(Prequel to "Spira's Dream" and "Spira's Sphere")
Re-uploaded and revised 16 July 2010
This is the third story in my series of fanfictions from the Final Fantasy X/X-2 games. It is the prequel to Spira's Dream and Spira's Sphere- it would be best to read those stories first. This story is heavily dependent on the concepts originally presented in both of those. This story is primarily about Shuyin, but Tidus comes into play later because the tale is ultimately about how Tidus came to exist. Since it breaks away from the current time line, I've tried to write this story so that it is not necessary for reading book four in the series (which will pick up the current time line again), although it is helpful.
The setting, characters, and inspiration for the plot all belong to Square Enix. Fans of the FFX and FFX-2 games will recognize which content is not mine. I do not even pretend to take credit for it. I'm merely fitting it into a larger picture. My appreciation goes out to Square Enix and their wonderful game designers for giving us such inspiring entertainment.
This is a reminder that this story is my interpretation of the story events and my imaginative take on what could have happened before the events in the game. Any resemblance between my fan-fic and others is purely unintentional. We are all playing the same game, after all, so it's pretty easy to draw some similar theories out of it.
"... Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. That's what little boys are made of." - Old English nursery rhyme.
Chapter 1: Born to Blitz
Four-year-old Shuyin had grown up living on the water in a houseboat. The bronze-skinned, blond-haired little boy had frequently visited the beach with his parents, since the city of his birth, Zanarkand, sprawled along the shore and out into the sea. And his father, a sports legend in the underwater game of blitzball, had the boy playing in the tides before he could even walk. But as he followed the footsteps of his father toward the indoor pool for his first day of swimming lessons, he was far from excited to be there. Something happened last summer that changed his opinion about water and made him shy away from it ever since.
Needless to say, this was an embarrassment to the blitzball champion. Jecht resolved to remedy his son's fear, but the more he pushed, the more the boy protested. Finally, when Shuyin ran crying to his mother, Dannae insisted that someone with more patience be the one to teach the boy how to swim. So, here they were at the local recreation center, ready to begin - or at least Jecht was. Little Shuyin wasn't quite so sure.
"Oh my!" The instructor beamed when she saw Jecht stroll down the side of the pool toward her. "Wow, it really is you! I thought someone had made a mistake on my registration list when I saw your name on there. It's such a pleasure to meet you! My husband and sons are big fans of the Abes. I know they'll just die when I tell them your son's in my swim class." She laughed with light embarrassment.
"Always nice to meet an Abes fan." Jecht grinned and looked down at his knee where his son was hiding behind him.
"And you must be Jecht, Jr." The swim instructor lightly joked as she crouched and held out a hand to shake his. The boy didn't respond until his dad thumped the back of his head to prompt him out of his shyness. When he slipped his small hand into hers, she smiled. "Are you wanting to swim so you can grow up to play blitzball like your daddy?"
"No," the boy honestly answered in a small voice.
Jecht's grin turned into a strained smile, but he kept his composure together. "Last summer at the beach, he was trying one of my trick shots when a wave pulled him under. He won't go anywhere near the water now. I tend to have a sink or swim philosophy about the matter, so the wife insists that he might respond better to someone else's way of doing things."
The instructor nodded in understanding and looked to Shuyin. "Well, go have a seat on the side of the pool with the other kids. I'll be right there."
"Do what she says, ... and no crying. I mean it. You're king of the pool, remember? King Tidus of the sun and the waves. I'll be sitting over there." Jecht took the boy's towel, gave his back a light push, and slapped his backside to send him on his way. Then, he headed to the benches near the wall where the other parents were seated.
With his head hung low, Shuyin walked to the end of the line of children sitting at the side of the pool and sat down next to a girl that was about a head taller than he was. She blatantly stared at him, as did all the other children that were already splashing their feet in the water. He dipped his toes into the clear water and lifted them back out watching it bead and run down his ankles. He really did not want to do this, and it made matters worse that this girl was now staring at him.
"What's your name?" she asked.
"Mine's Kaila. How old are you?"
"Me, too. So is my brother. We're twins. That means we were born at the same time." She pointed down the line to her brother that was sitting far away from her and already talking to some of the other boys. The fraternal twins both had dark brown hair and hazel irises flecked with green and gold specks, making them look almost identical. "Are you scared?"
He frowned at her assumption, even if it was correct. "No."
"You look scared."
"I'm not scared." He puffed out his ribs and folded his arms over his chest, then turned away from her, mad that he had to be there. But his defiance only made the girl giggle.
The instructor slipped into the pool from the edge and stood before her young swimmers. "Hello," she greeted everyone with a friendly smile. "My name is Miss Naori, and the first thing I want to talk to you about is how to safely get into the pool." She began her instruction with laying down the ground rules for not running or jumping. Then, she helped each child enter the water and hold onto the non-slip rail along the side under the water. But when she came to Shuyin, the boy backed away and drew his knees to his chest. "It's okay," she assured him. "I'll hold onto you, and you can hold onto the rail."
The small boy shook his shaggy mop of hair in protest.
"You won't have any fun sitting on the sidelines."
Shuyin stood to walk away, but the professional blitz player had already left the benches to intercept him. "Get back over there."
"I don't want to," the boy whined.
"Well, you're going to anyway." Jecht turned the boy's shoulders and pushed him back toward the pool.
The boy turned back around and gave his father a pleading look. "Can't I just go home?"
Disgusted, Jecht picked him up and set him back down on the pool's edge. Miss Naori reached to help the boy into the water, but he turned and hugged his father's leg.
Shuyin couldn't help himself. He tried hard not to cry, but the tears started to form in spite of his attempts to hold them back. "No! I don't want to!"
"Let go of me and get in the water," Jecht ordered through gritted teeth as he tried to keep his waning patience in check.
The boy didn't know or care that his behavior was further humiliating his father - not only was he afraid to get in the water, but he was crybaby on top of that. He just knew he didn't want any more water up his nose and down his throat. He tried to think of a good excuse. "But my leg hurts."
"Your ass is going to hurt too, if you don't do as I say." Jecht pried his arms away and picked him up again to make him face the instructor.
Shuyin turned to run away, but he was snatched up by his strong father once more and deposited back at the pool's edge. "Get in the damn water!"
"It's ... okay." Naori tried to keep the situation calm. "If it scares him that badly, he can sit and watch this time."
"If he whines his way out of it once, next time it will be worse. He's got to learn to face his fears." Angry and frustrated, Jecht crouched and turned the boy's shoulders to face him. "You live on a houseboat, for crying out loud. What if you fall off the pier or deck when your mom and I aren't around, huh? You have to learn how to do this, whether you like it or not."
Through his tears, Shuyin could see Kaila laughing at him. That made him even more desperate to go home. He started to tug, hit, and kick to escape his father's grip on him. He hated Jecht at that moment. He hated him with all his little heart.
Jecht looked to the instructor with disgust. "Looks like we're going to have to do this the hard-headed way. Ready?"
Naori stretched her arms out as Jecht lifted the squirming boy and gave him a toss.
The boy cried out, but was soon choked off by water filling his mouth and nose. It was only for a second before the instructor lifted his head and shoulders above water and wrapped his shivering, rigid body securely in her arms, but he coughed and gasped for air, too scared to fight anymore. As he blinked the water from his bright blue eyes and coughed some more, he clung to her neck with white-knuckled strength. Now all the children were laughing at him.
"I've got you. You're okay. What was it your dad called you? King Tidus of the waves? My, that sounds like the name of an ocean god, doesn't it." She picked up on his father's nickname for the boy, thinking it might make him feel more courageous. "I promise I won't let go of you, okay? But if you let go of me, you'll go under again. So, hold onto me nicely, until I can show you how to blow bubbles under the water, okay?"
Shuyin continued to cry in anger and humiliation as Miss Naori's attention shifted to instructing the other children. When it came time for him to stick his face in the water, however, she had a struggle on her hands again. Eventually, she gave up trying to accomplish anything with him that day except just having him in the water.
Jecht struggled to remain on the sidelines during the instruction, but the boy could see the anger written all over his father's face. He knew what that scowl meant for the ride home. By the end of the class, the boy was worn out from the ordeal, and Miss Naori carried him out of the pool to set him down at his father's feet. She remained calm, but Shuyin could tell she was upset with him, too.
"I can't hold him like that in future classes, but I agree with you that he does need to be in the water, even if we can't get him to do anything else. If he refuses to get in next time, I'm afraid you're going to have to be the one to hold him, so I can work with the other kids."
"Go get your towel," Jecht gruffly told him and turned to speak more with the instructor.
The boy gladly left them to wrap the bulky, warm towel around his shivering shoulders. His eyes, nose, and mouth all burned of chlorine. All he wanted at that moment was to crawl into bed and escape the miserable experience.
Kaila tapped his shoulder and held out two treats. ""Want a piece of candy? You can have butterscotch or strawberry."
Shuyin sniffled and rubbed his nose with his fist, but who was he to turn down candy? "Strawberry?"
She deposited the red-wrapped treat into his prune-wrinkled palm. "You were really funny today. When I'm scared like that, my mommy always gives me a kiss." She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek, making him blink at her in wide-eyed disbelief. She giggled at his reaction and patted his head as if he were a puppy.
"Hey, I wanted the strawberry one," her brother complained as she gave him the butterscotch candy. "Are you going to cry like that again tomorrow?" the other boy asked him. "Because you were really noisy. Mama says I'm noisy, but that was really, really noisy!" He rolled his eyes dramatically.
Shuyin's brows knit together in determination. "I'm not coming back tomorrow."
"But then you won't learn how to swim." The brown-haired boy struggled with his candy wrapper, but eventually freed the piece and popped it into his mouth. "I want to learn how to swim, so I can play blitzball."
This again. Shuyin scowled at his cold toes. "My dad's a blitzball player."
"He is? What team is he on?"
"The Abes." Shuyin unwrapped his piece of candy and ate it, taking care to lick his fingers where some of the powdered sugar rubbed off on them.
"I went to some of their games. My name is Koji. What's yours?"
"Let's go, King Tidus," Jecht impatiently growled at his son as he passed them, anxious to leave the embarrassing situation behind.
Koji's nose scrunched at the odd name. "King Tidus?"
"Sometimes, my dad calls me Tidus, but my name is Shuyin," the boy corrected, balancing on one prune-wrinkled foot to inspect the bottom of the other for a moment.
"Oh. Okay. See you tomorrow, Shuyin." Koji waved. His sister, Kaila, waved beside him.
"Some time today would be nice, son," Jecht called in warning from the pool door.
"I gotta go," Shuyin told them, then ran on his toes across the rough tile to where his dad was waiting.
"What's that in your mouth? Candy?" Jechet held the door open for him.
"Kaila gave it to me."
"You've got to be kidding. You didn't deserve candy, not after that pathetic performance."
Shuyin stopped and turned to wave at his new friends before following his father back outside. He decided he would give this swim thing another try after all, but it was because he wanted to see Koji and Kaila again - not because of Jecht's threats.
Word spread that Jecht's son was taking swim lessons, but to blitzball fans, he might as well have started the boy's spring training for the major league. Each time Shuyin passed a new level, people praised him for taking to water like a little eel. People expected great things from him, especially his father. After all, he was the son of a blitzball champion. The only person who didn't seem to care whether he passed or failed his swim levels was Koji.
In time, the two boys were holding contests with each other to see who could hold his breath under water the longest. During the course of their play, they began to develop the marathon lung capacity blitzers were best known for. And within the year, both of them had joined the local mini-league team - the Zanarkand Sea Stars.
One weekend, Koji's family was invited to join Shuyin's for a deep sea fishing trip on the ocean. While Jecht and Koji's father discussed fishing and blitzball, Dannae and the twins' mother rubbed all three children from head to toe in sun lotion, then sat in chairs on the deck to chat and supervise them while they played.
Shuyin was the first to tire of waiting for a fish to bite, so he propped his little fishing rod and returned to one of the bait buckets. Squatting over it, he pinched one of the longest worms and took it to Koji. "Look how big this one is. And it has no eyes or anything to see in the dirt with."
Equally bored with waiting, Koji propped his rod the way Shuyin had and stood to inspect the worm. "Let me hold it." He cupped his hands together.
Shuyin dropped the wriggling creature into his friend's hands.
"Uwa! It tickles! Aaah!" He laughed and swung around, opening his hands to drop the thing wherever it happened to fall - which just happened to be on his sister's shoulder.
Kaila screamed and scrambled away from the worm, letting go of her fishing rod, and losing it over the side of the boat as she ran to her mother. Koji rubbed his palms on his shorts to try to get rid of the wriggly, ticklish sensation, while Shuyin cracked up in a fit of giggles.
"What the ...?" Jecht and the other man looked over their shoulders at the frightened girl and the laughing boys.
"Shuyin and Koji threw worms at me!" Kaila wailed.
The two men glared at the boys.
"It was an accident," Shuyin explained, while still giggling. "And it was just one worm."
The two men exchanged glances of doubt.
"You did it on purpose!" Kaila accused.
"Did not!" Koji protested.
Koji's mother stood and transferred the boy's fishing rod into his sister's hands, giving him a scolding look in the process. "Well, you can just claim whatever fish he was going to catch."
"Ah! I didn't do it on purpose!" Koji made a face at his sister and turned around in a huff.
Shuyin, still giggling, picked up the worm that had caused the stir and took it back to the bait bucket. "You can help me catch my fish, Koji." Shuyin's curiosity moved him down the line to another bucket, and he pulled up the lid. "What's in this one?"
Koji drew near in curiosity to see what else Shuyin had discovered. "Uhhh, crabs! Look at those pincher-things. I wouldn't want to be pinched by one of those."
"My dad said they could pinch toes and fingers off," Shuyin told him, awed by the power of the odd little creatures as he put the lid back down, although he didn't secure it. "One time when we were at the beach, this big blue crab came out of the sand and almost bit me right here." He pointed to his foot.
"You've got a bite, boy!" Jecht called, interrupting his adventurous tale. "Come reel it in!"
Excited, Shuyin ran to his dad's side and grabbed the rod. He started to wind it in quickly when Jecht stopped him.
"No, no, no. Not like that." He demonstrated a better way to pull the fish up without losing it, then passed the rod back to his son.
"You said I could help," Koji anxiously reminded him of his promise.
Shuyin reluctantly passed his fishing rod to his friend.
"Pull easy. Keep it tight." Jecht helped Koji reel it closer.
"My turn! My turn!" Shuyin reached for his pole, unable to let his friend have all the fun.
"Musical fishing poles." Jecht chuckled and commented to Koji's dad behind him as he shifted the rod into Shuyin's hands. As the fish came to the surface, he raised the boy's arms until they were way over his head and then finally leaned over the rail to grab the line with the wiggling catch on the end of the hook.
"I caught one! I caught one!" Shuyin jumped up and down and reached for his fish.
"What did I tell you about these hooks? You want a hook through your thumb? No grabbing," Jecht gruffly warned the boy to stay back.
Shuyin obediently stayed in his place and stopped reaching, but still jumped up and down as he impatiently waited to be handed his catch.
"Kid's going to make us look like a couple of losers," he joked over his shoulder to the other man, who chuckled with him at the boy's catch. "Hey, toss me another beer, will ya?"
"Sure thing," Koji's dad agreed as he headed to the cooler.
"All right! Biggest catch for you yet, I think. There you go. It's a live wire. You got it?" Jecht asked as his son cradled the large fish in his arms against his chest.
"I got it!"
"Yay! Good catch!" His mother clapped and held up a memory sphere to get a recording of it.
Once the memory was recorded, Shuyin turned to show the fish to Koji. "See, these red feather things are his gills. And he has little teeth." He ran his finger over the inside of the gasping jaws.
Koji touched a hand to the fish's rainbow scales and cautiously stuck a finger in its mouth, too.
"And if you poke their eyes from one side, they'll turn inside out," Shuyin informed him.
"That's gross." Kaila had come to see the fish, too. "Poor fish. Why would you want to poke its eyes like that?"
Shuyin shrugged. "They're dead anyway after they've been out of the water for a while. It's kind of cool to see what's underneath. You want to hold it?" He held the fish out to her, but as he released it, it found some more energy and flipped and flopped right out of his arms onto Kaila. The girl screamed again and ran back to her mother, leaving Shuyin and Koji to try to grab the thrashing fish.
"Knock it off!" Jecht pulled his son's shoulder away from the fish. Koji automatically stepped out of the blitzplayer's way, too. Jecht angrily snatched the fish up by its tail and carried it to the cooler filled with water for any fish they caught. "If you can't behave nicely to Kaila, I'm shipping your ass back inside, got it?"
"No buts!" Jecht scowled in warning to his son, pointing a stern index finger and a beer can at him. "Little hellions," he grumbled under his breath, returning to his own fishing reel to check it.
The blond-haired boy stared at the closed catch container with a pout. How dare his father ruin a perfectly good day and take his fish away from him.
"What's a ... hellion?" Koji asked.
"I don't know, but it means he's mad." Shuyin sat down on one of the insulated buckets and dropped his chin into his fists.
"It's all Kaila's fault." Koji sat down beside of him and copied his pose.
Kaila came forward giggling behind her small hand. "You're sitting on the crabs you know."
Koji's and Shuyin's eyes widened and they jumped off the bucket with yells, not realizing which container they'd chosen to sit on. The bucket tumbled sideways and the unsecured lid fell off, spilling water and small blue crabs onto the deck. All three children screamed and tumbled over each other running toward the cabin door to seek safety from the killer pincers.
Jecht cursed under his breath and whipped the towel from his neck that he'd been using to dry perspiration. "Sweet mother of Baaj on a hot summer day! I'm going to be stringing that boy up by his ankles before we dock again!" He swiftly tried to scoop as many of the crabs back into the box as possible before they could scuttle away and without stepping on any of them.
Dannae laughed and turned the sphere recorder on him. "Like father, like son. I seem to remember your father telling me about a time when you went shrimping and knocked over the -"
"Don't even go there!" Jecht laughed. "That is your kid, not mine. You had fun with the ice cream man while I was at a game or something."
Dannae laughed some more and turned the sphere recorder off, giving him a big kiss for catching the last of the loose crabs their son had spilled. Yes, Jecht was gruff, arrogant, and easily annoyed. But he could also be funny, warm, loyal, and honest. He was a hard worker, and he gave everything his all until he had nothing left to give. Jecht was one of a kind in her eyes - predictable, yet still full of surprises. That was why she loved him.