Notes: I had always wondered why Isaaru never appeared in Red as Snow, so I decided to ask Luc Court if it would be okay for me to do a "meta fic". That is, write a fanfic of a fanfic. He granted permission and I was very happy. However, I spent a lot of time wondering what exactly to do. Then, I saw Kill Bill vol. 2 and the Black Mamba snake was discussed. I decided to do some research of my own on the Black Mamba. Through this, I found out about the Taipans of Australia. It turns out that there is no dispute as to what snake is the most venomous land snake in the world. That would be the Inland Taipan. As for the most dangerous(those that kill the most humans), that's disputed between certain vipers, cobras, brown/tiger snakes and the Coastal Taipan. Anyway, by finding out about these scary snakes, I knew just what to do. So, here is the result. Consider this either before "Red as Snow" or between the earlier chapters.
"I could just kill him."
Those words travel through the air like a silk shawl lifted by a breeze. The voice is a fine wine, a strong delicacy pleasing to any palette even when the wine is laced with a subtle poison. The man who speaks is the last person I wish to make an enemy out of.
He is a former Summoner, as Yuna's Eternal Calm laid to rest all Aeons. He stands in front of a covered tank used for fish and I wonder what could be in it. He doesn't seem the sort to own fish, but I do not ask. In fact, I say nothing. I simply understand.
I remember him from when he once ruled Bevelle when no one else could or would. He was strong, but hardly just towards those who believed differently from himself. He was kind, but gave little to people like Shelinda. He was patient, but it was marred with a temper more fiery than Iffrit. I remember how we relieved we all felt when Trema took over, putting the Summoner in a subordinate position. I then remember how wonderful he really was to everyone when Trema began instituting his policies that would make us all pastless. Of all those around me, I was the only one able to speak to him as he seemed to fiercely reject anyone who came near him. I was the only one able to walk through his carefully hidden fire.
His name is Isaaru and I respect him, but I also fear and resent his contentious nature that would appear when his polite, formal demeanour is undone. Many of the Acolytes and the Lustrum feel the same towards him. We all hold him in high regard and I hold him in the highest esteem, but I want him gone. I can't have him here. I won't. I've seen the way Trema looks at him and I know that Isaaru is in grave danger because he embodies the past that the elderly Priest seeks to erase. The Summoner knows this too because after he utters his quietly angry phrase, his gloved hands curl into fists.
"I had thought that I could pretend to share his beliefs, make him believe that I have shed my past for his vision of the future. In this way, I could curry favor with him and keep him as close as an enemy should be." He says all this through staggered breaths. He could do that, I know he could, but as I listen, I realize that it would be far more difficult for him that it would be for me. "But, I am no match for him."
How do you think I feel, Isaaru? I do not say this. Instead, I look upon him with compassion as I let him continue.
"One day, I will refuse to help him destroy the spheres, and then my true intent would be discovered. Had he been like the other Priests, then it would have been easy for me to get past his guard and end his life. But, Trema is not like the other Priests. Everytime I see him, I feel my control slipping away, and my outrage would be the death of me..."
Which would mean that little Pacce would have to fend for himself as many children have done when they've lost their parents to Sin. I glance out the window and easily find the tell tale little black pony tail among the bushes. I know a smile brightens his round, lightly tanned face, and I wonder how long it will be before it fades away under the shadows of the Temple walls. I want him gone with Isaaru. I don't want the sweet little boy marred by the corruption of the Yevon Priests. Isaaru's innocence has been gone for years. As for mine, it was lost to bullets just a few months ago, and I am not much older than Pacce. I now sense the Summoner next to me. He does not look out the window.
"But, when I see you," he continues, "I think there is a chance."
A chance? I look at him, into his blue eyes that could be everything from the light summer sky to the sea before a storm. Again I say nothing.
"I know that you have managed to gain favor from many of those your age." He is looking down now and my eyes trace his auburn hair to his topknot. "I could not do that. I have burnt many bridges--"
I finally speak, "We bear you no ill will."
Isaaru only half smiles, "But, not one of you want me to regain power."
"I'm sorry," is all I could manage.
"No, you're not."
My eyes widen, but I hear him. I can understand why he does not believe me. I'm not sure if I would have believed him had the roles been reversed.
"I know how your sort feel about me," he says, folding his hands in front of his heavy ocean colored robes. "I know that not a single one of you would openly defy me, but I know they have their preferences." He is smiling at me. "It's clear to me that many of the Lustrum, the Acolytes and all those who are not Priests and former Summoners look up to you. Should Trema fall, they would look to you, not me. Trema himself would see you as the successor. The one who could deceive him best."
I lower my head. I think he's flattering me. The rustling of his robes indicate that he has moved, so I look back up and I see him stand in front of the tank again. I patiently wait to see what could be inside.
"You are far more powerful than you give yourself credit for," Isaaru continues, his hand clutching the white sheet that is covering the tank. "It is your mind that carries it all. You are brilliant. Surely you must know this."
I say nothing. He smiles again.
"You don't want me here."
Now who is the brilliant one? I decide to be honest. I take a step forward.
"You're right. I don't want you here, but it's not because I see you as a rival." Please believe me.
"Of course not."
I cannot tell if he thinks I'm lying or not.
"Have you noticed how Trema watches you?" I ask.
His answer is curt, "Of course." Then his voice becomes a knife. "I also see how he watches Pacce, but I am the one he will get rid of. Then, he will take Pacce under his wing and mold him into something that would no longer be my brother."
I am so horrified, I could barely breathe out, "Please leave..."
It's Isaaru gloved hand that responds. The tank reveals not fish, but a snake. Without thinking, I put my hands over my mouth. I've never seen such a snake. Its top scales are a greenish-brown color, and its stomach is lined with yellowish green. Oddly enough, it almost resembles my coat. It has reared up in an "s" shape as though ready to strike at the Summoner, but it does nothing but sit there, hissing quietly as its tongue flickers in and out of its mouth. Isaaru wisely backs away, despite the presence of a mesh that covers the top of the tank.
"What is that snake?" I ask. I could barely hear my own voice.
"I found it in the Calm Land Steppes while concealing a couple of spheres, so that Trema could not find them. It reminded me of you, so I captured it and kept it in this tank."
I drop my hands, "Of me? What do you mean?" My mouth is wide open and my eyes are almost as wide.
"Don't be offended, Baralai," he replied. "Snakes are beautiful, graceful creatures."
I let out a breath I forgot I was holding, "But, what kind of snake is it?"
"It is the Inland Taipan, the most venomous land snake on all of Spira."
My blood is frozen. I am frozen. That he could take such a dangerous creature from the Calm Lands is simply unseemly to me. Does he intend for me to take this snake to Trema and use it? I certainly hope not. I can't even imagine concealing it anywhere, much less considering it a viable weapon.
"W-why?" Is all I can manage. How could Isaaru stand there with a grin on his face when such a dangerous snake is less that three feet away from him. I just want to get as far away as possible, but my feet are glued to the floor. I can't take my eyes off that snake.
"I told you, it reminds me of you."
I grit my teeth, but I am now unable to open my mouth. I narrow my eyes instead.
"It's not what you think," Isaaru says as he looks back at the snake. "It may be the most toxic, but it is not the most dangerous."
You mean there's a difference? I really think Isaaru has gone mad.
"I say this because it is actually a shy, gentle creature." In just a few steps, Isaaru is in front of me. His smile is gone, his hair casts shadows on his handsome face, but his blue eyes are as clear as Lake Macalania. "But, when provoked, it strikes with a swift aggression that is accurate and potentially fatal."
I fail to see how such a snake could remind him of me. I keep my eyes on his and I do not waver. Neither does he. I don't expect him to.
"Is that how you see me?" I inquire.
"In all honesty, yes." He looks back at the snake. "It will only strike as a last resort."
When he looks back at me, I lower my eyes and all that I say is, "I see."
"Do you understand now?" The tone of his voice is enough to lift my head up.
I nod, "Are you like that snake?"
"No." He is smiling again. I am relieved. "People who know of such snakes consider me more like its cousin, the Coastal Taipan. It may not be the most venomous snake, but it is considered among the most dangerous. It's shy, like its inland relative, but it is more aggressive and so it's seen as a greater threat."
That would explain why Trema watches Isaaru far more often then he watches me.
"Then you should go back to the coast," I reply.
"I could do that, but those places are the last places I wish to be," Isaaru tilts his head. I can see his crimson topknot fall to the side of his head. His eyes are shut. "I thought of Zanarkand..."
Zanarkand? Ah, yes, the place where all Summoners went to receive their Final Summon so they could use it to defeat Sin and then die. I suppose it makes sense. I now regret not fishing for news there. I've been too busy watching my back here in Bevelle. All I know is that a group of Al Bhed have taken it for their own purposes. I honestly don't know what those purposes could be. Many of the more traditional Yevonites are angry, but Trema has opted to do nothing. It's obvious that he hopes that the Al Bhed would wipe many years of history away and leave the place with nothing but a few azure pyreflies.
"The Al Bhed are there now," is all I can come up with.
"I know this," Isaaru nods. He is looking out of the window, at the trees whose leaves seems to dance to the modulations in his voice. "I also know that their leader, Cid, is there."
"Do you have any idea why?"
"He wishes to make Zanarkand into a tourist attraction."
I am stunned. Not so much at tourist attractions, but Zanarkand? I am surprised the traditional Yevonites didn't attack the Al Bhed despite Trema's orders. As for Isaaru, I am not sure how he must be feeling. He clung to tradition as much as some of the others, but he was less strict about it. I look over at the snake. It appears to be resting, and I can see that the tank is warmed with some sort of globe used for heating. It would not survive in Zanarkand as the land there is simply too cold. I turn my thoughts away from the snake.
"How do you feel about that?"
It takes about twenty seconds for Isaaru to breathe in and out, "At first, I was horrified, but then I realized that without someone there doing something to maintain the place, Zanakand would crumble into nothingness." His hands are hidden in the sleeves of his robes. "I have no doubt that many people would see it as a betrayal of my beliefs, but people will see me as they wish to see me. They are irrelevant. What is relevant, however, is that true betrayal would be to do nothing for Zanarkand, to fail to protect it."
True betrayal is to be shot in the back by someone you thought was your friend, and never knowing why. But, he has a point. I know as well as he does the historical significance of Zanarkand. Maybe his being there would help me find the answers to the questions I have. There must be many spheres and rare items there. I know there are also powerful fiends in the ruined city, but if he's really anything like the "Coastal Taipan", I'm sure he would do just fine.
"Just be careful, okay?" I say as I suddenly grab his arms. I can feel his muscles under the coarse fabric of his robes. He raises his eyebrows, but mimics my actions.
"I am more than capable of taking care of myself and of Pacce."
I smile, "I know, but the fiends are powerful there."
"Indeed. However my venom is more than a match for them. I just wish it were enough here."
"It will be soon," I reply. "I will send for you when the time is right." That being once everything with the Crimson Squad and the Den of Woe are resolved. I don't know how long that would take, but I do know that Isaaru can wait a long time.
The Summoner takes a step back. He looks as though the snake had just bitten him. I suppose I shouldn't blame him for feeling that way. I would have felt the same.
I take a step forward, "I know you find that hard to believe. I understand that, believe me, I do. But, until I am firmly in power, I think you would still be in danger even with Trema gone."
"I do have allies," he replies and I am jealous. All my allies are gone. "But, I also have enemies. Remember, the most aggressive are seen as the most threatening here--"
"I will protect you." I blurt out. I sound as if I could do anything I put my mind to. At first, his blue eyes shell over and I wonder how he will respond now. My worries cease once he smiles once more. Even the snake has curled around like a coil.
"I am honored. I cannot promise anything, but when the time is right, we will see if I am able to be by your side."
I decide this is fair enough, "The honor is mine."
We both fall silent. Our eyes are almost in unison as we carefully scan each other and realize that like the two Taipans, we could easily be related. The comparison frightens me, but I learn to accept it once I realize that Bevelle is filled with many kinds of venomous creatures. When we walk over to the tank, our steps are in unison. The former Summoner speaks first.
"You must never allow people to mistake your reserved, soft demeanour for weakness. Think of this Inland Taipan." The serpent uncoils as it looks at the two of us. "Who would dare cross it?" He turns toward me, but I remain enamoured by the snake's forked tongue. "Who would dare cross you?"
Who would cross you? I really think Isaaru has too much faith in me, but I decide to simply allow his words to sink in. I need all the confidence I could get. When he continues, I turn to him, the snake still in my peripheral vision.
"Never be afraid to strike, and when you do, use your venom."
I nod. I understand him completely.
"Now, I must prepare to leave." He walks over to his dark oak closet and begins removing various robes and other articles of clothing. While he is doing so, I put my hand on his shoulder.
"Good luck in Zanarkand."
"Thank you. I think I will have fun there while I protect it. I never had much of a chance to be mischievous." His voice is cinnamon as he speaks. I will miss him.
As sure as the sunlight pouring down on me as I walk among the Lustrum hallways, I think of him and his youngest brother. They left in the middle of the moonlit night and have been gone for days now. As for the "Inland Taipan", I am certain that Isaaru has released it back into its natural habitat. One that I myself would actually prefer over Bevelle's cooler climate. They are all free for now. I envy them in some ways. I will not have that freedom for a long time to come. Trema has not mentioned Isaaru. When I do see the Founder, I can sense frustration in him and I know why, but thankfully, he has not bothered to have the former Summoner hunted down. I'm sure he must have heard what I have heard, but he is silent and no one asks. It seems that Isaaru has become a tour guide and the protector of Zanarkand. Because of this, nothing has changed there. The Al Bhed, including Cid, keep a respectful distance from him and the tourists love him. As for Pacce, he's formed a little group called the "Kinderguardians". They explore the ancient ruins for items while honing their skills in battle. I consider it far better than being among the Acolytes in Bevelle.
Upon thinking of all this, a smile forms on my lips as the wind seeps through my clothing, chilling my dark skin underneath. They will indeed be fine. They are safe. As for me, I will do what I have to do. I remember my final meeting with Isaaru as though it had just happened. I remember the Inland Taipan vividly and I realize that in many ways, it is indeed like myself. I can only hope that I am as potent as the snake's venom. Whatever the case may be, Isaaru's advice strengthens me as it writes itself into the depths of my mind over and over again.
Never be afraid to strike, and when you do, use your venom.
"I will," I whisper, the words travelling through the air like a silk shawl lifted by a breeze.