The Hymn of the Fayth.
All was silent.
I took a deep breath and stood up straight, rubbing at a long wound that jagged its way across my cheek, the viscous red fluid called blood, adding another crimson stain to my glove. My muscles ached and I was pretty sure I was going to have one hell of a bruise on my right bicep tomorrow, but what mattered now wasn't the scars I had earned; it was the fact that Seymour was gone, for now at least and I didn't have to worry about this particular obstacle ruining Yuna's chances of continuing her pilgrimage. We Guardians began to file away from the place near the cliff edge we had fought Seymour, my mind replaying the conversation Rikku and I had presently shared. It wasn't until we were a few paces away that I realised Yuna wasn't with us. I turned my head, to see her standing where we were a moment ago, fists clenched, a bruise on her cheek, hair ruffled and kimono crinkled.
Her eyes were shut tight as she spoke.
"With my help, he would become Sin," she said slowly, quietly, and I was confused. Auron immediately spun round to this comment, his grey eyes flashing from behind the shade of his glasses, his white streaked hair messy, freezing sweat glistening on his forehead.
"Lies. Forget them," he told her fiercely, his voice willing her to understand. Yuna sighed and looked up at us all, and then her eyes locked tightly with mine, her words forced and determined.
"If he became Sin... Sir Jecht would be freed," she added simply, as if she expected me to react to that. Her gaze slipped from mine, and she focused her eyes intently on Auron, their mysterious colours boring into him. He returned her gaze with a stony one.
"We're leaving," he turned sharply on his heel, and Yuna's temper snapped. Her balled fists clenched tighter, and she stepped forth a little, fatigued from fighting and angry with Auron.
"You know something! Tell me!" she yelled at him, all the power she possessed in her body going into screeching the words at her Guardian. I suddenly felt a wave of guilt wash over me. Yuna knew something was going on deeper between me and Auron and my father than simply a family feud. She suspected something worse and she was right. Jecht was Sin, and she still had no idea about. She looked desperate and gazed into my eyes again, searching for the truth. She was certain I knew something too. I couldn't hide my feelings from Yuna, even if I wanted to. It was far too difficult. She stepped forth towards me, clasping my hand in her own frigid one, her body shaking.
"Tell me," she moaned in a whisper, and I couldn't lie to her any longer. She'd come clean with me, so I'd do the same for her. I held her hand as tightly as I could, and spoke so everyone could hear.
"Sin's... my old man." Lulu's eyes flew open, Auron sighed in annoyed way, Rikku let out a startled little gasp, Kimahri's brows furrowed, and Wakka jumped to my side, slapping a hand against my forehead, testing for a fever.
"You hit your head?" he asked sympathetically, and I groaned and wriggled away from him, keeping my hand locked in Yuna's, whose eyes were wide in shock and confusion.
"Sin is my old man, my old man, became Sin! I don't know how or why he did it! I felt him... inside... and when I did? I knew it was true. My old man is Spira's suffering," I gazed at Yuna whose face was saddened. The one thing I had wanted was not to make her sad! I wanted her to smile, and here I was making her depressed again. "I'm sorry," I told her desperately, and her sigh was small.
"Even knowing that Sin is your father... still, you know I must..." she trailed off, but I wasn't stupid. I knew what she was going to say. I stepped closer to her, my hand still grasped tightly in hers.
"I know! Let's go get him! I think... my old man would want that," I told her softly, our bodies almost touching just as they had that day in Macalania spring. Lulu didn't come near us and interrupt us, but she spoke softly, in that calming way I had grown to love.
"You'd fight your own father?" she asked quietly. I grinned wryly and nodded my head.
"Yeah. No problems there," I assured her. I laughed bitterly. Wakka stood unsurely at Lulu's side.
"'Bout your old man... you sure this ain't some kinda bad... toxin dream, or something?" he questioned me curiously, rubbing the back of his flaming red head. I shook my head. His eyes flickered. "Oh. So then... Chappu. Uh, I think I'll pretend I didn't hear nothin'," he said, more to himself than the rest of us, and I internally groaned. My own father had taken the life of one of my closest friend's brother. He was the reason Chappu didn't marry Lulu and have a family and Wakka couldn't play Blitz with him anymore. He was the reason Chappu had died so young, when he had so much left to do in his life. "I'm getting a little confused, ya? Why... why'd all this have to happen?"
Auron turned and began to walk away.
"We'll learn when we arrive. Soon," he assured, and continued walking down the path that they had taken before Rikku and me.
Yuna didn't let go of my hand.
We stepped down the path together, and Yuna let out a gasp.
"Wow!" she pointed out ahead of us and the rest of our jaws collectively dropped with sight displayed before us.
A hundred human bodies, all still in immaculate condition were frozen into a great ice wall ahead of us, all seemingly worshipping a gigantic symbol also swallowed up by the ice. It looked like a great, magical curtain was blocking them from the outside cold, like some sort of ultra fine gossamer that danced, and glimmered and shone in the bleak light atop the mountain. We all gazed at it in wonder, hearing the soft tinkle of pyreflies in the air around us, the wind soft around the cavern. Just a little way beyond, shooting from a frozen river, was a great ice spiral, that shot all the way up to the cloudy mist that hung over the top of Gagazet, the pyreflies fluttering majestically around it, making it seem otherworldly and beautiful.
"What are those?" Wakka asked, dumbfounded. Yuna let go of me and walked away, breath taken by the stunning sight before us.
"Those," she pointed slightly at the frozen people. "Are Fayth." Yuna walked closer, and inclined her head as a nearby Fayth sparkled and she frowned.
"A Summoning...?" she asked herself softly, before looking around at the others. "Someone is using these Fayth... drawing energy from them," she told us, her brow furrowed. Rikku tore her gaze away from them and frowned.
"This many?" she chirped. Lulu nodded her head.
"Who wields power on this scale?" she wondered aloud. "And what could they be calling?" Rikku's emerald eyes swiftly narrowed, and she tiptoed over to Auron, her finger accusing her gaze sharp.
"Hey... you know something. Don't you? Spill the beans!" she demanded, her skills at deciphering others paying off. Auron shoved past her, ignoring her.
"Look not to others for knowledge. This is your journey too," he muttered at her, and she groaned.
"But Yunie might die!" she insisted. I shook my head, walking over to the Fayth, feeling extremely dizzy all of a sudden.
"No. Auron's right. This is our..." I hesitated in my dizziness, and tried to focus. "This is my story." My dizziness was too much to bear all of a sudden, and I felt the urge to reach out and caress the Fayth taking over my entire body and mind and I had to touch it. As my hand met with the shimmering, gossamer impersonating magic, my entire body felt like it was on fire. I was sure I was burning to death, that I was going to roast and sizzle and scald, and without any warning, my legs gave way beneath me, the only comfort, the icy ground beneath my head.
It wasn't icy for long.
When I awoke next, I was on a hard wooden surface. I opened my eyes, and rose to my feet as best as I could, my legs feeling firmer and more able. The cut on my cheek was gone, and so was the bruise on my bicep. I gazed around me, and took in the buzzing neon signs, the brightly lit shop windows, the unmistakable silhouette of skyscrapers against the eternally twilight sky. I was home.
I noticed I was on the deck of my private yacht, the one I had been prepping on the night that Sin had attacked and I had been swept away into the spiral of death that was Spira. Zanarkand looked just as it always had, no traces of Sin no matter which direction I looked. Thinking nothing of it, as the machina here was exceptionally good at fixing things up. I opened the door to the private suite that was decked out within my yacht, catered especially to my tastes. Man, I was a spoiled brat when I lived here. The inside was just as I remembered, the stunning view of the City of Lights bright and clear as ever from the window in the cabin. I smiled wistfully, remembering how much I'd loved to just sit and watch the transition into the deepest of black night skies from here.
I jumped and was snapped hurriedly out of my reverie, to see pyreflies fluttering gently in the corner of the room, surrounding a child shrouded in cloth of rich blues and purples, so his face was hidden from view. The child I seen that night in Zanarkand. The child that had been the Fayth of Bahamut.
"You..." I murmured.
"We met in Bevelle," he said brightly. I suddenly felt very slow and stupid, realising none of this was making any sense.
"Uh... yeah," was all I could say.
"But, that wasn't the first time we met," he added thoughtfully, and I raised a brow. "I've known about you for a long time. A long, long time."
"I feel like I know you too," I said in a rush, without realising what was actually coming out of my mouth. "Where are we?"
The child giggled and shook its head slightly, turning around to gaze at me, or so I suspected, from the shadows of his hood pulled low over his eyes.
"Silly! Don't recognise your own home?" he asked me curiously, as if I was stupid for asking such an obvious question. The Fayth Bahamut suddenly began to dissipate, pyreflies floating from his skin, fading away into nothingness. I stretched out my hand, not wanting him to leave quite yet, without at least telling me the answers to some of the puzzling things that he had told me. As he disappeared, a new person appeared beside, translucent and not truly there, I could tell. Still, Wakka looked exactly the same as ever, only this time he had a horrible pained expression on his face, as he called out.
"Hey! What's gotten into you, ya?" he yelped. He faded away, and the pyreflies swept to another side of me, weaving an image of Rikku's pretty Al Bhed features, her snubbed nose and twinkling green eyes, and she crouched low, her eyes shimmering with tears.
"Wake up! Wake up!" she cried. I frowned as she disappeared and realised.
I had collapsed after I touched the Fayth. This was all in my head. I turned, and hoping the Fayth Bahamut could still hear me, I spoke surely.
"Wait. This is a dream," I said. The Fayth suddenly appeared, and ran to my side, nodding his head.
"Precisely," his voice came out almost sad, wistful I thought. I shook my head. I was a Guardian! We were inches away from Zanarkand! Yuna needed me now more than ever!
"A dream? Are you crazy? I don't have time for this!" I insisted. The Fayth shook his head slowly, and the timeless realm we stood in seemed slower and denser as he spoke next.
"You're wrong. It is not that you are dreaming," he paused, and tilted his head up, my eyes searching through the blackness his hood created to try and find some sort of emotion- if I could see it, I could understand it better. The Fayth's voice was soft and gentle, as if he were a doctor, breaking the news that someone's lover was about to die.
"You are a dream."
My mind did a double take. What? This kid wasn't making any sense at all, but before I could question him further, he ran from my sight, fading in and out of my view with the pyreflies, like some sort of iridescent spectre. I followed suit, running as fast I could, skidding on the carpet, past the picture of my mother and father and me when I was a baby, past the trophies and the photograph of Auron and me catching fish. I ran outside, the cool night air of Zanarkand, feeling strangely bland and dead, like time had fallen to a standstill, and I looked hectically around, trying to find the kid. Pyreflies danced above my head, and I rushed up the stairs to the top deck, where the child led me over to the railing on my boat, smile soft, eyes still hidden by the darkened hood.
"A long time ago," he began speaking, "there was a war."
"Yeah, with... machina, right?" I said, showing what knowledge I had gathered from my time stranded in Spira. I still didn't understand by what the child had said by I was a dream. Was it some sort of tricky metaphor?
"Yes. A war between Zanarkand and Bevelle. Bevelle's machina assured their winning from the start and Spira had never seen such power. The Summoners of Zanarkand didn't stand a chance, despite the strange rumours of a machina so deadly it would kill them all being in the possession of some very dangerous people. Zanarkand was doomed to oblivion."
The kid's tone of voice switched from one of historical to one of hopeless desire and want.
"That's why we tried to save it! If only in a memory..."
I was suddenly entranced by this story and drew closer to the child, watching him carefully.
"What did you do?" I asked softly, part of me wishing all the time I hadn't pried and just shut my big mouth.
"The remaining Summoners and the townspeople who survived the war, all became Fayth. Fayth for the Summoning."
"The Summoning?" I thought it over a moment, before gazing at the child confusedly. "You mean Sin?"
"No," the child smiled at me. "This place. What did you call it?" his smile was small and pitying, like he felt sorry for me. "A Zanarkand that never sleeps. The dreams of the Fayth Summoned the memories of the city. They Summoned all the buildings, all the people that lived there." I frowned, as suddenly the fog began to clear and what the child was implying was no longer so difficult to understand.
"Th-The people? The... people are all dreams?" I murmured. The child nodded, tilting its head so I imagined he was looking up at me. I pointed to myself, my heart hammering. "Me... too?"
The Fayth Bahamut nodded his head and my heart sunk to the ground, along with all my emotions and memories.
I... was a dream. People dream dreams on days when they feel lonely, or saddened, and wish for something more, something better to come and whisk them away. Was that what I had done? Yuna had been sad, lonely, the people of Spira in utter turmoil, and her Guardian's lost all on their own in that one gigantic spiral of death. Was I intended to be the dream that guarded the Guardians on their way to assure Yuna's safety from the inevitable danger that she faced on that trek?
Was I meant to fall so drastically in love with her? Or was that just Fate toying with me and making me suffer because it knew I could never have her?
I could never have Yuna, because I am a dream of the Fayth. I'm not... real. I could barely understand it. You ever tried it? Just standing there, trying to get your head around your existence? For me, it was the opposite. I was trying to recall even a little how it might feel not to exist but my head was filled with action packed memories. Fake memories, implanted in my head – made up, to force my made-up life to be all the more exciting and dream-like. Dream-like.
Because I am a dream.
"Yes. You're a dream of the Fayth. You, your father, your mother, everyone. All dreams..." he turned to me a moment, and I thought I saw a shimmer of light through the darkness his hood disguised, like unshed tears gleaming in a child's eyes. "And if the Fayth stop dreaming..."
I looked around and suddenly, I felt like everything around me was melting away. My boat, the stadium, the apartment block, the slums, the water, the neon lights, the clubs, my penthouse, the middle class offices, the hovers everything.
"No!" I screamed, and it reappeared, as fabricated and fake as ever. "No! So... so what if I'm a dream? I like being here!" I yelled at the child. He tilted his head to one side and sighed deeply, suddenly sounding weary and restless.
"But... we've been dreaming so long... We're so tired... Would you...? Would you, and your father, would you let us rest? Both you and your father have been touched by Sin. Sin, the very one who Spira, the spiral, revolves."
"What are you saying?" I demanded, confused and hurt, that after telling me my entire existence had been a lie, this child had just asked me to finish us all off.
"You and your father are more than just dreams now..." the kid began to talk, but I snapped around as I heard Yuna's familiar soft lulls.
"Wake up!" she begged. "Wake up please!"
"Maybe just a little more," the Fayth spoke softly. "And then you will be the dream that will end our dreaming at last..." I shook my head violently and spun round to face the Fayth Bahamut, looking up at me. The Fayth child's smile was small, defenceless and innocent. Zanarkand began to glow all around me, and the lights merged into one another. I felt like the world was falling away from beneath my feet. I sighed, and allowed myself to be torn from my false world of dreams made of nothingness, towards the spiral of death, where the girl I loved was waiting.
Waiting to be lied to some more.
I leapt up, the biting, frigid weather of Mount Gagazet attacking my flesh. Yuna leapt on me in as big a hug as someone so small could muster, holding on tight.
"Oh, thank goodness!" she breathed. Rikku jumped up onto my back, the cousins clinging fiercely from either side onto my body.
"Aw man!" Rikku moaned into my ear. "We were so worried about you, Tidus!" Rikku jumped off me, and Lulu walked over, pressing her hand to my forehead, her stunning beauty hitting me full on as she batted her lashes nervously and narrowed her bloody red eyes.
"You okay?" she asked concernedly, running her hand down the side of my face once she had concluded that I didn't have a fever at least.
"I-" I stopped myself from speaking, already feeling like a big fat liar. I felt like I was taking advantage of these wonderful people's loving generosity and kindness. I forced down the feelings of hatred for myself and bit back confessions to finish my sentence. "I'm fine."
"What happened?" Yuna asked, taking hold of my hand tightly and squeezing. I smiled gratefully down at her and shrugged.
"Nothing... I just blacked out. I was..." I frowned at the sheer irony of the sentence I was about to speak, and internally thwacked myself with a very large stick. "Dreaming. You called me and... I woke up. Nothing like a good nap!" I stretched for emphasis, but I knew nobody was buying my lies. Damn my friends and heir super sensitive attention to detail. We could all tell if somebody was lying by now or whether they weren't, which at times proved useful and others, utterly aggravating. I laughed nervously and shrugged.
"Well, I'm ready. Let's go!" I suggested, letting go of Yuna's hand and jogging up the steep hill. I couldn't touch her right now- it was making me feel like I was using her until I got what I wanted and could just drop her ready to set the Fayth free. If I did that, what would happen to me? Would I fade away, like Zanarkand had? Before I knew it, we were inside a cave of Mount Gagazet, running around and finding treasure, all the while looking out for dangerous fiends lurking in the shadows, my mind attacking me with taunts and jeers and hurtful sneers and comments. This was hard. Before long, Auron was speaking quietly, almost to himself, but we knew he was directing the knowledge of his last pilgrimage here onto us.
"They will soon be upon us. She has sent fiends to test our Summoner," he said.
"Who is she?" Yuna asked curiously, gazing at Auron in wonder. He eyed her with his good eye and frowned, deeper than usual.
"Yunalesca." Yuna's eyes widened, and she ran from my side to Auron's, watching him incredulously.
"Lady Yunalesca?" she asked, bewildered. He nodded his head and spoke again, his voice echoing throughout the dark, dank caverns of Mount Gagazet, water dripping dangerously from leaky crevices above our heads, a fiend purring a little way away.
"In Zanarkand, she awaits the strongest." Yuna frowned and I smiled slightly as I saw her thought patterns in her transparent green and blue eyes. She sure was easy to read. I shook these thoughts off, immediately feeling guilty. I wanted to tell her I was a dream, and to stop wasting her time – but I couldn't find the right words. I mean, I've never had to confess to the only girl I've ever loved that I was a sham, a fake.
"So... she is still alive?" Yuna murmured, gazing at Auron in wonder. He smirked and her, and petted her hair slightly, making it even untidier than it already was.
"As much as Mika and Seymour," he explained, and Lulu sighed stepping closer to Wakka, shivering slightly. Yuna nodded and looked away from Auron.
Rikku wasn't paying attention to what was going on, I noticed. She was standing a little ways away, hands on hips, pacing, her brows furrowed and forehead lined deeply as she pouted and tried to come up with some sort of answer to the ever looming question that enjoyed tormenting us so. She glanced up when she felt my gaze on her neck, and smiled weakly, the glimmer in her eyes dim and dismal, her shoulders slumped and defeated. She shook her head. I frowned and gave her an imploring look with my eyes. She went back to pacing. Auron was speaking again, tilting his head a little and watching Yuna over dark tinted glasses.
"Lost your nerve?" he questioned his voice gruff and curious.
"No!" Yuna said surely, glancing in my direction. I smiled weakly and she beamed in response, her very presence seeming to light up the entire cave we stood in. She turned back to Auron, and gave him a little smile. "Nothing scares me now." Auron nodded and petted her head again.
"Braska would be proud," he mused, gazing at her with a hint of affection in his stony cold eyes. She grinned happily at him and nodded her head surely.
"Then," she answered, walking to my side and lacing her fingers with mine. "I must not let him down." I nodded my head and tried to make an assuring sound, but Yuna saw the troubled look in my eyes. I suddenly felt like it was just the two of us, standing there on our own and my mind began to race at the silence of it all.
I could hear everything – her breathing, her tiny movements – I was aware of her presence entirely.
And then I realised I could only hear one heartbeat.
I dropped her hand and smiled falsely, causing Yuna to raise her brows and begin to ask me something.
"We have to be going. Staying still too long could prove troublesome," Lulu said wisely, smiling at the two of us like a proud mother, taking Wakka by the arm and leading him away. He winked at us jokingly, and Kimahri bared his teeth in a Ronso grin. Rikku sighed haughtily and followed Auron from the cave, badgering him with questions about all sorts of things. I left, Yuna trailing quietly along behind me. We got the mouth of the cave, and entered out into a warm sunset, the breeze cool against my exhausted form and the whole group let out a sigh of relief. Wandering around dark caverns is not as fun as it sounds, lemme tell you. We were about to begin walking again, when Auron stood up straight and pulled his sword from his back.
"It comes!" he announced.
The fiend was huge. It was dark blue in colour and had horns sticking out of almost every alcove on its body. We leapt into battle stance, ready for the first of Yunalesca's challenges.
I cast Hasteaga on the group as per usual, and they sped up fantastically. Yuna then cast Reflect upon the fiend, causing any magic it launched on us to be repelled right back. Auron ran forth and used Armour Break to shock it first. It then launched an attack on us, which didn't physically wound us, but succeeded in casting Silence and Curse on us. Yuna collapsed in pain as the Curse inflicted pain from the inside out, and I threw her a Remedy. She drank to down fast, before casting Esuna on Auron and then herself, casting it finally on me to relieve us of our ailments. Auron then ran forth and used Mental Break on the fiend, dealing serious damage to it as is mind was sent reeling and spinning with the force of Auron's attack. Yuna cast Protect on me quickly and I saw a magical shield materialize before me, before dissipating away into nothingness. I then took the opportunity to use my newest Overdrive, one had been trying to perfect for months. I ran forth, time feeling like it was slowing down around me. It made me wonder – could a dream die?
I slashed at the fiend angrily, shocking and wounding it countless times, before jamming my sword into the ground and jumping atop of it. Lulu threw me Wakka's Blitzball, right up high into the air alongside me, where I turned and kicked it, sending it firing through the air at an astonishing pace, where it hit the fiend and rammed into it full on, winding it. The fiend swept its tail towards us angrily, swiping me but not hurting as the Protect spell did its job. Kimahri shoved Yuna from harm's way, taking her place at the front lines, Auron narrowly missing the spiky edges of the tail. It tried to lunge at him and he dodged successfully, gracing it with no more than a smirk of annoyance. Kimahri smacked the fiend down across the head with the end of his spear, to which the fiend hit him back. Wakka ran to me and high fived, before taking his place where the now injured Kimahri had been, Blitzball heavy and ready for action. He used Armour break too, before Auron ran out of the fiend's line of attack to be replaced with Lulu. Rikku swapped places with Wakka, running up close to the fiend and using a jab from her sharp knuckles and a flick of her quick fingers and wrists to Mug it. She stole two Turbo Ethers, much to her delight. I used another heavy dose of Armour Break on the fiend, and it was too much. The fiend collapsed in a heap, causing the very ground beneath our feet to tremble, before batting it's mighty wings once and dissipating far away into fluttering pyreflies, that whispered to me louder than ever as if to taunt me. Rikku groaned and rubbed her aching calf muscles.
"Hey," she moaned, "can't we rest a little?"
"No need," Auron replied, stepping forth and looking unruffled as usual, dabbing Potion onto a scratch on his cheek. "We reach the summit soon."
"I know. That's why I want to stop for a bit," Rikku insisted, looking tired and worn. Poor kid needed a break – she was only fifteen after all. This nonsense was way more than any normal teenager should have had to deal with. She should have been worrying about who was going to ask her to the dance, and if she was going to get any zits and not being beaten up freshman year. "Soon means... there's not much time left."
"Rikku," Yuna said tiredly, quietly, stepping forwards a little, her hand outstretched to her cousin. Rikku shut her eyes and turned to us, folding her arms and looking annoyed.
"Fi-ine! I'll think on the way!" She began to walk away from the group; head bowed, no spring in her step as usual, just a drag-drag-drag of the feet as she tried to walk. The rest of the group followed closely, leaving me standing on my own, Yuna only sparing a troubled glanced back at me before being whisked away by Lulu. Wakka clapped a hand on my shoulder and smiled sympathetically.
"C'mon. Let's go, ya?" he suggested. I sighed.
"We are... almost there, aren't we?" I replied, eyes trained on the ground, not trusting myself to look at my friend for fear he would see the dream that I was lost in my eyes. Wakka shook his head and shrugged.
"We've come a long way," he said. Auron snickered up ahead of us, and temper rose within me. How could he be making snide private jokes at a time like this? The most crucial moments of this pilgrimage yet, and he was sneering at me.
"What's so funny?" I asked disbelievingly.
"You remind me of myself. The closer we came to Zanarkand, the more I wondered. Braska will call the Final Aeon, he will fight Sin, and then he will die. I thought my mind was made up long before. But when I stood here, my resolve wavered..." Auron trailed off, gazing at the bloody red sky.
A thought suddenly struck me. How ironic it was, that as we reached the end of our journey, the sky was the bloodiest hue of red I had seen my entire visit to Spira? The pilgrimage was coming to an end. Night was dawning. Wakka was speaking, eyes wide and focused on Auron.
"Huh, never would've figured! Legendary guardians choke sometimes too, ya!" he said bemusedly. Auron turned to him, that smirk on his face again. He made an amused snort before turning away from us and proceeding to follow the girls and Kimahri up the slope towards the summit of Mount Gagazet.
"Legendary guardian?" I heard him say snidely as he walked. "I was just a boy. A boy about your age, actually. I wanted to change the world, too. But I changed nothing. ...That is my story."
I followed Auron, Wakka not far from my side, and emerged out over the top of the slope to see an ancient, beautiful, crumbling city bathed in the magical glow of the orange sunset. It looked ancient and powerful- more majestic that the sunken ruins of the Moonflow even. I gasped and held my breath, gazing at it, completely transfixed by what I saw. A city dead for a thousand years. A city I had to see with my own eyes. Yuna stood beside me, her mouth slightly open as she was captured by the sheer beauty Zanarkand held, her eyes filled with determination and pride. I knew she wouldn't fail – this was the end of Yuna's journey. The last chapter of my story. No... Our story.
My thoughts... they kept floating up and then slipping through my fingers. Slipping away, before I could pin them down with words. Frustration crept up my throat and I glanced at Yuna again. She was taking a deep breath and twiddling with the ring on her little finger.
"Yuna! I say no!" Rikku said earnestly from behind us. We both turned to see her standing with her hands clenched at her sides, her eyes filled with tears as she struggled to come up with a method of saving her beloved cousin. "If we go down there, then you'll..."
Yuna stepped forth, her eyes sincere, her voice soft as she smiled as strongly as she could at her cousin.
"Rikku," she said. "You are a true friend. And I thank you, but... I must go... down to Zanarkand." Rikku shook her head, fighting back the tears again, sounding more sure and assertive than before.
"I'm not saying we shouldn't go! But... shouldn't we think about it some more? There's gotta be some kind of way we can save you, Yuna!" she said, her voice shaking and her hands trembling as she stood. Yuna shook her head.
"All my life, I knew this moment would come," she said surely, sounding like she had completely accepted her fate.
"Yunie!" Rikku whined, her voice high and distressed as Yuna accepted her own death before it had even happened. It made my heart hurt to see her so set on her goal, despite the implications she was positive would happen to her, and it made me respect her even more than I already did. Something fell from Yuna's dress as she moved towards Rikku, to hug her cousin in a tight embrace.
"Thank you, Rikku," she murmured as Rikku held her tightly back. "Thank you." Rikku's tears finally escaped and she laid her head on Yuna's shoulder, holding tighter. I saw her sharp knuckledusters encasing tiny delicate fingers as she clamped onto Yuna's kimono.
"Don't say that, Yunie..." she whimpered. "This isn't over." Yuna shook her head, as Rikku raised her own, and Yuna smiled softly.
"Tell Cid 'thank you'," she asked Rikku quietly, and of course, the little Al Bhed shook her head vehemently, her bottom lip jutting out.
"No. You can tell him yourself," she said. I saw tears dance in Yuna's eyes and she took hold of either side of Rikku's arms as she spoke.
"'Ku, please... Kimahri! Let's go," she added, and moved away from Rikku who trailed along behind her, the rest of the party keeping in a close lock around Yuna in what I knew they all believed to be her final days on this place. I sighed and began to trail my feet up the slope with them, when a glimmer caught my eye.
The thing that had fallen from Yuna's dress when she had rushed to Rikku's side was a sphere. I frowned, picking it up and examining it carefully. I clicked the little button on the front, and held it up in front of my face.
The picturesque inn with stunning blood red sunset of the end of the Mi'ihen Highroad greeted me, the sun twinkling off the ocean, the grass dancing lazily in the cool twilight breeze. And Yuna began to speak.
"Sir Auron; Kimahri told me... when my father wanted me taken from Bevelle to Besaid... It was you who told Kimahri, right? I had always wanted to meet you someday. I am truly glad that I had that chance. Having you as a Guardian was so great an honour and I don't know how to thank you. Perhaps if I defeat Sin, that will be my thanks to you. That's what I'll do. Yes. I will challenge Sin. I will defeat Sin. If you are all there watching this, then I guess Sin is already gone. And so am I, I suppose... Anyway, I just wanted to say: Sir Auron, I thank you.
Kimahri... Do you remember the first day we met? I was only seven. My father had defeated Sin, and all Bevelle was celebrating. Everyone was saying what a hero my father was. I was so happy. But when night came, it occurred to me. My father had defeated Sin and now he was dead. Now, I was all alone. I couldn't sleep, so I wandered into the town, away from the celebrating crowds. I stood on the bridge in Bevelle where my father and I had parted. Standing there, alone, I could see the fields where he had fought Sin. Then, you appeared, Kimahri. You said you were looking for the daughter of Braska, remember? At first, I was so scared. Until I realized what a gentle person you are! You weren't used to talking to children. When I told you that I was Braska's daughter... you said you would take me as far from Bevelle as you could. That it was the wish of a man facing death. I think... I cried then. Because that... that was when I knew my father was dead... and I would never see him again. You just held me, without saying a word. I cried after we got to Besaid, too. When you tried to go after leaving me in the care of the temple... I held onto you, crying, "Don't go, don't go!" And you listened, Kimahri. You stayed. Kimahri, thank you. Thank you so much. And... I've always liked your broken horn.
Wakka, Lulu; I'll never forget my days spent with you, growing up in Besaid. We always played together, us and Chappu. That's why I was always so happy, I think. And when you refused to let me become a Summoner and I did it anyway... I'm sorry. I've always wanted to apologize. You know, when you tried to stop me then-really, I was happy. I could tell you really cared about me. You were like my big brother and sister. No... I think you really were my big brother and sister. What else... I love watching you play Blitzball, Wakka! I even love it when you scold me, Lulu! Really!
I guess that leaves... the newest Guardian. Star player of the Zanarkand Abes! You are... I am... Well, um... I'm glad... I'm glad that we met. We haven't even known each other that long, but... it's funny. So... so this is what it feels like? It's a much more wonderful feeling than anything I had ever imagined. Wonderful... but it hurts, sometimes. I wonder... I...I just want to say, thank you for everything. Maybe... maybe that's why it hurts. When I... when I think about us never being together again at all... I'm afraid. No, I shouldn't say that. I'll... do that part over. Um..."
"Hey, what you up to?"
My heart sank as I heard my own voice interrupting Yuna making her sphere, and cursed myself at my ridiculous tendency to always screw up the most important moments. Did that sphere mean... Yuna was already in love with me way back then? How long had she known? How long had she felt that way? And all that time I was just being a stupid idiot, staring at other girls and saying tactless things! I kicked at a stone roughly and cursed.
This sucked! I'm some stupid dream of the Fayth, Yuna had truly loved me since the very start of her pilgrimage and she was going to die if I didn't get my lazy ass in gear and start coming up with a way to save her!
I followed the rest of the group then, down through the narrow twists and turns of the road leading down from the mountain and into Zanarkand. It made me upset to see all the buildings I had once known torn to shreds, standing tall and bathed in an orange glow, crumbling and ancient as Spira itself. The Guardians and Yuna had set up a small camp to rest after the trek up Gagazet, around a small camp fire on a ledge overlooking the ruins of Zanarkand beyond.
We placed our weapons in a secure place on the ground and I stood to look out at the ruins on my own. The sun was slowly sinking, fading away from view. I felt a presence at my side, and didn't need to turn around to know it was Yuna, more worried about me than herself as per usual. I smiled bitterly at that, wondering if I really could do anything to help her, or whether she was just going to die like everyone kept claiming she was.
"I'm not going to ask if you're alright, because I know there's something bothering you. Is it the pilgrimage is almost over?" she asked softly, the breeze carrying her gentle words to my ears like music. I stepped back and took her hand tightly in my own, not looking away from the ruins.
"Not so much. I've kind of accepted that this..." I neglected to mention that if I did the Fayth's bidding I would probably disappear, "is going to be over soon. Rikku might go back to her pops and help rebuild Home. Kimahri might go and round up some of the Ronso in other places in Spira. Wakka and Lulu are going to get married and maybe have kids back in Besaid. Auron'll... probably disappear again," I added and Yuna laughed a little. I turned to her then, eyes burning as I focused all my energy on telling her what my heart begged to be conveyed.
"But I am not going to let you die here. Hell, even if it means killing myself, you are going back to Besaid whether you like it or not. I will make you a happy person! Rikku's right, Yuna, there has to be another way-!"
"Tidus," she stopped me with her lily white hand, pressing her palm against my mouth the scent of her sending my train of thought reeling. "You're making me unhappy. You say you want to make me a happy person. Tidus, I am happy!" she smiled truthfully, her eyes sparkling. She removed her palm from my lips and gazed up at me, fire in her eyes and I fell in love with her all over again. "Being here with my Guardians, having you all right behind me, being here with you and only you... that all makes me very happy! But... when you and Rikku fret and strain with this thought of rescuing me from something I've already accepted, and causing yourselves harm by making yourselves upset – that makes me more unhappy than the fact I have to leave this all behind. Please," she implored, setting her hand on my shoulder and gazing at me intently with all her might. "Please just accept it as I have. Please make my last few days happy."
Without a word, I tilted my head down and pressed a kiss to her lips. My own were dry and cracked from the dramatic weather we had been facing for the past while, but as usual, Yuna's were as soft as rose petals and as red too. I wound my hands around to her back and pulled her close against me, savouring every curve her body made, how she fit perfectly into my side as though we were jigsaw pieces made for each other. I kissed her deeply and her cheeks flushed as her hair danced around her face. I pulled away and hugged her tightly, her head settled snugly into the crook of my neck, her arms still wrapped around my middle. She didn't hear my silent promise that echoed through my head.
She would be happy. And she would survive.
And if me trying to fight for her made her unhappy?
Then she was going to have to cope with it until this pilgrimage was ended and the dream had faded.
Listen to my story.
This may be our last chance.
A/N: It's been one whole year since I began this story! Anyone else freaked out? When I started this, I was thirteen and now I'm fourteen - I think my writing has improved... or maybe stayed the same? Anyways, I don't think it's gotten worse... but let me know your thoughts, please! As always, your comments are greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading!