Disclaimer: I do not, in whole or in part, own any of these creations. They belong to their rightful owners at SquarEnix.
Every story has an ending.
Not all of them are happy ones.
"…Oh! Shuyin and Uada go crashing into the stands! From the looks of it, Shuyin really wants Uada out of this game. But…yes! Uada's already back up and on the platform. Looks like Shuyin's the one who's worse for wear here!"
From his position sprawled out across the floor of the stands, Shuyin made a mental note to hurt the commentator after the match.
He had never really intended to go tumbling into the stands in the middle of the game. After all, if he had learned anything from his years of playing blitzball, it was that the game gave a person plenty enough bruises on its own. One really didn't need to add the ache of crashing into the steel floor to the equation.
The blitzer groaned loudly and climbed to his feet amongst a crowd of clamoring fans. He rubbed his sore back, already beginning his mental preparations for how he was going to feel in the morning as a result. A grimace on his face, he looked up at the colossal sphere of water just in time to see the opposing team score. Above, near the top of the sphere, the scoreboard flashed once, changing the numbers to display six points for the Abes, and seven points for the Strikers.
'Damn,' thought Shuyin, pushing through the crowd of people to reach the front row. From there, he could reach the platform to reenter the sphere. Uada, the guy he had tackled, had already returned to his position in the formation. This was signaled by applause from the Striker supporters.
As he reached the platform and stood upon it, Shuyin looked back up at the scoreboard to check the clock. To his dread, only about a half a minute remained on the clock, and the Abes were nowhere near the goal.
With a sort of swiftness only a blitzer could possess, Shuyin dove head first back into the sphere, and shot toward where the Strikers held the ball between them, running the clock. As if from somewhere far away, he could hear the commentator saying his name, echoing in the water in that strange and yet all-to-familiar way. However, he had far more important things to worry about now. Setting his sights on the player with the ball, he charged, slamming into the player considerably harder than he should have. He grabbed for the ball as it sailed from the other player's hands, wrapping greedy fingers around the bumpy surface. Then, just as quickly, it went sailing through the water to Yasuo, a fellow Abe much closer to the goal.
Jetting through the water as if more fish than human, Shuyin could hear the crowd counting down. 14, 13, 12, 11, 10…The ball was nearly at the goal now…9, 8, 7, 6…Yasuo just dodged a charging Striker…5, 4, 3, 2…Yasuo reeled back and took the shot, firing the ball with enough force to send him spiraling forward on the follow through. 1…and the ball was clamped tightly in the goalkeeper's waiting hands.
"No!" shouted Shuyin. At the same time, the scream of a siren filled the stadium and sphere, successfully ending the game in the Strikers' favor. A moment later, the siren was met with an equally loud wail of applause from the Striker supporters. It was loud enough in fact to deafen the Abes supporters' groans of disappointment.
Shuyin shouted in frustration, jerking at his hair with ferocity. They'd been so close. His teammates seemed equally frustrated, though most decided to take the less self-destructive approach of floating through the water in an absent and defeated manner.
After a moment or two of this, the captain lifted a hand, gesturing for her team to head for the locker room. They complied, and as Shuyin was exiting the sphere and shaking the water from his hair, he heard the commentator mention something about the Abes. Though he wasn't able to catch it, he was certain it was far from encouraging when the Abes fans started to boo and hiss. As Shuyin pushed through the doors into the locker room, he once again noted to get even with that man sometime soon.
"You staying for the show?" asked Yasuo, standing next to Shuyin's locker as he dried off his hair.
"Hm?" muttered Shuyin, unfastening one of his shoulder pads and stuffing it in his bag.
"The concert," Yasuo answered, knocking Shuyin in the arm to get his attention. "You know, the one I told you about weeks ago?"
Groaning, Shuyin began undoing the strap on his other shoulder. "Didn't I tell you I wasn't into that kind of thing?"
"Well, I was never too good at remembering things."
The next thing Shuyin knew, a bit of paper had been stuffed into his hand. Upon closer inspection, he found that it was a ticket. Turning an annoyed eye Yasuo's way, Shuyin sighed heavily.
"Yasuo, I'm really not in the mood for this…"
"Exactly. After a loss like that, you've got to have a little fun. Get rid of the blues."
"Come on, you'll like the performer. She's really cute."
Another heavy sigh. "Fine," muttered Shuyin, rubbing his forehead and stuffing the last of his equipment into the bag. "Who's performing again?" he asked as they headed for the locker room doors.
"A songstress named Lenne. She's gotten pretty popular over the last year."
"Oh yeah. I think I heard of her somewhere."
After several minutes of pushing through the crowd, the two blitzers finally collapsed into their less-than-comfortable seats, ready to watch the show. As impossible as it seemed, Shuyin wanted to be there even less than he had ten minutes previous. The jeering of aggravated Abes supporters and just as cocky Striker fans assured him that he would be much more content were he home, where he could break a few things and then feel better by morning. But, with the crowd still ready to pelt him with insults, he thought it best not to risk the journey toward the exit. He had but a few good nerves left, and if they were to break, he was liable to start a brawl right there in the stadium. Not exactly good publicity.
Rubbing the corners of his eyes, he turned his head down toward where the sphere use to be. Already the water had been cleared away, and a large, circular stage has risen up to take its place. The spotlight shining upon it made the emptiness of the platform obvious, giving way to a bit of confusion among the stands. Then, there was a small explosion in the center of the stage, artificial smoke spreading out from the source to fill the entirety of the stage. Some of the more easily surprised concertgoers gasped, momentarily stunned. However, these gasped quickly turned to screams of delight as a figure came striding out of the smoke. This, Shuyin guessed, must be Lenne.
Shuyin had to admit that she was attractive. The combination of styled brunette hair, a simple figure, and a nice-looking outfit made sure of this. Her appearance probably took several hours of a decent-sized staff's time to perfect.
As she walked to the edge of the stage, a bright smile lit her face, though it was unlikely that many people could see it. Suddenly, more spotlights joined the first, encompassing the entire stage. Simultaneously, the blare of computer-enhanced instrumentals resounded through the stadium and out into the open air above. In time with the beat, Lenne quickly started into a fast-paced dance, one that was obviously rigorously choreographed to look as if it was thought up on the spot. Then, relaxing on the dance steps momentarily, she held the microphone up, and began to sing.
"For the longest time, I couldn't but think that love had turned its back on me . . ."
The shouts of the crowd immediately increased ten-fold, and Shuyin had to strain to hear the music. Within a few seconds though, it had quieted enough for him to hear more clearly.
"And how silly I found I had been when I looked back and saw you," she sang, swinging her body back and forth artfully, knowing somehow exactly how to move without seeming too enticing. Apparently, she'd been doing this for quite a while.
He wasn't sure why this was apparent to him over everything else, but it seemed as if she really was enjoying herself. Not as though other celebrities didn't have fun during their performances, but she seemed hardly short of elated. It could well have been a façade to please the audience and make the experience more enjoyable for them, but for some reason it didn't strike him as such. Maybe he was just tired. At any rate, be it genuine or fake, the happiness that she was spreading through the crowd did help improve his mood, if only an iota.
"So, what do you think?" Yasuo shouted over the clamor, bringing Shuyin's attention away from the songstress. "Not bad, is she?"
Shuyin looked back up at the stage as the song ended with a computerized ringing and the crowd burst into wild applause. This in turn was met by another bright smile from Lenne. Shuyin shrugged. "She's all right," he said indifferently.
Then, the crowd began to quiet as the soft melody of a xylophone began to play. Lenne, meanwhile, had bowed her head and clasped the microphone in both hands, waiting patiently for when she would be permitted to sing again. All but one of the spotlights dimmed and went out, leaving Lenne standing in a circle of white light, unmoving. This song was obviously going to be a quieter, less energetic ballad than the last. Or, it would have been, if the siren hadn't gone off at just that moment.
In comparison to the gentle melody that was currently playing, the siren was much like a foghorn going off in a library. The music faltered immediately and the members of the crowd looked around, shocked and frightened. Lenne too looked horrified, and with a brief wave to the crowd that was no longer watching her, she darted from the stage, very nearly vaulting off the edge of the platform.
By now, a voice that was all-too familiar to all of Zanarkand's residents was accompanying the screaming siren. "This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill. Please return to your homes or residential safe house until further instructions are given. To repeat…"
Shuyin gave a loud groan as people began getting to their feet and rushing toward the exits. He'd lost track of the amount of times that that particular alarm had gone off in the past few months, and it was becoming steadily more maddening each time. As everyone in Zanarkand now knew, that siren indicated that forces from Bevelle were headed toward them.
"Come on," said Yasuo, though the din of the stadium made it difficult to hear him. "There should be a safe house somewhere around here."
A/N: I'll admit that this chapter was shorter than I had originally planned for it to be. However, I decided that instead of making one long chapter, I'd divide it into two parts. The next one will be up soon enough, though. Thank you for reading, and please review.
Ihdem lrybdan dfu...because I'm a nerd.