FFX Blade to Blade, a minor intermission fanfic

Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy X or any of the characters. The entire franchise belongs solely to Square Enix.

This is a rather large oneshot that I've been working on for quite some time now, concerning one of my all-time favorite games: Final Fantasy X and my absolute favorite character in the game: Tidus. I hope you enjoy it.


-klik- -klik- -klik- -klik-

The sound of the movement that the monster was making as it walked echoed throughout the entire temple-like area that Tidus was in, was the only warning the blitzbal ace had before the scissor-footed beast attacked him. He didn't know how on earth the killer-monster had found him, and even less of an idea on how to kill the fiend, but that wasn't important right now: Tidus had to put all his efforts into staying alive.

Ducking to the side, Tidus barely managed to evade a slash from the Klikk's two scissors as it's right paw slashed out, followed by it's left. But, because his arm was still slowed down by the weight of the sword Auron had given him, the beast knocked the blade out of the teenager's hand.

"Oh no, this is even worse!" He whined as the now-unarmed boy turned around and ran.

-klik- -klik- -klik- -klik-

But, of course, the beast wasn't satisfied with just disarming the famed blitzer. Now that it's pray was unarmed, the Klikk resumed it's hunt with more fervor then ever.

"Why does this have to happen to me!?" Tidus questioned out loud as he ducked behind a rock. There was a satisfying – dud- sound as the Klikk attacked and hit the rock instead: it had struck with so much force that's it claws were pushed several inches into the rock.

'This is my chance!'

Now that the agile beast wasn't going anywhere, Tidus came out from his cover, ran towards his father's sword and picked it up. Glancing over, he saw the four-clawed monstrosity was still busy removing himself from the rock. Taking advantage of the situation, Tidus charged at the carnivore with his sword raised above his head.

Three meters before he had reached his target, however, the beast managed to pull himself free and charged straight back at Tidus. The Klikk was much faster then Tidus, so he was already in position to skewer the blond, when Tidus brought down his own sword. The red blade that Auron had given him mere hours before clashed against the black claws. The two claws where far stronger then the inexperienced Tidus could handle, forcing him to fall back.

As Tidus lay on his ass, still stunned by the pain from the fall, the Klikk was slowly crawling towards him, savoring the meal to come. As it crouched down, preparing to pounce on the teenager from Zanarkand, the door at the entrance to the chamber suddenly exploded. The blast distracted the Klikk, allowing Tidus to escape and get back up. A piece of the rubble hit the fiend, throwing him back.

Four strangle-dressed people stood in the doorway, three of them armed with guns. They where unlike any guns Tidus had ever seen in Zanarkand – the firearms he was used to usually didn't have blades attached to the barrel – but he was glad all the same. The fourth person stood in front of the others but she – it was clear that this was a girl – didn't carry a gun of any sort. Instead she had several grenades strapped to her waist and a claw-like glove on her hands.

"Oh, boy am I glad to see you!" Tidus exclaimed, but none of his saviors responded. Instead, the girl stepped forward, instantly drawing the attention of the monster that had been hunting Tidus for what seemed like hours.

Upset that his meal had been disrupted, the Klikk charged at the girl, but she didn't even step back. Instead, she waited until the monster was only a few steps away, before she jumped up. Since the Klikk had just attacked her legs, the girl easily hopped over the assault, landing on the beast's claws as they crossed underneath her.

Pinned down, the fiend had no method of escaping as the masked girl pummeled it several times, causing bleedings an the monster's face and neck. Finally smashing himself forward, the beast attempted to free his front paws, but the girl simply jumped back to evade the attack.

Still stunned by the display of fighting that the girl had shown, Tidus couldn't react as the Klikk came rushing towards him again. The girl, seeing an opening, pulled one of the grenades from her belt, pulled the pin out and threw it at the ground just before the fiend. It exploded right as the Klikk stepped over it, blowing the beast to smithereens.

"Hey, thanks for helping me." Tidus said as he got up, but he couldn't continue showing his gratitude.

He was staring at three guns, pointed straight at him.

XxX

Several hours later, Tidus was in his element once again. He was swimming alongside the girl that had saved him earlier, who sounded like she was pretty nice, was the only one who could actually speak his language and wore a nice form-fitting suit. Tidus wasn't about to complain that she always took the lead, making the blond male swim right behind her.

All they had done so far, was diving, swimming underwater and activating a couple of old machines that only needed a few punches to activate. There was one instance when a couple of carnivore fish arrived and attacked them, but the girl showed that her grenades functioned just a swell under the water and blew them all into pieces with one bomb.

Tidus had now managed to activate the searchlights outside the ruins and was on his way out, accompanied by the girl, when suddenly there was a absolutely huge octopus in the next room.

'How the hell did that thing get in here?' Tidus wondered as he pulled his sword out from his belt. He was in the water, which meant he was far more maneuverable then when he was on the land, but he didn't forget that this was the territory and habitat of the octopus. If the blond, or the girl, took a good hit they would lose their oxygen and that wouldn't be good. The octopus didn't have that weakness.

But, despite being an life form that lives in the water, the beast didn't look to quick. There was a huge shell so attacking it in the back was a no-go. And in front, there were all the tentacles to evade.

Tidus quickly looked over at the girl, but she didn't grab her grenades just yet. Glancing at her belt, Tidus saw that she only had two more bomb left: she couldn't risk a foul up and with the tentacles flying around, the chances of the explosive getting thrown aside were too high. So instead, the girl seemed to concentrate for a second before swimming straight at the octopus, while Tidus was going towards the hallway.

'If I can get into the hall, it can't follow me there.' He thought, 'and if he tries, I'll have a clear shot at it's tentacles.'

Just as he reached the doorway, he glanced around and saw that the girl certainly didn't share his idea: she was swimming in between the beast's tentacles, punching where she could and leaving cuts with her gloves on the tentacles. She never kicked, instead using her legs and hips to maneuver through the water as she evaded the tentacles.

'Is she insane? If that thing hits her, she'll lose all her air!' he almost exclaimed. But, as he saw her gracefully swim in between the attacks, Tidus discovered something else: the Tross had it's full attention on the girl, not even bothering to protect it's flank.

Gathering his courage, Tidus pushed himself off form the wall of the ruins and quickly swam around the power-core in the middle of the room, coming up behind the Tross. Pushing himself of from the bottom of the room, Tidus gained speed as he swam right past the tentacles, cutting a few of with his sword in one strike. Using his ability to rotate in the water, as he always did when using his sphere-shot, Tidus pushed off again from the ceiling, attempting to repeat the maneuver. Now, he only got one tentacle cut as the beast swam to the side.

But with one side unprotected, the girl used the opening Tidus had created: just as the Tross lashed out to slam Tidus against a wall, she threw one of her grenades at the now exposed flesh. The Tross swallowed the bomb by accident as it took a fresh gulp of the water to filter the oxygen out.

At the same time as the tentacle made contact with Tidus – who had barely managed to cross his sword and metal-covered arm in front of his chest for protection – the beats exploded from the inside, covering both Tidus and the girl in pieces of octopus as the water around them colored red for a few seconds.

Looking over at him, the girl used the same sign that Tidus' teammates had often used under water: "Are you ok?"

Tidus, still wincing from the pain and fearing for his lack of air, raised his thumb, indicating he needed to go up.

As he exited the ruins, Tidus saw the girl shaking her head, as if she couldn't believe that he already couldn't take it anymore.

XxXx

"When on earth am I going to get some rest in this place?" Tidus questioned himself as he drew his sword, looking at the breathing rock that had placed itself in the middle of the temple's square. "Ever since I got to Spira, it's been nothing but non-stop battling. If it's not gigantic fish with an apatite, it's pissed off Ronso or an overgrown fish that tries to sink my ship."

Fortunately, Wakka and the others were already to far up ahead, having run past the Star Player of the Zanarkand Abes. As soon as the word 'sinspawn' had left Wakka's mouth, Kimahri had pulled out his lance, while Lulu immediately prepared a spell as she started running.

Tidus was left to catch up, seeing what was going on. Lulu shot a fireball from her hands – her preferred opening spell – while Kimahri had jumped up and tried to stab the breathing rock. Yuna was preparing to cast a spell as well, but she was distracted by the gigantic green tentacles that had burst out of the ground behind her.

Wakka threw his blitzbal with the power and accuracy of a pro blitzer, knocking the tentacles back from the young summoner. But at the same time as Wakka hit one set of tentacles, a second set had glowed and drawn in Lulu's fire spell.

"Look out, it's tentacles absorb your magic attacks!" Tidus shouted as he rushed forward. He had only been with the group for a few days, a little over a week, but he felt pretty close to them already. And, of course, he wanted to prove to Lulu and Yuna that he was a good fighter and not some weak little boy that needed protection. Back on the boat, when Sin had attacked them, Tidus had been next to useless. The only thing he could do was hold off the small bug-like beasts that appeared on the boat every once in a while, but Kimahri did a much better job of it then Tidus did.

He had reached Lulu just as one of the tentacles was about to reach for her. Slashing down, Tidus' new sword – a gift from Wakka – cut off several inches of the beast's tentacles.

"I noticed." Lulu said dryly as she began charging another magic spell. "Why don't you try to do something about it then?"

Kimahri had, seemingly, made the some choice as he jumped down from the stone shell of the beast and charged at the base of the tentacle that had attacked Lulu. Slashing twice more, Tidus drove the tentacles back before turning around and running towards the second set. Kimahri wouldn't need the blonde's help and that was fine with Tidus: if possible, he wanted to stay out of the large Ronso's way.

Still running, Tidus had to jump over a thick layer or nasty-looking green gas that the stone beast had breathed out, but he still inhaled some of it by accident. As soon as it entered his airway, Tidus could feel that he had difficulty breathing. His vision was suddenly becoming darker, as he could feel his strength leaving him. He could faintly hear Wakka yelling something, about the green gas that Tidus had just breathed in, but Tidus just couldn't seem to focus. The only thing he could see, where the three large, thick green tentacles coming his way to skewer his chest.

Just before they crashed into his chest, Wakka's blitzbal crashed into them from the side, forcing the tentacles away again. A few seconds later, Tidus could feel a strange sensation and suddenly his strength returned, he didn't have problems breathing anymore and he could clearly see again.

"Are you ok?" Yuna asked as she stood next to him, staff in hand. She had healed his body from the poison that had invaded it. "I think that was all of the poison, but you'd better be careful just in case."

Standing back up, his face beet-red from embarrassment, Tidus nodded once before suddenly grabbing Yuna's shoulder and forcing the both of them to the ground. A second later, the tentacle that Wakka was still trying to finish off, slashed through the air above them. Tidus raised his sword as he covered Yuna, cutting of several inches of the green appendage. As the tentacles withdrew, Tidus got up and rushed at the base of the dangerously flailing tentacles. A part of the tentacles tried to lash out at him, but before it reached Tidus' body, it was burned beyond recognition by another fire spell that Lulu had used. A second tentacle was stopped by Wakka's blitzbal. Slashing at the third tentacle, Tidus finally reached the base of the green appendages.

Grabbing his blade with both hands, Tidus made the strongest horizontal strike he could, but even that couldn't cut through the thick base. Glancing to his left, Tidus saw that Kimahri had already severed the tentacle he had been aiming for, having cut it to pieces with his halberd in the process. Shifting his weight, Tidus struck again. This time, his sword got through to half the tentacle. Another two strikes and Tidus had finally managed to break through the thick trunk. Shooting out spurts of green blood, the remains of the tentacle drew underground.

Making sure not to get anywhere near the green substance, Tidus jumped back as the large rock opened up and increased it's size even more. It turned out that the rock was, in fact, a large plant-like green being with another two set of tentacles. These tentacles were attached to it's shoulders, meaning they'd be that much harder to cut. But it was it's strange 3-part mouth that Tidus was wondering about.

'That thing looks bug enough to eat me up in one bite. And I'm already tired…'

But there was no need for Tidus to engage the beast right away. As the newby from Zanarkand stepped back a bit, Lulu and Wakka combined their attacks and successfully distracted the gigantic beast. Lulu had cast a thunder spell on the plant's head, stunning it for a second, while Wakka had hit it in the chest as hard as he could.

Genaux didn't pull back from the hit, but the skin that Wakka's ball had marked was already beginning to change collar. Picking up his sword again, Tidus prepared to charge into battle, but there was no need: Yuna yelled something and the other Guardians suddenly stepped back.

Now that Yuna was no longer distracted by the tentacles, she had performed her summoning ritual and already the bird-like Aeon, Valefor, was descending from the sky. As soon as the mighty summon had arrived, it's wings started glowing and it released a shockwave that threw the sinspawn's head back. In quick succession, it fired two spells, burning away some of Genaux's tentacles. Valefor shot up in the air, avoiding a vomit-like attack of the Sinspawn, and crashed down a second later, scratching the sinspawn's face and chest badly with it's talons and beak.

But the agile avian was not fast enough to draw back before Genaux slapped it across it's body with the remaining tentacles. Slapping back with his wings, Valefor managed to escape the beating, but it was clear it had taken it's toll on the bird.

The sinspawn set out another of it's vomit-like toxic attacks, this time proceeded by a heavy barrage of tentacle assaults, preventing the Aeon from escaping: the strong acid made contact with Valefor's stomach and forced it to the ground. Leaning forward, Genaux prepared to stab the Aeon all over it's body, when the grounded bird suddenly let out a thin yet strong beam of energy straight into the chest of the Sinspawn.

The pain of the beam forced Genaux back, screaming in pain. Kimahri used the opening to jump up and land his lance through Genaux's skull, while Wakka smashed it's face in from the front with his blitzbal. Lulu had, seconds before the two male Guardians attacked, used a blizzard spell to nearly freeze the Sinspawn's head: the combined force of the attacks form the Guardians, along with the explosion that resulted from Valefor's Energy Ray, finally killed the Sinspawn.

A few seconds later, everyone was still breathing hard from the taxing fight. Valefor had already been dismissed, letting the Aeon recover from the injuries it had received, while the others all gathered near each other. No-one looked more confused, or exhausted, then Tidus.

"What was that?" he asked, leaning on his sword to catch his breath.

"A sinspawn." Lulu explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Sin carries them, and leaves them in his wake."

"You have to get rid of them quick, otherwise Sin comes back for them, ya." Wakka added.

"That thing was tough!" Tidus exclaimed as he stood up and reattached his blade to his belt.

"Yeah, but I have to say: you handled yourself pretty well today." Wakka complimented Tidus. "Who knows, you might make a good Guardian some day, ya?"

Tidus didn't respond instead following after Kimahri and Lulu, who were already ascending the stairs, but was surprised when Yuna suddenly walked beside him. Looking at the brown-haired girl, Tidus saw that she was looking straight at him. They both stopped at the same time.

"Ehm, thank you for saving me." The shy summoner asked, bowing to the blond as she spoke.

"Ah, it was nothing." Tidus replied, scratching the back of his head in surprise. "It sort of happened and I do owe you guys a lot. It was the least I could do to try and help out, wasn't it?"

"Still, thank you." Yuna said, smiling at him before continuing to climb the stairs. Before going after her, Tidus suddenly realized something.

'She's cute when she smiles. Then again, she's pretty cute normally too.'

XxX

"How long are you going to be sulking like that?" Auron asked, not even looking over his shoulder. Some ten feet behind him, Tidus was indeed sulking as he followed his longtime mentor and friend.

"Well excuse me!" Tidus said with heavy sarcasm and even more obvious annoyance. "What do you expect me to do? Jump around and be happy after you dropped that bombshell?"

"At least you know the truth now." Auron simply replied, pulling to a sudden stop. Tidus followed his example, realizing they where now in the middle of the crowded square in Luca, the same one where he had looked for Auron earlier.

"Who said I wanted to know it?!"

"No-one did. I just thought you would prefer the truth over a lie."

The simple response shut Tidus up. It was true, he did hate lies… but there was another something that had worried him: if Jecht really was Sin then, right now, Yuna was on a pilgrimage to set out and kill Jecht. And Auron was going to offer to join them… which pretty much left Tidus without a choice: he would have to go with Auron or lose his only connection with Zanarkand, as well as his only friends in this unknown world. But, going with them also meant that he, Tidus, would go looking for methods to kill his own father. Sure, he hated the guy, but kill him?

"How are you doing with your sword?" Auron asked, pulling Tidus out of his thoughts. "I noticed back in the stadium that you're wielding it a lot easier then you used to."

Shocked by the sudden question, it took Tidus a second to recover.

"Oh yeah, I've been fighting a lot of fiends since I arrived here. So far though, my most memorable fight is with Wakka, when we fought a Sinspawn underwater. We really kicked that overgrown squid's butt! That thing couldn't even get close to us, we where swimming circles around it!"

"Show me." Auron simply stated.

"What?"

"Pull out your sword and show me your improvement." Auron repeated.

"We're in the middle of the square, don't you think people might think it's a bit strange if we suddenly start fighting here?"

"They're used to fighting. Unlike Zanarkand, fights are quite regular in Spira, or hadn't you noticed that yet?"

"Even so, don't you think it's a bit strange for us to suddenly start attacking each other?"

"I don't plan on charging at you, if that's what you mean. You'll be the one to do the attacking today."

This surprised Tidus. Was the old man really that confident in his skills?

"Why aren't you going to attack?"

"I never said that. I just said I'm not going to charge at you. I want to see just how good you really are. You can tell me stories all day, but I won't believe any of it until you show me. And I can't really see anything if you get smashed against the floor in a few seconds now can I? Aside from that, I think it's high time you learn a lesson in humility."

"Excuse me?!" Tidus exclaimed in outrage.

"Although you're already far less arrogant then when you left Zanarkand, you still think much to highly of yourself. Getting some public humiliation should help out, don't you agree?"

'Alright, now he's simply mocking me!' Tidus thought with outrage.

"That's it old man, your going to get some humility yourself!" in one swift movement, Tidus had pulled the Brotherhood from his belt, grasped it with both hands and charged forward. Auron didn't move or flinch, his arm instead going to the grasp of the large Katana attached to his back. Without first bringing it into a position in front of him, the Legendary Guardian swung it down, forcing Tidus to sidestep and break of his attack. The strike was strong enough to crack the stone they where standing up and send a small cloud of dust flying.

As soon as Tidus had yelled out, the people around them seemed to have noticed what was going on and quickly formed a large circle around them, watching the fight with interest. Taking a step back, Tidus held his sword in one hand again, as he usually did, and charged forward. From the corner of his eye, he could see the two large Ronso that Kimahri had been fighting with in the bar, looking over the humans with ease.

But Tidus didn't pay any attention. He hadn't realized how much he needed an outlet before, but now that he had something to focus his anger and aggression towards, he was more focused then ever before. He was upon Auron in a second, his sword raised above his head to strike the red-coated man in the chest.

-Cling-

Without any problem, Auron parried the blow with his own sword, holding it above his head. The force of the block actually forced the former Blitzbal Player back a step, but he didn't let it falter him. Slashing again, this time on waist height, Tidus tried again.

It had the same effect.

Time and time again, the blond attacked, trying to land a hit on his mentor, who was now starting to look bored.

Taking a few steps back to catch his breath, Tidus' eyes never left Auron. If there was at least one thing he had learned about fighting since arriving, it's that you always had to keep an eye on where your opponent was. But like he had said, Auron didn't charge at the young blond. Instead he simply stood there, large sword swung over one shoulder, his other hand still in his coat.

Tidus wasn't even enough of a challenge to make Auron use both his hands. That was what really got to Tidus.

"Stop messing with me!" he yelled as he charged once again. Just before he reached the range where he would normally attack – a distance he had become familiar with after missing his hits or messing up his strikes in a lot of fights with fiends – Tidus jumped up and flipped in the air. Aside from looking really impressive, the maneuver added a lot of speed behind the sword strike, as well as allowing Tidus to use his full weight. He had, in fact, used this aerial attack to defeat quite a few fiends.

As he was in the air, Tidus also noticed the tell-tale red spike of hair that indicated Wakka was watching. Great, just what he needed: Wakka wouldn't let Tidus ever live it down if he was defeated without landing a hit…

Determined to make Auron pay for kicking the star player's ass, Tidus swung his sword down to Auron's unarmed side.

The blade never even made it even close to Auron's shoulder.

As soon as Tidus was within Auron's range, which was considerably longer then Tidus', the senior warrior had swung his own sword with all his might, blunt side first. He caught Tidus in his completely unprotected stomach, forcing all the air out of the blonde's body, and sent him flying a good twenty feet before Tidus forcibly came to a stop.

Right against Kimahri's legs.

'Aah, man that hurt!' Tidus thought to himself as he still struggled for breath on the ground. Even without moving, he could already feel the bruise that was beginning to form. 'I can't believe I lost like that! I didn't even hit him… and he only hit me once…'

"I hope that was an eye-opener for you." Auron said as he placed the sword back on his back. Still wincing, Tidus slowly got back up.

"More like you tried to close them, did you try to kill me or something?"

"Not at all, I went easy on you. Now get up, we have important business to attend."

"Just gimme a minute to catch my breath, jeez."

With some effort, Tidus finally managed to pull himself up and took a few deep breaths. Behind him, Kimahri and Wakka had already slipped away into the crowd, satisfied that the blond wasn't actually in any problems.

"At the least, you've made some reliable friends while you've been here." Auron commented as he watched the top of red hair, followed by the large blue frame of the Ronso, leaving. "They looked ready to interfere if things turned serious. Those are the sort of friends you need."

"Yeah, I know. Wakka's a great guy, and I suppose Kimahri's cool as well. But I still wished I was back in Zanarkand." The bruised athlete said, rubbing his still-numb behind.

"Understandable. Now let's go, I'm going to offer Yuna my services."

"Yeah, you already said so. So let's go."

Without saying another word, the two sword-wielders set off. Tidus was still angry at what Auron had told him about his father, but far less so then ten minutes ago. He also had a fresh bruise and aching muscles to distract him from the anger. Auron, on the other hand, didn't even look like he'd done anything other then walking.

"You need to learn to control yourself." The scared warrior suddenly said as he ascended the stone steps that led to the Highroad. "Your speed is one of your greatest strengths, along with your flexibility. Both are born from your training as a Blitzbal player. Don't forget that, you should always play by your strengths."

"Huh? What'd you mean Auron?" Tidus asked, surprised by the explanation.

"I mean that your movements and attacks all have a good speed, so you should keep using it. Focus your style on speed and you can compensate for your natural lack of weight and strength. In the meantime, you'll need to gain more combat experience, increase your skills with a sword, learn to switch tactics and gain some more power behind your attacks. All crucial skills to surviving in Spira, and all of them you can gain by fighting often. So, whenever we have the chance, you and I will fight each other so you can grow stronger."

"You just want to beat me up all the time, don't you Auron?"

"It's not always about what happens to you, Tidus. Sometimes, there are other reasons involved as well."

XxX

"Oh man, I'm glad we could stay here." Tidus told Wakka as he sat down next to the former captain of the – now champion – Besaid Aurochs. "No worries while sleeping, a nice bed to stay in and a good breakfast before we head out. Sounds like a good plan, don't you agree?"

"Maybe, but I don't like the fact that we're staying with the Al-bhed." The redhead replied, sitting with his back against the wall. "As far as I'm concerned, they shouldn't even be here. Why can Sir Auron stay with them like this, after what they've already pulled earlier, ya?"

"I don't think Auron's worried about that Wakka, he seemed to know that Rin guy. You know, the boss of this place?" Tidus replied, looking at the sunset. "And besides, not all Al-bhed are bad, right? I mean, sure the ones who you played blitz against where not that good, but then again, those Luca Goers where a piece of work as well, weren't they?"

"I don't like the Luca Goers anymore then you do, brudda, but at least they always play by the rules. And they don't use machina like the Al-bhed ya."

"But," a third voice suddenly cut in, "behind their masks and machina, the Al-bhed are just as human as you are. They may not believe in Yevon like you do, but they also wish for a free world, a world without Sin. Just like you, they've lost a lot to Sin and they are trying to stop it from ruining the lives of the future generations." Looking up, both blitzers saw Auron standing there, one hand still in his sleeve.

"Hey Auron, what're you doing over here? I thought you'd go to bed early, since you where so tired and all." Tidus asked playfully, teasing the veteran warrior.

"No, I'm going to bed in a few minutes, but first you have to draw your sword. We're going to fight again."

"What? But Auron, we've been traveling and fighting all day! I'm tired, I'm in no condition to fight you right now." The star player whined. Next to him, Wakka didn't say anything, instead he simply grinned.

"Exactly." The katana-wielder replied. "Because you are tired now we will fight. You should train on how to fight in your worst condition, not your best. There will hardly ever be any chances that you'll fight in your best condition. Now draw your sword, or I'll simply attack you."

"Alright, fine. I knew you just wanted to beat me up…" the blond mumbled as he stood up and lifted his sword up. When he had sat down, he had put the Brotherhood next to him on the grass. He still remembered Wakka's lecture – which had lasted through the entire walk in the Killika Woods – about always keeping your weapon close. Tidus had, on that occasion, left his sword in his hotel room, because he thought that they'd simply meet up and talk, not actually travel all the way to the temple.

The two sword-wielders stood in the middle of the high-road, nearly empty now that it was dusk, and stared at each other. again, Auron didn't even remove his left arm from his coat, instead holding the sword with his right. Apparently, he thought that Fiends were more dangerous then Tidus was.

From the sidelines, all the others were also watching. Yuna and Lulu where sitting at the cliff, right where Tidus had left Yuna when he talked to her. Kimahri, who had been standing at the foot of the hill, looked over at the match with interest. Wakka stood up and simply kept grinning. He still remembered seeing Tidus get his ass whooped big-time in Luca

'Ok Tidus, think for a second.' The blitzbal ace thought. 'I already know a frontal attack won't work on Auron, and I'm no match for him in strength, so I can't knock his sword away either. But Auron said that my speed is my greatest advantage, so I should use my speed. I'll see if I can hit him and get out before he can respond. Not the bravest idea I've ever had, but let's see if it works.'

Gripping the Brotherhood tightly, Tidus made a quick dash forward. As soon as he was in range, Auron swung his sword down, intend on knocking Tidus to the floor. But the slow strike was already predicted and the blond sidestepped it while still continuing his rush. A step later, Tidus slashed out at Auron, aiming at his still covered and defenseless left side, but the veteran stepped out of the way and slashed at Tidus' back.

But Tidus hadn't stopped, instead he had continue his running and only turned around when he was well outside Auron's range. Without stopping, Tidus span around on his left foot before running back towards Auron and attacking again. This time, Auron's blade met with Tidus, but before Auron could overpower the younger fighter, Tidus was gone again. Again, Tidus span around and attacked. Auron evaded and countered, but Tidus had already escaped and turned around again.

Prepared for him this time, Auron suddenly jumped up, easily evading Tidus' next attack and surprising the blond. Pointing the point of his sword towards the ground, Auron aimed at the ground. Realizing that Auron was, in fact, about to use one of his special attacks, Tidus quickly jumped at him, sword raised. As the tip of Auron's blade touched the ground, there where bursts of energy at various places that Tidus had been before. Just before Tidus could attack Auron, a burst of energy erupted from underneath him, sending the blond out of course.

Using his training from Blitzbal, Tidus managed to stabilize himself in mid-flight and landed on his feet, but Auron was after him as soon as he touched down. Tidus raised his sword to block the initial swing, but Auron's large and heavy Katana easily knocked the light Brotherhood aside and threw Tidus off-balance. Auron quickly followed up on his attack by making a horizontal slash, aimed at Tidus' chest, but by jumping backward and raising his left arm to defend himself the blond managed to prevent himself from being cut in two. But, in exchange for escaping relatively unharmed, Tidus' left arm was now hurting like hell: Auron had nearly broken the bones with his one-handed strike.

Auron jumped after his target, but Tidus was quicker: again the blond jumped back and stayed out of the range of the red-coated warrior. Taking a second to catch his breath and think of a plan, Tidus crouched down, his sword held diagonally in front of him so he could quickly react if needed. Auron, in response, held his sword at his side at hip level. Even now, he wasn't using his left arm at all, showing just how much stronger he was.

'Guess Wakka doesn't call him a legend for nothing.' Tidus thought as he could already feel the sweat sliding down his face and back. Mimicking Auron's stance, Tidus leant forward and, using the gravity to help his initial acceleration, dashed towards Auron. Auron did the same thing, although he twisted his sword so the point was aimed directly at Tidus. As soon as he was in range, Auron stabbed the sword forward, perfectly preventing himself from losing balance while using his maximum range, but Tidus had jumped just a second before. airborne, the blitzbal player twisted himself around, intend on using the same attack that Auron defeated so easily last time.

But now, Auron didn't have time to counter it so he pulled back his sword while twisting himself around. He blocked the full-weight strike that the junior Guardian used, stepped aside and threw Tidus back with his brute force. Taking advantage of Tidus' moment of inability to fight back, Auron span around again, slashing wide. This time, his blade did find it's mark. Tidus screamed out as the point of Auron's sword cut open his lower back, just below his shirt.

Crashing on his belly into the ground, Tidus still moaned in pain, but Auron walked over, stopping Yuna in her tracks. Using his sword as a makeshift cane, Tidus slowly managed to force himself back up, pain obvious on his features. Auron stood still, just outside his own attack range, and looked at the Son of Jecht. Looking him over, he realized that the blond really was at his limit.

"Good." He said, his eyes never leaving Tidus'. "You used your speed to your advantage this time, and you also varied in your attacks. Keep this up and soon you'll be able to really cal yourself a Guardian. That move you tried right at the beginning, try to save it for later in a fight: it might make the difference between win and lose in later battles. But the attack was good, as was your acrobatic move to add power to your strike. Now get Yuna to heal you and get ready to leave early tomorrow."

Placing his sword on his back again, Auron turned around and glanced over at Yuna. He gave her a nod and the young summoner rushed over to attend to her most junior Guardian. As Tidus lay on the ground, he looked at Auron and could have sworn he saw the red-caped man smile before Yuna's blue robe blocked his vision.

'I knew it, Auron does love to beat me up…' he thought, just before he felt relieve wash over him as Yuna's spell closed up his wounds and then started fixing the bruise on his arm.

XxX

Although he was exhausted, Wakka couldn't really sleep this night. He was exhausted, but at the same time, his body just couldn't fall asleep: Operation Mi'ihen was still haunting him, the image of Sin so close and nearly dying. The fear of being affected by the Toxin, the fear of the others being affected by the Toxin. All the Machina that where there to try and kill Sin.

It made him think of Chappu again.

And thinking of Chappu, made Wakka thing of the conversation he'd had with Luzu. Luzu, who was now dead… Luzu, who had always been a friend of Wakka and Chappu, who had always looked after them when they where in trouble.

Luzu, who had led Chappu to his death…

"Aargh, I need to get some air, ya. Staying inside is going to drive me crazy." The redhead exclaimed, although no-one responded. Grabbing his heavy-weighted, battle-formed Blitzbal from the floor, the former captain left the room he shared with Kimahri. As a Summoner and her Guardians, the group had been granted special chambers within the temple. Of course, Lulu and Yuna slept in one room, across the hallway, and Sir Auron and Tidus shared a room together, next to Wakka and Kimahri's.

Shortly pausing outside the girls' room, Wakka listened to see if Yuna and Lulu where back yet. The well-known soft snoring that came from Yuna, along with the slow, deep breaths that belonged to Lulu, told Wakka he had nothing to worry about. Then again, the fact that Kimahri was asleep was also a hint: the Ronso never left Yuna's side unless he was sure the summoner was safe.

Strolling past the other rooms, Wakka quickly found the exit of the temple. The lightning that flew around the room lighted up the entrance chamber, so Wakka wouldn't have to worry about bumping into anything on his way out. Who knows, maybe Gatta was still outside and the two could talk a bit… but then, their prime subject of conversation would, no doubt, be Luzu so Wakka would still not be able to calm down.

Oh well, he could always just go walk around the temple grounds, stretching his legs.

But just as he exited out the temple door, Wakka was surprised at what he saw. The bright blue blade he knew so well swung through the dark night sky, before being pulled back and slashing vertically this time. Turning his head around, Wakka could have sworn that he had seen Chappu standing there, but when the lightning ran around the temple again, he recognized the figure as Tidus, not Chappu.

'Of course not, Chappu is dead. He won't come back.'

Wakka didn't make a sound, instead watching Tidus attack the air in front of him with an intensity he hadn't seen before. This time, Tidus stabbed his sword forward before continuing it in a slash and finishing the move by dashing after his imaginary opponent and attacking again. The next strike, he made a vertical slash upwards, following it with a second strike, aimed towards the ground. Without missing a beat, the blond jumped up, spun around and performed his Spiral Cut - as he called it – on the air.

As he landed again, Tidus could see Wakka looking at him from next to the door. His mouth formed a o-shape, while the rest of his features made it clear that the blond was embarrassed about being found out.

"Yo man, what're you doing, ya? Shouldn't you go sleep, we'll leave early in the morning." The former Blitzbal captain said, ignoring the fact that he should also be asleep.

"Look who's talking!" Tidus countered, swinging his sword in the air again, assuming his stance once more. "Shouldn't you go to sleep as well, Wakka? Don't want your aim to be off tomorrow do you?"

"Yeah, maybe. But I can't really go to sleep, ya." Wakka said as he walked a bit closer. "After everything that happened today… my head just won't stop working."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. I can't really sleep either, so I'm out here." Apparently satisfied, Tidus stopped swinging at the air and placed the sword back on his belt. "Wanna grab something to drink? I filled my canteen with water when we got to the temple, maybe it'll help us calm down."

"Yeah, good idea. But what where you doing man?" Wakka asked as he sat down on a rock near the entrance of the temple.

"It's called training, a lot of people do it. It's supposed to increase your skills and makes you stronger. Never heard of it?" Tidus remarked with some sarcasm, passing the canteen to Wakka.

"It's not about that, ya. It's just that I've never seen you do anything like training. I mean, not really training, you pretty much just fight the fiends with us and spar with Sir Auron to get stronger, right?" taking a gulp of water, he passed the item back to Tidus who also drank before speaking.

"More like I get grinded into the ground by him every chance he gets. But yeah, I wanted to fight with Auron again, but he was already asleep. I needed to get some stress relieve, so I thought I'd try training like Kimahri always does. Taking swings at the air and it really does calm me down."

"I hear ya."

For a few minutes the two sat in silence, before Wakka started spinning his blitzbal on the ground. Staring at the activity with interest for a few seconds, Tidus reached out to grab the ball and play with it for a bit, calming his nerves. Wakka handed him the ball, but when Tidus grabbed it, he realized that the weapon was far heavier then any other blitzbal he'd ever held.

"Wow, this thing is pretty heavy, compared to a normal blitzbal" he commented.

"Of course it is, ya." Wakka said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "It's a weapon, not a game ball. The game balls are just a bit heaver then water, the weapon balls are a lot heavier. A lot of people use them as weapons, though: it allows them to train for the game, while also arming themselves against fiends. You never thought it was odd that there was such a large variation of Blitzbal weapons available?"

"Well, this was the first time I really wondered about it actually. I just thought you used a game ball and threw it really hard. But this also explains why your passes are so hard, even underwater. Might be a good idea for me as well…" Tidus thought as he took another swing of water.

"I don't think you should brotta." Wakka said with sincerity. "You've gotten pretty good with your sword by now and it's more important that we have another close-up fighter to draw attention from the fiends then it is for another long-range attacker like me. Yuna, Lulu and I can handle fiends from a distance, but when they're up close, we can't really do anything. That's what you, Kimahri and Sir Auron are for right? Fighting the fiends up close and keeping them off our back."

"Yeah, I suppose so. Still, wouldn't hurt to try it out once in a while, just for some variation..."

"Don't stop using your sword now, maybe you could try to use a blitzbal move in some of your other attacks? A team-up attack with me. With your kicks, my toss and the heavy ball, that'll cause some real pain, ya."

"You know what, Wakka. That IS a good idea…"

XxX

"Y-y-you guys must think I'm path-AARGH!" Rikku shouted as she gripped Tidus' shoulder even tighter when the sound of roaring thunder was heard again.

For his part, Tidus didn't say anything, instead trying to comfort Rikku who was nearly in tears. Wakka, however, had no problems with teasing the hyper blond.

As the former captain of the Besaid Aurochs grabbed Rikku's sides and starting tickling her, Tidus' arm was released from the death-grip that Rikku had on it. Since both Wakka and Rikku where now making wild trashing movements as they tried to tickle each other to death, Tidus looked around.

Lulu was sitting in a corner, talking with Kimahri, no doubt the two of them where discussing the subject of Seymour's sudden proposal to Yuna. Auron was leaning against a wall just behind the two and, seeing that Tidus was now free, he stood up and walked over to him.

"AARGH!" Rikku screamed again as lighting pierced the sky once more. "Do we really have to stay here? Can't we hurry!?" she quickly asked when she saw Auron.

"You're the one who wanted to get inside and now you want to continue on?" Auron asked with a hint of amusement. "Well, we can't. Yuna has already retired for the night and we have some other business to attend first." As he said the last part, Auron pointed at Tidus, indicating just who had some business left to do. Tidus let out a sigh as he knew what was going to happen. "We won't be gone for long."

"Wait! What're you going to do? And why are you going outside in this storm!?" Rikku said, almost bouncing up and down with excitement and curiosity.

"Oh it's nothing." Tidus said, picking up his sword from the wall. "Auron wants to beat me up again. He does that every once in a while when he needs to vent. I've gotten pretty good at not getting beaten up in five minutes."

"It's sparring." Kimahri said, also coming over from the table. "Not beating up. Crossing blades allows you to grow stronger. Already you are much stronger then before. Sparring and training help become even stronger."

"Yeah, maybe that's true." Tidus admitted while putting his shield in place. "But that doesn't mean Auron doesn't keep beating me into the ground."

"That's only because you can't learn how to concentrate in a fight." The red-coated warrior replied, walking over to the door. "Are you ready?"

"Of course." Tidus replied as he opened the door and stepped outside.

"That went surprisingly easy." Lulu suddenly said, having also moved towards the group. "Normally he would always complain about being tired or something. Or at least make an objection, not just go along like that."

"Well, it's been a while since they last dueled. They haven't sparred since Operation Mi'ihen." Wakka added. "Tidus has been a lot more serious after he saw what Sin was really capable of."

"You guys where at Operation Mi'ihen?" Rikku suddenly said, nearly jumping Wakka. "I wanted to go there as well, but my dad didn't let me. He almost kept me locked up while the whole thing was going on!"

"And a good thing too." Auron suddenly stated, still standing in the opening of the door. "Mi'ihen was a failure, you shouldn't have been there. If you had been, there's a good chance you would have died and you never could have joined us."

Without waiting for a reply, the senior guardian pulled the door close behind him and stepped out into the pouring rain.

Tidus was standing some fifty feet away from the Agency, sword in hand and ready for battle. The rain had already soaked him, but he didn't show any signs of being cold.

'Good, he's learning to toughen up.'

Auron continued to walk forward, freeing his left arm as he went, so he was also soaked by the time the two swordsman where within striking distance.

"Let's go." Auron said, gripping the handle of his katana with both hands.

"Oh yeah." Tidus agreed, crouching down in his own stance.

Lulu, Kimahri, Wakka and even Rikku walked out of the Agency door to watch the fight, but the four Guardians all stayed under the small piece of cover from the rain that the building offered. Rikku was standing behind Wakka, acting as if he would be a living wall for the lighting, looking extremely nervous.

For once, Tidus didn't charge in to take the initiative. Instead, he stayed back, stepping a bit to the side. Auron stepped aside as well, so there was still the same distance between them. Again they stepped to the side, keeping an even distance while checking each other out. Auron lowered his blade, keeping it on level with his hip and parallel to the ground. Suddenly, as Rikku yelled out in fright again, there was a bright flash of lightening, accompanied by the roaring of thunder, and Auron made his move.

Stepping forward, Auron made a low slashing movement, cutting up the ground and causing a cloud of dust before the blade was near Tidus' position. Or at least, his old position. As soon as Auron had stepped forward, Tidus had stepped to the right, moving behind Auron's main arm to prevent him from switching hands and retaliating.

Holding out his armored hand against the back of Auron's sword to lessen any chance of the senior warrior countering, Tidus quickly closed in and slashed forward. Not taking any chances, Auron quickly made a few steps backward to evade the strike. But Tidus didn't stop there.

Before Auron had a chance to properly gain his balance, the pro blitzer was on him, striking again and again. But Auron could still turn his sword around fast enough to block and parry the lightning quick strikes of the blond, although it left him with little chance for a counterattack. Taking another step back, Auron finally found his balance and took a risky swing at Tidus. The junior guardian only barely got his arm up in time to protect his neck, but had to jump back to prevent breaking his arm.

Auron jumped after him, returning the favor by cornering him as well. Even though Auron's attacks where much slower then Tidus', there was little chance to get a counterattack in between them. So Tidus did the next best thing: while blocking he slowly inched his way forward, making it harder for Auron to take swings at him because he got too close. Well inside Auron's range of attack, far to close for the veteran to be comfortable, Tidus pushed the Brotherhood along the length of Auron's blade after he had blocked yet another attack. Flipping his sword around, Auron deflected the attack just a second before it would have taken off his thumb. With Tidus' sword knocked aside, Auron immediately stepped forth and punched the blond in the gut who, having not expected the punch, doubled over in pain and shock.

Quickly spinning around once, Auron slammed the flat of his sword into Tidus' chest, sending the blond flying backwards and letting him crash on his back, coughing loudly.

"Hey, since when do you punch? I thought we where having a sword fight?" Tidus complained as he sat up, still breathing difficult but quickly recovering.

"I've never said anything of the sort. Do you think another enemy would be so kind to only attack you with a weapon when they have another option?" Auron returned, not moving yet.

"That's kinda low…" Tidus complained, finally regaining his normal breathing and standing up. "But if that's the way you want to play…"

Tidus raised his left hand to eye level, focusing his energy. Knowing that Tidus was up to something, Auron immediately got into a battle stance, holding his sword out in front of him with both hands. In a second, Tidus had finished his chanting and released his spell.

"Haste!"

As the spell coated Tidus in a small glowing layer, he dashed forward, twice as fast as before. He was upon Auron before the Legendary Guardian had expected it and, in one swift movement, slashed and ran past him. Auron was barely in time to stop Tidus from slashing him in the chest. But now Tidus was standing behind him and came running again. Lacking the time to fully turn around, Auron jumped forward, spinning in the jump to clash blades with Tidus again.

The magic spell boosting his speed to levels that Auron would never be able to keep up with, Tidus rushed forth, literally running circles around the red-coated man and slashing whenever he could. But Auron was not so easily overcome: spinning around and swinging his sword in an arc to disrupt Tidus' dash while parrying a strike, forcing the blond to back off. But even from a distance, Tidus didn't stop his attack.

Focusing again, Tidus guided energy into his sword, making it glow. Seeing it and recognizing the attack, Auron quickly grabbed his jug, took a large gulp of the drink inside it and spat it out on his blade. Immediately rings started glowing along the length of the blade, forming magical projectiles. Auron swung his sword down, sending several large balls shooting forward, at the same time as Tidus swung his blade forward, releasing a rain of energy waves.

The rain of energy slashed with the large balls that Auron had released, causing a small explosion, which hid the two fighters from each other's sight. But before Auron had a chance to return to his stance and circle around the explosion, he suddenly saw a shadow in the cloud of the explosion. A shadow that was holding a sword in his right hand, the left raised at eyelevel to concentrate a new spell.

Tidus, still glowing yellow form his Haste spell, burst out of the blast, raising his hand towards Auron and releasing his spell before the older man had a chance to retaliate.

"Slow!"

Immediately, Auron felt his body slow down. He could still see and hear everything normally, but his body wasn't reacting as fast as it normally would have. As a result of the sudden slowness of his body, Auron couldn't raise his weapon in time to parry Tidus' attack.

After releasing his spell, Tidus continued in one fluid motion, making a clean slashing movement towards Auron.

- splash -

Blood flew through the sky, as Tidus moved past his mentor, the tip of his normally blue blade now coated in red: the blood of Auron.

'I can't believe it, I hit Auron! I did it, I actually hit him!'

Tidus could barely contain himself from letting out a dance of joy: he had never seen the Legendary Guardian really take a hit from anyone. This was the first time since Auron had joined their group that he had suffered an injury.

"Don't let your guard down just because you've managed to scratch your opponent." Auron's voice came from behind the blond. Very closely behind him.

At once Tidus jumped forward, away from Auron, and tried to turn around in mid-air, but it was already to late.

Auron's blade slammed into his back with tremendous force, slamming the former blitzbal player into a mud pool on the ground and actually making him bounce up once.

Satisfied with the match for that day, Auron placed his Katana on his back again, turning towards the agency. As he tried to get back up, Tidus could clearly see where he had hit Auron: the blood was still flowing from the deep cut on the man's left shoulder. It may not have been a critical hit, he had been able to actually land a hit on Auron.

'It's definitely a massive improvement,' Tidus thought, 'considering that no two months ago, he totally humiliated me in Luca.'

With some effort, Tidus got back on his feet, his outfit now completely soaked and his back in serious pain. Not making any sound other then a small exhale of his breath when he felt his spine pop back into place, Tidus made his way towards the Agency.

"Guess I'd better go look for Yuna." He said to himself as he closed in. "I'll need to have some of these bruises fixed."

As Tidus entered the door to the Agency, he didn't see Auron suddenly start chuckling, looking at the blonde's back with a hint of a smile.

XxX

"Where am I?" Tidus asked himself as he moved out of the small body of water he had woken up in. "And where are the others? Where's Yuna?"

"The last thing I can remember is that we where underneath Makalania Temple. We killed Seymour, then that big muscle-head smashed the lake, and we landed on… wait, we where standing on Sin! Where did he take the others? I've got to find them!"

Taking a sip, Tidus discovered that the water he had been floating in was, in fact, sweet and drinkable, so he quickly filled up a bottle before turning around and facing the desert that stretched ahead.

"But where do I start? If I go in a random direction, I might get lost and never find them."

Standing on a nearby rock to improve his vision, Tidus peered all around.

"What's that, over there?" he asked himself when he saw something shine. Upon closer inspection, he could have sworn he saw something move that wasn't part of the natural flora and faune of a desert as far as he knew: a flash of red.

"Wakka! Well that's a start."

Stepping off the rock, Tidus picked up and buckled his weapon before beginning to move towards Wakka. He wanted to run full-speed – Wakka had certainly seemed close enough to do that – but it would burn him out, especially in this heat.

But after half an hour of walking, Tidus still had almost a third of the distance to clear.

"Guess the sand messes with my depth perception or something." Tidus muttered as he took a small zip from the water, the first since leaving the oasis.

"Giyaah!"

Hearing the loud cry behind him, Tidus could turn around just in time to duck as a large Zuu dived at him, biting with it's massive beak. Now that it had missed his target, the Zuu landed and slowly turned around, ready to kill it's pray.

As soon as he had drawn his weapon, preparing for a fight with the monster, Tidus was suddenly overtaken by something else. Everything that had happened in the last few months came back to him as he felt a large tension going over his body.

Being abducted from his home as it was destroyed, meeting a new friend and losing her right away, being forced to fight for his life. Meeting Yuna. The first battle against Sin, the frustration at his own inability to defend himself, instead having to depend on the others and being of no use at all. Meeting Auron, being humiliated time and time again. Learning the truth about his father being Sin. Seeing all those brave people die at Operation Mi'ihen.

The thought of Yuna going to marry that despicable Seymour, the confusion about his father's confession on the Sphere, being angry at Wakka for being so rude to Rikku just because of her birth, Rikku's weird brother for endangering Yuna, the rage – and on a certain level, jealousy – at Seymour for killing his own father and betraying so many people. Then fleeing from the other Guado, fighting more monsters while they where still exhausted from facing Seymour and his Aeon.

But at the same time, he felt the familiar rage towards his father rising, thinking of how his father had separated him from his friends, how he didn't know where Yuna was. What if something had happened to her? For a few seconds, Tidus' blood boiled as he prepared for battle.

"Bring it on you oversized chicken!" he taunted. "You'll be perfect for releasing some of this stress."

Rushing forward, Tidus took a quick slash at the avian's wing, causing a large wound to appear in the wing and stopping any possibility of flight.

'There's now way you're going back into the air to attack me from above!'

In retaliation and reflex, the Zuu drew it's wing to it's body, hoping to crush the blond swordsman at the same time, but Tidus was too quick. He had already moved past the wing, slashing at the bird's paws to reduce it's stability, and jumping on it's back. The bird tried to shake him off, but Tidus stabbed his sword into the soft flesh of it's back and held on.

While still shaking, the Zuu turned it's flexible neck around so it was staring straight at Tidus, ready to lash out again. Quickly going over his options, Tidus pulled his sword out of the Zuu's back, jumped up and spun around in mid-air. The jump allowed him to dodge the bite by a hair, but it was all Tidus needed. Using his spin to gain extra power as he had done more often then he cared to count, Tidus aimed his sword at the Zuu's neck to decapitate the monster and finish the fight.

But the Zuu managed to pull it's head back just in time to avoid a fatal wound. Instead the blade cut through the soft membrane at the side of it's beak, creating a large bleeding wound at the side of the creature's mouth.

"Damnit, keep your head still already!" The blond blitzbal-player turned Guardian complained as he jumped of the struggling avian as it trashed around wildly in pain.

Back on the ground, Tidus moved in front of the still-trashing monster and quickly stabbed it in the chest, sinking his sword into the flesh completely. This alerted the creature to his location and it's anger was strong enough to temporarily overcome it's pain. Now that Tidus' weapon was stuck, it quickly positioned his head to smash into the fighter from above and struck.

The blow never arrived, because from the hill to their side four blasts of dark energy suddenly shot forth and smashed into the Zuu. One smashed into it's head, blasting it away, while the other three exploded against it's large body, sending it flying for some distance. Still holding on to the sword, Tidus' Brotherhood was pulled free from the sudden movement. Looking up at the hill, Tidus felt the first genuine flash of relief coming over him since they had left Guadosalam.

Auron was running towards him, sword already drawn and ready for battle.

"Auron!" Tidus shouted, relieved at seeing his mentor being safe. "You're alright."

"I am, but now's not the time to lower your guard." The red-coated man replied. "I saw him swooping in to attack and noticed you fighting back. I came to check it out and give any help if needed."

"Thanks."

By now the beast had managed to get back up, but it bore heavy injuries. One wing had been slashed open by Tidus, as had it's leg and most of it's body, while it's other wing was now clearly broken and it had multiple bruises from Auron's Banishing Blade. Still, the monster stood up and tried to stabilize itself.

"Let's go." Tidus said, taking the lead in the assault. Auron followed a few steps behind him.

Dashing to the left, Tidus slashed open the side of the large bird, while Auron did the same on the right. The monster let out a horrifying scream of pain, but it was helpless against the two warriors. Before it could retaliate, or the two Guardians continue their attack, the Zuu's head suddenly exploded in flames, followed quickly by a strong bolt of lightning.

That was enough: the bird's muscles relaxed as it's huge body crashed into the sand once and for all. Reacting by basic instinct, because they couldn't see who it was that had cast the two fatal spells, Auron and Tidus quickly regrouped and stood back-to-back to protect each other.

"Don't worry, it's me." A familiar voice said from the top of a hill. Lulu was standing there, doubled over to catch her breath, her voodoo doll dropped into the sand "Looks like I got here just in time. Another two minutes and you would have left here."

"Lulu, are you ok?" Tidus asked, moving over to the mage to assist her. As always, the proud witch kindly rejected his offer for help, standing back up and composing herself. "Are you two still alright? You're not affected by the Toxin?"

"As far as I can tell I'm fine, but we got separated. Do you have any idea where any of the others are?" Tidus responded, buckling his sword again.

"That's good to hear. And you Sir Auron?" Lulu asked as she took a sip of the water that Tidus had now offered her.

"I'm fine, but what are we going to do now?" He asked.

"Isn't it obvious?" Tidus asked, now handing the bottle to Auron. "We've got to go and meet up with the others and after that, we have to find out where we are. Do any of you know anything?"

"I haven't seen anyone since I arrived here." Auron said, handing the bottle back.

"Me neither." Lulu added. "But I think we can call everyone's attention to one spot. Allow me." Turning around, Lulu formed the same dark flare that she had created as a signal for Wakka back in Luca and threw it into the sky. "They should be able to see that."

"Good thinking Lulu." Tidus complimented, turning away from the Zuu behind him. "Hey, what's that!" in two different locations, objects where thrown up in the general direction of the flare. On one side a familiar, iron-encased Blitzbal was thrown into the sky while a ball of water was shot from the other.

"That must be Wakka and Kimahri." Tidus quickly concluded. "And they must be in trouble. We've got to help them!"

"You're right, but who first?" Lulu asked, glancing between the two locations.

"Let's help Wakka first." Tidus quickly decided. "It looks like he's closer by, so it's faster. And Kimahri can take care of himself. But we'd better hurry." At once the trio set out towards Wakka's location in a jog.

Crossing a few more hills, they quickly saw what Wakka's situation was; he wasn't looking too good anymore, obviously exhausted and sweating heavily, and he was being attacked by a pack of wolves. There where already several bodies lying on the sand, and a trail of other dead wolves could be seen for some distance in another direction. Wakka had met this pack some distance back and must have been moving a lot to fight them.

Out of the entire pack, there where now only four wolves remaining, and they looked ready to pounce on Wakka at a second's notice.

"Lulu, use a spell to take out those two who are standing close together." Tidus said as soon as he saw what was going on. "Auron you take the wolf on the left, I'll take the one on the right."

"Alright." Both Lulu and Auron said at the same time. Auron and Tidus dashed forward, while Lulu quickly charged up her spell. A split second later she was done and the two wolves – who where standing quite close to each other – where frozen in by her ice spell. At almost the exact same time, Tidus and Auron slashed their targets, killing them easily.

"Oh man, am I glad to see you guys!" Wakka breathed in relief, crashing to the sand.

"Wakka, I hate to bring you bad news, but we don't have time for rest yet. Kimahri's still in trouble." Tidus quickly said, tossing the half-empty water bottle to the blitzbal captain. "We've got to go."

Quickly taking a drink, Wakka forced himself back onto his feet and ran along with the others, giving the bottle back to Tidus as they went.

It took them another three minutes to reach Kimahri, but when they ran over the hill, they just saw the Ronso finish off a group of enemies, including a bird and large lizard, by breathing a wave of fire on them. As soon as he was sure that none of the fiends where getting back up, Kimahri visibly relaxed his sweaty body and turned around to look up at the others.

"You all safe. Kimahri is pleased." He said, before taking a second look. "But where is Yuna? Kimahri not see her."

"We're not sure yet." Tidus said, now handing the water bottle to their blue comrade. "We're still looking for everyone. But you haven't seen Yuna, or Rikku for that matter?"

"No, Kimahri not see Yuna since arriving here. But, Kimahri think he saw Rikku some distance away." The Ronso answered.

"So, you haven't seen her either, huh." Tidus said, sounding a little down. "But let's see if we can find Rikku and then search for Yuna Together. We can't afford to lose each other in a place like this."

Handing the water bottle back after having taken a sip, Kimahri looked at Tidus before nodding.

"Great, then let's go. What direction did you see Rikku in, Kimahri?"

"Over there." Kimahri pointed in a general west-bound direction. Without another word, the group set off to find the last two girls. With the scorching sun burning on their heads, they didn't have time for any chitchat.

After walking for ten minutes, they saw the first sign that they where on the right track. In the distance, her back turned towards her friends and sitting under the protection of a small tent, Rikku was sitting, looking like she was busy with something.

As they walked in Rikku's direction, the blond girl turned around and saw the arrival of her comrades. She immediately stood up and, waving in their direction, started jumping up and down.

"Hey guys, good to see you all made it safe and sound!" she said when they arrived at her tent a few minutes later. "Is everyone ok? Hey! Where's Yunie?"

"We don't know Rikku, we don't even know where we are right now." Tidus answered, now passing the last remaining bit of water to the hyper girl. "So you haven't seen Yuna either?"

Looking at the bottle, Rikku returned it before drawing out a bottle of her own, filled to the brim with cool water and showing it to the others. "I haven't seen Yunie either, but I do know where we are."

"You do?" Wakka asked with surprise. "Then where in Yevon's name are we?"

"But you have to promise to keep it a secret, ok? Especially from the Yevonites."

"Why? Is this some" Wakka started before he got elbowed by Lulu, shutting him up.

"Of course we won't say anything if you want us to stay silent Rikku." The mage said with finality, glaring at Wakka. "Now, can you tell us where we are?"

"We're on Bikanel Island. It's the home of the Al-Bhed, where we all live." Rikku explained. "It's a desert nation we moved to after Sin destroyed our homeland, a long time ago. That's why we can't let the Yevonites know about this place. I don't know exactly where we are, but I've almost got it figured out." She added with pride.

"And how did you do that?" Auron asked, sitting down in the shade. "Or does this tent serve as an indication?"

"Not really." Rikku replied. "See, we've placed these tents all over the desert, so there's a tent every two or so miles, most of them placed over some minor bodies of water. They're enough to take a few sips if you're thirsty, but not enough to sate a man's thirst. No, I've been dismantling these Machina that attacked me and I'm trying to create a transmitter so we can see where we are and how to get to Home."

"Why would Machina attack you?" Lulu asked, also sitting down now. "And what's 'Home'?"

"Home is where the Al-Bhed all live, we should go there. The Al-Bhed regularly send out patrols into the desert, I bet they've found Yunie. And if they haven't, we can quickly organize a much larger search then doing it on our own." Rikku explained, quick to formulate her plan. "And the Machina attacked because that's what it does. There are several hundred Guardian Machina and Hunter Machina roaming around this desert for us. The Guardian Machina serve as our guard, protecting us from invaders and monsters, while the Hunters are pretty much our main source of flesh; they hunt some of the monsters and animals in the desert. Only problem is, they don't much discriminate once activated and simply attack anything that moves."

"So, those things will also serve as our enemies?" Wakka asked worriedly. Rikku nodded. "Oh great, more machina to fight. Just great. Wait a second – what if Yuna was caught by one of those machina?" The last part was said with even more fear.

"Not worry, Yuna strong." Kimahri said, stepping forward. "If machina attack, Yuna fights and calls Aeons. Machina cannot win against Summoner."

"You're right Kimahri, Yuna's strong enough to stay safe until we find her." Tidus said. "So now let's go to Home, Rikku lead the way!" at once the blond jumped up and, looking around for a second, pointed in a direction, exclaimed "It's that way!" and started jogging. Without thinking, Tidus and Wakka followed in Rikku's wake, while Lulu, Kimahri and Auron stayed behind a little longer.

"It's strange, seeing him give orders and taking command all of a sudden." Lulu stated, moving in between the legendary Guardian and the Ronso. "Before he would always stay quiet, worried about what was happening to him and trying not to stand out too much."

"Kimahri agrees." The Ronso said, taking large, powerful strides. "Tidus changed much since arriving in Besaid, Kimahri is proud to stand at his side in battle now. He has grown, become a Guardian at last. He now stands tall and proud, caring for Yuna."

"And it's about time too." Auron said, looking as relaxed as if he was simply strolling. "He's every bit Jecht's son, even if he tries to deny it. Strong, confident and a good leader if pressured to be serious for a change, but prone to laziness and complaints when given the chance."

XxX

"So Yuna…" Lulu started as she also sat down on the soft green grass just outside of the travel agency. "Care to tell me what happened back in the forest? After Tidus went to talk to you, you came back a lot more cheerful and you've been smiling while watching this fight for the past twenty minutes. It must have been something nice."

"Hmm?" the summoner responded, not really paying attention. "Sorry, Lulu, what was that?" Even when she spoke to the black mage, the brunette's eyes never left the figure of the blond swordsman still locked in a duel with Auron.

"Never mind, I've already got my answer." Lulu said, sitting down next to her 'sister.' This was a rare moment of peace that their group would have, before it would really become news to the masses that Lady Yuna and her Guardians had been declared enemies of Yevon. The temple couldn't make it public knowledge Yuna and her party had killed Seymour, because he was still posing as a Maester of Yevon, even as an Unsend, but they didn't have such problems with Kinoc's death.

Already, they had heard from Father Zuke that Bevelle was going to send out summoners and warriors with the order to kill them. Even Lady Belgemene had advised them to take some rest here and now, after Yuna had defeated her in another Aeon Duel, before things would get truly hectic.

So now, the group was staying the night at the travel agency on the calm lands, doing what they did for relaxation. Kimahri was out in the plains, doing some training on his own no doubt, while Lulu and Yuna where sitting on the grass. As always when they have some time, Tidus and Auron had engaged in a duel. Now, however, Tidus had pulled out his sword and stood at attention long before Auron had even challenged him. Finally, Wakka and Rikku where standing amidst the quickly-gathered crowd.

"Not bad old man, but aren't you tired yet?" Tidus taunted with a grin as he tried to catch his breath, a safe distance away from Auron. Even while catching his breath, he still held his battle stance, making sure Auron couldn't make use of a weakness that Tidus would show while recovering. Some distance away, Auron was catching his breath as well, his sword held at the ready in front of him.

"You'd wish." Auron said with confidence. "But I'm a long way from tired. Professional athlete or not, you're not used to more then five minutes of straining activities in a row."

"Obviously, you've never been at a Blitzbal training…" Tidus said, still grinning. "And besides… that's with Blitzbal. This is fighting." The blond dashed forward, taking the initiative again. A small distance away, he faked jumping up, but Auron didn't fall for it, so instead Tidus faked stepping to the left. Again, Auron didn't respond, but he was surprised when Tidus suddenly really stepped to the left and quickly pushed Auron's katana aside.

Knowing he couldn't recover his heavy weapon in time to block Tidus' attack, Auron instead stepped forward and smashed his shoulder into the younger man's chest. With his advantage in weight, Auron overpowered Tidus and send him slamming down to the ground. Quickly following it up, Auron pulled up his sword and slashed at Tidus.

But the blitzer had already rolled away and, still rolling, pushed himself up so he was spinning in midair for a second before landing. As soon as he landed, his eyes found Auron, while his sword was already staring at the red-coated warrior. Auron, using the pause to press his advantage again, pulled up the keg at his side and spat the fluid over his blade, forming the energy balls of his Banishing Blade attack. Swinging his sword once, two of the balls shot forward, but Tidus easily evaded them by dashing straight between hem.

The other two balls where fired afterwards, directly in front of Tidus, but he was ready for them. Sending out the energy of his Energy Rain attack, he canceled out Auron's attack while returning to the offensive himself. As several of his energy blasts still continued their course towards Auron, the Legendary Guardian dashed forward, running in between the openings where the Energy Rain had connected with his Banishing Blade.

Tidus responded by also dashed forward, meeting with Auron halfway. As Auron took a powerful swing, Tidus dashed past, using his speed to get past Auron and attack before Auron could react. Barely able to sidestep the first strike, Auron turned around to parry the second as Tidus dashed by again. The third time Tidus did his running strike, Auron was ready for him and the swords made contact. With his superior strength, Auron forced Tidus off balance and threw him back.

But by now, Tidus was used to being thrown off balance, so he used it to his advantage. Pushing off with one leg, Tidus spun around and used the rotation to add power to his attack, just as Auron prepared to slash at Tidus' head.

The two blades touched their opponent at the exact same time, Auron ready to split Tidus' skull from above, while Tidus was ready to cut Auron across the chest. They stood there for a few seconds, locked in that position, before the gathered crowd started applauding suddenly.

"Guess it's a draw, huh Auron?" Tidus whispered as both Guardians pulled back their swords.

"Indeed." Auron agreed, pulling his coat back over his shoulder, looking over the crowd. "You fought well. Perhaps next time I'll try not toying around."

Without another word, Auron turned around and walked back to the agency as the crowd parted to let him through. Looking around as he got up, Tidus saw that Wakka and Rikku were both locked in a similar pose. A look of surprise on their faces, their mouths wide open and arms hanging to the ground. Behind them, Kimahri was looking at Tidus with a look of surprise as well, but the proud Ronso hid it much better then the other two guardians.

"You two petrified now?" Tidus joked as he walked up to them. This single comment seemed to unfreeze the two and they immediately started talking.

"I can't believe you!" Rikku exclaimed. "That was so incredibly awesome, you are sooo good right now."

"Wow man." Wakka said, sounding extremely impressed. "I knew you were a talented fighter ya, but I can't believe you've fought to a draw with Sir Auron…"

Enjoying their praise but not speaking up, Tidus simply clasped them on the back before also walking over to the travel agency. He'd ask Yuna to go and heal all the minor injuries he'd suffered thanks to Auron and maybe even get some private time with her. He would love to have a repeat of last night, if it was possible.

XxX

Tidus found Auron standing on the deck of the airship as it flew through the skies, leaving Zanarkand behind as they went. It took the blond a couple of seconds before he could think of what he was actually going to talk about with the red-coated man.

"What is it?" Auron finally asked, turning to look at Tidus.

"Why'd you do it?" Tidus blurted out.

"Do what?"

"Everything. Remaining even though you died, coming to Zanarkand, bringing me to Spira, guarding Yuna, training me. All that and more. Why'd you do it?"

"I promised." Auron simply answered. "It's a promise I made to Jecht and Braska."

"Is it what my old man said before he became a faith?" Tidus asked, remembering the memory he saw inside the Dome.

"Yes, Jecht's final request before becoming an Aeon was that I find a way to go to Zanarkand and watch over you, bring you to Spira if possible. But his biggest desire was to see you grow into a good and strong man. That was what he had told me many times during our travels. That's what he asked of me when he became a faith: to watch over you so you can become a good and strong man when you grow."

"So that's why you where always around…" Tidus softly said to himself. "And what did you promise to Braska?"

"That I'd take Yuna to a safe place, so she could grow up without the interference of politics and grow into a young woman on her own. And when she was old enough to become a summoner and still wished to complete the pilgrimage that I'd watch over her and guide her if needed. Braska wished for Yuna to have two things. Safety and happiness. Safety I could provide, but for happiness I could make no guaranties. By training you and keeping you close to Yuna, I increased Yuna's safety and happiness, while also making sure you became stronger. It was… the best way to honor my promises." Auron lowered his head, looking at Spira from the airship, and remained silent. Only after a few minutes did Tidus speak up again.

"I guess… you really where close to both my dad and Yuna's." he said. "But… now you have to fight against the same Jecht that you where so close to. You've known it all the pilgrimage, but you never even showed anything. How can you do that? Knowing you have to fight a close friend and not even flinch about it."

"I tend not to think about it." Auron said, not looking at Tidus. "We travel to defeat Sin, not Jecht."

"But still…" again Tidus was silent, before a grin suddenly appeared on his features. "Hey Auron, I bet you must be pretty tensed up from everything that's happened lately." He said, looking at the legendary guardian. "Getting closer and closer to beating my old man, fighting and defeating Yunalesca… care to get some stress relief?"

"What'd you mean?" Auron said, turning around to face the blond. Tidus for his part, simply pulled out his sword and slid into his stance.

"Let's go. We'll fight one more time. it'll make you feel better. It worked for me often enough."

"Hmpf." Auron turned towards Tidus as he pulled out his sword and got into a fighting stance. "Fighting to get your minds off things? You're really just like your father."

"From you, I'll consider it a compliment." Tidus said as he jumped forward to attack Auron. Without Auron even moving, the attack missed however. For a second Tidus looked confused, because he had landed three feet back form where had started.

'What the…' the blitzer thought. 'I jumped forward didn't I?'

"Be careful." Auron said as he nearly lost his balance without reason. "We're still standing atop the airship, if we become too reckless and start jumping around, we could fall off."

"Right." Tidus said, crouching lower to stabilize himself. "Well here we go then."

Now knowing that jumping was not a good idea, both guardians dashed forward until they met each other halfway, in the centre of the deck, a good distance away from the dangerous edges. The two swords pushed against each other, coming to a standstill for a second, before Auron leaned forward and gained the advantage.

Tidus, rather then step back, instead stepped forward and flipped his sword, so Auron's katana slid off. At this range, it would have been impossible to miss his full-force swing. Auron also knew it, so instead of evading or pulling back his sword, he raised his left arm and blocked the attack with his bracer. The strength of the blow was enough to send Auron's arm flying backward. Reducing the force of the attack and evading any follow up form Tidus, Auron jumped back.

Tidus didn't let up and immediately went in pursuit of Auron, preventing the older man from getting a breather. Auron pointed his sword at Tidus, only holding it in one arm, and attacked. Even with only one arm, Auron could easily overpower Tidus, but for every blow that the red-coated man landed, Tidus returned two. if they kept this up, Tidus would outlast Auron easily because of all the small injuries his attacks would inflict.

Using an element of surprise, Auron dropped himself down and spun around, swiping Tidus off his legs and landing him on his back. In the same movement, he spun around, stood back up and slashed at Tidus. The blond couldn't roll aside, because they where already at the edge of the airship, so he was forced to block the attack with his own weapon.

Tidus knew he was no match for Auron in strength and that was only increased now that he couldn't use his legs of hips to increase the power of his strikes, so he had to use something else.

Pulling his sword back, Tidus hooked Auron's katana behind the edge of the Brotherhood and pulled it away. It left Auron open for a second, which Tidus used to kick him in the gut and quickly stand up.

"What in the name of Yevon do you two think you're doing?" Wakka's voice suddenly sounded from the side. "That's way too dangerous, ya!"

Their fight interrupted, both warriors looked at the source of the voice. Wakka, Lulu, Yuna, Rikku, Kimahri and even Cid where standing just outside of the opening between the deck and the interior of the ship.

"Just a little sparring." Tidus cheerfully said as he got back up, looking directly at Wakka. "If we're going to have to fight Sin from the airship, I thought it's best if Auron and I get used to fighting here."

"You're insane!" Wakka exclaimed. "What if you fall of or something?"

"We won't." Auron stated, leaving no doubt to the subject. "Ready?" he asked the last question directly at Tidus, slipping back into his stance. Tidus replied in kind by quickly standing back in his own. Lulu covered her head with one hand as she shook her head, not believing the idiocy she was seeing. Next to her, Wakka smacked himself in the head for the same reason.

Auron started with a low swipe this time, but Tidus – doing something he hadn't done before – jumped up a bit and brought down his sword right away. The small jump added all of Tidus' weight to the blow, but it wasn't high enough for Tidus to get caught in the wind. Auron didn't block the attack, knowing that even he couldn't block a strike with Tidus' full weight behind it, instead stepping to the side and thrusting his sword forward. Tidus turned around, almost standing on his toes to spin fast enough, and immediately countered the attack.

Auron bend backwards, letting the blue blade of the Brotherhood pass over his face harmlessly, and from that same position launched his attack at Tidus' back. Tidus followed the path of his blade, spinning horizontally in mid-air using the same maneuver of the Jecht Shot that he'd mastered on that boat trip so long ago, and just barely evaded Auron's deadly blade.

Now that he was on Auron's completely open side, Tidus swing the brotherhood and managed to knock the katana out of Auron's hands. The sword, still having much momentum, vanished over the edge of the airship. Tidus swung his sword back and held it an inch from Auron's neck.

Silence reigned the airship for almost a full minute.

Finally, it was Auron who broke the silence by breaking out into his rarely heard loud booming laughter.

"It seems that I lose." He finally said when he had stopped his laughing. "And I've also lost my weapon. I think we should go looking for a good sword so I can replace mine."

XxX

"Oh no!" Rikku exclaimed as Cid and Brother's talk was overheard via the intercom. "The main gun's busted!"

"Dang it!" Cid cursed. "Alright, everybody back inside, we've got to think of another plan."

No-one moved, despite the order of the Al-Bhed leader. Tidus looked over at Sin's damaged body; the fin's had been removed, making the monstrosity seem oddly misshapen.

'We're almost there! We've gotten this far, we can't stop now.' Tidus thought. As he looked over Sin one more time, he suddenly noticed another shiny area, much like the ones that Cid had identified and used as a target on the fins, only this one was located on the creature's back. 'That's it!'

"No!" Tidus said, confidence obvious in his voice. "We're going in! Every blitzer knows: when you got the ball, you've gotta score!" He pulled out his new sword, the Caladbolg, pointing it at the shining spot on Sin's back. "We've traveled all over Spira looking for these weapons, time to give them a try in a real fight! So let's go!"

Auron was the fist to step forward, the oddly-shaped Masamune swung over his shoulder as he chuckled.

"Foolhardy…but a fun plan." He said just before he dashed to the edge of the ship and jumped off.

"Hey, star players first!" Tidus exclaimed with a grin as he jumped after his mentor. The others where all quick to follow.

As they all flew through the air, Sin moved a bit to the side, messing up their intended landing point. With it's current position, the group would just shoot right past the incarnation of evil and decorate the ground below as splashes.

Lulu quickly casted a gravity spell to distort their course and redirect them to Sin, but only she, Wakka and Rikku managed to use it. The others had already fallen to far to make use of the spell.

Auron, as the first one to jump, was already next to Sin, far out of reach of Lulu's spell. Kimahri, despite having jumped after Tidus, was almost next to him. The Ronso's considerable bulk had made him fall faster then anyone else. Yuna was directly behind Tidus, a few meters higher then him.

As one, Kimarhi and Auron pulled out their new weapons and slammed them into Sin's skin. The Celestial Weapons cut through the behemoth's skin like a heated knife through butter, immediately stabbing deep enough to stop the descend of both guardians. Using the moment to bend their indestructible weapons a little, they bounced back up and landed on top of their weapons. Tidus followed their example, pulling out the Caladbolg, but instead of stabbing he threw the sword at Sin instead. The blade quickly burrowed itself into Sin's skin, making a save landing area for the blond. Grabbing on to the handle as he flew by it, Tidus spun himself around and landed on the dull side of the blade. Immediately he raised his arms to capture Yuna and save her from falling to her death.

For a second, there was nothing but the feeling of the beautiful young summoner in his arms, as they looked into each other's eyes. The hold transformed into a hug, before they where pulled back to reality by a shake, caused by Sin's breathing. Auron and Kimahri where already climbing Sin, their weapons attached to their backs once again.

With a smile, Yuna pulled out her Nirvana and twisted it around once. Immediately, Valefor appeared out of the clouds, hovering by their side. The two teenagers quickly stepped on the summon's back, Tidus pulling out his sword as he went, and were flown to Sin's back, where Rikku, Wakka and Lulu had already gathered. As soon as the two had stepped of off Valefor's back, the summon turned around and picked up Kimahri and Auron.

A few seconds later, all the Guardians had re-assembled on Sin's back, Yuna placed inside a protective circle they formed.

"Well, we made it." Lulu said once it was clear no-one was hurt.

"Yeah, now lets go and deal with that thing!" Rikku was once again bouncing with joy. No-one could blame her. They may have been standing on top of Sin, several leagues above the ground but they where doing what no-one else had ever done: they where destroying Sin!

With Rikku and Tidus at the lead, being the fastest runners, the group quickly made their way over to the weakness on Sin's back, but just before they reached it, a strange blur suddenly appeared from Sin's skin. Knowing that nothing good could come of it, Rikku and Tidus quickly readied their weapons, the others following their lead.

The blur rose up, taking a more solid shape as it grew, until finally they where looking at a large dark-grey Sinspawn with tentacles as hands, no eyes and a mouth that was broken up into two pieces. It reminded Tidus of the Sinspawn that he, Yuna, Kimahri, Wakka and Lulu had fought back in Besaid.

Without another word, Tidus and Rikku shot forward, Auron and Kimahri hot on their heels. Yuna and Lulu began chanting spells while Wakka hit the Sinspawn on the head with his World Champion, causing a deep gash.

The tentacles shot out at the rushing blondes, but Rikku nimbly danced in between them, avoiding them with ease. Tidus slashed the Caladbolg around, severing the appendages as he went. Kimahri and Kimahri stayed back a little, only attacking at tentacles that approached them.

Wakka meanwhile kept drawing the Sinspawn's attention by scoring well-aimed hits on the body of the fiend. Within a mater of minutes, Genais' body was covered in deep cuts, accompanied by dark bruises. Lulu and Yuna kept casting, empowering their spells ever more so they could strike at maximum power at Rikku's signal.

Rikku had made her way over to Genais' body, slashed at it a few times with her Godhand, and then placed her bomb. With a cry of "Everyone get back!" the perky blond turned around and ran away, right past Tidus and Kimahri, who where now busy cutting of the remaining tentacles. Auron, much like Yuna and Lulu was gathering power for an attack, preparing to use his Banishing Blade at maximum power. Tidus and Kimahri quickly jumped back as well, while Wakka made a slow – but extremely powerful – throw at Genais' head.

"Flare!" Lulu yelled, releasing her spell.

"Holy!" Yuna said, standing next to her long-time friend.

Wakka's ball cut through a part of Genais' neck, leaving a deep mark. Yuna's spell encircled the fiend and smashed into him from all sides, while Lulu's Flare caused the fiend to explode. Banishing Blade smashed the Sinspawn back to the ground, while it was being burned by a Fire Breath, courtesy of Kimahri. To top it all off, as soon as Genais' head hit the ground, Rikku's mixture exploded violently, tearing the Sinspawn's body apart.

"Wow… Rikku, what was that!" Tidus was filled with awe when he saw just how destructive Rikku's latest mixture was.

"Remember those things that Rin gave you?" Rikku asked, assuming her 'I know everything and I'll explain it to you' stance, wiggling her index finger at shoulder level. "They're pretty rare to find and expansive to buy, because they're highly explosive. He gave us plenty to use, so I mixed a couple of those with some other things we had lying around and this is what we got. Not bad eh?"

"Wait, it's not over yet!" Auron suddenly said. Immediately all the Guardians and the Summoner turned towards the fallen Sinspawn's body. As they watched, it was encased in rock-hard scales, and started to glow in the familiar white light of healing magic.

"It's trying to recover!" Wakka yelled. "We've got to stop it."

Kimahri rushed forward, stabbing with the Spirit Lance, but even the legendary spear did not fully penetrate the armor surrounding the Sinspawn. Instead, a vast amount of dark green gas started to flow from the hole in the armor.

"Poison!" Kimahri warned as he jumped back. As soon as he landed, he crashed to his knees, breathing heavily. He had already inhaled some. A second later Yuna was at his side, her esuna spell half-cast. The cloud of poison also stopped the group from rushing past the shielded Sinspawn and attack the core behind it. They would have to move through the poison mist to reach the core.

"Wakka, we have to take him out at a distance." Tidus concluded. "Time to try out our new attack, don't you think?"

A grin suddenly appeared on Wakka's face, remembering the training session they had to try and perfect a new attack. It was a combination attack between Wakka and Tidus, inspired by what Wakka had told Tidus at Djose Temple, so many months ago.

Wakka leaned back and tossed his blitzbal at full power, aiming directly at the wound Kimahri had already inflicted. The force of the throw, along with the World Champion's blades, opened the crack even further, speeding up the spreading of the poison. Still plenty of force left, the ball bounced back from Genais and shot up through the air.

Meanwhile, Tidus had stabbed the Caladbolg into the ground and used it as a board to heighten his jump. He appeared in the immediate trajectory of the legendary battle-blitzbal, and used the trainings from his Blitzbal career to control his movements in mid-air. He turned around, making a full three-hundred-sixty degrees spin and then kicked, hard.

With practiced perfection, Tidus' foot hit Wakka's blitzbal dead centre, sending it right back at Genais. With the improved force of Tidus' kick, the ball hit the weakened armor once again. This time, the stone-hard scales didn't stop the attack; the World Champion smashed right through the scales and, an instant later, shot out from the back, now covered in green blood. The scales were hard only on the outside, so the blitzbal had no problems shooting out from the inside.

Without stopping, the blitzbal continued it's course until it crashed right into the group's next target; the core on Sin's back.

As soon as the bladed ball had made contact, Sin cried out loud. Obviously the monster was in great pain thanks to their actions. The cries, along with the violent shakes that accompanied it, caused the group of warriors and mages to lose their footing.

"Time to get out of here!" Auron commanded. "Everyone, back to the airship!"

Wakka dashed the opposite direction for a second, right past the corpse of Sinspawn Gineas, and pulled his blitzbal out of the core. He was just a second behind the others as they mad their mad dash towards safety.

As Sin began crashing to the ground, the airship made a quick fly underneath the monster, just in time to catch Yuna and her Guardians as they jumped off the greatest of fiends. From their location on the airship, they watched in awe as Sin – the greatest destroyer and bringer of, pain, death and suffering in the history of the world – crashed down to earth, landing just outside of Bevelle.

XxX

"Ah man, there goes another one." Tidus cursed as he ran around on the small plateau, trying to find a way to attack. Some distance away, Ifrit faded away in Pyreflies, the large sword that belonged to Jecht – or the Final Aeon, since he had transformed – pierced through his muscular body.

Behind, a good distance away from the huge Aeon, Yuna let out a whimper as she saw the Aeon dissolve. So far four of her Aeons – Valefor, Ixion, Shiva and now Ifrit – had been summoned in the battle and defeated. That left only a few more remaining.

"Yuna, hold off the summoning!" Tidus yelled, evading a petrifying beam that the Final Aeon shot from it's eyes. The ground behind him was immediately turned to solid rock. "He's too strong to be defeated by the normal summons. We'll need to create an opening first!"

"Alright." The beautiful summoner replied. This battle – which was already harder then any other they had ever fought – was very confusing for Tidus, for more reasons then he cared to admit.

First and foremost was the thought that he was fighting his father, and that one of them would end up dead by the end of the battle. The thought was – unlike what he had expected – striking fear into his heart. Sure, he wanted to fight and defeat him, prove that he was superior to his old man, but killing him… That was something that Tidus had never wanted. And – as he had learned throughout his travels – he wasn't so sure he really hated his father all that much either. The spheres he had left behind had given Tidus an new insight into his father's character. A character that perhaps was much kinder and more caring then Tidus had ever thought.

But there was more on his mind then just the thought of fighting his father; the Faith's warning that after they had defeated Yu Yevon he would fade away was ringing clear through his head. And every step they took while inside Sin, every monster they had defeated, had made it clearer and clearer in his head; he was fighting to save a world that he hated, and he was going to end his own existence – instead of simply dying – all for one reason.

To stop Yuna from dying.

But there was more; now that Tidus knew his own end was near, he noticed a lot more about his friends. his friends, who had stood beside him through thick and thin. Who had fought and killed at his side, who became outcasts without a single thought because one of them was in danger. His first real friends.

Kimahri who had taken so long to accept him, but when he did the large blue Ronso had shown nothing but honor, pride, respect and loyalty. A brave soul who would willingly and without a second's hesitation risk his own life to save one of his friends.

Lulu who had been so cynical at first, sometimes even mocking him. Once she had gotten to known him better, she felt comfortable enough to show him that she did have other aspects; she was kind-hearted, caring and always tried to take responsibility for anything she could. Her immediate offer to become the Final Aeon at Yunalesca's request for a sacrifice was a good show of this.

Auron, who had revealed his greatest secrets to him, who had taught Tidus so much about himself and his father that it shook his deep-seated hatred of the muscular man. Auron, who had spend so much time training him in the art of combat, preparing him for all the battles that lay ahead, knowing that one day he would finally fade away and leave all his promises in Tidus' hands.

Rikku, who had always been cheerful, trying to learn Tidus to adapt and convince Yuna to survive. Always, except for one occasion; when she had been the one to tell him that Yuna would die in the final summoning, just as Home was being destroyed. Rikku who had been the first friend he had ever made in Spira, who had been the first to believe him. Her hyperactivity and cheerfulness where contagious, because before long Tidus and all the others also felt a lot more cheerful then when she wasn't around.

Wakka, the stubborn, but caring Wakka who had learned to look at the world with his own eyes and make his own decisions. Without a doubt, he had become Tidus' best friend, knowing what he meant with a mere look. The same was also true for Tidus. The two had become as close as brothers during their travels and they looked out for each other whenever they could. Tidus had no doubt that – if he would have some level of identity after fading – he would miss the red-haired fellow Blitzer the most. Except for one.

Yuna.

Since they decided to fight Sin, knowing that she might not have to die, Yuna had suddenly gained a new freedom, the freedom of a future. The mere thought alone had given her intense relief, making her walk with a more relaxed posture, making her seem more beautiful then ever before. And since Tidus knew that he would fade at the same time as she would finally gain her freedom, she looked all the more beautiful because of it. He had always, from the day they first met, been attracted to her for both her appearance, innocence and strong spirit. But now that he knew he would never be truly with her, he felt an even deeper longing to be with her, to hold her in her arms and lose himself in an embrace, staring into her eyes.

Rikku crashed into him, forcing him back to the land of the wake, alert and fighting, and nearly send them both toppling over the edge. She had been in the air when Jecht had caught her with the huge, flat side of his sword.

"Oowie…" she managed to moan as soon as they were on solid ground. "That… really hurts… you big meanie." With that the blond Al-bhed passed out. at once Tidus placed his sword back on his belt and lifted her up over his shoulder; if he let her lie here, she was almost guarantied to get seriously injured. She was way too close to the fight and the edge. The chances of a stray attack reaching her, or someone or something to land right on top of her where far too high.

A short dash later, Tidus had reached Yuna and Lulu, who where still casting spells left and right. Lulu was peppering the Final Aeon with spells wherever she could, making use of his huge body to land all her hits even from such a distance. Next to her Yuna was casting one spell after the other, supporting Auron, Kimahri and Wakka as best she could, an even managed to fire off some of her own offensive spells every now and then.

Tidus placed Rikku next to Yuna, who immediately started chanting to cast a healing spell, and then turned around to return to the fight. Just as he watched, Wakka stuck a good hit with his World Champion Blitzbal, causing a deep cut to appear along the Aeon's neck. He raised one gargantuan hand to cover the bleeding, but could remove it a second later; the stone pagodas floating behind the huge opponent had each send out a jolt of magical lightning to his body. At once the deep cut healed, allowing Jecht to return to battle with both hands.

"We've gotta take out those pagodas." Tidus concluded. "Lulu, focus your attacks on one of those pagoda, try to destroy it if you can."

"On it." the black make said, her breathing shallow, a stream of sweat already falling from her forehead.

Rushing forward again, Tidus started shouting more orders to the others.

"Wakka, help Lulu take down one of those pagodas. Auron, Kimahri can you give me a distraction for a second?"

Without a word, Wakka shot his ball out to the pagoda on Jecht's left side, hitting it the same time as Lulu's Flare-spell made contact. Retreating until they where next to him, Auron and Kimahri looked at him for an explanation.

"The pagodas heal all damage we inflict on him, or at least a lot of it. If we take those out, we can take him, I'm sure of it."

"And your plan?" Auron asked, forcing himself to take beep breaths now that he had a few seconds respite.

"I'm going to have to get near the other pagoda. I'm going to need you to give me a distraction."

"Understood." Kimahri said, grabbing the Spirit Lance a little tighter. "Kimahri forge you a path."

"Thanks Kimahri."

At once, both the blue-skinned and red-coated warriors turned around to give Tidus a way up to Jecht's shoulder. Tidus used the few seconds to relay his plan to Yuna, just as Rikku was sitting back up, shacking her head to clear her mind a bit.

"Yuna, once we take down those pagoda's, let him have it! call out the strongest Aeon you've got left and let him blast my old man to pieces!"

With a somewhat pained look – probably because she was having the same internal battle that he was having, facing against one of her personal hero's – Yuna nodded at him and again began chanting.

Tidus turned around to return to the fight and saw that he wasn't a second to late; just as Jecht swung his blade down, Auron and Kimahri smashed their own weapons into his, holding it in place for a few seconds. Those seconds where all the time Tidus needed to jump on the weapon and dash forward, his speed boosted by a quickly cast Haste spell.

When Tidus was halfway up the sword, Jecht finally overpowered the two Guardians holding his blade down, sending them flying and allowing him to withdraw his sword again.

'There's no way I can keep staying on this if Dad starts swinging his sword around!' Tidus realized. In a quick improvisation, he pulled back his sword, charged it with energy and swung it forward.

"Energy Rain!"

The torrent of energy blasts reached Jecht's chest just as he wanted to pull his sword back, but the explosion – augmented by a trio of grenades that Rikku had thrown – caused a burn big enough to stun the Aeon. Behind the behemoth's left shoulder, Lulu finished up her barrage of magic attacks, seeing the Pagoda sink lower, explosions running throughout the stone body.

Still moving at full speed, Tidus reached the right shoulder of the Aeon and jumped off, aiming towards the Pagoda as it healed the large burn on Jecht's chest. Raising his sword with both hands above his head while still in the air, Tidus brought his sword down just before he actually touched the Pagoda. As always, the Caladbolg didn't fail; it cut clean through the stone, breaking the second pagoda into two perfects halves.

"YUNA NOW!"

At his command, Yuna finished her chanting and swung her staff around. A shimmering seal appeared in mid-air, right between the Final Aeon and the other guardians. For a second the seal lighted up bright as the sun, but then it cracked. From the cracks appeared a large black scaled head, followed by massive shoulders, two huge feathery wings, a ring that was spinning on it's back and finally a powerful tail. Bahamut, the Dragon King and one of Yuna's strongest summons had entered the battle.

The Final Aeon swung it's sword back to slash at the dragon – most likely obliterating it just as it had destroyed the other Aeons who tried to stand in it's way, but the sword cleaved nothing but air. Bahamut had already taken to the sky and from there it started to cast several spells.

Combined with the barrage of black magic that Lulu was now firing, the seemingly never-ending stream of grenades and other explosive materials that Rikku was throwing, the Blitzbal that Wakka kept throwing and the blasts that Kimahri kept sending his way – courtesy of the many Ronso Rages that he had learned over their journey – the Final Aeon had to pull back his sword to defend himself, using them massive blade as a shield.

Tidus – who was about to enter a freefall along with the remains of the pagoda he defeated – flipped over in the air, placed his feet on the pagoda and pushed off. At once he was soaring back, easily reaching Jecht's shoulder. The moment he had landed, Tidus jumped again – flipping himself in mid-air – and smashed his sword into Jecht's shoulder. The impact left a deep wound, forcing the Aeon to lower his sword a bit. Almost as soon as he had done so, Wakka's blitzbal shot over the sword and made direct contact with the Aeon's head.

Done with his first attack, Tidus dashed forward – recasting a haste spell in between – and ran straight past Jecht's neck, dashing from one shoulder to the next. While running, he had slashed out again, causing a second wound, although not as deep as the first. He only stayed on one shoulder long enough to turn and run back, slashing again, then repeating the whole process.

Finally, after he had done his Slice and Dice – as Wakka had dubbed it – Tidus used the momentum he had gained to jump off his father's shoulder, just as a massive claw tried to grab him. In mid-air, with a perfect opening before him, Tidus filled his legendary weapon with energy again before swinging it forward.

"Energy Rain!"

For the second time the onslaught of yellow-white beams shot from his sword, intending to explode on Jecht's chest again. However, before they reached the gargantuan Aeon, four black orbs joined them and the explosion upon touching Jecht's chest was far greater then when Tidus' Energy Rain had attacked alone.

And then, while Tidus was still floating down to the small area where they could get a good foothold and fight against their strongest opponent yet, Wakka's ball came soaring by once again. It crashed into the large sword again, but there was something that Tidus hadn't noticed before now; on the spot where the World Champion made contact with Jecht's blade, there where cracks running all-around it. Wakka had been aiming for the same spot on the weapon ever since he had started attacking and his efforts where shown now.

Suddenly Bahamut dived from the air, spinning around like a sideways top, and slammed his tail into the weapon as well, deepening and spreading the crack across the wide of the blade. The Dragon King was gone before the Final Aeon could counter-attack it, moving with a grace and agility that belied his muscular body.

'It only needs one more push!' Tidus realized. A second later, the World Champion came spinning his way, still on it's way back from the attack on Jecht's sword. At once Tidus started spinning around his own axis in mid-air, performing the one Blitzbal technique he hadn't been able to master while training with the Zanarkand Abes. Finally he stretched out one leg and used his father's trademark shot – The Sublimely Magnificent Jecht Shot Mark III – to send the ball back at the weapon with twice as much force as when he used his Sphere Shot.

The ball made contact with the sword and – after a second of spinning – flew through the weapon and into Jecht's chest. The remains of the blade cracked as well before falling off, disappearing into the abyss down below. The irony of using his father's technique to destroy his own weapon – and thereby allow his defeat – wasn't lost on Tidus.

And then Bahamut was suddenly in front of the Aeon as, held it's hands aside in shock, and charged up a ball of white energy in front of his mouth. The blast had formed before the Final Aeon could respond and at once the Dragon King's strongest attack was released and engulfed their enemy.

As Tidus saw the Final Aeon fall down, reverting to his now bloody and bruised father, he could have sworn he saw something of a smile on his father's face as their eyes locked. Without thinking about it, Tidus dashed forward to his father as he crashed to the stone ground, tears suddenly escaping the blonde's eyes.


Much thanks to my beta Kushin eX for going over this for me, it took me quite some time to write this but I've had a lot of fun.

I hope you enjoyed it and please leave a review telling me what you thought about it. And for those who may want more; I've got an idea for a sequel, which will be an alternative ending to FFX-2, let me know if you want to read it!