. Although, I was sure she already knew.

"You would have hurt me more by leaving without this." She pulled back enough to stare up into my eyes, and my heart sank. Her gaze made me want to throw it all away, to give up everything, and run away with her in my arms.

But I knew I couldn't. I claimed her lips for a long awaited kiss, and then pulled away from her fully. My hand held hers for a long moment before we parted, and I walked slowly back to where Talyon had docked the small boat once again. This time I slid into the boat, and stared back at Seneca with all of the love that she had for me.

As Talyon began to paddle away, stifling any sarcastic comments, Seneca traveled to the edge of the dock to be as close to me as possible.

"I love you." She whispered, and a small breeze carried her words to me gently. I watched her reach up, and cover my mother's diamond with her palm in remembrance.

"I love you too." I promised quietly, hoping that the winds would bring my own words to her. I stood, looking back, until Kilika was no longer in sight. Then I turned back to Talyon, sat down, and took up a long wooden oar in my quivering hands.

END CHAPTER ONE