Designed To Fade

BY : tuatha
Category: Final Fantasy X > General
Dragon prints: 488
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.

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Steamed shellfish, a wild pig spitted over the fire, fresh fish,
wild rice. The villagers had brought the best they had to offer, for
the summoner they hoped would bring the next calm. It was a small
sacrifice, much smaller than his would be.

Torches streamed warm light over the beach and most of the islanders
were celebrating near the biggest of the fires that had been
started. They would come over to talk to him, in ones and twos,
thanking him and asking him to bear the burden of their hopes and
dreams.

I stood in his shadow, watching the warm firelight play over his
expressive features, the gravity of his smile as he calmly
reiterated that 'Yes, he too hoped that he could free Spira from
fear and suffering.' It was a far cry from our departure from
Bevelle. Here the villagers did not care about our pasts, only what
we might accomplish.

The tiny village boasted a lodge for the Besaid chapter of the
Crusaders, but no inn or hotel, so we would be sleeping at the lodge
and dependent on the generosity of the islanders for food over the
next two days.

Jecht wandered around and I tried to keep an eye on him as I waited
by Braska's side. Some of the younger men had started a game of ball
down near the waves and Jecht had joined in, showing off I thought,
as he pulled an impressive array of stunt-like moves, finally
sending the ball far off down the beach. There were claps and gasps
of appreciation from many of the onlookers, and some of the boys ran
off to try to find the ball in the darkness.

Jecht wandered back up the dunes and straight over to the young
woman with the child.

"My Lord." Braska looked at me at the warning tone in my voice and
then to where I was looking. Jecht was leaning over the girl and
speaking. It was easy to see he was trying to win her over with his
posturing and significant looks.

"Hmmm." Braska said nothing more, but he led me over to where Jecht
was with the girl, and whatever Jecht had been saying he broke off
when we approached. Braska leaned down to the little girl, who had
been cleaned of the mud she'd been collecting earlier in the day.
"Hello." He told her.

She reached out immediately to put her arms around his neck and he
hoisted her up to perch on his arm. "Eesh!" she told him in reply.

He looked at her mother smiling. "What's her name?"

"Aisha." she told him and the little girl echoed her.

"Eesh." She looked back at her mother, beaming. "Aaaaah!"

Braska laughed. "Aye-eeshh-ah! That's a very pretty name." He spoke
to the girl in his arms, seriously but with an undertone of deep
affection.

"She has just learned to say it, and she says it all the time, don't
you, Aisha..." The woman explained, taking the girl when she reached
out for her from Braska's arms, and cuddling her against her side.

"She's a beautiful girl...just like her mother." Jecht drawled.

I glared at him, to no effect since he had no eyes for anyone but
the mother and child, but he must have gone too far because the
woman looked away then, down at the ground and then spoke to Braska
instead of responding to Jecht's compliment. "You'll excuse me now,
I have to put Aisha to bed." With the child almost asleep in her
arms she couldn't bow, but made a little bobbing motion toward him
instead. "I will pray for your success tomorrow."

Braska thanked her gravely and she made her way up the beach,
leaving us standing apart from the others. The fires were burning
low and the villagers stood in tiny knots or sat quietly conversing.
It was getting quite late. Braska turned and sat in the sand,
looking out at the dark horizon beyond the waves. "Such a pretty
girl."

He sounded sad, and I knew he was talking about Aisha and not her
mother, thinking about Yuna who he'd left in Bevelle and would most
likely never see again.

"Yeah..." Jecht responded.

"You..." I began to say.

"Auron." Braska was tired and his voice sounded it as he interrupted
my admonishment. We still hadn't spoken, having no opportunity to do
so, and Braska would have to face the trials tomorrow. He needed to
rest.

"Shit." Jecht turned away and kicked at the sand. "I was talking
about the kid, alright!" He waved his arm impatiently with his back
turned to us. "I miss my own boy. You know?"

Then he crouched down beside Braska. "I don't know, what's happened
to him. Is he...dead?"

Braska turned his head, looking at the man beside him. "I don't
know. But you're alive. There is hope." he told him, and rested his
hand on Jecht's comfortingly.

"Yeah, you're right. Maybe I'll see him again. Somehow." He shook
himself, like a dog shaking off water, then he stood. "I'm going
back now. Gotta rest up for tomorrow, eh?"

When he left I collapsed into the sand beside Braska with my arms
over my knees and buried my head against them. Jecht made me feel
like a heel, effortlessly, for accusing him of misbehaviour on the
one occasion he was being reasonable. It seemed unfair, but somehow
I deserved it. I felt Braska's hand stroke my hair.

"Auron, what are we going to do?" he asked me gently.

I raised my head to look out over the dark waves. "I don't know."

"We'll sleep on it, I think. I'm tired. Just...stay near me, for
now."

He meant to protect me by saying it, to keep me near and under his
influence. It implied that I needed his help but by this time I was
grateful. I couldn't take much more of Jecht's taunts and didn't
want to do something I'd regret.

I nodded. "I will."

The next morning he casually asked Jecht if he'd prefer to go out
with the fishing fleet instead of waiting around in the temple while
he prayed to the fayth.

"Sounds like it might be fun. But aren't your guardians supposed to
go with you?"

"It's usual, but not necessary. And I have Auron."

Jecht looked at me. "Yeah, you do..." His eyes were dark, but I
detected nothing untoward in his attitude or his words. "Alright!
I'm sure it will be a lot less boring than hanging around with Auron
all day."

We went down to the bay and one of the men who'd played ball on the
beach readily agreed to let Jecht go with them.

"Be careful, Sir Jecht. We don't want to lose you."

Jecht grinned. "Yeah, yeah, I'll be alright. I could probably swim
faster than this boat, anyway."

He waved at Braska dismissively so we went back to the temple.
Braska did not any anything about how he had separated us, saving me
from embarrassment, but later after he had entered the chamber of
the fayth alone I had time to think, and felt lonely for some
unexplble ble reason. Whatever his faults, Jecht seemed capable of
maintaining an easy-going and friendly relationship with almost
everyone but myself, and I began to realise that it was at least as
much my fault as his.


XxxxxxXxxxxxX

I gazed out over the grassland that surrounded us on every side. The
highroad was a misnomer for the beaten down strip of bare and dusty
soil that meandered through the fields, which rippled gold and
green, like waves in the gentle breeze that moved across the plain.

It wasn't exactly like home, which had been further north of here,
but it was close. The fields looked the same.

Yuna called me back from my thoughts. "Sir Auron!"

I turned to see her standing with her staff in a formal attitude.
"Please, tell me about my father. I'd like to know...how you met,
and became...his guardian."

We walked side by side with the others around us while I thought
about what to tell her. "We met in Bevelle."

'On the day that I needed him to, and he needed me, we met.' but I
couldn't tell her that. I gave her an account that left out more
than it said, but I found myself thinking about it.

One more day and I would have decided, to marry, to give in, to tie
myself to a woman I felt nothing more than a slight antipathy for,
and that only because she seemed to think that the warrior monks
were an organisation devoted to nothing more important than
providing her with her choice of a husband, and any higher purpose
was only incidental.

In truth I'd spent the day trying to reconcile myself to a decision
that had already been made. I did not see any way to undo it, and I
stood on a bridge over one of the temple thoroughfares, lost in
thought, when I looked up, and into Braska's eyes.

He was dressed in a robe of unusual design and carried his staff in
his hand. He saw me at the same instant and stopped, and I felt a
shock of recognition, not of him, for I'd never seen him before as
far as I could recall, but a recognition of feeling and a sense that
even though we hadn't met we did know each other.

He seemed to look into me from a distance and still be able to see
the turmoil and confusion I felt, and instead of turning away as a
stranger, responded with empathy and understanding, as though I was
his brother, or an old friend for whom he had some previous fellow
feeling. I knew that he would come to me and he did, stepping out
across the road with purpose in my direction, and when he spoke he
did so with familiarity and caring.

"Can I help you?"

I was shocked by his bold assumption, his daring, and yet I knew as
well as he did that we understood each other. I replied in the same
fashion. "I don't know."

"Let me try. Please."

I looked at him and didn't reply, but he took my silence for the
assent it was. "Come with me and we can talk. I live up here, it's
not too far."

He waved in a gesture that meant nothing as far as distance, but I
accepted his assurance, finding nothing in his manner that I could
possibly perceive as a threat. I followed him and he asked me my
name which I told him, and he told me his.

As we walked he began to talk, telling me almost everything about
himself. His candour and lack of reserve was almost completely
opposite to my own taciturnity, but he showed no offence at my
silence. He just smiled when his pauses resulted in nothing more
than a look from me and continued speaking.

He said he had grown up in unremarkable fashion in the same district
where he now resided, and as a youth had shown some promise at magic
and healing arts, so had enrolled at the temple to learn medicine.
He had not felt called to anything in particular, other than helping
others, particularly the sick and injured, and had been satisfied to
complete his training. Then instead of remaining in the city he had
wandered around Spira, venturing to the mountains and other
inaccessible areas, sharing his abilities wherever needed in those
places where there were no temples or priests.

He did not have to barter much, his gifts being highly appreciated
wherever he went, and I could imagine from his demeanour that the
people in many of the places he visited had been very sad to see him
go.

He led me through a part of the city I had never had occasion to
visit. I spent most of my time within the grounds of the temple
itself and only used the main roads leading in and out of the city
when I ventured out. This was a back street, with little alleys
running off it from side to side, one of which he led me along. It
was unfinished, tiny yards with patches of green and washing strung
up on lines, interspersed with the backs of shops and bins of
rubbish, lines of fences that seemed to lean precariously in places,
none of which matched the next one. It was a lot different to the
public face of perfect wide boulevardes that Bevelle showed to the
world.

Braska seemed completely at home here, and we finally reached a
stairway tucked into the side of one of the buildings. He led me up
the narrow stairs, still talking breathlessly, and into a tiny room.
There were windows along the front which he pushed open, a tiny
kitchen and an alcove leading off to what I guessed was a bathroom.
The rest of the room contained only a bed, a tall wardrobe, a small
square table and a chair. Nothing else would have fitted.

"Sit where you like." He went to the little kitchen and poured water
from the tap to make refreshments for us, and I sat gingerly in the
chair, feeling a bit foolish for following him here. I had no idea
what to say to him. I looked around me at this place that he lived
in. A white robe hung from the wardrobe door, his night-clothes I
guessed, but the door to the cupboard was open and there were no
other clothes in there, just some books and some bottles of medicine
and herbs. No doubt from his work. He seemed to have nothing else,
just a blanket on the bed, his staff and the robe he wore, and the
food he was setting out for us.

I found myself not wanting to take anything from him. He had so
little, even to a monk like myself his obviously spartan existence
struck me as severely ascetic. I sipped at the drink he'd made, a
flower tea of some sort, but ignored the food. He showed no such
reticence, taking one of the sandwiches, thick slices of bread with
meat between them and sat cross-legged on the bed.

"Have some, it's really good." He took a large bite, and looked out
the window while he chewed. A pigeon fluttered down to land on the
roof outside and he jumped up, breaking some of the crust off and
tossing it out. Then a flurry of white feathers erupted as several
more birds came to rest nearby. "Seriously, it'll go stale, if you
don't. The lady at the shop downstairs always gives me too much, I
can't eat it all in a week, let alone a day or two. She thinks I'm
too skinny." He smiled a lopsided grin that took off a dozen years,
making him look boyish.

I could believe him. He was so unassuming and pleasant, I thought
that any lady in any shop would give him too much. So I ate his
food. It helped to reduce my discomfort, if I was eating I didn't
have to start talking.

"I won't be staying here for much longer, and she is worried I'll
starve to death when I leave." He turned his head towards the light
coming from outside, and the breeze coming in through the windows
lifted his hair. "I'll be leaving soon, to go on a pilgrimage."

I almost dropped my sandwich. "You're a summoner?"

His eyes were wise, and sad with the knowledge that I'd instantly
understood the import of his words. "I will be. Soon, Yevon
willing."

I felt a pang of sharp regret at the thought of him taking such a
journey. I barely knew him, and yet I didn't want to see him go off
to die. And he knew, his eyes told me he knew exactly what I was
feeling. I couldn't eat any more of his sandwich, and dropped it
back on the plate.

"I know I am meant to do this." he began to explain. "My wife...I
met her during my journeying, she and her people were hiding in a
small cove near the sea and I stumbled across them. The men
were...afraid..." and he laughed at the thought "of me! So I...I'd
learned Al Bhed, but never heard it spoken, so I stumbled through it
as well as I could, telling them I could heal their injured if they
needed it, and one of them led me to their camp.

"There was an old man, with a fever of the blood of some sort, I
think that's why they were there on the coast. They couldn't have
moved him without risk, anyway. I did what I could. And that's how I
met his daughter."

His eyes became reflective as he told me about her. "She
was...beautiful. It was unbelievable, just seeing her for the first
time I knew...and she looked at me and I knew she loved me too. We
couldn't talk to each other, she knew absolutely no Yevonite, and I
could barely put two words together in Al Bhed, but...there was an
understanding, at once between us.

"The old man got better so they had to leave, and made me go, but I
couldn't. I just waited nearby, and she came. I don't even know how
she found me in the middle of a mountain, but we were together, and
we ran down that mountain as fast as we could, with her brothers and
father chasing after us. We got married as soon as we reached a
village with a priest."

I looked around me at his bare room, his single occupancy apparent.
He noticed of course and smiled sadly. "We had a year. I was so
happy...so, so happy. She died, but Yuna, our little girl was
spared. She lives with my mother's sister, I go to visit her every
weekend I can.

"After that, after that I knew, what I had to do."

As I listened I understood so much more than his words. His
description of his wife told me everything I needed to know about
the proposition that had been made to me. His need to journey, to
become a summoner spoke to me, our meeting as we had seemed
predestined, and my course became absolutely clear. It was the
answer to the question I'd been asking myself for days and was so
obviously meant to be.

I rose from my seat, feeling as though I was moving through
quicksand, time slowing down as I knelt before him, his gaze on me
showing his comprehension, quicker than thought at what I was about
to do.

"My lord summoner. I wish to become your guardian, and protect you
on your journey. Do you accept?"

He didn't ask me if I was sure, or protest that he hadn't brought me
here for such a purpose. He didn't tell me again that he wasn't yet
a summoner and so could not yet accept my guardianship, or show any
doubt about my ability to do so. We both knew that he would be a
summoner, and somehow our meeting had been designed to ensure that I
would be ready and able to commit myself to his course.

"Auron...yes. Yes, I accept your guardianship."


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