Once there were four children whose names were Tidus, Lulu, Wakka, and Yuna, but they got ditched by the story before it really even started. Then a girl named Rikku got herself into what we in the business call a pickle, and it has been told in another book called The Coeurl, the Witch, and the Cedar Chest how she and her beleaguered companion had a remarkable adventure. They had gone down a magic staircase that went on for possibly forever and found themselves in quite a different world than the one they had started in, and in that world they fought long and delirious battles, and ended up the new pillars of Fayth for a temple called Indara. While they were in Indara they seemed to stay for years and years, but when they came back through the cedar chest again and found themselves in Spira, it all seemed to have taken no time at all. At any rate, no one noticed they had even really been gone, and while a certain awesome and clever person tried to tell everyone who would listen all about it, in some senses, the time they spent away remained something of a mystery -- although Rikku didn't try to talk about any of this with any wise grown-ups, because she didn't know any.
That all happened a little while ago, and now all four of them, Rikku, Auron, Ashura, and Leviathan were sitting on the old stone benches of the blitzball stadium in Luca. They were, in fact, on their way to having another fabulous adventure --
But let's just say that I pretty much didn't know that at the time.
What Becomes of Saturn and Venus
by Gabihime ( Gabihime at gmail dot com )
Prologue: Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love Ya' Tomorrow
"Take it 'round the picket fence," howled Leviathan, on his feet and straining forward, like his sheer indomitable will could influence the way that Datto handled the ball.
It was a fair day in Luca for blitz, and by fair I mean of course fairly awesome. The sky was as beautifully blue as a Hypello's butt, the sun was shining bright, I was eating a scrump-tiddly-icious funnel cake that had been lovingly made for me in the concession area, and as I might have mentioned, blitz was in the air.
Now, I'm maybe not what you would call an avid sportsman, but blitz is something that all of Spira comes together to do. It's the one time when maybe nobody much cares if you're a Guado or a Ronso or an Al Bhed, so long as you're ready to whoop and holler your heart out for your team. That's why blitz has always been the candle that Spira's held onto, through hell and Sin, every season there's blitz, no matter how many people have died. It's because even in the belly of hell, people need something to cheer for. You might think that sounds a little like something that snake witch Yunalesca would say, but then you gotta consider this: blitz isn't a thousand year tradition of sending people merrily and senselessly to their deaths. It's a ball game where you give your all in front of the crowd. Maybe blitz has always had that manic energy because of Sin. Everybody plays like every play is their last, like every game is their last, because it might be. Maybe the one good thing that Sin has ever done is to teach us all that we better damn well value the good times that we have, because we could lose them in a moment, half a second, and some things that are lost or broken just can't be found again.
In blitz, whole teams have been obliterated when Sin ravaged a village, but the people keep playing, even if it takes them twenty years to build another team. Blitz is like Spira's heartbeat, it's blood and spit and fire, and you can feel it jumping through the air like an electrical current whenever they start filling up the big sphere in the arena. It's high emotion, real emotion, passion and guts and will. I think I kind of love all the blitzballers, even the ones with crappy personalities (Balgerda, I am looking at you) because they go out there and play themselves raw for all of us. Maybe for the people in the audience who aren't fiendhunters or guardians, it's the only way they can fight Sin: by celebrating being alive by yowling at the top of their lungs for their favorite team. In some ways blitz is what you might call a participatory spectator sport. People are always screeching something or other at the players, at each other, and I would have probably been doing it too if I hadn't been so busy appreciating the awesome delectability of my hot, greasy funnel cake.
Who am I, you ask? Who is this masked girl who always shows up to save the day and yet never reveals her identity?
Sheesh, you've forgotten already? You must have a short attention span.
My name is Rikku J. Cidolphus, and I'm the premier poker player, synthsmith genius, and gunslinger in all of Spira. I am also a liberator of priceless artifacts and Princess of the Al Bhed. That second part is more on account of me deciding it is true more than it actually being true. But like the lady said: real princesses make their happy endings.
You could say I'm sort of working on that right now.
Sitting on the bench beside me is a guy you might know by the appellation Legendary Guardian. I generally just call him boss and let it go at that, although most other people are pretty reverent with his name, which is Auron, by the way, if you are slow and always end the Sixty-four Thousand Gil Spheregrid in last place. He's the kind of guy who wears a big red overcoat even during the summer, even at the beach, and always wears sunglasses, even at night. I am pretty much totally in love with him, but not because he's all awesome and cool and hardcore serious, which is why you might think I was in love with him, if you are inexperienced with his actual personality. I think I love him most because he's a stubborn retard who would be totally lost without me.
Do you want me to tell him that? I can relay it, if you want, came a self-assured voice in my head that wasn't my own.
And that's Leviathan, whom I maybe mentioned before. He's, get this, a guado lawyer from Zanarkand turned Fayth of the Lord of All Waters. A little while ago I agreed to a deal I should have really considered harder beforehand, and ended up with this guy as a tenant in my unfortunate brain. He's always listening in on all my classy and fabulous inner monologues like some kind of doofus agent from a Bevelle security agency, and adding his own dumb garnishes in all the places where they aren't needed.
Don't bother, is what I thought back at him, He already knows.
And he does know, because I pretty much am always happy to share this information with him. That's kinda my special privilege, and I guess nobody gets more of my sassy backtalk than Big Red. But that's all right, because he needs it and it's good for him. My love is like bad medicine, but only if you mean bad as in rad, which is really the only way it should be used. It is my sworn duty to make him A) stop and smell the roses, B) gather them while he may, and C) realize that la vie? It is totally en rose.
Or, as we say in old country: Meva ec payidevim. It doesn't get much simpler than that.
On the other side of Auron is Ashura, who is the Fayth of the All Holy, and Leviathan's amazingly gorgeous --
And infinitely graceful, kind, generous, and lovely --
Yeah okay, all that too, anyway, she's his wife and they're close like magnetized Velcro superglued together. Twice. She's bonded to Auron kinda the same way that Levi is shackled to me. They're both the fayth, so they don't really have physical bodies or anything most of the time, but they manifest around us whenever they feel like it and Yuna doesn't need them for something, and I guess you could say that most of what they do is just hang out with us. Honestly, I think they pretty much deserve whatever they want. They spent almost a thousand years forgotten at the bottom of a hole before we found them and brought them back into circulation. That is not really what I call time well spent.
The four of us, along with my main Ronso man Kimahri, were in the nosebleed section of the Luca blitz arena watching Tidus and the Aurochs take on Vuroja and the Beasts. We probably could have had much better seats if we tried, but I kind of like sitting way up, and we have learned by experience that Leviathan and Ashura draw a lot of attention. Because I kind of get tired of explaining to everyone that yes they are the fayth and yes they are together as in married and yes he did really just say that to you about your mother, I find it's better for us to just stay in the lightly populated seats. It gives us more room to stretch out, anyway.
Wakka and Yuna were down on the sidelines, cheering for Tidus among the player's benches, and Lulu was down there too, I guess to restrain Wakka from leaping into the sphere to play at any opportunity. I have to say, the Aurochs are my team now, which is funny, considering I'm a born and bred Psyches fan. My Grandma Kettie even played for the Psyches back before she got married, so I guess blitz is maybe in my blood. But nothing the Psyches got, not even cool hand Nimrook, can stack up to the kind of show the Aurochs put on when Tidus is in the sphere with them. They give it all they got, they give a hundred and twenty percent, and then maybe because they don't think that's good enough, they give ten percent more. That's over thirty percent more than you get from any other team, which seems like a pretty good deal to me.
Maybe it's also because I never really watched the Psyches practicing back at Home. I was always off with Pops, helping him with whatever hairbrained scheme he had cooked up, so I more or less cheered for the Psyches because it was something I was supposed to do. But I've seen the kind of heck Tidus puts the Aurochs through for their training sessions. They've earned every title they've got, and he's a good captain. Man, I'll say he's a good captain. He took a team that hadn't won in about a billion years and turned them into undefeated champions.
That's the kind of story that ought to be the subject of some sappy old spherecorder movie: Remember the Aurochs.
"They're playing well today," said Auron, and I nodded before taking a big bite out of my funnel cake.
"They totally are," I agreed, and then waved in the general direction of the playing sphere. "But it's funny, I know you don't really care much for blitzball, but you always watch the Aurochs play. You like to watch Tidus play, right? Did you watch him when he played in Zanarkand?"
I knew that Auron had lived ten years in the living Zanarkand after his untimely death and before he showed up back in Spira and met me on the Moonflow. Like I said, we are on intimate terms. He's never really chatty, but he is honest.
He grunted and the corner of his mouth quirked up in an ironic smile. "The Ace of the Zanarkand Abes," he said, and I guess that was his answer, because he didn't say anything else, just let his thumb beat out a short rhythm on the hilt of the muramasa. Trust Auron to be the only guy who brings his sword into the blitz arena. Still, it's not like anybody's gonna take it away from him. He is Legendary. He ignores rules whenever he likes and totally gets away with it. And to be fair, there was this one time when fiends actually did invade the sphere arena, and Big Red helped shut them down with that big ol' sword he carries, or so I've heard. I was still a twinkle in his eye at that point, and by that I mean I was still hanging out with my Pops, hatching a scheme to kidnap Yuna and get a restraining order against Yevon.
"Did you watch Tidus play in Zanarkand?" I asked Leviathan, because I had learned that he had been a big blitz fan back in the day.
He turned his attention from the sphere long enough to shrug elegantly in my general direction. "He didn't play for a team I followed," he said, and I was forced to be content with that.
The Aurochs were playing well today. Auron was right. They were playing even better than they usually play, and the Beasts are not a team to be taken lightly. They pretty much are just that: Beasts. If there's any team that has harder training montages than the Aurochs, then it's maybe possibly the Kilika Beasts. I am pretty sure Vuroja makes his team eat scrap metal for breakfast. He sure looks like he eats scrap metal for breakfast. They've gotta lot of pride because of Lord Ohalland, I guess. Some people call Kilika the Home of Blitzball, even though the stadium's in Luca. Kilika's not that huge of an island. Blitz and fishing are pretty much what they've got. Oh, and Ifrit I guess. I guess that's something.
But it was the Aurochs who were really playing like monsters today. Tidus puts this crazy spin on the ball whenever he shoots it, and when Jassu handles the ball it's like its a part of his own body. Letty is like a clearing house for blitzballs: they come in from all directions and he passes them back out, in whatever direction they're meant to be going. Datto swims like an eel or a sahagin, and I think you could back over Botta with a really heavy machina and somehow he would not be hurt. Keepa? He's a keepa. Oh snap, I am a laugh riot.
Wait, what now? You want to know how come we've got all this time to be sitting around watching blitzball and eating funnel cake? You think we ought to be off somewhere defeating Sin or something? Well, maybe I mentioned this before, but Blitz stops for no man, not summoners, not maesters, and not even Sin. Tidus might be Yuna's favorite guardian, but he's also the captain of the Aurochs. Tidus can't not play blitz any more than Yuna can stop smiling at people when they wish her well on her journey. As much as defeating Sin, blitz is something owed to the people of Spira.
Besides, pretty much each and every one of us know that we're not yet ready to defeat Sin. It's not like we've given up on doing it or anything, but these days we spend our time chasing down every last clue or rumor we hear about, looking for any extra edge that we could hone up to use against Sin. Sin is horrible and giant and monstrous, and there are only seven of us. We're the last, best hope. It's our responsibility to not go off half-cocked and get ourselves killed, no matter how much we may want to sometimes. I know, you weren't expecting a lesson in responsibility and restraint from me, right? Well, maybe Big Red is a bigger influence on me these days that I thought.
But even when I'm eating funnel cake and watching blitz, I'm spending at least part of the time considering what I should contribute to the cause next. I know that I'm the first one to leap buck naked into the street shouting 'When it's time to work, work, and when it's time to play, play!' but I'm a synth genius and mixologist, as I totally reminded you a few minutes ago. My work is art, and innovation can come like a bolt from the blue at the weirdest times. Once I thought of how to improve Mighty Guard when I was on the toilet.
Diane, I thought to myself, Take a memo. Next time consider the effects of multiple amulets.
His reply was cross. I've told you not to call me Diane.
Well, you sure look like a Diane to me, was my snappy, yet completely truthful rebuttal.
And I am not your personal secretary --
But I wasn't listening to him anymore, because I'd turned my attention to Auron again.
"You know," I said cheerfully, full of vim and vigor to drown out Leviathan's tiring interior tirade, "I should totally start teaching you to swim. Not only would it put your in a better position should unforeseen circumstances arise in the future, and we get stuck fighting some big underwater jerk all alone, but I bet with a little practice you could be a pretty decent blitzer. I mean, you're built like the rock of Mi'hen. I bet once you got a hold of it a whole team couldn't take the ball away from you, even if they dogpiled on you all at once."
"I'm not really interested in blitz," Auron raised on hand as if to ward me off, like I might have been some plague carrying bite bug, instead of his beloved affianced. I waved my own hand at him like I could dispel his anti-Rikku's-good-ideas barrier.
"That's only because you've never really tried it, I bet. Besides, swimming is useful for a lot more things than just blitz, and it's fun besides. I mean, I bet you didn't even like me until you gave me a real shot, because I made you stop to consider how great and awesome I am -- "
"You just make up the past to suit yourself, don't you?" Auron broke in dryly.
"I do," I whooped, because I'd finally finished my funnel cake and therefore it was time to make some noise, "And it's been workin' pretty well for me so far."
"Rikku Cidolphus has a point," and that was Ashura, thoughtful and soft as moonshine, "I believe that learning to swim would be a positive experience for you."
"Old dogs -- " started Auron deliberately, but I did an enthusiastic full body wriggle that enticed him enough so that I had room to cut him off.
"Old dogs are great at learning tricks taught by awesomely hot teachers such as myself," I finished, and tried to look like a Grade A educator. Auron still didn't look completely convinced, so I sought support from another corner. "Isn't that right, Kimahri?"
Kimahri, who had been absorbed in the game up until this point, looked pretty lost, which was something I was counting on. After grunting he seemed unsure how to answer my question.
"Just agree with me," I suggested helpfully.
"Kimahri does not agree to Rikku's statements without hearing them first," he answered warily.
"Kimahri has learned from previous experiences," Auron said, and I could hear the wry chuckle in his voice even if nobody else could.
"Hey, that time we went sledding down that hill in Macalania on the back of a door was really fun, and it didn't really take us that long to dig ourselves out of that snowbank," I argued. "Besides, it's times like those that are really bonding experiences between people. I feel like I really know you better, us having gone through that together."
"Kimahri knows Rikku better," he agreed, but I threw my hands up in the air.
"Why do I feel like that's an indictment instead of a fond memory?" I asked, and Kimahri shook his head very seriously.
"Kimahri cannot answer for Rikku's conscience."
"You wound me to the quick, Gasucype," I said, and feigned deep and saddened offense. "I'm not going to ask you to go sledding with me ever again."
"She said she's not going to ask you," Leviathan added, while I sat there looking intensely aggrieved. "That means when she decides to do it next time she's not going to ask. She's just going to do it."
"Nobody asked for your interpretation of events," I complained, and felt like a stage magician who has just had one of her signature tricks revealed.
"I can't help always being right," Leviathan sniffed and crossed his long arms.
"You mean you can't help always being dumb," I parroted back and we might have kept on like this for a while -- we always do -- had Leviathan not started suddenly as if I had shocked him with an indiscreet thundaga in retaliation for his general personality.
He turned sharply in the direction of the Aurochs' player's benches and his eyes narrowed dangerously.
"He is here," is what he said, his voice low and wicked. "I do not know why he is here, but he is here."
"Who is here?" I demanded, a little unsettled because of Leviathan's tone. I tried to laugh it off. "Who is it? Father Yule? Your ex-boyfriend? The lead singer of your favorite band?"
But he was already on his feet, staring intently at the sidelines of the sphere below.
"Come, Rikku Cidolphus," he commanded sharply, without looking back at me. "We are going."
And then without so much as another word, he started smartly down the bleachers, taking the stairs two at a time.
I stood there stupidly watching him for a minute, before I realized that I didn't really have any choice but to follow him.
It was only as I caught up to Leviathan I realized that something strange seemed to be going on around us. Half-time had just been called, so the fans should have been making more noise than usual, but the stadium was eerily quiet. And it was then that I realized why.
I turned to look at the people in the stands around me and I saw a little girl diving after some ice cream that had fallen from her cone. It was all there perfectly: the ice cream a globular planetoid of deliciousness, hanging there in front of her, a few satellites of runny cream trailing behind it, her face a picture of abject seven-year-old horror. Her mother beside her hadn't yet noticed the ice cream which was making madly for an impact on her shoe. The crowd around us was frozen, stilled entirely in the midst of its raucous, celebratory living.
"The people," I stammered, "The people, Levi, what's happened to the people?"
"Time magic," Leviathan answered shortly, but did not look back at me, just kept leaping down the stairs. "He is manipulating time so that no one will take notice of his appearance."
I looked back at the people impossibly still in mid cheer and shuddered. It was like the whole stadium had been flash frozen.
"I don't like this," I said, shaking my head hard as I jumped down half a landing to keep up with him. "I don't like this. This is scary. Who is doing this?"
I thought at first that he wasn't going to answer me, since he didn't slow down, but at last he looked at me over his shoulder, one eye, like a shark.
"Bahamut," was all he said.
Now, I've seen Bahamut. He's a great big freaky looking dragon with a chandelier or something strapped to his back. Now, I dunno if I was really expecting to see a ginormous dragon just sitting there on a sideline bench like a relief player, but when we finally made it to the benches, I have to say, nothing really looked out of place.
Other than everybody being frozen, that is.
Admittedly, that was still pretty noticeable.
But Tidus was standing with his back to us, gesticulating kind of wildly, like he does, and I could also hear Yuna's clear voice, so I assumed she was on the other side of frozen Letty and Botta.
I was momentarily utterly distracted by Wakka, who was frozen with his back bent and his head thrown back, in the midst of one of his belly laughs. I could see all of the teeth in his mouth by standing on my tip toes.
My pops used to tell me, You keep flappin' your jaw like that girl, and a spider's going to crawl into your mouth one day when it's open. Now, this never really influenced me to keep my mouth shut at any point whatsoever, but thanks to Pops I've always had kind of an irrational fear that a spider actually would crawl into my mouth. It didn't help that he was always making up facts and figures about the number of spiders I had eaten while sleeping each year. Sometimes, I think if we'd lived in a real city, you know, not one where he was the defacto mayor? He would have been a father put on probation by child services.
Anyway, I am sure you can connect the dots and realize that seeing Wakka like that, all I could think of was how a spider was going to just crawl into his mouth while I was standing there, and I was going to have to see it.
Fortunately, I was saved from waiting in horrified anticipation until the spider showed because I realized that Leviathan was talking, and from the tone of his voice, angry and disgusted, I could tell that it was not nice talking.
"Why are you here, Bahamut? Are you casing the city to see how easily it can be destroyed, you space monster?"
I couldn't see Bahamut at all. I guess he was also obscured by Letty and Botta, but as I ducked around Tidus to catch up to Leviathan I was surprised to hear someone respond to Levi's gentle salutation.
"That was long ago and far from here, Leviathan."
It was a little kid's voice, like a choirboy from the Bevelle cloister, and as I stumbled around Tidus I found that I was pretty correct in my placement. There was a boy there, a little kid with an unbroken voice, wearing a hood so he looked mysterious, and standing in bare feet. Leviathan was quite a bit taller than he was and standing toe to toe with him.
"Perhaps it was long ago in your reckoning, but the sea has a longer memory, and you have sinned more than once," Leviathan snapped back acidly, and I began to develop the troublesome worry that this scene was going to explode into violence. I decided to try and defuse the situation before my brain-fayth insulted this kid-fayth even further.
"Um, Leviathan -- "
"Silence, fry," he commanded, without even looking in my direction.
I looked up at Tidus in worry and found he was just gaping at them, looking like he was ready for a spider to crawl into his mouth too.
"Master Leviathan, Master Bahamut, please, let's meet here as friends, not enemies," that was Yuna, calmly interposing herself between them, so Leviathan was forced to step back a bit, and Bahamut was safe in her shadow.
Leviathan's sea gray eyes flashed, then narrowed as he bared his teeth.
"I respect you for your bravery, Yuna Braska, but you have no knowledge of the situation," he spat. "However, I will abide by your wishes, regardless."
"That is best, I think," came the sweet, bell-like voice of Ashura, who was suddenly at Leviathan's back. I glanced over my shoulder to find Auron there, watching the scene silently. "Besides," she continued, "All of us have done things that are regrettable at one time or another, acting rashly, or without consideration. I know someone who has sunk many ships in his time."
"That is hardly the same," Leviathan shot back, only vaguely calmed by her presence. "Besides, if I found that I suddenly had the power to vomit condensed light and gamma radiation I would be more careful about who I sold my services to."
"Leviathan," Ashura's voice had taken a quiet edge, "Be at peace."
He looked back at her, startled, then threw his hands in the air and turned his back on Bahamut and Yuna.
"As you wish," was all he said, and I found myself breathing a sigh of relief.
"Well," said Tidus, looking down at the top of Leviathan's bent head. "I guess that was pretty interesting."
I gave Tidus a look, which apparently made him want to change the topic of discussion. I looked over at Leviathan, but he had crossed his arms and was looking pretty sullen, as if he had decided to ignore whatever else was said.
"Anyway, do you want to start over again?" That was Tidus again, addressing the barefoot kid in the hood.
Vandal. Terrorist. That was Leviathan. Man, this guy had to have done something awful to Leviathan --
He shames us. He shames me. He has ravaged cities more than once, an extraterrestrial invader who nests on the moon like a parasite. And yet they call him a God --
I thought she told you to be at peace, was my rebuttal.
I am at peace, was his viciously delivered response.
I rolled my eyes, because I was not yet convinced of his success at anger management.
The choirboy was talking again, apparently answering another of Tidus's questions.
"We would meet with you to share our strength. We would meet with you to share our thoughts, all together, all at once. We will name a place if you will join us there."
Tidus was scratching the back of his head.
"Yeah, of course," he said. "We'll meet you. Name the place." Then he stopped and thought about it, "Only I hope it isn't some place way weird and far out."
Bahamut smiled faintly, and bowed his head.
"Macalania," he said quietly. "We will meet you in the forest at Macalania."
And after delivering this soft statement, the choirboy was gone, and the crowd roared into life around us.
I looked up at Big Red, and he shrugged, a slight motion, just one shoulder. He might have been just stretching. I dunno. It's hard to tell with him sometimes, even when you're me.
I looked at Leviathan, who was still sulking, then shrugged myself.
"I guess," I said, "We're going to Macalania to meet, um, whoever it is we're going to meet."
Another startling revelation: I hadn't really been paying attention to the important parts of the conversation. Hey, cut me a break. I had a distraction to deal with. A guado distraction.
"The fayth," answered Yuna, a distant look in her eyes, like she was seeing far-off and undiscovered vistas. "We're going to meet the fayth."
I told you I'd be back :D What Becomes of Saturn and Venus obviously follows the divergence established in The Shape of His Heart, so if you are a first time reader and a bit confused, then please consider reading this story first.
Thanks in advance to all readers. I hope you're ready to find out what happens next.