This is the beginning of "Epsilon", a trilogy of novels forming a sequel to Final Fantasy X. It is the most ambitious project I have ever undertaken in writing. It is an epic story of faith, memories, hope, perseverance, racism, oppression, intolerance, war, good, evil and salvation. This is the beginning of the first book, "The Time Of The Turning", chronicling Yuna's second pilgrimage to free Spira from the grip of a drought of both rain and faith, while at the same time encountering the shadow the evil that returns to spread over Spira. The second book, "The Epsilon Tower" takes place immediately after this one, and the third and final book, "The Rising" takes place immediately after that.

Just a quick word about the use of language in this story. Spira is based on Asia, and as such I have included words and phrases from both the Chinese and Japanese languages. In this book, the spoken languages are Zanark (English) and Al Bhed, but the written language that the Spirans use are Japanese Kanji and Katakana, which they read aloud presented in this text as Romanji. Also, sometimes the dialogue is peppered with Chinese phrases and slang words. Any mistakes and inaccuracies in either of these languages are my own (Hey, I'm only a beginner) and if anyone's willing to point out and errors and corrections, please feel free to e-mail me with them.

For the people who read my first story, "Omega", these opening words are for you.
I can't count the number of e-mails I've received with support for the story, asking for new chapters, or times I've bumped into people on message boards who've said "You're the guy with that fic? Wow, pretty cool, I liked it, man."
You've thanked me for writing it, but I'm the one who should be thanking you, for giving me something to focus on when I was losing everything else around me. One of the recurring themes of "Omega" was loss, because of how my life was going at that point, when I lost damn near everything myself, was hanging on by a very thin thread, but still survived. This is my thanks to you.
Writing "Omega" was a very learning experience. If you want, you can think of "Omega" as a story written by a young man just learning how to write stories like this, and "Epsilon" as a product of what I learned.

"Epsilon" is as much a sequel to "Omega" as Final Fantasy X is a sequel to Final Fantasy VIII. While it may not be the same characters, world or story, it's in the same vein, the same element. "Omega" was called Omega simply because Omega means the last, and it was, for me anyway, an ending to the story of FFVIII. However, "Epsilon" is the first direct sequel I've ever written, and the reasons for it's name is twofold. One, because this story is a parallel to "Omega". Themes I explored in "Omega" will here be countered, turned on their side, or explored from the other end of the spectrum. As my beta reader Malice Shaw, put it, "Show all sides of the coin, even the middle."
And secondly, "Epsilon" is called "Epsilon" because it sits between Alpha and Omega. This story isn't an ending, or a new beginning, it's a continuation. Continuing on is one of many themes in this story, as life goes. There was plenty of loss in "Omega", and a lot in the end of FFX, if you ask me.

Just be aware of this. This is not a resurrection fic. There will be no mystic quest our lively gang will embark on to resurrect fallen comrades. Personally, I don't like resurrection stories at all. I find that despite the author's best intentions, bringing someone back from the dead ultimately defeats the reason for the person's death in the first place. It desensitizes us to the concept of death, and robs us of the lesson it has to teach us about living.
We all lose people we love, eventually. And we can't cast Phoenix Down on them, or find the legendary Crystal Materia and bring them back. We can only keep on living, and carry their memory with us, as life is. This is what happens in our real world.
Final Fantasy X, however, has been the most realistic Final Fantasy yet, and so I'll be keeping with that reality the game set. As I said, you won't be seeing the group on a quest to resurrect fallen friends, but you'll see their lives go on, carrying their memories and living their lives. Personally, I find the Pyreflies concept is a great metaphor for this, how everything that dies still lives on as a part of us.

Another theme I'll be exploring is the theme of faith, and I'll be trying to take in as many views as possible on the subject. I know religion and beliefs are sensitive subjects, so just know from the get-go that I never mean to offend anyone. Most of the beliefs and views expressed within this story (particularly those of Yuna) are my own. No offence meant to anyone, if any comes across.

Final Fantasy X was a very daring game, compared to it's predecessors, exploring themes of religious oppression and racial clashing and prejudice, which the other games stayed well clear of. Personally, I commend Squaresoft for tackling the issue of racism through a game. Wakka, Rikku, Yevon and the Al Bhed was a daring concept, but one with a symbolic and optimistic conclusion. Wakka may start out as something of a racist, but it soon becomes apparent that he's just misunderstood, and he and Rikku learn to stand side by side as friends and fight evil (Sin). Yevon, the perpatrators of the senseless racism, hate and persecution of the Al Bhed fall and the Al Bhed live on. There's a Jewish saying that goes "Nations that persecute Jews don't last long." If one looks, you can see the parallel drawn between the unfair treatment of the Al Bhed and the unfair treatment of the Jewish people on our own world.
And though it may seem out of place to talk about subjects like these in a mere fan-fiction story, we still live in a world where people talk about subjects over coffee like "I think they should do something about those Insert Ethnic Minority Group Here." and two weeks later, two streets away, one of those people is beaten or killed simply for being born. It's no different than when you walk along the Mi'ihen Highroad, press X at the people passing by and hear things like "There sure are a lot of Al Bhed around here. I wonder what they're up to." or "They're up to something, always hiding behind those masks of theirs." Reality and Fantasy go hand in glove, it would seem.

Finally, I have to make my thanks and dedication to some people.

For Dia, for being a true friend, someone who not only just listens to my dreams, but understands them too. This one's for you, for all the talks we've had, and for being my favorite American. =) You're the inspiration, here. Love you loads, Dia.
For Steph, who just gets cooler and cooler with each passing day. I can't tell you how much your friendship means to me. Love you more than you know.
For Heather, who's just a wonderful person in too many ways to name, and reminds me of Lulu a lot.
For Kirsty, for just being there, just being who you are, a great person and a great friend. Love ya loads.
For Larathia, I enjoy every one of our long discussions about whatever. Without a doubt, you're probably the cleverest writer I know personally. You're a great writer, one of my favorites, but a damn good friend, first.
For Sadia, another fine friend. Skilled artist, Winamp skinner and poet extraordinaire. =p
For Ron, also a good friend, and a good man.
To all the gang at Choc-Boko-Booyaka, or CBB. You guys are just the coolest.
To Tim Wong and all the others at FantasySquare, back when I first startest doing this gig, thanks.
And finally, for everyone who read and liked "Omega". This one's for you, with all my thanks. Here we go again…

Special thanks, for their inspiration:

Hironobu Sakaguchi
Yoshinori Kitase
Kazushige Nojima
Tetsuya Nomura
Nobuo Uematsu
David Bowie
Bruce Springsteen
Nobuhiro Watsuki
Yuzo Takada
Terry Pratchett
Taku Iwasaki
Peter Gabriel
Robert Smith
Jeffrey Deaver
The peoples of China, Japan and the United States of America, for their cultures and histories, which were a major source of inspiration for this story.
And of course, the people of New York City, my own personal Zanarkand.