Greetings, all! Well, here it is. The third and final installment of Rayne's journey through Spira. It's been so long since it began... (stares off into space, reminiscing) (snaps back to reality) Sorry about that. Nostalgia. Anyway, without further ado... the disclaimer!
Final Fantasy X-2 and PlayStation are owned by Square Enix and Sony, respectively, meaning they do not belong to me. I am in no way, shape, and/or form claiming to be the owner/creator of these concepts, though I do claim any characters not apart of the original Final Fantasy X or X-2 storylines (such as Rayne and Michael) mine. As such, I would appreciate fellow authors and readers to give credit where credit is due and not steal any of my characters and/or concepts. Thank you, and have a pleasant day.
(BTW: Hey, Mata! Thanks for the ideas for the title! n.n)
(Dead to the World)
Shortly after falling to the plateau within the Farplane, Rayne passed out from the growing pain in her back and abdomen, the latter of which had once again swelled dramatically with what she could only assume to be pregnancy; a conclusion she came to when she realized she was no longer holding Michael and that she hadn't seen him stay behind with Auron when she had begun to fall.
When she had woken again, Rayne pushed herself to her feet and stumbled out of the Farplane and into Guadosalam, barely registering that, other than a few small woodland creatures, she was the only being in the city.
'After all, I did tell the Guado to leave, didn't I?' She thought blearily as she made her way to the Thunder Plains.
She wasn't sure where she was traveling, but she wanted to get as far away from civilization as possible.
'People may come to Guadosalam soon… But they'll be avoiding Bevelle after what happened.' She thought as she hobbled from lightning tower to lightning tower across the plains, 'Maybe I can make it to the Calm Lands…'
Her dazed and confused state muddled her mind, contorting her senses of judgment and time. In what seemed to her to be mere minutes, she had reached the halfway marker of the Thunder Plains; Rin's Agency.
She bypassed it, though, wanting to avoid anyone she knew.
'Because anyone I know will think me dead at this point…'
She was unsure of how long it had been since the group had defeated Sin, but she knew that word would travel fast enough that the former guardians of High Summoner Braska had perished in the fight, and that the new blitzer boy was also missing.
'After all, Spira is a small community; news travels fast.'
Within more 'moments', as they registered in her fevered mind, Rayne arrived in Macalania.
She took a sharp right at the first fork and bypassed Bevelle, intent on making it to the Calm Lands.
She didn't make it forty feet passed the entrance to Bevelle when the first pain started.
"Oh, Gaea." Rayne muttered, grabbing her stomach.
She had been told in one of her sex-ed classes that the cramps that came with a woman's period were supposed to be the body's way of preparing the woman for childbirth. This pain, though, was ten, if not twenty, times worse than any cramp she had ever experienced.
Groaning, Rayne doubled around and headed back to the entrance road to Bevelle. She easily walked passed the guard, who was so confused by Yevon's loss of power that he just stared at her as she walked by.
The Highbridge seemed ten times longer than it really was, and when she finally stood before the first entrance door, who else to stand in her way but someone she knew.
"Maroda." Rayne gasped, grabbing onto him for support as another contraction hit her. "Medic!"
"L-lady Rayne?!" Maroda gasped, then shook his head and said, "I'm sorry, but no one is allowed in Bevelle, by the orders of Isaaru."
"You have two choices." Rayne growled, grabbing his collar and pulling his face close to hers, "Either get me inside of that damned city and to a medic or I'll have this baby all over your front porch. What's it gonna be?"
Maroda paled, then grabbed her arm and led her through the first door.
When the next contraction was accompanied by her water breaking, Rayne screamed in pain and shock.
Panicking, Maroda picked her up and rushed her through the halls of Bevelle, shouting desperately for help. His cries aroused the attention of many a healer, and when Fereria, friend of Auron and acquaintance of Rayne, heard the guardian was in Bevelle, she came as quickly as she could.
She ran into the room just as Rayne was beginning to deliver and flew to the guardian's side, holding her hand and calmly commanding, "Deep, steady breaths now, Rayne."
"Fe… fe… fer… er… ia!" Rayne sputtered, breathing in and out in sharp huffs and clenching her eyes shut in pain, unable to hold back a scream.
"Yes, Rayne, I'm here." Fereria nodded, "Now calm your breathing!"
Seven long hours later, Michael was born for a second time, though the new journey was far more perilous to his health, and he was not warmly received.
"What do you wish to name him, Lady Guardian?" One of the medics asked.
"His name is Michael," Rayne spat, "And I'll ask that you don't refer to me as such." She refused to look at her son as the offended medic placed him in her arms.
Fereria took the baby away immediately, handing him off to another medic and ordering that a bed be made for him in an adjacent room. When Michael was gone, the stern woman ordered that the medics go to her office and wait for her, and to speak of no one of what had happened.
When she and Rayne were alone, Fereria turned to her and sat at her bedside, "What is it you wish to do, Lady Rayne?"
"I am no longer 'Lady' anything." Rayne muttered, "Just 'Rayne' will do, and as for Michael…" She though of her newborn son, who already resembled his father so much; his black hair already showing against his soft scalp, his wide brown eyes (which, despite the medical impossibility, had already opened), and his father's strong facial structure. …Rayne knew she would never be able to look at him, "Fereria… will you care for him for me?"
"You are unwilling?" Fereria blinked, shocked.
"Unable." Rayne corrected, lowering her eyes, "…Fereria, I can't even look at him…"
"I see…" The woman frowned, then nodded and stood, "Fine. At the very least, stay here and breastfeed him until we find an available wet-nurse."
"Alright." Rayne muttered, keeping her eyes lowered.
For four days, Michael was brought to her every two hours for a regular feeding before being whisked away again, taken to his own room which had been moved farther from hers.
After the first four days, a wet-nurse was found and Fereria came to tell Rayne the news.
Rayne was out of her bed in moments, dressing and heading for the gates of Bevelle. Fereria followed her silently, Michael in her arms.
"Rayne, if you're going to cast aside your old identity and title, you need to stop dressing as a guardian." The woman advised. When Rayne stopped and looked down at the same style of blue skirt, shirt, and long jacket she had been wearing for ten years, Fereria nodded, "I have something in my room that will work to your purposes."
Reluctantly, Rayne followed Fereria back down the hall and to the western side of Bevelle, where the woman's apartments were. There, Fereria set Michael down on her bed and flipped through the clothes in her closet, letting out a victorious "Aha!" after several moments of searching.
"Found it." Fereria emerged from her closet, throwing a garment down onto the bed, "I knew I had one somewhere."
Rayne looked down at the clothes, smirking, "The typical garments of a Black Mage; how original of you, Fereria."
"Go try it on." Fereria encouraged.
Taking the hanger of clothes, Rayne walked into the bathroom and dressed, coming out a short time later.
She was now, for the first time in almost eleven years, wearing pants; poufy light green pants that belled out dramatically at her knees before they disappeared, tucked into the calve-high brown boots she was wearing. Her new top was a dark green tunic with a brown belt over it, cinched at the waist. Over it all she wore a high-necked jade-colored cloak, clasped at her neck by a steel chain, and on her head was an almost obscenely large, pointed hat, the brim of which was low enough to almost touch the wide, high neck of her cloak.
"If I don't look like the archetypal Black Mage," Rayne began, looking down at herself in humor, "Then I have no clue what a Black Mage is."
"One last thing," Fereria said, nodding to back of Rayne's head, "Your hair."
Rayne blinked, one hand flying up to touch her hair, still braided and decorated with Al Bhed beads from when Rikku had done her hair on the Thunder Plains so many months ago.
"We'll have to shorten it." Fereria said decisively, walking over to her bureau and pulling out a pair of scissors, "May I?"
After hesitating a moment, Rayne slowly turned around and let Fereria hack off her hair, turning back when the deed was done and taking the remains of the braid solemnly in her hands.
"It took me ten years to groom that mess to something that was the semblance of perfection." Rayne muttered dejectedly, running a hand through her now shoulder-length hair.
"Well, now you have something to do for the next ten years." When a bitter scowl settled on the mage's face, Fereria carefully asked, "Rayne… just what happened?"
Scoffing, Rayne growled, "I was just about to enjoy a rest one thousand and ten years overdue when the fayth decided they wanted me to complete one more task for them. To make matters worse, I don't even know what they want." Sighing, she began to pick the beads out of the remains of the braid, stuffing them into one of her pockets.
The room was silent until she had completed the process, at which point Fereria took the braided hair from Rayne's hands and threw it into a wastebasket by the door.
"I'll be going, then," Rayne muttered, glancing at the sleeping bundle on the bed, "…I'll repay you for all of this someday."
"Live and enjoy the life you have been granted twice, now," Fereria said seriously, nodding, "And do not abandon your child. That would be enough thanks."
Rayne stared at her son a moment longer, then turned and walked away. She couldn't do it; she still couldn't look at her child. "I'm sorry, Michael."
The sound of the clacking of her boots was quickly accompanied by another pair of clacking as Fereria rushed to catch up with her, presumably carrying Michael.
At the Highbridge, Rayne paused and turned back, looking at the bundle in Fereria's arms.
'… If I don't do it, I'll always regret it.' She thought as she stepped towards the bundle, holding out a hand. She hesitated, then pulled back the soft white blanket her child lay wrapped in.
As soon as the sun beat down on the baby's face, he stirred and opened his eyes, brown meeting blue as he looked up to his mother.
Michael stared at her for a moment, then smiled and held out his arms, giggling, wordlessly asking her to pick him up.
Rayne reached out to comply, then stopped. Sighing, she drew back and muttered, "Take care of him, Fereria."
Not waiting for any form of protest, Rayne turned and walked down the Highbridge, exiting Bevelle and leaving behind the only tangible reminder of Auron and her life with him.
Back in Bevelle, Michael lowered his arms as his mother walked away from him. He didn't cry; he didn't fuss; he didn't reach out for her again. He simply watched, as if accepting.
"Lady Fereria," One of the medics who had overseen Michael's birth began quietly, walking up behind the woman, "Shall we send word to Lady Yuna that one of her lost guardians roams Spira once more?"
Fereria thought about it for a moment, staring down at Michael, who was silently still staring at where his mother had last been. 'If a mere babe can accept it, then…' "No. Tell no one that she came here and tell all who saw her to keep silent. If it is her wish, Lady Rayne shall remain dead to the world."
In the end, Rayne ended up in standing on the cliff that stood between the entrance to the Calm Lands and the plateau to the Remiem Temple.
'No one will be going to Remiem,' She thought, taking in the gap, 'Hell, hardly anyone other than diehard Yevonites will even be going to the temples, and who knows how long that'll last.'
On the whole of the Calm Lands, she figured her best chance at finding peace and privacy would be in Remiem Temple, which probably hadn't been visited since the group had left after sending Belgemine.
Yes, she figured, it was the perfect place to lay low and rest.
There was one problem, though…
"How in the hell am I going to get across this trench?"
One minute, Rayne was staring at the gap in the mountain that led to Remiem. When she heard the call, she had begun to turn slowly to face it. The next minute, though, she was staring up, sprawled on her back, right into a pair of large blue eyes that were beginning to water, tears leaking down a feather-covered face.
"KWEH KWEH!" The chocobo cried, lowering his head and nuzzling Rayne's chest.
"Boky?!" Rayne laughed, reaching up and embracing the bird's head. "Hey, boy!"
The chocobo kept her pinned to the ground, continuously either nuzzling her face or nipping at her cheeks and 'kweh'ing repeatedly.
After several minutes, Rayne pushed the bird off and stood, brushing off her backside before rolling her head, her neck cracking unpleasantly.
"Well," She turned to the waiting chocobo, smiling, "Whaddya say you help me out, eh? For old time's sake?"
Boky threw his head, then dropped to one knee and waited for Rayne to climb onto his back. When she was on, he leapt to his feet and lunged forward, easily making the gap to the Remiem side of the crag.
Instead of stopping where chocobos usually did, though, at the entrance to the valley, Boky walked straight through the trench, holding his head high and confident and staring around with unconcealed curiosity.
Rayne was only left to assume that this was because Belgemine, an old and powerful unsent who had resided within Remiem for years, was no longer there. With her powerful aura gone, perhaps the creatures felt freer to move in and out of the valley.
When the human and the chocobo emerged from the darkness and into the sun, Remiem Temple looked exactly as it had when Rayne and the group had left it; large, haunted, beautiful, and, more importantly, abandoned.
At the bridge, Rayne dismounted and walked across, Boky following close behind. A glance told her that the chocobo who had once stood at the entrance to the racing maze was gone. Yet another glance told her that the many boxes below lay untouched.
'I'll head down there later for supplies…'
At the entrance to the temple, she stood and stared up at the three symbols. The great door had once been opened by some force; was it machina, the will of Belgemine, or the will of the fayth? If it was either of the last two, she was screwed.
Just as she thought this, though, the symbols glowed and the door opened, a cool burst of air welcoming her inside.
She stood still for a moment, then turned to the chocobo, "Boky, you never settled with a heard, did you? Otherwise, it wouldn't have been so easy for you to come with me, and you wouldn't have been alone when you found me."
The chocobo blinked and tilted his head, "Kweh?"
"Boky," Rayne sighed, "Would you like to stay with me and keep me company?"
Boky stared at her, then squealed excitedly and bolted past her, diving into the darkness of the temple.
Rayne stared after him, then faced the bridge and walked forward, pausing at the base of the stairs and staring up at the sky.
'A thousand years… that's a long time to be waiting to die, even if I wasn't aware of it because I was too busy dreaming. …I came back because you brought me here to go on Braska's and Yuna's journeys, Bahamut, and towards the end I was looking forward to sleeping just like the rest of you.
'Now what? You've brought me back for yet another task, but you didn't even tell me what. Sin is gone. The Calm shall reign forever. Spira is free. What more do I need to do? …Will I ever see Auron again?'
She lowered her face, ashamed.
'I even abandoned my child because of this, Bahamut. Tell me, what do you want from me?'
As one would expect, she received no answer.
After standing outside, waiting, for nearly to hours, Rayne turned and walked into the temple.
It was little, what she had; the clothes on her back, her previous skills as a Black Mage, the alliance of a chocobo, and an abandoned temple, bare of anything except a dead fayth stone.
It was little, compared to what she had once had.
Still… it was something. It was enough for her to do what she needed to do; find out what Bahamut wanted from her and complete it as quickly as possible so that she and her son could cross over to her love once more, where they would rest together until they knew no more.
Until she was truly dead once again, Rayne would continue to pretend to be dead to the world.