29: Epilogue: Zanarkand Library

"Testing, one, two. Testing." Shelinda tapped her microphone and glanced around the ruins at the wide-eyed squatter monkeys that watched the large gathering of people.

Maku checked his sphere recorder and nodded that the settings were ready. Then, he gave her the cue that she was broadcasting directly to Luca.

"Oh! We're here at the Zanarkand Ruins to witness the opening ceremony of a special building." Shelinda smiled sweetly at the sphere recorder. "As you all know, it was a year ago today that New Yevon, the Youth League, the Machine Faction, the Ronso, and the Guado all agreed that historical spheres found around Spira should be considered a global treasure. They decided to preserve the spheres in a vault built right here in Zanarkand to honor the memories of those who died in the Machina War - a war that forever changed our world. It's taken thousands of hours of labor, with all of Spira's communities pitching in to help in some way. You can see it behind me. It's just to the left of the broken road that leads directly into the ruins. It's a beautiful five-story tower designed in the same ancient architectural flavor of the ruins. We don't know what kinds of surprises it has hidden inside, because those directly involved with the project are keeping a tight lip on the matter. One thing's for sure, everyone here is excited. We'll be back in a minute with more, live from the Library at Zanarkand." The sphere recorder's hum faded, and Shelinda lowered her microphone. "Hoo! How was that?"

"I couldn't get a good view of the library." Maku pointed to the high mound of rock facing the water that had flooded the ruins. "Maybe we should move up on that hill over there."

"Okay." Shelinda made her way through the crowd to the overlook area. They had just made it to the top of the rocks when a distant engine could be heard in the sky. "Oh! There they are! Turn it back on!"

Maku urgently turned the sphere recorder back on and focused on her. Then, he cued her that they were live once more.

"Hello, Luca. Shelinda here, back with more live reporting from Zanarkand. It looks like the Celsius is getting ready to land with the last of its passengers flown in from around Spira. Just as Lady Yuna and the Gullwings generously transported hundreds of people into the Thunder Plains for a concert a little more than a year ago, they are now volunteering to bring as many people as they can squeeze into their ship to Zanarkand for this library dedication. Here they come!"

The red airship shone like a fireball in the late afternoon sun as it jetted down from the clouds toward the gathering, but it landed over the water with surprisingly gentle ease and came to a stop close enough to solid ground that the landing ramp was able to act as a bridge. Spectators that had been thrilled with the ride were now thrilled to disembark near the sacred ruins. Most of the visitors had never even seen the region before, so they were as awed at their first sight of the legendary ruins as they were at the new library standing on the grounds. A few minutes after the last of the passengers had left the ship, the Gullwings crew exited down the ramp, as well.

"There she is, folks. Lady Yuna has just arrived, along with the rest of the Gullwings. Let's see if we can get a word with her. Lady Yuna!" Shelinda waved from her perch on the rocks. After Yuna waved back, Shelinda gestured for her recorder to cut and follow. She hopped down from the rocks and ran toward the twenty-year-old former summoner, with her recorder in tow. "Lady Yuna." She paused to catch her breath for a moment. "Would you mind doing an interview?"

Yuna looked back over her shoulder at the rest of the crew. They did not seem bothered by it, so she consented. "We have a few minutes before the opening ceremony begins." Yuna's cheerful smile lit up her blue and green eyes, as always. She wore her shoulder-length hair pinned up formally for the occasion, though the way the thin layers fell back down around her face made it look more feathery than smooth. Her long braid hung down to her ankles as it usually did, but Rikku had loosened some of the long strands to weave into smaller braids, decorating them with a touch of beads here and there, and looping them intricately around and into the pinned up bun. Yuna wore one of Arantisu's Abes charms on a thin gold necklace above the silver one that usually graced the base of her neck. Having also chosen to wear Lenne's dress sphere for the occasion, she looked very elegant.

"Thank you, so much!" Shelinda faced her recorder, who turned the sphere back on. "We're here again, live in Zanarkand. Lady Yuna, Zanarkand was once a sacred pilgrimage for the summoners of Yevon, but last year, it was turned into a sphere hunting tourist attraction. What's so different about drawing people to Zanarkand for a library instead of hunting spheres? Won't that be cheapening the value of this sacred place, too?" She turned the microphone to Yuna.

Cid stepped forward, slightly miffed. "That wasn't cheapening any value. There's spheres all over this place, and they all need to be dug up."

"The difference," Yuna politely interrupted before her uncle could get too testy, "is that the spheres were being used as a souvenir attraction before - a money maker that benefited only the lucky few who found them. Now, we're going to house them in this library for everyone on Spira to learn from them. Another difference," she continued, "is that the ruins themselves will be off-limits to tourists. The ronso have formed a new honor guard for Zanarkand, and only expert sphere hunters will be allowed beyond the library, in order to protect the city from further damage."

"I see. Any preview of what lies inside for us?" Shelinda turned the microphone back to Yuna.

"Well, ..." Yuna gave a small laugh. "To be honest with you, I'm not sure what to expect. I haven't been working on the library itself because I've been exploring the ruins under the water and helping to map out the sectors with our navigator, Buddy. Kimahri Ronso, Tromell Guado, and Gippal of the Machine Faction have been in charge of the building plans." Her eyes shifted toward Tidus. "And our native consultant has stubbornly refused to give me permission to enter."

Tidus smiled quietly from where he stood beside her. He still hated stuffy, formal things, but he willingly donned his black basilisk armor for this occasion. Today, above all else, he was a guardian once more. His hair had grown long enough to reach the base of his neck now, but other than that, he looked the same as ever. He had aged exactly one year, just like everyone else, but at eighteen, any changes in his face had been so subtle as to be unnoticeable. He wore Arantisu's other Abes charm on a thin, golden chain above his old silver one. Most people assumed the matching charms had something to do with the fact that he and Yuna were a couple. Only a handful knew their true purpose. On his wrist he wore a small, team sport bracelet alongside his typical silver one - the only visible reminder that he was captain of the current Crystal Cup champions.

Shelinda continued with her interview. "Is New Yevon going to be in charge of the library?"

"No." Yuna quickly shook her head. Rumors of New Yevon controlling access to the valuable collection of spheres would only raise the hair on the back of the necks of Youth League members, and the last thing they needed now was more dissension between the popular factions. "New Yevon is only a partner in this endeavor. We assure you that the previous policies on temple treasury items have been reevaluated so that this library can be for all of Spira."

Shelinda turned back to the sphere recorder. "Well, there you have it, folks. I think that's a wrap. Let the opening ceremony begin." She lowered her microphone as Maku turned the sphere recorder off. "Thank you for your time, Lady Yuna. We're really excited to see what's inside the library."

"I think we all are," Yuna admitted.

))((

"Lady Yuna? Tidus?" Tromell Guado greeted her with a bow as he and Kimahri approached.

"We're ready," she answered, knowing why they were here. Grasping Tidus's hand, she followed them to where the rest of the council members stood up on the stage. Spotting Wakka and Lulu in the crowd, she laughed lightly at the way Wakka was making Vidina wave at her from atop his dad's shoulders. The one-year-old looked stunned to be surrounded by so many people. Lulu gave her an assuring smile, and Yuna waved back at them before summoning a microphone to address the large crowd. "I'd like to thank all of you for coming this afternoon. I once told someone," her eyes shifted to Tidus, "that people define themselves by where they come from, ... whether it's a place, or a time, or a personal background." She remembered their conversation on the rainy deck of the Thunder Plains a little over a year ago and smiled at how sure of himself he was now, compared to then.

Tidus stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest, pretending not to be the example in this speech.

"Spira has had trouble being able to freely discover what that definition is for all of us," she continued. "This library is a collection of places, times, and personal backgrounds that will hopefully restore some of that lost identity to us. My friends and I, and many of you, have contributed to that collective identity. I wish that I could thank each one of you personally for those contributions, but we'd be here all night if I did." She smiled as a small wave of chuckles rose from the crowd. "However, there are a few people we all need to thank, or this day would not have been possible. I would like to thank Kimahri Ronso and his tribe of ronso from Mt. Gagazet for being the backbone and muscle behind the construction of the building to house the spheres."

Kimahri gripped his lance and stared stoically at the cheering crowd with his golden eyes, but his tail twitched ever so slightly with pride. His broken horn tipped in respect to the people acknowledging him. His ronso builders and new guardians stood in a ring around the event in the same stoic position he held. Isaaru stood among them, pleased to not be the only keeper of the sacred place anymore.

Yuna continued down the list. "I would like to thank Baralai, the Praetor of New Yevon, for being the first leader of Bevelle to open his mind and his heart to sharing the temple's collection of spheres."

Baralai bowed formally before the gathering that cheered for him.

"Tromell Guado, … for his advice and knowledge of the Farplane, and helping with the display of the spheres themselves."

The master of the forest people bowed graciously a couple of times for the applause given to him.

"Gippal, head of the Machine Faction, has donated his time and genius, as well as his machines, to the effort." Yuna was careful to try to say the new word for Gippal's improved inventions. "And we also thank his army of knowledgeable engineers, who were once shunned for their experimentation with old technology ..."

Gippal raised both hands to the fanfare he received, but then waved it off like it was nothing. Al Bhed workers in the crowd bounced and waved, glad to receive their recognition, too.

"A word of thanks goes out to Nooj, meyvn of the Youth League, and his volunteers. If not for them, this entire project might have met ... a fatal end." She looked to the meyvn and smiled in gratitude, both public and personal.

He bowed and then nodded to her, acknowledging both.

When Yuna turned to face Tidus for mention of his participation, his slow grin made her grin as well. "I'd also like to thank our resident Zanarkand expert, though most of you know him as the captain of the Besaid Aurochs, ... Tidus's special knowledge has been the glue that brought all the pieces together."

The blitz fans in the crowd gave a rowdy stadium-style "Go Aurochs!" cheer, as he did a little victory dance and bow that made them laugh.

Yuna laughed and cuffed his arm. "Show off."

"Well, I could have done The Sublimely Magnificent Jecht Shot Mark III, but I'm not sure I want to try it with a really big sword on my back, you know?"

"You better not be doing no flips up on that stage!" Wakka yelled from the crowd. "Don't make me come up there and pound some sense into you! You'll just have to settle for the little dance, Yuna!"

On cue, Tidus repeated his victory-wiggle-dance for her. Collective chuckles rose from the crowd as Yuna turned away with an embarrassed laugh, shaking her head. Then, having enjoyed the fact that he managed to crack her up in the middle of her speech, he backed up a step and attempted to blend into the background once more.

Yuna glanced at him once more, then gestured down toward the crowd before she could start laughing again. "I would also like to thank my friends and family among the Gullwings. Many of the spheres on display in the library were obtained with their help. And they've supported this project through thick and thin, even when I lost my heart to do so. I love you guys." She blew them a kiss.

Maku, Shelinda's sphere recorder, spanned the large group to try to include everyone in the broadcast. Shinra waved, Buddy smiled and nodded, and Cid puffed out his chest proudly. Brother flapped his arms like a seagull, Paine rolled her eyes at him, and Rikku stepped forward to grin into the sphere's convex lens with a peace sign.

"And finally, I would like to thank all of you who donated some of your own sphere collections to the effort. I realize the gil that these items are worth, but we all know that their real worth is priceless." Yuna paused to applaud the crowd itself, and let them cheer for themselves. Then, she looked over her shoulder to see that the musicians were joining her on the stage and the rest of the committee was splittting in different directions. "And now, I'd like to dedicate a song to all those souls that lived here, in Zanarkand, over a thousand years ago, when it was very much alive and full of hope for the future. This song was once performed by Lenne, a popular singer who fell in love with someone very special, and … " She looked down from the stage to where Tidus had moved. "And I can't blame her."

He blushed somewhat and looked away again, making her smile.

"She lost sight of him for a long time, but she never gave up hope that they would be together again someday. So, ... here's to the rekindling of hope." Yuna turned to the band and cued them to start the music.

))((

As Tidus watched her sing, he was entranced by her beauty and her voice. It was one of Lenne's songs from the Zanarkand concert sphere he'd found for her. He was already very familiar with the song because Shuyin knew it so well, and it awakened memories of Lenne, hearing it again. But it also brought back not-so-distant memories of Yuna herself. It was strange having heard it sung over the course of two lifetimes by two people he loved - strange, but nice. He was sure that Lenne, and Shuyin were listening with approval, wherever they were.

When Yuna finished singing, she bowed low amid the applause, then stepped back and offered the microphone to Baralai as he stepped forward. Tidus moved into position opposite Kimahri at the large library doors, where they both waited for Baralai to speak.

"And now, as we invite you to browse our museum of memories, we also ask you to respect the solemn sacrifices made in this lost city. Please do not disturb the rest of the spirits who remain in Zanarkand. If you want to see Zanarkand up close to get a taste of the past, we have a better idea in mind." Baralai's lips were touched by a hint of a smile as he gestured to Tromell, Kimahri, and Tidus.

Kimahri and Tidus grabbed the handles of the large outer doors and pushed them open, locking them into position to remain that way for the visitors. Tromell disappeared inside of the library for a moment and came out with a unique-looking sphere. Tidus gestured to Yuna to bring the microphone down from the stage, so she accepted it back from Baralai and hopped down to give it to Tromell.

"This sphere," the guado explained, "is a collection of spheres that were synchronized and pieced together like a three-dimensional puzzle. We used it to make our working model of the library, but when we had finished with that, we thought it would be a shame to junk it. So, we set up projection spheres around the ruins and at set times of the day and night visitors will now be able to see a different kind of Zanarkand."

He touched the activation button and the ruins seemed to come to life. Incredibly tall buildings rose into the sky all around them and extended into the sea far beyond them. Waterfalls spilled their cascades down the sides of buildings like fountains. A magical wall behind the city acted as a barricade against normal storms hitting the coast, and two large water arches marked the prominent city's location for even distant travelers to see. Images of ordinary people going about their daily lives doing ordinary things swept between and around the gathering, and the transporter blinked and whirred between the tall spires like a loop of light. Vehicles rolled along the highways, only to lift into the air and fly away overhead. It was Zanarkand before there ever was such a thing as a Machina War.

))((

Yuna drew in a breath of astonishment like everyone else. The illusion felt so real that she wanted to run into it and see all that there was to see. "Was this the surprise you were hiding all that time?" she asked of Tidus.

"Part of it." Putting a finger to his lips to be quiet, he used the distraction to sneak her away from the crowd and into the new library. Kimahri made no move to stop them.

Yuna was delighted by the blend of magic and machina that made up the lighting, furniture, and decor of the interior design. She was touched by a portrait of her father with Sir Auron and Sir Jecht at his side that hung near a room dedicated to the high summoners and Sin. And she giggled at the statue of Maechen near the lighted display map of the building's levels. "Whose idea was that?"

"Mine," he admitted with a proud grin. Kimahri said it needed a statue, and I figured if anyone deserved to be carved in stone here, it should be that old geezer."

Yuna put a hand to her mouth and tried not to laugh, but she supposed he was right.

"He could tell you everything about anything if you had the patience to listen to him long enough." Tidus pointed her toward the directory map in the center of the lobby. "We have rooms devoted to each of the regions and a few rooms for things each region has in common." Taking her hand, he didn't wait for her to look at the entire map before pulling her with him toward one of the rooms. "The Zanarkand rooms will be the most expansive because they're meant for anything related to the Machina War, including the high summoners, the Fayth, the aeons, and any guardians who made it to the final pilgrimage. Even Sin and Yu Yevon are given their dues because they used to be people, too. Might help some people move on if they can understand that. Anyway, that takes up the entire first floor display."

He led her into one of the rooms. "We call this 'the Dream Room'." Amid the many shelves made to hold cataloged spheres for individual viewing, Tidus approached a large stand in the middle of the room and touched the surface menu visible through the large crystal ball. The sphere blinked and hummed with the familiar sound of most memory spheres, and then Seymour's sphere swallowed the room in Zanarkand sights and sounds.

"Gippal spliced a tap between this sphere and the model that Tromell reconstructed. So, as a result ..." He touched another button and a holographic display of a map blinked up before him. Choosing the sector most familiar to him switched the display to the harbor where he once lived. "You can find any place in Zanarkand that has been recorded on a sphere. So, you can see what my houseboat looked like above the water, instead of under it." He looked back to her with a proud grin. "Is that cool, or what?"

Yuna looked down at her feet and was amazed to see that it looked like she was standing on the pier only a few feet away from the houseboat. "Dream Room? Like ... the Fayth's dream?"

Tidus faced the dock where his houseboat bobbed gently on the dark water at night. "We've reconstructed Zanarkand based on memories, just like the Fayth did, only we used holographs and spheres, rather than the actual memories of the dead. No souls have been summoned to create this. It's a different kind of illusion from the one I came from," he added with a more sober tone and expression.

Yuna turned to regard him with concern. "And you're ... okay with this?"

"You mean does it bother me that I'm an illusion building an illusion?" He smiled lightly at the irony. "I may not be as material as the rest of you, but I have a real conscious." He paused, realizing they had never really talked about it like this before. Now he found himself looking at her with doubt. "Does it ever bother you? You know, ... the fact that what you see is an illusion ..."

"It was harder for me to accept you as Shuyin than it was to accept that you're not … "

"That I'm not real," he finished for her, seeing that she did have trouble saying it.

She felt bad for bringing it up now. "You are, literally, a dream come true. When I think about that, it amazes me so much. But to be honest, most of the time I just don't think about it. That's how real you are to me." She could tell he was relieved to hear it.

Yuna looked around the room again and latched onto his arm. "I never thought I'd get to see Zanarkand through your eyes like this. It's incredible."

He smiled at the city as he remembered it. "I thought you'd like it."

"It's a very nice surprise."

He turned the display off and took her hand once more. "But you haven't even seen the rest of it yet," he explained, ushering her quickly to the lift just as people were starting to fill the main lobby.

Yuna giggled at being whisked away again, glad to see his energy bounce back after the awkward topic. When they stepped off of the lift, he led her into a room designed to look like the interior of a Besaid home. A holograph of a view spanning the island played against one wall behind the rows of sphere shelves. The colors of the room were breezy like the island itself, but Tidus drew her attention to the large painting over the wall facing the door. It was a painting of herself seated in the center of the village near a bonfire, telling stories to the children, like when he first returned. Yuna was stunned to be staring at her own portrait.

"This is the Besaid room," he explained, pleased to see her reaction. "Up until now, it's been campfire storytellers who kept Spira's stories alive. This is a room set aside for story spheres." He checked her expression and grinned. "But there's another portrait and sphere of you in the summoner's room too, so don't get all weepy on me yet, okay? And there's one more thing I gotta show you before everyone else invades this place."

She laughed and wiped her eyes. "There's more?"

"The fifth floor isn't open to the public yet." He took her back to the lift, and they rode it to the top floor. "This level still has a long way to go toward completion, mainly because we're still having to hunt down the spheres for it, but Tromell's been experimenting with Macalania's lake water and a few rare spheres Baralai gave us from the temples."

When they stepped out of the lift into the lobby, Tidus took her to a rotating glass door and started to walk her through it, but she stopped and stared at it with a strange expression. He laughed at her reaction, guessing she'd never seen anything like it before, and showed her how to push it around to walk through it.

Yuna was delighted and walked around it several times before joining him with a grin. "It's like a carnival ride. Were all Zanarkand doors like that?"

"Well, many of them were, but this door leads to something else." He took her hand and walked her into a large, empty room that still bore signs of unfinished construction assembly. When he touched the controls of the central projection sphere, however, the room darkened considerably and they were suddenly standing under a starry sky. A space scape wooshed past them as it had in Seymour's sphere, but this one was very different. This one showed a small, blue, marbleized planet gradually coming toward them, until it loomed before them like a swirling giant.

Yuna gazed at it in disbelief, somehow knowing. "Earth ..."

"Mh," he confirmed her guess. "Baralai said it's the only sphere of it left that he knows of - well, other than the maps, but nobody knows what's on them yet. He's got a few more stellar recordings, so they'll go in here as well. This room will be for anything related to Spira's origins. We were hoping that Spira's spheres could eventually be kept in here for everyone to see. And if we keep digging through all those spheres under the library, I know we'll eventually turn up something related to this room." He sat down on the floor and then lay back, hands behind his head, to gaze up at the sky scape as it shifted and rotated showing Earth's moon and surrounding solar system. "You said you wanted to see it someday, and this way, you don't even need a telescope."

Yuna sat down next to him, but looked at him, rather than the stars on display above her. "You ... remembered me saying that?"

Tidus turned his chin toward her. "Of course."

She smiled and lay down beside him, putting her head on his shoulder. "How long can we stay up here?" she asked, gazing up at the far away universe.

"As long as you want. We can even lock the door, but I don't think they'll believe us if we tell them were just star gazing," he added in wry humor.

She smiled and lifted the Abes charm at her throat to consider it for a long moment. "Have you ever been tempted to look at the maps?"

He shrugged. "Nah. I've got everything I need right here."

Yuna let go of her charm and laughed lightly. "The advantage of coming from a dream ... I knew there was a reason you would make a safe place to hide the other charm." Snuggling close to him, she allowed herself a contented sigh as she lifted her eyes to the mysterious planet where Spira was created.

))((

Author's Note:

I would like to thank all of you who left reviews for the original posting of this story five years ago, as well as those of you who continue to give current feedback.

If you are new to my Final Fantasy X/X-2 fan-fiction series, thanks for taking the time to check it out. If you enjoyed this story, "Neogenesis" is the third of four stories in this series. "Neogenesis" is more of a prequel than a sequel, exploring Shuyin's life and telling his story up through Tidus's creation until he is released into Spira proper. Timeline-wise, book four, "Spira's Revenge", picks up where "Spira's Sphere" stops.

I will end with one additional note concerning the connection between Tidus and Shuyin that I've presented in these first two stories for those readers who are still confused, or who are thinking, "Shuyin and Tidus do NOT look like twins!" After doing a little "net research" while writing "Spira's Sphere", I discovered that a large number of fans do speculate some kind of connection between the two. Based on the blogs and forums I came across, the most common belief seems to be that Tidus was an altered memory based on a real Shuyin, or that they were brothers. The game designers don't explain any relationship between them, but they obviously wanted players to mistake Shuyin for Tidus until further along in the story. Otherwise, the plot with Yuna trying to find him again wouldn't have been credible. But even after Yuna meets Shuyin in the Farplane and is asked if they look alike, she replies "only his face". In other words, even face-to-face, she didn't realize he was not Tidus, ... until he stated his name and behaved differently. So, my series is based on the assumption that the characters see them as nearly identical, even if we, as players, have come to see that they look very different. As for Tidus being drawn from Shuyin's better attributes, I came up with that idea based on my rationalization that if Tidus had been a separate, real person - like Shuyin or Auron or even the Fayth - it would not have fit with the rest of the game's logic to resurrect him after he had been sent. Tidus must have some kind of unique " dream juju" going on that neither the living nor the dead can match. Being made of magic allows him to fade, rather than die, providing a possibility of being summoned back. Just a fun theory anyway. ;)

Thanks very much for reading!

- M'jai