Story [Final Fantasy VIII / X] Love Don't Die (Squall/Rinoa, Tidus/Yuna) Chap. 16 - 2/8

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Tarsier, Jul 4, 2014.

Moderators: Mira_Jade, NYCitygurl
  1. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Title: Love Don’t Die

    Author: Tarsier

    Fandom: Final Fantasy – crossover of Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy X, with a splash of Final Fantasy VI.

    Timeframe: Begins with a slight rewrite of the ending of each game

    Characters: Primary: Squall/Rinoa, Tidus/Yuna | Secondary: Quistis, Zell, Irvine, Selphie, Angelo, Ellone, Seifer, Laguna, Rikku, Wakka, Lulu | Later: Locke, Terra, Celes

    Summary: Squall and Tidus find themselves lost in the Void….

    Notes: This is my first time posting in NSWFF and I’m not really sure how much background I should give as far as describing the events of the games. There’s not a lot of background given, but I do hope it’s understandable to those who have not played the games. Feedback on that point would be very much appreciated! Any constructive criticism is welcome.

    The opening quotes are taken directly from the games.

    Special thanks to The Fray for inspiring the title of this story.



    [IMG]



    Yuna: “Stay with me until the end.”

    Tidus: “Not until the end… Always.”

    Yuna: “Always, then.”

    *

    Squall to Rinoa: “I’ll be waiting for you. If you come here, you’ll find me. I promise.”



    Chapter 1

    Tidus looked at his hands. There was a slight glow to them, and for a moment he thought he could see the deck through his fingers. Not between his fingers—through. It was happening. He steeled himself. He was ready. At least, as ready as one could be for such a thing as ceasing to exist.

    “Yuna, I have to go.” He said it confidently, he even tried to smile.

    Yuna shook her head.

    “I'm sorry I couldn't show you Zanarkand.” He walked toward the edge of the ship, not looking at Yuna. He wanted nothing more than to run to her, to hold her, to never let her go. But he had to be brave. Trying to hold on—it would only make it worse. If he could show Yuna that he was okay, that he’d accepted it, then maybe it would be easier for her.

    But after a few steps, he couldn’t resist a look back. “Goodbye.”

    He moved faster after that, hurrying toward the edge. If he hesitated any longer, he wouldn’t be able to keep it together.

    He heard her footsteps. He couldn’t help turning around. She threw herself into his arms and he held her tightly. The pyreflies gathered around them and he closed his eyes.

    “I love you,” Yuna whispered.

    The words sliced his heart like a sword. He wasn’t making it easier. Nothing would make it easier. If that was the case, he might as well fight. He held her even tighter and opened his eyes to see the pyreflies had thickened. “Yuna, I…” he began, but as he spoke he realized he was rising, the pyreflies seeming to lift him into the air. “Yuna!”

    He’d been pulled away from her, but she reached for him. Both her hands met his and their fingers interlocked.

    No, Yuna mouthed, shaking her head once again.

    Tidus could only stare back at her. He tried to squeeze her hands, to press his palms against hers, but his fingers passed right through hers.

    The glow from the pyreflies intensified, until he could no longer see Yuna, there was only empty white light.


    *


    Wasteland. That was the word that immediately came to mind as Squall surveyed his surroundings. There was nothing but dirt—flat, dead dirt—as far as he could see.

    Above, the sky seemed liquid. That was what was most was concerning. Grey and flowing, he felt like he was trapped beneath an enormous iridescent bubble. The landscape—the dirt—could have existed on his planet. But the sky—it didn’t, couldn’t, look like that. Something was very wrong.

    He walked.

    He didn’t know how long he’d been there. Hours, days, weeks? All he knew was that it was too long. He should be home by now, if things had worked as they were supposed to. But it hadn’t worked, he wasn’t home. He was here, alone. All alone.

    He kept walking.

    Was it too little too late? He’d spent most of his life trying to avoid connections, doing his best to isolate himself from other people. He’d changed though. He’d learned to trust, to depend on other people. He’d made friends, he’d even…he’d even been falling in love. But the others weren’t here. Rinoa wasn’t here. Rinoa…

    She was certainly waiting for him. In the meadow, the field of flowers behind the orphanage. Where he’d promised her she could find him. She wouldn’t find him there now.

    His steps slowed, but still he walked.

    I want to be there, Rinoa. I don’t want to keep you waiting. I tried. I thought it would work, I really did. I thought I could make it back, with just a little help.

    His stride faltered, each step was becoming difficult. But he pressed on.

    Maybe I didn’t believe in them enough.

    He was truly unsteady now, his muscles resisting every step.

    Maybe they didn’t believe in me.

    Squall collapsed to the ground, a lone tear streaking down his cheek.

    I’m sorry, Rinoa.

    *


    Squall, where are you? Rinoa wondered. This was where they’d promised. He had to be here. There was nowhere else he would possibly have gone. So why wasn’t he here?

    There was only one possible explanation—he hadn’t been able to get here. He was lost in time.

    She fought the panic starting to rise within her. She couldn’t lose him, not now. Not after it was all over.

    Rinoa felt a wet nose press into her palm. Angelo had followed closely as she’d run through the field, searching desperately for Squall. Rinoa squatted beside Angelo, stroking her head.

    “Good girl, Angelo. You’ve always been a loyal friend. But right now I need you to stay here. I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know if it’s safe. But you’ve done enough. I think the fighting’s over.”

    Rinoa stood up and took a deep breath. She took several steps away from Angelo. Angelo cried, but stayed put. Such a well-behaved dog.

    It occurred to Rinoa that maybe she ought to try to find the others. Quistis, Zell, Selphie, and Irvine: Six of them had ventured through time to face the Sorceress Ultimecia, but how many had made it back? Rinoa had seen no one since she’d returned.

    The others had probably returned to Balamb Garden, or maybe the Ragnarok. But, although they were her friends, and she did care about them, they weren’t who she wanted right now. She didn’t think they would be able to help her find Squall—no one really understood time compression. And if the others hadn’t made it back either, then maybe she would find them with Squall. Either way, she didn’t think it was worth wasting time searching for them here. Not when Squall needed her.

    She still didn’t have complete control over her powers, but she could activate them at will. She looked back at Angelo and gave her pet a small final wave. Then she lowered her head and released the power. White wings unfurled from her back.

    She poured all her concentration into one thought. Squall. I need to find Squall.
    Last edited by Tarsier, Feb 8, 2015
  2. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    I only have a limited knowledge of Final Fantasy, but even with that, I could follow this well enough to be thoroughly hooked at the beginning - especially with Tidus' and Yuna's scene, that was heartbreakingly beautiful to read. [face_love] You have me intrigued, and I look forward to reading more. :) [face_thinking]

    That said, welcome to the NSWFF, and I hope you enjoy posting here! [:D]
    Tarsier likes this.
  3. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Thank you @Mira_Jade for the comment, and the welcome! I'm really glad you liked the start of the story. I'm sure I will enjoy posting here. :)

    Author Note: Since the story so far has followed the game endings pretty closely, here are the actual endings, in case anyone is curious (obviously there are spoilers for the games, but not really for this story).
    Final Fantasy X (starting at 1:35)
    Final Fantasy VIII (starting at 5:25)
  4. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Hi, Tarsier. So this is where your muse has taken you. ;)

    Beautiful imagery and emotive scenes.

    I was absolutely able to follow the sequence and am thrilled another fanficcer has taken to making a story out of a gaming template.

    (Sabyne_Amberle being another writer who has made me love roleplaying characters.) :cool:
    Tarsier likes this.
  5. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    @Nyota's Heart Hi. Yes, the muse seems to have left the SW galaxy, at least for the moment. :) Thanks very much for your kind comments, I'm glad you liked it!



    Chapter 2

    The world of Spira was joyful. From Bevelle to Kilika, from Mt. Gagazet to Guadosalam, everyone was celebrating. Sin had been defeated, and this time it was gone for good.

    Celebration, happiness, and peace spread to every corner of the world, save one small tent on the island of Besaid. There, in silence and darkness, the High Summoner lie in fear.

    It was not a mortal fear. Yuna knew the others would call it a silly fear, a childish fear. But, for perhaps the first time in her life, she didn’t care what anyone else thought about her. They had their happiness; she had her fear.

    Fear, and sadness, and hurt. She cherished the emotions because they were all she had left of him. Her fear was that she might forget him. His body had faded so abruptly from the world, would his memory fade from her mind in the same way? Not if she could help it. She replayed every word he said, every moment they shared, over and over in her mind.

    She tried to think only of the moments, and not of the whole story. Because the story wasn’t fair. If she thought about it too much, she would try to rewrite it. Try to find the moment when they could have turned away, left Sin for someone else to deal with.

    They’d even talked about it. Alone under the starlight, when he’d held her in his arms, they’d talked about running away together. Even as they spoke, Yuna had known it wouldn’t happen. The course was set; she wouldn’t have been able to live with herself if she had run away. But that was only because she hadn’t understood the consequences. She’d been fully ready to sacrifice her own life to bring other people happiness. She’d never agreed to sacrifice his life.

    Yet her life was spared and his was forfeit. She lie in the dark, alive and alone. And he… he was in her heart. He always would be.


    *


    Tidus opened his eyes. That was his first surprise. He hadn’t been sure he’d even have eyes to open anymore.

    Is this the Farplane? He looked around, puzzled. “Auron?” he called. “Jecht?” He’d expected he might see them, the ones who’d passed before him. “Braska?” But they weren’t here. No one seemed to be here.

    It was far more lonely than he’d expected the Farplane to be, but also much more real. He’d expected nebulousness, an evanescence, if there’d been any sensation at all. He’d even felt it coming on, when he’d notice the glow to his hands, when the pyreflies had gathered. But now he felt...altogether normal.

    The world, however, was not familiar. It certainly was not Zanarkand, and, although he hadn’t traveled the entirety of Spira, he didn’t think it was that world either. The landscape was utterly barren, the ground cracked as though from drought. The sky was not that of day or night; it most resembled the partial darkness of a mild storm. But there were no clouds, no rain, no weather of any sort. Not even the whisper of a breeze.

    Not knowing what else to do, he began to walk.

    Tidus stared at his hands as he walked, trying to imagine Yuna’s fingers still intertwined with his. Then he remembered her hands passing through his. His jaw clenched and he dropped his hands to his side, trying to push away the memory.

    “Yuna!” he yelled, not expecting a response. He didn’t get one, not even an echo. Long ago—at least, it seemed long ago—he’d told Yuna to whistle if they ever got separated. He figured there was no harm in trying. He brought his fingers to his lips and whistled.

    Nothing.

    Was this really the end of his story? To be trapped in this empty world, forever alone?

    He whistled again, as loud as he could manage.


    *


    “Where are they?!” Selphie stamped her foot and spun in a circle. “They have to be here somewhere!”

    “You’re certain this is the place?” Quistis asked, exiting the broken-down orphanage and walking toward the field of wildflowers behind it.

    “Positive!” Zell declared. “I was standing right here,” Zell moved to just outside the doorway, “And they were standing where you are now. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, I was just there to tell them we had to leave, and Squall said, ‘If we ever get separated, we’ll find each other here.’ Or something like that. Like I said, I wasn’t trying to listen, I just overheard.”

    “Then they should be here,” Selphie said. “Right here!”

    “I don’t want to be the one to suggest the worst,” Zell began.

    “Then don’t!” Selphie admonished, but Zell continued anyway.

    “…But I’m pretty sure we would have found them by now if they were here. It’s not like they’ve got a reason to hide.”

    “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe they want to be alone,” Irvine suggested.

    The four of them—Quistis, Zell, Selphie, and Irvine—had arrived in the quad of Balamb Garden after defeating the Sorceress. They’d waited for Squall and Rinoa to appear. And waited. And waited. Eventually Zell had remembered the overheard promise between Rinoa and Squall to meet in the field outside the orphanage. The four had boarded Ragnarok and headed for the orphanage immediately.

    “Did you hear that?” Selphie asked. The others shook their heads. Selphie moved towards the sound, into the field. “Angelo!”

    Rinoa’s dog was lying in the grass. She stood and trotted over to Selphie when she called.

    “Where’s Rinoa?”

    Angelo whined and looked out across the field.

    “How did you get here?”

    “Angelo was with us during the battle. She couldn’t have made it home alone, could she?” Zell asked.

    “I don’t know—what’s this?” Selphie squatted on the ground near where Angelo had been resting. There, in amongst the flowers, were white feathers. Once she knew what to look for, Selphie noticed there were dozens of them, strewn all around the area. She gathered a few in her palm.

    “Feathers?” Zell asked. “I don’t see any birds.”

    “They aren’t from birds,” Quistis said, taking a feather from Selphie to study it.

    “Then what—?” Zell was momentarily puzzled before realization hit. “They’re Rinoa’s feathers?”

    Quistis nodded. “That means she used her sorceress powers here. She must have come back here, with Angelo, and then…”

    “What?” Zell asked

    “I don’t know,” Quistis replied

    “What about Squall?” Selphie asked.

    Quistis scanned the field once more. “I don’t…I don’t see any sign that he ever made it back.”
    Last edited by Tarsier, Aug 4, 2014
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  6. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Ooh, I completely missed this update! :oops:[:D]

    But phew, that was another raw pack of emotions in a few words. My heart hurt for Yuna, and I do not like the sound of where Tidus is trapped. [face_worried]

    You do have me intrigued for more, though. [face_thinking] :)

    =D=
    Tarsier likes this.
  7. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    @Mira_Jade Thanks so much for your comments! :) We're going to be leaving Yuna for a little bit, but she'll be back later in the story.



    Chapter 3

    Squall awoke to the sound of a whistle. It was faint, distant, but it was definitely a whistle.

    Rinoa! She whistled to Angelo like that. Could she be here? Had she found him when he couldn’t find her?

    “Rinoa!” he yelled, though he knew his voice probably wouldn’t carry very far. He’d never been very good at whistling.

    He ran towards the sound, or at least tried to. It was difficult to tell what direction it was coming from and he soon ran out of ground. The barren landscape disappeared before him—he was at the edge of a cliff, with nothing but fog below him. He turned, trying a different direction. But the ground was gone there too. He looked around, three-hundred-sixty degrees, there was nothing but cliff. Somehow, after walking for miles, he was on a tiny island. It didn’t make sense, but he didn’t have time to think about it. He could still hear the whistle, though it grew fainter. Rinoa, if that's who it was, may still be nearby.

    He knelt at the edge of the cliff. There was no visible bottom to what was below him, just swirling fog and nothingness. But there had to be something more—if he leapt into the fog he couldn't fall forever, could he? He stood and jumped off the edge of the cliff. He didn’t know what to expect, he just knew he couldn’t stay where he was.


    *


    A sudden commotion caused Tidus to spin around. A figure dressed in black fell from the sky, hitting the ground in a roll several feet behind him. Tidus dropped his hand to the hilt of his sword as the figure—a young man who looked to be about Tidus’s own age—sprang to his feet. When the other did not draw a weapon, Tidus stepped forward.

    He said the first thing that came to mind. “You’re not Yuna.”

    The other said nothing. Tidus imagined he could see his own disappointment reflected in the other’s expression. “I’m not who you were hoping for either.”

    Still no response.

    “Well, uh, so…do you know where we are?”

    “No.” The guy in black looked up at the sky. “Not a place anyone wants to be.”

    “Right. Yeah. The sky—that’s not normal.”

    “Was that you? Whistling, before?”

    Tidus nodded. “Yep.” Tidus paused, but when the other did not continue, he figured he might as well introduce himself. “I’m Tidus. Guardian to High Summoner Yuna.”

    Tidus hadn’t really thought about what he would say before he spoke and his words surprised him. He usually introduced himself as the star player of the Zanarkand Abes. When had he stopped thinking about himself that way? When he realized Zanarkand didn’t exist? Or when he realized Yuna was the single most important part of his life? Not just the most important—the only part of his life that mattered at all.

    “Squall Leonhart. SeeD,” the other responded.

    “What’s a SeeD?”

    “A member of an elite mercenary force. Trained to defeat the Sorceress.”

    “Sorceress?” Tidus had never heard of anyone use the word Sorceress outside of a fairy tale before.

    Squall simply nodded in response.

    “Are you from Spira?” Tidus asked.

    “No. I’m from Balamb Garden.”

    “Never heard of it.” Tidus scratched the back of his head. This definitely wasn’t what he was expecting of the Farplane.

    “How’d you end up here?” Squall asked.

    “I don’t really know.” Tidus hesitated, not sure how much to tell. It was a strange story he probably didn’t need to get into right now. “There was a bright light and…BAM! Here I am. How about you?”

    “It’s a long story.”

    “You got somewhere else to be?”


    *


    Rinoa strode steadily forward. As she walked, she held on tightly to the rings hanging from a chain around her neck.

    She didn’t know where she was. She didn’t want to be here. She wanted to be home. She wanted to be with Squall. The place was empty, desolate. She tried not to pay attention to it. She continued on, hoping desperately that Squall would appear before her. He had to—why else would she be here?

    There, up ahead—was there a figure in the mist? She broke into a run. It could have been—it must be—

    “Squall!”

    As she approached, the figure turned around. It was him!

    She sprinted the last few steps and, as soon as she was near enough, she fell into his arms. She inhaled deeply, reveling in the rich scent of his leather jacket.

    “Are you okay?” he asked her.

    “Yes. Now that I'm with you,” she replied, still clinging tightly to him. He’d set his hands gently on her back. He was so strong, yet he always had such a gentle touch.

    “I don’t suppose there’s anyone else coming?” An unfamiliar voice startled Rinoa. She pulled away from Squall just enough to see that there was someone standing beside them. He must have been there all along, but somehow Rinoa had not noticed him. He looked to be about the same age as she and Squall, his height and build similar to Squall’s. He stood peering into the mist in the direction she had come from.

    “Not that I know of.” Rinoa looked over her shoulder into the distance. There was nothing but mist.

    “Didn’t think so.” There was such disappointment in his words, Rinoa was tempted release her embrace of Squall and give him a hug instead.

    “I’m Tidus, by the way.”

    “I’m Rinoa,” she replied, finally taking a step back from Squall. “Where are we?”

    Squall shrugged. “No idea.”

    “I was hoping you might know,” Tidus said.

    “I don’t know where we are, but I don’t like it. Let’s go home.” Once again, just as she had in the meadow, she lowered her head and released her sorceress powers. She waited for it, the itch between her shoulder blades that turned into a brief, searing pain as her wings unfurled. She waited, but it didn’t happen. Never before had her powers failed to activate. She tried again, tried to focus harder. Still nothing.

    “Squall, it’s not working.” She looked up at him. “My powers, they won’t activate.”

    “It’s okay. Magic might not work here.” His expression was neutral and unreadable as always. She felt herself relax a little, even though his words weren’t much comfort. “I lost my junctions after the battle, so I couldn’t tell for sure.” Squall turned to Tidus. “What about you? Do you have any magic?”

    “I can cast Haste,” he replied.

    “Try it.”

    Tidus brought his left hand in front of his face and then gestured outward. He paused for a moment before shaking his head. “Nothing.”

    Squall dipped his head in acknowledgment.

    “Then how are we going to get home?” Rinoa tried to keep the panic out of her voice, but was only partially successful.

    “We’ll find a way,” Squall said. She didn’t understand his confidence, but she was glad for it. If anyone could find a way out of here, it was Squall.
    Last edited by Tarsier, Aug 25, 2014
  8. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    This was a very interesting meeting between the three, even though it was disheartening to see how their powers work in this plane. :( I look forward to seeing where they go from here. [face_thinking]=D=
    Tarsier likes this.
  9. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    @Mira_Jade Thank you! I hope you continue to enjoy the story. :)



    Chapter 4

    They’d been there—wherever “there” was, which, as far as Tidus could tell was really nowhere—for a long time. Rinoa had shared some of her and Squall’s story, and Tidus had told some of his. It was clear that there was a lot left unsaid, neither one of them quite ready to share every detail. Squall said very little, seeming to prefer to let Rinoa do the talking.

    Now they were bored. The boredom had allowed the worry gathering in the pit of his stomach to change into fear, edging on full-fledged dread. He tried to smile a lot, to at least appear he was staying positive. Rinoa seemed to appreciate the effort, and often smiled back. Squall, on the other hand, didn’t give much reaction to anything. Tidus imagined that made Squall rock solid on the battlefield. But here, Tidus found Squall’s seeming indifference to their situation to be rather unnerving.

    “Have you tried to summon?” Rinoa asked Squall.

    He shook his head. “I told you, I lost my junctions.”

    “Me too. But we should still try to summon.”

    Squall looked dubious. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try.”

    “You guys are summoners?” Tidus asked.

    “We junction guardian forces. And then we can summon them,” Squall explained.

    “Guardian forces? Are those like aeons?”

    “What are aeons?” Rinoa asked.

    “They’re powerful creatures that would help us in battle. Or help Yuna anyway. She was the one who could call them.”

    “Sounds like guardian forces,” Squall replied.

    “Squall, try to summon Quezacotl. I’ll try Leviathan.” Rinoa and Squall each lowered their eyes, appearing to be in deep concentration. No guardian forces appeared. After a moment Squall looked up, and waited for Rinoa to do the same. She met his eyes, then furrowed her brow. “Try Siren. I’ll try Carbuncle.”

    They repeated the process to the same results. “Keep trying,” Rinoa insisted. Squall sighed, but complied.

    Tidus wandered in a circle as the others attempted to summon. He thought it seemed pretty unlikely that an aeon would appear here, in this barren, magicless, world. But he wasn’t against hoping for the best.

    “Your turn.”

    Tidus turned to see Rinoa was looking at him. “You try to summon.”

    “I can’t. I’m not a summoner.”

    “You can try.”

    “I don’t even know how.”

    “You’ve seen Yuna do it, right? Just imitate her.”

    “I don’t know the moves. I don’t have a staff.”

    “Please,” Rinoa pleaded. “I don’t know what else to do.”

    “Okay, okay,” Tidus replied. “I’ll give it a shot.” Rinoa probably didn’t realize just how ridiculous he would look if he tried to summon like Yuna. Rinoa and Squall’s summoning didn’t seem to involve dancing

    He stepped away and tried to remember the steps Yuna used when summoning each aeon. He couldn’t think of them—when Yuna started summoning, he was usually running to get out of the way.

    He was not a summoner, he didn’t have a staff, he didn’t know the moves—there was no way pretending to be Yuna would help him summon. But Rinoa expected him to try something. So he took a deep breath and yelled, as loud as he could. “Valefor! Valefor! Vaaalefooooooor!!!”

    He took a few steps, inhaled deeply and whistled. Then he yelled again.

    “Valefor! Ixion! Ixi-oooooooooooooon!!”

    As Tidus paused for breath, Rinoa appeared beside him. “Valefor!” she shouted. “Ixion!” She gave him a quick smile before lifting her fingers to her mouth and whistling.

    He tried not to laugh at the ridiculousness of it. Even if, by some miracle, the aeons could hear them, why would they come here? Still, for some reason all the screaming was actually making him feel a little better, so he continued. “Ifrit! Shiva! Ixion! Valefor!!

    He didn’t know how long he screamed and whistled, but once his voice starting getting hoarse he fell to the ground, exhausted. He lay flat on his back, staring upward, breathing hard. Rinoa dropped down beside him.

    Squall walked up to them, having opted not to join in the attempts to summon by yelling, and looked down at Tidus. “Did you say Ifrit? And Shiva?”

    Tidus sat up. “Yeah. Why? You know them?”

    “Ifrit—he’s a fire elemental, right? Long curved horns, fangs, big claws?”

    “Right,” Tidus replied. “How did you know?”

    “He’s—” Squall broke off and stumbled forward. He mumbled something Tidus couldn’t make out.

    Rinoa leapt to her feet just as Squall collapsed. She caught him as he was falling and lowered him to the ground.

    “Is he okay?” Tidus asked.

    “I think so.” Rinoa placed her index finger above Squall’s lips, just below his nose, presumably to check his breathing. Then she placed a hand under his jacket, against his chest. “His pulse seems normal. I think he’s just asleep. Sometimes this happens. He…communicates with his sister. I don’t really understand it.”

    “Well, as long as he’s alright.” Squall did appear to be sleeping, but Tidus had never seen someone overcome by sleep so quickly without having magic cast on them. This place was getting stranger all the time.


    *

    “We’ll start now,” Ellone said.

    “Now?” Zell asked. “Like right this second? Like, he’s here now?”

    “It’s difficult to be that precise. But yes, this is the time I will try to target.”

    “Oh, man. Okay. Hey, Squall.”

    “He’ll be in your head, Zell. Not mine.”

    “Oh, right. So I’m talking, but Squall will feel like he’s talking? This is so weird.”

    “Let’s not get caught up in the details,” Quistis cut in. “Let’s stick to the plan.”

    “Right. The plan. Oh, man! I forgot the plan.”

    “Zell, just—be quiet for a minute.

    “Squall, of course we’ve noticed that you’re not here. We don’t know what happened—”

    “Ultimecia! She grabbed him, just as she was fading away. I didn’t remember that until just now.”

    “Okay, Zell. But it doesn’t really matter. Squall—we just want you to know we’re working on it. We’re going to find you. I hope Rinoa’s with you. I have a feeling she is. We think she made it back, but then used her sorceress powers to find you. We found Angelo in the field behind the orphanage. If Rinoa’s not with you, I guess we’re looking for her too. Anyway, this is mostly a test, to see if Ellone can connect with you. We’ll try again later, once we know what we’re going to do.

    “And…I guess that’s it. Sorry we don’t have a better plan, but we’re working on it.”

    “Wait!” Selphie said. “Look at me, Zell. Squall, we’re going to find you, alright? Don’t think we’ve given up on you! We won’t give up, not until you’re back here. And Rinoa too. We really miss you.”


    *

    Squall awakened, the dream over as suddenly as it had begun. Not a dream, not exactly, but that was what it felt like, and the easiest way to describe it. He’d learned it wasn’t his imagination at work, but rather the mysterious powers of his almost-sister, Ellone. And what he saw was not make-believe, but real events that had happened in the past. In this case, it appeared to have been the very recent past.

    He didn’t move right away. Something that had been said disturbed him and he didn’t know how to handle it.

    “Are you awake?” Rinoa brushed his cheek with the back of her hand. Apparently, she’d been waiting for him to wake up. He opened his eyes and sat up.

    “Ellone?” Rinoa asked.

    He nodded.

    “What did you see?”

    “The others made it back.”

    “Is everyone okay?”

    “Yes. They’re looking for us.”

    “Do they have a plan?”

    “Not really.” He paused. There wasn’t much point in avoiding the issue. He needed to know for sure. Perhaps Quistis had misread the situation. “Rinoa, they said you made it back. You were home, before you came looking for me. Is that true?”

    Rinoa dipped her head in a sort of half-nod. “I wanted to find you Squall. I had to find you. So I used my powers and they brought me here.” She looked up into his eyes. “I’m just sorry they can’t get us out of here.”

    So it’s true. She’s here, in this awful place, because of me. She was perfectly safe, before she came here for me. “Rinoa…”

    “Don’t start! I don’t want to be back there, not without you. I want to be with you.”

    “But you were home—”

    “No, I wasn’t. My home is with you, Squall. Wherever that is.”

    Squall didn’t know how to respond, so he just stared at the ground. She’s suffering because of me. Because I failed to save myself.

    “I like that,” Tidus interjected. “I feel the same way. Zanarkand is gone, but I was never homeless. Not while I was with Yuna.”

    “See?” Rinoa moved closer to Squall and rested her head against his shoulder. “Tidus understands.”

    Tidus doesn’t understand anything—he hasn’t dragged Yuna here. What if you die out here, because of me? Squall jumped to his feet. Suddenly it was difficult to breathe and impossible to stay still.

    He paced around as Rinoa and Tidus stood up. Squall wanted to walk away—run away—to find space, so maybe he could breathe again. But he couldn’t leave Rinoa, not now.

    “Squall, what’s wrong?” The obvious concern in her voice made him feel sick. He turned away from her and tried to breathe deeply, but his breath came shallow and shaky.

    Even if he’d wanted to, Squall couldn’t respond. His throat was too tight, his thoughts too jumbled. Why does she care so much about me? Why would she risk her own safety for me? She should take care of herself. I got into this mess, it’s up to me to get out.

    What if she gets hurt?

    “Why do always do this?!” Rinoa demanded, her concern overshadowed by anger. Her anger actually made Squall feel a little better. He understood anger, he knew how to respond to it. “You don’t accept help from others, you won’t tell anyone when something’s bothering you, you insist on doing everything by yourself! I thought we were past this. I thought you trusted me. I thought we could depend on each other.”

    Finally feeling like maybe he’d caught his breath enough to speak, Squall slowly turned to look at Rinoa. “Of course I trust you.”

    “Then why are you acting like this?”

    Because you could get hurt. Because you could die. Because I couldn’t live with myself if that happened.

    Because I care more about your safety than my own.

    Because I’d rather die alone than see you suffer.

    Because…

    “I guess I’m used to taking care of you. Not the other way around.”

    “Good,” Rinoa nodded approvingly. “Would it really have been so hard to just say that in the first place?”

    Squall sighed, hoping she didn’t really expect an answer.

    “I mean, good that you’re talking about it. Not good that you don’t think I can help you. I know I get scared sometimes, but I’m not useless.”

    ‘Useless?’ Where is that coming from? Rinoa is one of the best fighters I know, better even than most SeeDs. Of course she isn’t useless.

    “It’s not that. I just don’t want you to get hurt. Especially because of me.”

    “ ‘Just stay close to me.’ You’ve told that to me twice, because you didn’t want me to get hurt. At least, I think that’s why. So here I am, close to you. You won’t let me get hurt, will you?”

    “No,” Squall replied. “Not if I can help it.”

    “Then what’s the problem?”

    “I guess there isn’t one.” There is still a problem. Still a huge problem. But I should try to deal with what I can. Obsessing over what I can’t control won’t solve anything. I should know that by now. And one thing I can’t control is Rinoa. I should definitely have figured that one out by now.

    “Good.” Rinoa walked up to Squall and leaned forward, so she could look up into his downcast eyes. “I hate fighting with you.”

    A loud clatter drew both their attention.

    “Sorry,” Tidus said sheepishly. Squall had faintly noticed him nervously fiddling with the chain on the handle of his sword during the argument and now he had dropped the weapon. “So, uh, anyway…there’s good news? Your friends are going to find us…?”

    “I don’t know. They didn’t really know what to do. They just wanted us to know they were working on it.”

    “I know what they were saying!” Rinoa added playfully. Squall was relieved to hear her tone. He loved the sound of her voice, especially when she wasn’t mad at him. “ ‘Gee, I wish Squall was here to come up with a plan! Squall always figures out what to do. Squall would know how to save Squall if he were here!’ ”

    Squall shook his head. “That’s not what they said.”

    “Maybe not when you were there. But I bet they said it sometime.”

    “Um, I thought you were…talking to your sister?” Tidus asked.

    “Not exactly talking. It’s strange. I don’t know if I can really explain it. Ellone takes us—our minds—and puts them in the past of someone else.”

    “Oh. That…is strange.”

    “Trust me, I wouldn’t believe it either if I wasn’t the one it happened to.”

    “The fact that you could connect with Ellone—that’s something, right? Maybe we aren’t so far away,” Rinoa suggested.

    Squall shrugged. Distance hasn’t seemed to affect Ellone’s power before. Then again, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been this far away from her before.

    “Or maybe your friends will come up with something,” Rinoa said to Tidus. “I’m sure they’re looking for you too.”

    “No,” Tidus shook his head. “They’re not looking for me. They think I’m dead.” His voice was quiet as he said the last sentence, and entirely without his usual exuberance.

    Tidus looked from Rinoa to Squall and back again before speaking. “Are…are we sure we aren’t?”

    “….Dead? You think we might be dead?” Squall asked. The possibility hadn’t occurred to him before now. I’ve wondered a lot about what death was like lately, but I never imagined anything like this.

    “I don’t know. I just… we’re probably not. I shouldn’t have said anything,” Tidus responded quickly, looking at the ground and rubbing at the dirt with his shoe.

    Rinoa took two steps toward Tidus and threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. After a moment she stepped back. “You feel alive to me.”

    “Well,” Squall said with a shrug. “I guess that settles it.”
    Last edited by Tarsier, Nov 10, 2014
  10. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Beautiful, beautiful confrontation and resolution with Squall and Rinoa. That was understandable, and warranted on both sides. I am glad he knows that his friends are not giving up on him, and yet, their situation still looks to be dire. [face_worried] Tidus' last lines about him at first thinking himself dead were chilling. I liked Riona's simple way of setting that to rights. :p A great character moment there.

    This was another interesting update. I am looking forward to more. :) =D=
    Tarsier likes this.
  11. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Fascinating stuff about summoning and the way Ellone and Squall communicate. Enjoyed the Rinoa/Squall interaction verbal and otherwise. I know Tidus is as wound up and worried about Yuna and getting back to the same place/plane of existence but at least on the surface he seems more composed. [face_thinking]
    Tarsier likes this.
  12. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    I'm relieved to hear you say that - I adore Squall, but I'm finding him surprisingly difficult to write. Thank you very, very much for your comments!

    Interesting observation - I think there's a certain ebb and flow to which character is freaking out the most at any given time. :) Thanks so much for commenting!
  13. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Chapter 5

    Squall should have taken it as a warning that Tidus didn’t seem to understand crossing blades before the duel. It hadn’t seemed significant in of itself—and it wasn’t, who cared whether he was familiar with pre-fight pretenses anyway?—but it should have warned Squall that Tidus was not experienced with dueling. And that made him very dangerous.

    Tidus’s sword was significantly heavier than a gunblade. And looking at him, Tidus’s appeared he would possess substantial upper-body strength. Squall had initially thought dueling Tidus would be a nice change of pace. He’d rarely had the chance to duel anyone but Seifer in recent memory, and he’d been eager to face someone with steady strength, someone with a style that more closely matched his own. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

    Tidus battled with reckless intensity. He held his sword with one hand, never getting much power behind a strike, but making up for it with a constant barrage of quick slashes. Although Squall hated to give up ground, he felt he must, just to survive.

    Had it been a fight to the death, Squall would easily have won. Tidus left himself open, vulnerable, constantly. But it wasn’t a fight to the death. For that matter, they hadn’t really established any rules. Squall was used to fighting Seifer, where the rules were well established. Seifer almost always broke the rules, but Squall had gotten used to that, and even learned to take it as a good thing. Seifer would violate the rules when he was frustrated. And that meant Squall was winning.

    Squall ducked as Tidus swung his blade high. The high swing left Tidus’s torso entirely unprotected. Squall thought about hitting him with the broadside of his sword, just to make a point. But Tidus was too unpredictable, he might make a strange move and hurt himself. Squall then considered a well-placed kick to Tidus’s diaphragm, that would end the battle quickly. But since they hadn’t established rules, kicking could be considered out of bounds and he wasn’t going to win this fight by playing dirty. He wasn’t Seifer.

    Tidus wasn’t Seifer either. Though he had a one-handed grip and quickness in common with Squall’s former rival, there were plenty of differences as well. For one, Tidus lacked Seifer’s malice. He also lacked Seifer’s precision. The last time Squall had dueled Seifer, Seifer had sliced his face, right between his eyes, leaving a permanent scar. Squall had responded in kind, leaving Seifer with a mirror-image scar between his eyes. Most people assumed Squall had scarred Seifer out of revenge, retribution. They weren’t wrong, certainly there was some of that. But what Squall had really been doing, what he’d really been trying to prove, was that he could be just as precise as Seifer. To draw the same line, on a moving target, breaking the skin without serious injury, it took skill not many could master. So Squall’s face became a walking testament to Seifer’s skill, and Seifer’s face a testament to Squall’s skill.

    Man, Seifer and I had a messed-up relationship, even before the Sorceress showed up.

    Renewing his focus on the current battle, Squall noticed a slight wavering in Tidus’s most recent barrage. Tidus was finally starting to tire. Squall waited until Tidus took a downward swing. Then, instead of deflecting the blow, he took a quick step to the side and raised his blade, bringing it down full-force onto the back of Tidus’s sword. Tidus’s sword bit several inches into the ground. Squall prepared for an angry retaliation, but it didn’t come. Instead, Tidus left his blade in the ground and leaned over, hands on his hips, panting loudly. Squall was relieved that there did seem to be an end to Tidus’s supply of fervent energy.

    “Wow, you’re really good! That was exhausting,” Tidus said between breaths.

    Squall nodded, not really sure how to respond to that.

    “What about me?” Tidus asked. “How’d I do?”

    “Your technique is terrible. You’ve got speed, but you’re lacking power.”

    “Squall!” Rinoa chastised. “Why do you have to be so mean? His technique was good enough to defeat Sin.”

    “Too harsh?” Squall looked at Rinoa. Tidus had asked, after all. He was just being honest.

    “No, it’s okay,” Tidus replied. “Auron just sort of threw a sword at me when all this started, and I’ve been making it up since then. Now, if you’re going to criticize my blitzball shot, then we may have trouble.”

    “I’m sure you do fine against monsters. It’s just for dueling, you’re a bit…wild. Not very precise,” Squall amended. Rinoa couldn’t take offense at that, could she?

    Tidus nodded, seeming to accept the critique. “Maybe you could teach me to be better.”

    “Sorry, I’m not an instructor.”

    “You don’t have to be an instructor to teach someone something. You should help him,” Rinoa replied.

    Squall sighed. He supposed he didn’t have anything better to do. “Okay,” he said turning to Tidus. “Have you tried using a two-handed grip?”


    *


    “Are you sure you’re up for this, Ellone?” Quistis had pulled Ellone aside as the others were gathering on the quad in anticipation of trying to contact Squall again.

    “Yes, of course.”

    “It’s harder, isn’t it? With Squall so far away, it takes more out of you. I can tell.”

    Ellone grimaced. She’d thought she was putting up a better front than that. “It’s a bit more difficult lately,” she confessed. “But if I can speak to him directly—and let him speak to me—then maybe we’ll at least know what’s going on.”

    “Okay,” Quistis said. “We’ll try it one more time.”

    “We ready?” Irvine called from across the quad. “We should get started before Zell forgets his lines again.”

    “I won’t forget this time!”

    “That’s because you’re not supposed to talk this time, Zell,” Selphie replied as Ellone and Quistis walked over.

    “Okay. I’m ready,” Ellone said as she took a seat at the table. Quistis sat down beside her.

    Quistis looked at Zell. “Hi, Squall. We’re still here, still trying to find you. Ellone tried to connect with Zell, to send him into your recent past so we could see where you are, but it didn’t work.”

    “Yo, what’s up with that, Squall?” Zell interrupted. “I let you in my head, but you won’t let me in yours? Scrooge!”

    “Zell!” Selphie cut in. “Ellone said it probably wasn’t Squall’s fault. She just can’t make the connection with him where he is.”

    “Anyway,” Quistis continued, “Once Ellone ends the flashback, she’s going to try to maintain the connection with you, so that you can talk to her. She hasn’t been able to do it before now, but hopefully if you both really concentrate it will work. Tell her as much as you can, but quickly, in case she can’t hold the connection.

    “Well, that’s it. We just wanted to give you both time to prepare, before you try to talk directly. So…good luck. We’re going to see you again soon, just hang in there.”


    *


    “Are you still there, Squall?”

    “Yes.”

    “Can you tell me where you are?”

    “I don’t know where we are. But we’re okay. Rinoa’s here. So is Tidus. You should find Yuna; she’s in Spira. Ask Ifrit, he might be able to help—”

    “I’m losing the connection. Sorry—”


    *


    Squall was passed out. Rinoa seemed to prefer to call it sleeping, but people could generally be roused from sleeping. At any rate, he was doing whatever it was he did when he communicated with his sister. He was stretched out, flat on his back. Rinoa lay beside him, her head resting on his chest.

    “I like to hear his heartbeat,” she said quietly. Tidus gave an awkward half-smile and looked away. He hadn’t meant to stare, there just really wasn’t anything else to look at.

    “I’m sad for Yuna,” Rinoa continued. “That she doesn’t get to hear your heartbeat.”

    Tidus had to admit it sounded pretty nice, to be able to rest here with Yuna lying against him. But at the same time, he was glad she wasn’t here. Even with Rinoa and Squall’s company the place was miserable. He’d rather be alone than subject Yuna to the misery.

    “But she will. Someday she’ll hear it again. I know it.”

    Tidus nodded and did his best to smile at Rinoa. He wished he knew it.

    A few moments of silence passed. Tidus thought he should try to make conversation, but they were running out of topics. Finally, Tidus asked what seemed like an obvious question, but one that he had avoided before now. “Is he your boyfriend?”

    Rinoa sat up and looked down at Squall. She brushed his bangs away from his forehead. “Yes. No. Well, he probably wouldn’t want to call it that. Once he did call me his girlfriend though. But he said he was joking. But I told him I was going to take it seriously. So…yes.”

    Tidus laughed. From having known the two of them the short time he had, that sounded about right.

    “Yuna—is she your girlfriend?”

    Tidus considered the question. “It was…complicated. I guess you could say she might have become my girlfriend, after the battle. If things had been different.” If somehow we had both survived, Tidus added silently. That was fair, right? It couldn’t have just been in his head. Yuna had said . . . right before he disappeared.

    Rinoa nodded. “Maybe Squall and I will make it official, when we get home. And you and Yuna can too.” Rinoa smiled brightly at the thought.

    “Sure,” Tidus replied. “When we get home.”

    More silence. Rinoa was surely thinking about a happy future with Squall. Tidus was thinking about the past. About those last few moments. About what Yuna had said to him, and what he hadn’t said to her.

    “Before I left, she said I love you to me.” Tidus spoke quietly, staring at the backs of his hands. “I meant to say it back. I just couldn’t.” He looked up at Rinoa. He probably shouldn’t be telling her this. But he just couldn’t keep it inside anymore. “I do love her. I love her so much, just saying it could never be enough. I wish she knew.”

    Rinoa’s smile had faded, replaced with a much more serious expression. “I bet she does know.”

    “How could she?”

    “You’re not so hard to read, Tidus. Not like him.” She gestured to Squall.

    “Are you talking about me?” Squall had awakened and sat up as he spoke. “While I’m unconscious?”

    “Of course,” Rinoa replied. “It would be rude to talk about you while you were awake.”

    Squall looked intently at Rinoa, presumably trying to tell if she was kidding. He turned to Tidus.

    “I wasn’t…I mean, we weren’t…I was talking about Yuna, mostly,” Tidus finished lamely.

    “…Whatever.”

    “Whatever.” Rinoa cut-in quickly, as soon as Squall began to speak. Laughing, she continued, “It’s okay, Tidus. He really doesn’t care.” She turned to look at Squall. “Tidus asked if you were my boyfriend and I said yes.”

    Squall didn’t respond, other than to bury his forehead in his palm.

    Tidus smiled at them, then stretched out on the ground, looking up at the sky. He didn’t know if it was true, but it was a nice thought, that Yuna knew how he felt about her, even if he’d never said the words.

    I do love you, Yuna. I always will.
    Last edited by Tarsier, Sep 28, 2014
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  14. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Enjoyed this muchly. =D= Lands, the thing with staying connected long enough - like dial-up in the days of faster Internet [face_laugh] :p Loved the talk between Rinoa and Tidus. I know that must be eating at him. Not having the chance or taking it to tell Yuna. :(

    "I like hearing/feeling" his heartbeat - now that is a sweet sweet thing to read - awww. :)
    Tarsier likes this.
  15. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Another great update. Yes! I am enjoying your Squall very much, so I can't see where the problems writing him were in the final result. ;)

    Tidus really is stealing the show for me, though. :p

    “No, it’s okay,” Tidus replied. “Auron just sort of threw a sword at me when all this started, and I’ve been making it up since then. Now, if you’re going to criticize my blitzball shot, then we may have trouble.”

    [face_laugh] Great banter and camaraderie. And great action! It's always great to have action that keeps your attention through the whole scene. =D=


    “I like to hear his heartbeat,” she said quietly. Tidus gave an awkward half-smile and looked away. He hadn’t meant to stare, there just really wasn’t anything else to look at.

    “I’m sad for Yuna,” Rinoa continued. “That she doesn’t get to hear your heartbeat.”

    Tidus had to admit it sounded pretty nice, to be able to rest here with Yuna lying against him. But at the same time, he was glad she wasn’t here. Even with Rinoa and Squall’s company the place was miserable. He’d rather be alone than subject Yuna to the misery.

    “But she will. Someday she’ll hear it again. I know it.”

    I tried to par down my quote, but I couldn't. This whole section was beautiful, but those few lines in particular just struck me. That was lovely to read. [face_love] =D=

    As always, thanks for sharing, and I look forward to reading more! :)
    Last edited by Mira_Jade, Sep 3, 2014
    Nyota's Heart and Tarsier like this.
  16. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    @Nyota's Heart Lands, the thing with staying connected long enough - like dial-up in the days of faster Internet
    Well, the game was released during the heyday of dial-up (1999)…:p

    "I like hearing/feeling" his heartbeat - now that is a sweet sweet thing to read - awww.
    I thought you might like that ;)

    Thanks for commenting, I really, really appreciate it!!


    @Mira_Jade I am enjoying your Squall very much, so I can't see where the problems writing him were in the final result. Tidus really is stealing the show for me, though.
    Thanks! It always makes me happy to hear that people like my characters (even though they aren’t really my characters). :)

    Thank you for your comments, they make my day every time!!


    Author Note: I added an image to the first post—not exactly cover art, but something to show what the four main characters look like. If it would be helpful to have images of the other characters, I will add some as the story progresses. Or if it is annoying to have images in the story I will take down the first one.


    Chapter 6

    “You’re sure about this?” Zell asked Ellone.

    “I’m not sure about anything. But I heard Squall say ‘Ask Ifrit.’ ”

    “It can’t hurt to ask, right?” Irvine offered.

    “He might attack,” Selphie replied. “That could hurt a little. But I know we can beat him ! We’ve all beaten Guardian Forces before.”

    “With Squall,” Zell reminded her.

    “Whatever happens, we’ll handle it. Just summon him, Zell. And then be ready for anything,” Quistis said. “But first we’re just going to try to talk.”

    “Alright.” Zell lowered his head, holding the palm of his hand in front of his face. After a few seconds he raised his head and pushed his palm outward.

    Irvine, Selphie, Zell, and Quistis held their ground, gathered in front of Ellone, instead of fading into the background as they usually did when a Guardian Force was summoned. Angelo stood in front of everyone, her head down and hackles up.

    A pillar of flame appeared before Zell, then tapered away to reveal the Guardian Force suspended above the earth. He settled to the ground with a thud, wisps of fire dancing around him. He stood on two legs and had the general body shape of a human, though his face was that of a beast. Brown skin covered massive muscles, punctuated with tufts of bright red fur. His oversized hands and feet ended in sharp claws, and two massive black horns protruded from his head, curving back behind him.

    Ifrit roared and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “What is the meaning of this? You summoned me when there is no enemy to be fought?”

    “We only wish to speak to you,” Quistis said. “It’s about our friends, Squall and Rinoa.”

    “Guardian Forces do not chat with humans! Do not waste my time again.” Ifrit spun abruptly and began to fade.

    “Wait!” Selphie yelled. “What about Tidus? And Yuna? They need your help too.”

    Ifrit spun back, immediately becoming solid once again.

    “What do you know of Tidus and Yuna?”

    “We know Tidus is lost. With Squall and Rinoa,” Selphie replied.

    Ifrit hissed. “No, it cannot be.”

    “It is,” Ellone said stepping forward between Irvine and Zell. “I have spoken to Squall. How else would we know their names?”

    Ifrit stared hard at Ellone. “Shiva and Bahamut serve that world as well. Call them. Now.”

    They complied, Selphie summoning Shiva, Quistis summoning Bahamut.

    A massive icicle burst from the ground in front of Selphie, then shattered to reveal Shiva. Appearing nearly human except for pale blue skin, elongated ears, and long, flexible yellow and green fins instead of hair on her head, Shiva bowed her head and began to gather energy in the palm of her hand before she noticed Ifrit. She paused, and the energy dissipated. “What is going on?” she asked, looking from the humans to Ifrit in confusion.

    The five gathered humans could feel waves of heat and cold rolling off the summoned Guardian Forces and a bank of fog began to form between the two as Bahamut arrived. He’d come from deep in the sky, piercing the clouds with speed before slowing to a hover. A bipedal dragon with midnight blue scales, dark red wings, and a wingspan that could easily have encapsulated all those gathered below, he landed between Ifrit and Shiva.

    The final beat of his wings created a gust that blew the gathering fog over the humans and required them to brace themselves in order to keep their footing. Bahamut peered at the gathered beings in turn. “Explain.”

    “We need your help,” Quistis said.

    “We have aided you in many battles. What more would you demand of us?” Shiva asked.

    “It’s Squall. He’s disappeared. We think you can help us find him.”

    “We are Guardian Forces, not couriers! If he is lost, find him yourself!” Bahamut snapped.

    “Tell them what you told me,” Ifrit demanded impatiently.

    “Squall is not alone. He’s with someone named Tidus,” Quistis replied.

    “Tidus of Spira?” Shiva asked, turning toward the other Guardian Forces. “How is that possible?”

    “It is not,” Bahamut replied. “This is nonsense. Worlds cannot intersect. Besides, Tidus has faded. He does exist without the fayth.”

    “Then how do they know him?” Ifrit asked.

    “Tidus had strong ties to Spira,” Shiva offered. “He was more than the others. He could not stay, but such ties cannot be so easily broken. Perhaps he was caught halfway in between his world and the next.”

    “And Squall,” Ifrit said, looking critically at the humans, “Attempted to play with time. Created a paradox. And thus was thrown from his world, but not all the way to the next.”

    Bahamut cocked his head. “The Void.” He looked down on the humans. “How unusual, for two to be caught there at once.”

    “Not two, three,” Selphie corrected.

    Bahamut turned his head sharply to focus on Selphie. “Three?”

    “Yes,” Selphie answered. “Rinoa used sorceress magic to join them.”

    “Fool,” Bahamut huffed.

    “What’s the Void?” Zell asked.

    Shiva shook her head sadly. “An unfortunate end for those who find themselves there.”

    Ifrit appeared unmoved as he explained, “Usually a human will die of despair before long. With more than one of them there, perhaps they will survive long enough to starve to death.”

    Ellone gasped and Irvine and Zell stepped closer to her.

    “Take us there!” Selphie demanded. “Help us save them.”

    “No,” Ifrit said impassively. “We cannot go there.”

    Selphie stamped her foot and glared at the fire monster. “Why not?!”

    Ifrit stood taller and crossed his arms tighter. “Do not question me. It cannot be done.”

    “Then take us to Yuna. You have to do something,” Irvine implored.

    “We have to do nothing! I have told you their fate, that is far more than most receive.” Ifrit growled and balls of fire bloomed around him, which earned him a snarl from Bahamut and a frosty glare from Shiva.

    “Please! Bahamut? Shiva?” Selphie pleaded.

    “I am sorry,” Shiva said. “But the interaction of worlds is strictly prohibited. In the Void, it will not matter much. But to take a human from one world to another? We simply cannot do it.”

    “So you do go there, though? Guardian Forces appear on Tidus’s world just as on ours?” Irvine asked.

    “We serve many worlds , by many different names. Though even if we wanted to, we truly cannot return to Spira. We have been vanquished,” Shiva replied.

    “Silence!” Bahamut cut in. “They already know too much. Do not give them further ideas.

    “The next time you summon us, there had better be an enemy.” Bahamut launched himself into the air, disappearing into the clouds.

    Ifrit gave a final look to the humans. “They were strong warriors, all three of them. It is a shame.” In a whirlwind of fire, he was gone.

    Shiva sighed, her breath a frosty cloud that floated into the air, then faded into mist. “Tell me again—the Sorceress, Rinoa, how did she get there?”

    “She went there for Squall,” Selphie answered. “Because she loves him very much.”

    Shiva nodded slowly. “The bond between Yuna and Tidus was strong as well. To see such bonds broken—it is unpleasant. It seems…almost…unnatural.” She turned and lowered her head. Her final words were uttered quietly, secretly, melting into the air as she faded away.

    “Diablos has never been one to follow the rules.”


    *


    They’d been playing cards for what seemed like several hours. Although she’d never had any interest in the game herself, Rinoa had known Squall was a very good card player—whenever they would travel to a new area Zell would complain that Squall always won all the good cards before he even had a chance to challenge anyone. So Squall’s deck, which he’d divided between the three of them, was probably very impressive. But after having stared at the colorful images on the cards for as long as she had, Rinoa was beginning to hate them all.

    After learning the rules, the game had provided decent entertainment for a few rounds. However, after a bit it became clear that Squall was just too good—Rinoa and Tidus had no chance of beating him if he tried even a little bit. Squall of course knew this and once Rinoa got frustrated he started trying to throw games. That irritated Rinoa, she didn’t want to win that way, so she started trying to throw the games first, to make it impossible for Squall to lose. That, in turn, annoyed Squall. So at the moment Rinoa was just playing Tidus over and over again, neither one of them putting forth much effort. Rinoa randomly took a card from her hand and dropped it on an open spot on the board. By pure luck, she flipped over two of Tidus’s cards.

    “You’re not even looking at your cards and I’m still losing,” Tidus commented.

    “She’s got a better deck than you,” Squall replied. “I took most of her weaker cards earlier.”

    Tidus played a card and flipped one of Rinoa’s. As she placed a final card, Rinoa was so tired of the game she could no longer read the numbers on the cards even if she’d wanted to. She was pretty sure she’d won the round, but she didn’t bother to collect her cards. Instead, she stood and walked over to Squall, dropping unceremoniously into his lap.

    Out of the corner of her eye, Rinoa saw Tidus gathering the cards together and then rising to his feet. “I’m gonna try to get some sleep,” he said as he walked away.

    “Don’t go far,” Rinoa called after him. She wanted to talk to Squall alone, but sometimes the landscape would change abruptly and she didn’t want Tidus to be separated from them.

    For a while, Rinoa just sat there, holding onto Squall as he held onto her. She was trying to muster her courage; she didn’t know how Squall would react to what she was going to say.

    “I love you, Squall. Don’t worry; you don’t have to say it back. I just wanted to say it.” Rinoa looked down, too afraid to look into Squall’s eyes. Gently, he placed his finger under her chin and tipped her head back so she was looking up at him. Her breath caught.

    Squall was always handsome, but he had a natural frown and usually his features had a stoic hardness. But when she looked up, his features had softened and he smiled at her. He wasn’t just handsome when he smiled—he was literally breathtaking.

    “I love you, Rinoa.”

    Then he dipped his head, just enough that his lips brushed briefly against hers.

    She sighed and leaned against his chest, and for a moment she was perfectly content. Soon, though, reality seeped back in. From the miserable, empty world around them, she heard a faint sob. She looked back up at Squall. He smiled and she couldn’t speak, but she gestured with her head past his shoulder, toward where Tidus had gone to lay down. Squall nodded. She lingered a moment more before standing up.
    Last edited by Tarsier, Sep 27, 2014
  17. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Oh my. The Guardians' pronouncement is less than encouraging. [face_nail_biting] The Rinoa/Squall bit was sweet indeed in contrast. :D Makes Tidus feel the loss of Yuna even more though.
    Tarsier likes this.
  18. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Whew! That was quite the interesting encounter with the Guardians, even if their words were not encouraging. [face_worried] You did a wonderful job describing them - I could 'see' them and their power really jumped off of the screen. At least we know what is going on now, and this Diablos . . . I am interested to see if he can help them find a solution. [face_thinking]

    The Rinoa/Squall scene was just beautiful - a right amount of hope and sweetness after the beginning of the chapter. [face_love]
    Tarsier likes this.
  19. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    @Nyota's Heart Makes Tidus feel the loss of Yuna even more though. You may be right about that... Thank you for commenting!

    @Mira_Jade You did a wonderful job describing them - I could 'see' them and their power really jumped off of the screen. Thank you! That's so good to hear, that's just what I was going for.



    Chapter 7

    “Well, they aren’t going to starve to death any time soon.”

    Quistis blinked and looked to Irvine. That was what he had taken from the conversation with the Guardian Forces?

    “How do you know?” Ellone asked, relief in her voice.

    “You know Squall—he’s always got a million of every kind of potion on him. That’ll last them a while.”

    “A prepared one, is he?” Quistis was startled by the new voice. She turned to see Laguna Loire, President of the distant city of Esthar, walking up to them.

    “Sir Laguna!” Selphie exclaimed.

    Zell was clearly as surprised as Quistis when he asked, “What are you doing here?”

    “I, uh, just came, to, uh, you know, make sure you guys were okay.”

    That was strange—Laguna was a nice guy, and through Ellone they had shared a connection, but it still seemed odd that he would be so concerned about a handful of mercenaries. Didn’t he have more important things to do?

    “I invited him,” Ellone offered. Then she lowered her voice and leaned into Laguna. “It’s okay, Uncle. You can tell them.”

    Laguna shook his head to Ellone. Then he looked around at the others. “Squall—he’s...still missing?”

    Quistis nodded. “Yes, but we finally have a lead.”

    Laguna brightened. “Good!” He scratched the back of his head. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

    “Take care of Ellone. We might be leaving for a while,” Quistis replied.

    “If you’re leaving, I’m going with you,” Ellone said.

    “No. It’s too dangerous.” Quistis used her instructor tone, hoping to halt any further objection before it began.

    “I don’t care. I might be able to help. I can contact Squall again.”

    Irvine tipped his hat back and cocked his head to the side. “You’re not a fighter, Ellone. And I think we got all the information we need from Squall.”

    Ellone’s shoulders dropped and she looked to Laguna. He scratched the back of his head again and looked around uncertainly. “Maybe you should stay with me.”

    Seemingly resigned, Ellone turned back to the others. “Diablos—that’s another Guardian Force? You’re going to summon it now?”

    Quistis nodded.

    “Does it have to be Diablos?” Selphie asked. “He’s scary!”

    Irvine laughed. “More scary than the fire demon and humongous dragon that were just here?”

    “Yes! He’s…creepy. I don’t like him.”

    “Well, no sense in delaying,” Quistis said. “Zell, you’ve got Diablos, don’t you?”

    “Yeah!” Zell began summoning.

    “You guys should probably stay back,” Quistis told Laguna and Ellone. Laguna lead a reluctant Ellone a little ways away. Angelo watched them go, but remained beside Quistis.

    From all directions black bats appeared and swarmed together. Soon there was so many, and they packed themselves so densely, that they formed an enormous black ball that transformed into liquid. The ball rose toward the sky and from the bottom emerged Diablos. A winged humanoid with crimson skin partially covered by thick black plates, his face was all edges and spikes, almost entirely without expression, so when he turned to face his summoner it was difficult to tell if he was angry.

    He hovered above the ground without flapping his wings, the blue tip of his long tail twitching back and forth. He said nothing as he stared at Zell.

    “Hey, so, um, we were hoping you could take us to Spira,” Zell said.

    Diablos continued to stare and say nothing.

    Zell looked to Quistis and she nodded at him, encouraging him to continue. “So…will you? You know where Spira is, right? You can get there?”

    “Of course I know of Spira. I am a Guardian Force, I am aware of all worlds.”

    “Then you’ll take us there?” Selphie asked hopefully.

    “No,” Diablos said.

    “Why not?” Zell asked.

    “It is forbidden.” Diablos bounced in the air, which Quistis feared was an indication that he was bored and about to leave.

    Quistis swallowed hard, not sure that taunting a Guardian Force was a good idea, but at a loss for what else to do. “Afraid the others would disapprove?” Diablos stopped his bouncing and swept his gaze toward her. “I didn’t realize the other Guardian Forces told you what to do.”

    “No one controls Diablos!” he declared, diving toward Quistis and stopping with his face inches from hers. Selphie was right, Diablos's beady eyes and exposed, sharply pointed teeth were rather creepy. She took a step back from him, her mind racing to come up with a retort that would get him to help them. She had nothing. Fortunately, Irvine was never at a loss for words.

    The cowboy gave an exasperated sigh and made a show of crossing his arms and rolling his eyes, drawing Diablos’s attention to him. “I don’t know why we’re even bothering with this joker. Can’t damage a boss to save his life, can’t get to Spira. Shoulda left him in his lamp.”

    Diablos turned toward Irvine. “You really want to go to Spira? Very well. I hope you don’t intend to come back.” Diablos fell backward, rolling himself into a tight circle. He’d flipped himself through two complete rotations before Quistis could even think about reacting. As he completed the third rotation his body burst into a swarm of bats and Quistis found herself without ground beneath her feet. The bats dispersed as Quistis fell, and she splashed into waist deep water.

    Irvine, Zell, and Selphie splashed down around her. As the others regained their footing, Quistis took in their surroundings. They seemed to be in the middle of a small cove, the shallow water lapping at a sandy beach. Quistis sloshed through the water to get to the dry sand. Angelo beat her there, and sent a spray of water in all directions as she shook herself dry.

    “Ugh,” Irvine moaned as he trudged onto the beach. “I’m soaked.” He stripped off his now-saturated duster and dropped it the sand, leaving only his purple vest covering his torso. Selphie came up behind him and deposited his thoroughly-soaked hat on his head, causing streams of water to pour down his face.

    “Did he really have to drop us in the water?” Selphie wondered out loud.

    “We’re probably lucky he didn’t drop us in the middle of the ocean,” Quistis replied.

    “I just hope this is Spira,” Zell said. He shook his head and body as he spoke, but was not as successful as Angelo in removing the water that clung to him.

    “Whoa, where did you come from?” Quistis turned toward the chipper new voice. A young teenager with blonde hair and a pink top was looking curiously at them, her hands on her hips. Quistis hadn’t seen her approach, but she noticed a path off the beach leading into the green jungle behind the girl.

    “Is this Spira?” Selphie asked.

    The girl tilted her head to the side. “Where else would it be?”

    “Oh, good!” Selphie jumped up and down. “I’m Selphie, and this is Irvine, Zell, and Quistis.” She gestured to each in turn. “What’s your name?”

    “Rikku,” the girl replied. “Where did you come from? You’re not gonna tell me you’re from Zanarkand, are you?”

    “No, not Zanarkand,” Quistis answered. “But far away. We’re looking for someone named Yuna. Do you know where we can find her?”

    Rikku narrowed her eyes and held her chin with one hand. “What do you want with Yunie?”

    “We think she might be able to help us,” Quistis explained.

    “Hasn’t she done enough? She brought the Calm, what more do you want?”

    “Well, it’s not just a matter of her helping us,” Irvine offered. “We can help her too. We know where Tidus is.”

    “Tidus?” Rikku shook her head. “Tidus is gone.”

    Quistis took a step toward Rikku. “Please, if we could just talk to Yuna, we’ll explain everything.”

    “I don’t know. You’ll have to talk to Wakka and Lulu first. But if you want to see Yuna, I wouldn’t mention Tidus anymore.” Rikku gestured for the others to follow and began to walk up the beach.

    Exchanging looks with the others, Quistis shrugged and followed Rikku.


    *

    “Is that what was supposed to happen?” Laguna asked Ellone. They both stared blankly at the patch of ground from which four humans, a dog, and one tall black and red monster had just disappeared.

    “I don’t know. I don’t think they had much idea what would happen,” Ellone replied, feeling both guilty and somewhat relieved that she hadn’t vanished with the others.

    “So…what do we do now?” her adopted father asked.

    Ellone shook her head uncertainly. “Wait, I guess. And hope for the best.”
  20. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    =D= At least Zell and the others are where Yuna is. I know it must be hard for Ellone to wait and wonder about what's happening and whether they can rescue Squall and the rest.
    Tarsier likes this.
  21. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Whew! That was a fun ride. :D Diablos was certainly a force to be reckoned with, but I am glad that he could be goaded into helping them. I look forward to their conversation with Yuna! She deserves to know what's going on - and receive a little bit in return for all the good she has done. [face_love]

    Another excellent update. =D=
    Tarsier likes this.
  22. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    Yes, they're getting closer... Thanks for reading! :)

    Powerful as he is, Diablos is not without his pride... Thanks for commenting! :)



    Chapter 8

    Away from the others, lying on his side on the desiccated earth, Tidus decided he was in hell. Hell was a fair punishment, he supposed, for killing your father. It hadn’t really hit him before now. He’d killed Jecht. His father was dead by his hand. It was something he’d had to do, there was no denying that. He hadn’t felt that bad about it at the time, there had been no other choice. But that was what made it worse—what kind of monster kills his own father and doesn’t even care?

    I hate you. That was one of the last things Tidus said to his old man. And he’d meant it too. He’d always hated him. The feeling was mutual. Jecht had always been disappointed in Tidus, always thought he was small and weak. Tidus had thought maybe it would be different, when he saw his old man again for the first time in ten years. He’d thought maybe he could look him square in the eye, show him what he’d become, and that maybe, just maybe, his father would be proud. But when he’d faced Jecht that final time, he’d still had to look up to him. And Jecht had still looked down on him.

    Tidus’s lower lip trembled and he heard his father’s words echoing in his mind.

    You’re gonna cry.

    You always cry.

    That’s the only thing you're good for.

    Tidus squeezed his eyes tightly closed. Why was he still here? What point was there in survival, if he couldn’t be with Yuna? He was so miserable, he wished he would just disappear. That was what was supposed to happen, wasn’t it? How could he have failed at that?

    Before lying down, Tidus had moved as far away from Squall and Rinoa as he dared, trying to give them some privacy. Now they were speaking softly to each other, he could hear their voices but couldn’t make out the words. If it wasn’t for that, the gentle, soothing sound calling him back he probably would have fallen all the way into the depths of despair, never to return. But the voices were there, offering him a lifeline, something to think about besides his father’s disappointment. Until they weren’t.

    The voices stopped, and in the silence Tidus gave up. He cried. For the first time in his life, he didn’t fight the tears. It might have been liberating, had he not been so deep in hopelessness. His cheeks wet, his eyes puffy, his nose dripping—his father should see him now. Then he would know every word he’d ever said about Tidus was true. He was nothing but a helpless crybaby.

    A pressure on his shoulder startled him. He’d forgotten that he wasn’t alone, that this miserable existence had room for more than just him. It was Rinoa placing her hand on his shoulder. He sat up quickly, keeping his back to her. He swiped furiously at his face, trying to erase the tears. “Sorry,” he murmured.

    “Don’t be sorry.” Rinoa pulled on his shoulder, forcing him to face her. “I’ve been trying to get Squall to show a little emotion since I met him. Yuna is lucky. You must give her a much easier time.”

    Rinoa took his right hand in both of hers. “This place is horrible. But we’re in it together. The three of us. And we’re going to get out together. Understood?”

    Tidus nodded. Maybe this wasn’t hell after all. Rinoa wouldn’t be here if it was.

    “Now,” Rinoa continued, “You promised us you would teach us how to play blitzball.” Tidus didn’t recall having made such a promise, but Rinoa grabbed him by both wrists and hauled him to his feet. “So let’s play!”


    *

    Apparently, Yuna was a popular girl. One who everyone is Spira wanted to see, ever since she’d “brought on the Calm,” whatever that meant. Wakka and Lulu were her gatekeepers; Quistis and the others would have to convince them before they would be allowed to visit Yuna. Lulu had a harsh gaze and a passing resemblance to Sorceress Edea. Wakka had an imposing figure and red-orange hair that stuck straight up, the longest strands forming an improbable wisp above his head. Neither of them appeared the least bit impressed with the story Irvine was telling them.

    They all stood at the end of a wide cobblestone walkway. The walkway was flanked on each side by a row of tents. Quistis was pretty sure Yuna was nearby, but Wakka and Lulu were blocking their passage into the tiny village. Although she sincerely hoped there would not be any reason for violence, Quistis had noted that the two appeared unarmed, Wakka possessing only a blue and white ball tucked under his arm and Lulu holding a doll that somewhat resembled a moogle.

    Following Rikku’s suggestion, they had not yet mentioned Tidus. Quistis had counted on their knowledge of Tidus’s whereabouts as a wildcard that would lead to easy cooperation. But Rikku’s reaction had indicated it may only lead to distrust and hostility.

    Well, they already had hostility.

    “Can’t we just talk to her? Two minutes is all we ask,” Irvine pleaded.

    “Lady Yuna is resting.” Wakka stood tall with arms crossed. “She’s not taking visitors.”

    “Fine, if she needs a nap we can wait.” Irvine gave a half bow and took a step back.

    “Great. Come back in five or six years and maybe she’ll be willing to see you, ya?” Wakka gave a grunting sort of laugh.

    “We don’t have five or six years!” Zell had balled his hands into fists. That was a bad sign. “We need to see her now! It’s about Tidus!”

    “Tidus?” Lulu repeated sharply. “Don’t speak that name around here.”

    “Look, why don’t you just let the lady speak for herself? If Yuna tells us to get lost, we will.” Irvine tipped his hat and smiled at Lulu as he spoke.

    Lulu glared at him. “Yuna’s done enough. Leave her be.”

    “Alright, alright,” Irvine said, raising his hands in defeat and walking toward where Quistis was standing a few feet away. She decided it must be her turn, though she had no idea what she could say that hadn’t already been said. She noticed Irvine give a subtle nod to Zell as she passed him.

    “We’ve travelled very far…” Quistis began. As she spoke Irvine and Zell bolted to either side of Wakka and Lulu, each running along one row of tents. Angelo shot down the middle, barking loudly.

    “Yuna! We need your help!” Irvine shouted.

    “We know where Tidus is! YUNA!!” Zell yelled.

    Wakka and Lulu reacted with startling speed. Wakka threw his ball with such force it knocked Irvine off his feet before bouncing back to him. Lulu snapped her fingers and a huge spike of ice appeared before Zell. He slid to a stop to avoid it, ending up on the ground on his backside.

    “Hey! Don’t attack our friends!” Selphie exclaimed, drawing her nunchaku. Quistis gritted her teeth and drew her whip. This was not how she’d wanted this to go.

    A motion from the far end of the village caught Quistis’s eye. A young woman with a long purple skirt emerged from a tent. Rikku—who had wandered away after introducing the travelers to Wakka and Lulu—appeared beside her.

    “What’s going on?” the young woman asked as she looked around.

    “Lady Yuna.” Irvine, finding himself closest to her, rose to one knee. “We need your help.”

    She focused on Irvine and nodded slowly. “Rikku told me.” Then she looked to Wakka and Lulu. “Is everything okay?”

    “We were trying to keep people from bothering you. But this bunch is determined, ya?”

    “I don’t know that I can help you,” Yuna looked at each of the visitors in turn, “But since you’ve come so far, the least I can do is listen. Come this way.”

    “You don’t have to do this, Yuna,” Lulu called out. “You don’t owe these people anything.” She gave a disdainful look to Quistis and Selphie.

    “I know,” Yuna responded. “But it’s the right thing to do.”

    Lulu sighed and Wakka muttered something under his breath, but they didn’t argue further.

    Quistis started towards Yuna when Lulu grabbed her by the arm. “Do not let her hope for something impossible. Understood?”

    Quistis nodded and Lulu released her.

    “No good can come of this,” Lulu muttered to Wakka as Quistis hurried away.
    Last edited by Tarsier, Oct 17, 2014
  23. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Yikes, poor Tidus and yay for Rinoa's distraction. Whew, glad Yuna is agreeing to listen at least. Eagerly awaiting more.
    Tarsier likes this.
  24. Tarsier Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2005
    star 3
    @Nyota's Heart Thanks for reading! I hope you continue to enjoy the story. :)


    Chapter 9

    Tidus twisted his lip as he tried to think. Without water or a ball it was impossible to play blitzball, and difficult to even practice. The only thing he could think of was to try tackling. It wasn’t the same on dry land as it would be underwater, but he supposed it was a start.

    “We’ll start with tackling,” Tidus said as he removed his right shoe. It was hardly a blitzball, but it would have to do. He tried to hand the shoe to Squall, but he didn’t take it.

    “I don’t want your shoe.”

    “But the whole point of tackling is to take the ball,” Tidus explained. Squall remained with his arms crossed, so Tidus didn’t push the issue. “Okay, so I’m going to hit you with my shoulder in the center of your chest. Are you ready?”

    Squall uncrossed his arms and shifted his feet, then nodded. Tidus dropped his shoulder and rammed into Squall at about half-speed. Squall barely moved.

    Tidus nodded. “Good. Now you hit me and try to take the ball.” He tucked his shoe under his arm.

    Squall lowered his shoulder and charged Tidus. He hit hard, knocking Tidus flat on the ground. His shoe popped into the air, causing Rinoa to have to duck to avoid it. After taking a moment to catch his breath, Tidus stood up. “Good hit. But you didn’t get the ball.”

    “I told you, I don’t want your smelly sneaker.” Squall gave a sort of half-smile as he spoke, which was the most cheerful expression Tidus had yet seen on Squall, so he decided not to argue the point.

    “My turn!” Rinoa, having retrieved Tidus’s shoe, positioned herself in front of him. “Like this?” She positioned the shoe under her left arm.

    “Yep.” Tidus nodded his approval. Then he took a step back and lowered his shoulder. He should have been thinking about the ball—well, shoe—where it was, how he would grab it and twist away. But instead he found himself focusing on Rinoa. About how nice she’d been to him, and about how awful he would feel if he accidentally hurt her while they practiced. He tried to clear his head as he approached her—he was a professional, after all, with excellent control, moving at half-speed, not to mention Rinoa seemed pretty strong herself—but at the last minute he lost his nerve. Instead of tackling her, he placed his hands on her hips and used his momentum to swing her around. She fell back into Squall when he released her.

    Once she’d recovered her balance, Rinoa put her hands on her hips and scowled at him. “Hey! I thought we were blitzing, not dancing.”

    Feeling foolish, Tidus avoided Rinoa’s gaze. “I was afraid I might hurt you.”

    “What, are there no female blitzball players?”

    He briefly looked up at her. “No, there are.” Then returned his gaze to the ground. “They’re just…not as pretty as you.” And they don’t remind me as much of Yuna, he added to himself.

    Great, now he’d offended Rinoa and probably made Squall think he was hitting on his girl all in one move.

    “Well, you wouldn’t be trying to coddle her if she had her blaster edge and Angelo here,” Squall warned. “In fact, I’ve heard she can do some serious damage with just her nails.”

    As Tidus looked up Rinoa made a show of examining her fingernails and Squall retrieved the shoe, which Rinoa had dropped when Tidus spun her around. “So what happens when nobody has the ball?”

    “That’s when you go for the volley shot.”

    “Let’s see it.” Squall tossed the shoe into the air.

    Without even thinking, Tidus timed his jump and kicked the shoe as hard as he could. A ball would have travelled much farther, but the shoe got decent distance.

    “Wow!” Rinoa said and Squall actually looked a little bit surprised. Tidus smiled as he jogged out to retrieve his shoe. It had been far too long since he’d played the beautiful game.


    *

    “I’m sorry to hear about your friends, but I’m not sure what I can do to help.” Yuna had led the four strangers to the outdoor meeting area and they were now each seated on a tree stump, along with her and Rikku.

    “Squall told us to find you. There must be a reason,” Selphie, the bubbly girl in yellow overalls, said.

    Yuna wasn’t sure what to make of any of this. Why would someone she’d never met tell his friends she could help? How would he even know who she was? The answer tugged at her, and she tried to ignore it. It can’t be. He’s gone. I saw him disappear. His hands passed right through mine.

    But what other answer could there be?

    “Do you really believe Tidus is with your friends?”

    Quistis, the one who seemed older than the others, nodded solemnly. “Yes, we do.”

    No. She couldn’t believe it. She was done with false hope. Besides, she still didn’t understand how they’d been able to speak to Squall when they couldn’t find him. Maybe this whole thing was an elaborate hoax. To what end she could only imagine.

    Seeing no benefit to further conversation Yuna stood. “If you can tell me what you want me to do, I will do it.”

    “She’ll consider doing it,” Rikku corrected.

    “Right. I’ll consider doing it. Until then, I have other matters to attend to.” Yuna left, her head low. She feared that she was being rude, but she truly didn’t know what she could do to help them and the more time she spent with them, the more confused she got.


    *

    Tidus wrinkled his nose as he took a sip of potion. Somehow, it seemed the stuff tasted worse each time he drank it. It didn’t really make the hunger go away, but it did keep the light-headedness at bay.

    “Hey, Rinoa.” Squall was doing push-ups a little ways away. All three of them were trying to stay in shape, but Squall always continued exercising long after the other two stopped. At first Tidus thought maybe Squall was trying to show him up, but after a while he decided Squall just didn’t know when to quit. Rinoa had been watching him, but now was drawing lines with her finger in the dirt. She looked up when Tidus called her name.

    “Could you do something for me?” Tidus asked.

    “Sure. What is it?”

    He felt a little awkward asking her, but it was something he’d decided he needed to do. He dipped his head and removed the chain and pendant from around his neck. “Will you give this to Yuna? You know, if you see her before me?” He handed the necklace to Rinoa.

    She accepted it, but looked at him strangely. “We’re going to stick together. I won’t see Yuna before you.”

    “I know, but just in case. Otherwise, you can give it back to me and I’ll give it to her myself.”

    “Well…okay.” Rinoa was examining the pendant when Squall walked over and sat beside her.

    “So. . .” Rinoa began, looking meaningfully at Squall.

    “Yes?” he replied.

    “Don’t you want to know what’s going on?” She twirled Tidus’s pendant in her hand.

    Squall shrugged.

    “Tidus is giving Yuna his pendant. But I’m holding it for safekeeping.” Rinoa gathered the chain in her palm and slipped the necklace into her pocket. Then she continued to look at Squall, seeming to wait for a reaction. She didn’t get it, so she repeated, “Tidus is giving Yuna his pendant…” Her gaze fell to the pendant around Squall’s neck.

    “You…want my pendant?” Squall asked. “You already have my ring.”

    “I know…” Rinoa looked at the ground and nervously traced her fingers through the dirt.

    Squall removed his necklace and placed it over Rinoa’s head.

    “Oh, thank you, Squall!” She embraced him briefly, then held the pendant in her hand to study it. “This is Griever, right?”

    Squall nodded.

    “The lion. Known for his great strength and pride.”

    Squall nodded again.

    “I’ll take super good care of it.”

    Squall shrugged. “It’s just a pendant.”

    Rinoa laughed. “ ‘Just a pendant,’ huh? Then maybe it’s good you gave it to me. It’s more than that to me.”
  25. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Glad Rinoa has the pendant from Squall even if he makes light of it. :p Hope Tidus has the chance to see Yuna and give her his pendant in turn.
    Tarsier likes this.
Moderators: Mira_Jade, NYCitygurl