The Rift-torn

Chapter 4: SS Winno and Luca

World: Final Fantasy X

Night had fallen on the SS Winno, and the number people on the deck had dwindled down to Yuna, her guardians, Frank, Joe, Matt, a couple of the Luca Goers, and one or two stragglers. Ryan and Shawna had already turned in for the night, along with a majority of the passengers.

As Joe sat near the middle of the boat, keeping his distance from the water, and looked up at the night sky. After a few minutes, Tidus, who had been below deck with the Aurochs, came up in time to see Joe pull out a mysterious object. It was about the size of his hand and black in colour, with some writing on it he couldn't quite make out. And then, Joe flipped it open. The inside of the thing was just as black as the rest, though it seemed two sections were rather shiny, and the bottom part had some buttons on it.

Coming closer, Tidus saw him push on button near the bottom and the shiny parts lit up bright white, and though Joe seemed to know what he was doing, he winced and looked away for a moment. He then tapped the bottom section and grimaced.

"What's up?" Tidus asked.

"Oh, hey," said Joe, looking up. "I was going to do some double-checking to see if the rift we've been hunting for was nearby, but it looks like my 3DS is getting low on power again."

"3DS?"

"Just a sec." Joe looked around the deck until he spotted Frank on the upper level, not far from where Wakka and Lulu were sitting. Tidus followed him up the stairs to find out what in the world he was talking about, though he tried hard not to listen in on Lulu and Wakka, who were having their own conversation. About him. That made it even harder to not listen to the conversation three feet away.

Joe approached Frank and held out his "3DS." "Hey, bro. Cassul's getting a bit low on power again. Mind charging him up?"

Frank, who had been sipping something, Tidus couldn't quite tell what, glanced up at the device. "Yeah, sure." He placed one of his fingers on a point Tidus couldn't quite see and muttered "Thunder," a brief spark appearing before the red light by Joe's hand turned blue, an orange light glowing briefly beside it.

"Thanks."

"Looking for a 'net connection again?"

"You never know, I mean, I'm sure the rift in Ryan's house wasn't there before we found it."

"Um, what?" asked a confused Tidus.

"Oh, uh," Joe stammered.

"It's a bit of a long story. We'll tell you later," said Frank, before returning to his drink.

Joe had turned to the sea and resumed tapping on the bottom screen, Tidus noticed the yellow light blinking and watched as Joe started moving the device around, occasionally tapping it again. In the silence, it was even harder not to overhear Lulu and Wakka's chat about him. Already he had caught the idea that Lulu, Miss Frigid Glare, actually agreed that he should be one of Yuna's Guardians, and that she was going to, essentially, force Wakka to tell him.

"Be discreet," Lulu whispered.

"I know, its his decision... He doesn't like his father?" Wakka whispered back. Tidus supposed he should be thankful that their backs were turned to him and the two members of the Vanguard, so they didn't really notice them any, but at the moment, he just wanted to hear what his friend and Lulu were talking about.

"Apparently, he told Yuna as much."

"Hating your own father, huh? Sounds like a luxury to me. I don't even remember my parents." Wakka sighed, then looked up at the sky. "Can't say how I feel about 'em."

Lulu glanced in the other direction, down at the deck where Yuna stood. "I...I was five then, so I remember mine a little."

Wakka slammed his fist on the railing of the balcony. "Dammit! Sin just takes everything away from us."

Tidus practically hid behind Joe as the two turned to head back to the lower deck, not wanting them to know that he had been listening in. Once they were gone, Joe sighed and held the button that had turned his "3DS" on until it turned off again.

"Nothing. Not that I should have expected something after we've searched so much of the ocean so often." Joe then turned to Tidus. "Now, I believe that I owe you an explanation as to what I was doing, right?"

"Uh, yeah..." Tidus shook himself, still slightly distracted by the conversation he had overheard.

"Well, it's simple to explain. Not so simple for most to believe. But, I think with your background, you should be able to." Joe took a deep breath, steeling himself. "None of the Vanguard are from Spira. All five of us are from an alternate universe, brought here by a rift we found one day."

"An alternate universe, huh? And I'm supposed to be able to believe that?"

"You're from Zanarkand, a place that's been in ruins for a thousand years," said Frank. "And you don't look a thousand years old to me."

"...Good point."

"Anyways, my 3DS, " continued Joe, holding up said device, "can connect with what's called the 'internet' back in our world, but the only place I've managed it so far is in or near Bevelle, where we first arrived in Spira. And we've exhausted every possible place in Bevelle for the way home."

"And we do mean every place," Frank added. "We've delved into areas of Bevelle that not even the Maesters likely know anything about. Like the Via Infinito." Joe shuddered. "Though, we didn't really explore the place past the first thirty floors."

"You'd think that we'd be more willing to enter the Omega Dungeon after having to face down those Tonberries, but noooo..." Shaking his head, Joe returned to the original topic. "So, in essence, what I'm trying to do with my 3DS, which I've named Cassul, by the by, is find an internet connection somewhere outside the Bevelle area."

"Because that would mean you'd found another rift, and the way home," Tidus nodded in understanding.

"Right. And now you know a bit of our story. I'll have to ask you to keep it secret for a while, though. I realize not many people would believe you, but if word got back to the Maesters of Yevon, things could turn out badly for us."

"At the moment, we're just not allowed to seek shelter at the temples, nor can we enter Bevelle proper without being executed," Frank said. "And that's just for turning back after getting through Mount Gagazet. Who knows what they'd do if they found out about alternate realities."

"I guess I can see your point. I suppose that's also why you told me not to mention my being from Zanarkand... Whoops."

"Whoops?" Joe remarked back.

"I, uh, already kinda told Wakka and Yuna about it..."

"Well, that's alright. If you want them to accept you as one of them, you'll need to be open with them. I figure we'll have some confessing of our own to do soon."

"About the other world thing, yeah... Um, what did you mean that you named your 3DS-thingy 'Cassul?'"

"Ah, I tend to name a lot of my tech, though I've only got Cassul with me. I mean, my computer's name is Kurogane, my convertible's name is Baron Humbert Von Gikkigen, and my PSP is named Jackal. It's just something I do. But anyways, I think you should go talk to Yuna a bit, alright? I'm feeling a bit tired, and I'm ready to go to bed."

"Right. 'Night guys! See you in the morning!" Frank and Joe waved him off and headed below to the Vanguard men's shared cabin.

The next day, the SS Winno pulled into port at Luca, and everyone who was on board was preparing to disembark.

Despite the tumult, the Vanguard remained below deck as they heard Bobba and Jimma, the normal announcers for Blitzball, announce the entrance of the Besaid Aurochs and the Luca Goers, followed by Tidus's impassioned speech of defiance to the Auroch's losing streak.

They had been hoping to avoid the publicity of their arrival, because almost everyone made a big deal out of them, and depending on the person, the reactions could be either good or bad. Unfortunately, they didn't quite wait long enough.

"And here they are! After only a few weeks since their last concert, a yearly event, the Vanguard have returned to Luca!" cried Jimma.

"That's right, Jimma, and for those poor, sorry few that don't know them, the Vanguard are a group of musicians and warriors that tour the world and lift people's spirits with their songs!" Bobba agreed.

Frank palmed his face. "Great. And now our fans won't leave us alone. How're we supposed to get stuff done when we're followed by a horde of ravenous fangirls?"

"And fanboys," Shawna added.

"And fanboys."

Ryan hummed thoughtfully. "We'll have to wait for Seymour and Mika to arrive. That should distract everyone enough to let us rendezvous with the Centigrade at Dock... Er, what dock are they at?" He looked at Joe, who wound his way through the crowd, handing out pre-signed band photos to keep some of the fans at bay before making his way back.

"According to the schedule over there, the Centigrade is due to arrive at Dock 4 in ten minutes, carrying the Al Bhed Psyches. Knowing Captain Choi, however, I'd say we'll have about five minutes before then to get on board and change." Just then, as if on cue, the crowd started murmuring about the arrival of the Maester's ship at Dock 3 and the majority of them moved off.

The Vanguard moved with them until the crowd neared the next dock, quickly moving to the dock after that.

Wakka and the Aurochs were in the Blitzball arena, staring down the Al Bhed Psyches. Wakka was rather annoyed that Tidus hadn't made it back to the locker room before the game started, but they'd have to do their best.

The game was intense. The Psyches, save one, were as that one Forsaken had claimed: "new." They played differently than the Psyches had every year before, though they were good enough that at the half, the game was tied at one point each.

And that's when the news came, by way of a non-player Al Bhed: Yuna had been kidnapped, and the ransom was the game. After the messenger left, Lulu told Wakka that she would find Tidus and Kihmari and assist them in finding Yuna. All he had to do was stall.

Another big surprise came just as the game re-started. The Psyches' new players seemed to be glaring at the old player, and the captain called an immediate time-out to speak with Wakka, as captain of the Aurochs, at the top of the arena.

"I apologize for the overzealous actions of our team mate," he said, his voice sounding oddly familiar, if distorted by his mask. "It was not our decision to kidnap your lady summoner. If you wish it, we shall forfeit this game to you."

"You serious?"

"We take Blitzball seriously, just as you do. Something like this is not proper and, win or lose, Zekki and our crew will be punished by our leader."

"Well... Lu said she was going to get help and rescue Lady Yuna herself. So let's just play a good game, ya?"

"Very well. May the best team win." And with that, the two of them shook hands and the game restarted at its previous intensity. And at a minute to go, the Aurochs, surprisingly for all but their most die-hard fans, were ahead by two points, making the score three to one.

And when the buzzer sounded, there was only one point difference. The Aurochs had won their first game in years, at a score of three to two.

After the game was over, the Psyches and Aurochs met in the hallway between their locker rooms, their sixth team mate being led away by several other Al Bhed that had accompanied Tidus, Yuna, Kihmari and Lulu. One of them saluted the Psyches.

"Dra nacd uv dra lnaf ehjumjat fedr dra gethybbehk ryja paah nasyhtat du dra pnek."

"Jano kuut, lybdyeh. Nabund du Cid yht mad res tameta draen vyda," replied the captain.

"Oac, cen." The Al Bhed saluted again and walked away.

Yuna looked at the Al Bhed Psyches' captain oddly. "I'm sorry, but did you say 'Cid?'"

"Indeed I did, Lady Yuna. I apologize for this, and the ones responsible for your kidnapping will be judged by Cid himself. By the way," he turned to Wakka and pulled off his goggles and cap, letting his ponytail flop across his back. Joe smiled, "good game, Captain Wakka."

Tidus gaped, "You? You're in the Al Bhed Psyches?"

"They finally decided we were good enough to join half a year ago." The rest of the remaining Psyches removed their headgear, revealing themselves to be the whole of the Vanguard. "'S why you didn't play against us last year."

"Aside from the fact that we, y'know, played against the Goers last year and lost." Wakka grumbled.

"Er, yeah. Except for that. Anyways, you guys have a game to win, right?" Joe chuckled and pointed at Tidus. "Just let this guy be your front man and you'll be good."

Tidus blinked, "Er, thanks."

Ryan put his hand on Joe's shoulder. "Come on. Let's get to our seats."

"Right. See you guys!"

It was a close game between the Aurochs and Goers, who had previously crushed the Ronso Fangs and the Kilika Beasts. When the crowd started chanting for Wakka to come back two minutes into the second half, the game was at three to two in the Goer's favour.

"The final outcome of this momentous Blitzball tournament is four to three!" Shouted Bobba. "It's unbelievable! THE AUROCH'S WIN! This is one for the record books, folks."

"It's definitely something, Bobba, that's for sure. As is policy, anyone who wants to meet with the team can- Wait, what's going on?"

"Fiends have infiltrated the stadium! Sahagin are in the arena itself and the Aurochs are fighting them off!"

The Vanguard rose to their feet and a flash erupted across the seats and the bodies of the panicking audience as their Dress Spheres activated.

Auron, sitting a few seats away, smirked as he sliced through a Drake that was about to breath fire on some of the escaping people, causing it to dissolve into Pyreflies. Tidus and Wakka, showing their athletic ability shot out of the sphere of water and landed right next to him.

"Auron!" Tidus yelled, but, before he could say anything else, a horde of Lupine and aerial Fiends surrounded them. "Whoa!"

"DARKNESS!" A wave of purple-black energy flashed through the Fiends and they all disintegrated into Pyreflies. Tidus looked at the direction they came in to see Joe, coughing a bit.

"How did you do that?"

Joe smiled, some blood on his teeth. "I'm a Dark Knight."

"And what's that mean?"

"It means he specializes in killing himself," said Auron, causing Joe to laugh.

"I'll have to steal that from you sometime, Auron!"

"Actually, I got it from you."

Joe blinked as Ryan cast Cura. "Um, how does that work? This is the first time I've heard it..."

Auron blinked. "Ah, I see. I'm afraid I can't say any more. Time Travel."

Matt turned from where he was slicing apart a few Drakes with his axe, "First Time Travel gets us here, and now Auron? It's getting pretty convoluted."

Shawna handed Ryan a bunch of potions she had Mugged from a few other monsters. "Well, we can't do anything about it, so deal with it."

It was then that Seymour summoned Anima, having her used Pain in rapid succession to destroy all the remaining Fiends in the area. The people who still hadn't made it out of the stadium began to cheer, as Seymour nodded in thanks.

After the award ceremony, in which Wakka, as current captain of the Besaid Aurochs, was given the Blitzball Tournament Champion Trophy, Wakka had announced to the others that he was leaving Blitzball to join Yuna on her pilgrimage. The other players protested, as he had a few wounds from the Sahagin that had attacked the arena itself, but he waved them off.

Yuna stood by the docks with her Guardians, the Vanguard, Auron, and Tidus as Wakka approached.

"Are you sure you want to leave like that?" she asked.

"Never liked long goodbyes anyways," he answered. "Sorry to keep you waiting, I had to keep my promises, ya? From here on out, I'm your full-time Guardian!"

Yuna smiled lightly. "Welcome back, Sir Wakka. Good to have you with us."

"It's good to be back." Wakka looked around. "Any news on what happened?"

"Not really," said Lulu. "We don't know where the Fiends came from. Maester Mika is safe, thanks to Maester Seymour. That's all we know."

"I have a theory," said Frank, pointing dramatically into the air. "And I guarantee it's not gonna make you guys like me very much!"

Yuna looked to him curiously. "What's your theory?" Lulu hissed at her to not encourage the forsaken one.

"The Guado." Frank's eyes glowed a brighter yellow under his Black Mage hat. "They have the ability to call Fiends to wherever, and I'm thinking they did it so Seymour-"

"Maester Seymour," Lulu hissed.

"Seymour," Frank chirped back, "could look heroic in the eyes of the people by saving the day."

Ryan nodded. "I know it is not proper to speak of a Maester in such a way, but I felt no good intentions from him this day."

"Nice rhyme," muttered Joe.

"Thank you. Anyways, I do not know how a Summoner could use an Aeon in such obvious agony and smile as he did the whole while. I know that, for me, when one of my Aeons gets wounded, I feel its pain."

Lulu simply sighed, shaking her head, before deciding to completely ignore the Vanguard's presence, like Wakka seemed to be doing. "Yuna, we should prepare to leave. Mi'ihen Highroad is not far from here."

"Right," Yuna turned to the Vanguard herself. "Thank you for your assistance. I hope I get to see you again sometime."

"It was our pleasure, Lady Yuna. And I'm certain you will see us again," Ryan said back, bowing. The whole of the Vanguard performed the traditional bow of the Yevon religion with him, and waved as Yuna, Lulu, Kihmari, and Wakka walked off.

As they left, Auron and Tidus arrived, approaching from the area of the docks. Auron turned to look at the assembled Vanguard.

"We are going to offer our services to Lady Yuna as Guardians. What are your intentions now?" Ryan smiled as he replied.

"We aim to be her Vanguard."

"A Summoner acting as another Summoner's Guardian? It is highly unprecedented."

"I know."

"The trouble I foresee," said Shawna, "is Lulu and Wakka's reaction of Yuna being guarded by the 'Forsaken.'"

Auron smirked confidently. "Time travel. I can easily vouch for your true character."

"So, when did you meet us later?" asked Joe. "No major spoilers, of course, but I wonder about how it works out."

Auron thought for a moment before turning to Tidus. "Go on ahead. We will catch up." The boy looked as though he wanted to protest, but went on ahead anyways. Auron then replied to the question. "I did not go straight to the Dream Zanarkand when Yunalesca killed me. Neither did I go to the Farplane. I believed that what I had done, leading my friends to their deaths as I had, to be the greatest crime.

"It was there, in that afterlife, that I met you for the first time. You were still alive, all of you, but at this point I shall say no more until the end of this Pilgrimage"

Everyone blinked at Auron's little info dump.

"That was... a bit more than I was expecting..." Joe said. "I was just expecting a place, not the how."

Matt snorted in amusement. "We actually got everything but the where and when. How's that for non-spoilery?"

Auron turned to leave. "We've used up enough time. Let's-"

"HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!" A highly obnoxious laugh echoed through the area.

Auron stopped dead in his tracks. "What."

"Oh, God," Frank moaned, burying his shadowed face in his hands. "I completely forgot about the MOST AWKWARD SCENE IN THE WORLD!"

"Let's just-" Joe shuddered as the "laughter" continued. "Let's just get up there and stop it."

We let Auron lead the group as the Vanguard approached Tidus and Yuna, who were now laughing normally. Wakka noticed them first and he pointed Auron out to Yuna.

"Sir Auron!" she smiled.

Auron nodded. "I wish to offer my services as a Guardian. Do you accept?"

"I already told them about your offer, Auron," Tidus said. "And I don't think they'll turn you down."

"He's right, Sir Auron," Yuna said. "But I am curious as to why you would want to."

"I promised Braska," Auron stated simply.

Lulu looked over Aurons shoulder at the Vanguard. "And what business do you have here?"

Ryan stepped forward and all the Vanguard bowed. "We wish to offer our services alongside Auron's as your Guardians."

If it wasn't for the bustling of people in the nearby city, a pin could have been heard.

Lulu was livid. "WHAT? How dare you! Do you want Yuna to be ostracised like you? To be cast out and never allowed to visit a Temple again?"

Auron stood in front of the Vanguard himself. "They are some of the best people I've ever met. Their presence will only help Yuna on her pilgrimage."

"You're... You're defending them, Sir Auron?"

"Yes."

That seemed to stop Lulu's tirade in its tracks. "But... Why?"

"They once saved my life. I owe them."

Ryan stood. "If you do not wish to decide now, we shall still accompany you to Djose Temple. After that, we'll probably split up unless you hire us on."

Yuna nodded uncertainly, "Y-yes... I would like some time to think this over..."

And with that, they walked onto the Mi'ihen Highroad, only half the group knowing about the operation ahead.