Designed To Fade

BY : tuatha
Category: Final Fantasy X > General
Dragon prints: 477
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy X, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

XxxxxxXxxxxxX


The Luca players have the advantage now, but their desperation to
even up the score works against them. Their center player fumbles a
long pass to the forward and Besaid now have the ball. The clock
ticks downward while Besaid play safe, but then someone in the crowd
begins to shout for 'Wakka!' and the cry is taken up and down the
stadium, becoming a resounding boom that thunders around the stands.
'Wakka! Wakka! Wakka!'

The players themselves can hear it and look around confused. Then I
see Tidus swimming for the exit, leaving the pool. I begin to make
my way down the stands, hoping to catch him at the players entrance.
Before I reach the stairs that lead below the stand I hear a swell
in the voices around me and look up to see the red-haired man now
swimming into the pool.

I find a place where I can observe the player tunnel and the
spherepool and watch the last few minutes of the game. The Aurochs
still have possession of the ball and pass several times before
sending the ball to Wakka. The crowd around me cheers once more as
he takes the ball and swims forward. With less than thirty seconds
on the clock he evades one tackle and is hit hard by another. He
barely keeps hold of the ball but it is enough.

His technique is nowhere near as showy as Tidus's, just powerful and
workmanlike. The Luca keeper gamely tries to block, but despite
getting his fingertips to the ball it flies into the net. There are
only five seconds left on the clock, but the result is now a
foregone conclusion. I can hear the excited jabbering of the
commentators, and a few isolated jeers here and there from the
crowd, but for the most part there is simply amazement.

Tidus has not showed himself, but as soon as the buzzer sounds I see
him again entering the pool and swimming over to the Besaid captain.
Then it starts. There is a scream below me and I am glad I had the
foresight to come armed. I begin to stride down the stairs, and as I
do I hear people around me crying out in shock and pointing.
'Fiends! In the pool!'

There are indeed. There are also fiends appearing throughout the
stadium and the crowd erupts in panic. I continue until I come to a
scaled beast that blocks the path. It roars when I take up my stance
ready to do battle, and a spume of smoke and flame comes from its
mouth.

I brace myself, eyeing it with interest, almost excitement, as the
familiar feeling of adrenaline races through my veins. It has been a
long time since I battled any fiends on Spira. I bare my teeth and
run forward, my sword held in a two handed grip. I bring it down in
a slashing arc that cuts the air from right to left, curving almost
horizontally before it hits the ground. It also slashes everything
in the blade's path, and the beast is mortally wounded. It collapses
into a swirling mass of pyreflies that slowly disse.
e.

I continue on toward the player area when I hear a familiar voice
behind me. "Auron!"

"Sir Auron!" The second voice is not familiar. I glance backwards to
see the blitzball captain with Tidus. Tidus turns to him.

"So you do know him?"

"Yeah. Best guardian there ever was."

It is high praise, undoubtedly too high, but there is no time now to
correct him. Another fiend approaches and both younger men come to
my aid as we fight. The citizens continue to scream and run as they
try to evade the fiends around us. The stadium was filled to
overflowing, it was after all the final match in the tournament, and
despite the crush near the exits as people pour out of the building
too many are still trapped within.

Even as I run forward and slash high in the air, only managing a
glancing blow to the flying creature's wing, I am thinking. There is
no possible way that these fiends got here by accident. Someone has
loosed them on the unarmed and defenceless citizens of Luca for some
undiscernable purpose. We defeat the fiend when Wakka aims a blow
with his ball at it, it flutters in the air allowing Tidus to run
forward and slash at it with his blade.

More fiends come. I am aware of the crowd that surges up and away as
we face off against the threat. Despite our efforts there are still
far too many fiends, and I realise that this is going to be a
bloodbath if something isn't done soon. Tidus yells in disgust, and
then the stadium shudders beneath our feet.

The strange man I'd seen earlier in the Maester's presence was
summoning an aeon. Once called it unleashed a barrage of laser like
attacks on the fiends around us, they exploded instantly leaving
only a shadow as pyreflies danced in the air. One after another the
fiends were erased from existence. The threat over for now I
straightened.

The people around us look around in confusion, only to find that
imminent death has been averted. A whisper begins to take shape and
I hear people speaking the name 'Seymour Guado' in wonder and
amazement. I am not so gullible, but say nothing of my suspicions,
not even to Tidus.

Tidus regards me somewhat impatiently. "What the hell happened to
you? We've been looking all over Luca for you."

"We?" I ask him.

He waves his arm in an expansive gesture to include his companion.
"Well, Yuna really."

"I see." I tell him.

"Listen man, I've gotta go, get back to the team. They'll be
presenting the cup, ya?"

"Oh, yeah. Right Wakka." He sounded distracted, seeming either
unable or unwilling to tear his eyes from me.

"You should come too, you know."

"Thanks, Wakka, but I think I want to talk to Auron for a bit. I'll
catch up with you guys later."

"Alright, I'll see you back at the hotel. Don't be late, we're gonna
have a celebration, I tell ya!"

He turned on his heel and left us. I do not wait for Tidus to order
the questions that I'm sure are filling his mind at the moment, I
turn and make my way toward the exit.

"Come! There's a lot to get done before the day ends."

"What?" He breaks into a jog to catch up to me. "Auron, what is
going on here?"

I stop abruptly and turn to face him. "You played well today.
Scoring when you did demoralised the other team completely. Now I
have to collect my winnings from the book-maker at the Luca Cafe,
since I bet on you to win. After that we will need to purchase
several items in preparation for our journey."

"Journey?"

"We are not staying in Luca." We have made our way out of the
stadium onto the dockside. I am expecting it so it does not come as
a surprise when he digs his heels in.

"Wait a minute! That doesn't explain anything!"

I wait. Silently.

"Hey you! Don't just stand there! All of this is your fault!" He
complains. "Gettin' swallowed by Sin! Ending up here in Spira! Not
being able to go back to Zanarkand--everything, everything! I'm
telling you, it's all your fault."

He is right to blame me. I find myself laughing sardonically,
although the situation is far from light. His questions continue and
I decide that he must know at least part of the truth. I tell him
about my pilgrimage with Braska, and Jecht, and how afterwards I
went to Zanarkand to watch over him, so that eventually I could
bring him here, to Spira. For Jecht's sake.

I tell him about Jecht, and Sin. His first impulse is to refuse to
believe, but I can see the truth sinking into him as he remembers
the pull of that consciousness as we were drawn into Spira.

His questions continue, but my patience is exhausted with the weight
of the truths I have already told him, I tell him that he will see
for himself soon enough.

XxxxxxXxxxxxX


The first time I saw Jecht I knew he was trouble. It wasn't hard to
tell. He was lying in a dingy cell in the temple barracks, after
being arrested for drunkenness at one of the taverns down by the
docks. The man was worse for wear, bruised and hungover with his
hair hanging over his face, but instead of looking contrite or
embarrassed he had the air of a caged tiger, a wild beast that did
not belong behind bars.

He did not belong there. Not in that cell, not with Braska and I on
our pilgrimage, not even in Spira. And yet when Braska explained his
quest and his desire for Jecht to join us the man did not hesitate.
Of course I did not agree. My protests were dismissed, gently as
always, but Braska was adamant. Jecht would journey with us to
Zanarkand.

I was no fool, I knew that two guardians were better than one any
day, but Jecht was no guardian. I thought him an ignorant and unruly
ruffian, and possibly an insane one at first. Unpredictable,
untrained and unfit for the duties of guarding a summoner on
pilgrimage, I thought to find my own duties doubled. Not only would
I have to protect Braska but I would have to watch Jecht too, to
keep him out of trouble and keep him from causing trouble as well.
As it turned out I failed in the latter on several notable
occasions, but after a time Jecht began to change. I believe this
was due in great part to Braska's influence although it was partly
due to him being isolated from his home and family.

When we left the temple locks with Jecht in tow that first day I was
angry, not at Braska, or at least I tried not to be, but at myself
for not averting this folly of his. Braska had a tendency to trust
everyone he met, and although most people loved him for it I was
aware that there were some people in the world one could never give
one's trust to and come out of it unscathed. It was my role to
protect him, and I didn't trust the dishevelled man that wandered
after us, rubbing his bare chest as he observed us shrewdly.

"We need to get you some accoutrements for the journey, Sir Jecht.
Do you use a sword?" Braska asked the man and I turned and scowled
as I waited for his answer.

"A sword? I usually just use my fists." He drawled, and he raised
them mockingly in demonstration. "Never met a bar fight I couldn't
gain admission to yet, not with these two knockin' on the door to be
let in."

Braska laughed with genuine amusement while I looked back at him in
disbelief. That he thought this belligerant sot was worthy of his
company amazed me. "Well, I'm afraid they may not do well enough for
our purposes. We'll go to the forge on the East Bank, it's not too
far. Are you hungry?"

"They gave me some chow back there, but to tell you the truth I
couldn't stomach the look of it, let alone the taste." He patted his
non-existent pockets. "But I think I kinda left my wallet at
home..."

Braska gave him a sympathetic look. "Back in Zanarkand?"

"Yeah, that's right." I was almost going to remonstrate with the
man, but Braska's arm moved sharply to silence me. "How come you
believe me, anyway? No one else has, not since I woke up in this
God-forsaken town." He scratched his chest. "That's how I got into
that fight. Some dipstick started telling me Zanarkand has been dead
for a thousand years and called me a damn liar. I had to set him
straight."

Braska turned to him. "Actually, Jecht...he was right." I was ready
to step forward between him and my summoner when Jecht's face
darkened, but Braska took the man gently by the shoulders in a
gesture that was almost comforting. "I want to help you, but I can't
lie to you either. Although I've never seen Zanarkand for myself, so
who knows what we'll find when we get there."

"Gone? A thousand years? C'mon, that doesn't make any sense. Wait a
damn minute, what the hell year is it?" He demanded.

"It's 1016 A.Y."

Jecht sounded incredulous. "ten-sixteen-ay what?"

"One thousand and sixteen years since Lady Yunalesca's calm."

"What the hell is that, that isn't even a real date. It was 2025
when I..." His face paled.

"What?" Braska was instant concern.

"I think...I need to sit down." He staggered over to a low brick
wall with Braska supporting him by the elbow, then he leaned down
and cupped his hands over his mouth, breathing into them in an
effort to stifle his panic. Even I was starting to feel concerned by
his response. Then he clutched his hair. "All this time I've been
thinking my wife's gotta be at home going frantic 'coz I should have
been home two days ago. This has got to be some kind of insane
mistake. Either that or those guys back there are right and I really
am crazy."

"I don't believe that, and I'm sure you don't either."

Jecht shook his head miserably. "The only thing I'm sure of is I
think I need a drink."

Braska looked doubtful, no doubt sympathising with the man. "Well,
food might do us all more good, but first, the weapon maker."

We continued then but Jecht paused in the middle of the street, and
for a moment I saw a man who looked like a lost little boy in his
eyes, wondering which way led home. "You're going to try and help
me, right?"

Braska nodded. "We'll do everything we can."

He spoke for me as well as for himself. Despite my misgivings as his
guardian I was as bound to his word as he was.

"Okay." He resumed his steps following us. "Then I guess I'm gonna
get a sword today."


XxxxxxXxxxxxX


He is, understandably, upset. Hard to believe, that the father you
once knew is now the evil unleashed on an entire world. I let him
rant, his emotions strangely soothing to me. He would often throw
such tantrums when he was younger, when he didn't get his way. I'd
thought he'd outgrown them.

But this is so far out of his expectations that I can't help but
feel some sympathy. His world, everything he knew is lost, and now
he is in this strange other world, forced to rely on others when
he'd finally outgrown Jecht's shadow and learned to stand on his own
two feet. I feel much the same at times.

When he is out of breath and out of words he slumps over and I
wonder if he is crying. He used to do that too, after his tantrums.
I walk over and rest my hand on his back, hoping to reassure him.

"It will be alright." I tell him. I only hope that it is true.


XxxxxxXxxxxxX


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